Wednesday 9 May 2012

Sabre Wulf - Sinclair Spectrum - 1984

Sabre Wulf on the Spectrum has some attribute issues but they were not very noticeable when playing.

Sabre Wulf marks the debut of our pith helmeted hero Sabreman. Sabreman starred in a series of four games and I believe the Spectrum was the only system that featured them all. The mythical Mire Mare was to be the fifth and final game in the series but was never released after a falling out between the Stamper brothers and US Gold (who purchased the Ultimate name and back catalogue). More information on the fate of Mire Mare can be found here.

As mentioned the Spectrum was the only system to feature all four Sabreman games and had the best version of Sabre Wulf.  The Commodore 64 version had drab, blocky graphics and some of the sprites were very flickery; it had good music though.  The Amstrad version, like Knight Lore, had a bizarre colour palette and was too slow.  The less said about the BBC version the better. On release Sabre Wulf was described by various reviewers as Atic Atac in the jungle but that’s no bad thing. I still have the game in its original box in pristine condition.

The less impressive Commodore 64 and horrible Amstrad CPC versions.

In this game Sabreman has somehow become stuck in a jungle and can only escape by finding the 4 pieces of the Golden Amulet of ACG.  The game is set over a 256 screen maze of jungle scenery.  Most of the screens are very similar so, like Atic Atac, a map is essential.  The jungle is inhabited by various creatures, most of which can be dispatched with your trusty sabre.  There are a few, such as the wolf (or ‘Wulf’), which are invincible and must be avoided, though some can be persuaded to run away with a deft prod of your weapon.  Scattered around the pathways are orchids which bloom in random colours.  Some colours are helpful (e.g. cyan = speed boost) while others are a hindrance (e.g. magenta = reversed joystick directions).  Treasure (for bonus points) and a generous scattering of extra lives can also be found.  As far as I can tell there is no time limit although an invincible fire appears if you linger too long on a screen.

This is another game I mapped and completed well over 25 years ago.  Playing again it seems a lot tougher than I remember or more likely my reflexes aren’t what they once were*. Being a Spectrum game you can’t expect too much from the sound effects but they are above average for the machine.  The graphics are very good – the jungle is full of vibrant colours and well animated creatures.  Another classic from Ultimate Play The Game.
*I’ve since rediscovered the tactic I must have used – wait by an orchid until it blooms in an appropriate colour then run like hell to the next one.

The titular 'Wulf'

That's the amulet complete. Now off to the exit.

The rather unimpressive end to the game.....

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