A monster from savage prehistory;
A machine from the dawn of microcomputing;
A man pioneering the concept of survival horror.
There are many classic retro games, but only a select few are truly system-defining; 3D Monster Maze, by far my favourite ZX81 indulgence, is one such title. A full third of a century after release, Malcolm Evans’ undisputed masterpiece remains genuinely, thrillingly playable, without recourse whatsoever to rose-tinted eyewear.
Contrary to popular conception, Monster Maze is not the earliest three-dimensional maze game released on Sinclair’s diminutive micro; that accolade goes to Axis software’s 1981 3D Labyrinth. The earlier title, however, is a stripped-back affair lacking in many features so integral to its more famous counterpart, not least of which is the critical addition of a bloodthirsty opponent: the inimitable Tyrannosaurus Rex.
3D Monster Maze’s concept is deceptively simple, tasking the player with locating the exit of a randomly generated labyrinth, the view of which is convincingly presented in first-person perspective. Upping the ante is the presence of the titular monster, a beast who is not about to let his human ready-meal escape.
The genius of the game lays in a sublime, immersive combination of engrossing gameplay and pervasive atmosphere. Allied to the intellectual challenge of besting the labyrinth is the engagement of the player’s primal fight-or-flight instinct; stranded and weaponless, for this is no first person shooter, fleeing is the hapless adventurer’s only option.
Interview with Dr Greg Bradley, 21:16 November 3rd, 2015, Lizards Breath Sanatorium, Nevada.
Interviewee is clearly insane, with unkempt white hair, staring eyes and a slither of drool hanging tenuously from the corner of his mouth. He seems calm at present but constantly fidgets. He seems to be holding something small and red in his hands. He won’t tell me what it is, but the nurses say he’s not a threat. Unfortunately he’ll only be coherent for an hour or so, so I’m getting started. . .
Hello my boy. It’s been a while since they’ve let me talk to anyone. You must be very special. Are you? Or are you sneaky? Are you after the gift I have in my hand? You can’t have it, I’m afraid. But I will show it to you, once you’ve listened to my tale. . .
Back in ‘51 I was a promising young geologist. I’d already seen several of my papers published and had begun lecturing at Oxford University. The world was my fossilised oyster and I was prying it open with my rock hammer. But it all changed that summer when my superiors sent me to the US. You see, there’d been a recent meteor crash near a town called Lizards Breath – how quaint a name I’d thought at the time – and they wanted me to study it. Alas, the things I witnessed there can never be unseen, and I fear that only by recounting my tale will I ever rid myself of the demons ANTS! that ravage my mind. For far too long the secret of that dusty town have been hidden in the back of my mind, and the cost has been the erosion of my sanity. Yes, dear boy, I realise that I’m quite mad, but these pills. . . they keep the voices at bay, at least for a while. Don’t they, voices? Yes.
Right, here we go, I’m in the dungeon. OK first step – how do I move? Ah, ok, click on the arrows. Bit annoying- should be able to use the cursor keys. Doesn’t seem to be anything aroun. . . oh, wait. . . is that a picture on the wall over there? Yes, yes it is. . . oh, and another. Am I in a medieval version of the Tate Gallery? I wonder what happens if I click on this girl’s pictu. . . ‘Resurrect’ or ‘Reincarnate’? Huh, com esta? What’s the difference? Sod it, resurrect. Ooo, she’s in my party. No wait. . . it’s a ‘he’ apparently. “Boris. . . Wizard of Baldor”. Hmmm. . . Wish I’d chosen someone who looked more like a proper wizard. He looks more like Justin Bieber. Right, must be more careful with my next choice. “Daroou”. Not sure. . . he looks like a gormless Chewbacca. Next. “Halk The Barbarian”. Yep, he’ll do. Always need a bit of brawn in these games.
Ok, so that’s a wizard and a warrior. . . what next? “Syra Child of Nature”? What’s she? A healer. Yep, probably need one of those at some point. Right. . . last one. . . let’s go a little left-field here. . . “Elija Lion Of Yaitopya”?. . . nah, he looks like a tramp version of Morgan Freeman. “Wuuf the Bika”? Yeah, ok, he’ll do. Resurrect. Crap, should have checked his class. . . Ninja? But he’s a man-dog. Since when did Ninja man-dogs ever exist? Bloody weird. Ah well, never mind, party’s full. . . let’s get to it boppers!
Syra: “Hi all.” Halk: “Hi.” Boris: “Hi.” Wuuf: “Woof.” Syra: “Oh, hey Wuuf. How ya doing mate?” Wuuf: “Oh, Hi Syra. Yeah, I’m not too bad thanks, just been ‘hanging around’ if you know what I mean”.
Wak-Attack – I am become Pac-Man, Destroyer of Worlds
Guest Essay courtesy of SweetMrGibs
I know Pac-Man. You know Pac-Man. Hell, we all know Pac-Man. He’s been a part of our culture since the early Eighties. But do any of us really know Pac-Man? Just because we control him doesn’t mean he’s a hero. You see I’ve been studying his behaviour for a while now, and I’ve come to a pretty horrific conclusion. Pac-Man is evil.
Think about it. What would you do if, from out of nowhere, some giant yellow ball appeared on your property and started gobbling Little Johnny’s hormone supplements? The ghosts, who represent the oppressed in our society, unseen, unnoticed, jammed into their tiny virtual hut, have no option but to defend themselves. You might think they’re attacking for no reason, but Pac-Man is displaying classic passive-aggressive behaviour at its very worst. And what happens if they dare to attack Pac-Man? Why, he chugs down a mega-steroid and proceeds to try and eat them! And you, dear reader, are enabling this behaviour.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. No, this goes much, much deeper. Did you know that Wakawaka is an extinct language of Queensland in Australia? Do you understand what this means? Pac-Man is responsible for the annihilation of a complete tribe of Aborigine, his “Wakawaka” ramblings recounting his previous murderous rampage in the Outback. And it didn’t start there…