yslogo.gif (1158 bytes)

THE FORGOTTEN ONES - July 1993

Stuart 'Wa-hey!' Campbell, formerly Counter Assistant Of The Year at Cardiff's famous Shoepurmarket, has nothing to do with the following article. But Stuart 'Bet you a tenner I can overturn that Ford Sierra before you sink your pint' Campbell has, for he, coincidentally, has exactly the same name as Stuart Campbell, who wrote it.

There are, at a rough count, bloody loads of Spectrum games. More games, in fact, than for any other games machine that's ever been invented in the world, ever. 10,000 is a conservative estimate, so it's perhaps not surprising that a few have been lost in the wash. These are the Forgotten Ones - the games that got delayed until everybody forgot that they existed at all, the ones that never got finished, the ones that got finished but didn't get released, the ones that got released without being finished, the ones that got finished and released but not bought by anybody, the ones that got - (Yes, yes, all right - Ed). Well, anyway. Here they are, in a sort of reverse order of desirability. All dates are approximate, and Your Sinclair accepts no responsibility for your household pets when you go on holiday.
    
14. Return Of The Things (Design Design)
Fine, upstanding loonies Design Design were kinda quaint in writing games where it was the gameplay that mattered, not the graphics. They missed a couple of times (and cheerfully admitted it) - notable duds include the impossibly fast Defender clone Invasion Of The Body Snatchas, which had missiles that followed you off the edge of the screen - but when they were good, they were bloody great. This, the sequel to Halls Of The Things, was brilliant. Crap graphics, huge levels and massively entertaining gameplay that could only be enjoyed by Crash subscribers. Yup, this game was never taken on by the shops, and if that isn't a damning indictment of society's shallow attitudes, I don't blimmin' well know what is.
    
13. Judge Death (Piranha)
After seeing two abysmal attempts to put Judge Dredd on the Speccy (the first from Melbourne House and the second by the programmers of Dan Dare while suffering from a bout of amnesia or something) Piranha cleverly spotted the connection and decided to ignore Dredd and write a game about his arch-enemy instead. In a spook reversal, you played a heroine (Judge Anderson) and you had to stop the Dark Judges laying waste to Mega-City One with their own brand of justice (all crime is committed by the living, ergo life itself is a crime). The game was a shooting gallery affair which nevertheless looked quite funky, but before the programmers could finish the game and millions of Mega-citizens could perish horribly, Piranha went belly up and the game disappeared into the dimension void.
    
12. Bubble Buster (Hudson Soft/Sinclair)
Cast your mind back, if you will, two or three years. Remember a game called Pang? A little geezer in a pith helmet and safari suit running around bursting big balloon-type baddies with a harpoon, in a coin-op conversion described by one reviewer at the time as 'the most original arcade game I've seen in years'. But now cast your mind back another couple of years, to 1987, when Sinclair released their first batch of Spectrum software in a long time. The five games were all by an unheard-of Japanese development team called Hudson Soft, and one of them was Bubble Buster, in which - blimey! - a short dude in a pith helmet was running around bursting big balloon-type baddies with - well, you get the idea.
    
11. Street Hawk (Ocean)
Now here's a real weird one. Street Hawk came right in the middle of Ocean's ill-advised departure from coin-op licensing to TV licensing, and along with Knight Rider was advertised for about 17 years without actually appearing. Then, in an extra-specially odd turn of events, it showed up as a subscriber's free game with Crash, in the guise of a simplistic but quite fun Defender clone with motorbikes in. Advertising continued, but the ordinary punter in the Street remained Hawkless, until one day, out of the blue, the game was quietly released. As something completely different. I'm confused now.
    
10. Sigue Sigue Sputnik (?)
'The 5th Generation Of Computer Games', was the promise made in the between-tracks advert on fabulous pop band Sigue Sigue Sputnik's debut LP. 'The Sigue Sigue Sputnik Computer Game - from your favourite software house NOW!', the ad continued, hence somewhat giving the game away. This one never made it further than a couple of mock-up C64 screenshots, which is a real shame. Yes it is.
    
9. Eric And The Floaters (Hudson Soft/Sinclair)
Tch. All you fancy high-falutin' SNES owners with your fancy ways, and your four-player Super Bombermans, you think you're so big and hard and clever. Bet you wouldn't feel so smart if you knew your 75 state-of-the-art software started life as a 3-colour Spectrum game, would you? Thought not.
    
8. Gyruss (Parker)
Sinclair's ill-fated Interface 2 cartridge port never saw very much in the way of software - a load of utterly pointless port-overs of Ultimate's early 16K games was pretty much its lot. How different things could have been if plans by celebrated Atari VCS game manufacturers Parker Brothers had come to fruition - way back in 1984, they announced imminent Speccy conversions of top coin-ops Gyruss and Star Wars (with several more to follow), which would come on the fab new instant-access ROM carts and sell at the slightly forbidding price of 19.95. Programming proceeded apace, only to be swiftly curtailed when some fool pointed out to Parker that the Interface 2 had sold somewhere in the region of 164 units in the first six months, and the company was never heard from again. Star Wars later surfaced as an ordinary old tape-loading game from Domark, but Gyruss (a sort of version of Galaga with spinning round) was lost for all eternity. Sniff.
    
7. Crystal Castles (US Gold)
A bit deliberate, this one. Y'see, US Gold released this, inexplicably, as a 'Limited Edition', which as far as I can remember is the first and last time anybody ever tried such a curious sales ploy in the world of games. It sort of worked, too - the number of people I've ever met who bought a copy could only be described as 'limited'. Even more bizarre, though, was the way USG released the game again on a budget label a couple of years later, in a special 'Could Everybody In The World Buy This Please, We Spent A Lot Of Money On The Licence' Edition. Elitism, eh? It's a fickle master, or something.
    
6. Scooby Doo in The Castle Mystery (Elite)
And hey, speaking of elitism... sorry. No, really, I'm very very sorry. Anyway, no roll-call of the disappeared would be complete without the game that lent its name to an entire genre. Yep, for a while back in the mid-80s, anything which had more than 10,000 spent on advertising for it without ever coming out was known in the biz as 'a bit of a Scooby', after Elite's would-be-seminal Dragon's Lair clone. An ambitious attempt to bring the popular laser-disc coin-ops of the day to the 48K Speccy, Scooby Doo boasted amazing cartoon graphics and, er... oh. Scooby's gameplay was something that the programmers '...just never got round to, really', and the game was set adrift on out-of-memory bliss until it resurfaced as a platform beat-'em-up programmed by Faster Than Light/Gargoyle, the people who brought you Lightforce. All very nice and everything, but it wasn't quite the same.
    
5. Donkey Kong (Ocean)
Ocean now, of course, is one of the giants of computer software publishing. But as with all giants, the Manchester behemoth had humble beginnings. Starting out in 1983 with the inspirational name 'Spectrum Games', the fledgling firm specialised in unofficial conversions of popular arcade games of the day, and their biggest success almost certainly came with Kong, a hugely terrible version of the coin-op which starred a certain chubby Italian plumber. However, times change, and the renamed Ocean quickly realised that the long-term route to big bucks lay inevitably via official licences. Their Hunchback was the Speccy's first ever licensed coin-op conversion, and a few happy converting years followed until someone decided, (probably as a tribute, I should imagine) to have another go with Mario, making Ocean the only company (that I know of) to do both official and unofficial versions of the same game. And a smart job they made of it second time round too, but it was all just a few years too late and approximately three copies were sold. Shame.
    
4. The Great Giana Sisters (Rainbow Arts)
And speaking of Mario, here's another sad case. In the wake of the blossoming popularity of the first Super Mario Brothers game, Nintendo (who'd previously sold Mario's earlier outings in Donkey Kong and Mario Bros to Ocean) woke up to the possibilities of character branding and clamped down on licencing. Rainbow Arts didn't let that worry them, though, as they resurrected the ancient art of the unofficial conversion, throwing in a quick sex-change for the game's protagonists at the same time. Giana Sisters vs Nintendo's Lawyers (the court case) lasted approximately eight seconds. Giana Sisters lost.
    
3. Mire Mare (Ultimate)
On finishing Ultimate's legendary and beautiful Underwurlde, you could escape from the castle through one of three exits. Each one promised a different sequel for Sabre Man's next adventure - one exit gave you Knight Lore, another suggested Pentagram (a little-seen game which was basically Knight Lore with shooting in it), and finally there was Mire Mare, which was, er... completely non-existent, basically. To the best of our knowledge, this never made it further than a title.
    
2. Moon Patrol (Atarisoft)
Speaking purely personally, one of the greatest days of my Speccy-owning life was when Atarisoft announced that they were bringing some of their classic arcade games to the Speccy in official incarnations. Of all the games listed in the early ads, only four (to the best of my knowledge) ever actually made it into the shops - Pacman, which was actually an old unlicensed game by DJL called Z-Man which Atarisoft 'acquired' under legal duress, Pole Position (an under-rated, if a bit slow, conversion of what's surely still one of the definitive arcade racing games), Ms Pacman (now appearing on your favourite handheld console formats at four times the price), and a truly tragic travesty of a conversion of Galaxian ('It even had the wrong number of Flagships at the top of the screen!', he said in an incredulous trainspotter's voice). Curiously, though, the best of the ones that were actually completely written never saw a shop shelf. One is this excellent conversion of one of Williams' lesser-feted coin-ops, the lovely Moon Patrol. Almost perfect in every way, the non-release of this baffles me to this day. And that leads me conveniently to...
    
1. Robotron (Atarisoft)
This still brings tears to my eyes, y'know. Not for myself, because I've got a copy (shh!), but for all you poor Spec-chums out there who'll never get the chance to play one of the finest conversions of one of the finest games ever written. Williams' all-time classic just shouldn't have been possible on our humble 8-colour wonder (Hey, 16 colours! You're forgetting the 'Bright' option! Ed) (Hey, 15 colours! You're forgetting that the blacks count as one! Captain Pedantry) but, with a little 'help' from the programmers of Wild West Hero, Atarisoft pulled off a fantastic job, with almost everything from the original coin-op surviving intact (right down to the two-joystick control option). Robotron got as far as a (rave) review in one mag, but... But what? I don't know, frankly. If anyone from Atarisoft's reading this, and you've got one single good reason why every Speccy owner in the world shouldn't come round to your house and set your family on fire right now, I'd like to hear it. Meanwhile, if anyone wants to play Robotron, simply slip a fiver into an envelope and shove it under the door of -
(Snip! - ELSPA)

BUBBLE.gif (2558 bytes)

Bubble Buster

eric.gif (4281 bytes)

Eric And The Floaters

CRYSTAL.gif (3773 bytes)

Crystal Castles

KONG.gif (4183 bytes)

Donkey Kong

MPATROL.gif (4107 bytes)

Moon Patrol

ROBO.gif (3432 bytes)

Robotron