I was lucky enough to have two things as a youngster: a Spectrum 128K, and the game Target: Renegade. If you've never played Target: Renegade, then you've missed one of the best Spectrum games ever written - even some four decades after it was released it still holds a real appeal as you move your thug through the mean streets of Scumsville, fighting the multitude of punks, whores and gangsters who conspire to make a simple journey from A to B as difficult as possible.
Now why, you may wonder, am I starting off a review of Matra's Survival ZX by talking in such fond terms of Target: Renegade? Well, I'll tell you now. Survival ZX is the same idea - wander through the mean streets and get from A to B, avoiding the zombies en route. But everything that Target: Renegade gets right, this game gets wrong. And it gets it wrong in spectacular fashion.
First of all, there's the appalling scrolling and game mechanics. As you move your thug around, the screen scrolls. However, the zombies seem to have the decidedly-non-zombie-like power of teleportation as a result. If a zombie comes staggering towards you, you can just retreat a few steps, force a screen scroll and he will have disappeared if you retrace your steps.
If that's not unprofessional enough for you, you'll find that all characters in this game move in huge jerks - like the worst type of Basic type-in, in fact. And you can forget any type of animation too; this is one of those games where not only does every character animate in two frames or less, those two frames do not even animate the character!
You're tasked as the hero of Survival ZX on the first "mission" to do the following: Find a radio, and leave the neighbourhood. You achieve this by... walking up to bins in the street and pressing the Space bar, whereupon totally random items are picked up. For example, a spanner with which you can break a car's windscreen. The connection to some overriding mission is tenuous to say the least. Mind you, I would be able to forgive it such sins if Survival ZX were in any way enjoyable to play.
But it's not. From the ridiculously basic overhead chop sword swing through the collision detection that kills you off before you're anywhere near in range of a monster to the pathetic splat effect of landing a blow, this is bad bad bad. If this was a sitcom, it would be Ben Elton's The Wright Way. Survival ZX is the pits. F**k knows why it requires 128K - there are 1K type-in games for the Commodore Pet that put up more of a fight for review points than this. Even the logo looks naff.
Hilariously considering the total inadequacy of the playing experience, the instructions attempt to evoke some atmosphere with the following intro: "I have thought of suicide. The idea has crossed my mind sometimes." Two seconds into playing this, I have to say I completely identified. Suicide would indeed be preferable to surviving this.
If it has one saving grace, it's the music, which is ok if not brilliant. But, as a reviewer, you know you're getting desperate to say something nice when you can't find a single element of the game to praise other than its sound.
What Matra is doing releasing this as a physical cassette baffles me. It is one of the worst games I've ever seen, completely lacking in any playability, lastability, addictive quality and completely devoid of aesthetics or atmosphere. Do yourself a favour and, if you really want to patrol the streets of a besieged city, download the original Target: Renegade. And let's hope that, as quickly as possible, Matra take this particular title out the back and shoot it in the back of the head.