The second life of the ZX Spectrum is quite something to behold. The ’80s British computer, whose life as a commercially-viable platform spluttered out in the early ’90s after an impressive decade as one of Europe’s most popular home computers, has refused to pass into history more than probably any other retro-platform. Whilst there are people still writing games for the Commodore 64, Amiga, Sega Megadrive etc they are not churning them out at anything like the rate they’re churning them out for the Spectrum. Dozens and dozens of new games are created each year, many of them a bit crap, some of fun and a few of them gems. It’s like the ’80s never ended.
What I really like about recent release Leonardo’s Lost Last Invention – a three-part game based largely around platforming and arcade action sequences – is that it’s a bit of a mess and yet a mess in a way that works and feels right. The instructions are a little vague, it’s got a few bugs, and it feels dreadfully unfair in places. It doesn’t work all that well as a game but playing it puts me instantly in mind of dozens of games discovered on compilations, magazine covertapes and 60-minute cassettes with “Spectrum Games” scribbled by a friend in biro across the front. It’s flaky and unprofessional but at the same time charming and intriguing and you kind-of want to keep playing it. At least until you get all the bits of the flying machine and make Leonardo fly. That’s cool.
What am I rabbitting on about? I’m not sure. I think it’s a mixture of nostalgia and respect for the amateur and the eccentric; this is a new Spectrum game which feels like an old Spectrum game in a way too few new games for the platform manage to. Regardless, I recommend Leonardo’s Lost Last Invention even though it’s not very good. Go on, take a chance, it’s free.