APB, ZX Spectrum

Another fine conversion of Atari‘s classic arcade game, APB (All Points Bulletin), this time converted by Walking Circles for Tengen and first published by Domark in 1989.

This is another one of those “considering the Spectrum‘s limitations… blah, blah, blah” type of arcade conversions, where the programmers have managed to pull-off the impossible and squeeze a complex video game into Sinclair‘s tiny computing box. Yes: there are a few compromises made, like the slightly strange scrolling and the monochrome graphics, but the game works very well if you know what you’re doing.

APB is basically a satirical cop simulator, where you play Officer Bob on his regular highway patrol, trying to meet his daily quota of tickets. Litterbugs, honkers, and drunks are a simplest of targets, but as the game wears on he’ll also get the chance to catch hardened criminals that have APBs out on them.

If Officer Bob collides with a vehicle when his siren is off, crashes too hard, or injures an innocent person, then he’ll get a demerit. Collect too many demerits and he’ll be fired.

Officer Bob can visit drive-in donut shops for extra time, gas stations to refuel, and speed shops to buy extra equipment for his car, including radar, armour, better brakes and faster acceleration. He will need to complete his daily quotas to earn enough cash to do that, though.

Controlling Officer Bob‘s car is very simple. You push forward to accelerate, back to decelerate, left and right to rotate the car, and fire to sound the siren. Sounding the siren over a perpetrator will cause them to pull over – except for hardened criminals who will often ignore it or even throw a stick of dynamite at you! In these cases a bump or two from your car may convince them to give up.

The roads start out mostly straight, with occasional tangents diagonally, although as you get further into the game they do become more complicated. One thing you always have to look out for is oncoming traffic. If you hit an oncoming car too hard then you’ll explode, and that wouldn’t be good.

Walking Circles managed to translate the vertical screen gameplay of APB to the Spectrum by keeping the graphics small and the frame rate up. The scrolling is reasonably smooth and the control system is responsive enough to make the game fun. If I had one complaint it would be that the collision detection when hitting other cars is a bit unforgiving, but you just have to make sure that you give them a wide berth if you’re not intending to ram them.

More: APB on Wikipedia

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