One thing SORELY missed about the 8-bit days is the compilation pack. It was a win-win situation for everybody. On the part of the software house, it meant that they could get yet more sales of some of their not-quite-so-brand-new games (after the initial rush of buying the game when it first came out had subsided), and on the part of Joe Public they got several games for the price of about 1 and a half. It was a no-brainer.
Of course, software houses weren't daft. Many compilations consisted of a couple of good games bundled in with a couple of crap ones, but on occasion there were some real gems out there. Of course, on occasion software houses tried to sell compilations of simply terrible games to try and make some money out of them. You know, value in quantity and all that.
The first compilation I got my hands on was "Winners", and it was a typical mix of good and crap. So what joys await, then?
Things get off to a bright start with a game I convinced myself was going to be crap, but actually turned out pretty good. It's an Asteroids clone (you could have guessed that) with knobs on. But it's fast, frantic, and very very challenging, even on the "easier" paths. It's an arcade conversion, but regrettably I've never played that version. Just like all Asteroids-type games, you are surrounded by hurtling pieces of rock, which, when shot, break into smaller pieces, which, when shot, break into smaller still pieces, and you get the idea. Purple asteroids contain Energy Crystals, the sooner you collect these the more energy they restore. Some asteroids expand and then simply freeze when shot, and occasionally a nasty alien ship will start to open fire on you. Once the level is clear, fly to the warp to escape, and choose your next sector. After clearing enough sectors, you have to face Mukor, a green tentacled alien, whose tentacles you must destroy to defeat him.
Colliding with enemies or asteroids is never a good idea, each hit reduces your shields if you have any available, or causes major loss to your energy banks. These are depleted just anyway by using your thrusters... so you have to keep on top of the energy crystals.
Impossible Mission II
The evil Elvin Atombender, foiled in the first game, is out for revenge. Exactly what that entails, I'm not sure, but by the sound of his name, it probably involves Atomic death around the world on a grand scale. You play the part of an athletic (and very well animated) spy, wandering about the nooks and crannies of Elvin's tower block. Unfortunately, many deadly robots are also rambling around, attempting to stop you.
The rooms can be quite tight and hard to navigate, especially when the only jump you can do is a forward somersault, and the various robots will do their best to foil you. Some drop mines, some try to push you off platforms to your death, but the most common one is the one that looks like a cat with laser beam eyes, which is also highly electrified, thus deadly to the touch. Others are less lethal but very annoying, and will ride lift platforms to make life harder for you, or perhaps
Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doomarcade version a little while back... and told you how great it was.
But by the bloody hell, US Gold, or Paragon, what the hell were you playing at with the conversion??!? Even with the Spectrum's limitations, this could've... SHOULD'VE been a much better conversion than it ended up.
The graphics are half-decent enough, sure, but why lose nearly half the available screen with that piggin' status bar and colourful border?
The sound is awful, the framerate is awful, the collision detection makes the game borderline unplayable. But hey, you've had 2 top quality titles, it'd be greedy to expect a third, right?
There's also a lot of mighty fast futuristic cars, smooth scrolling and nasty jumps. So ignore the title, it's crap. Instead concentrate on a mightily addictive game, if a little frustrating.
OK, so I never got past the "Big Cave Tunnel" level. But I tried and tried and tried, which must say something for the quality of this game. It's the speed more than anything, and even if you can only clear the first 3 levels like what I could, they're nice long, challenging levels, and fun to play.
Thunder Blade was Sega's helicopter-based version of After Burner. That is, it was a shoot 'em-up, mainly played in 3D (but with 2D sections too), often delving into what can only be described as "Bullet Hell". That said, it was a decent enough game, often available in sit-down hydraulic cabs and featuring oversize joysticks.
So, while you're accelerating, you can't shoot back at the enemy, OR change your height; The agility of your futuristic chopper gunship has just been slashed... As have the odds of you reaching the end of level 1. Sorry, but they ruined the game with this decision.
Winners... don't use drugs. Oh, wait, sorry, that was William S Sessions' famous words appearing on practically every 90's arcade game ever. Winners... on the Spectrum, at least, was a decent compilation. Taking 3 hit games and 2 duffers for the price of 1 and a half full-price Spectrum Games, it really was a no-brainer. Oh, yes.
World Of Spectrum, LED Storm currently sits as "Distribution Denied" as Capcom do not allow the free distribution of their copyright... but I'm sure with a bit of hunting you'll find a copy on Ebay.