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Elite

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Released: 1984

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: Acorn Electron

Publisher: Acornsoft

Developer: David Braben / Ian Bell

Submitted by: Damian Butt

It’s a testament to the sheer potency of Bell and Braben’s Elite that even if you had the paltry Acorn Electron game you were still hooked from the moment your Cobra MKIII emerged from the Lave Coriolis space station and out into the big black.

Compared to the all-conquering BBC disc version this insulting bare bones port lacked any special missions, a simplified docking computer routine, seriously pruned ship list, and it didn’t even feature any suns for Chrissakes!

But it was still special.

Perhaps more than any other single game Elite has dominated my game time over the last 21 years, ever since Christmas 1984 when to my astonishment the last present in the sack was not a Return of the Jedi Speederbike, but the lavishly presented Space Trader’s Flight Training Manual accompanying the white label cassette. My friend Bill Hearn was right, this was the best game I would ever play.

Even today Elite still stands proud as a supremely playable space trading adventure; its quaint wireframe graphics allow your imagination to run riot, and the open-ended gameplay leaves you free to explore space as a pirate, a trader, a miner, a rogue, a hero or a bounty hunter. I like the fact that not just anybody can handle the flight controls, you have to put the effort in.

There’s the technical genius of the scanner, the trading element, which teaches you the value of money, the intense ship-to-ship combat, and that terrifying shriek as enemy lasers penetrate your raw energy banks prior to detonation. Since ’84 countless iterations have been released – BBC, Spectrum, Amstrad, C64, Atari ST, Amiga, NES, and even (whisper it) a distinctly nefarious Game Boy Advance version, and despite only minor differences to the basic formula, diehard fans typically own three or four versions on various formats.

The Acorn Archimedes version is generally accepted as the best amongst purists because it’s the ultimate evolution of the species. Whilst technically it is ‘the daddy’, in my experience, the best version is always the one that first took your breath away…