The Your Sinclair Rock'n'Roll Years
The Your Sinclair Official All-Time Top 100 Spectrum Games
Published in the Oct 1991 YS70 issue

This code first appeared on tremendous Speccy nostalgia site The Your Sinclair Rock'n'Roll Years, where some insanely dedicated loony had typed the whole thing in by hand from the published version. It looked so indescribably- vastly superior to the original WoS version that to celebrate the occasion of  WoS's new prettier revamp I've pinched it back again, taking the opportunity to correct some of the raft of typos that crept in, put the whole thing on a single easy-ro-navigate page instead of spread across five, and take back out a few of the changes made by the editor to my original copy (grr).

In many ways, videogaming just never got better than this. Unlike any other top 100 games list ever published, the chart below features 100 entirely distinct, different games - you'll have a hard time finding any two that are even truly in the same GENRE as each other, never mind being basically the same game. Try listing 100 of the best PS2 games of all time (to pick a random example) and see how far you get before you have to start desperately including a whole bunch of near-identical driving or fighting or FPS titles.

You may, if you have any aesthetic soul at all, also be struck by just how attractive this collection of games looks as you scroll down the page, despite the primitive technology they were running on, and how easy it is to instantly ascertain what's going on in them. There's a lot to be said, from both a visual and a gameplay perspective, for the enforced discipline of simplicity. Anyway, on with the show. This feature is more than 12 years old, so the writing isn't your reporter's best work (I'd only been a journo for about seven months at the time), and suffers sometimes from ungainly construction caused by your reporter taking a bet to include all the song titles from Teenage Fanclub's debut album in the first instalment (highlighted here in green). But if you were old enough to play these  the first time round, remember how much simple fun gaming used to be. And if you weren't, it's never too late to start.

Search WOS100 - Zzoom (Imagine)
This was probably the first Speccy game designed with sadists in mind. In itself it was a zappy and challenging shoot-'em-up, but the most fun in Zzoom was to be had by mercilessly slaughtering the refugees you were supposed to be protecting, and watching them spin up in the air in a gruesome  bloodied mess. If you had the immense self-discipline needed not to do this though, you could console yourself by playing a fast and smooth 3D blaster that was more than a little bit ahead of its time, as well as being probably the original Imagine's finest hour.

Search WOS99 - Maziacs (DK 'Tronics)
The advertisements for this claustrophobic maze game (actually an update of Mazogs, probably the most popular ZX81 game ever) claimed that the fight sequences were choreographed with the aid of a real live stuntman, and for once you could almost believe it. It wasn't a game for arachnophobes though, as seeing your brave little adventurer clamped broken-backed between the jaws of an evil spider-like Maziac was enough to put a shiver up the spine of all but the most stout of heart. Maziacs was a game with more character than a thousand Turricans, and more horror than all the Nightmare On
Elm Street movies put together.

Search WOS98 - Pheenix (Megadodo)
There are people who would have you believe that Pang, or Toki, or even Midnight Resistance represents the pinnacle of the art of Speccy coin-op conversion. Not so. The true zenith was reached as far back as 1983, with this flawless - except for the spelling, anyway - copy of the arcade game Phoenix (forerunner of this year's Megaphoenix from Dinamic). It's still the zappiest Space Invaders-type shoot-'em-up there is, and if you don't need higher education to play it, well, who gives a monkey's?


Search WOS97 - Mined Out (Quicksilva)
There aren't many games in this Top 100 written in BASIC. That won't surprise anyone. But what might surprise you is the quality of this one. Mined Out set the player down in an almost-blank screen full of invisible mines and challenged you to reach the other side with the aid of a mine detector which told you how many mines were beside you, but not where they were. The resulting logic puzzle made for one of the greatest mind-teasers ever devised, and when the later levels added a distinctly ponderous chaser, the frantic self-inflicted pressure could make a bald man of Jon Bon Jovi.

Search WOS96 - Cruising on Broadway (Sunshine)
Take a look at that screenshot. Does it look like the dullest thing you've ever seen on a Spectrum screen? If it does, think again, because to a veteran gamer it looks like a pic of one of the most addictive games ever to grace a computer screen. Cruising was a painting game, where you controlled a character square around a series of mazes made up of single-pixel lines, pursued by another character square (or on later levels, two other character squares). And that was all. The only way to discover just how compulsive it was, though, is to play it. Alternatively, you could always take my word for it. I wouldn't lie to you.

Search WOS95 - The Train Game (Microsphere)
...or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love British Rail. Once you've played The Train Game, you'll forgive BR for every delay they've ever had. Y'see, the terrifying pressure brought on by trying to direct half-a-dozen trains simultaneously around a track with 26 sets of points, stopping them from crashing into each other or derailling. Diverting runaway locos away from potential disaster and keeping five or six platforms full of impatient commuters happy all at the same time is almost too much to bear in a Speccy game, never mind doing it for real. A perfect difficulty curve leads you up the garden path, then The Train Game ties you to the tracks and runs over your head.

Search WOS94 - Robocop (Ocean)
I shouldn't have to blow a trumpet for this game, and I don't need a drum either to beat up support for possibly the longest running title on any computer games chart since the dawn of time. Robocop's mix of perfectly-executed sub-games kept it at No. 1 for almost a whole year after its release, and it's easy to see why. (And indeed hear why - it's got some of the loveliest music in Speccy history.) Almost certainly the best movie conversion job the Speccy's seen, and probably the best one it's ever likely to.

Search WOS93 - Gyron (Firebird)
It's almost inconceivable these days, but the reward for completing this game wasn't a naff little well-done message, or a pretty picture inviting you to buy the 'coming soon' sequel. Nope, for finishing Gyron, you got a Porsche. A real one. Of course, it wasn't easy - the team of mathematicians who programmed the maze and the movements of its guardians to repeat only once every 10,000 years saw to that, but it was such an absorbing game that, for many players, 10,000 years didn't seem too long to wait.

Search WOS92 - Green Beret (Imagine)
A pretty low-key release on the resurrected Imagine label, Green Beret nevertheless quickly became one of the Speccy's most-played games. It's hard to put your finger on quite why it works so well. You could certainly never accuse it of being too involved, but the utter simplicity defies you to accept that you've been killed yet again, and makes you start another game before you've realised the last one was finished. I still play this game, and I've never been to Level Four. 'Nuff said.

Search WOS91 - Avalon (Hewson)
In its time, Avalon was called 'the first adventure movie'. If that's true, it would have to be a David Lynch movie, because I haven't got a clue what's going on in it half the time. Still, you could well argue that this game was a direct ancestor of Fantasy World Dizzy and the like, with its mix of adventure, puzzle, and arcade skills calling for a real all-round effort to make any progress. This wasn't a game to pick up for a few minutes - Avalon drew you in and demanded all of your attention, and it usually got it.

Search WOS90 - Bounder (Gremlin)
A strange fish, this. You played a tennis ball with a mission to bounce across a city full of skyscrapers, placed just closely enough together for you to be able to stretch from one to the next. At least it looked that way. But the frequency with which you found yourself plummeting to the ground, or impaled on some obstacle, or burst by one of the horrible aliens (who always popped up where you wanted to go) suggested there was trickery afoot. Of course, the next time, the next time, you'd be ready for it...

Search WOS89 - Cobra (Ocean)
Humour and Sylvester Stallone aren't normally two things you associate with each other. Unless, that is, you've played this brilliant platform game where laser-sighted machine guns are hidden in hamburgers and babies in prams paralyse our hero with fear, enabling the bad guys to kidnap his sweetheart and then shoot him into lasagne. The connection with the dire movie was extremely tenuous, but the game was such fun that nobody cared. Besides any game which asks you to define a 'murder' key is okay by me.

Search WOS88 - Wheelie (Microsphere)
Another game where playing to lose was more fun than trying to win. Your motorbike-riding hero took such spectacular dives when you crashed him into a double-decker bus that it was well worth losing a life or five to see it. All the same, even when you got bored of that, Wheelie was a great game in its own right, with a gloomy, sinister atmosphere and it was challenging enough to keep you at it for quite a while. Without a shadow of a doubt the greatest underground motorcycling game ever made.

Search WOS87 - Codename MAT (Micromega)
Or Mission: Alien Termination, which doesn't convey the amount of brainpower called for in this second-generation Star Trek game which was probably the first to put you in control of more than one ship or character at one time. In many ways it was more complex than, say, Elite, it could still be played more or less as a straight 3D space shoot-'em-up, and it was this instant playability that made it such an enormous hit in its day. Yes, you too could blow up the entire solar system with Codename MAT.

Search WOS86 - Trashman (New Generation)
If I was to tell you that this game captured perfectly the feeling of being a dustbin man in a leafy suburb on a sleepy Sunday morning, would that make you want to play it? If not, you don't know what you're missing, because Trashman is just about the loveliest and most relaxing game you could ever hope for. Combining Frogger with Terry And June-style humour might not seem like the ideal recipe for a classic (and, under any other circumstances, it most certainly isn't), but in this case it works perfectly. Play it and love it.

Search WOS85 - Guardian 2 (Hi-Tec)
Or Stargate by any other name. Williams' monster classic arcade games have been oft imitated on the Speccy (most notably by Interstella's Defenda and Softek's Starblitz), but this angry monster of a game is the first one to truly capture that 'locked in a cupboard with a swarm of psychotic hornets' feel of the original. Tough enough for all but the most dedicated zapper, this game will have you punching the keys off your Spectrum in frustrated rage. And then having another game. Unputdownable.

Search WOS84 - Technician Ted (Hewson)
This game set a whole series of standards in Speccy gaming. It was the first (and, indeed, practically the only one to this day) to have an animated loading screen, the first to have pixel-perfect collision detection, and the first Manic Miner-type platform game to call more on brainpower than ladder-leaping precision. Not to say that there wasn't plenty of that needed too though. Massively difficult but equally compulsive, Technician Ted was the peak of a genre, and the end of an era.

Search WOS83 - Football Manager (Alternative)
Or the game that etched the face of a fat, bearded old man called Kevin on to the minds of 100,000 Spectrum owners forever. Written in BASIC, and with a lack of depth bordering on the insulting, Football Manager still somehow contrived to be one of the most gripping games in the Spectrum's history. There isn't an FM player alive who hasn't found himself shouting at the players during the animated (ha!) highlights sequences, and the 101 tedious number-crunching copies that have followed it all somehow failed to grasp that this was just what made Football Manager so wonderful.

Search WOS82 - Hyperaction (Silversoft)
One of the best games never to sell a dozen copies, Hyperaction was a Pengo-like puzzle game with hidden qualities that belied the simplicity of the two-rule gameplay (trap the monsters with the moveable blocks; don't squash them). Years ahead of its time, this is the kind of thing that screams for a second chance and it's a tragedy that so few people have ever had the chance to curse and swear at it. Write a letter to your favourite software house now, demanding that they buy it up and re-release it. Or would you rather play Sooty and Sweep for the rest of your life?

Search WOS81 - Dark Star (Design Design)
Every picture I paint with a screenshot completely fails to capture the nature of Dark Star. Arguably the biggest cult game ever, the staggering speed of the game was what lifted it out of the mire and into the stratosphere (where only the best games can breathe the air). Like the arcade's Star Wars in many ways, Dark Star also boasted the best named starship of all time (the Liar), the most redefinable keyboard of all time, the best high-score tables of all time, and the best giveaway Teletext spoof of all time. Er, okay then, the only giveaway Teletext spoof of all time. (Nearly.) Trop belle pour toi.

Search WOS80 - Sir Lancelot
(Melbourne House)

If you've got any friends with 16-bit machines complaining that their best games don't fit into 512K of memory, why not show them this? A classic platforms-and-ladders game with sharp graphics, loads of speed, and more addictiveness than a big bag full of really addictive things, Sir Lancelot was programmed in just over 9K. Yes, nine. Not only a great game but an amazing feat to boot, it makes you wonder what they're feeding programmers these days.

Search WOS79 - Atic Atac (Ultimate)
In the early years buying Speccy games was a fraught business. Software houses sprang up and folded daily
and gamesplayers had to suffer any number of pig-in-a-poke purchases. But there was an eternal light in the gloom - Ultimate Play The Game. They took the Speccy closer to its limits with every release and Atic Atac was only the first in a long line of true classics. The design is nothing out of the ordinary, but the care and attention lavished on every detail of this arcade adventure makes it a joy that anyone who calls themselves a games lover should own.

Search WOS78 - Flying Shark (Firebird)
This came out just around the time when software houses started releasing games on the 16-bit machines only, and it proved (if proof was needed) that the 8-bits were more than up to anything their big brothers could manage. In terms of gameplay this is a near perfect copy of the coin-op original, and the graphics are as good as any you could ask for. Not many players ever finished it, but if you fancy trying to join the elite you couldn't ask for a better vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up to test your skills against.

Search WOS77 - Gyroscope
(Melbourne House)

Marble Madness was something of a Holy Grail for Spectrum software developers in the 80s, but the only game which came close to the arcade's abstract beauty was this shameless clone. Slick and pretty, it was also fiendishly tough, and it kept many a talented gamer glued to the screen in the early hours of many a morning. The scrolling judders horribly, but in the game everything flows so well that you just don't notice. Well, you might notice, but you just don't care.

Search WOS76 - Three Weeks In Paradise (Mikrogen)
Everybody's fool, Wally Week, was one of the most unlikely computer gaming heroes ever. Pot-bellied and flat-capped, Wally and his sad family starred in a series of classic arcade adventures that probably more than anything led to hugely popular Dizzy series and imitators which seem to make up half of today's Speccy releases. Three Weeks In Paradise was the most accomplished of the lot and, if you want a perspective, imagine Treasure Island Dizzy's sexy older brother and you'll be halfway there.

Search WOS75 - Wriggler
(Romantic Robot)

There are of course, hundreds of games which ask you to swallow your biological pride and play a worm, but Wriggler is undoubtedly the No 1. Beautifully animated graphics, bright, lush colours, big scary beasties for enemies and classic arcade adventure gameplay made for a game which could have changed the public perception of hermaphrodite non-vertebrates forever, if only anyone had ever bought it. Wriggler had all this and heavy metal too. Why don't you ever get free soundtrack tapes with games any more?

Search WOS74 - Pang (Ocean)
While this curious Galaxians-meets-The Prisoner slice of harpoons 'n' balloons tomfoolery isn't actually as original as everybody thinks it is, what's undeniable is that it's one of the best straightforward old-fashioned arcade games the Speccy's seen in a long time. A superb conversion of the coin-op, Pang is a game that will have you blowing (up) bubbles forever, not to mention punching out your friends if you play the infuriatingly novel two-player option.

Search WOS73 - Popeye (DK 'Tronics)
The Spectrum's straining technology was stretched to critical mass by this incredible game. The truly gorgeous graphics, where characters stretched half the height of the screen and were packed with non-clashing colour, stunned everyone who saw them. But they were only part of the appeal of a tricky arcade adventure with more imagination than most of its contemporaries put together. Don Priestly, the programmer, took this style further with his subsequent (and brilliant) Trap Door games, but Popeye was still the original and the best.

Search WOS72 - Hijack (Electric Dreams)
Most of you should already know how good this strategy epic is, 'cos we gave it to you free on the covertape a couple of months back. Still, it doesn't hurt to mention it for the benefit of any latecomers - this is a game which proves the Spectrum is more than capable of holding its own when it comes to games of depth and intelligence. Surprisingly atmospheric, Hijack was also one of the most original ideas in years. The fact that it didn't sell more is more an indictment of game buyers than of the actual game. Take the padlock off your brain and give this a go. You'll be pleasantly shocked.

Search WOS71 - Frankie Goes To Hollywood (Ocean)
Remember Frankie - the most controversial band of the 80s? Parents said they were the classic example of a Catholic education gone wrong, but didn't the kids just love 'em? Ocean stunned everyone, first by buying the license and then by resisting the temptation to cobble together a quick rip-off platform game. Instead they presented us with one of the most insidiously charming and bizarre games they'd ever released. Only a bug which prevents it from being completed properly kept this one from the Top 20, but it's still a bona fide classic.

Search WOS70 - G-Force (Euro-Byte)
Of all the Tempest games available for the Speccy, official or clone, G-Force is almost certainly the most obscure. This is a bit of a shame 'cos it's easily the best. Forsaking the tricky geometric-shaped webs of the original for straight rectangular screens, Euro-Byte used the extra freedom this gave them to produce a game that looked like no other on the Speccy - big chunky graphics zipping around the screen in huge numbers and speed that refused to let up no matter how much was happening on screen. G-Force recreates the spirit of the original coin-op better than anything I've seen. 

Search WOS69 - Match Point (Psion)
For some bizarre and unexplained reason, tennis has always been one of the most popular subjects for computer game writers (indeed, Pong, the first ever video game, was a tennis sim of sorts). Match Point is one the earliest attempts on the Speccy and it can still show all the subsequent efforts a thing or seven about natural, uncomplicated-but-flexible controls. Understated but beautifully animated graphics, a wide range of skill levels and other options ensure that players of all ages, talents and attention spans get never-ending enjoyment out of it. Unsurpassed in its field. (Court. - Ed)

Search WOS68 - Tapper (US Gold)
Or as it would have been if Codemasters had released it - Advanced Barman Simulator. Yep, the sole purpose in life for your character in Tapper was to serve drinks to a never-ending flow of thirsty punters who were apt to sling him the length of the bar if their (ahem) 'soda' wasn't delivered promptly. Cleaned up from the arcade original (where the glasses were filled with beer), this conversion nonetheless retained all the frantic fun of the coin-op, with a fair touch of humour to boot. Oh, and the dancing alien girls were worth seeing too.

Search WOS67 - Way Of The Exploding Fist (Melbourne House)
The first real Spectrum beat-'em-up and still the best. Fist's crisp, elegant graphics, instinctive control system, wide range of moves, precise collision detection and crunching sound effects make it more than a match for anything which has been released since. You really do wince when your fighter takes a punch in a sensitive area and crumples to the ground. It's this character that makes Fist stand head and roundhouse above all the competition. Inscrutably beautiful.

Search WOS66 - Splat! (Incentive)
Speech on the Spec, eh? Mostly it went 'mxchxtrrrbkstxtprrkkk', but in Splat! the joyous 'Yippee!' your character Ziggy (an 'X' with legs) let out after completing a level was crisp and coherent. Amazingly though, it was just about the least impressive aspect of this enormously original and monstrously addictive scrolling maze game, where your character stayed in one place, the maze moved around, and the edges of the screen were the game's main danger. Deceptively fast-paced and always exciting, this is the kind of game that you just never see any more. What's happened to all the new ideas?


Search WOS65 - Batty (Encore/YS)
This is still the best Arkanoid-style game available for the Spec, better in my opinion than even the hugely popular Arkanoid 2. With fast smooth, clear graphics and a serious level of challenge you'd think this would've been a huge chart success. But (but!) Batty was never even released as a full-price game. It's criminal! First a covertape freebie with Britain's Brightest and Biggest Sinclair Magazine (you're reading it, dolt) and then a budget game, Batty was the best game Elite never put their name to.

Search WOS64 - Buggy Boy (Elite)
Is this the biggest sprite ever seen on the Spec? Probably not (see Popeye above), but Buggy Boy had more to recommend it than a huge and colourful dune-hopper anyway. A racing game without breakneck racing-game pace, Buggy Boy compensated with beaut graphics, lots of varied courses and imaginative and addictive gameplay. Steering a buggy across a precarious and obstacle-littered bridge on two wheels is a challenge for the most talented, but this game's main attraction is pure and simple sweetness. If that seems a bit of an intangible concept, play it. You'll see what I mean.

Search WOS63 - Scrabble (Psion)
This is really touching. Scrabble plays a great version of the classic word game with an 11,000 word vocabulary in just 48K. It's most endearing feature is that if you enter a word like 'QXWWVAR' on a triple word score box, it'll ask you if you're sure its a legal word, then if you reply 'yes', it actually believes you! What's more, it adds the word to its vocabulary so, if you use it again, it won't even question it! Now that's what computers were always supposed to be about, none of this taking over the world nonsense. Play Scrabble and feel superior.

Search WOS62 - Thrust (Firebird)
Another budget-only classic, Thrust borrows heavily from classic arcade games like Asteroids and Gravitar and then adds some serious physics to produce a tense and tricky game of precision manoeuvring and panic-stricken blasting. If you've never had the opportunity to battle against a Level 4 planet with reverse gravity and a heavy pod swinging beneath your spaceship threatening to slam you against a cavern wall in the blinking of an eye, then you just haven't lived, buddy. Can you believe that this lovely was just 1.99? I can't, and I bought it.

Search WOS61 - Eric And The Floaters (Sinclair)
Crude, jerky graphics, simplistic gameplay, awkward control keys and dull, lifeless colour are just a few of the 'features' which completely failed to wreck the appeal of this strange and brilliant little arcade game from Japanese software house Hudson Soft. The only thing it really had going for it was the incredible addiction brought on by it's deceptively tricky nature and Tetris-style 'finish the screen or go for the big but risky bonus?' dilemmas, but then, what else do you need? That it's still getting rave reviews (in a slightly revised form) on the console machines is proof of just how timeless it's appeal is.


Search WOS60 - Knot In 3D (New Generation)
New Generation were one of the first software houses to write for the Sinclair machines. For me, this is the very pinnacle of their achievements. A kind of Tron light cycles game, but set in a 3D spherical cube (look, play the game, you'll understand), Knot looked incredibly bizarre. To play it though, all you needed was a keen sense of spatial relations and fast reactions, and your reward was a gameplay experience which could be nothing short of breathtaking. Completely unique and absolutely gorgeous.

Search WOS59 - Hyper Sports (Imagine)
Or The Game That Smashed A Thousand Speccies. Joystick-waggling (or keyboard-pounding) multiple-sports games were all the rage back in 1984, after the coin-op Track And Field (later converted appallingly to the Spec on an Imagine compilation) gave millions of arcade athletes blistered and bleeding hands for weeks, attempting to recreate the Olympics with two fingers. Hyper Sports was a touch more thoughtful than the rest, calling for skill and timing as well as pure brute force, but that didn't mean your machine wasn't going to take the most fearful hammering anyway as you strained realistically to lift the 250kg bar in the weightlifting section. Violent but beautiful. (Just like Wild At Heart)

Search WOS58 - Operation Wolf (Ocean)
More than anything else, Operation Wolf is a triumph of 8-bit practicality over 16-bit aesthetics. On the big machines, this is a great-looking copy of the arcade game made unplayable by disk swapping. But the Speccy version packs in all the arcade thrills in a fast-moving game of massive slaughter where the action never lets up. A mindlessly violent game, Op Wolf spawned a hundred clones, but none of them matched it for sheer brutality, speed and slickness. This is such a good game that you won't even miss the plastic machine gun.

Search WOS57 - Dun Durach (Gargoyle)
It was hard to pick just one of Gargoyle's series of games (which also include Tir Na Nog, Marsport and Heavy on the Magick). But the overwhelming atmosphere of Dun Darach won out. A whole city was yours to explore, complete with bars, gambling houses, and all manner of shops where you could even get a job to make yourself a bit of cash. Dun Darach was one of the most involving games ever written, and if you haven't got one I strongly suggest you get one. Then cancel all appointments for a week, and discover it yourself.

Search WOS56 - Bounty Bob Strikes Back (US Gold)
The sequel to the first ever platform-and-ladders game, although that game (Miner 2049er) didn't appear on the Spec. Bounty Bob Strikes Back took a traditional approach to the timing-and-climbing style, but the screens were so ingeniously designed and the whole thing was so thoughtfully done that it transcended the formula to be one of the most playable games ever in the genre. Un-Speccy-like graphics gave it a unique look too, and there's no harm in that.

Search WOS55 - Saboteur (Durell)
Famous (well, it depends on how old you are) for being The Game That Didn't Give You Any Points For Shooting The Dogs. ('So why bother?', as the manual pointedly asked).
This was a masterful piece of psychology, as the dogs (guard dogs on the installation you were trying to sabotage) snapped at your heels so annoyingly that you really wanted to kill them, but couldn't because your conscience wouldn't let you. This of course meant that you got yourself killed with embarrassing regularity, but you just couldn't bring yourself to do anything about it. Damn sneaky. (Oh, and it was a great game too.)

Search WOS54 - Rastan (Imagine)
One of the best-looking Speccy coin-op conversions ever, with big, sharp graphics and atmospheric backdrops giving it a real feel of the epic swords-and-sorcery arcade game from Taito. Rastan was the classiest of a whole load of generic muscle-fantasy orc-slashers which were popular a couple of years back and it retains all the elegance (and violence) of the original. It's not the most innovative piece of design ever, but the best of any genre is always worth having, and that's exactly what this is.

Search WOS53 - Ping Pong (Imagine)
Ping Pong? Great idea for a computer game, I must say! Actually, this Konami coin-op conversion is one of the most playable sports sims ever. Your bat follows the ball, leaving you only with the playing of the actual shot to worry about. This frees you from all that tedious trogging around and makes the game an exercise in tactics and reactions. Slick presentation and brilliant music add to the enjoyments of this simply beautiful piece of software. Ping Pong is an object lesson to programmers everywhere in how to Do It Properly.

Search WOS52 - Jumping Jack (Imagine)
Jumping Jack is every bit as simple as it looks, but the simple graphics hides a game of almost frightening addictive qualities. All you have to do is jump through moving holes to the top of the screen, but miss one and Jack falls stunned to the ground. While he regains composure, you can be sure that another hole will sneak up on him (or one of the ever-more-numerous baddies), until he ends up back at the bottom of the screen, leaving even the most hardened gamer in tears of frustrated rage. This is a game that's practically unputdownable.

Search WOS51 - Robotron (Atarisoft)
You might have read that Williams' Smash TV prequel Robotron never made it to the Spectrum, but that's only half true. It was never released, but it was written and even reviewed but tragically and inexplicably never saw a shop shelf. A superb conversion of a coin-op many thought to be impossible for the Speccy to handle, with huge numbers of enemies on screen at a time completely failing to slow down the action. Nothing was missed out except for the chance for zap fans to actually buy the thing, and that's nothing short of criminal.

Search WOS50 - Enduro Racer (Activision)
I could do a Top 100 of motorbike racers alone. But in any genre there are standouts and this is by far the best one involving having to jump across rivers by wheelying into logs and riding around the backs of palm trees on a beach (ahem). Enduro Racer is the slickest and prettiest racer around, and it's the kind of game that still won't be showing its age in 20 years time. If you ever wanted to cross Out Run with Helter Skelter, this is the game for you.

Search WOS49 - Tetris (Mirrorsoft)
Yes, it's the game that makes Amiga and ST owners look at your Spectrum with real jealousy, 'cos the Speccy version of this classic Russian reaction-tester out performs the 16-bit ports every time. In avoiding the temptation to dress the game up unnecessarily with complicated graphics and pointless shimmering backdrops, Mirrorsoft made sure that Tetris on the Speccy captured all the pure compulsion of the original without distractions. Even though it's been done a dozen times on the big machines, the Speccy version is still the best Tetris you can buy.

Search WOS48 - Renegade (Imagine)
Never mind your Final Fights, never mind your Way Of The Exploding Fists, never mind your International Karates, this is comfortably (if that's the right word) the most brutal beat-'em-up there's ever been. Eye-watering knees-in-the-groin, sickeningly vicious headbutts, enemies ganging up to hold a player's arms while someone else punches the living daylights out of him, and the player retaliating with flying kicks at speeding motorcycle riders. (Don't try this one at home, kids.) And all without the slightest danger of ending up in Casualty - what more could you ask?

Search WOS47 - Antics (Bug-Byte)
There's no shortage of games which call on you to rescue someone or other. Most of them simply ask you to battle through a hostile scenario and reach your goal, at which point everything magically becomes alright. However, in Antics when Barnabee (the bee) reaches his kidnapped cousin Boris (the, er, bee), the story is only half-complete. Barnabee has to guide the weakened and slow-moving Boris all the way back to the start again and, if he goes too fast, poor Boris gets all confused and lost. The frantic rush to go slowly (if you see what I mean) against a tough time limit makes this just about the most heart-wrenching game in the whole world. Aw shucks.

Search WOS46 - Bobby Bearing  (The Edge)
Or Spindizzy with balls. This beautiful game never achieved the success it deserved for reasons which escape me. It's another Marble Madness-alike, but whereas Spindizzy was all sharp angles and sudden edges, Bobby featured properly rolling balls, round tunnels and curved surfaces. It also called on you to act the good shepherd and herd other characters around. If pushing a marble across a curved slope with another marble (while contending with moving blocks, nasty enemies and sudden gusts of wind) sounds a tricky proposition to you, then you're halfway to understanding what made this game so incredibly addictive.

Search WOS45 - International Match Day (Imagine)
'There's only one International Match Day, one International Maaatch Day, there's only one...' It doesn't really work does it? All the same, there IS only one International Match Day, and it's the best (but least well-known) of this incredibly popular series of Spectrum footy games. IMD was slicker than Match Day and more playable than Match Day 2 but unfortunately, it was only available for the 128K machine. It's still worth searching out if you're an enhanced Spec-chum in search of the ultimate soccer experience. Kick Off? Gazza 2? Don't make me laugh.

Search WOS44 - Rescue (Mastertronic)
A classic budget game, there isn't really anything outstanding about Rescue at all. The graphics are great but not outstanding, the sound is zappy but nothing remarkable, the number of rooms and so on isn't anything out of the ordinary, and the runaround-arcade-adventure-zapping-collecting-and-rescuing (obviously) game design has been seen a thousand times before. So why do I love it so much? To tell you the truth I'm not entirely sure. Until I can put it into words, just trust me. I know I'm right.

Search WOS43 - Midnight Resistance (Ocean)
These days coin-op conversions on the Spectrum tend to be production-line churn-'em-outs that are nothing but pale-faced mumbling shadows of their ST and Amiga counterparts. What a rare pleasure then, to see one turn out as good as this. Programmers Special FX refused to take the easy way out and do yet another monochrome yawnerama. Instead, they gave us an action-packed blaster which positively glowed with 8-bit pride, not to mention lovely colourful graphics stuffed with life and character. This is the game that proves the Speccy can still compete with anything.

Search WOS42 - The Hobbit
(Melbourne House)

Oh goodness, it's an adventure! Well, it had to be done. The Speccy's first successful adventure is also, to this day, one of the best. Converted faithfully from the book with all the characters present and correct. The Hobbit perplexed gamers for months on end. Luckily, it was so rewarding that players stuck at it 'til the end. It's also the game that introduced the phrase 'Thorin sits down and sings about gold' into the national consciousness. No, I don't quite understand it either, but that's adventure fans for you.

Search WOS41 - Fantasy World Dizzy (Codemasters)
Of all the Dizzy games, I decided to put this one in the chart because of the character interaction, the well-balanced puzzles, the charming atmosphere, but mostly because of the broad Glaswegian accent on the speech sample at the beginning. (Are you trying to tell me you're Scottish, Stuart? Ed). All the adventures of the world's cutest egg are great games, but this one mixes together the best attributes of each one to the best effect. It's also the game which finally made budget software (not to mention Codemasters themselves) respectable.

Search WOS40 - Highway Encounter (Vortex)
Costa Panayi was quite possibly the Speccy's biggest ever cult programmer. From humble beginnings with Android 1, he built up a catalogue of incredible games that took the Spectrum closer to its limits with each succeeding release. The stunning, colour-filled 3D graphics and game plot (in its basic concept) predated the 16-bit smash Lemmings by five years. So tricky that only the most dedicated of gamers ever saw the last of the 30 screens of zapping-and-puzzling action, but every second of it was a joy.

Search WOS39 - Mercenary (Novagen)
Jon Pillar recently reviewed this as a budget re-release and gave it 99%. I'm not arguing. A bit like Elite played underground, Paul Woakes' epic of espionage, sabotage, trading and blasting has an atmosphere of electric tension and suspense which belies the simplistic look of the vector graphics. Mercenary is clean, sharp, fast and deep enough to keep you playing for weeks. What's more, it was visually indistinguishable from the 16-bit versions but with the kind of playability that you only ever seem to get on the older machines. Now, more than ever, don't miss it.

Search WOS38 - Gauntlet (US Gold)
Do I really need to tell anyone about Gauntlet? The arcade's four-player epic of dungeons-and-dragon slaughter-filled mayhem transferred to the Speccy better than anyone had dared to expect - US Gold managed to cram every last level of the original game in, with the aid of the least intrusive multiload in history. As a recreation of a coin-op's feel it hasn't been bettered to this day, and as a game in its own right it's as great as it ever was. One of the true milestones of Spectrum gaming.


Search WOS37 - Loderunner (Software Projects)
It doesn't really look like one of the greatest Speccy games ever, does it? What with those character-square red-and-black bricks with tiny little white stick figures running around it. What you probably don't know is that Lode Runner is just about the longest-running computer platform game in the world, with roots going right back to the Apple (ask your grandad), and all the way up to the GameBoy. A game doesn't last that long without being something special and Lode Runner's just that. Actually more puzzle game than platformer, it's just one of the most addictive things ever. That's all.

Search WOS36 - Cybernoid (Hewson)
Remember what I said about Costa Panayi? Well, forget it, because Rafaele Cecco was an even bigger cult.  The difference is that poor Raf only ever wrote one really good game, and this is it. It has to be said that flip-screen shoot-'em-ups with add-on weaponry aren't the stuff which legends are usually made of. But the imagination, playability and attention to detail of this one lifted it way above its origins and into the realms of the unforgettable. It's worth getting just for the huge maces which swing around your ship and pulverise everything, but it's a fab game too.

Search WOS35 - I, Ball 2 (Firebird)
Originality is something you don't see much of in the budget world. Great though they can be, budgies tend to be simple rehashes of previous successes. This game however, broke the mould and later inspired programmer Tim Closs to write one of the best 16-bit games ever, Kid Gloves. Basically a puzzle game, I, Ball 2 gleamed with slick presentation and imaginative design, and all for 1.99. Don't blow 12 quid on this month's latest crappy unoriginal licenced rubbish, scour the bargain bins and find yourself a copy of this instead. I promise that you won't be disappointed.

Search WOS34 - Deus Ex Machina (Automata)
This is probably the most ambitious entertainment software project ever attempted on any home computer. Two loads full of stunning graphics and a synchronised audio soundtrack including proper real-life stars like Frankie Howerd and Jon Pertwee, coupled to a madly over-the-top story of totalitarianism and genetic engineering, made Deus Ex Machina an experience the like of which had never been seen before or since. Genuinely affecting and disturbing at times, this is software as art.


Search WOS33 - Knight Lore (Ultimate)
We're really getting into 'legend' territory now. Knight Lore was the game which pioneered the 3D isometric graphic style, later to be imitated into oblivion by a hundred lesser designers. It took Spectrum graphics into a whole new world, and up to a level which simply hadn't been believed possible, even by the machine's creators themselves. The game was (conveniently) brilliant too, and the traditional Ultimate Play The Game polish gave the whole thing a shine which was almost blinding. Revolutionary.

Search WOS32 - Jet Set Willy (Software Projects)
This was probably the Speccy's most eagerly-awaited title ever. Impatient gamers besieged shops for months until it finally appeared, and no-one was disappointed. It's a superficially simple platform epic (set in Willy's surrealist mansion) with some of the most tortuous timing traps in the history of computer gaming and a genuine 'being there' feel which has rarely been topped. It looks a bit slow today, but the superlative gameplay will soon make you forget about that.

Search WOS31 - Lunar Jetman (Ultimate)
"We triumph without glory when we conquer without danger", said the French dramatist Pierre Corneille in 1636 and you know, I like to think that when he said it he was thinking about Lunar Jetman. Ultimate's incredibly tough moon-based alien-stomper was their first attempt at a game using the Speccy's expanded 48K (wow!) memory, and what a stonker it was too. Hugely clever and funny, it was also the game which you simply had to be able to play if you wanted to have any peer status at all in 1985. Funny how things turn out, isn't it?

Search WOS30 - Nebulus (Hewson)
Here's another game which (with versions newly out for the NES and Game Boy) looks like transcending machine boundaries for years to come. John Phillips' beautiful tower-ascending game featured amazing rotational scrolling, but the truly staggering thing was that it was overshadowed by the overwhelming addictiveness of the absurdly addictive gameplay. Climb up, fall down, climb back up again and that was about it. It just goes to prove (if there's still anyone out there who doesn't believe it) that the simplest ideas are always the best.

Search WOS29 - Think (Ariolasoft)
"We all are born mad. Some remain so. Especially if they've been playing Think! for any significant period of time". So said top twentieth century playwright Samuel Beckett (sort of). And he was right too, because this 'board-game-you-couldn't-play-on-a-board' is one of the most brain-torturing ever devised by mere mortal. The whole balance of the game can alter with a single move, and if you can beat the computer you've done something you can be proud of. (Woo! Party time! - Ed) Take on a friend though, and you've got something that can change the look of your face. If you're going to play this with a chum, take your boxing gloves.

Search WOS28 - Deactivators (Reaktor)
Most puzzle games rely on their simplicity to be instantly graspable, but Deactivators glories in complexity. Computer games have taken some strange approaches to bomb disposal, but having robots roving around in strange gravitational fields throwing the things through windows to each other has to be the most ridiculous yet. It was all so tensely gripping that players were completely hypnotised. If you're after some seriously weirdo cyberpunk thrills, give Deactivators a try.

Search WOS27 - Super Hang On
(Electric Dreams)

Do you feel a need? A need for speed? Well, sod off. We don't need any of that Tom Cruise nonsense round here, we're all too busy having fun playing this immensely wonderful motorbike racing game to be bothered with any dim-witted macho posturing. Super Hang-On is even more thrilling than going for a ride with Andy O, and that's really saying something. Fast slick and stomach-churning, this is the real thing brought to life on a Spectrum with a vengeance, and with some pretty spiffy graphics to boot. If you were born to be wild, grow up with this.

Search WOS26 - Lightforce (FTL)
Lightforce boasts the best use of colour in a Spectrum game there's ever likely to be. FTL managed to pack this brilliant vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up with more colour than is actually physically possible on the machine, and made it one of the very few Speccy games ever to truly have the feel of an arcade game. Lightforce plays as good as it looks. Lots of games can claim such an accolade, but this is one of the few where it's actually a compliment.

Search WOS25 - Manic Miner (Bug-Byte)
It grieves me that some of you haven't heard of this. The first real Speccy platform game, Manic Miner's character, sense of humour, brilliant design and mammoth addictiveness (in fact, it's even more addictive than a mammoth) made it one of the first true computer gaming legends. It's still a great game, almost nine years later, and I doubt if we'll be able to say the same of any of today's games in the year 2000. Come to that, in the year 2000 I'll probably still be playing Manic Miner.

Search WOS24 - Starstrike II (Realtime)
Realtime made a name for themselves in the Speccy world with Starstrike, their excellent clone of the arcade game Star Wars. This sequel was so good that it improved on even the coin-op. Honest. The fast moving solid 3D graphics are, with the possible exception of the Freescape games, still the most impressive the machine's ever boasted, and the game itself took Star Wars a step further and added a non-intrusive strategy element to the space blasting. Stunningly impressive, stunningly atmospheric, just stunning, really.

Search WOS23 - The Great Escape (Ocean)
And while we're on the subject of atmosphere, we'd better say a word or two about The Great Escape. Much-feted programming team Denton Designs had their finest moment with this mostly black and white Colditz-style arcade adventure. It captured the POW camp feel perfectly with the aid of an innovative design. The automatic ability to wander around the camp simply obeying the rules and touching the controls only when you wanted to do something naughty was a stroke of genius. Even your score was calculated in medals! If your dad thinks computer games are a waste of time, show him this.

Search WOS22 - Chase HQ (Ocean)
After you've shown your Amiga and ST-owning chums Tetris, why not really sicken them with this superlative driving game? They'll be instantly converted to the Speccy gospel. Amazingly fast and incredibly well programmed, Chase HQ turned a mediocre arcade game into a Speccy classic. Even the title sequence was bursting with character, and indicative of the kind of loving care that so few people bother to put into Spectrum games any more. The added plot gives Chase HQ an element of compulsion which lifts it into the realms of the special. A treat.

Search WOS21 - Alien (Argus)
Your Speccy might have done a lot of things in its time, but has it ever scared you? (Explosions don't count.) If not, you've obviously never played Alien. On the Spec, Alien was a tension-filled strategy game where you controlled the entire crew of the Nostromo in an attempt to blow the evil beastie up and escape to safety. Just like in the film, the alien was wont to appear without warning from air vents and munch a member of your team in seconds. The game was so taut that when you did stumble across the old ET herself, even the neighbours three doors down could hear you scream.

Search WOS20 - Spy vs Spy (Beyond)
This  game must have ruined more friendships than any other. Spy Vs. Spy is a supremely entertaining game. But try two-player mode and you'd better be ready to experience ecstatic triumph and crushing despair in a minute. The traps which the witless spies blunder into are alternately hilarious or teeth-grindingly infuriating, depending which side you're on. The split-screen display meant you had no excuse for not spotting what your opponent was up to - all you could do was get back up and perpetrate some of the same slapstick violence in return. If both of you somehow forgot what the actual point of the game was in all the excitement, well so what?

Search WOS19 - Back To Skool (Microsphere)
Or the game that brought teenage romance back to the Spectrum. In the sequel to the brilliant Skool Daze, Microsphere added a school full of girls to the original formula of sneaky backhanded japery and unusual escapades with amphibians. This was obviously a good thing. They ended up with a game which provided many a Spectrum owner with some of the happiest days of their lives. The wonderful atmosphere of Skool Daze was just part of a recipe which also included incredibly devious puzzles, a whole cast of genuine characters and superb graphics. Add a combination of platform dexterity with beat-'em-up violence and strategic planning for a game with a feel of completeness that's never really been bettered.

Search WOS18 - Underwurlde (Ultimate)
'Boing! Time for bed, everyone', said Zebedee once, and Underwurlde fans knew exactly what he meant. Ultimate's brilliant platform arcade adventure had only one real difference from the thousands which the Speccy's played host to. The nasties didn't kill you, they bounced you around the screen in an attempt (usually successful) to send you plunging to your death down a mineshaft. The stratospheric level of frustration made this at the same time the most-loved and most-hated computer game of its day. If you play it now, you'll see why. Devilish.

Search WOS17 - Starquake (Bubble Bus)
And speaking of Ultimate... programmer Steven Crow was never strong on originality, his games had a habit of looking very much like 'tributes' to earlier Ultimate classics. Nevertheless, his knack for writing superb software was undisputed. This hybrid of Underwurlde and Atic Atac was fast and frantic, with a target which was difficult but attainable. Brimming with playability and addictiveness (thanks largely to the attributes previously mentioned), Starquake was Steve's finest hour. To this day many people maintain that it's the Speccy arcade game's finest hour too. A classic in the truest sense of the word.

Search WOS16 - Elite (Firebird)
Were you deadly? The all-time classic space trading and blasting epic, Elite combined Star Trek with Minder (that's what it boils down to) in a game for which the word 'legendary' seems like a severe understatement. Deeper than space itself, Elite created such a believable world that players immersed themselves into totally, and the sneering ranking system ('What do you mean, I'm "Harmless"?') added a compulsion to progress that was, well, incredibly compulsive. It was big, it was hard, and it was clever. That's good enough for me, matey.

Search WOS15 - Lords of Midnight (Beyond)
In the days of 48K, software houses would often make a big issue of the number of screens contained in their latest game. Companies boasted of games with 20, then 50, then 100, then 250 levels, but Beyond stunned everyone. Not surprising really 'cos there were no less than 32,000 accurately-mapped views in this complex and wonderful strategy wargame. For the first time you really got the feel of being lost in a huge land in another world. This overwhelming sense of atmosphere was pretty spooky and it went a long way to ensuring that Lords of Midnight was a colossal and deserved success.

Search WOS14 - 3D Ant Attack (Quicksilva)
There's a strong case for calling this the most beautiful game ever to grace the Speccy. The graphics were made up of simple blocks and the characters were unremarkable stick men and women. But the stunning architecture of Antescher, the lost city inhabited by huge ants that the player had to rescue their girl/boyfriend (no sexism here), was quite stunning. 'Atmospheric' is a much-overused term - especially in these Top 100 articles, ahem. But if ever a game deserved the accolade, it's this one. Completely unique and utterly wonderful, Ant Attack was one of those games that took the Spectrum a step further than it had ever been before.

Search WOS13 - Chuckie Egg (A & F)
Very probably the most-played computer game the world's ever seen, if you don't count Super Mario Brothers as a computer game, that is. Chuckie Egg was converted for just about every machine under the sun, but the Speccy incarnation was the original and best. A straightforward platform game with the emphasis on speed and playability, Chuckie Egg rose above its daft title and total lack of promotion to become the longest-running chart smash until Robocop, some six years later. If you want to see how thought and care can transform the most basic concept into a classic, take a look at this.

Search WOS12 - Carrier Command (Rainbird)
Now this... this is just silly. For Rainbird to even consider for a second that this stunning 16-bit epic would ever make a Speccy game was quite obviously self-delusion of the second highest order. Luckily, like the bumble bee which can only fly because it doesn't know that the laws of aerodynamics forbid it, they went ahead and, in the process, brought one of the most engrossing games ever to the Spectrum in all it's glory. Absolutely nothing from the original version was left out, leaving this monster of sea-going strategy and shoot-'em-up action as the most playable warfare experience ever seen this side of Davy Jones' Locker.

Search WOS11 - Sim City (Infogrames)
Now this... this is just silly. For Infogrames to even consider for a second that this stunning 16-bit epic would ever make a Speccy game was quite obviously self-delusion of the very highest order. Luckily, like the bumble bee which can only fly because it doesn't know that the laws of aerodynamics forbid it, they went ahead and, in the process, brought one of the most compulsive games ever to the Spectrum in all it's glory. Absolutely nothing from the original version was left out, leaving this monster of municipal planning and political manoeuvring the most compelling strategic experience that anyone ever lost a night's sleep over.

Search WOS10 - TLL (Vortex)
For me, Tornado Low Level (to give it its Sunday name) still represents the most astonishing technical achievement on the Spectrum ever. Solid 3D full-colour graphics, scrolling smoothly and swiftly in eight directions, stunned everyone. Testing gameplay and perfect playability made it a game worth having in its own right over and above the sheer 'Gosh, wow'-ness of it all. If some incompetent tells you your Spec can't handle more than two colours at a time, even in some poxy 2D arcade shoot-'em-up conversion, show 'em this and watch them die of shame.

Search WOS9 - Boulderdash
(First Star/Front Runner)

Yes, Spec-chums, physics can be fun! Well, it can as long as you're playing Boulder Dash. The classic underground and diamond-collecting epic relied heavily on calculating the effects of gravity on piles of dangerous boulders. Fiendishly-designed levels and extra baddies complicated matters to a horrendous level. While based on existing concepts, Boulder Dash transcended its roots and turned out to be one of the most original games in years. That it's one of that select group to be converted from the Speccy to the Game Boy proves the broadness of its appeal.

Search WOS8 - Rainbow Islands (Ocean)
For many (me included), this is the best 16-bit game of all time. The adorable graphics, lovably naff music (a pocket-calculator version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow), instinctive gameplay and a level of hidden depth that would shame the Pacific make it all but the perfect arcade game. Unfortunately, on the Speccy the graphics are just a little bit too indistinct for comfort on the later levels, making it a real bitch to complete in a slightly unfair kind of way, but that's its only flaw. With keen eyes or a really good monitor, this is just about the only game you'll ever really need.

Search WOS7 - The Sentinel (Firebird)
In direct contrast to Rainbow Islands, The Sentinel is a sombre, slow-moving game of mental exertion and tactical acumen as the player struggles to reach the top of a complex 3D landscape while avoiding the deadly gaze of old Sentinel and his evil minions. How did you manage it? By absorbing energy from trees and converting it into boulders to stand on and raise yourself ever higher until you could absorb the big guy himself and move on to the next of 10,000 landscapes, of course. Twice as weird as it sounds and fifty times as fun, this is a game no-one with a brain should be without.

Search WOS6 - R-Type (Activision)
We're into the realm of the staggering now, and R-Type is a game which certainly fits that description. An impossible conversion, the programmers flicked two fingers at the world and produced a game with non-stop high-speed frenzied blasting, huge graphics exploding (literally) with colour, and a near-perfect replication of the arcade gameplay. The Speccy's finest shoot-'em-up by a mile, indeed almost certainly the best shoot-'em-up on any 8-bit machine ever. Every time I see this, I still refuse to believe it's possible. Amazing.

Search WOS5 - Head Over Heels (Ocean)
After Knight Lore, there were a hundred isometric 3D arcade adventure puzzle games, but this is undeniably the peak of the genre. It's quite possible that this game represents the peak of the game designer's art full stop, it was monstrously cute and gorgeous-looking. Head Over Heels toyed with the player's emotions as he struggled to join up the two independent heroes, only to have the joy of success cruelly shattered by another problem which could only be solved by splitting them up again. Mind-wrenchingly devious but always tantalisingly solvable, this is so addictive it hurts.

Search WOS4 - Stop The Express (Sinclair)
Is this the cutest Speccy game ever? I certainly think so. The Japanese influence of Oriental programmers Hudson Soft shone through like a beacon. Your gorgeous mop-headed hero swash-buckled his way across the roof of a speeding train, killing bad guys by throwing plucked birds at them! The graphics were impossibly bright and lovely and the gameplay hugely addictive. But the very best thing was the way that the demo mode consisted of a re-run of your last game in its entirety. Pure arcade beauty.

Search WOS3 - All Or Nothing (Abbex)
Even if you are as old as me you probably won't have heard of this one. The crude graphics and mostly purple screen ensured that most gamers gave this a wide berth, which is a shame as it's an unrivalled classic in the espionage field. Sneaking around an enemy complex, letting off bombs to distract guard dogs, stealing stuff from deaf guards' pockets, breaking into locked warehouses to steal important documents, bribing the enemy with money looted from their fallen comrades' bodies, every devious trick you ever wanted to try was catered for in this enormously entertaining piece of software. Too compelling for words.

Search WOS2 - Rebelstar (Firebird)
A very close second, I can tell you. Before Julian Gollop's epic, wargaming was a minority interest characterised by tedious number-crunching and amateur programming. Then came Rebelstar, turning it into an experience unrivalled for thrills by all but the most adrenalin-pumping blaster. The battle for the rebel space station was fast-moving and violent. But best of all, the incredible glow of satisfaction you got from beating the thing at the top level was incomparable. The price of a masterpiece? 1.99. The second best game in the world ever.


Search WOS1 - Deathchase (Micromega)
No apologies, no regrets. Y'see, spec-chums, I've been playing computer games for as long as computer games have existed. I've played thousands of them, from coin-op games to ZX81 games to Apple Macintosh games and all points in between. And the simple fact of the matter is that there isn't one in existence that's as exciting, as gripping, as tense, or as downright thrilling as this is. Written in 1982 in just 9K of memory, Deathchase puts you on a motorbike in a forest, with no purpose in life other than to chase other characters on motorbikes and kill them for bounty money.

Your enemies don't shoot back at you (not even the the bonus-point tanks and helicopters), there are no power-ups, no end-of-level bosses, and the only things which can kill you are the trees of the forest itself. They don't TRY to kill you, of course, they just stand there, growing leaves and photosynthesising and doing whatever it is that trees do over the countless millennia, and wait for you to crash headlong into them at full tilt. And you will. The inanimate nature of your only enemy gives Deathchase addictive qualities which are almost unimaginable to anyone who hasn't played it. Y'see, when you get killed in Deathchase, it's nobody's fault but your own. The trees don't move, nothing shoots at you to distract you and you can even slow down or stop to catch your breath. Basically, there's absolutely no excuse for getting yourself splattered all over the forest except your own carelessness and impatience.

Which means, of course, that the next time you play, you won't make any of those silly mistakes. Will you? Well, of course you will. The thing is, the game is so utterly simple (I mean, 'Avoid the trees', it's almost insulting) that you don't see any reason to slow down, you can't accept that your skills as a games player aren't equal to the task. So off you go at top speed again, whizzing through the forest in fine dramatic style until you remember that you've got enemies to chase. So you swerve after them with your bullets zipping past just centimetres away, edge just that bit further over to get them into your sights, and BLAM! Another faceful of bark.

There's more to Deathchase than this, but not much more (as a wise man once said, more or less). For one thing there's the sound. Not that there's a lot of it, all you get is a scary siren effect at the start of each level and a jarring screech when you collide with one of these ubiquitous giant redwoods. The result, though, is so effective you wonder why no-one does it more often. The silence as you whip soundlessly between the trees just makes the sudden explosion of noise all the more terrifying - this is a game that'll make you jump off your seat in fright if you play it at night with the lights off.

And that reminds me - there's night time too. Every second level of Deathchase is a night level, with the same number of trees as the previous one but with the light blue sky turned pitch black. Theoretically it shouldn't make things any harder, but the atmosphere is so gloomy and oppressive that you find yourself crashing out of purpose out of sheer subconscious despair. The coming of dawn (when you finally manage to nail the two bikers) heralds an increased level of danger, but the relief of being back in daylight is so great that you almost welcome it.

Finally there are the 'bonuses'. Every now and again a tank or helicopter cruises slowly across the horizon from left to right. They don't shoot at you, they don't get in your way, they don't drop reinforcements for the bad guys, they don't do you harm in any way. Except that sometimes they're just too much of a sitting target to pass up, and you deviate from your path for a single second to bag the juicy points bonus you get for shooting them, and... BLAM! Time to leave your teethmarks for posterity once more. They never hurt you, but you'll grow to hate them.

Doesn't sound like much, does it? Bikes, trees, bonus targets and crashing. (Lots of crashing.) Only two real controls, hardly any sound, totally basic character square graphics and gameplay your dog could probably learn. I'm probably taking rubbish, all those years in front of flickering screens have probably destroyed my mind. It can't be that good really. So why not prove me wrong? Why don't you give it a try? What have you got to lose? Except the rest of your life, that is...

The Your Sinclair Rock'n'Roll Years