One of the very best 8-bit computer games of all time, Spindizzy combined gameplay elements from Marble Madness, with the kind of puzzles that originated with isometric adventures (Knight Lore, Head over Heels, Nosferatu), and are still used in many recent first-person shooters. (push lever here, go back to lift, ride lift, shoot something, open door...)
Coded by Paul Shirley, and released by Electric Dreams in 1986, the game received reviews to die for, with top marks across the board, excluding sound effects - there must have been about six sound effects in the whole game; bounce, hit something, go over a switch, fall off the edge and die, collect crystal, be hit by an enemy. The folk at Zzap64 were in particularly excessive spirits when they reviewed the game, giving it the following scores:
awarded Spindizzy a relatively sober 93%, including 92% for "Use of Computer", and 91% for "Getting Started
", whatever that meant. On the Amstrad
, Amstrad Action
only thought the sound merited 27%, but gave Spindizzy an overall 96%, while hats off to the Amtix!
reviewers who gave it an "Amtix! Accolade" and a suitably ludicrous 98%.
Here's what all the fuss was about.
As a Cartographer, conscripted by the government, it was your task, using your mapping craft, GERALD (Gyroscopic, Environmental Reconnaissance And Land-Mapping Device), to map an unknown world called Hangworld. The size of hangworld depended on your real world micro, but in all incarnations you were looking at around 400 screens to explore and chart. Luckily, GERALD was fitted with sophisticated enough technology to render the outside world in glorious split-screen isometric 3D. If the angle meant that you couldn't see quite what was going on, GERALD would let you move the view through 90 degrees. GERALD helpfully included itself in your view of the world, just to make it that little bit easier, and you could even change its appearance, toggling between a gyroscope, a marble, and a pyramid spinning smoothly on its point.
GERALD was controlled using a simple up, down, left, right combination, with the space bar acting as an emergency brake, bringing GERALD to an immediate halt. In case the brake makes it sound easy, let me reassure you that Spindizzy was anything but. In order to survive you had to avoid running out of time, and the remaining time acted as a sort of energy bar. IF you used the brake, you lost time, if you fell off any of the world's walkways and paths and into oblivion, you lost time, if you were hit by any of the alien machines sharing your world, you lost time. And, of course, you lost time as it passed. The only way to increase your time was to chart new screens, and collect crystals. And to finish the game, you only had to collect all the crystals and map all the screens before your time ran out.
It was huge, it was fiendishly hard in places as you negotiated tight jumps after steep inclines, it was beautiful, it had a typically unreal 8-bit backstory, the puzzles were intriguing, and it played like a dream and wouldn't let you leave it alone. A veritable classic.