Picture of Spanner Spencer

Spanner Spencer

Contributor

Next Last

Paperboy

Read all about it!

This game really had it all. By 1984, Atari was as close to a veteran as such a new industry could have, and it really understood the concept of digital entertainment.

Bomb Jack

Jack be nimble.

A perfect example of how brilliant gameplay can shadow a multitude of developer sins, Bomb Jack has become something of a cult icon in the gaming industry.

Nemesis

Shoot the core!

By 1985 gaming technology had lifted shoot-‘em-ups from the one-dimensional realm of vectors and static screens into epic, full colour space adventures. Released under the (now) better known name of Gradius in its native Japan, Nemesis heralded the next generation of bright, loud and detailed shmups.

Ms. Pac-Man

Behind every great Pac-Man...

It seems that Pac-People have suffered greatly from personality conflicts; never quite sure who they really are or where they came from. No matter, so long as they know what they're doing, and in that respect, the first official sequel (which was also the best unofficial bootleg) to the biggest selling arcade game of all time was a dot eatin' sensation and gave birth to the original videogame family.

Lords Of Time

Time for text.

Perhaps I'm too harsh with text adventures. Perhaps - just perhaps - I'm a bit of a mengie and only read books with full-page pictures, which is why I never really got on board the whole "Go North, pick up the key" malarkey. Suddenly, 24 years too late, I realise I may have done myself a disservice.

Jet Set Willy

The miner is in the mansion.

When is a sequel not a sequel? Jet Set Willy is both the question and the answer. This is, technically and without reservation, the sequel to Manic Miner. It looks the same, it's got the same main character, the gameplay is pretty much identical and the author, Matthew Smith, says it's the sequel. And yet, it isn't.

Jack the Nipper

Naughty Nippers!

It's so easy to forget how gaming habits change. We look back now, and most every game stamped with the retro seal is considered simple. They might be, in comparison to modern titles, but at the time we had very particular and demanding requirements which varied wildly depending on format. Jack the Nipper, therefore, should be considered quite carefully when placed in line for retro scrutiny.

Halls of Things

Go somewhere or other and do stuff to things.

Despite the vagueness of its title, Hall of Things is perhaps best thought of as a Tolkeinian arcade graphical adventure maze game. Actually, Hall of Things is probably a better, more accurate and concise description of what this popular title was all about.

Asteroids

Rocks in space.

Of course Asteroids holds massive significance in the history of videogames, but as a game in its own right, this awesome machine demonstrated the real depths of possibility the new, and mostly frowned upon, industry had to offer.

The Hobbit

You shall not parser!

Text adventures, despite their rich and significant role in the history of computer games, are rubbish. They're boring, and you know they are. Things improved a bit with graphics, but it was still tantamount to chatting with a calculator about life insurance policies.

The Great Escape

Do Do. Do Dooooo D' Do Do

Now here's a particularly unusual Spanner to throw into the Spectrum works (thang yoo very murch). As soon as I got started playing the game, I had to go right back to the beginning of the review and disagree with the game's box: This isn't, I brazenly demand, an arcade adventure. It is though perhaps the finest RPG ever seen on the Spectrum, with game mechanics so subtle and advanced we're only recently seeing their like again today.

Monty on the Run

Follow the white mole.

It's all about timing, though the elements of chance and fortune shouldn't be overlooked in this Monty: Wanted sequel. The mole is back and once again on a mission to outwit the authorities and tip-toe his way to precarious freedom.

Fighter Pilot

It's not just a clever name.

The box blurb claimed Fighter Pilot was the most realistic F15 Eagle air-to-air combat simulation possible, qualified only by a dismissive statement to the effect of "within the limitations of the Spectrum". Still, as evasive as this caveat may have been, it was probably accurate.

Dynamite Dan

Who says there are no more heroes?

A game that suffered greatly during its time in the charts due to persistent Jet Set Willy comparisons, Dynamite Dan was still very much its own game. In fact, these comparisons were dichotomously accurate and unfair. Clearly inspired by Smith’s hallucinogenic miner-based nightmare, Dynamite Dan mutated the familiar concept of JSW and veered it back toward the mainstream; introducing more recognisable and accepted gaming staples while maintaining the new look of colourful, detailed and expansive Speccy platforms.

Atic Atac

Something dread in the attic, looms!

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.

Agent X

Agent provocateur.

We (the British) have funny ideas about spies. Either they're ultra-suave, tuxedo'd public school boys with expensive, deadly wristwatches (who'd stand out a mile in a crowd), or they're sleazy, rain coated, privacy invaders wearing off-the-rack trilbies and carrying a newspaper with eye holes cut in it (who'd also stand out a mile in a crowd).

Wheelie

When two wheels is too much.

At first glance Wheelie looks like a pretty typical motocross affair with a scramble course that could have been laid out by Peter Purves himself for kid's to injure themselves on national TV.

Head Over Heels

In Love With The Speccy.

An unnatural evolution of 8-bit hero Jon Ritman's adventures into isometrics, Head Over Heels shook the home computing world by the neck in 1987; berating every last scrap of sanity from player's addled minds with the game's unrelenting eccentricity overload.

3D Deathchase

Quick, before death gets away!

First, we should try and remember just how long ago 1983 was, otherwise nothing about Deathchase will seem remarkable. It would be unjust to rob this brightly coloured 16K hero of its rightful title as a genuine, carnage-centric classic that provided the much needed deforestation of rampant, trite, cutesy games so today's wonderful concrete sprawl of shameless hyper-violent entertainment barrages could be built.

Skool Daze

Pay Attention At The Back!

What's immediately noticeable (to anyone who isn't a well-to-do public schoolboy with a gob full of silver plums, at least) is the wonderfully accurate pastiche Skool Daze makes of genuine British school life. The lumbering, disenchanted masses shuffling between classes; the tediousness of lessons given by disinterested, broken willed teachers; the stereotypical characters that populate every school and the desperate attempts to celebrate mediocrity by way of cut-price tarnished trophies are all present in full monochromatic splendour. But, unlike most schools, Eric's has a far more conspiratorial use for its economical awards paraphernalia.

Next Last