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Time Bandit

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Released: 1985

Genre: Shoot-'em-up

Format reviewed: Atari ST

Publisher: MichTron

Developer: Bill Dunlevy & Harry Lafnear

It’s always fun to see a throwback to an old game in something new. I laughed out loud the first time I saw Pitfall Harry’s Atari 2600 sprite clashing with his 16-bit surroundings in Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, and the game of Galaxian on the Ridge Racer loading screen is still one of my favourite moments of developer ingenuity. Time Bandit was doing this a long time before it was cool, though – the top-down shooter was pilfering bits from other games when videogames barely had any history to speak of, including such throwbacks as a Pac-Man level.

Of course, that’s just one reason to like Time Bandits, and there’s actually quite a few of them as it’s one of the strongest early releases for the 16-bit computers. Running around the various historically-themed stages trying to snag valuable items is a lot of fun, as is blasting the endlessly respawning enemies.

Amusingly enough, Time Bandits also comes across as being an anachronism. Few games released in 1985 look quite as good as this does, and it comes across as a take-off of Gauntlet surprisingly heavily despite being released at a similar time as the arcade original, and originating earlier on the TRS-80 and other 8-bit machines. So here’s a game which lives up to the time travel theme in many more ways than one, both forwards and backwards looking – what a strange game Time Bandits is…