Knight Lore (1984, Ultimate)
It obviously had to be here somewhere – I can happily ignore some of the acknowledged “classics” because I didn’t have them at the time, or I was so bad at them I gave up in the first few screens (hello JSW…) but when I unwrapped Knight Lore on Christmas Day 1984 I was set for a full day’s playing, and then another and, well, you get the idea. This was it, this was the game that proved the Spectrum was best: you can keep your chunky colour sprites, I’ve got beautifully detailed graphics in isometric 3D. One colour per screen, yes, but what colours…
Detail would be superfluous on such a well-known game, but briefly your task is to cure your lycanthropy by finding the wizard’s cauldron, then feeding it with the ingredients necessary to keep you human 24 hours a day, hindered only by a selection of ghosts, blobs, clockwork knights, falling blocks, portcullises and the tendency to transform into a wolf at inconvenient times. And what a transformation! Dad didn’t care about the gameplay so much, but would keep watching just to see man become wolf, or wolf become man. There was a time limit of 40 ‘days’ before you had doggie breath for life, but that never worried me, I was usually dead by day 15.
So popular it spawned an entire genre of copycat games (many of them by UPTG themselves, sadly) yet there were only two or three (Batman and Head Over Heels, and possibly Sweevo’s World) that could arguably be said to have improved on the original. But I didn’t play any of those obsessively between Christmas and New Year to a constant soundtrack of Cocteau Twins’ Treasure LP (also a Christmas present, and also still one of my top ten albums, fact fans.)