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Twister

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Released: 1987

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: System 3

Developer: Jon Hare

Submitted by: Andrew Masters

Twister was an unusual game. It was a 3D game where the screen scrolled towards you, and your man had to jump from platform to platform, into the screen (on level one). You had to shoot the very weird enemies – including monkeys who chase you, trying to whip you! I'm not kidding! The idea was to collect pieces on each level, such as playing card symbols (hearts, diamonds etc). Once you had all the pieces for that level, you would be instantly transported (Doctor Who style) to the next level. There was a strange guttural whooshing noise as this happened, and you would be shown in 3D disappearing into the screen, going into a dimensional worm-hole tunnel. On later levels it became methematical symbols (= > + -), and then Greek letters to collect.

You could just play the game as a shoot em up, but you had to collect ammo as well, as you always were running out. You could play the game for points, just shooting the creatures which swoop out of the sky at you. By about level two, you are then running into the screen a la Space Harrier, across a field (so not exactly weird). But you could just press down on the keyboard, and then you were then running on an identical upside down field spread across the top of the screen (where the sky would be), and your man was also upside down! You would have to do this anyway, as you did not want to miss collecting the symbol you needed (like a + symbol). Certain symbols would drain your health, and some would even remove carefully-collected symbols you had spent an age picking up. The later levels moved very quickly, and being able to get a piece is all a matter of positioning your running man, so the pieces you want will appear on the horizon and rush towards you, without you having to move too much.

There was also a huge disgusting green worm similar to the ones in Dune, that would appear and try and eat you, and then lick its lips. At the end of the game is a standard high-score table, and you can also use joystick. You can also be whipped to death by the monkey, and then you will turn into a pile of bones. You can pick up shields to replenish health. There are big-breasted women (the Mother of Harlots, see below?) in the game, as well as cows, and a giant disembodied head with helicopter blades, allowing it to fly. There is also a flying saxophone-playing animal.

On the final level you have to use a thrusting jet pack (like in Ultimate's Jetpac) to fly around the screen, with no platforms (just in 2D). You have to shoot a final level boss and complete the game. This game is so good and unusual it has always stuck in my memory, so I got the POKEs from ZX SPectrum Tipshop and completed the game – it IS worth tracking down!

It's a sci-fi shoot em up game so weird, Jeff Minter should have written it. Jon Hare wanted to call it 'Twister – Mother of Harlots', but it became 'Twister – Mother of Charlotte' due to pressure from stockists. For years in the 80s I was mystified about who Charlotte really was, although Twister – Mother of Harlots makes no sense either. There's an article in Retro Gamer that mentions this game-renaming story. I had the original game of this, and I think the printed instructions were also pretty odd.

Certainly a weird game, from a time when games were extremely inventive (think Trashman and Skool Daze). Track this down, you will never see its like again. There is a kind of montage of all images above – although the whip-wielding monkey you will have to just imagine, or get the game.