On the cyber world of Thraxx, an evil baddie called Havok somehow returned after 10,000 years and started wreaking himselv. Or something. Plus he’s got his “nightmare creations” to help him, while everyone on the good side has died… I mean, everyone but you, the last survivor of the ancient Bladeknights. Normally, the Bladeknights would have probably kicked Thraxx’s bottom, but he somehow managed to destroy the Fireblade, the source of the Bladeknights’ power. So it’s up to you to find the 16 fragments of the Fireblade in the Undercity and then get medieval on Havok. And by the way, if the bad guy’s name is Havok, yours can’t be any other than Hiro.

Switchblade is a wonderful game. Do yourself a favor and play it. But, for the sake of your sanity, only on the CPC. Because there’s no other decent 8-bit version.

This introduction from the manual of Switchblade (a 1989 game developed by Core Design and released by Gremlin Graphics) competes with the epic emptiness of stories for Manfred Trenz’s games. But we’re not here to write literary reviews. We’re here to see the undeniable truth: that the CPC has always been the best 8-bitter of them all. Switchblade is just one random example out of the countless proofs.

I’ll put aside the title screen, which looks quite similar on all the three machines. Yes, three, because as usual, the game made it to the Spectrum, the C=64, and the CPC. It doesn’t exist for the 8-bit Atari, but it might actually be good for the platform, as it saves it from humiliation by the Amstrad version.

IT’S ENOUGH SEE THE INTRO

The intro tells the story you already know from the manual. It also tells us that the authors of the C=64 and the ZX version were, uhhh, not very smart.

Let’s say you’ve got a source picture from a machine with a better resolution or more colors. The picture is very small, and it’s the only piece of graphics on the screen. In the corner of a bloody eye, it features three colors, which might be a problem. The rest of the screen is just a very short text. What do you do?

On the ZX, do you try to shift the picture in the bitmap so that you don’t get a color clash? Or, perhaps, do you redraw the picture so that it’s slightly bigger and you always have only 2 colors in one character square? No, you don’t! You just convert it and get the clash!

And on the C=64? Do you overlay the critical area with a sprite (you could have up to ten different colors in the critical attribute square this way, if I’m not mistaken)? No, you don’t. You just obviously leave your brain switched off, too, and convert the picture from the Spectrum, including the bloody (pun intended) color clash!

Intro - ZX and C=64

The colors are different, the hardware is different, the unnecessary color clash is the same (left: ZX, right: C=64).

And now look at the CPC version.

Intro on the CPC

See? It is doable (CPC)!

AND YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE GAME YET!!!

Well, now you do. Now you’ll understand.

On the Spectrum, the game was bound to look ugly from the start. They just had to choose between ugly looks because of the attribute clashes or because of being monochromatic. And, congratulations, having gone monochrome, they managed to take the wrong decision again! As the background is more or less dithered (lots of dense dots), you can hardly see any objects or monsters if they’re not moving.

The first screen on the ZX and the 64

Left: blobs of dots on blabs of dots (ZX). Right: Ugly multicolor (C=64).

Knowing the game, I thought at least monsters would look decent on the C=64 with its fabled hardware sprites. But … this? Either they just, again, converted the ZX version (might as well be it, as the game get suspiciously slow as soon as you get more enemies on the screen, so it might be animated bitmap instead of the sprites, which would cost the C=64 next to no processor time), or I’d rename the sprites to ha-ha-ha-hardware sprites. Yes, the monsters are that laughable!

And now look at the CPC version.

The first screen on the CPC

So much of a difference (CPC)!!!

WHY MAKE THE PLAYER HAPPY?

As you’re exploring first the surface of the planet and then the Undercity, you’re looking for the 16 pieces of the Fireblade. There are many bonus items that increase your score or attack abilities, but if you’re skillful, you can do without them. But without the Fireblade, you can’t do, because only when you collect all the bits, you can wreak havoc on Havok. And to get to those bits, you’ll first have to discover that not all the walls are alike in the game. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Well, you might call the wall part a puzzle, but do you think the C=64 and ZX help you find the parts of the sword? Of course not! In some cases, especially on the Spectrum, you can’t even distinguish them from the backdrops.

Where is the sword on the ZX and the 64?

Where on Tarxx would you look for the first part of the sword (left: ZX, right: C=64)?

And now look at the CPC version.

See the sword now on the CPC?

Just a bit of an extra color, and you know where it is (CPC)!

BEEP, SPLASH, BOING

The area where I couldn’t see why the ZX and the C=64 couldn’t be on par with the CPC version was the sound department. I’ve never minded about the AY, and some say the C=64’s SID isn’t that bad either. Well, the C=64 sound was a shock… and not a positive one. The Commodore versions of the tunes sound like they’re coming from a beeper. Even though I thought that was what the Speccy originally had. The Spectrum sounds better, but still like in the early ’80s when the musicians where just happy that the machine made any sound. The CPC tune then renders the same melody in a much fuller and more atmospheric sound.

PLAYABILITY

Surprisingly, the game behaves almost identical on all the three platforms. The layout of the rooms is the same, the speed movement is the same, the jump lenght is the same, you get more or less the same bonuses in the same places. However, this is one of the cases when the graphics and the music make or break your experience. If the music is crap, there’s no real immersion, and if you can’t make out what’s what on the screen, it significantly hampers your experience.

Some not-so-nice monsters on the ZX and C=64

Can you find the monsters? And if so, can you enjoy them (Left: ZX, right: C=64)?

A screen with monsters on the CPC

Now that‘s what I call monsters (CPC)!

VERDICT

Switchblade is a wonderful game. It’s full of secrets. It’s full of surprises. It’s huge. Do yourself a favor and play it. But, for the sake of your sanity, only on the CPC. Because there’s no other decent 8-bit version.

There is no point in beating about the bush. Oil’s Well is best on the 8-bit Atari… Wait, you don’t know Oil’s Well? Okay. Let’s explain it, you dumb Commodore and Zed Ex Ex Ex freax!

Oil’s Well is an early ’80s game by Sierra On-Line released in 1983. That was around the time when the C64 and the Speccy appeared but the 8-bit Atari was a strong player on the home computer market playground already – I mean the best machine, I’m telling ya! With a dedicated hardware for gaming, it was the ideal and natural choice for both developers and gamers. And that’s when Sierra came with their new game. The game is about an underground oil rig harvester that has to collect all oil from the underground deposit under the oil well. It looks like a Pac-Man on a stick and has a similar principle – to eat dots. The harvester is connected with the well by a telescopic tube, so it can get to the deepest places in the underground. But the underground corridors are full of horrible insect, and if they hit the harvester or its tube, one loses a life.

Title screen. Top left: Atari, top right: C64. Bottom left: MSX, bottom right: Colecovision

The telescopic tube is controlled by you, the player, by standard joystick movement and the fire button, which works like the telescope’s remote, so when you press it, the telescope starts to wind up. Thus you can avoid the nasty baddies. Sometimes, there are also bonuses going in random rows from random directions. Collecting them brings points or extra lives. But sometimes, a bomb that can kill your harvester unit comes, but it leaves your tube intact so you can avoid this danger easily.

The game came out for the Atari, C64, MSX, Coleco Vision, and the IBM PC compatibles. Let’s focus on the 8-bit ones, just mentioning that the 1983 PC version is very ugly and slow.

The Atari version is the best one. It has nice and colorful graphics, great sounds and excellent playability. The C64 version isn’t that good: the sounds are worse, and so is the use of colors. Some effects are missing altogether. Colecovision is, surprisingly, in the third place with high resolution graphics and sounds very close to the Atari version, but the color amount is limited. The last place belongs to the MSX, which has identical graphics as Colecovision version but a bit weaker AY chip sounds with no background kind-a-melody that’s present in other versions highlighting the game’s atmosphere nicely.

The first level. The Atari and C64 versions might seem identical, but if you take a closer look, you’ll find out differences. The MSX and Colecovision versions are almost the  same; you’d hardly find a difference. Top left: Atari, top right: C64. Bottom left: MSX, bottom right: Colecovision.

What is bad in the C64 version? One could say there’s nothing wrong with it. If you’ve played the Atari version before, you’ll see a lot of difference. First, the sounds are a bit simple. I’d be awaiting some more drama from the SID chip. It seems to me like a little boy was trying to make fancy sounds in V2 BASIC. Second, the graphics are really very similar to the Atari, the color palette is… erm… steady brown and pink, but, that’s just Commodore. Rather than this, I miss that the baddies aren’t appearing on the sides of the screen like on Atari, but they’re coming out of the C64’s border. But, that’s understandable for the hardware. Some elements like flashing bombs and bonuses are made in hires and that’s making a weird impression to me, namely flashing in random colors seems ugly. The C64’s color order in the memory is weird and it seems that nobody took care about smooth flashing effects.

Level two on the 8-bit Atari.

On the MSX and the Colecovision, things are substantially worse. Everything is in higher resolution than on Atari and C64, but there’s a lack of colors. All baddies are just white and they’re small like one text character or so, which looks and feels ugly. The only colored things are static graphics and the miner’s tube. Both versions seem like they’re running on a ZX Spectrum, although a ZX version doesn’t exist at all, actually. There’s nothing much more to say about these two versions, except the sound. On the Coleco, sounds are closer to the Atari version, while we hear just MSX’s AY chip simple bleeps on the other side. All in all, none of these two conversions are good enough to stand on the Atari’s step.

The verdict was clear since the beginning. Atari rulez! If you own a Commodore, you can feel quite a similar experience, but not on the other platforms. This is an Atari game, and you must play it now!

Did you think that you can drive a Porsche without driving licence? In Ocean’s 1989 game Chase H.Q. which is a Taito’s 1988 coin-op conversion you can because they said you’re the right hand of the law from Miami Vice or so. You’re chasing thieves escaping in fast, luxury fancy cars, and you have to stop them. Everything would go smooth and clear, but on certain platforms it’s just… Let’s have a closer look at it.

The game came out on major 8-bit platforms. The Commodore 64 (boo!), the Amstrad CPC, and the Spectrum and even some more like Nintendo Gameboy, NES/Famicom or MSX. We’ll focus on the popular 8-bit home computers versions, though. I’m not sure if the CPC and Spectrum versions are equal in many ways, but I’m pretty sure the C64 port is bad.

Simply forget about the C64 version. Really.

 

LOADING SCREENS

The C64 loading screen looks like it had been drawn by one eyed retarded child. Nice colours, hmm, but… Look at the heroes’ faces. They look weird. Now the CPC screen. Hmm, nice – but wait, I’ve seen this before! On the Spectrum. It seems it’s a conversion because even the attribute clash remained in there. The picture itself is a nice pic of the two main heroes in high resolution and decent attribute (even on the CPC!) undercoloring. So the result – C64 sucks with its lame proportions, the CPC has the same Spectrum hires screen but there are more colours on the Speccy. So I’d choose the Spectrum one because it looks the most realistic and has acceptable colours.

Look at the C64 picture above. Doesn’t it look weird? Below are the Spectrum and CPC loading screens that look much better.

SOUNDS

Sounds on the C64 aren’t bad. You easily recognize what’s the matter. It’s SID, although it sounds a bit basic. I’d expect something better in this game, though. Nothing much to say about it. The Amstrad has nice sounds, even a digitized speech, but there’s no title music. The sounds are almost same like on the Spectrum, but the Speccy even has music, which is special as the drums are interpreted by beeper and the melody is played by the AY sound chip. Beeper sounds are also in the game so you experience two different sound sources, which makes the game special. In addition, on the CPC, there’s no siren sound when chasing the bad guy, which the Speccy and C64 have. The MSX port seems to be ported from the 48K Spectrum even with beeper sounds! All of this points to the Speccy version as the winner.

GAME GRAPHICS

Oh dear, the graphics on the C64 isn’t really nice. The cars are brown-grey boxes, the road has no lanes. Spectrum version is very detailed as expected, although it’s monochrome with some bits of attribute colouring. But the CPC rules with colours. The lowres mode doesn’t seem too blocky due to so many colourful details, so can I declare my favourite is the CPC in this case? Too bad the Speccy can’t have it in more colours. Last but not least, I have to mention the MSX version of the game, which looks almost identical to the Spectrum one.

Spectrum (top left), C64 (top right) and the CPC (bottom) gameplay screenshots.

GAMEPLAY AND DETAILS

The gameplay on the C64 is just horrible. Everything is so slow, slow as hell, even a worm would crawl faster than your 64-ized blocky Porsche. All I felt while playing was just boredom. Everything takes so much time and when you catch up with the villain at last and have to wreck his car, oh my, that’s just straining your patience. Endlessly. Simply forget about the C64 version. Really. Let’s move to the Spectrum. Well, it’s a completely different cup of tea. Nice and detailed graphics and great gameplay make the game a gem in a Spectrum gamer’s collection. It’s fast and well designed. You feel all the details, you catch the target car and the destruction derby starts. I like it! On the CPC, well, well… Colourful graphics and solid gameplay, just a little less smoother than on the Spectrum. The game’s taking the best from the Speccy and adds nice colours. Who cares it’s in the lowres mode. Even nicely made blocky graphics can look cute … erm. perhaps. The Spectrum’s overall gameplay is a little bit better, so the Spectrum wins again.


VERDICT

I’m very sorry, Amstrad guys, the Speccy won this race, but it was close. The Amstrad game isn’t bad, it has fancy colours, but the smoothness and absence of Spectrum details are frustrating for me. The Spectrum gameplay is just great. The MSX can be happy with its Spectrum 48K-like conversion and shut up, and even I don’t mention the stupid NES version, which looks silly, but the big beige breadbox can just envy the CPC and Speccy and only regret the programmers of Chase H.Q. probably didn’t know what could be done with this beast. Shame on you, C64!

Flame of the Month, as the name suggests, is going to be a regular feature where our guest editors will review a game on all the major 8-bit platforms. The first Flame comes from Commodore Crusader. Jason Wotnau and Akio Tenshi would like to say that even though they respect the guest editors and their opinions, they don’t necessarily have to agree with the contents of these articles.

DRUID

Druid is an action adventure by Firebird from 1986. A lot of those who have played it (my humble self included) return to it with affection. Yet it rarely scores high in any C=64 Top X list that I know. And that’s the point. Even though it’s not considered a tops game that would showcase the numerous strengths of the C=64, it’s still enough to demonstrate the machine’s superiority over the jokes of a platform called Atari, CPC, and Spectrum.

You are Hasrinaxx, the last of the Great Druids, and your task is to restore peace in the realm of Belorn by defeating four demon princes in the dungeons of the evil lich Acamantor.

You have missile spells based on Water, Fire, and Lightning. The element of Earth is used through a golem that you can control and use either to cover your back or as a tank. Apart from those, you can also cast Chaos and Invisibility. Let the journey begin and good luck!

LOADING PICTURES

Well, good presentation doesn’t make a good game, but it can’t harm, can it?

The C=64 has a great loading picture featuring the main protagonist in a mysterious landscape in the moonlight, with a staircase leading down into Acamantor’s lair. The CPC version is a direct conversion of that. It’s worse than the original, but at least it tries.

The C=64 picture (left) vs. its CPC version (right) is one of very few fair fights we’ll see along the course of the article. The CPC one isn’t too bad. Some bits around the druid himself even look improved, but what ruins the pic is the choice of colors of the ground (doesn’t fit the lighting), broken perspective around the castle walls, and especially the credits mania. This Paul – who probably converted the pic – just must put his name under Bob, and once they put extra text into the picture, they had to insert the music credits too. Music credits on the title screen? C’mon, people!

The ZX picture was probably drawn by a schoolboy. Talent-free schoolboy. There are lots of bad details in the picture, but the winner is the golem. It looks like it’s dressed in spandex under which it has an erection.

Loading pictures on the C=64 (good) and the ZX (awful)

Left: nice loading picture on the C=64. Right: Hepatitic druid wearing a cross (eh?). Golem suffering from priapism. Constipated as well, juding by its looks. Were the gates of the castle meant to look ominous? This is supposed to be dark fantasy, not Trap Door! And by the way, the player is obviously supposed to understand hexadecimal.

No, actually, the reall winner is the Atari 8-bit version because it has no loading picture at all.

SOUNDS

Well, good music doesn’t make a good game, but it can’t harm, can it?

On the C=64, there’s this cult tune by David M. Hanlon (whose tune for Druid II later became even cultier because it was used about a zillion times in Fairlight cracks). It emanates mystery, tension, looming fate. But on the CPC, the music has absolutely nothing in common with the atmosphere of the game. I swear I’m not overdoing it when I tell you that it sounds like one of the old wanna-be-merry hurdy-gurdy carousel tunes.

Then there’s the bizarre bit with the Spectrum music, or the lack thereof. The ZX version credits D. M. Hanlon for music, but there’s no music at all! Actually, all the ZX credits go to the same people as on the C=64, so it looks like someone just mindlessly copied a few lines of text. Or hoped no one would notice. And ah yes, no music whatsoever on Atari either.

Different computers, same credits

This is where the C=64 and the ZX version look almost identical. Ironically, this screen should not look the same on two different platforms.

Now good sound effects don’t make a good game, but they certainly can’t harm, can they?

The Commodore has them pretty straightforward: shots and enemies being born or killed are white noise, the druid is taken care of with a bass sound that implies power. But for the other platforms, in-game sounds are another Waterloo.

On the Atari, the sounds that have to do with the enemies sound either like wet farts or like a bike tire losing air. And the druid sounds are much, much worse. Those bleeps sound so electronic that it completely ruins the fantasy atmosphere of the game. The CPC sounds have a strange metallic touch to them. Most of them have a high pitch element that just causes me a headache. Maybe it was meant as additional motivation for players: don’t let any enemies near you, or we’ll play you this sound! Works for me. Really does. The ZX version, for a change, has about one sound: the slight crack of a skipping record. All the sounds in the game are then composed of this one crack being played various times and with various gaps in between. Yet, if I had to choose between the ZX’s serial cracking and the Atari’s and CPC’s radio bleeping and squeaking in fantasy settings, I’d go for the Spectrum in 11 out of 10 cases.

GAME GRAPHICS

Well, good graphics don’t necessarily make a good game, but bad graphics can suck some enjoyment out of it.

On the C=64, you start out in Acamantor’s gardens infested by ghosts and giant beetles (further levels will add more, like living blobs of slime, ralacks, wraiths, or even devils). Next to trees and hedges, there’s a neatly animated river. There are also chests scattered across the gardens (and later in the dungeons as well) where you can replenish your magic inventory. After you cross the river, you find a rotating pentagram (called “Pentogram [sic!] of life” in the manual, probably to signal to concerned parents that this has nothing to do with worshiping evil) that heals you if you stand on it. When you feel ready for it, you take the staircase down to the dungeons.

The CPC in-game graphics are once again a solid conversion of the C=64 original, but what surrounds them puts the looks of the game down. Obviously for hardware reasons, the part of the screen where action happens is several lines smaller than on the C=64. What to do with the empty space? Let’s put the druid, golem, and rating statuses below the spells! Result? It still looks like they didn’t know what to do with the space. But as they were redesigning, they had another “clever” idea: putting some graphics under the game window to make the screen less empty. But what color, not to risk confusing it with in-game gfx? They chose blue instead of the original druidish green and gold (yellow), which then led to changing the font in the “DRUID” on the screen’s top, and once they were at killing the style, they also replaced the stylish eye indicating the spell currently in use with a blue arrow. Not cool.

On the Spectrum, the dark energy emanating from Acamantor’s lair is already much more visible in the gardens. For example, not just the beetles, also the ghosts are black. Even the druid is black, perhaps as a kind of mimicry. Very efficient mimicry. As more or less anything that moves looks like a shapeless lump of black pixels, don’t ever take your eyes off the screen, or when you’re back, you won’t know what’s you and what’s an enemy. The river then contains squares and rectangles of light blue water. I spent ages trying to decipher this secret code until I realized it was just bad drawing. The rest is the regular “black on something” Spectrum graphics.

The Atari has more colors, but even there, Acamantor has been hard at work. He started with stealing every other pixel line of the lawn and replacing the grass there with his evil yellow stuff. Then he, for whatever mysterious reason, made his minions smaller than on the other platforms. Well, one could live with these cute ghosties (or, more accurately, cute white tree stubs wearing sunglasses) or the giant beetles being not-quite-as-giant as on the other platforms, but the devils in the later levels look more like overgrown mice with wings. Also, being limited on monster colors, the Atarimantor probably decided to make up for it in the display area: if you look closely, you’ll see that the water drop has a grey lower left corner and the fire is chiefly pink. To me, that’s a choice of colors asking for a very colorful language on the player’s side. Plus, where on the C=64 and the ZX you have a golem icon, on the Atari, there’s something between a flexing bodybuilder and a gorilla. And finally, there’s a certain WTF factor to the pentagram. Every self-respecting pentagram is either black or black and white. Well, the pentatarigram of life in screwed colors is blue and yellow.

IN THE DETAIL

The devil’s in the detail.” Well, in Atari’s case, it’s, “The overgrown mouse with wings is in the detail.” Anyway, nice details don’t make a great game, but they can turn faint hopes of having a good time either into facepalms or laugh-fests.

Water, fire, and lightning spells on the four platforms.

Water, fire, and lightning missile spells on the C=64 (top line), CPC, Atari, and Spectrum (bottom line).

One nice touch of the C=64 version are the missiles. They have different shapes and colors. Water is white and blue, fire is red, lightning is white. On the CPC, they just took the fire sprite and recolored it for the other elements. On the Atari, all the shots also look the same (like some enigmatic hieroglyphics), but they’re even the same two colors: blue and pink. We already know that some people on the Atari thought that pink was the color of fire, so now we also have pink water and pink lightnings. And the Spectrum? Well, yeah, the “black on something,” I know. That’s a kinda hardware thing. But the missiles also look the same. So instead of a fireball, lightning and a water bomb, you’ve got three identical tar balls.

ZX Druid standing by the pentagram and then going over it

ZX Druid standing by the pentagram and then going over it.

One more proof of programming laziness on the Spectrum side: there’s no masking out of the background. In human terms, while nothing can be done about that the druid is black and the other color changes all the time according to the background, the “inside” of the druid isn’t just filled with this color, it acts transparent instead. It’s most visible in the druid’s face, or, as the picture below shows, most invisible if the background happens to be black too.

The Spectrum’s druid seems to be a specter. But Atari fans shouldn’t despair. They have typewriters. Really! On the C=64, the CPC, and the ZX, they are the chests with magic spells, but on the Atari they look like stylized typewriters. Have a look! (The typewriter on the right is added by me for comparison.)

And then there are the monsters. On the C=64 and the CPC.

On the Spectrum and the Atari, they are rather graphical monstrosities. The ZX enemies – and sometimes the druid as well – look like a “guess the monster” quiz. Just try it yourself!

Question: In the picture, there are two characters standing opposite each other. Those of you with a really rich imagination can recognize the druid on the left and a ghost on the right. But what’s the black smudge in front of the tree on the far left supposed to be?  (Answer: another ghost.)

On the Atari, monster colors are a problem. So someone had a bright idea: if we can’t have multicolored monsters, let’s at least have the monsters in a multitude of colors. The only other explanation would be that the Atari druid has smoked some weird stuff and can see the monsters in psychedelic colors. Have a look at the – by far – not exhaustive gallery. Top to bottom: a salmon-colored something (probably a wraith), a yellow overgrown mouse with wings. Then there are a white, greenish, purple, and a blue beetle; all with blue eyes (note that they are very magical beetles because their heads are not connected to their bodies). Next are a yellow, green, salmon, and a pinkish-violetish snake. The bottom line are then a grey and a green ralack. Yet the winners in my eyes are the pink and the turquoise skeleton.

Just for a bit of a comparison, here are some monsters from the C=64 version. Top to bottom, left to right: ralack, snake, slime, devil, beetle, ghost, skeleton.

GAMEPLAY

I’ll be brief here. Bad gameplay does make a bad game.

The CPC version is sluggish and too difficult at the same time. Due to the smaller game window, more enemies spawn closer to you, giving you less time to react. Also, on the C=64, if you’re running from an enemy and the enemy gets off-screen, the computer still “remembers” it for a while, so if you stop, the same enemy will come from that direction. The CPC, on the other hand, removes the enemy from the screen as soon as it touches the border, resulting in not only enemies suddenly disappearing but once again more random spawns and you not being able to plan your next steps. In addition to that, your spell missiles are slower than on the C=64, and as you can have only one on the screen at any given time, if you miss, you’ll have to wait that much longer till you can shoot again, which can cost you dearly. The sluggishness then comes from that even though the game window is smaller, if there are more enemies on the screen, the game gets visibly slower. And the scrolling is wobbly, so avoid if you’re prone to headaches from unsteadily moving pictures.

The Atari version has some fun-breaking issues too, like there’s no difference between the pictures of a typewriter that you haven’t looted yet and one you’ve already opened. So if you get a bit lost, you may go through a lot of fights and lose a lot of energy to get somewhere only to find out you’ve already been there. Furthermore, sometimes monsters drain your energy not through direct contact but touching the same object you’re touching. Collision-checking clumsiness at its worst. And on top of that, the game is somewhat too easy. I haven’t played Druid for about ten years, yet on my first play of the Atari version I got beyond half of the game.

The Atari might have issues with how the game is balanced and how some of the game mechanics are implemented, but the Spectrum version is just a total flop. Not only is it quite slow. Its biggest problem is that it doesn’t scroll. So it happens that you’re on the side of a screen, and suddenly you start losing energy because there’s a monster on the next screen that can see you and starts biting you. In Druid, it’s vital that you can always see what’s coming at you, so that you can either kill it or avoid it, and the Spectrum copies all the other game mechanics except the scrolling. It’s like having to play a joystick-wiggling sports game with text adventure commands.

VERDICT

C=64 rules. Atari, CPC, and ZX Spectrum suck. Or at least Druid on the Atari, CPC, and ZX Spectrum sucks.