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QS Asteroids

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Released: 1981

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: ZX 80/81

Publisher: Quicksilva

Developer: Quicksilva

Submitted by: Ian Marks

Asteroids was a great arcade game, it had vector graphics which were and are always cool, it had a little spinner for a control, it had hyperspace and fire buttons and it always drew a crowd in the Brighton arcades.

ZX81 Asteroids was a different story. It didn’t have vector graphics (more later), it didn’t have spinny controls (more later) but it did sort of draw a crowd… well a crowd of me and two other friends who were desperate to have an arcade game at home.

Quicksilva were not stupid, and the cover of the game reflected this. A majestic green Star Trek Klingon type ship was pictured, blasting huge rocks with a laser. I saw the box in WH Smith and pestered my father to buy it. It was probably the first computer game I ever owned.

My own Asteroids game… at last!

ZX81 Asteroids didn’t bother with graphics for your ship. No it had a number in the middle of the screen. Depending on which number was displayed, the missiles fired in a set direction. So a ship that said 3 would fire to the right. You can see why this method was chosen (the ZX81 only had 64×48 pixels, so a complicated graphic was out of the question), but it was very confusing, and you really had to memorize the number directions.

The asteroid graphics were better, and they scrolled quite successfully around the screen, I remember being quite impressed by them at the time. Also they did split into smaller asteroids when shot.

As for the controls the membrane keyboard of the ZX81 was never going to be up there with the arcade version, it was hard to control, and you often died because the keyboard either failed to respond or you pressed two keys at once.

All this sounds bad…and if it was released today, or even if it had been released a year later it would have been laughed out of the country. But in 1981 it was a good effort, and it did the impossible… it actually allowed you to play Arcade Asteroids on your little black doorstop.

Good work Quicksilva.