Rare Replay Part I

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.


The Ultimate, Rare developer.

Growing up in the 80s and being a gamer, there are many games that instantly spring to mind…

Jetpac, Atic Atac, Lunar Jetman, Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde and Knight Lore are just a handful of games I fondly remember.
Great “old school” games and all made by one specific developer.
Ultimate: Play The Game.

U logo

I adored many of these games and this was also probably my first recollection of knowing the developer through their games instead of just knowing the games.
I recall often looking for that Ultimate logo and genuinely getting excited to play their next title.

Ultimate became infamous for their fan friendly approach and would often give away merchandise for free to anyone that wanted it, all they had to do was ask.

Ultimate were unstoppable in the early 80s and would go from strength to strength. But before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s just look back on Ultimate and their influence in the 80s.

Founded in 1982 by brothers Tim and Chris Stamper who were ex-arcade game developers. Most of their games were made for the big computers of the time like the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, MSX and Commodore 64.
The Ultimate name became synonymous with quality and many of their games were quite revolutionary.

In 1985, the Stamper brothers sold the Ultimate name and back catalogue to game publisher and developer; U.S Gold. This was a darker time for Ultimate as the game’s quality was dropping and they would often overuse the same gaming concepts over and over. The high standard and quality just was not there anymore.

In some of the later Ultimate games, you would often find the name Rare Ltd. appearing in the credits. Rare Ltd. was another company Tim and Chris Stamper had set up to develop for under the Ultimate name, but not be subject to any Ultimate takeover. Meaning that even with the Ultimate name being sold to U.S Gold, the Stamper brothers had another company of their own to fall back on and using the Rare Ltd name, they started one of the most successful partnerships in gaming history…

Rare LTD

Rare Ltd began developing games for Nintendo’s NES system and released their first title for the NES, Slalom in 1987. Teaming up with Nintendo proved to be a great success and would span 3 generations of gaming consoles.

Rare Ltd. would continue developing for the NES and even produce Gameboy ports with games like; Wizards & Warriors, R.C. Pro-Am, Captain Skyhawk, Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll and Battletoads.

Then in 1989, Rare Ltd. bought back all the rights previously sold to U.S. Gold.
With the release of Nintendo’s SNES, Rare Ltd. cut back on their development for the machine initially and only produced a few Battletoads games. But they were not busy developing for the SNES as Rare Ltd. invested their profits made from the NES era into purchasing expensive Silicon Graphics (SGI) workstations.
Rare Ltd. impressed Nintendo with their progress of 3D graphics on the SGI systems and in 1994, Nintendo bought a 49% stake in the company which turned Rare Ltd. into a Nintendo second-party developer.
At this time, Rare Ltd. had another alteration.


Now developing under the name Rareware.
By this time, Rareware had such a strong relationship with Nintendo that Nintendo readily offered up any of their existing IPs for Rareware to make a whole new game on. The Stamper brothers asked for Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Country is what we got. The game showcased Rare’s 3D graphics advancements thanks to those SCI workstations and went on to become a huge success, in fact Donkey Kong Country became the second best selling SNES game of all time.
Donkey Kong Country spawned two sequels and various spin offs.

But Rareware did not just stick to Nintendo’s machines and in the late 90’s they developed a CGI based beat em’ up; Killer Instinct for arcades.

Soon after the release of Killer Instinct, Nintendo relased their next home console, the N64.

Rareware would continue the successful partnership with Nintendo on this machine too with; GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Blast Corps and even build on their Donkey Kong games with Donkey Kong 64.
Rareware also made a spiritual successor to GoldenEye 007 with Perfect Dark as well as release sequel Banjo-Tooie.
Rareware and the N64 was a perfect match…but it was not to last.

As they year 2000 began, Microsoft visited Rareware and eventually paid $375 million to own 100% of the company which became a first party developer for Microsoft and another new name and logo.


Now just called Rare and releasing their first game for Microsoft’s Xbox in 2003; Grabbed by the Ghoulies. In many fan’s eyes…this was the start of the decline of one of our favorite game developers.

Rare’s relationship with Microsoft just was not as successful as it was with Nintendo previously. Releasing remake; Conker: Live & Reloaded for the Xbox along with launch games for the Xbox 360; Kameo: Elements of Power and Perfect Dark Zero and Viva Piñata relased a year later. These games were just not up to standard and met with fairly low sales.

By the end of 2009, Microsoft “restructured” Rare and they started to develop games for the Xbox 360’s Kinect, with their first game being; Kinect Sports and later the sequel; Kinect Sports Rivals.
Under Microsoft, Rare had been put on the back burner and have become a shadow of their former self.

Nowadays, Rare “rarely” develop games anymore, but they do have a new title called; Sea of Thieves for the Xbox One which has yet to have a release date.
Can this be the game that gets Rare back on form? We will have to wait and see.

But before then, there is something coming from Rare very soon…
August this year sees the release of this.


Rare Replay: A celebration of Ultimate/Rare with a compilation of 30 games from their library. With the exception of obvious licensing issues (007, Nintendo IPs, etc) pretty much every Ultimate/Rare game is included here.

Jetpac (1983)
Atic Atac (1983)
Lunar Jetman (1983)
Sabre Wulf (1984)
Underwurlde (1984)
Knight Lore (1984)
Gunfright (1985)
Slalom (1986)
R.C. Pro-Am (1987)
Cobra Triangle (1989)
Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll (1990)
Digger T. Rock: Legend of the Lost City (1990)
Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship (1990)
Battletoads (1991)
R.C. Pro-Am II (1992)
Battletoads Arcade (1994)
Killer Instinct Gold (1996)
Blast Corps (1997)
Banjo-Kazooie (1998)
Jet Force Gemini (1999)
Perfect Dark (2000)
Banjo-Tooie (2000)
Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001)
Grabbed by the Ghoulies (2003)
Perfect Dark Zero (2005)
Kameo: Elements of Power (2005)
Viva Piñata (2006)
Jetpac Refuelled (2007)
Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise (2008)
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (2008)

Now you may have noticed that I didn’t go into detail on any of the games. Well that is due to the fact I have pre-ordered Rare Reply and I intend on playing each of the 30 games and doing an Ultimate/Rare retrospective, look at the Rare Reply as a whole collection and offer my views of the games to see how/if they have held up today.

This is going to be my celebration of Ultimate/Rare.

So here we go folks. 30 classic Ultimate/Rare games to work my way through in my Rare Replay retrospective.