Wednesday 28 July 2010

Horace and the Spiders

How much credibility does a game have if it can't even fit its name onto the title screen?

The final Horace game, Horace and the Spiders. This one never left the ZX Spectrum, which in this case, is for the better.

I mean don't get me wrong, I understand that the ZX Spectrum was top notch for 1982 and that standards as a whole weren't as high as in the present day, but I simply cannot understand why you would program a game like this for such weak hardware. Horace and the Spiders is a platform game... sort of, divided into three awkward sections. As it's on the ZX Spectrum, it looks noticeably worse than the last two games I've reviewed which ran on superior Commodore 64 hardware, but it doesn't necessarily mean the game has to be bad... right?

Wrong. This truely is a frustrating game, and all that frustration can be vented directly at the ZX Spectrum's inability to handle it. The computer was extremely popular and was supported for a decade, yet I can't quite understand why sometimes. Horace and the Spiders flickers like crazy, the graphics look horrible, it's extremely difficult to control and it just isn't fun.

Horace has decided to attack spiders for some reason. There's clearly something not right about this character and by this stage you'd have expected someone to send around a doctor, but that isn't the case this time around. I'm not entirely sure why spiders are such an issue, but I'm guessing there's too many of them or something.

You start off with one of the classic "this system can't do sidescrollers but we'll pretend it can" segments, where the background moves slowly to the left and you have to jump over a couple of objects. As the jumping mechanism isn't very flexible, your timing has to be perfect or you'll die, but thankfully this section doesn't seem to last very long.

Soon you found yourself underground, forcing yourself to jump between spider webs Pitfall style. This section is also broken, so much so that you'll probably struggle to get past it as it very rarely seems to let you finish. Stay on a web long enough and the spiders will have you... except as you'll find, it's damned near impossible to get off the web as this too needs a precise jump.

Finally you enter the lair, in which you have to defeat the arachnids Lode Runner style (it's actually a clone of Space Panic but you probably wouldn't remember that). By jumping up and down you can destroy the floor and trap your enemies, and then you need to jump on top of them when they're stuck. Rinse and repeat. This is the only section of the game that's decent, though since it takes so long to get there and because the controls aren't great, it's still a bit of a let down. Would have been right at home in the early days of the NES though!

This isn't just tat, it's ZX Spectrum tat. Classic shovelware that should probably be avoided as there are far better titles for that system. "Horace to the Rescue", the fourth title in the series was scrapped and even though he's shown up here and there, you can safely say we're not likely to see a Horace game again.

So is the series worth looking into? No. No in fact the only way I can justify playing these games is that supposedly Horace is one of the first British video game mascots ever to be recorded (as in, one that appeared in more than one game). But hey, it might interest a few.

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