Sunday, 3 November 2013

Sandy White's Ant Attack ported to the Sinclair ZX81

Conventional wisdom is a funny thing; "Money doesn't grow on trees"(1), "Never look a gift horse in the mouth" and "You'll NEVER get a anything near a decent version of Ant Attack on the ZX81" are three well-known sayings that some people will heed, especially the last. So, what happens when someone attempts to fit Sandy White's sublime classic game into the meagre amount of memory and limited resources available on a ZX81 with a wobbly RAM pack? Could it really be possible?

This is exactly what Bob Smith has done. Screw this conventional wisdom nonsense - let's make something happen must have been Bob's thought process here. After many months in the making, and just in time for Halloween 2013, he released Ant Attack 81 with the blessing and help of Sandy. So, what do we have here? Has this highly improbable game converted to the blocky and monochrome 8-bit personal computer done well enough to say that all of the work has been worth it?

Ant Attack 81 splash screen

I have to say that it's a resounding YES! To use a term that is used by younger folk than me, Bob has SMASHED IT!(2) From the stylish and blocky visuals, to the isometric scrolling, ravenous and scary giant Ants and most importantly of all the game play, this is everything that the original was without the high-resolution graphics. ZX81 fans will be chuffed to bits, as will many of those who consider the original game such an enduring classic. Best of all, it's available for non-commercial uses to download right now. If you don't have a ZX81 then fear not as a quick Internet search will find you a decent emulator (I use EightyOne here).

Ant Attack 81 in-game screen

(1) Scientists have found traces of Gold in Eucalyptus Trees - source.

(2) This apparently means "rather resplendent" or something like that.