Thursday 5 July 2012

Fairlight - Sinclair Spectrum - 1985

The obligatory 'pile everything up to reach the treasure' puzzle.

Fairlight was one of the first and one of the best of the isometric perspective games that started appearing in the wake of Ultimate’s filmation series.  It was a 1985 release for the Sinclair Spectrum and came out in 1986 on the Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC.  I don’t remember much about the game though I do remember falling to my death within sight of the Book of Light.  Apart from some of the rooms the only other thing I really remember are the pygmy type guards which when killed leave behind their helmets.  They regenerate when you leave the room but the helmets can be picked up and disposed of in a safe area.  The Spectrum really struggled when there were around a dozen of these guards wandering around on the same screen.

There is a lot of waffle in the instruction booklet about the history of the land of Fairlight. All you really need to know is that you play a character called Isvar tasked with finding the Book of Light in Castle Avars and returning it to a wizard. 

To this end you have to explore the castle while avoiding or killing enemies.  The enemies variously range from whirlwinds and bubbles to monks and man-eating plants. A lot of the enemies can’t be killed while combat just involves hitting the attack key.  You start off with 99 health points and lose some if falling too far or coming into contact with the enemies.  Food and drink can be found which replenish 10 health points at a time.  A discovery I made this time is that if a whirlwind touches an item it permanently disappears – this is a good way of getting rid of the guard helms.

There are many items to be found and the puzzles mainly involve discovering their uses.  You have 5 inventory slots in which to carry items but, unusually for the time, each item had a given weight so the heavier the item the less you could carry.

The Commodore 64 version looked and sounded good but played too slow.  On the right is one of the less garish Amstrad CPC screenshots.

It’s not difficult to distinguish the best version but they all have issues.  My vote goes for the Spectrum version. It has the best graphics in my opinion though they are monochromatic. During the game it plays a tune that can get annoying after a while and you don’t get choice of effects or the music.  The tune cuts out between screens too which makes it more annoying.  The Commodore 64 has the best sound and a choice of playing the tune, footstep sounds or silence during the game.  The graphics are virtually the same as Fairlight on the Spectrum though the game plays at a much slower pace.  Although the Amstrad version runs at a fair lick the footstep sounds would soon drive me mad (there is no way to play music in game).  It also has the same bizarre colour choices (only more so) that afflict Ultimates isometric CPC games. The Amstrad can display yellow and red so why have dark blue torch flames?  Weird.

The caves contains a hidden door that leads to the Book of Light


  1. PetrusOctavianus5 July 2012 at 09:09

    Another old favourite. :-)

    It was IMO one of the slickest games on the Spectrum, along with Elite, with good graphics and sound. I completed it, but like you I don't remember much of the details. I remember the castle was fun to explore, the "physics engine" was impressive for its time, and I was terrified of the ghosts, at least until I found out I could use eggplants (or whatever they were called?) to kill them.

    I tried to replay it last year, but I found it impossible to configure the controls properly to make it comfortable to play. I even tried with a gaming pad.

    I regret that I never played Fairlight 2.

    1. Thanks for the comment again Petrus - it seems I'm on a roll. The next game up is also for the Spectrum so hopefully you'll like that too :)

      When I played Fairlight again I found the controls a bit odd too. I use the keyboard for these type of games and the keys they used for movement took some getting used to. They keys were arranged so that the upper right hand key took you up and right, which if fine, but the the lower right hand key took you down and left. Very strange.

      I didn't get to play Fairlight 2 either but it is on my shortlist for 1986 so will appear here if I like it.

  2. Ahh...Fairlight. A game I struggled with on the Commodore 64. It was really slow but the graphics was nevertheless impressive in a strange way. I never finished it but what really has been remembered until this very day is the famous music from Mike Alsop. This tune is so catcy and has evolved in many remixes during the years to keep it alive and I still listen to them.

    1. Hi Saintus. It was a shame about the speed otherwise the C64 would have been the best version. It definitely has the best music.

  3. The intro screen music on the 48k version was AWESOME. Best speccy tune ever.