Pete Davison: Chaos, The Battle of Wizards

Posted on April 21, 2011 by

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It’s a sad but true fact that returning to the games of your youth usually ends in disappointment as you realise that gaming has moved on a lot, and those games never got a re-release on Xbox Live Arcade or the like for a very good reason — they’re not very good.

But there’s a few exceptions. Specifically, anything made by Julian Gollop is still just as fresh as it was back then.

How do I know this? Thanks to the Elite ZX Spectrum Collection app for iPhone. This app features a decent Spectrum emulator and a selection of games, most of which can be bought via in-app purchase in packs of six. One such pack is a Julian Gollop pack, which contains five fantastic strategy games and one utterly awful bouncy-ball atrocity, the less said about which the better. At least — hopefully — after that, Gollop figured out what he was good at and what he wasn’t.

The games included in the pack are ChaosLords of ChaosRebelstar and its sequel andLaser Squad. I can’t remember what the bouncy one is called but it involved catching balloons and wasn’t fun at all.

The strategy games, on the other hand, are another matter. Chaos is the simplest of the bunch, with Teletext-quality graphics and feeble beep-and-fart type sound effects, but it’s an immensely competitive game that supports up to eight players. It works well as a “pass the phone” game, too. And casting a Gooey Blob that gets out of hand never gets old.

The remaining games are all fundamentally very similar, featuring the same basic gameplay mechanics and gradually-improving graphics. In fact, if you’ve played the X-COM games, you’ve played these games too. That’s no bad thing, though, because X-COM is awesome. Featuring turn-based multiplayer action, they’re, in many ways, virtual boardgames that don’t demand any throwing of dice or getting out a billion pieces or avoiding bumping the table or spilling curry on them or anything like that. And the Spectrum controls, while a little clunky, manage to work pretty effectively on the iPhone app. It helps that the keys are labelled, rather than my first experience with Chaos on a PC based emulator, where my friend Sam and I spent a good half an hour or so attempting to work out by trial and error what keys did what.

So if you’re jonesing for more X-COM and don’t object to playing on a touchscreen, then grab the Elite ZX Spectrum Collection and the Julian Gollop pack. I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed, and you’ll be surprised that retro gaming can still be fun, deep and rewarding rather than vaguely upsetting.

Day 459
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Posted in: Pete Davison