Rapscallion is a bizarre and humorous action adventure written by Albert Ball and published by Bug-Byte for the ZX Spectrum in 1984.
You play an un-named king who has had his crown and castle seized by his arch enemy, Rapscallion the Rogue. Rapscallion has thrown you into the dungeon to rot, but you are saved by your friend, The Fairy Princess, who transforms you into a bird and grants you six lives. This allows you to begin your quest for revenge…
At any time you can change from a bird into a fly, or vice versa – but at the cost of one life. Various hazards affect the bird or fly differently, so you must work out how to progress and not get tangled in obstacles or it may cost you a life to escape by changing character.
If you are killed you lose a life and become a ghost, and the ghost can pass through barriers and is not affected by hazards, but cannot interact with anything. If this happens the ghost must seek out and then re-enter the King’s body, to continue the quest. Being in ghost form does allow you to wander around and preview or map the area, so does have its advantages.
The quest takes our intrepid ex-King through three different domains – the Wilderness, the Magic Labyrinth, and finally the castle, and gaining access to each one requires the acquisition of certain special magical objects. And the help of your magical friends.
One unique thing about Rapscallion (apart from the fact that the game totally bonkers) is that you can save your current game to tape by pressing the ‘T’ key at any time (a very uncommon feature of Spectrum games at the time). Then re-load and continue later. That said: if you do this, you will only be awarded a leasehold on the castle, once you’ve re-claimed it. The full freehold will only be awarded if you successfully complete the adventure in a single attempt, without saving!
Graphically, Rapscallion is very unconventional, with large, blocky sprites and bold colours (with added colour clash). It’s basically a maze game, with rather vague puzzles and lots of instant death, but some thought and experimentation (and a map) might see you through it. Or not.
Most gamers will probably play this and think “WTAF?!” – especially as the graphics are very primitive – but there is a half-decent game hidden within Rapscallion, and if you’re willing to understand it you might just not hate it.