The YS Official Top 100 Part 1
Published in the Oct 1991 YS70 issue
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Downloads100 - 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 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.

Downloads99 - 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 games 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.

Downloads98 - 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 copy of the arcade game Phoenix (forerunner of this year's [1991] Megaphoenix from Dimanic). It's sill the zappiest Space Invaders-type shoot-'em-up there is, and you don't need five O-Levels (or even more than three fingers) to play it!

Downloads97 - Mined Out (Quicksilva)
There aren't many games in this Top 100 written in BASIC. That won't suprise anyone. But what might suprise 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.

Downloads96 - 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 computing 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.

Downloads95 - 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, the The Train Game ties you to the tracks and runs over your head.

Downloads94 - 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.

Downloads93 - Gyron (Firebird)
It's almost unconcievable 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.

Downloads92 - 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.

Downloads91 - 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.

Downloads90 - Bounder (Gremlin)
A strange fish, this. You played a tennis ball with a mission to bounce across a cityfull 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 plummetting 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...

Downloads89 - 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.

Downloads88 - 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. Undoubtedly the greatest underground motorcycling game ever made.

Downloads87 - 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.

Downloads86 - 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 loveliset 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.

Downloads85 - Guardian 2 (Hi-Tec)
Or Stargate by any other name. Willaims' monster classic arcade games have been oft imitated on the Speccy (most notably by Interstella's Defenda and Softek's Starblitz), but this angry giant of a game is the first one to truely capture that 'locked in a cupboard with a swarm of psychotic hornets' feel. 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.

Downloads84 - Technician Ted (Hewson)
This game set a whole series of standard 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.

Downloads83 - 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 at the players in the animated (ha!) highlights sequence, 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.

Downloads82 - Hyperaction (Slversoft)
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. 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 you life?

Downloads81 - Dark Star (Design Design)
Every picture I paint with a screenshot 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 the only giveaway Teletext spoof of all time. (Nearly.) Trop belle pour toi.

Downloads80 - 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 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 progammers these days.

Downloads79 - Atic Atac (Ultimate)
In the early years buying Speccy games was a fraught business and gamesplayers had to suffer any number of pig-in-a-poke purchases. But there was an eternal light in the gloom - Ultimate. 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.

Downloads78 - 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 vertical shoot-'em-up to test your skills against.

Downloads77 - 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!

Downloads76 - 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 [1991] 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.

    Go on to Part 2


Many thanks to Stewart Edgar for typing this up

YS Cross-references
pAtic Atac (in Ultimate: The Collected Works)YS33
 Atic Atac (in The 50 Best Speccy Games Ever!)YS94
pCobra/Hit SquadYS49
pDark Star/Design Design SoftwareYR11
pFlying Shark/FirebirdYS26
pFlying Shark/FirebirdYS27
 Football Manager (in The 50 Best Speccy Games Ever!)YS94
pGreen Beret/ImagineYS5
pGreen Beret/ImagineYS6
pGreen Beret/Hit SquadYS47
pGreen Beret (in The YS Complete Guide To Shoot-'em-ups Part II)YS56
pGyroscope/Melbourne HouseYS1
pRobocop (in The YS Complete Guide To Shoot-'em-ups Part II)YS56
pRobocop (in Hollywood Collection)YS60
pRobocop/Hit SquadYS75
 Robocop (in The 50 Best Speccy Games Ever!)YS94
pSir Lancelot/Melbourne HouseYR11
pTechnician Ted/HewsonYR14
pTechnician Ted/Rack-itYS41
pThree Weeks In Paradise/Mikro-GenYS2
pTrashman/New Generation SoftwareYR6
Some info from Sinclair Infoseek+SPOT*ON

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