The Acorn BBC Micro fills an unusual niche in the computing history of most British people aged around 30 or over since it must be the most-used home computer that people didn’t actually have in their homes. For those who don’t know, in the early ’80s the venerable British public broadcaster the BBC went looking for an official BBC computer to be used on television programming designed to teach the land of tea and crumpets how to work these newfangled silicon marvels. The BBC endorsement meant it also ended-up in the nation’s schools and it’s by this route that so many kids learned their first BASIC programming, had a shot of Granny’s Garden (that’s an educational game, you dirty wrong ‘uns) and, if they managed to get their hands on the inevitable floppy disk full of them, got to play some proper games (which always seemed to be Chuckie Egg).
Despite it being the computer of choice of both schools and dear old Auntie Beeb few people actually had one in the home, though, for the simple reasons that 1) they were more expensive than some other home computers on the market and 2) they were bloody enormous, arguably the only home computer at the time which would also have made an effective weapon.
And yet there was a small, predictably-devoted, number of home users of Acorn’s massive BBC-endorsed desk-hogger and this meant that, inevitably, a number of games were produced for it. Since it’s largely remembered as an educational computer and for appearing alongside men with huge glasses and horrible early ’80s clothes on Micro Time or whatever it was called the gaming side doesn’t get much of a look-in. So I’m going to change that by doing a few articles about BBC Micro games that really need to be taken out of the cupboard of history, have the metaphorical dust blown off them, and exposed to the world, or at least the small fraction of it that read these here meanderings.
And to start we have Stryker’s Run, which recently appeared in Retro Gamer and which I am happy to admit is the main reason I’ve heard of it. Like the majority of BBC Micro games of note, this appeared on the Superior Software label and is a run-and-gun title, unusual for the Beeb. The player controls a little chubby bloke by the name of Commander John Stryker who has been given the unenviable task of hand-delivering (what is this, the 19th century?) information to his headquarters on the other side of hostile territory. To get there, he runs (hence the name) from left to right, armed with a gun and a supply of chuckable grenades and taking-on enemies both on the ground (hostile chaps with guns) and sky (various vehicles including helicopters and things that look a little like the speeders from Return of the Jedi). Although the flying vehicles can’t be hit from the ground (at least not as far as I can see) Stryker can commandeer flying vehicles along the way which are left lying around for any old tom dick & harry to steal. Hopping-into one of these allows out hero to take to the skies and start shooting and bombing his way through the enemy, that is until he takes a hit, the vehicle explodes and he tumbles to ground level to run run run again. Unlike the vehicles, Strkyer is pretty hardy and can take a number of hits from bullets and bombs before it’s Game Over.
Stryker’s Run is nothing special in the overall scheme of things but it’s a fun wee game with some nice touches such as enemies turning into skellingtons when you shoot them and the aforementioned vehicles. It might be a little slow and jerky for some tastes but as a ZX Spectrum fan I’m more than happy to endure a little technical limitation and concentrate on the game underneath. It also comes in two separate flavours: a standard BBC Micro version and an enhanced version for the BBC Plus/128 with music and lots of extra graphics including a manly statue.
I’m sure in the coming weeks I’ll find better, more distinctive stuff but this isn’t a bad start at all. Simple, addictive and fun. Just one thing: why on earth is there no in-game score meaning you have to wait until Game Over to find out how well you did?