Now, this is a tough cookie. I mean really tough. Aside from my Tomy Tutor, the The Sinclair Spectrum was my first real experience of home computing. My brother and I would load games on that rectangular piece of plastic beauty on a daily basis. I was even typing out lines of code at the age of 6 to replicate colourful sunset patterns or fill the screen with randomised space invaders.
With this in mind, you can expect that choosing 7 top games for this machine is difficult, and it really, really is. The Spectrum has an extensive library of games. We’re talking several thousand at the very least. Some of those games are absolute gold, whilst some barely warrant being called a Game in the first place.
But, like my previous Top 7’s, this list will be based on the games I have the fondest memories of. The games I spent the most hours replaying over and over again, never making it past level 2. Essentially the games which provided me with the most fun regardless of their unbiased game-play credentials. Even with this in mind, it feels painful to miss out some absolutely tremendous games purely because I settled on the arbitrary figure of 7 when doing these lists, but that’s what I’ve done, and that’s what I’ll continue to do. Starting with….
#7 Bruce Lee
The Spectrum took platformers in it’s stride. The high resolution graphics, combined with a rapid z80 processor meant things were swift and there was plenty of room. Bruce Lee took this to full advantage. Featuring our protagonist Bruce, and a couple of baddies who chase you around each screen, which adds a huge element of cat & mouse fun into proceedings. You also have to face a variety of on screen obstacles, doors, ladders and waterfalls mixed into varied and colourful environments whilst you collect all the on screen keys to progress. It’s a perfect mix of chase, action, skill and logic that makes it one of the best platformers I’ve played.
#6 Batman the Movie
We’re used to movie franchises being a crock of unprecedented shite these days, but back in the 80s and 90s, Ocean pushed out some pretty impressive games. Batman the Movie, based on Tim Burton’s 1989 classic was one such game. In a typical Spectrum style the game was broken into different styles of play, effortlessly switching from platforming to driving, flying and even puzzle as you try and crack the joker’s code. It was a pretty tough game to get through, but it was a rewarding experience, mimicking key parts of the film in perfect harmony.
#5 Scuba Kidz
It’s a budget title from Silverbird Software! It’s easily arguable that a lot of budget titles were as good as, if not better than some of the full priced games, and for me, Scuba Kidz fell nicely into that bracket. Costing just £1.99 from your favourite video game retailer (mine being Software Emporium, halfway down Magdalen Street in Norwich), this was pocket money gaming, but it provided my brother and I with hours of entertainment, as you navigate your diver around perilous undersea caverns, avoiding sharks, finding keys and making sure you don’t run out of air.
#4 Dynamite Dan
If I were to pick one game from this list that demonstrates a real British game, in all it’s weird oddity, then this would be it. Dynamite Dan has you running around levels, collecting objects and avoiding your almost inevitable death. There’s a wealth of strange creatures, musical ditties, contraptions and careful jumps which really make use of the z80s high speed. The goal here is to collect all 8 sticks of dynamite, find the safe and blow it, in order to thwart “this guys” almost certainly evil plans.
There’s something about exploring the Wild West. Being able to move freely between areas, shops, bars and the outback which really appeals. This was kind of like an open world exploration game, where your goal is to take down outlaws – dead or alive – and warrant your time as Sheriff of this god forsaken town. Strolling onto a screen and seeing one of these guys waiting for you was tense and exciting stuff. Probably one of the most fun games I can remember playing.
#2 Trap Door
If movie tie ins weren’t order of the day, then television tie ins were. Trap Door was possibly my favourite childhood TV programme, featuring Berk, The Thing upstairs, Boney and Drut. The job here is to make sure that “Thing Thing upstairs” is kept fed, by working through his various requests to bring him a particular meal within a particular period of time. If you fail, he gets angry, if you succeed then you move onto the next meal assembly, which gets increasingly hard as more and more creatures pour through the Trapdoor to ruin your day. I’m yet to play it’s sequel, Through the Trap Door, but damn, I’m looking forward to it.
#1 Spy vs. Spy
So, here it is. My all time favourite. The reason is probably quite apparent. It’s two player, and there’s nothing quite as much fun as a multi-player gaming experience, especially back then. Crammed around one tiny keyboard, trying to collect all the artifacts from your current level before you escape on the nearby plane. Based on the MAD comic strip, you either played as white or black spy, with different laid out levels and random item placement to mix things up. Whilst collecting these items you could slow down your opponent by placing various traps above doors, or within the items which they had to search. The result was a hilarious game of run & hide pranking, as you each fought to collect everything and get the hell out of there.
Now if I had time I might also mention other favourites such as TransAm, Jetpac, Dizzy, Freddy Hardest, Dan Dare, Operation Wolf, Peter Pack Rat, Contact Sam Cruise, Robocop, Trashman, Bomb Jack, Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade, Pssst, Gauntlet, Run the Gauntlet, Daily Thompson’s Decathalon, Who Dares Wins 2, Starquake, Bubble Bobble, Postman Pat, Project Future, Werewolves of London, Ghost Hunters, Agent X, Elevator Action, Popeye, Ghostbusters, Gunfright, Treasure Island, Locomotion, Back to School and Beach Buggy Simulator, to name just a few… but I haven’t really got time for that, so I won’t.
Thank you for watching my Top 7 Speccy games. I’ve done a few of these in the past and I’ve got many more platforms to cover in the future, so stay tuned, click one below, or just slip away into the night. In any case, thank you for watching, and sleep well.