It was such an exciting time for games. Passionate code fledgling's could work like Royal servants in their back bedrooms and produce games that publishers would accept with gracious, open arms. But these home-brewed cocktails could also shake the foundations of the game charts in a way that today's multi-million pound extravaganzas only dream about.

Atic Atac is a prime example of what passion can do when properly digitised, and marked a crucial nexus for all involved; from the legendary Stamper brothers through renowned publishing house Ultimate Play the Game, to the delighted Spectrum owners who revelled in the light of 8-bit creation. The simplistic, top-down point-of-view line drawings shaped an astonishing universe within a castle, as players battled and explored their way through 200 rooms spread across five levels to find "the golden key of A.C.G." (not only does that rhyme beautifully, but it's a delicious homage to Ultimate's parent company, Ashby Computers and Graphics) before hoofing it to freedom.

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The equally uncomplicated storyline meant Ultimate could continue its trend for allowing gamers to discover their own purpose, rather than tedious recitation in the inlay card. By deliberately and actively utilising the imagination of the kid on the end of the joystick, Atic Atac never felt unfocused or bewildering, despite all manner of unrelated and seemingly random adversaries (such as the mummy, Dracula and Frankenstein's monster among many others) assailing the Wizard, Knight and Serf.

Featuring a degree of compatibility with the short lived and expensive Speccy voice synthesiser add-on, the Currah MicroSpeech, and providing direct inspiration for TV's Knightmare game show, the only real tragedy about this landmark in home games is its "denied" status when it comes to free distribution. If you want to take to the amazing Atic once again, you're going to have to be as creative in your search as the game's characters were when exploring for that elusive golden key.

8 /10

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