Haunted Hedges, ZX Spectrum

Haunted Hedges is Derek Brewster‘s early ZX Spectrum ‘adaptation’ of Pac-Man, released by Micromega in 1983.

Brewster uses an isometric viewpoint of a maze of hedges to differentiate his game from all the other clones. He uses regular Pac-Man style ghosts, though.

Movement and animation are a little sluggish, but the controls work well enough. Haunted Hedges is a reasonable attempt at Pac-Man on the Spectrum, but isn’t smooth enough or precise enough to be taken seriously. I don’t think the maze changes either. Very basic stuff, but still playable.

More: Haunted Hedges on World of Spectrum

The Curse of Sherwood, ZX Spectrum

The Curse of Sherwood is a 1987 action/adventure game from the prolific programmer/designer Derek Brewster.

In it you play Friar Tuck – Robin Hood’s legendary monastic friend – on a mission to rid Sherwood forest of the evil cult of Sagella.

Basically you run around shooting things, solving simple puzzles. The Curse of Sherwood is what they used to call an “action adventure” in the olden days – an adventure game with action elements.

Derek Brewster did a decent enough job with the graphics and presentation. Gameplay-wise: it’s not one of his best, but it’s still pretty good compared to most. Not Derek‘s most well-remembered (or best-reviewed) game, but it was a budget game on the Mastertronic label (costing only £1.99 at the time) and was a relatively minor release in the grand scheme of things. Still: not a bad effort from Durham’s favourite 8-bit coder.

More: The Curse of Sherwood on World of Spectrum

Star Trek, ZX Spectrum

Star Trek, released by Mikro-Gen in 1983, is designer and programmer Derek Brewster‘s first commercial game.

It’s not a particularly good game – it has to be said – and is basically a copy of the infamous mainframe ‘Star Trek‘ games of the 1970s. Plus: it is highly unlikely Mikro-Gen actually took the trouble to get [ie. buy] an official license to use the Star Trek name (not to mention the use of USS Enterprise graphics), so the link to Star Trek in this game is highly dubious.

That said: if you can be bothered to learn how to play the game, it does hold some entertainment for a short while.

All games in Star Trek are randomly-generated, so are different each time, and are controlled using typed in keyboard functions. Without any instructions I managed to work out how to the play the game, and even blast a few Klingons. The commands IMPULSE, WARP, PHOTON and STATUS pretty much did it for me. And also: working out the 360 direction thing is crucial. It’s simple enough…

More: Star Trek on World of Spectrum

Star Trek by Derek Brewster – ZX Spectrum Commands

IMPULSE (then a number)
WARP (then a number)

PHOTON (then a direction, 0-360)

STATUS (to return type SHIP)

Kentilla, ZX Spectrum

Kentilla is a text adventure – with graphics – released on the ZX Spectrum by Micromega in 1984. It was written by the prolific (back then) Derek Brewster.

The game was a critical success and remains one of the best examples of the genre to this day, predominantly because Kentilla has an excellent text parser (the interface that deals with typed commands) which makes playing the game easier and more enjoyable than trying to fumble for commands that work. For example: GET (or TAKE) ALL will allow you to pick up everything that is in view. Hidden items can be revealed by use of the EXAMINE command. And the parser is also quite forgiving, allowing truncated words to be used to save time (eg. EXAM TALIS will examine the talisman), and the parser also allows alternative words to be used.

When he wrote Kentilla Brewster clearly wanted to make it as user-friendly as possible (uncommon with this type of game), and he succeeded overall.

Graphically Kentilla is basic at best, but the coloured text display is excellent, as is the way the screen is divided up (pictures and descriptions at the top; scrolling, typed history in the middle, and input at the bottom).

Gameplay-wise Kentilla is a cut above your average text adventure. It features non-player companions who will do things for you (if asked correctly), as well as the usual adventuring and obscure puzzles. It even has combat, of sorts!

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kentilla

Codename MAT II, ZX Spectrum

Codename MAT II is the sequel to Derek Bewster‘s acclaimed space combat game. It was published by Domark in the UK in 1985.

As a sequel, Codename MAT II is quite disappointing. Graphically: it’s something of an improvement over the original. The gun cannons now animate in a pleasing way (showing recoil) and the addition of the laser is a good thing. That said: there are quite a few elements that, in my opinion, are a step backwards.

For starters: the ‘warp’ system in this game is fiddly and unfathomable, whereas in the first Codename MAT it was simple. Warping to different sectors is done by entering an angle and a warp speed, which is difficult to do, even when you know the key presses to do it. Which makes warping somewhere specific very difficult. It’s a crappy system that kills the game. When I looked on YouTube for answers to the ‘warp’ problem I saw a number of terrible videos about the game, all of which skirted the subject of the warp system. The people making the videos didn’t know (and couldn’t be bothered to find out). The instructions (that come with the game) don’t even explain the warp system properly… Does anyone know how the warp system works? I figured out the keys, but relating the numbers to locations is the problem. I gave up on it.

Another big downside to Codename MAT II is the fact that, this time, you’re protecting an array of space satellites (that the aliens are attacking), instead of planets, so the most interesting part of the first game (planet approach and docking) are missing from this. And you’re supposed to be able to move the satellites to plug gaps in the line when the aliens destroy any of them. But don’t ask me about that: I didn’t manage to do it.

Codename MAT II also doesn’t have rear view cannons (like the first game, or Star Raiders, which it copies). Features such as sector maps and scanners and rear views are all relegated to a small window in the bottom left-hand side of the cockpit, and – rather than making the game better – have unfortunately led it astray.

While I would love to say that Codename MAT II is a great game (I love the original), I actually have to cut through all the nonsense said about it and state that it is really not very good at all. And that warp feature is rubbish… If someone discovers how to use it, please let me know…

More: Codename MAT II on Wikipedia

Codename MAT, ZX Spectrum

Derek Brewster‘s Codename MAT (Mission: Alien Termination) is what I would call a ‘Star Trek’ game, with a liberal borrowing of elements from Star Raiders. It was published in 1984 by Micromega.

Combat is first-person cockpit style, with an aiming recticle in the middle of the screen, and guns fixed at the front and to the rear (just like Star Raiders, in fact). When enemy ships attack, the trick is to adjust your speed to match, and take good aim. When you clear out one sector you then move on to another via a warp.

There’s docking and refuelling; nice planetary orbit sequences; a Solar Chart (that shows enemy concentrations around the planets); and even decent explosions. As ‘Star Trek’ games go, Codename MAT is definitely a cut above the rest. Is it better than Star Raiders though? Debatable.

Codename MAT was a critical success at the time, but it’s not as well-remembered as Star Raiders, which is fair enough seeing as though its a clone of Atari‘s classic shooter. Codename MAT still stands up on its own though.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codename_MAT

Velnor’s Lair, ZX Spectrum

Velnor’s Lair was Derek Brewster‘s first commercial text adventure, and – as text adventures go – it is an excellent one.

What makes it so good are two things: firstly, the text entry parser is flexible and forgiving, and secondly: there are interesting combat elements in it, that make it feel a bit like an RPG. A text RPG. If you come across a monster and it attacks you, you can fight it, or run away. If you do run away the monsters can follow you through locations, although you can eventually lose them. You can even avoid combat with certain creatures by spotting them first and dealing with them before they attack you.

The puzzles in Velnor’s Lair are as obscure as every other text adventure ever made, and you must find your way through the game with experimentation (or a walkthrough). Velnor’s Lair is well worth a play through though. It is both challenging and fun in equal measure and is a good example of Brewster‘s early talent as a game designer coming through.

Velnor’s Lair was initially published by Brewster‘s own company, Neptune Computing, in 1983, but was later re-released by Quicksilva.

More: Velnor’s Lair on World of Spectrum

Jasper, ZX Spectrum

Derek Brewster‘s Jasper is a decent platform game from the early days of the ZX Spectrum. It was published by Micromega in 1984.

Jasper himself is a yellow mouse, and his raison d’etre in life is: making it home across 22 screens of obstacles.

If Jasper touches any moving baddies while jumping he’s toast and loses a life. He can also pick up and use objects he finds and can carry up to five different items at once. And these objects tend to have a specific purpose, so you must work out what does what to progress.

As Spectrum platform games go: Jasper is quite difficult, but still fun to play now. Graphically it’s colourful and cute, and has stood the test of time reasonably well.

More: http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0002580

Derek Brewster Week

Derek Brewster is a British game developer who made a name for himself in the 1980s.

He created a huge variety of games for a number of different systems, but is probably best known for his work on the ZX Spectrum.

This week I’m going to be featuring grabs from a number of the best and most memorable Derek Brewster games.

Here’s what we published for Derek Brewster Week:

Jasper (1984)
Velnor’s Lair (1983)
Codename MAT (1984)
Codename MAT II (1985)
Kentilla (1984)
Star Trek (1983)
The Curse of Sherwood (1987)
Haunted Hedges (1983)
Con-Quest (1986)
Starclash (1983)
Mission Jupiter (1987)
Speed King 2 (1987)
Winter Olympiad 88 (1987)

The King of Grabs

More: Derek Brewster on World of Spectrum



Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, PC

Mysteries of the Sith is the 1998 sequel to Dark Forces II. It uses the same 3D engine (with some enhancements) and follows the same style of gameplay as its predecessor, but contains considerably more features and detail.

For starters: you get a lightsaber straight away, which is good. Secondly: Force powers are more varied, and in this game the storyline sticks to the light side of The Force, so there’s no dabbling in the dark side like there was in the previous game. Like before: at the end of a level you get apportioned Force Points and can invest those into your Force Powers as you see fit.

There’s a wider range of enemies in Mysteries of the Sith, and lightsaber battles are more prominent too. Later in the game you have to defeat some seriously tough opponents with your sword. Learning how to throw it helps.

My favourite thing about Mysteries of the Sith, though, is the level design. Like Dark Forces II, this game has some amazing settings and environmental puzzles. Swimming; climbing; jumping – when you’re not shooting (or using your lightsaber) you’re usually searching for the next key/hole/switch/button/lever by climbing over anything and everything. Force Jumping your way up to inaccessible areas… Playing Mysteries of the Sith you actually feel like a Jedi, and that’s what it’s all about.

More: Mysteries of the Sith on Wikipedia
Steam: Mysteries of the Sith on Steam
GOG.com: Mysteries of the Sith on GOG