The Vault

When The Transformers Went 8-Bit

The Vault Keeper

The Vault Keeper

There are many things for me from my childhood that lend to moments of nostalgia, however the two main ones are The Transformers (obviously) and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. So for me way back in 1986 it was divine that these two loves crossed paths the way they did, or was it.

In 1986 the trusty 48k Spectrum was nearing the end of it’s days, in fact I do believe that The Transformers game was one of the last ones I got for my trusty rubber keyed friend before I ascended to the lofty heights of a full 128k that the Spectrum +2 offered, even if it was just an Amstrad in disguise !

Not being so over exposed to the cartoon growing up in the UK, we were spoiled however by having an amazing team bringing us the stories in the Marvel UK comics. This was my continuity (and still is). The Movie wouldn’t arrive until December, so for now it was all on the shoulders of Ocean Software to give us a chance to play as our favored characters in the city’s of Cybertron.

So in coming near to the end of my time with The Transformers, being 12 years old and at high school on the cusp of puberty I was soon to find that this game, much like many things to come in life, was not all I’d hoped for.

In short, at the time it was a bit of a let down … but why ?

Personally, I think it was rushed like many tie-in games were back in the day (see E.T. for the Atari). I also don’t think Ocean had a clear grasp on the franchise, as a result of this we got two things, transform & shoot. But it would be unfair to overlook the machines limitations and the limitations of the programming of the day (a year later we would get a game for the Go-Bots franchise, which to be fair wasn’t much better).

The characters were recognizable but offered little in engaging the player, which also was evident in the fact that the game was also quite easy to complete and when you had done so you were just sent back to the beginning to do it all over again.

So for these reasons alone I should score it quite low, but I cannot because … well, nostalgia.

About 18 months ago now I picked up a ZX Spectrum (my own having long being gone) and one of the first games I made a beeline for, aside from Manic Miner, was The Transformers.

Was the game as naff as I had recalled, yes.

Did I enjoy every minute of playing it, you’re damn right I did.

So with the tight grasp of nostalgia goggles obscuring my view, lets look at some details about the game itself;

Title: The Transformers

Publisher: Ocean Software

Author: Denton Designs (Simon Butler)

Tie-in Licence: Hasbro Industries Inc

Machine Type: ZX Spectrum 48K

Year of Release: 1986

Original Price: £7.95

The object of the game is to play as one of 5 Autobots, searching for four parts of an energon cube. These pieces of energon cube have been scattered around the city scape, a landscape which consists of platforms and ladders.

Hampering your mission are The Decepticons which are also seeking the same energon cubes.

The five playable Autobot characters are: Optimus Prime, Hound, Jazz, Mirage and Bumblebee.

When a character is not in use they remain hidden inside what is known as Defense Pods. Whilst inside these pods they cannot be harmed and will have their energy restored.

The Decepticon forces are made up of; Megatron, Soundwave, Starscream, Buzzsaw, Skywarp, Laserbeak, Ravage, Frenzy and Rumble. In the game The Decepticons can regenerate at any point and do not transform.

The Autobots have three attributes (Shields, Power & Weapons) although in keeping with the characters each having them in different levels (Optimus has the highest Power rating but lower Weapons, whilst Mirage has high Weapons rating but low Power).

Each character can transform between their vehicle and robot forms but unlike the cartoon they can all fly.

Here is a YouTube video of the full Load and Game Play.

Here are some of the things said about the game at the time from various sources;

At the time of it’s original release he game received mixed reviews; Sinclair User gave the game 4 stars out of five, while Your Sinclair gave it 6/10 and Crash gave it 60%.

Max Phillips from Your Sinclair said the game was “slick but nothing new, the keyboard controls are awful and the cassette inlay is diabolical”.

While John Gilbert of Sinclair User said “Transformers is a game where a high score is all-important, and I am sure that once you have found the energy cube you will still enjoy a scrap with the Decepticons”.

In an interview with Julian Rignall of Crash, which of their games they were least pleased with, Ally Noble, one of the developers of The Transformers admitted that it was “definitely Transformers… it’s really a personal thing, we all like different products, but I think Transformers was an embarrassment”

Well, that’s it for this brief blog, keep it QAOP and M, remember to LOAD”” and Transform & Roll Out.

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