Category Archives: amstrad cpc464

My Gaming Timeline Christmas Edition – Compilations!

Christmas, the high water mark for consumer spending. But how, in the mid-80’s, were Software Houses supposed to flog old games with the relentless march of progress rendering their old products obsolete in the eyes of teenage Home Computer joystick warriors? The answer was quite brilliant if you were a Software House of some repute with a reasonable back catalogue? Simple. You stick a few of your best titles on the gaming equivalent of ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’.

‘They Sold A Million’ was a winner in my eyes, and a must have for Christmas. Each compilation represented value for money even if i had 1 or 2 of the titles, and the fact the line-up for each one was so strong made it all the more attractive. I seem to recall one non ‘They Sold A Million’ compilation had around 10 games, but when one of the games was ‘Super Gran’, the attractiveness of the proposition diminished. If however, you had the pick of Sabre Wulf, Jet Set Willy, Bruce Lee or Beach Head – all good to great games – then you were looking at an offer you could not refuse. Saying that, if you were lucky enough to have a mate with a decent taping setup you may have been the recipient of several C90s worth of illegally taped games that would keep you entertained for weeks on end, and you may well have scoffed at the paltry amount of games on offer under the ‘They Sold A Million’ banner. For the rest of us, the likes of these legal compilations were a great chance to get our hands on several quality games for a good price.

A rare event, the fledgling games industry wowing us with their philanthropy. Nowadays you can spend around 8 euros on the PSN to download Galaga, Pac Man, Xevious and some other interminable arcade relic. The comparison I am trying to make is that in its endless recycling of its back catalogue, sometimes the games industry can over value its content. Whereas ‘They Sold A Million’ was relatively generous in its offerings, it was also a lightbulb moment for Software Houses and Games Developers, accompanied by the sound of ringing tills, that showed that old content, given the right marketing and push, could be sold back to punters with impunity.

Here are some nice pictures of said products;




My Gaming Timeline Part 6 – Amstrad CPC 464 Games (1985 – 1989)

In this part of My Gaming Timeline, TWLB takes you back to the mid-80s. This time round we look at the Alan Sugar-rific (yes he did do things before The Apprentice kids) Amstrad CPC464. This was the third piece of the UK Home Computing Trinity, that also comprised of the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. Here is the Monochrome monitor version (the one I owned), but there was also an option for a Colour monitor;

But first of all, we need to take a sidestep and visit the humble, almost defunct, audio cassette;

30 years ago games piracy existed. And on that bombshell, and for the benefit of younger readers, let me elaborate further.Times were simpler, and games for ‘home computers’ came on ‘audio cassettes’. Blank, recordable audio cassettes could be purchased from the likes of WH Smith, and were the essential tool if you were planning to do a spot of Radio 1 Top 40 taping on a Sunday night. They came in C30, C60 and C90 flavours. C90 were the best, as they were 45 minutes on each side. To put it in modern context, they were the 64gb usb stick, or maybe the 2TB external hard drive, of the early to mid 80’s. They came in covers that looked like this and this;

Blank cassettes were fantastic inventions, and entrepreneurial souls would – and could – tape their U2 collection on several C90’s and charge you a quid per tape to cover ‘costs’. But mainly, as I recall, blank audio cassettes were not a way to get rich quick. They were a bartering tool, and as good a model of the barter system I will probably ever see, despite the fact it always seem to be the next big thing on the internet. So, for example, I would do a mix of, say, Northern Soul and Jesus & Mary Chain tracks (1 side each!) and give that tape to my friend, who would oblige me with a tape of tracks from happy go lucky 80s black jeans wearing Dub Sex and New Model Army. And so on. You put a bit of creativity and thought into the product, maybe illustrating the cover, ALWAYS providing track details, and what you had was something a little bit personal, a piece of you in a way, your tastes, your interests – and you were giving it to a friend and they would most likely reciprocate.
But audio cassettes were so versatile during that period, that they were also the medium by which games could be shared as well. If only you could have put movies and porn on them then the internet (or the world wide web at least) would probably not have been invented.

I had an Amstrad CPC464. (Black & White monitor, as you ask, although it was actually more Green and White). Amstrad home computers were a distant 3rd place behind the all conquering Spectrum and C64, but distant 3rd still meant there was a decent platform choice of games, and by late 1985 most major games came out for all platforms. So there was a variety of games.  And with that variety came the opportunity of using your tape to tape device and recording the game on the audio cassette onto one of your blank c30/c60/c90’s;

some examples of dual cassette decks – a Gateway to Gaming Gorging and Greed

My memory of home computing in the 80’s is only of the Amstrad CPC464. My memory of having an Amstrad CPC464 is buying lots of games – like Mastertronic and Firebird games for 2 or 3 quid in the vain hope they would be good (and some were  – like Chiller and The Wild Bunch). My first football manager game (the legendary ‘Football Manager by Kevin Toms’) cost a tenner, but proved to be good value after it claimed its first 500 hours of my time.

 I bought Elite for a princely sum and would regularly spend my mum and dads money on games at around 10 quid a throw (Alligata’s ‘Defend or Die’, Gargoyle Games’ ‘Dun Darach’). 

I even.won a game – ‘Hacker’ – through a competition run by Boots. But I also used to swap a lot of games collections with friends on tapes. I used to borrow games and make a copy. I used to loan games out to mates who did the same. Without that loaning and passing on of games, I would never have got to play a Steam Train simulation (Southern Belle), and may well have by-passed the addictiveness of Chuckie Egg and Highway Encounter. 

I am glad I got to test-drive Technician Ted, because that would have been a purchase regretted. Beach Head never seemed to work on the cassettes my mates gave to me, and Daley Thompson’s Decathlon likewise. When I did eventually get to play them they were well worth the wait.

Likewise, my friends would have benefited from my collection that ranged from The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Dark Star, Into The Eagles Nest, Who Dares Wins II and Alien 8. If not for me passing out cassette compilations, they may well have passed up on the sweaty, claustrophobic Aliens, the superior Batman, the wonderful Starion, and the Kevin Toms sequel to Football Manager, ‘Software Star‘. They may never have experienced the ERE informatique games. And if not for me, it is highly likely many of them would have had the dubious pleasures of the game of the Kids TV hit ‘Supergran’.

Some games had their own encryption / anti-piracy measures, so whoever wanted to play the thing simply had to go and buy it or forget about it. One of those was the Adventure Game creator utility, Graphic Adventure Creator. I wrote more about that here.

The Amstrad CPC464 had more than enough great games. It also had a great sister magazine to Crash and Zzap!64, called Amtix!, and it had lots of great Oliver Frey Covers;

It sustained my sporadic gaming sprees from the mid to late 80’s, until the Sega Megadrive put me firmly back in love with Consoles.Thanks to that community of Amstrad users, we all got to experience many great games. And it also meant that when we had run out of our own games to play, we did not have to resort to typing pages of code to try and play a buggy Pac-Man rip off.


All about CPC464 Games

All about Piracy & The 80’s

images courtesy of;
Daley Thompsons Decathlon image –’s_Decathlon
Highway Encounter image –
Defend or Die image – 
Football Manager image –,52025/ 
WH Smith cassette cover image –
Amtix! issue 16 cover –

The Graphic Adventure Creator (aka GAC) (1985)

Adventure Games

In the nascent Computer Gaming scene of the early 1980s, Text based adventures were a formidable presence on the shelves of game stores. The likes of ‘The Hobbit‘ and ‘The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy‘ were fine examples of interactive computer-based fiction, taking the limitations of the Hardware and operating Systems they were written for and immersing players in new worlds. If you want to play any of them, have a look here;

For more information on Adventure Games, check out these links;,27/

Within a few years of Adventure Games becoming a staple of home computer gaming, an affordable utility was released on several formats that gave the average gamer the opportunity to become a producer of Adventure Games. That utility was The Graphic Adventure Creator, aka GAC:

The Graphic Adventure Creator

The Graphic Adventure Creator (aka GAC) was a game creation system/programming language for text and static picture adventure games, published by Incentive Software, and retailing for around 20 pounds (sterling) at the time of its release (1985 / 1986). It was unusual in that it was originally written on the Amstrad CPC by Sean Ellis, and then it was ported to other platforms (such as the Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore 64 and BBC Electron). There were other adventure writing utilities available, most notably The Quill, but GAC was multi-format.

In a bid to try and stop the copying of the utility, GAC had a unique security device called the lenslok, which was essentially a plastic viewing receptacle that allowed the user to decode scrambled pixels into ascii characters. However, the lenslok, that shipped with very few games, was not without its problems, as reported in Crash

Lenslok Instruction page (included with GAC)

Once you got past the security, you were into the utility itself, and could begin creating your very own text adventure. The TUI (text user interface) was fairly intuitive for its time, and you could quite quickly create an adventure with several scenes and actions to undertake;

GAC Screenshots

I tried to create a post-apocalyptic epic. I say ‘tried’ because to create a truly worthy adventure you needed the time, planning and patience that I obviously didn’t have. GAC was duly abandoned by me within a few months of several aborted attempts in favour of the likes of indie music, girls and eventually, when i returned to gaming, the Sega Master System as I abandoned my CPC464 and home computer gaming forever.

GAC was a unique and brave attempt to put the power of producing games in the hands of the average user. The aptly names Incentive Software also gave fans an….incentive by offering to publish those games produced with GAC that were, in their opinion commercially viable. I seem to recall some of the computer gaming magazines at the time running GAC competitions, but no hard evidence. Can anyone out there who reads this remember if there were such competitions, what the prizes were etc?

At the World of Spectrum site entry for GAC, there is a list of all the adventures created and published with the tool;

LINKS!!! – Great article from IGN on Incentive Software, a small piece about GAC and more on what they did next, including their graphic engine ‘Freescape’. – Wiki entry for GAC – Review of GAC from the Crash magazine archives – Entry for GAC, some detail and some screenshots of games created with the utility – Great CPC464 site, with its GAC entry Review of GAC from the ‘Your Sinclair’ magazine archive – A GAC quickstart and How-to guide – GAC writing clinic for the Spectrum version. – All about the lenslok (all you will ever need…)

What were the games bundled with the CPC464??

Britain. 1984. Christmas approaching. I didn’t want a Sinclair Spectrum or a Commodore 64. I wanted the Amstrad cpc464, with its choice of a monochrome green or colour monitor (£199 or £299 respectively in 1985), and it had a tape deck (the vital media device of the day) integrated with the keyboard. It also had a few games (including the dreaded ‘educational’ type) and ‘apps’ thrown in. the big question has to be ‘but what were the games and apps thrown in free with the Computer?’. Well, wait no more! Here they are in no particular order. All were produced under the ‘Amsoft’ banner, but were mostly produced by other developers.

Harrier Attack

One of the best of this freebie bunch, and the first game I saw demoing on an Amstrad. You are the pilot of a Harrier Jumpjet as it goes across a bleak (for bleak, read ‘Falkland Islands’) landscape. Yes, it is meant to evoke the spirit of the war against the Argentines. This game was developed soon after that war had ended. It is a bit like Scramble, but it is no great shakes today. This game does stand up better than any of the other games in this list though.

Roland on the Ropes

‘Roland’ is an anagram of ‘Arnold’, and ‘Arnold’ was the name of the first CPC prototype. Anyway, like Sonic was to Sega, so Roland was to Amstrad. With his ‘…on the ropes’ adventure, he was an Indiana Jones-type. Climbing ropes, shooting ghosts, in a pyramid. It was originally called ‘Fred‘ and was released on both the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64, but then got re badged under the ‘Roland’ banner when it went onto the CPC464. That would explain why ‘Roland’ is both an intrepid explorer and an intrepid bug (see ‘Roland in the Caves’). The game, if you are interested, has been emulated here and is free to download. I have played the game on the Amstrad emu WinApe, but it plays terribly. I used to love it when it came with the free bundle, but time has not been kind to it.

Roland in the caves

This was the one that really sold the CPC464 to me. I saw it in Radio Rentals in Tamworth Town Centre, on the Amstrad colour monitor, and looked fantastic.

Trust me – I had an Atari 2600 and had mates who had C64s and Spectrums, but ‘Roland in the caves’ looked so full of colour and detail. Pity they forgot to include any game play with the thing. It was very boring. You play a flea, stuck in a cave on another planet. The objective is to get out of the cave before a pterodactyl gets you. Then do the same again in another cavzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. No. Just. No.

Oh Mummy!

Basic stuff. A bit of dig-dug and pac-man thrown together into an unspectacular game. You are an archaeologist digging around some tombs. You have to pick up some artefacts and avoid mummies.


There was one very good reason this was bundled in amongst several others – it was cack. Guide men across bridges from one house to another. That’s it.

Animal Vegetable Mineral

Bourne Educational Software. They produced software versions of games you could play with pen and paper. There was no need for them to exist as software. Let us move on.


Didn’t even get it out of its case.

Fruit Machine

Played with this a fair bit – get the vicarious thrills of Fruit Machines without the cash haemorrage! Probably not as good as the Palitoy Pocketeer version.

The Galactic Plague

This was the Space Invader-type shooter. It was, by all accounts, impossible, though I cannot recall it. Someone does though – the excellent CPCGameReviews site

Sultan’s Maze

Up there with the worlds worst cover art. Heavy on the felt tip pens by the looks of it. The game was slow and a throwback to the early ZX81 maze type games. Forgettable (and the artwork is regrettable).


Hangman on a computer. That’s it.

Timeman One

The words ‘Bourne Educational Software’ say it all. Its an educational game. About time – not as in ‘about time they made an educaitonal game’. It is an educational game on the subject of time.


The best Amstrad CPC resource out there;

As many Amstrad game covers as you are ever going to want to look at (French Site);

The history of Harrier Attack;

Queen of the videogame of the movie – it’s Alien!!!

The adaptation of videogames from movies is a long and ignoble tradition. As long as there have been arcade, and later, console and computer games, there have been ‘games based on the movie’. Invariably, they have been a pretty sorry bunch even at the dawn of videogames (a Death Race 2000 game courted controversy over 30 years ago, but was poor even by the basic standards of the day). A few years later, Atari adapted the Spielberg blockbuster E.T. for their 2600 console, but its confusing, badly programmed gameplay left consumers cold and Atari on the verge of collapse. If you have never heard the story of hundreds of thousands of copies of the game being buried in a landfill, then take a look here.

At there is a list of the worst movie to game adaptations.

There have, however, been some great games of movies, and even great games that just take the characters out of the movie and put them into a game. Here are a few off the top of my head;

Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II (Gamecube, 2001)

Lego Star Wars (Xbox, PS2 & various other platforms, 2005)


(Arcade, 1988)

In my opinion, some of the best adaptations of movies to games have been based on the Alien series of movies. This is by no means a definitive list of games based on the characters and films, but presents what I think are the best or most significant of the bunch. The list is chronological, from earliest to most recent.

Aliens – The Videogame (1986 – Amstrad CPC464 and Commodore 64)

I had the Amstrad version (published by Electric Dreams*) and thought it was one of the best games or apps for the system – up there with the Graphic Adventure Creator, Alien 8, Footbal Manager or Elite. You had control of several characters, including Ripley, the Marines, Bishop the Android and that bad man from the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, Burke. The objective is to explore the devastated colony by instructing the people under your control. You must also ensure that you watch them or else they could be under attack. Each character has different characteristics and reacts differently to each situation. The objective is to get to the Queen Aliens chamber and destroy the eggs she is incubating. A great game for its time, and one that is worth investigating.

Some kind soul has posted up some action from the Amstrad version on youtube;

Wiki entry
IGN review of the game
Alien Trilogy at Gamespot
Some good coverage of the title at Moby Games


There is a list of Alien and Predator (and Aliens versus Predator) games here

Relive the heady days of the nineties when web pages were written with what looks like notepad-type simple text programs and learn more about the Alien movies at the same time!

* and if that’s not a name for the Eighties, I don’t know what is.

Who Dares Wins II

Thinking about my recent post concerning the SAS & Lewis Collins, and googling for a nice picture of that actor in ‘Who Dares Wins’, led me to a game I had forgotten about, but was one of my favourites in the days of owning an Amstrad CPC464.

‘Who Dares Wins 2’ by Alligata, was one of several homages to the seminal ‘Commando’ arcade game (from 1985). It was released in 1986, and was faithful to the gameplay of ‘Commando’, as in its a vertical scrolling shoot-em-up. The CPC64 was the poor relation to the Spectrum and C64 in terms of quality games, and this was one of the better arcade-style games in my opinion. You could probably get it on emulation, but it probably wouldnt be worth the bother, especially when you can get the Commando arcade original on several platforms, including emulation. Alligata, as I recall, released a Defender ‘homage’ for the CPC464, called ‘Defend Or Die’, which really cant be any more explicit about what the game has been ‘influenced’ by.

By the way, if you are interested, there is some more stuff about ‘Who Dares Wins 2’, and lots of other Amstrad games, here;

CPC Zone – Amstrad fan site