Launch day 9th November saw many eager Spectrum Next owners (well dev kit owners, and those using emulation!) hammering F5 ready for the inevitable switch on of software amusements shop to signal the release of ‘Montana Mike’ and ‘The Gold Compilation’ – a 3 game pack featuring the teams current releases (including Montana Mike) so far for the Spectrum Next.
So with the game in hand, lets run through the offerings for those curious to know if the Spectrum Next is a 8bit powerhouse, or an wishful afterthought into the market to the few that backed it.
Here we embark as Mike, a daring ‘Rick Dangerous’ type on a dangerous treasure filled quest into the deepest lost tombs and catacombs. Mike is on a mission to recover rare lost treasures around the world for his father’s history museum.
Packaging wise, I love the use of the old Sony Vita boxes being put to good use with another machine, and after having 5 titles use this format so far, they look amazing on the shelf. My only gripe is that currently due to the difference between a vita card and an SD card you do suffer from a dreaded rattle inside the case, no more than the kind we PC owners used to expect from our big box floppy and cdrom games.
Inside the box I found I was lucky (and I know I was very lucky to have this!) to have recieved 1 of the 100 limited edition pin badges to celebrate the games release! That’ll be taking centre stage straight in the area of my desk allocated to my Spectrum Next (which is currently housed in a shell of an old Spectrum+ 48k* – matching it’s similar keys to the next). Also inside is a map of Mexico, “useful” I thought, until my subconscious reminded me the developer stated this was just the first level of four with around a total of 170 rooms to venture – so averaging around 40+ per level. This isn’t going to be a walk in the park either…
So I inserted the SD Card, and watched the system autoboot the game (this trick still makes me smile!)
So usual 8bit game rules apply, find the exit, grab treasure, survive. The game teases you on each screen much like Megaman with an array of enemies, all of who will enjoy killing you over and over again (especially the falling rocks!), But unlike the Blue Bomber the game is also quiet forgiving by allowing many chances to find additional lives throughout the caves.
But don’t forget the one rule, that once you’ve cleared a screen ensure you’ve grabbed everything you want, as once you move forward, then return you’ll find EVERYTHING has respawned (ah the classic 8bit f*** you!). I did for the first few minutes before getting that sharp reminder, mainly by returning back to a screen VERY close to a respawned enemy, madly whipping in the hopes it’d die before it touched me.
Which also brings me onto another gimmick or rather a cheeky tactic implemented within the code, as the whip’s hit box is cunningly within the final pixels at the end of the whip. Making close quarter combat more instadeath, but used correctly enables you to crowd control enemies without feeling restricted through each area.
Graphics wise, are far beyond the Spectrum games of old, and fall somewhere between the GameBoy Advance and Amiga in terms of look, which isn’t a bad thing! There’s no colour clash and everything moves with fluidity but yet still retaining that 8bit microcomputer charm, which was slowly lost during the 16bit era.
Difficulty/Gameplay wise you’d think this’ll be a short game, but the truth is it’s deviously hard, with practice and enemy pattern movements needing to be memorised to give you the best chance of success. with the levels being varied enough to ensure you don’t get bored on the first few playthrough’s.
For me this is one game I’d love to see a sequel to, exploring more environmental puzzles and perhaps taking inspiration from ‘Spelunky’ to maximise room limits in memory but giving players a fresh challenge each time they load. Either way, I’ve had some great evenings playing this on the system, and just hope this is the start of some truly great platformers making their way to the system!
I you want to try it out for yourself, the digital copy is available now for £5.99 with £9.99 for the physical. Or you could take the plunge for £16.99 and grab the ‘Gold Compilation’ with the rather excellent ‘Dungeonette’ and the insanely addictive ‘Deltastar’. Digital copies can also be used on many of the next compatible Spectrum emulators if you’re waiting for your machine still, or thought you missed the boat and doesn’t impact the games quality either.
Overall – it’s a recommended purchase!
* No Spectrums were harmed during the borrowing of the shell, having died long before I obtained it – although I have still kept the board, because… well it’s a Sinclair!