2000AD’s Foray into 8 – Bit Gaming

As a young lad growing up I had two 8-bit computers, my first was my beloved Amstrad CPC 464+ and the second was the ZX Spectrum.  The ZX Spectrum was cheaper and more of my friends had that machine, so it was easier to swap tapes (long before cartridges were a thing).  The 8-bit era was fully in swing and I had a massive game library which came from my sister kindly spending her hard earned money to purchase the game obsessed younger brother new titles every few months.  I thought I had most of the best games on the two systems.  However it turned out that I missed out on some very important games.  As a newcomer to the wonders of 2000AD, maybe , back then I wouldn’t have understood how awesome games based on the ‘galaxies greatest comic’ actually were.

Now I’m older and a little wiser in the arena of comic books, I have collected and revisited some of these classic games.  Their designers taking influence from one of the best sci-fi and fantasy comic book compilations for the UK.  Doing so, I found a diverse, accessible and imaginative series of titles.  Some are still worth playing today!

It all started in 1984, with a classic tale of a mutant bounty hunter and his bright, red haired viking friend.

Strontium Dog : The Death Gauntlet.

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Published by Quicksilva and the brainchild of Mark Eyles.  It was evident that this software manager was a massive fan of 2000AD and when he approached the then assistant editor of his favourite publication, Richard Burton.  He was surprised to learn that Burton was a fan of gaming.  Their meeting brought forth one of the first character licence negotiations in gaming history.

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The player controls Johnny Alpha – the Strontium Dog of the title.  In his quest to eliminate the vicious criminals – the Stix Brothers.  Johnny also must meet up with his pals made famous in the comic book – Wulf and Gronk.  It’s a fairly imaginative but average run and gun game.  The visuals bear little resemblance to the comic book but worth checking out, just to see how 2000AD licenced video games started out.

Strontium Dog : The Killing

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Again featuring eye catching work from Carlos Ezquerra and released by Quick Silva games.  This was a much better effort than the previous attempt and was coded by a bedroom coded who sent in his idea after playing the first game.  Paul Hardgreaves effort was played out through a large flick-screen maze,  The narrative was about a murderous contest, where various tough guys from around the galaxy had gathered together to see who was the top dog.  There was a comic book which came with the game to set the scene.

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So basically, you aid Johnny in collecting a few bounties in this maze style shooting game.  There’s not really much else to it.  Gameplay-wise it can become repetitive but it’s certainly fun in short doses.   The graphics are marginally better that the first entry into our games list and give a sense of the comics.

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Rogue Trooper

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Released by Piranha in 1986, this has always been considered one of the better 8-bit titles which revolved around a 2000AD hero.  Rogue Trooper, created by legend Gerry Finlay – Day was and is one of the most popular characters in the magazine today. This title was a successful attempt at recreating the war-torn and shattered world of Nu-Earth.  The player wanders around a beautifully intricate isometric environment.  All the while, dispatching Nort soldiers and attempting to collect the eight vid-tapes which reveal who the traitor in the squad responsible for the Quartz Zone Massacre.

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In my opinion, this was the first time that a popular 2000AD character was capably reproduced.  The graphics were impressive, as we saw a chunky and accurate depiction of Rogue Trooper.  As a gamer you really got the feeling that you were fighting in an isolated, desolate wasteland.  There were also snippets of simulated radio chatter as Rogue’s dead bio-chip buddies offered commentary and advice through the game.

Nemesis the Warlock

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This is one of my all time favourite characters from the annals of 2000AD’s history.  A beautifully twisted subversive narrative from the mind of Pat Mills.  I was understandably curious as to how a game would take shape.  This was made by Piranha’s main competition for 2000AD licences – Martech.  A medium sized software development firm based in Sussex.  This is a fantastic one screen platform game which works incredibly well.  It matches the tone of the comic books perfectly.

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The player faces off against the vile Torquemada, eradicating hordes of his Terminator troops before he does so.  This is one of the more ingenious games to be influenced by 2000AD and coders – Jas Austin and Neil Dodwell along with artist Dave Dew have produced a fairly timeless game for fans of the comic.  Special mention must be given with regards to the excellent introduction sequence – which is pulled straight from the comics.

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Slaine

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Released by Martech in 1987, this is a beautiful, yet slightly flawed, masterpiece.  This is a curious mix of RPG and gamebook genres.  Martech attempted to create an innovate and faithful gameplay mechanic which, unfortunately, proved unwieldy for many gamers.  However the game does illustrate the capacity for original concepts in this era and I believe managed to capture a more faithful depiction of Pat Mill’s seminal character than a hack and slash ever could.

slaine-the-celtic-barbarian_4 This system was named – Reflex and was an attempt to represent the inner workings of the warped barbarian’s mind.  Random actions and commands float across the game window and players need to select the correct command in order to proceed.  This was a beautifully presented game – with a Glenn Fabry cover to boot.  The game is a little frustrating, but a fantastic 2000AD curio and it really showcased the 8-bit era’s strengths when it came to inventive creativity.  Oh and you get to hit Ukko…a lot!

Judge Dredd

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There was no 2000AD title more hotly anticipated than Judge Dredd.  Coming from Melbourne House in 1987.  This was a complete let down to fans.  Crafted into a dull and bug infested platforming title.  There really wasn’t much for Judge Dredd fans to sink their teeth into.  Walk, jump and shoot.  That’s really all there is to say about this game.  In reality 2000AD licences never got the treatment they fully deserved until Rebellion began to craft fully 3D experiences.  But that’s a story for another day!

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