Nodes of Yesod, ZX Spectrum

Nodes of Yesod is a platform exploration game created by Liverpool-based Odin Computer Graphics and first published for the ZX Spectrum in 1985.

At the time it was a critical hit – mostly because the presentation is top notch – but playing the game now you really have to wonder what all the fuss was about, because it really is one of the most frustrating Spectrum games ever made…

Nodes of Yesod is clearly an attempt to copy the success of Ultimate Play the Game; in particular it is quite similar to Ultimate‘s successful Underwurlde, which is also one of the most frustrating games ever made, so at least Odin managed to clone the level of sheer frustration from Underwurlde!

Nodes of Yesod initially came out as a 48K game and later a 128K version was released. The 128K version has more digitised speech and a continuous tune, but the game itself remains the same.

The aim is control a character called Charlie Fotheringham-Grunes, somersaulting around a series of caverns, trying to collect eight “Alchiems” – objects that will gradually fill in the coloured squares on the bottom panel the more of them you collect.

Red spacemen sometimes spawn and will steal one of your carried Alchiems if they touch you, so you shouldn’t make contact with them under any circumstances. That said, these sinister floating thieves will occasionally spawn right on top of you, take one of your Alchiems, and immediately disappear, which is incredibly unfair…

Enemies generally spawn on each screen and will sap your life energy if they touch you. The only way to deal with them is to capture a mole on the planet’s surface and use the mole to destroy them. The mole is also vital for eating its way through walls to reveal new routes through the maze. Getting a mole before going underground is pretty much essential and it can take a while waiting for one to show up within grabbing reach. Once you do get one, however, you hear a particular sound (that indicates that you caught one) and then pushing up will make the mole appear to do your bidding. While you’re controlling the mole Charlie is static and vulnerable, so you have to be careful to position him somewhere safe while the mole is active. And run away if any of those red spacemen appear…

Certain slow-moving enemies (fish, worms, green pea-like things on legs) will also bounce you around uncontrollably if you touch them. These annoying opponents cannot be destroyed using the mole, so are just there to increase the frustration level…

Jumping around from platform to platform is tricky because of the way Charlie jumps, and the way platforms are distributed. And – of course – falling too far will instantly lose you a life. So the whole game is just built around making the player tear their hair out… But – “ooh, look – aren’t those graphics nice? And isn’t that speech brilliant?“…

Forgive my cynicism but I thought that Nodes of Yesod was ‘snake oil’ when I first played it way back in 1985, and I still think that it’s way too frustrating to be enjoyable now. It’s not a bad game, it’s just way too difficult to be fun. If you want to watch someone actually complete the game (using ‘rollback’) check out this video here.

A sequel, called The Arc of Yesod, was published by Odin that same year.

More: Nodes of Yesod on Wikipedia

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