As anyone who’s watched my show Go 8 Bit will almost certainly be aware (because I mention it on there at every possible opportunity), I’m a big fan of the Amstrad CPC 464. It was my first home computer and I recently treated myself to a new one…why, yes, it does have a reconditioned tape deck, thank you for asking.
Anyway, it’s as good a reason as any to put together this – my top eleven Amsoft games you completely forgot existed, unless you didn’t forget they existed, in which case this is my top eleven Amsoft games you totally can remember existed. Regardless, I’m pretty sure writing this means my Amstrad’s now tax-deductible, so that’s ace.
11. Sultan’s Maze
This game is dreadful to play, and has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever but, back when it came out, the ability to enter a 3D-world, albeit one that consists solely of green walls to stare at, was completely mind-blowing. If you ever have a conversation with someone who doesn’t think the graphics on your new game are that impressive, lock them in a room and don’t let them leave until they complete this. Fair warning: they will die in that room.
10. Roland In The Caves
You can’t have a list of Amsoft games without mentioning Roland, so I won’t even attempt to. The first of three Roland games listed here, this one sees our hero stuck in a cave, and the only way he can get out is by leaping left or right. The longer you hold either button, the further he jumps but, regardless of how long you hold the buttons, you will never escape, because old games are impossible.
9. Animal Vegetable Mineral
This game is RIDICULOUS. The cassette has a list of animals, vegetables, and things-that-aren’t-animals-or-vegetables on it. It then tries to guess what you’re thinking of and, if it can’t work it out, which it usually can’t, you tell it. Then it remembers it. But only until you turn the computer off because, of course, there’s no way of saving the things you taught it. It’s like playing ’20 Questions’ with an amnesiac. Back then, though, all I knew was that the computer was talking to me, and knew if I was thinking about a cat. And that was terrifying.
8. Roland On The Ropes
The second Roland game and the first, but not the last, tomb-based game on this list, Roland On The Ropes sees the Amsoft mascot return, this time tasked with climbing (rather than leaping) his way out whilst avoiding mummies, skeletons, vampires, ghosts and chameleons. No-one ever managed to complete the first level of this one either, a fact I’m basing solely on my inability to do it, and never having met anyone else who’s played it.
7. The Galactic Plague
Love Galaga? Want to play something much, much worse? Then The Galactic Plague’s the game for you. It’s actually not that bad, and it managed to whizz along at a decent speed. Plus, it was quite quick to load, this one, which was almost as important as the game being any good, back then.
One for crossword fans, this one gave you an empty crossword grid, and a list of all the letters that needed dropping into it, in alphabetical order. Initially trial and error, once you’d got a few pivotal letters locked down, you could start to work out which words could potentially fill the grid in, and quickly wrap things up. Much less boring than it sounds. And, if you manage to score over 1200 points, you may go to the top of the class and give out the pencils at playtime. How do I know this? Because it says so in the instruction booklet that comes with it, and I’ve got it. I’ve wasted my life.
5. Harrier Attack
Another satisfyingly quick loader, but a far better game than The Galactic Plague, this side-scroller sees you flying a Harrier, shooting and bombing everything you encounter. By no means easy, it did at least reward skill rather than luck and, despite not winning any awards for looks, it still holds up well today, given it’s complexity.
4. Roland Goes Digging
Very popular with my mum, it was no doubt also very popular with other cool people, because it’s a really good game. Roland’s building site’s been over-run by aliens and the foreman’s offered a bonus to anyone that can kill them off. A situation we can all relate to. Furthermore, the aliens are a form of plant life and are thus slowly sucking up all the oxygen in the building. As contrived reasons to put a time limit on a game go, it’s an exceptional piece of work.
Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that this Roland doesn’t seem to look anything like the ones we met earlier, and there’s a very good reason for that. Amsoft wanted a mascot, but weren’t inclined to spend time or money creating one so, instead, they just bought up random games and called the main character in each of them Roland. Why they didn’t just bung Dizzy the Egg a tenner, I’ve no idea. Dizzy the Egg’s wicked.
3. Fruit Machine
This. Looks. Dreadful. But, back in 1984, this was cutting edge home computing. And, whilst it might look awful, it actually offered a reasonable simulation of a fruit machine experience. You can hold individual reels, nudge up and down, and even activate a bonus mode, in the form of Winner Spinners! It gives you a virtual fiver to make as much money as you can which, surprisingly, gives it a lot of replay value too. No, honestly!
In at number two, it’s Bridge-it. Beautifully simple, a procession of people march along the path. There’s four drawbridges, corresponding to the up, down, left and right cursor keys. Your task? Time your button presses to close the appropriate drawbridge, and stop these reckless pedestrians from falling in the water.
Customisation? You betcha! You can pick from 9 levels of difficulty and give yourself up to 50 lives! Which you’ll need – once it gets going it’s almost impossible. Like all the best old games.
1. Oh Mummy
Taking the top slot, it’s Oh Mummy. This one saw you running around inside a pyramid with a Milton Keynes-esque grid-layout. Leave footprints all the way around a tomb, and it’ll reveal something: maybe treasure, maybe a key to let you out of the room, or maybe even another mummy to add to the horde that’s chasing you. Why’s it in the top slot? Because it’s my mum’s favourite, and I love my mum.
So there you have it – the list that I said I would write has been written, and you have read it. But do you agree with the rankings? Have I missed YOUR favourite Amsoft game? Let us know in the comments below. I won’t bother reading them, but you’ll feel better to have got it off your chest.