What's this? Not a naughty little program that crashes your computer, no. it's the game no one thought would ever appear on the Spectrum, and it took the might of Firebird to do it. Phil South takes a look and gets the sniffles.
Last year, everyone at PCW was heavily impressed by a game on the Archimedes computer, a game called Zarch. This convincing tour de force was masterminded by the creator of Elite, a guy called David Braben, and at that time no plans existed to port the game down to even the high end 16 bit machines like the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga. But now Firebird has produced 8-bit versions... Including one for the 128-48K Spectrum!!!
Any attempt to bring such a game to the Spectrum could only result in a desperately shoehorned. graphically-inferior pie of old doodahs, couldn't it? Well, actually it's not a billionth as bad as anybody here anticipated, with all the original gameplay surprisingly intact.
You are in control of a terrific little spaceship, a bit like the one in the old asteroids game only this time instead of being in cheap black and white and 2D, this little devil is in wondrous colouramic 3D. You are charged with a task of ridding the planet of the aliens which are spraying the planet with a deadly virus. There are many different types o' aliens, and you have to zap them all in order to clear a level. Your score is a percentage of how much of the planet is left uninfected.
As you jet away from your start-up position, you notice immediately that beneath you is a brilliant 3D wire frame representation of the planet, scrolling neatly under you. As you move, the square scrolls, revealing hillier sections with trees whipping by, and your scanner in the top left of the screen shows that some aliens are pursuing you. You've got to blast the little beggars, you see, but that's only if you've got enough fingers left after controlling the ship to press the fire button on the keyboard. Yes, the controls are a trifle tricky, but if you've got a joystick interface (all are supported) then it makes it a little easier. Shooting with a keyboard button and flying the ship with the joystick can be a little bit like rubbing your head and patting your belly simultaneously though.
This is a very entertaining game. and even if you can't really get into the gameplay of shooting down the aliens, just flying around the landscape learning to fly your hoverplane against the planet's gravity is a fun game in itself. And finally, an interesting fact. It's been said by Telecomsoft that it never intended to program the game on the Spectrum but the programmer of the Spectrum version, Steve Dunn, just sent it in. Steve was so impressed by the demos of Zarch on the Archimedes at PCW that he set to programming in machine code. Blimey! Next Firebird'll say that it was written in binary on the back of an airmail envelope with a stub of pencil and a slide rule! Hah! Only kidding, choplets And, if that's Steve's first effort of machine coding on the Speccy, all I can say is his Basic programs must have been brilliant! Take it from a dude who knows... Virus on the Spectrum IS the state of the art.
A brilliantly programmed conversion of a 16 bit smash hit. A fast and fascinating 3D blast a mundo. Buy it!