Since its birth in 1984, US Gold has been responsible for rather a lot of Spectrum Software: some excellent, some, well, not quite so hot. It's also been responsible for a few headlines in the national press and an anti-computer game vigil or two by the CND.
And now as a bit of self-indulgence, US Gold has decided to bring out an anthology of 15 games which it released on the Spectrum between July 1984 and July 1987. The compilation is called History In The Making - The First Three Years and comes as a boxed set of four tapes with two accompanying booklets containing instructions and a bit of blurb about the label - all this can be yours for the meagre sum of (wait for it...) £24.99! Here's Ben 'n' Skippy to tell you more about it...
First released: October 1984
Skippy Arrr, this were the game of me youth! Played it for hours, I did! I wonder why? There isn't really all that much to Spy Hunter; you bomb down the same old road for hour after hour (okay, the roadside changes colour every ten minutes. But that's hardly variety, is it?), shooting the same old vehicles and traversing (wossat?) the same old bridges...? The graphics and colour are nice enough: the sprites are clear and well defined and it's good fun to play, but Spy Hunter has aged considerably, and though it makes a good addition to the 'nostalgia' value of the tape, I really don't think it's worthy material for 1989.
First released: Early 1987
Ben I wasn't very impressed by World Games when it was first released. Most of the events were unappealing either because they were too difficult to control or just badly put together. The graphics were far too blurry and when compared to the likes of, say, Hypersports it just didn't, and still hasn't, got the same degree of waggleability.
What really gets me about it appearing in this compilation is that the powers that be at US Gold didn't even bother to change the in game loading instructions to suit the new format of the casette; this will probably cause untold problems to many unsuspecting players.
First released: late 1984
Ben This graphically unappealing platform game earned itself a lot of 'very nearly firsts'. It was one of the very first games from the US Gold Stable, one of the first 'beat 'em ups' (certainly the first 'beat 'em up and romp around in a fun scenario'!) and, for buffs, Bruce Lee was one of the very first games to be derived from a licence deal. It also proved to be one of the most playable games of 1984 - there's something so satisfying about the bone crunching sound effects and the way your two opponents beat themselves up if they get in each others way, five years later it still earns a play or ten, every now and then.
First released: December 1984
Ben Blimey! I remember the stir Beach Head caused when it was first played by the then fresh-faced Spectrum games reviewers. People said things like "An excellent game of arcade skill and strategy", A lot of lager has passed over the stones of knowledge since then, and despite its crumbly look, Beach Head still plays very well.
The levels are just difficult enough to keep you tearing your hair out and just rewarding enough to keep you playing until you blast four colours of granite out of mount Kuhn-Lin, the enemy fortress. The first three levels are still fairly compelling but by level four, well... In those days I suppose you had to make do with three good levels and two naff ones per game.
BEACH HEAD II
First released: November 1986
Ben About two years after Beach Head came Beach Head II - surprise! Spectrum owners missed out on the synthesised screams and general battle dialogue that was programmed into sonically more powerful machines and did we miss it? Well, yes actually we did. Not to worry though, Beach Head II offered other things, for instance in two player mode, one player could take control of the nasty side and try to stop the goodies - just the thing if you want to lose your mates!
I was never really impressed by this one, the controls are far too touch and go to enable you to play with confidence. The childish use of colour is off putting to say the least; I doubt that any serious gamester is going to take a pink cannon, a lime green tank and a cyan radar tower seriously enough to get hooked.
First released: 1987
Skippy Presentation - absolutely remarkable! Road Runner contains some excellent tunes, an amusing, lengthy scrolling message, and some very impressive graphics, including accurate characters and brilliant title screens. I sound like some sort of advert! Cosmetic polish (or lipstick for that matter) apart, Road Runner isn't a bad game either. Admittedly, as with far too many games, the tape multi-load is a pain, and I can't really see that with a bit of memory crunching it was absolutely necessary, but it doesn't slow down the action too much. Addictiveness is pretty good, and it's quite playable - I would say that it's a pretty good seed-peck-and-coyote-dodge, a decent game in its own right, and consequently, one of the better games on the tape.
First released: 1987
Skippy There's millions of racing games around and this is far from being one of the best! I know this for a fact, because, I'm staggeringly good at playing Super Cycle. Then again I'm quite sure a two-year-old brainless, limbless tortoise could go on playing for as long as I did (well, almost!).
All the tracks are quite pretty; lots of jolly changing scenery, but does it have to be so incredibly easy? The only raceway with one ten billionth of challenge, is the one with barriers across half the track. It's not the pits (good friend of Oscar Wilde, me), but I honestly wouldn't have played it twice by choice!!
First released: September 1985
Ben Oh no! I feel an attack of 'great-film-shame-about-the-game-syndrome' coming on! Goonies the film, starred seven cute little American kids (Are there cute little American kids!) and a horrible blobby character who all fell down a pit, found untold treasure and saved their parents from being thrown out of their homes for not paying the rent money. Goonies the computer game stars seven horrible blobby characters who were dreamed up in a pit in a bid to extract untold riches from an unsuspecting public to pay a huge licence fee...
Simplistic puzzles, primative graphics and virtually no appeal here. Shame, really.
First released: mid 1987
Skippy Now, this is one which I never actually played when it first came out, so I can only tell you how bad it is now! There isn't all that much to be said, in fact. The predominant feeling is one of monotony (argh!), once again, it just goes on and on... In all honesty, it isn't worth loading up, let alone spending money on. The shoot out and run along the top of the train is good fun for maybe half a minute, but after that? Well, it dies a bit of a tragic death, I'm afraid. Take a birrov advice, don't waste your time. (I did, but then I get paid for that sort of thing!)
First released: Early 1985
Ben This one was initially released as Raid Over Moscow but the CND Chairman, Bruce Kent, made such an outcry that the name had to be shortened to Raid, to accommodate his killjoy views (quite right too!).
Despite its excessively violent and war provoking nature Raid is a damn good game, it has that rare instant grab characteristic. The levels are varied and very playable; it's a shame that there are only six of them as each is fairly easy to master (this makes Raid's appeal short lived). Not too bad compared to some of the others on the anthology.
KUNG FU MASTER
First released: July 1986
Skippy I remember being spectacularly disappointed by this one when it first punched the pavement. The arcade machine was one that you could, at one time, have expected to see in all the best (and worst!) places, but it was a welcome waste of the ol' 10 pees! How US Gold managed to shift so many copies of this rubbish is a mystery to me: still, I suppose that, in itself, is enough reason for inclusion on the tape. The graphics are grotesquely gargoylish and the colour is... well, to put it mildly, bleurgh! Playability isn't bad but it's just soooo annoying: addictiveness flies out the window like... errr something that flies out of windows rather fast. Not a good game, but probably worth the 75p or however much each of these games works out at!
First released: Early 1987
Skippy Yep! A classic golf simulation, this one: there's been nothing (except the official follow-ups!) to touch it since it was released. The build up of the graphics is slow: like something out of The Hobbit (remember that?), but the perspective is remarkable and the whole feel of the game is quite excellent, There's undoubtedly an art to placing shots, as it requires skill and speed on the button; as well as some accurate judgement taking into account the wind factors, the slope of the hill and the right club for the job! This certainly isn't a game that's restricted to golf fanatics only, 'cos I like it, and I would hardly know which end of a golf stick (club?) to hold. Well worth full price and certainly wangs up the ol' value for money points of the package.
First released: 1987
Skippy Now, I don't remember this one at all, so I found it very complicated. It's basically a flight simulator which involves shooting lots of things and making lots of people die. Sounds like fun to you? Hmmm. It's not all bad, in fact some bits of it are quite good. Sounds a lot of fun on the inlay too. Trouble is, the first bit is far too difficult so I (erm...) haven't quite got that far yet... (Skippy you're a wimp - Ed).
First released: November 1986
Ben Gauntlet 'clones' sprang up in their hundreds after this got to number one. Even the more 'sensible' software houses jumped onto the variant bandwagon. None of them got it right though - they all lacked the original magic still to be found in Gauntlet. Even the multiload was bareable - it must be a good 'un!
I'd say it was the best of the fifteen and probably the most likely to capture the attention of the player for months rather than weeks.
First released: 1987
Ben Impossible Mission was the pioneer of the tumble jump, as used in games like The Nodes Of Yesod and the latter couple of Monty Mole games. It was a real struggle to re-learn all the techniques used to play Impossible Mission and what for? Running around trying to find bits of puzzle ain't much fun because the game's works are far too klunky and poorly put together. Solving the puzzles is a little more fun, but it does get repetitive after a while.
Sorry, but mastering a basically boring, over complicated platform game isn't one of my main goals in life.
And thassit! On the whole it seems unfair to award History in The Making - The First Three Years an overall mark. The games range from very good to poor and the chances are that you already have some of the more desirable ones - in which case the whole compilation represents far worse value for money than if you didn't. Well £25 is a lot of money to spend on software all in one go - think wisely before wapping your wad...
|I'm still trying to find Ben'n'Skippy - Can you help?|
|LOOKING FOR EX-YS WRITERS! Do you know where any are?|
|READERS NOTE: The original YS articles on this site were written many many years ago, and should provide no indication WHATSOEVER of the author's present writing style. Judge these people on their current work, not articles they wrote decades ago.|
|All original YS text is still copyright to their original owners, including BOTH publishers and authors. Permission has been granted to reproduce these articles by a few of these owners - if you see your work on here and would like it to be taken down, e-mail me and I'll do it straightaway. All other pages have similar restrictions - email me for more details.|
None of the pages on this website may be reproduced in any way, nor sold to the general public (i.e. put onto a CD-ROM) without the consent of Nick Humphries and the author of each article. If you want to include any of these articles on a site or a CD, contact me for more instructions.