Like so many childhood things, the premise of Blitz made perfect sense when I was five years old. Last week, however, I tried to describe the game to a friend, and was met with a face contorted by polite horror. In my mind, I replayed what I'd just said and realised that, yes, it was wholly monstrous. Why do we have to grow up, eh?
Blitz is a game about bombing a city so that you can then land on its flattened remains. It's a game about buzzing over the top of art deco skyscrapers and dropping explosives on everybody just because you don't fancy crashing into their houses as you steadily lose altitude.
Okay, even as a kid, this should have struck me as slightly selfish behaviour. What I was more excited about at the time, though, is what's going on beneath all that: this is a weird inversion of Space Invaders in which the turret scrolls automatically and the enemies don't move.
As such, it's actually a pretty cool idea. Your plane swoops past from left to right, getting lower with each lap, and the space bar allows you to drop your payloads and whittle down the city so that you don't suffer what fly-boys refer to as a nasty prang. Get things just right and you'll end up with a perfectly flat landing strip just aching to have your wheels running over it. Get things just wrong, and you'll perish in the best pile of broken wreckage the VIC-20 could handle.
People rarely seem to talk about the VIC-20 anymore, but Blitz was actually a fairly popular game, if memory serves. It had nice, clear visuals, and memorable audio cues, and its challenge was perfectly pitched to make you feel that next time, surely, you could destroy all the buildings ahead of schedule and land this thing to the delight of any surviving bystanders. Chances are you couldn't of course: throughout all of my childhood, I can remember a successful touchdown on exactly one occasion, and even then it was a rather hard-won affair. Still we tried, though, bombing and descending, offering conjecture about the wider Blitz universe, and perhaps - I like to think - hunting for potential narrative loopholes to excuse our otherwise heinous in-game actions.
I hadn't expected to find much about Blitz when I went online this morning. I was starting to suspect the whole thing was some kind of personal delusion, in fact, and that the VIC-20 was home to nothing more than a few puzzlers, that game with the nicely drawn horse and rider, and a whole bunch of hipster de-makes. Blitz, however, has gotten around. It has its own Wikipedia page informing me that it was made by Simon Taylor and Steve Battle, that it's a semi-clone of games like Air Attack and Canyon Bomber, and that it's available on Android and iOS.
I've been putting some serious time into that iOS version over the last few hours, in fact: the graphics are nice and sharp and the engine sounds offers a pleasant, possibly womblike, kind of white noise. I still can't clear a proper runway, though. After all that airborne murder, I still can't seem to land this thing. That said, I doubt I'd get a pleasant reception from the locals if I ever did.