Never was a slogan less needed. Play the game? For sure! How about play the whole darn collection more like! And that’s a challenge right up PFTP street, so off we went to the days of rubber keys, cassette tape loading and using Sinclar’s finest to help with our homework hehe. With back-to-back Spectrum classics ahead, we first recalled our top-3 faves from yesteryear, for the nostalgia and to see how they’d stood the test of time…
The 1984 USA Olympics opened with one but ground-breaking Ultimate got there first! Yep, one year earlier in fact, the prestigious Ultimate brand was launched with Jetpac. Interestingly this game was amongst the faves of all three players and it’s still a blast today. Pure pick-up-and-play, a shooter/platformer, with shades of Defender, armed with a Jet pack and laser, your task is to build and fuel your ships before blasting off to the next level.
If Gaz edged this absolute gem of a game, Bri gave a masterclass in PSSST! Where others had failed, Alan ‘RAMBO’ Titchmarsh kept the pests at bay, with bloom after successive bloom, he was in spray-can cruise-control, amid calls of ‘die, die, die’ from his rivals haha. Next up, Ste proved to be the real Cookie-meister! Amongst his faves, and he proved why in what was really quite demanding gameplay. Essentially a shooter, you’re required to ‘fire’ the ingredients into the mixing bowel to make a cake. Talk inevitably drifted to food, recalling memories of school dinners and one lad’s fried egg obsession!. The last of the 16K games, Trans Am, saw Gaz go across America alright, collecting 7 out of the required 8 cups. Then again, he probably played 1000+ hours back in the day if only to beat his brother lol
The progression was evident as games grew bigger and more complex, none more so than Lunar Jetman which proved to be the surprise hit of the night. Unlike modern games, there’s no hand-holding here, just hardcore game play. Always up for a challenge, we decided to create our owner ‘tutorial’ level via a poke or two and what a revelation it was, to open up the game in this way. Bri, in another harlem-globe-trotting display, repaired pot-hole after pot-hole, even took out a missile or two with his bare laser beam, before nuking the god damn graphically impressive base! Our appreciation of the game took off alright! Gaz was back in his fave territory or rather lost within it, with an marathon Atic Atac game. Another perfectly conceived and executed game this is a hunted house collect-em-up, shoot-em-up, maze game, such fun even if the two damn remaining pieces of the ACG key eluded him.
Next up, the very close-relative in the Ultimate family, Sabre Wulf, and faved by two of the three players and who better to demonstrate than our very own Sabreman himself! Such colourful graphics had not been seen before on the Spectrum and the jungle is no less lush today. Sabreman’s adventures continued into Underwurlde, another platformer with the most energetic and acrobatic jumping (well mostly falling) where precision is taken to another level.
TO ANOTHER DIMENSION…
Their games were always state of the art, but these were truly ground breaking, and opened up another chapter of 3D games. The first of these was Knight Lore and I still remember the awe when standing in from of the CRT screens at The Software Shop in Brum. Set in the Knight Lore castle, your goal is to collect ingredients for the the potion (echos of Cookie here?) that will free you from the werewolf curse. An arcade adventure with strong puzzle elements. Labelled Filmation, this game was like no other, and still looks good today, even if I did find myself wandering about on a sight-seeing mission. Utterly impressive nevertheless.
It’s sequel was Alien 8, similar in many ways, this time set on a space ship, your task is to, erm, something about cryonaughts? Another quality street game without doubt. The hour was getting late by now, so we had time for only he briefest of plays of the remaining games, the scrolling 3D worlds of Nightshade, Gunfright and Pentagram, that sure surely deserve another revisit.
By the end of the night the worlds created by Ultimate had cast their spell, we were immersed in the games that oooze quality, atmosphere and playability to this day. And for this we salute the Stamper brothers and the rest of ACG crew for gaming magic that belongs in everyone’s hall of fame.
And purely just-for-fun, as part of our 30 year time travel, each player gave each game a rating out of five. So out of a maximum of 15, the PFTP ‘ultimate’ ultimate games scored..
1. Jetpac 14.0
2. Sabre Wulf 12.5
3. Atic Atac 11.5
3. Knight Lore 11.5
5. Cookie 10.5
7. Alien 8 10
8. Lunar Jetman 9.5
9. Trans Am 9
9. Underwurlde 9