Tag Archives: Ultimate

Lunar Jetman, BBC Micro

The BBC Micro conversion of Ultimate‘s classic Lunar Jetman is a very good one, using a high res display mode for the graphics, which are mostly monochrome (just like the Spectrum original).

It plays just as well as the original too, and this results in a very challenging, but very playable game. And let’s face it: the original is a very difficult game.

The task in hand: to collect a bomb and drive it to the enemy base, before picking it up and dropping it on an enemy missile launcher, is much easier said than done. Predominantly because there’s a time limit, and random alien sprites keep getting in the way, and holes in the ground impede your vehicle so must be covered with girders. Again: easier said than done. Completing the level by destroying the enemy base is possible (I’ve done it myself on occasion), which means doing it again at a higher difficulty level the next time.

More: Lunar Jetman on Wikipedia

Sabre Wulf, Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 version of Ultimate‘s classic Sabre Wulf was made by Greg Duddle of Mr. Micro for Firebird Software, who published the game in 1985.

Graphically, it’s a mix of the chunkiness of the BBC and Amstrad versions, and the “high definition” (ha!) of the original Spectrum version. It’s a pleasing mix anyway, and there’s none of the graphical flicker or colour clash that blights other versions.

Gameplay-wise: it’s the same as the original and there don’t seem to be any problems with control or collision detection. That said: some enemies seem to spawn in places where they don’t in the original, which makes the game slightly more difficult. C64 Sabre Wulf also plays quite fast, which makes it fairly challenging.

Commodore 64 Sabre Wulf is a respectable conversion overall.

Sabre Wulf on The King of Grabs:
ZX Spectrum versionBBC Micro version,
Amstrad CPC version, Commodore 64 version

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabre_Wulf

Sabre Wulf, Amstrad CPC

The Amstrad conversion of Sabre Wulf features the same chunky graphics as the BBC version, except with some extra colouring. It does make make a difference though. The Amstrad version doesn’t look quite as harsh as the BBC version.

Although the gameplay is reasonably accurate, I’m not entirely convinced by the actual playability of this conversion – the keyboard and joystick controls are a little sticky and the collision detection is also a little suspect. I found this to be more unforgiving than the original.

Still: Amstrad Sabre Wulf is not a bad game and is still worth a play now. Just from memory I managed to complete three quarters of the game, although I did use quicksaves. 🙂

Sabre Wulf on The King of Grabs:
ZX Spectrum versionBBC Micro version,
Amstrad CPC version, Commodore 64 version

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabre_Wulf

Sabre Wulf, BBC Micro

The BBC Micro version of Ultimate Play The Game‘s classic Sabre Wulf is so chunky and garish that it hurts the eyes! That said: it plays well enough.

Gameplay is identical to the Spectrum version: you play Sabreman and you run around a big maze, looking for four parts of a mysterious amulet. Enemies appear randomly on each screen and most can be killed with a sword. Some are invulnerable though and will only change direction if you hit them with the sword. And of course there’s the titular Sabre Wulf himself, who patrols the lower levels and is invulnerable to everything. If the Wulf touches you – or any other enemy touches you for that matter – you lose a life. So avoiding being touched is key. A skilled player will go for some time without losing a life, although it’s very easy to lose concentration and get knocked down.

Although this plays similarly to the original, it’s really nowhere near as good. Not by a long chalk. The chunky, stretched graphics just don’t look very good to be honest. Certainly not as good as the beautifully-stylised graphics of the original.

Like most of the BBC Ultimate conversions: this is only a partial success. It’s capable of delivering some fun for a short while, doesn’t have much “wow” factor, and is very much overshadowed by the Spectrum original.

Sabre Wulf on The King of Grabs:
ZX Spectrum version, BBC Micro version,
Amstrad CPC versionCommodore 64 version

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabre_Wulf

Pentagram, ZX Spectrum

By the time Pentagram came out in 1986, famous development and publishing house – Ultimate Play The Game – had been sold off to US Gold. How much of Pentagram was therefore down to Ultimate‘s designers, and how much was down to US Gold‘s programmers, is still a matter for debate. Most likely, Pentagram was a construct of US Gold, with Ultimate providing only the initial ideas, graphics and game engine (the famous Filmation Engine).

Although Pentagram is the de facto fourth instalment in the Sabreman series (after Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde, and Knight Lore), it doesn’t feel like it fits in with the other three aforementioned games. It doesn’t quite feel like Ultimate.

Unfortunately, after the purchase by US Gold, the Ultimate Play The Game label died a swift death. I don’t think people were fooled by the change of ownership and sales of the last few Ultimate games were peanuts compared to the previous releases.

As a game in its own right, Pentagram just about pushes the Filmation Engine as far as it can go on a humble Speccy. Just like in Knight Lore and Alien 8, there’s tons of slowdown when a few things are moving on-screen at the same time. And – like Knight Lore and Alien 8Pentagram is ridiculously difficult too.

More: Pentagram on Wikipedia

Alien 8, ZX Spectrum

The original ZX Spectrum version of Alien 8 was first released in 1985, not long after Knight Lore had already blown the world away with its incredible isometric graphics and characteristic gameplay.

This game carried on the tradition of great releases from Ultimate, even though the gameplay was very similar to Knight Lore. The general consensus at the time was that the graphics and gameplay in general were an improvement over the previous game, so we shouldn’t worry too much about the similarities. Which is right.

As much as I love Knight Lore, I think Alien 8 is more straightforward (and less annoying, since it doesn’t have you transforming into a werewolf in the middle of a jump). The ultra-cute design of the main character is wonderful – it contrasts with the puzzles, which are fiendish!

Just like in Knight Lore, Alien 8 features quite a bit of slowdown when there are multiple objects moving on-screen at the same time, but it doesn’t detract too much from play. This is a classic Ultimate game that cannot be ignored.

The Amstrad CPC version of Alien 8 features more colour (and less slowdown) and is arguably better than this Spectrum original.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_8

Jet Pac, VIC-20

Jet Pac on the Commodore VIC-20 is pretty much the same as the classic ZX Spectrum version. It even has ‘colour clash’ like the original…

Shoot the aliens; collect and drop the parts of your ship; then collect and drop the fuel, before taking off. The game moves a bit more quickly, which makes it more difficult than the original, and the graphics are a bit chunkier (although nowhere hear as chunky as the BBC Micro version), but otherwise it is the same great Ultimate game as seen on the Spectrum.

Jet Pac does have limited lasting appeal, but then again: it is squeezed into only 8K of RAM. The basic game, though, is excellent – it’s a retro-gaming classic!

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jetpac

Gunfright, ZX Spectrum

Another isometric action adventure from Ultimate Play The Game, this one with a Wild West theme.

Gunfright was first released in 1985 and uses the Filmation II Engine as first seen in Nightshade.

You play a sheriff in a small town called Black Rock who must hunt and kill a gang of outlaws who are hiding in it.

The game starts with a minigame – a shooting gallery type game – where money can be earned by shooting falling bags. The money can then be used to buy ammunition.

The main part of the game is similar to Nightshade – exploring an isometric, scrolling environment. Residents wander the streets and some are even helpful and point towards the outlaws. These residents have to be protected, though, as any deaths are penalised with fines.

When you find an outlaw Gunfright again switches to the shooting gallery game, only this time you must shoot the bad guy before he shoots you. You can wait for him to draw, or you can just plug him ASAP.

Graphically, Gunfright decent enough. It’s not as colourful as Nightshade was, but it does have character.

Gunfright was the first Ultimate-developed game to be published by another company. US Gold were the ones who released it, and not long afterwards they bought Ultimate out. So Gunfright is seen by some as the last ‘proper’ Ultimate game.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunfright

Entombed, Commodore 64

Entombed was Ultimate Play The Game‘s first (and possibly only) hit game on the Commodore 64. It received rave reviews from most who played it back in 1985 and the gaming world was generally quite receptive of it.

In it you play Sir Arthur Pendragon and must negotiate your way through a deadly Egyptian tomb. Some of the puzzles are obscure and the sprites are quite chunky, but overall Entombed is still quite compelling to play now. Certainly more so than some of its successors.

As the series went on it received more and more slatings, and Sir Arthur Pendragon and his miserable little game series finally died a death. 🙂

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entombed_(video_game)

Tranz Am, ZX Spectrum

Set in a post-apocalypse USA (in the year 3472, no less), Tranz Am is an overhead racing game where the aim is to collect eight cups (The Great Cups of Ultimate), which have been randomly dispersed around the continent.

Fuel is scarce, and finding petrol pumps is essential in the battle to keep going. Obstacles will lose you a car if you crash into them, and other cars pull kamikaze style attacks on you.

Tranz Am – alongside Jet Pac, Pssst, and Cookie – comprise the early Ultimate 16K collection from 1983, all of which are considered classics for good reason.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tranz_Am