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Monday, 17 January 2011

Advent Calendar - December 23rd.

Catch 23 (ZX Spectrum)

I bet a lot of you were thinking I wouldn't find anything for this one. I was thinking that myself, for a long time. It just goes to show how much research I did for this thing before getting under way!

Catch 23, from reading the instructions, is a very deep and complex game, in which an enemy faction has perfected an oribital interceptor, a craft capable of escaping Earth's gravity and lying in wait in space before re-entering the atmosphere at any moment to intercept and destroy missiles or aircraft. The fact that one of these is necessary on either side doesn't bode well for the current state of the planet's harmony... you are dropped into the enemy's test development site one dark night, with the aim of infiltrating and stealing the enemy's plans and eventually destroying the base.

They can't be too concerned by your threat if they've got time for plate-spinning.

I don't mind admitting that, in my first game, I was dead in three seconds. I'd figured that I'd work out the keys as I went along... so much for that idea! So it was off to World of Spectrum for a much-needed look at the instructions.

Once I'd got the controls to hand, I was able to last as long as thirty seconds. Ten times better! This is a seriously hard game... incredibly hard, in fact, at least at first. As soon as one of those guards appears on the screen, you'd better shoot the bastard, or you're dead. You get hit once, and it's Game Over. There are no health packs, no hopes of respite. You're dead.

Hey! Is that... is that a cheese?

It's very unforgiving, which was the case for a lot of games back then. It forced you to think a bit whilst playing... you can't just charge around gung-ho, you're not invincible. But once you get used to the idea of the guard just popping onto the screen, and the way the control method automatically switches to firing mode, you can actually start dispatching a few guards and think about making a move towards progress.

Not that you'll make a lot of progress. Like I said, it's complex, and as with a lot of these games, slow going. It'll really take a long time before you start figuring out where you are and what's around you. And the fact that you have random starting positions doesn't exactly ease you into the game, either.

Ah well. We all knew it couldn't last.

Catch 23 is a game from another era. It's 25 years old, and 25 years ago we were all a lot more patient with our games. If we'd spent our money on it then by God we were going to wring every last minute out of it. Nowadays, speaking personally, I don't seem capable of this, and so a game like Catch 23 that I might have taken the time to learn and really got into just hurts my head a bit. Out of the millions of brains cells I've lost in the last few years, some of them were apparently the ones that facilitate the playing of complex 8-bit games. And for that reason, Catch 23's charms have almost completely escaped me.


  1. Almost sure I had this on the ST. But really can't remember it like day one's First Samurai.

  2. It was on the ST, that's for sure. But I couldn't get it to load, and anyway, I decided I wanted to go with the Speccy one... just because!