When Sir Clive Sinclair stood back to look at his finished Spectrum 48k 30 years ago, I wonder if he ever dared imagine the technology would one day be replicated on a device smaller than one of his calculators?
Yet here we are with Elite System’s 100 Greatest Hits, a specially produced App to celebrate 30 years since the launch of Sinclair’s successful home computer.
The App is available on both iPhone and iPad, but although I’ve played around with both, it’s the iPad version which impresses most. With a larger screen area and iCade support, the iPad really does allow you to relive the glory days of the 8-bit machine.
Elite Systems are no stranger to the Spectrum, having been around since 1984, supporting the device with arcade conversions like Ikari Warriors, Paperboy and Double Dragon, as well as classics such as Chuckie Egg. Who better, then, to compile the best 100 games from over a decade of Spectrum classics?
It goes without saying that some of the games you remember won’t be there, either because of rights issues or the shear number of titles available, but Elite have done a good job of representing a wide range of developers and game genres here. Highlights include the Monty Mole series, the ever-referenced Jet Set Willy, decapitation featuring Barbarian and the school sim Skool Daze. While some areas are lacking in content (most of Ocean’s arcade conversions are missing), some of these can be found in Elite’s other iOS title; ZX Spectrum Elite Collection, which is constantly updated with new titles.
Each title has its own control setup, allowing you to tailor the controls to your liking. The iDaptive controls are a great addition, letting you choose from buttons or a joystick and then placing either of these around the screen to get the best results. The buttons are designed to look like the old Spectrum 48k keys, complete with lettering and commands, which is a great touch. The reason the iPad works better with this is that the controls seem more comfortable when holding the device in a portrait mode and the larger screen still provides plenty of space for the game, where-as the iPhone and iPod screen can seem a little small. In Landscape mode the keys are overlaid on the action, but tend to get in the way of the game.
It really is worth playing around with the controls as the initial set-up isn’t the best and I found the experience annoying at best. It was only when I began moving buttons around that the games suddenly ‘clicked’ and were improved vastly by button placement. For those still unsure about whether the app will be for them, a free version with Bruce Lee included is also available on both devices.
iCade support for the iPad is the icing on the cake. Doing away with virtual keys altogether, it allows for the tactile control that the Spectrum games really require in order to play well. While the virtual controls do a good job of providing a solution on a touch screen device, anyone with an iCade will certainly be at an advantage. It’s also worth considering that the new portable iCade mobile units will be out soon, which should see titles like this benefit on iPhone and iPod as well.
As well as providing pixel perfect emulation for the 48k Spectrum, 100 Greatest Hits supports the soundchip from the 128k as well, which allows for some much improved music on newer games that supported Sinclair’s updated machine. This can be switched off for those wishing to experience the original soundchip at work.
While 100 Greatest Hits may not have every classic game on offer (I still yearn for Cosmic Kanga, my first Spectrum game), it certainly contains more than enough memories to allow gamers to celebrate the 30thanniversary of the ZX Spectrum with their favourite iDevice.