Tag Archives: Spectrum

Chuckie Egg Spectrum vs the BBC Micro

What was the best version of Chuckie Egg?

Back in the 80’s my friend Jason and I would share time playing between my humble ZX Spectrum and his much more powerful (and expensive) BBC Micro. Many of the games that we played were exclusives to that platform, with few titles spanning both computers. At my house we would be playing games such as Manic Miner and School Daze, and at his house games such as Mr Ee! and Frak, There were some exceptions however, such as Yie Ar King Fu, which always gave rise to arguments about which one was best.

Chuckie Egg for the ZX Spectrum
Chuckie Egg for the ZX Spectrum

The biggest argument debate of all centred on Chuckie Egg, the classic platformer from A&F software that featured a farmer and some very grumpy chickens, battling out for farmyard supremacy. Both versions had their fans, as both were excellent games in their own right, but which version of this classic performer really was the best?

There’s only one way to find out……FIGHT!

Round 1 – Chuckie Egg Graphics

The graphics on the Beeb were always deemed better than the Spectrum, due to the bright colour palette and lack of attribute clash on the BBC Machine.

Chuckie Egg for the BBC
Chuckie Egg for the BBC Micro

That said, the characters in the game were intentionally small, lending themselves to the Spectrum’s less colourful but higher resolution screen, with the Beeb version using the chunkier low resolution screen mode.

The animation on the Spectrum was incredibly smooth, with each jump forming a perfect arc, and the animation of the birds spot on, but this can also be said of the BBC version, which always managed to produce great scrolling graphics.

So for me that’s round one to the Spectrum, edged slightly into the win by the clarity of the graphics.

Round 2 – Chuckie Egg Sound

The Spectrum was always going to struggle with soudnd being it’s Achilles heel. The tiny internal beeper (speaker is probably too strong a word for it) had to fight for space with all of the Spectrum’s other internal parts, and could only emit a vague beeping noise on one measly sound channel. The BBC however had a great 4 channel sound chip and internal speaker, which allowed for great sound effects and some proper synthesised tunes.

As a consequence, many Spectrum games had no music at all, and Chuckie Egg was no exception. All the lowly Speccy could manage was a series of clicks and buzzes to accompany the action on screen. Strangely, given the greatly enhanced sound capabilities of the BBC, it was exactly the same as the Spectrum, almost as if the BBC version was emulating the earlier Spectrum version.

So that’s has to be a draw, with a point for each, making the score 2-1 to the Spectrum.

Round 3 – Chuckie Egg Gameplay

Always going to be a tricky one this, as many people will have favourites based entirely on the game they played, as few people would have had access to the game on both machines at the time. Looking at this clinically, a replay is required of both games on the original hardware, which I am lucky enough to possess, so no emulators for me… or at least that was the plan.

After a bit of messing around with cassettes and my trusty WHSmith tape player, which was part of the challenge of playing games back in the day, I gave this up as a bad job and fired up my PC to access the emulator software after all. Time had not been kind to the already sensitive tape and I couldn’t get either game to load via cassette.

Playing the games on a PC emulator is much simpler, and at least allows me to use a keyboard to control Henhouse Harry, as nature intended on the originals. First up the Spectrum version, and it’s not long before I have Henhouse Harry leaping about like a lunatic. The pace of the game is frantic, but due to the excellent collision detection you could leap onto ladders half way up, and clear gaps easily without having to the jumps perfectly – unlike arcade forebear Donkey Kong which was famously difficult to time your movement.

Playing the BBC version straight after the Spectrum and it definitely feels different, but difficult to immediately put your finger on why. After a while, you realise that the BBC version actually has more realistic physics – Henhouse Harry’s jumps are subject to gravity as he decelerates when jumping up and accelerates when dropping down. This may be more realistic but it actually make timing jumps more easy on the Spectrum, with Harry maintaining a regular speed regardless of how high he jumps or how far he falls.

For this reason alone I find the Spectrum version easier to play, as you get into the zone and zip through the many screens capturing eggs and avoiding the giant chickens.

So for me the third round also goes to the ZX Spectrum.

Verdict: 3-1 to the ZX Spectrum

Despite the games playing in a very similar way, with virtually identical graphics and sound, the Spectrum just edges it for me, but the 3-1 score does not really do justice to the BBC version, which was an excellent game and has many fans. Perhaps my semi-scientific approach is not really appropriate when comparing these versions of Chuckie Egg – perhaps you are always going to favour the game you played as a kid, and for me my favourite will always be the Spectrum.

Bugaboo! retro review for the ZX Spectrum


Back in 1983 the choice of Spectrum games was pretty limited, but one that stood out for me was this game – Bugaboo! Written by two (probably) Spanish zoologists (Paco & Paco) and it shows, with the game premise seeming somehow European…

Bugaboo ZX Spectrum
Bugaboo Spectrum screenshot
The objective of the game was incredibly simple. Your frog (it was actually a flea called Bugaboo but I thought it looked more froggy) is dropped into an alien gorge, and you had to use the natural features of the landscape to jump out. Controllled using just two keys, to jump left and jump right, the game required you to time the length of the key press to make Bugaboo safely jump the right height to a ledge above him.

To complicate this, the jump meter was very twitchy, and difficult to judge accurately. There was also a time limit imposed by a dragon, who would fly in after a certain period and try to eat you. Just to add a bit more drama to the proceedings. A bit like the big chicken in Chuckie Egg.

Bugaboo Gameplay Video


Bugaboo Cassette Inlay
Bugaboo Cassette Inlay

To help matters you could use the cursor keys to browse the playing area, which is bigger than screen, and plan your jumps several moves in advance, plotting a course through the maze of ledges.

Bugaboo featured some well defined and colourful graphics, which complimented the simple yet addictive gameplay. I can remember playing for hours at a friend’s house and getting in trouble with mum for coming home too late. I also remember copying the game using a twin cassette recorder, and for this Quiksilva I am truly sorry.  If it’s any consolation the game refused to load every time, and I spent more time playing with the tone control on the cassette player than I ever did playing the (pirated) game.

A winner from Quicksilva, a novel idea very well executed the (then) fledgling Spectrum.

If you want to read more, a history of the game can be found here – useful if you an speak Spanish though

Top 10 Spectrum Games: the best Speccy games ever!

Games every ZX Spectrum owner should play

Every ZX Spectrum owner will have had their own personal favourites on Sinclair’s popular home computer, and I have drawn up a list of what I believe to be the best. My Top 10 is based on my experiences of innovative games, that even 30 years later will spark fond memories of the fantastic little machine.

You could claim that I have made some noteable exclusions, such as footballing classic Match Day, perennial favourite 3D Death Chase, and various games featuring the Spectrum mascot Dizzy. All I can say is that this is my list, and I have my reasons for every game included here.

I have also included a mix of 16k and 48k Spectrum games, as I owned both versions and early arcade titles that fit into the smaller memory could be just as good as the (relatively) memory hungry versions. Remember this is a time when their were no hard drives, every game had to be loaded from tape (or usometimes micro-drive) directly into memory whenever you wanted to play.

So in no particular order, my Top 10 Spectrum games…

Jet Set Willy

Every Spectrum owner will have played one of Matthew Smith’s classic Spectrum platformers starring Miner Willy. The first game, Manic Miner, was a sensation and its sequel, Jet Set Willy was even better.

Jet Set Willy ZX spectrum screenshot

Having made his money in the first game, Miner Willy has bought a huge mansion and held the mother of all parties. Before he can go to bed, the housekeeper is inisiting on him tidying up the place, requiring him to explore the many rooms of the mansion and collect various misplaced objects. The first really good attempts at a platformer on the Spectrum, these games featured many tricky hazards including conveyer belts, melting walkways, devious enemies and also required some pixel perfect jumping skills. Jet Set Willy improved on the linear nature of the first game by allowing free movement between the rooms of the mansion, creating a truly unique sequel.

Knight Lore

Knight Lore ZX Spectrum screenshot

This was the first game from Ultimate to feature the innovative Filmation graphics engine, which enabled rendering a game world in isometric 3d. This viewpoint was subsequently used in a number of classic Spectrum games including Head over Heels and Batman. Knight Lore itself was the third in the series of Sabreman games, this time our hero suffering from a nasty case of Lycanthropy, resulting in him spending half the game in werewolf form as he explores a huge castle seeking a cure. Each room of the castle featured puzzles and obstacles to overcome, in order to access the ingredients required to place in a central cauldron and create a potion. A smash at the time, it was a huge leap ahead in terms of graphics on the Spectrum, and set a standard for other games to follow.

Atic Atac

Atic Atac ZX Spectrum screenshot

At the time this “haunted mansion” themed game seemed epic, a colourful and action packed game like nothing before it on the Spectrum. Your mission was to play as one of three medieval characters, each with different skills and different routes that must be taken through the game. Find the various pieces of key, avoid or kill the numerous monsters, and fight your way to the exit. This game featured some great graphics, shown from a top-down perpective, and some well animated creatures – but my favourite component was the chicken based life-meter which shows your character’s health.

One of many Spectrum games that required you to draw a map as you progressed in order to remember your way the next time, often resulting in lots of bits of A4 paper selotaped together as your map grew ever larger and more complicated.

Click here for the full review


Underwurlde ZX Spectrum screenshot

The sequel to Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde transported the hero Sabreman to a underground world, which saw him turned on his side and become a platformer rather than a top-down adventure. Much like Atic Atac and Sabre Wulf before it, the gameplay required you to explore a complex series of rooms, avoid baddies, and find specific items (in this case weapons) in order to escape. Along the way Sabreman would be required to jump gaps, climb ropes and ride on bubbles in order to traverse the huge maze of over 500 screens.

Some might say 3 Sabreman games in the the Top 10 but each had a different graphical style and unique gameplay elements that merit their inclusion.

Skool Daze

School daze ZX Spectrum screenshot

Another game that could really only work in the UK, Skool Daze was the closest thing to a Spectrum version of popular 80’s TV show, Grange Hill. Your mission was to survive the various challenges that school threw at you, from grumpy teachers through to evil bullies, and uncover the combination to the school safe, which held an incriminating report card. Get caught using your catapult, or any other number of misdemeanors, and you will be given lines, too many lines and you are expelled.

Another game featuring classic British humour, this was a unique game concept that was platformer, simulation, puzzle and adventure in equal parts, and a firm favourite with many Spectrum owners.

Daly Thomson’s Decathlon

Daley Thomsons Decathlon ZX Spectrum screenshot

Famous for its ability to destroy joysticks, Daly Thomson’s Decathlon was a clone of the Track & Field arcade game, which required players to bash buttons and waggle joysticks furiously in order to make the on screen characters run, jump and throw their way to athletic victory.

Ocean’s version for the Spectrum featured popular decathlete Daley Thomson, and gave the player the opportunity to take part in all 10 events. The game featured some great animation, although slightly strange graphics in that the black Olympian was portrayed as an all-white sprite – probably more due to the limited colour palette and attribute clash issues of the humble spectrum than anything else. My personal favourite was the Javelin, which required maximum speed and just the right throwing angle in order to get a qualifying throw.

A great game and must feature in any Spectrum fan’s Top 10 list.

Click here for the full review

Sabre Wulf

Sabre Wulf ZX Spectrum screenshot

The third game from Ultimate in my Spectrum Top 10 game, this featured the first outing of Sabreman, reappearing in Underwurlde, in wolf form in Knight Lore, and finally as a wizard in Pentagram. Sabre Wulf was an adventure set in a huge flick-screen world of lush vegetation, back in the day when there were no maps on your head up display, if you wanted to find your way through the many screens you had to get busy with a pencil and paper. Avoid the jungle critters, collect 4 pieces of the amulet and you were free, but not without a long battle with numerous enemies and a lot of back-tracking through the game’s 256 screens. An obvious inclusion for my list of Top 10 Spectrum games.

Everyone’s a Wally

Everyones a wally ZX Spectrum screenshot microgen

Microgen released the much loved series of platform / adventure games featuring the affable Wally on a number of platforms including the Spectrum. All of these games featured large colourful sprites and challenging gameplay, culminating in this version which allowed players to adopt the personas of various members of the Week family. Each had special skills which had to be used to full effect in order to solve the various puzzles required to complete the game, and each had their own health bar which had to be independently maintained.

A novel game with some innovative features, most Spectrum owners will have at least one Wally game in their collection.

3D Ant Attack

3d Ant Attack ZX Spectrum Screenshot

Before Ultimate kicked off the craze for isometric adventure games, Quicksilva gave us 3D Any Attack. Set in a scrolling isometric 3D world (think Zaxxon with movement in 4 diagonal directions), the objective was to rescue your partner, boy or girl depending on your chosen character. Avoid the giant ants, and climb ever more complex structures to locate your mate and escape the city, armed only with a few grenades with which to stun the overgrown insects.

Another unique Spectrum game, this was a great retro memory for me and still playable today.

Chuckie Egg

Chuckie Egg ZX Spectrum screenshot

This game was available on a number of platforms, and everyone has their favoirite, but I loved the Spectrum version. As a farmer charged with collecting eggs from around a multi level henhouse, you used some fairly atheltic running and jumping skils to navigate the various levels and platforms whist avoiding the resident hens. Take too long to complete the level and the Boss Chicken would escape his cage and chase you around the level.

Some frenetic gameplay and excellent controls ensured that an apparently simple platformer became an enduring Spectrum classic and a dead cert Top 10 inclusion.

PSSST! for the ZX Spectrum, an Ultimate review

One of the less lauded games from Ultimate, PSSST! was one of my first experiences of a really slick and addictive Spectrum game. It was launched around the time of Jet-Pac, prior to the later and more popular isometric games. I remember cutting out the coupon in Sinclair User to order the game, paid for with a postal order for £5. No downloadable content and PayPal for us back in 1983! Back then you had to rely on a grainy screenshot if you were lucky, and the idea of Youtube to view gameplay was a fantasy.

PSSST! Loading Screen on the ZX Spectrum
PSSST! Loading Screen on the ZX Spectrum
Playing the role of “Robbie the Robot”, your objective is to patrol your garden and protect your green shoot from invading insects long enough for it to grow and flower. The insects would crawl or fly towards the flower, and could be killed by using the right kind of spray for the insect – either a puff of gas, an electric zap or a water spray. The cans were dotted in alcoves by the side of the screen, and you could only carry one at a time, which forms the main game mechanic.  You will encounter a number of different bugs as you progress through the game, starting with caterpillers and moving through bumble bees and wasps, each with a different attack pattern, and requiring different spray types.

Survival of your flower was a frantic battle to keep swapping sprays and killing insects moving at different speeds towards your flower.

Not the best or deepest game from Ultimate but a taste of things to come, and a world away from the clunky amd jumpy character animation of most early Spectrum games.


Atic Atac Retro Review for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Atic Atac for ZX Spectrum

Well before I discovered Atic Atac, my first experience of Spectrum gaming was from Sinclair’s own game label. It was a fairly lumpy product called Horace Goes Skiing. Whilst a world away from the silent black and white ZX81 which I had just graduated from, I soon got bored of these early Spectrum offerings, which had no depth and very little replay value.

Loading Screen for Atic Atac
Loading Screen for Atic Atac

Atic Atac Game Development

Soon developers began to unlock the full potential of the little rubber buttoned machine, and at the head of this movement were the Stamper Brothers, and their company – Utimate Play the Game. Early games such at Jetpac, Pssst! and TransAm games were massively addictive, with smooth scrolling graphics, large colourful sprites and novel gameplay, with that all important replay value.

After these initial successes, Atic Atac was the first in a series of action adventure games, featuring larger play areas and huge puzzles to solve, providing a much deeper game experience. The game was set in a haunted castle, your mission to find the parts of a key that would allow you to escape, without first eing overcome by the many monsters therein.

The castle setting of Atic Atac was spread over 5 floors, including subterranean dungeons, and the haunted attic of the title, and was riddled with secret passages that had to be learned in order to progress. You could play as a Knight, Wizard or Serf, with each character having their own unique weapons, and the ability to use specific secret passages. Atic Atac was quite punishing, with your character faced with a continuous onslaught from the various monsters, some of which could be destroyed, some just avoided. Life in the representation of a roast chicken could be restored by eating food found lying around the dungeon. Not that food found on the floor should be eaten anyway, but mushrooms were very dangerous and actually drained life.

Picking up coloured keys allowed access to different coloured doors, and you could also climb up and down stairs to access different levels, or use a trap door or other secret passages mentioned earlier. Once you had the levels of Atic Atac mapped, you had the solution and it is possible to complete the game in 3 minutes or less, but the fun was in mapping your route. With the 3 characters having different skills and routes to complete the game, Atic Atac certainly had some replay value after completing the first quest.