Games #11 Streaker (ZX)

StreakerZXSpectrumLoadingScreenDeveloper: Bulldog Software
Publisher: Mastertronic
Year: 1987
Players: 1
Played Before: Yes
Also on: Amstrad, MSX
Progress: I almost managed to get dressed!

Something a bit more obscure than usual this time and perhaps not even particularly good (what’s new?!) as I take another look back at a feature of my childhood. Not, in fact, running about with nothing on, although I’m up for it if you are, but a game about a poor unfortunate diplomat who finds himself being mugged by intergalactic ne’er-do-wells. Early on, we can tell that Streaker is a bit of a misnomer, but the inhabitants of planet Zuggi aren’t to know that and it falls to you to help Carlin get his clothes back and find a way off of this wretched planet.

StreakerZXSpectrumScreen1Streaker is one of the earliest games I can remember playing that required taking notes. Anyone can blast their way through the shoot-em-ups and racers, the arcade clones and platformers, but when confronted with a relatively complex, multi-screen game such as this, mapping and noting which items to use where was key to progress. In the case of Streaker, there’s an extra twist, with a constantly ticking in-game clock at play. This does not exist to count down an arbitrary time limit, but rather to perform the same function as a clock in the real world. One game minute equals approximately 20 real seconds and the clock helps you to be aware of when certain buildings are open. Some vital items will only appear in specific locations after they’ve closed, so there’s an extra layer of planning required in order to get them. Hanging around literally all day waiting for somewhere to open obviously is not practical, as your poor little Speccy would melt, so there is a way to make time pass more quickly but it’ll end up making you hungry and sleepy.

StreakerZXSpectrumScreen2The main barrier to progress is your state of dress when you attempt to enter an establishment. The proprietors don’t want their customers subjected to your jiggling moobs and you won’t be allowed in unless you’re suitably attired for the occasion. Carlin will be turned away at the door of many places if he hasn’t managed to at least cover his top and bottom halves with something resembling clothing. Conversely, he won’t be allowed access to the sauna unless he’s starkers. But it’s not as easy as just throwing the items of clothing on when you find them and dashing to the next location before it closes. The streets aren’t exactly bustling, in fact, the only other sentient beings you’ll see are the same muggers who put you in this predicament in the first place. You’ll need to avoid them or they’ll help themselves again to a piece of your clothing or one of your lives should you have failed to cover Carlin’s modesty. Ideally, you’ll engage brain and render them harmless by bribing them with some of the many items lying around. Each thief has their own particular desired items and these are relayed via cryptic clues given by examining them whenever they’re on the screen. Some items will only appear inside buildings after closing time and there’s further lateral thinking required if you want to get those. Shortly before closing, you’ll be given another cryptic clue to solve which points to the correct item to hold in order to stay behind after hours. It’s also necessary to keep your strength up by eating and finding a safe place to sleep.

StreakerZXSpectrumScreen3

The menu system brings to mind that in the prior Mastertronic games Spellbound and Knight Tyme, which were released in 1985 and 1986 respectively. Hitting fire will display a list of context-sensitive options to choose from such as picking up or dropping objects, getting dressed or undressed, eating food, examining thieves and giving them objects, in addition to other item-specific commands. So how does it play? Honestly, it’s not fantastic. Everything happens at a low pace, which slows down even further when a thief is on the screen. Carlin’s triangular jumping arc will be familiar to early ’80s computer gamers and a nonsense to the rest of you, but at least he can fall as far as he wants without taking any damage. Being able to hold five items is generous and makes things a bit easier as there’s a fair amount of fetching and backtracking through the game’s 48 screens. Graphics are about what you’d expect from a Spectrum game. There could have been better use of colour give the static nature of the backgrounds, but attribute clash was avoided by making the play area of screens largely dual or tri-colour with white and transparent sprites overlaid. This is balanced out by the screen surroundings making good use of the limited palette and a decent amount of detail generally. Sound is worse than even the Spectrum’s standard with nothing to get excited about, no music and hardly any effects, so bang on your best C90 mix tape (or modern equivalent) while you try to solve those cryptic clues and get Carlin home.

Streaker combines the true flavour of British games from the 1980s with a silly premise and objective, some lateral thinking and mildly obnoxious gameplay. It isn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but I never came across anything else quite like it.

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