Nightshade, MSX

The MSX conversion of Nightshade was first published by Ultimate Play the Game in 1985. It is identical to the original Spectrum version, barring a few small differences.

The biggest difference is that buildings are not colour-coded (usually white, yellow, green, or blue) and while this may seen like a minor thing in the grand scheme of things, it makes it much more difficult to identify where you are in the game – especially if you’re referring to a map when playing (which is pretty much required if you’re playing the game seriously, with a view to completing it).

Another difference to the Spectrum version is that the default colour of enemies and walls is blue, not white. I’m not entirely sure why that is because white is one of the on-screen colours used, but it doesn’t really affect gameplay.

The aim of the game is the same: explore the large scrolling isometric town; find the four ‘boss’ monsters; find the individual special weapons that can kill them, and shoot them with them. While you’re doing that you must also avoid dying, which is easier said than done. Lesser monsters – and hostile bacteria – will spawn and swarm around. If they touch you they’ll infect you with plague, turning you yellow; then another touch will turn you green. A further touch, when you’re green, will kill you. You can occasionally find potion bottles lying around and if you pick one of these up it will cure you and turn you back to white again. You can also collect antibodies to shoot at lesser monsters, although the effect these have depends on the type of antibody (there are four different ones) and the monster you’re shooting at. Fire the wrong antibody at a monster and it might clone into two, or change into a more dangerous form. Knowing what antibody to fire at what type of monster helps. Generally, though, it’s best just to just run away from anything harassing you.

The MSX version of Nightshade is second only to the Spectrum original. It runs fast enough to be playable; is simple enough to easily get your head around; difficult enough to be challenging, and still possible to complete. Nightshade is often derided by those who think they know better, but it’s another classic game from Ultimate. I prefer it to Gunfright.

More: Nightshade on Wikipedia

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