Friday, 14 October 2011

Space Disposal (ZX Spectrum)

Hooray! It seems like ages since I last had a bit of space-themed blasting on the old Speccy, and with a name like Space Disposal surely the game will be full of pure and unadulterated asteroid-cracking and enemy-'disposing' mayhem. Ah, but hang on - what's this? "Authored with Arcade Game Designer" by Paul Jenkinson? As in the same guy who previously delivered the uninspired Chopper Drop? Harrumpf. Oh well, I guess I'd better prepare myself for a critical write up of another mediocre game...

...Or perhaps not. In fact, despite being developed using the more-than-slightly sluggish AGD, Space Disposal is actually quite a lot of fun. Unlike Paul's other recent game (which looked quite nice but was tedious to play), this one actually features some solid design and decent gameplay - as well as looking and sounding good. Now where is that humble pie? I suppose I should have a slice with my afternoon cup of tea.

Playing the role of an interplanetary binman, your goal is to clear each flip-screen planet of discarded rubbish (including crashed spacecraft, robots, CRT monitors and mobile phones) whilst avoiding or blasting away continually falling meteors and the malfunctioning clean-up droids that patrol each screen. Nothing exactly innovative here, but there's a nice little design feature when it comes to the robots; when shot they immediately respawn in set locations marked by what appears to be mesh fencing (the manual calls these locations 'pods') - so you have to actually think before you shoot. Some robots are best avoided - because they'll spawn immediately behind you and destroy your cute little ship, whereas others will respawn in conveniently isolated parts of the screen. Ok, so it's hardly groundbreaking stuff, but it is... nice.

Each planet is represented by a series of single screens (and yes, you can travel back and forth between them). Collecting all the rubbish strewn about the place opens the portal on the right-most screen, and then it's straight on to the next world (of which there are 4 in total). You have five lives with which to complete your mission (including the extra life pickup found halfway through the game), and there are no power-ups or bonuses - Space Disposal is a test of raw skill.

Now I'm a sucker for all games that involve guns, space ships and robots, but I'm also a very critical player. Even so, I found very little that annoyed me about Space Disposal. Sure, it's occasionally unfair, but otherwise Space Disposal is small, simple, unpretentious and really enjoyable. The scoring system is a bit crap in that you are only awarded points for collecting the (essential) rubbish, so that basically anyone who completes the game will have the same number of points. To be honest, without points awarded for blasting droids or space debris, you might as well do without a score altogether.

Another minor bug (or feature) is that for some reason after firing continuously for a minute or so you'll run out of ammo, despite the lack of any visible counter. However, as this is replenished as soon as you move to another screen it doesn't really effect gameplay.

Aside from these minor bugbears, it's all good. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say it's almost worthy of a budget commercial release. Recommended.

Download the game here (from the World Of Spectrum site).
Run it using Spectaculator (shareware) or Klive (freeware).

4 out of 5