The Dark is a rare first-person shooter on the humble ZX Spectrum, written by Russian coder Oleg Origin. It was originally released under the title of Quake in 1997, and was then re-worked and re-released by the original author as The Dark in 2016.
The Dark works like any other Wolfenstein/Doom clone, but with fake 3D graphics that are made to look convincing (and they kinda look convincing, although they’re not made with polygons). You wander around a succession of mazes; various monsters prowl around, and you must use your weapons to kill them before they kill you. You start with a trident (the default weapon), but soon find ammunition for a pistol that you’re carrying and can begin shooting. The aim of the game is to reach the exit in each maze (and sometimes you must kill all enemies in a level too).
Your health and armour are shown as numbers on the bottom panel, as is a compass showing your heading. If your health reaches zero the game ends and you must start the level afresh. Picking up hearts in the maze will re-fill some of your health. Messages at the top of the screen warn you if a particularly dangerous monster is approaching, as well as telling you what you last picked up. A map of each level can be brought up by pressing
The Dark is an impressive achievement on the Spectrum and fits into a single 48K load. Gameplay is simple but effective, and there are nine levels in total to play through. A map between levels shows you where you are in the game.
The best thing about The Dark is that the developer managed to make the player movement flow very well – you never get stuck on parts of the landscape (as tends to happen with half-baked first-person shooters) – and the game moves at a decent speed. Trees in the maze help give some depth to the scenery and the way the view moves around creates a convincing environment to play in. The monsters are also quite impressive and manage to create real tension as you explore. The animation of the weapons is good too. Overall, The Dark is an excellent piece of modern retro that is still worth playing today.
The author has released digital versions for free, but you can buy a physical, boxed cassette release of the game for £14.99 GBP to support the developer (see link below).