Spindrone (Amstrad CPC, 1988) Retro Review

Some games never get the credit they deserve at the time. With this little game from Atlantis Software and Robert Lever, it’s very much the case.

Spindrone went unreviewed in the major magazine of the time, Amstrad Action, but its release in 1988 at the budget label price of £1.99 ensured sales nevertheless. It’s a fun little arcade game – possibly a clone of an existing arcade title, but maybe not. The theme is recognisable, hence the confusion over whether it’s an arcade clone or not, and the gameplay is simple enough for anyone to pick up.

You play as the lone guard of the plutonium stock on “newly colonised planet, Fungii 7”. Aliens are coming down to steal your barrels of plutonium (because arcade rules override common sense, apparently) and you have to stop them by shooting them before they grab the barrels.

If they manage to grab a barrel, they will pull it into the sky, empty it and drop the crushed barrel back down at you. You can shoot the barrels as they fall but when the alien is carrying it, it seems to be invulnerable to damage. That’s pretty good future engineering, right there.

The game is set over three screens, all of which look identical at the start of the game, and the controls are limited: Left, Right, Fly, and Fire. So far, so simple. It’s in the gameplay that this little gem shines.

Everything runs very smoothly. The spinning drone you control (hence the title of the game) moves smoothly and there’s a real sense of momentum about it as you twist and turn around the screen. Touching pretty much anything will cause you to explode, so you need to keep your wits about you, and the aliens come thick and fast. It’s not a question of stopping all the barrels from being destroyed, it’s a question of saving as many as you can.

Because the game is split over three screens, there will always be aliens grabbing barrels when you can’t do anything about it. You need to keep your wits about you and fly between the screens as quickly as you can, shooting as many aliens as possible so as many barrels as possible can be saved. Keep doing this until you run out of barrels, or run out of lives. Rack up as high a score as you can and that’s pretty much the sum total of the game. It’s quick, simple arcade fun.

The graphics are beautiful; set in Mode 0 and featuring a wonderful array of bright colours that give the game a luscious cartoon feel. The barrels are lovely and chunky; the aliens have a brilliant design that works so very well; and your little spinning drone is brilliantly (if simply) animated to give it a nice, three-dimensional feel in just 4 frames of animation or so.

All in all, there’s a lot to like with Spindrone and if you give it a try, you’ll likely enjoy it. Back when it was released, the fact that this little budget title got overlooked is very unfortunate but now it’s widely available from the various CPC archives, there’s no excuse not to fire up your CPC (or CPC emulator) and give it a try.

8/10

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