Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Specvent Calendar Day 18 - Spectres

Spectres (Bug-Byte, 1982)

So, why is an obvious Pacman clone in this late in the list? Is it the one I said a couple of days ago I'd forgotten, and that should have been shoved in the first few days? Read on, Yes and No, in that order.

Spectres, the only release in my Specvent calendar from 1982, is indeed a Pacman clone. Sort of. As Eddie the electrician, you have to relight the gloomy passages while avoiding the ghosts, with bonuses to find and generators to light up the passages and make the ghosts vulnerable. Thing is though, you only light up the passages you've already rewired, ghosts only become vulnerable when they're "in the light", and if they leave the lit sections they quickly recover their scare factor. Then consider that after the usual short grace period, not only does the generator switch off, but all the bulbs lit by it blow and return to darkness. As can be imagined, this makes progress between screens a perilous affair, as after the last generator blows you can be faced with re-re-re-rewiring almost the entire screen. Even when you finally get the entire space lit up, you still have to make it back to the central pen before you move on to the next screen. Suffice to say I only made it that far once tonight, and I don't remember ever getting past the third screen.

As for the ghosts themselves, they are pleasingly different, much like the original but possibly more so - while yellow will unlive and let live, blue will wander at random but hone in if he catches sight of you, green is pretty much your everyghost and red... don't talk to me about red. If you're not quick, he'll get you before you make a turn, and once he gets a bead on you the wraparound passages are your only hope. I could go on, but suffice to say it's challengingly difficult without relying on sheer speed or challenge as did so many others at the time. The graphics and sound are functional and movement is smooth.

And, more to the point of it's placing, it was both one of the first two Spectrum games I owned (along with Psion's Planetoids) and my father's all-time favourite game. Even as a young teenager it was kind of magical to see how much my 55-year old dad enjoyed this game (even if he did insist on referring to it as "Ernie the Electrician") and looking back now... yeah. Nice game, great memories.

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