ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection Vol 1: review

It was with a nostalgic tear in our eyes, that we downloaded the ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection from Apple’s App Store. With the C64 App doing good business already, it was only a matter of time before someone came up with a ZX Spectrum emulator for the iPhone. Thankfully Elite Systems have obliged with this new collection of retro games, but how do these old games play on this new generation of gadgets?

Included in this App are six games from the ZX Spectrum library. For 59p you get Turbo Esprit, Saboteur, Buggy Boy, Frank Bruno’s Boxing, Harrier Attack and the classic Chuckie Egg. Sadly the games have dated pretty badly, and the rose tinted spec(cy)s were quickly replaced with sadness at how some of these once great games had become nigh on unplayable on Apple’s touch screen device.

In the good old days, games came on tapes. None of that digital download nonsense.

What doesn’t help is the ill conceived control scheme which gives you eight directional buttons and a ‘fire’ button. It just feels a little unwieldy, and anyone with large sausage like fingers will struggle to control any of the games included with the touch screen control scheme. Having said that though, the developers are working on a new 8-way joystick control scheme, which will be available with the next crop of games at the end of October/beginning of November, so hopefully that will sort out these problems.

Buggy Boy hasn't worn well at all, and is almost unplayable now.

Although the controls are flawed, the emulation is spot on, with all the old glitchy graphics and sound effects replicated perfectly. The only thing missing is the 15 minute wait while a game loaded, and the error message that, sometimes, appeared as the game had finished loading. The loading ‘static’ noise that was well known throughout the 80s, as you waited on your game to load is included, for that authentic Speccy experience.

Although most of the included games are not wearing well, Chuckie Egg has aged a lot better than some of the other games in the collection and plays just as we remember it, as you control Henhouse Harry in a pretty decent platformer. Fingers crossed they release the much improved sequel Chuckie Egg 2 in a future update. Buggy Boy and Turbo Espirit fare badly in comparison, with sprites not being particularly well suited to 3D driving games of the time. Harrier Attack, which is a side scrolling shoot em up, can also be annoyingly difficult to play, and is certainly no R-Type. Frank Bruno’s boxing is a button basher of a boxing game that is pretty average and Saboteur, a precursor to stealth games like Splinter Cell, is quite frankly boring.

Ah those old rubber keys, they don't work very well on iPhone mind you.

Although the initial line-up of games is a tad underwhelming, Elite Systems are planning on bringing a lot more games to the emulator, and the good news is that they will be free to all users of the app. The plan is to bring out several volumes of games, with around 200 earmarked so far. Elite Systems will also be adding an in-App shop to the emulator, so you can expect to see some of the all-time classics from the largest publishers of the 80s to be released in this way. So the chances are you’ll find your favourite games of yesteryear at some point in the very near future.

For 59p it’s well worth a nostalgic glance, but don’t expect it to drag you away from Angry Birds for any great length of time. But as the developers say themselves, the App’s a work-in-progress, and we’re hopeful the next update will solve the issues that we’ve mentioned, and bring classic Speccy games back to the masses for a new generation to enjoy.


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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!


  1. KrazyFace /

    Ah yes, the old faithful tape. You could drop it, kick it, chew it and step on it (not at the same time) and even though bits came off it, it was usually still useable! I might get that old loading noise as my ring tone!


  2. Chuckie Egg’s the only thing worth doing this to. I used to love Frank’s boxing game but I know it’ll suck now.

    Tapes! I spilled a can of coke onto one once, a game where you were a kangeroo, scrolling left to right, jumping from tower blocks to clouds, shooting boxing gloves at flying cars – somebody please tell me what this game was called – I’d borrowed it from a kid at school. My mum had to buy a new version, which I gave him, but about a week later I tried the coke stained one out and it worked. Happy days.

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