Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum
Submitted by: Ian Marks
Fred really stirs up retro-gaming memories in me. Not because it’s a particularly strong game – it isn’t – but because it’s one of the first ZX Spectrum games I remember playing. In my memory it’s from a time before I even owned a Spectrum, a time when I used to go round my friends house to play on his computer, and a time when he only owned about four games.
There’s a problem with nostalgia, in that you tend to get caught up in it. Lost in a world that is no longer there. I remember friends who I don’t see anymore, and the fun I had playing games on a small rubber keyed machine. I remember the joy of spending all day round my best friend’s house, then going home for tea in front of Doctor Who and Jim’ll Fix It. I remember my parents who are no longer with me, who I badgered and badgered to buy me a rubber keyed machine of my own. I then remember a simpler time when getting an Indiana Jones a like out of a maze like tomb was the most important thing in my life. Happy days.
But this rose tinted view can be dangerous, and shouldn’t always be trusted. Were we better off in the early eighties than we are now? I’m not so sure. I had less responsibilities then, but that is because I was ten, not because of the date. I think the eighties and the computer scene it produced was a wonderful time, but I wouldn’t want to go back there. Playing Fred today makes me see that not every game I remember fondly plays well in the modern age. Memories have become distorted with age.
Whereas in 1983 I could play this game for hours, I cannot see nowadays how this was possible. Fred the game can no longer hold my interest for more than 3 minutes. The sound effects are annoying, the graphics flicker and jerk, and the controls are cotton wooly. Getting Fred out of the tomb is less of a joy, more of a chore.
Fred is not even an attractive sprite, and his movement climbing ropes looks frankly obscene to our smutty 21st Century eyes. He has to avoid ghosts and acid drops and escape his Egyptian tomb. It’s a game Amstrad owners know as Roland on the Ropes, but that version is not much better, just a bit more colourful. Fred’s pistol is quite amusing and well animated, but apart from that there are no real stand out features.
This isn’t true of all eighties games. Manic Miner, Elite, Fairlight, Lords of Midnight, Knight Lore, Avalon all still hold my attention, and are played regularly.
Should you go out today and play Fred… I recommend you don’t, unless you have memories of playing it with friends nearly 30 years ago. Even then it’s probably a piece of nostalgia best left to memory.