Version tested Retro
The then fledging Sensible Software took advantage of one of Maggie Thatcher's government enterprise schemes to get this strange hybrid title off the ground. Three months down the line and armed with a demo, the duo of Jon Hare (Jovial Jops) and Chris Yates (Cuddly Chrix) went up to Manchester in the UK in the hope of getting the game signed, and came home back to Cambridge with a deal.
Five months later, Parallax was ready - an innovative top-down shooter which featured on-foot action adventure elements, if you can imagine that.
Kicking off with possibly the most hypnotic, psychedelic front end imaginable, alternating coloured horizontal lines flicked up the full width of the C64 screen to the strains of a truly demented but utterly mesmerising Martin Galway theme tune. As the individual letters of the word 'Parallax' snaked around the screen, you kind of knew you were in for something a little different from the norm.
And so it proved. You started the game viewed from above on a landing strip, with the option of either getting out of your ship and wandering around, or piloting your ship and taking down some guardian scum for fun.
Not always the easiest game to suss out, the general over-riding idea of each of the five levels was to find the scientist, take him back to your ship, drug him, and extract a password (You could even half-inch the guy's credit 'Kard' if you fancied...)
With that in your possession, you could then shut down a forcefield controlled by The Big One, an out of control supercomputer. HAL had nothing on this dude.
Technically, it wasn't perhaps the best thing anyone had pulled off on the C64 at that time, but with some neat parallax effects underneath the ship, and intriguing gameplay variety, critics were united in their praise. The ever-reliable Zzap even awarded it 93 per cent, helping Ocean realise that these Sensible kids were onto something.
For anyone that managed to finish this somewhat tough little game, the 'System Off' message at the very end might have come as a serious disappointment after all their hard work. Hare sheepishly admitted recently that it was "down to the fact that we'd completely run out of memory - two words of text was all that was left!". He also reflected that "the on-foot adventure sections were originally supposed to be a much bigger part of the game, but we just couldn't pull it off with the memory restrictions."
Kids today with your 2GB machines. Don't know you're born....
7 / 10