Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum
Developer: Mervyn Estcourt
Submitted by: Retro Gamer
If you were young – or young at heart – in the early Eighties and ever set foot inside a cinema, chances are you spent quite a bit of time fantasising about riding some kind of futuristic bike at breakneck speed, zig-zagging your way past lethal obstacles.
You’d watched Jeff Bridges on his Light Cycle in Tron and, of course, a thrilling speeder bike chase in Return Of The Jedi. You wanted a ‘future bike’ of your own. Luckily, thanks to the coding genius of Mervyn Estcourt, ZX Spectrum owners could get similar exhilaration in front of their tele-boxes: his exercise in wish-fulfilment that provided such thrills was 3D Deathchase – or Deathchase to its friends, and to those people who put the game’s title screen above its dodgy box art.
The story is that everyone blew each other to bits in ‘the Great War’, leaving warlords battling for control in whatever’s left of North America, which is now apparently covered in huge forests. So far, so much like just about any modern first-person shooter. You take the role of an elite mercenary, patrolling day and night, blowing up enemy bikers for a grand a pop and trying not to turn yourself into a mercenary pizza by slamming into a tree. Helpfully, the other riders and the occasional tanks and helicopters that pop up on the horizon aren’t armed, and merely try to flee. It’s best not to think about that while you’re mercilessly murdering them to death for a boost to your bank account.
At the time, the game was amazing: fast, responsive and squeezed into just 16KB. A decade later, it proudly topped Your Sinclair’s top 100 list, fending off the likes of Stop The Express and Head Over Heels, and it still impresses today. Although the graphics are basic and the buzzing audio’s annoying, you soon get lost as you zoom deeper into the ever-thickening forest, blowing away bikers and trying to avoid getting a mouthful of tree.
Hopefully, one day Retro Gamer will be able to get the full story, if we can track down the elusive Mr Estcourt. For now, there are trees to get embedded in at high speed.