Vintage & Modern Tech Blog

Top 20 ZX Spectrum Games From My Youth: PART TWO

November 22, 2015

Part Two
Continuing on from the first article, here is the conclusion of my Top Twenty games I owned and played on my ZX Spectrum 48k+ as a young person.


10. Haunted House
This 1992 Your Sinclair covertape title, programmed by the man who would later create the famed Arcade Game Designer, features detailed graphics, lots of colour, and smooth gameplay as you wander around the haunted house of the title, collecting keys. Lots of spooky thrills.

9. Skool Daze
I very nearly picked Valhalla for number 9 in my list, (by all means do check out Valhalla - it's a good game) but, settled on Skool Daze as it has more detail in the ZX Spectrum graphics. As with Valhalla, a multitude of characters wander around doing their own thing whilst you complete your own tasks. Playing as schoolboy Eric - although, in fact, you can rename the characters in the game (both player and computer controlled) -  you must find the combination to the staff room safe and remove your report card before the Headteacher sees it. Perhaps the funniest irony of this game was coming home from a real school and playing in simulated one for fun.

8. Fantasy World Dizzy
Dizzy appeared in a variety of game types but, for me - his true place will always be in the so-called arcade adventure games, which play like a platformer with puzzles. Even on the graphically-challenged ZX Spectrum the pixel art is lush and colourful, and - courtesy of a walkthrough in a magazine I actually got to see the whole game. The banter on the cassette inlay boasts of 50+ rooms to explore, and there is plenty for the player to do in them to win the game. 

7. ATV Simulator
Whilst it might help to ignore the 'Simulator' in the title (this is actually a 2D side-on arcade-style game) ATV is a lot of fun to play, and seemed to be the most asked-for game by my visitors when I was a teenager. The game involves completing obstacle courses on your All Terrain Vehicle, against the clock. There are physics elements, and you can even fall-off your ATV, in which case you have to run to get back on it. Another amazing game from Codemasters. Unfortunately - as with seemingly all the 'Codies' games, it is distribution denied on World of Spectrum, so you'll have to track down a tape if you want to play it legitimately.

6. Hyperlane
This is a side-scrolling space shooter, in which you fly your ship blasting aliens (no wonder we never meet any extraterrestrials in real-life!) scoring points and earning upgrades. While there are many such games around, my favourite aspect was the ability to choose upgrades in-game - the longer you waited into the level, and therefore the more points you had scored, the better the upgrade you could choose. This made it more of a decision as to when you had 'had enough' of using the default vessel and were ready to kick some alien posterior with the upgrades.

5. Crazy Cars II
Boasting realistically mapped highways, selectable routes, and 360 degree spins this Titus title sees you playing an undercover cop out to smash a stolen car racket but, you'd better look out - as you tear around four states of America at 200mph the ordinary cops will start to chase you, endangering your covert mission.

4. Paperboy 2
The sequel to Atari's Paperboy, this Mindscape title takes everything about the first game and makes it better. You now have to deliver newspapers on both sides of the street, can choose whether to play as a Paperboy or Papergirl, and avoid new hazards in a much more colourful environment which is cleverly laid out to avoid that scourge of ZX Spectrum graphics - colour run.

3. Tomahawk
I picked this up for 50 pence in a charity shop around about 1994. It was protected by Lenslock, an anti-piracy device from the 1980's, and just the effort of getting into the game made it feel like this was going to be something special. If you hadn't seen it in it's case you might be forgiven for expecting a 'Cowboys and Indians' game. It is, in fact, not about Native Americans, but rather a 3D wireframe helicopter simulation. Just being able to fly around in 3D, rather than any version of 2D was amazing, and I even bought a 2-joystick interface for my Spectrum, in order that I could use the joystick option as intended, with one as the collective and the other stick to steer. A decade before I would play through the tutorials in MS Flight Simulator 2004, this was the feeling of freedom-to-roam from indoors on a rainy day. It's also what the couple of 2D Airwolf Spectrum games could and should have been in my opinion.

2. Turbo Esprit
Another charity shop purchase in my own personal ZX Spectrum dark ages, post-1993, this was more virtual freedom. Durell's 1986 car game plays like an early version of Rockstar's Driver on the Playstation One. Crammed into 48 kilobytes is a 3D world populated by buildings, NPC (Non-Player Controlled) Vehicles, pedestrians, and - of course - yourself, in that beautiful British car the Lotus Esprit.  Your mission is to drive around intercepting bad guys and spoiling their plans - I seemed to spend most of my time undoing misjudged Austin-Powers-style turns that left me 90 degrees across the road, but the novelty of that freedom to roam the game world never wore off.

1. Roller Coaster
Although Your Sinclair made me laugh a lot, my magazine purchases were more motivated by the contents of the tapes stuck to their front covers with sellotape. Sinclair User, their rival publication and the oldest commercially distributed Sinclair computer magazine really came up trumps when they included this game from 1986 in full on their Great 8 tape for Issue 123 in May 1992. The aim is to move around a funfair collecting all the money that is scattered around. This game is extremely colourful and the best bit is - the rides actually work, from the big wheel, to the log flume, to the funhouse - and that makes for a really fun gaming session every time, and Roller Coaster the number one ZX Spectrum game from my youth.


1.  Roller Coaster
2.  Turbo Esprit
3.  Tomahawk
4.  Paperboy 2
5.  Crazy Cars II
6.  Hyperlane
7.  ATV Simulator
8.  Fantasy World Dizzy
9.  Skool Daze (or Valhalla)
10.Haunted House


Well, it's interesting to note - my winning game appears to be an Elite one. I considered moving it to another position, but - my argument is that when I was younger neither the Vega nor the Recreated ZX Spectrum existed. These are my childhood favourites on my 48k+ and all I've really done is put them into a blog article.


As it happens, I am hoping to do some other lists in the future - one of which will almost certainly be centred around 'games on the Vega'.


You may also be surprised to see no Manic Miner, Sabre Wulf, Forbidden Planet etc. that crop up in other lists - well, being given my ZX Spectrum so late in the commercial availability of the micro, my initial collection was built in the first year (1992). In subsequent years it whittled down through shops clearing old stock, charity shops, and then nothing at all. Maybe I'll do a games-I've-newly-discovered list as well sometime.


In the meantime...thanks for reading!


Stephen Nichol 22/11/2015

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