Version tested: Retro
It's a common adage by both gamers and game journalists alike that graphics alone do not necessarily make a good game. Fair comment you might say, but Fairlight proved both camps unceremoniously wrong back in 1985 when its outstanding visuals blew everyone away. Gamers rushed to the shops in droves to purchase this title on its beauty alone.
Gasps of astonishment were guaranteed by all that saw Fairlight for the first time as the player guided the protagonist, Isvar, in his quest to escape Castle Avars; a stronghold littered with detailed objects that amazingly (if you believed the hype) obeyed the laws of physics.
The game's author, Jo Jangeborg, hit the headlines the previous year with the release of 'The Artist', a powerful graphics application for the Spectrum. Jangeborg re-used many of the routines he'd developed in creating this graphical masterpiece whilst programming GRAX, the name given to the graphics engine that powers Fairlight.
GRAX pushes the humble Spectrum to its technical limits, and unfortunately the shortcomings of Sir Clive's little marvel start to shine through once the novelty of the drop dead gorgeous graphics wear off. Clangers that become very apparent whilst exploring the monochrome castle rooms includes the omission of sound due to memory limitations, the display goes black for a second or so as the next location is pulled from the system's memory, the game slows to crawl when the action on the screen ramps up and when nothing is happening Isvar goes into hyper mode and sprints around the environment in hysterical fashion. The 128K version of the game did go some way toward addressing these issues, but the reality was that most players owned the 48Kmodel and experienced these faults in full.
Ultimately, Fairlight was the game you chose from your collection to show off the abilities of your Spectrum to a visiting Aunt and Uncle. This game was truly a technical marvel that pushed the quality of gaming graphics forward to the next level and provided the player with a rather good adventure game to boot.
7 / 10