Well it’s finally here, landed on the carpet via my letterbox this morning.
So following on from my Ultimate/Rare retrospective a few weeks back, where I said I’d cover all 30 games in this collection, and yes, I will be playing all 30 games too.
I guess I’d better get started…
30 games, 5 games per page. So a 6 part look at the Rare Reply game collection with a 7th part where I’ll cover the collection as a whole and offer my personal views and ask is it worth it?
You can read through all 6 parts as I look at all the games on the collection, or just “skip to the end” to the 7th and final part where I do a brief round up.
Well lets begin with Ultimate’s first ever game…
Jetpack: Released in 1983 by Ultimate: Play The Game for the ZX Spectrum and VIC-20. It was later ported to the BBC Micro. Written by Chris Stamper and designed by Tim Stamper.
This was the first game in what would later be known as the Jetman series.
With you playing as a test pilot only known as “Jetman” who works for The Acme Interstellar Transport Company, delivering spaceship kits to various planets.
You are tasked into collecting and assembling parts of a spaceship and it’s fuel via the use of your trusty Jetpack in order to move onto the next location.
Each level filled with alien enemies to blast and loot to collect from jewels to gold, all to help bump up your high-score.
Jetpack was/is a simple game…but they all were back then, with all the action taking place on a single screen. However, it still offers a fun and fair challenge that’ll leave you wanting to beat your high-score.
The game was very well received upon original release and even won “Game of the Year” at the Golden Joystick Awards in 1983.
Next from Ultimate was Jetpack’s first sequel.
Lunar Jetman: Released for the ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro in 1983 by Ultimate: Play The Game and again written by Chris Stamper and designed by Tim Stamper.
Jetman returns as the playable character. With Jetman’s poorly constructed rocket (from the last game) falling apart, he crash lands on a previously undiscovered world, which is inhabited by aliens that intend to destroy Earth.
Jetman must destroy the alien instillation signals to prevent the destruction of Earth.
This time Jetman is equipped with his trusty Jetpack once more but also with a Hyperglide Moon Rover which he can use to gather equipment and supplies to help him in his mission.
Using the same basic game-play mechanics from Jetpack, but now being able to scroll left and right. You can move around on the ground via foot, or take to the air (or space) with your jetpack. However, unlike the previous game, your jetpack now has a fuel gauge. You can also hop into the Hyperglide Moon Rover to traverse the terrain. Yet the rover can only navigate smooth surfaces, so any craters you encounter (which the aliens can create themselves) will need to be fixed by Jetman. The rover can also be used to refuel your jetpack.
The rover can also carry other items such as bombs which you use to destroy the alien bases, a cannon used to shoot down those annoying aliens and finally there is also the teleporter, which can be used for rapid transport around the planet.
Lunar Jetman took the basis concept of Jetpack and added a lot more variety and even a level of strategy. Where as the previous game was just about getting a high-score, Lunar Jetman added objectives and other tweaks to give the game an overall deeper concept.
The game again met with high critical praise upon release and Lunar Jetman was the only game to knock Jetpack off the top of the charts.
Ultimate’s next game is an all time classic.
Atic Attack: The 3rd game relased by Ultimate: Play The Game hit the shops in 1983 for the ZX Spectrum, with once again, Tim and Chris Stamper being the creative force behind the game.
The game is set in a haunted castle and allows you to play as one of three characters. Choose from either a Knight, Wizard or Serf. Each character not only looked different, but they also had access to a secret passage unique and different for each character. Meaning that you could explore the castle differently dependent on which character you selected.
You are tasked into collecting the “Golden Key of ACG” of which several parts are hidden within the castle and use the key to escape. Along the way you’ll also find other items such as; colour coded keys to unlock doors, food items, etc. But there were also red herring items that might look intriguing, but did nothing.
As you could only carry three items at any one time, selecting what to carry and what not to carry became a bit of a puzzle in itself.
The game had a simple premise, but offered a lot of replay value as items would randomly generate each time you played, coupled with the three different characters meant that even though the castle layout itself never changed, you still could play a “different” game each time.
Atic Attack was (again) universally praised when released. Computer and Video Games said it was “the best yet from Ultimate”, while Sinclair User said that “the depth of plot and the graphics make it a superb game.”
The game was even a major inspiration for the classic Children’s TV show Knightmare.
Atic Attack was Ultimate’s third consecutive number one in the UK Spectrum sales chart.
Their next game would go on to become fondly remembered as one of the all time greats.
Sabre Wulf: Just typing the title put a smile on my face. This one was relased in 1984 for the ZX Spectrum by Ultimate Play The Game, with the Stamper brothers yet again being the writer/developers. The game is the first in the Sabreman series.
Playing as Sabreman you must navigate a huge (for the time) jungle maze of 256 screens and recover four pieces of a lost amulet. All while using your sabre to fend off the many foes you’ll find in the jungle such as scorpions, snakes and spiders, hippos and rhinos.
Right at the very bottom of the map is the Wulf’s territory, as the Wulf is not affected by your sabre, you need to avoid it…but seeing as most of the loot and the best way traverse the jungle is via the Wulf’s territory, it’s hard to stay away.
While you go on your adventure to find the pieces of the lost amulet, you’ll stumble upon various other items to collect along the way. Treasure for bonus points, jungle orchids that when touched will affect Sabreman in various ways.
The game map was really very big at the time and offered a good amount of exploration, the graphics were bright and colourful and really did give a jungle vibe.
Sabre Wulf (as with the other games…again) met with favourable reviews and high praise. The game became a best-seller on the ZX Spectrum. The game won the awards for best maze game and best advert of the year as well as being voted the 11th best game of all time by the readers of Retro Gamer Magazine.
The game really is a great little title, it’s offers nothing complex other than exploration. But it’s very rewarding and each time you play you advance just that little bit further.
The final game in part I of this retrospective is the first sequel to Sabre Wulf.
Underwurlde: Hey, they misspelt “wolf” in the last game, so why not the same with “world” too? This game carried on with the adventures of Sabreman and was relased for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 by Ultimate Play The Game in 1984.
Once again taking on the role of Sabreman, with you now working around an even bigger maze of 597 screens that depict a castle and a system of caverns beneath it. Sabreman must escape the castle via one of three exits, each of the three exits actually being the next game(s) in the series.
Three different guardians…well, guard the three exits and each guardian is vulnerable to a different weapon. The location of the three weapons is hidden somewhere within the castle and caverns, leading to a lot of exploration.
Sabreman, no longer using is trademark sabre must navigate the maze while being attacked by various monsters. You can find various weapons to help along the way, starting with the basic slingshot. Unlike the previous game, contact with enemies does not cause damage, instead Sabreman is knocked backwards causing fatal falls by knocking you off the various platforms. Although Sabreman is tough enough to survive short drops, the maze is full of chasms deep enough for a lethal fall. You needed to down down these chasms to find items and the exit, so exploring them was a must…but getting down them could be troublesome. There were various ways to make it down a chasm without dying, one being jumping between the various platforms or even using ropes you would attach to the top so you could descend. Neither of them were “easy” due to the many enemies constantly harassing you.
Underwurlde was a welcome return for Sabreman and mixed things up enough from the last game to keep things fresh and interesting.
While not as successful as Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde still met with its own success. The ZX Spectrum version was number 18 in the Your Sinclair Top 100 Speccy Games.
Well, that about wraps up part I. But I’ll see you in Part II where we will catch up with Sabreman in his next adventure.