Thursday, 20 December 2012

Specvent Calendar Day 19 - Splat!

Splat! (Incentive Software, 1983)

The 9th entry on the calendar from 1983 (and there's still one more to come...) Splat! remains probably unique among Spectrum games and yet a definite precursor of current i-thing gaming. The graphics are simple, sound minimal, and movement by character rather than pixel, but the game is pure addiction.

You play a cross-shaped , erm, thing, called Zippy, seeking to escape from an enchanted garden that's trying to kill you, much as enchanted gardens are wont to do. You move around eating grass and plums, while the maze moves round you, in a bizarre conflation of the control scheme where you move round the screen and the one where you (usually) stay centred while the background moves. Stay pretty much in the centre of the screen and you're usually safe, until the scenery forces you to the edges or you encounter the barbed wire spikes, but there again venture nearer the edge of your own free will and there may be some delicious invisible grass to much on for Big's the classic risk/reward equation and it gets me every time!

While the maze movement seems random, it has specific start and end points for each sector, so with experience you always know which way it is most likely to move at any time, though it often surprises you with fatal consequences. For instance on Level 2, you'll always start by being forced up through the river crossing as above, then usually back down before finally going up again - and one of the irritations is that it's often quite difficult to get Zippy to move only one space rather than two, unless there's a friendly wall to lean against: is our hero a wee bit tipsy, perhaps? Either way, update the graphics a bit, add tilt controls and you have a fully-formed iThing game ready to roll in the bucks...

This is a game I actually remember buying (£2.50 from the 2nd-hand software guy in Chester market; he told me he thought it was rubbish himself) and being annoyed that the £500 competition prize had already been won, as I quickly scored higher than the winner...

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