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Released: 1987

Publisher: Software Projects

Developer: Jonathan Smith et al

Submitted by: Gavin Eke

The great thing about the ZX Spectrum is that there were so many good games that passed me by first time round.

Hysteria fits into this description perfectly & is another in the library of excellent titles from coding legend Jonathan Smith. The plot isn’t important but merely sets the scene for what your muscle-bound hero needs to do. Essentially someone is messing about with time & is changing past for their ill gotten gains & it’s up to you as a the last surviving member of the Time Corps to ensure this is prevented.

So begins your journey across several scrolling landscapes within various time periods to meet the end of level boss & defeat him. Whilst traversing your way through the various landscapes your hero will face creatures hell bent on ensuring you don’t even get that far. The first level is set sometime in the past & has skeletons rising up to meet you head on together with flying demons that spit bullets at you from above. Additionally, you have to face the most dastardly of all Gods’ creatures.. err..horse’s. Yes, those evil equines want nothing more than to head into your hero at full pace & prevent his success. Fortunately, members of the Time Corps have various tricks up their sleeves. The default weapon at your disposal is a sonic head-butt. This is a good short range weapon where a forked sonic flash springs forth from your heroes forehead, but this is not all. In a nod to Konami’s Nemesis/Gradius series, you have other items/weapons which can be attained with the right power ups. These power ups come in the form of worms which sprout from the floor. Walk over one of them & a little arrow points to a weapon/item which can be activated. Collect another & the arrow moves to a further weapon or item. It’s then up to the player to decide which weapon or item is more suitable to complete a level. Overall your hero has access to sonic head-butts, projectiles, a handy drone which circulates around you killing anything in it’s path to a rather nifty jet pack so you can avoid all ground based enemies.

To meet the boss of the level you need to collect icons left by fallen enemies usually situated on top of ramparts or in the air. With each icon your hero collects, a face on the top of the screen begins to reveal itself. Collect enough of these icons & the bosses face will be completed signalling his arrival. Defeat the boss & you’re whisked off to another time period with different enemies but the same goal in mind.

It has been mentioned that this title is the spiritual successor to Jonathan’s previous hit “Cobra” & it’s easy to see why. As in his previous game, your avatar travels through a scrolling landscape whilst smiting all his opponents to complete a level. What is different from Cobra is that there’s no platforming (that I can see so far) to be done & the weapon system has been expanded on. The “Gradius” style of powering up adds another dimension to what could’ve been a rather straightforward run & shoot title. A particular mention should also be given to the exemplary  presentation from the title screen & tune along with the funky high score table. I’ve had a lot of fun with Hysterical & even though I can only make it to the 3rd end of level boss (so far!), the challenge is spurring me on.

The parallax scrolling is fast & smooth with some well drawn foes thrown in. It also features a ZX81 mode which removes the colours completely & leaves you playing in a Black & White Monochromatic rendition of the game. Funnily enough this makes any bullets spewed by your enemies a lot easier to see.

Is it better than Cobra? For me it just misses out, however, let’s not take anything away from this polished scrolling head-butt fest. If nothing else, Hysteria has taught me never to trust a horse!