Monday, 25 June 2012
More Tea, Vicar? (ZX Spectrum)
A quick glance through the RGCD archives enables a keen eyed pundit to spot trends in releases – there is a strong correlation between the release platform and the genres of games made for it. The ZX Spectrum, for all its variety of games during its commercial heyday – nowadays appears a natural home for flick screen games, be they platform or arcade action/puzzle titles.
Thus we come to More Tea, Vicar? - a game with a misleadingly benign title - which falls squarely into the under-represented category of super-smooth-side-scrolling R-Type-a-thons. Whilst the C64 catalogue is rife with this style of game (thanks to its hardware scrolling), it takes a pretty special programmer to pull this off on the Speccy. Step up to the plate Mr J. Caudwell.
In this outing Jonathan's trademark programming skills are given a leg up by Javier Alcaniz (providing excellent graphics/levels) and Yerzmyez's great AY music (on the 128K version). Needless to say, the whole thing makes for a very classy presentation indeed.
More Tea, Vicar? has been mooted (and demo'ed) as a project for the best part of a decade, so with a development time to rival that of Duke Nukem Forever, M.T.V. needed to be pretty special to not disappoint – which it generally manages to pull off. The ship handles well and looks beautiful, the enemies move in interesting attack waves and there are power-ups to be had for destroying all of a wave. The game oozes competence – but, despite all the polish, fails to completely shine. The status/score bars do not show bonuses picked up, so the reverse fire, missiles, or force orb come somewhat out of the blue. If there was just a message that said what you'd found in your kinder surprise egg (be it points, firepower, etc.) it would be more rewarding than the bonus collected message. Another slight annoyance is that the end of stage bosses are recycled just a little too often for comfort and there is no indication how close to death they are – for instance a simple health bar would have been nice (indicating if there was a particular vulnerable spot to hit, or just that the boss had to be hit 50+ times to defeat it).
It is unfair to dwell on M.T.V.'s minor shortcomings too much, as overall More Tea, Vicar? is a great example of R-Type gameplay, but just lacks a few bells and whistles to make it perfect. Nonetheless it provides a healthy challenge, and aesthetically holds up with the very best of them. It also bucks the trend in the genres of retro homebrew releases on the Spectrum and this in itself is enough to warrant your time and attention.
Whilst the 128K version is available as a free download, the 48K version is only available on the purchased cassette from Cronosoft and features a different 4th stage (but no music).
Buy the 48K game on cassette here (from the Cronosoft site).
Download the 128K game for free here (from the World of Spectrum site).
Run it using Spectaculator (shareware) or Klive (freeware).