Typical, eh? You wait ages for a new Sinclair ZX Spectrum game to be released, and then two come along at once. Shaun takes a look at Blizzard's Rift, by Jonathan Cauldwell.
Blizzard's Rift is yet another game from the unstoppable Jonathan Cauldwell, who seems hell-bent on giving the world high quality Speccy software by commendably programming in his spare time for what essentially amounts to what would have been his weekly pocket money back in the 80s.
And, yet again, I use the world 'quality' and not 'quantity', as Jonathan seems to be rather good at producing something worthy of the loading time and the very heritage on which this famed micro computer is built, although it's something of a departure to see a 128K only game these days.
Blizzard's Rift is a sequel to the 2004 "game in a day" Lunaris, when Jonathan was given less than nine hours to develop a new piece of entertainment software. What came to be was not too dissimilar to the BBC Micro classic Thrust, in which you control a craft that can rotate either way, and is moved by engaging the on-board thrust engines. This game was tricky due to the gravity of the binary world; too little or too much power could potentially be cataclysmic, causing the vessel to smash into the nearest inanimate object or floor, and to add to the plot, the defences strewn about the place could destroy your ship with its cannons.
Developing the concept and storyline further, this new outing sees hard-up Digby Blizzard find his potential fortune in the 200-year old diaries of Henri Latrine, in which is charted treasures to plunder in a far off and remote galaxy. Heavily in debt (presumably due to gambling, among other things), Digby takes his chance and ventures out to these ancient and abandoned planets. On arrival, he finds that the defences of each world still intact, and so begins his quest.
I can honestly say that it has been a good while since I spent so much time cursing and swearing at a computer screen. The controls, though not impossible to master, took a good couple of hours to get to grips with. Fortunately, there was enough of a game there already for this not to be offputting, and there's also a world which you can travel to that allow you to play a somewhat more cruel version of Poker, in that you can only be dealt new cards once per hand; but then gambling rarely pays no matter what, which is part of Digby's problem.
This rather polished game is played at what feeds like a pedestrian pace, and starts with a galactic map with different solar systems to select. Unless you're already in that solar system, you must travel there. This isn't too much trouble, and the odd passing craft will not set against you, but can he shot down to earn more space credits. Importantly, it's only when you're travelling that you can refuel and buy more lasers or ships. The main part of the game requires very careful navigation to avoid and destroy the cannons and collect the space treasures. On some worlds, there's also roaming defences to evade which will cause you no harm unless you collide with them, and some levels are really claustrophobic by design, but each can be completed in any order, and you can also travel to play cards too, should you want a break from the proceedings.
Blizzard's Rift is by no means Jonathan's greatest game to date, but it's certainly up there with his very best. A thoroughly recommended and superb addition to any Speccy fan's games collection, available 25 years after the machine's initial launch, and yet we can all still imagine that the best is yet to come as Jonathan and many others are spending their time creating new stuff for this British computing legend.
After a good few nights of insomnia with Blizzard's Rift, Shaun is now testing Ian Munro's Iron Sphere. The final verdict on this will be delivered next week. See you then.