The Evil Dead, ZX Spectrum

The ZX Spectrum version of Palace Software‘s The Evil Dead video game was never released as a stand-alone title, although it was given away as a freebie on the b-side of the cassette for the ZX Spectrum version of Cauldron. Probably because Palace realised that no person in their right mind would pay money for a game this bad.

The Evil Dead is a conversion of the Commodore 64 original, which is a terrible game anyway, and the only reason Palace Software got the license for Sam Raimi‘s infamous horror film is because Palace Video – the video rental company who put out The Evil Dead on videotape in the early Eighties – was basically the same company. And unfortunately for Evil Dead fans they did not have the talent to turn it into a decent game.

The basic premise of the game is to run around the frankly tiny cabin, picking up weapons and destroying the green demons who’ve possessed your friends, before your energy runs out.

When the game begins, your friends appear to be normal (in fact: they look identical to you, which is confusing) and yellow clouds of – I don’t know what they are; magic? Gas? Farts? – float around and will possess your friends if they touch them. When they become possessed they turn into green Kandarian demons and will try to ‘get’ you and deplete your ‘energy’. I say “get you“, but the pathfinding is so bad that they invariably end up facing walls or stuck in doorways. Weapons appear (and disappear) randomly in the cabin and to pick one up you must stand next to one and press fire. Unfortunately, when you do have a weapon in your possession, they magically disappear after a short period of time, and if you try to attack a demon without a weapon you’ll lose energy more quickly. To actually kill a demon with a weapon you must face it and press fire before the weapon vanishes. Then go find another weapon.

The cabin itself is only about three screens in length and when you move from one area to the next the screen simply flips to the next section. Closed doors can be opened by facing them and pressing fire, and windows can be broken by using a weapon on them. As well as the green demons, there are also severed body parts running around too, which you also need to destroy.

When your energy reaches zero the screen flashes wildly and you lose a life. When all three of your lives are gone the game unceremoniously ends. And then – if you have a high enough score – you get to enter your name onto the high score table. And that’s about it. Apparently, when you’ve killed a certain number of demons, The Book of Dead appears and you can pick it up and throw it onto the fire to complete the game, but I saw no evidence of that after a few hours of play. There’s so little to The Evil Dead that it’s hardly worth playing.

The game says on the title screen that it supports the Currah MicroSpeech, but it only speaks when you type a letter on the keyboard, which is a complete waste of an opportunity. In fact, this steaming pile of donkey droppings is a wasted opportunity at every level, and it’s even worse than the awful Commodore 64 original. Michael Fox – the coder who wrote this – should rightly be embarrassed by this dreadful game. As should Palace Software, who designed and published it.

I would like to see some kind of modern re-make of this game, because the basic idea does have potential, but it’s so badly programmed and implemented that it wastes that potential. With a bit more effort this could have been a fun game, but as it stands it’s really not worth playing, other than to frown at.

More: The Evil Dead on Wikipedia
More: The Evil Dead on World of Spectrum

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