Spindizzy, Amstrad CPC

I was always under the impression that Paul Shirley‘s classic Spindizzy originated on the Commodore 64 and was ported to other machines, but this interview with Shirley says that the game was actually originated on the CPC and ported to other systems. Since Paul Shirley coded the C64 version himself I had guessed that that was a logical assumption to make, but it now looks to be wrong.

The Amstrad version of Spindizzy – one of the best games ever made in my humble opinion – is pretty much perfect, with crisp, clean, detailed graphics and responsive controls.

The idea is to travel around a large maze (of 386 rooms), collecting gems found scattered around the isometric landscape. You control a spinning top called GERALD (which can be changed into a gyroscope or a ball at the press of a button – a purely aesthetic change, mind you) that can move in eight directions and which can be boosted (by pressing Control) or held in place on a slope (by pressing Space). If GERALD falls too far, or drops off the landscape, then a small amount of time is lost on the countdown timer. If a gem is collected a small amount of time is added to the countdown timer. So the trick is to keep collecting gems in order to keep the timer rolling, so that you don’t run out of time. Running out of time means ‘game over’.

There are elevators (some of which are automatic and some of which must be activated by rolling over buttons), jumps, switches, traps, and hostile balls that will try to knock you off your course (or even off the landscape), and the map is divided into three distinct sections (beginner, intermediate and expert), although most people won’t even realise that since it’s not particularly obvious. Just for reference: from the starting screen, north is the hard section; west is the intermediate section, and east and south both lead into the beginner section. I didn’t even know that until I saw a map of the entire game recently.

Another useful feature is the ability to rotate the screen around, so that you can see all sides of the landscape, which you can do using the cursor keys. You can also change the colour of the display (by pressing ‘C’), which I’m assuming is for people playing on green monitors.

The design of Spindizzy is extraordinarily clever, and the gameplay is hard but fair. And if you’re serious about trying to complete the game you need a map, good dexterity, and a decent memory. Trying is a lot of fun, though.

Personally, I think Spindizzy is one of the best Amstrad games ever made, and if – as the interview above states – it was originated on the CPC, then it’s most definitely the best original game ever made for the Amstrad. I would put this version of Spindizzy on par with the amazing Commodore 64 version. They are both brilliant pieces of programming and game design. I’ve been playing Spindizzy on and off ever since it was first released in 1986 (that’s well over thirty years ago), and I never cease to be amazed by it. In fact, while re-playing Spindizzy to get the grabs for this article, I even saw some screens I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. I can’t be a 100% sure of that, but it felt like it. That’s how fresh and timeless this game is – it’s a masterpiece of programming and game design.

More: Spindizzy on Wikipedia

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