Happy Birthday ZX Spectrum

The Queen may have turned 96 this week, but video game royalty turned 40. On 23rd April 2022 the ZX Spectrum will have held a special place in many gamers hearts for four decades, not least of all our own Jon Brown’s, whose love for it has only grown stronger since Christmas 1984 when he received one of his own.

Photoshopped picture of a child opening a ZX Spectrum with Jon's face

Happy 40th! Love Jon x

Saturdays are special. When I was very short and brown was more fashionable I would start my Saturdays watching the surreal madness of the Banana Splits (my forever desire to own a dune buggy is their fault), then there’d be some Lego building, lunch of fish and chips, an afternoon of building dens or drilling holes in things that didn’t need holes but were soft enough for a hand drill to go through easily, then a bit of Wonder Woman or The Dukes of Hazzard, more mucking about outside then possibly a migraine and bed. As I got older home computers and their games came along, which was a huge relief because honestly a lot of Saturday’s in the UK were too wet, cold or both to be outside making a den unless required by a desperate survival situation scenario. Luckily video games at home meant that rain did not stop play.

To be clear, in my opinion, Saturday should be preserved for mucking about and it should be called Playday. 

So it’s fitting that the 40th anniversary of the launch of the mighty ZX Spectrum should land on Saturday the 23rd of April 2022. When its father, Sir Clive Sinclair, passed away last year I waxed lyrical about the great debt the UK games industry owed him and his creation. But today, let’s not talk of work, let’s instead focus on the real meat in the home computer sandwich, not making games, but playing them!

You might think that the launch of Steam and the App Store ushered in a bonkers-o-matic era of anything goes game creation, and it truly did. But that was merely the renaissance. The original naissance belongs to the early 80s and the Spectrum. I offer to you 5 truly innovative games that were chiselled into creation by digital gods on the Spectrum anvil. 

 

Jet Set Willy

Tidy up your mansion while avoiding flying pigs, ice dancing penguins and marauding Swiss Army Knives. When you’re done, run to the toilet to be sick.

Screengrab from game Jet Set Willy on the ZX Spectrum

Deus Ex Machina 

Loosely following Shakespeare’s  seven stages of man this is more an experience than a game, its length being fixed because you play it in sync with listening to a soundtrack on an audio tape. (As somebody who has worked with Jon for two years I can confirm his undying love for this game.)

 

The Sentinel

If the Sentinel can see the square you’re standing on it will absorb you. Your only chance is to get high enough to see the square the Sentinel is standing on and absorb it first. It sounds simple, but it isn’t.

Screengrab from The Sentinal on ZX Spectrum

Academy

You play a skimmer pilot working your way through a training academy so you can go out into the galaxy and colonise planets. This involves designing your own skimmer, choosing the equipment it has and designing the dashboard in a Resident Evil 4 attaché case style. 

 

Chaos: The Battle of the Wizards

One screen, eight wizards fighting to the death. Summon creatures like gold dragons to help you in your battle, blast things with lightning bolts and try to avoid the gooey blobs that multiply across the map, entombing creatures and killing wizards as they go.

Chaos the battle of wizards, ZX Spectrum

This list could go on much longer, and I’m sorry if I’ve missed off your favourite oddity, but these ones are mine.

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