Splat! A Retrospective

   12/07/2010 at 08:03       Tom       4 COMMENTS. - Score 5/5
 - Splat!, ZX Spectrum, Incentive Software, Retro gaming, Zippy

Sometimes when going through one of my retro kicks, revisiting old games, I do play titles that at one time I did not like or enjoy. It can certainly be interesting in a way, to see how my tastes have changed, and to see games in the 20/20 vision of hindsight. Splat! (the exclamation mark of course is essential) definitely falls in to the category of “games that I didn't like as I child”.

Splat! was originally released 26 years ago in 1983 on the Spectrum 48K. At the time I really didn’t like Splat! I found it to be too simple, the controls over responsive at times and the game uninteresting in general. I gave it a try again though, and I was surprised I found time has actually been kind for to this little game.

As I said, I found the same to be too simple back when my Spectrum was my main source of gaming, but my fear that I myself am getting more and more simple as the years go by gained new ground as I found myself enjoying the game for that very reason. Sadly the controls are just as I remember them – way too over responsive. Now this is definitely a game that needs them to be nice and responsive, but it has the habit of skipping several places at once, often into something that will kill the player. Regardless, Splat! is fun. The graphics and game play (ignoring the twitchiness) have aged well, probably down to that very same simplicity.
Also simple – the “story”. You play as Zippy, he's an X shape. You follow the screen that is moving randomly around the map, and you pass over grass and plums to “eat” them. Get stuck between the outside edge of the play area and a wall, dunk yourself into the water, or otherwise touch a harmful block and you lose a life. Like I say, nice and simple – easy to remember how to play all those years later.

Something that I didn’t remember back then is the scrolling. It scrolls the play area in blocks, so it’s jerky to say the least. I found after playing for 20 minutes it began to hurt my eyes a bit. We complain these days about v-sync tearing (hi there Ubisoft!) but the reality is back then smooth scrolling was an achievement. In fact, scrolling was something a lot of games lacked entirely with separate screens the much preferred alternative. You only have to look at games like Fred to see why.

Also of note, Incentive Software ran a competition to win £500 for whoever could get the highest score. According to Wikipedia the prize was won by a 17-year-old called James Tant who achieved a score of 112,930. My high score of 2405 weeps openly. Mind you, it does continue on to say that he claims to have played 5 to 7 hours a day for several months. Let’s be honest, even in 1983 there were better things to do with your time, even for £500. Splat! isn’t unique for offering a prize though, this article in Retro Gamer mentioning 13 games, and I suspect there to be more. Now there’s definitely something I miss about retro games!

Eventually in 1992 (9 years later!) Incentive Software released the Sam Coupé  version. As per every other Sam Coupé port, it was the very same game, just with enhanced graphics and sound. Sadly even the “power” of the Sam Coupé did nothing for the scrolling which remains the same.

These days if you want to play Splat! you’ve got two choices. Obviously you can emulate the game (with the best source the ever excellent World Of Spectrum) or there’s a remake available here.

User Comments:

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peej - on 12/07/2010 at 10:06 wrote:
Don't know why but I loved this as a kid. Probably one of the first speccy games I encountered that at least 'tried' to do speech synthesis (but it ended up sounding like someone having a coughing fit while shouting "Shit me!")

Looking at the emulated version it's amazing how utterly ropey the scrolling and collision detection were, yet I definitely remember having fairly fond memories of it. It's as rock hard now as it always was but I still rather like the core gameplay.

DDevil - on 12/07/2010 at 10:26 wrote:
The argument that divided a playground - did it say "Yipee!" or "Zippy!"

peej - on 12/07/2010 at 10:27 wrote:
I always thought it was supposed to be Yippeee on account of this actually appearing on screen in synch with the speech but yeah we had the same arguments at school.

S'weird innit, this is one of those games that you could imagine working pretty well as a throwaway Indie title on modern portables. Tidy up the scrolling a bit, better graphics but keep that weird forced-scrolling gameplay intact and I think it'd update really well.

DDevil - on 12/07/2010 at 23:43 wrote:
Oh yeah, this would go quite nicely in the XBL indie arcade. I would buy it for 80 points no question.

And yes, to normal people like you and I it is most definitely "Yippeee!" It's just the special people who think otherwise :-)

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