For those of a certain age, a small black box with a rainbow logo and rubber keys brings back many fond memories. The ZX Spectrum was a 8-bit computer that loaded it’s games from a cassette tape and was the progenitor of many a bedroom programmer.
Despite it’s obvious limitations, (it started out with 16K and 48K versions and reached the heady heights of 128K towards the end) some of the games that first appeared on the Spectrum still have ancestors appearing today. One fan favourite was Rebelstar Raiders by Julian Gollop. Mr Gollop went on to develop the popular X-Com range of strategy games that appeared across PC and Console platform in recent decades, as well as what was for some the pinnacle of strategy gaming – Laser Squad.
Originally released in 1988 on the ZX Spectrum, Laser squad was a direct descendant of Rebelstar Raiders, and went on to appear on the Commodore 64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, MSX and PC. Why so many different platforms? Because it is one of the finest examples of the genre ever created, with subtleties of play, complete freedom of strategy and beautifully constructed maps. If you like Chess, then this was the next obvious evolution of the form, except this also had robots and grenades.
Fast forward 25 years, Laser Squad exists on emulators and retro games sites, you can download the ROM for free, and the developers, including Julian have gone onto greater things, real time 3D games with storylines and dazzling graphics. The one thing Laser Squad was really missing was an online multiplayer mode, and now through the wonders of Android it exists.
Stellar Forces is available on the Play Store and is a re-interpretation of the classic Spectrum game, but crucially, this time you can play with people all over the world. It has leagues you can join and it expands on the original Laser Squad maps with dozens of new ones. If you enjoyed the original Laser Squad on the Spectrum, this is a must see. There’s a free to play version that just includes a couple of the original Laser Squad missions so you can test the water, with a pay version that has full access to all missions.
Maybe we will see more of this, a return to lone home developers expanding on old classics to give them a new lease of life in the connected world of gaming on smart phones and tablets. If Stellar Forces is anything to go by, I certainly hope we do.
[Image via Russ Payne]