Although it was obviously more powerful than its CPC 464 little brother, the CPC 6128 sometimes suffered from poor ports that did little to bolster the console’s extra power. We take a look at ten of the games that CPC 6128 owners could genuinely feel proud of.
Nigel Mansell’s World Championship
Owners of the 464 may have disagreed, but if there was ever a game that made perfect sense on disk, then Nigel Mansell’s World Championship was it. It was a racing game Gremlin had clearly spent time on, packing it with as many features as it could possibly fit into 128K of memory. Much of that attention was lavished on the revved-up graphics – the spinning globe, the delicious icons, Nigel’s turning hands on the steering wheel – and yet it still left time to spare to ensure this was a blisteringly fast game. It filled not one but both sides of a disk and that led to lots of – seemingly random – side swapping. But it was the best example of a racing game to have ever graced the Amstrad.
Spellbound Dizzy was the largest Dizzy game ever, with its 105 rooms making it bigger than Magicland Dizzy and Fantasy World Dizzy put together. Critics said it was too big, and, given the Dizzy premise of finding objects to solve puzzles, having so many in one game did prove a tad tiresome. However, for a Dizzy game not created by the Oliver Twins, it was full of interesting, fresh ideas. And although it came on cassette, the game made use of the 6128’s extra 64K. So anyone with a 6128 and a tape drive could enjoy animated Yolkfolk, a sprite change for Dizzy when he donned a snorkel and the appearance of the scrolls.
If you ever heard the words ‘Let’s go, Mr Driver’ coming out of the tinny speaker of your CPC, then chances are you were the proud owner of a 6128. The added 64K of memory was used to deliver some cool snippets of digitised speech – with another notable inclusion being the dreaded ‘Your time’s up’ – and such utterances will surely continue to conjure up some truly magical memories to this day. But that’s not the only reason that Chase H.Q. on the CPC 6128 rammed the CPC 464 version off the road. The tape version of the game was a multiload and while the loading time wasn’t criminal, having the disk drive in the 6128 inevitably meant that the action came considerably faster.
Costing a whopping £24.99 when it first arrived exclusively on disk, B.A.T. was a French, Orwellian-inspired, icon-driven adventure masterpiece. A game of enormous scope and size and boasting some of the best visuals of any CPC game ever made, what it lacked in sound – there was not a peep – it more than made up for with its challenge. Little surprise then that the manual was so incredibly detailed. It was akin to a small novel and it lent the title great depth. To do this game justice meant Ubisoft simply had to utilise 128K and it had to go for a disk. Fortunately, disks were more popular in France, where this game really excelled.
Zap ‘T’ Balls
The main article has already discussed why Zap’T’Balls wasn’t released as a 64K, tape version. But even though it was made for the machine, not every 6128 owner could play it. Much of it depended on the type of CRTC chip in the computer. Elmar Krieger, who made the game exclusively for the CPC, said some disk drives had problems loading it too and he found the 6128 Plus appeared to run in to the most trouble. For those who got it to work, it was sparkling from the very moment the demo-inspired loading sequence sprung into action to the last pop of a balloon.
Eve Of Shadows
Three things could put you off this game: it was written in BASIC, it only cost a quid or so to buy and it was never playtested. But the odd spelling mistake here and there and the preconception that cheap must equal bad, especially when combined with a rather primitive program language didn’t hamper Eve Of Shadows one bit. It made full use of the 128K and drive of the 6128, loading the text and graphics straight from the disk, to free up the memory for the actual code. That made Eve a sizeable text adventure, but it was also one that oozed professionalism. Sending a quid, disk and SAE for this back in 1991 was a wise move.
Sorcery was originally released on tape, but, to take advantage of the 6128, Virgin launched Sorcery+, adding an extra 35 screens to the 40 that were already on the cassette version. This was made possible via the fast loading of the screens from disk. It let the developer pack in lots of other extras, too – including scrolling messages and demo modes – and such was its success (Amstrad Action awarded it 91%, handing the original 90%), that it was seen as the start of a bright disk-based 128K future. It didn’t quite work out like that since not all games made use of the extra 64K, but it was a noble effort, that’s for sure.
Ubisoft was a master of CPC design in the early-Nineties and, along with B.A.T., Iron Lord was one of the undoubted classics from its French stable. Artistic in looks, medieval in atmosphere, Iron Lord became a firm and unique favourite of the swords-and-sorcery genre. It employed a multiple-choice interface and was joystick operated and that worked wonderfully in sucking players in. It was also chock-full with sub-plots. Like B.A.T., Iron Lord was disk-only and expensive (£19.99), but for that price you could spend hours submerged in the game’s involving quests and feasting your eyes on illustrations that could have come straight out of a children’s storybook.
Although a lot of 128K-only games would run on a 464 or 664 with a disk drive and 64K added, Sid Meier’s Pirates! was a little bit different. It only worked with a straightforward 6128 and no amount of jiggery pokery would alter that. It was a shame for other CPC owners because it was such a brilliant game, but then it did come on both sides of the disk and with a lengthy manual inside the box packed full of information. While the graphics were chunky and the sound effects were poor, there was a quality to this MicroProse game that was rarely seen. Sure, at £19.95, it was rather expensive, especially when you think that it was released in 1987, but it was definitely one not to have been missed.
Sometimes it’s the small things which make a difference. That was certainly the case with HeroQuest, a game that thrilled fans of role-playing games and which came in two distinct flavours: 64K and 128K. What marked the latter was its wonderful sound or music, to be exact. The medieval soundtrack was a joy to hear on the CPC 6128 and it brilliantly complemented the detailed, smooth visuals. It turned out to be one of the best games on the Amstrad in 1991, which is a massive compliment since it was something of a golden year for the machine. That it went down so well with critics and fans alike must have been music to Gremlin’s ears.