Friday, 12 March 2021

TWOFER #22: Horace Classics (Sinclair Research Ltd, 1982)

Hungry Horace and Horace Goes Skiing:

Developed and written by William Tang (Psion/Melbourne House) for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 16k.
Published by Sinclair Research, Ltd. in 1982.

Commodore 64 conversions by Gregg Barnett. Published by Melbourne House in 1983.

Dragon 32/64 conversions:
Programmed by D. Jansen (a.k.a. Denver Jeans; to be confirmed). Graphics for Horace Goes Skiing by Russell Comte and Greg Holland. Published by Melbourne House in 1984.



The little blue ghostly armless character, well-known particularly in the Spectrum community by the name Horace, was one of the first home computer mascots, and deserves to be honoured with his very own entry here at FRGCB. To be honest, I never really considered the Horace games interesting enough to even consider they might be worth doing a proper comparison of, but on further thought, the character's historical value is enough to give it the full works. So, although I have listed this as a two-fer - mostly because the first two games are all that I'm actually able to compare versions of - this entry will feature chapters for the other available official Horace games, and some of the best fan sequels out there. So, despite its origins, this is going to be a (relatively) big one.

Although the game was muchly designed and written by William Tang, reportedly the first programmer ever to be employed by Beam Software (also known for the Way of the Exploding Fist, for example), the actual character Horace was created by a person called Alfred Milgrom, co-founder of Melbourne House and its in-house development studio, Beam Software. It is not, therefore, an altogether outlandish assumption, that Tang's initial mission at Beam was to create an icon that would be known to every Spectrum gamer out there, by giving life to Milgrom's Horace. Even if it wasn't, he bloody well succeeded in it.

Horace, as a character, was such an easy character to love, similarly to Pac-Man, due to the simplicity of his design, so the obvious trick was to put the new character in familiar, yet different environments, such as a Pac-Man-like maze. Of course, this wouldn't prove to be a good idea in longevity, as the games would be outdated by the time they got converted for the other two computers, but Horace's three games would almost certainly find a home in many Spectrum gamer's beginning collections for a few years in Sinclair's game bundles with the 48k machine, as I have demonstrated in one of the earliest Spectrum-themed My Nostalgia Trip Games videos.

Whatever their initial success, it's almost useless to dwell on their current status, because it's all nostalgia, if anything. As the new World of Spectrum goes without a rating system, the old archived WOS from October 2017 tells us, that the score for Hungry Horace was 6.44 from 49 votes, and a whopping 7.49 from 94 votes for Horace Goes Skiing. For the C64 versions, the Lemon64 users have given Hungry Horace a more understandable 5.1 from 29 votes, and Horace Goes Skiing an even less unsurprising 4.7 from 22 votes. As with any previous game that has a version for the Dragon 32/64, ratings and reviews are practically impossible to find.



Whether it is to the advantage or disadvantage of the Horace games, they are stupidly simple to describe for any gamer with any knowledge at all on classic arcade and console games. Basically, what you are getting with the first two Horace games is a Pac-Man variant in Hungry Horace and a combined effort of Frogger and Activision's Skiing from Atari 2600 in Horace Goes Skiing.

Happily, that's not quite all there is to say. In Hungry Horace, you go through four different rooms of Pac-Man-like mazes in a tighter scale, eating flowers, while avoiding collisions to a roaming guard's head or two, but some of the rooms offer very little room to avoid the guards, and one of the rooms contains a wide area, which somewhat deviates from the normal Pac-Man setting.

In Horace Goes Skiing, your job is to first cross the road to get skis from the ski shop, then cross the road again to get to the skiing area. You don't have a clear number of lives, but instead you are given money, which you can earn and lose by your performances in both areas. A pair of skis cost £10, which would equal to 3 pairs of skis by the usual standards, but the money-based system defies that logic, and makes for a surprisingly interesting and addicting game.

Despite the two games' simplicity and similarities to old classics, there is a certain unique charm to the Horace variants, that keep you coming back to them almost as often as to the original classics themselves. I wouldn't say they're highly recommendable, but they certainly have a high nostalgic value, not to mention historical value to gaming mascots and the success story of Beam Software and Melbourne House.



Of course, we have to have a loading times comparison here, because the games were published primarily in the cassette format. Oddly enough, the SPECTRUM versions were also released as ROM cartridges, which is a rare occurence for the platform as it is.

C64: 6 min 45 sec
DRA: 2 min 48 sec
SPE: 2 min 12 sec

Loading screen from Hungry Horace. Left: ZX Spectrum. Right: Dragon 32/64.

For the first Horace game, the loading times are, if not predictable, then easily explained. Since the game was originally written for the 16k Spectrum, there's not that much to load anyway, so the original version only takes less than two minutes and a quarter. The C64 version was the second to be released, and using the primitive ROM loader with a plain light blue screen, this version takes almost seven minutes to load. The DRAGON version loads up in slightly less than 3 minutes, and like the SPECTRUM original, shows some graphics during loading.

C64: 1 min 58 sec
DRA: 2 min 24 sec
SPE: 2 min 25 sec

Loading screens from Horace Goes Skiing. Left: ZX Spectrum. Right: Dragon 32/64.
The second Horace game turns the tables around quite effectively. Beam Software had gotten hold of some sort of a fast loader, which definitely boosted up the loading time, making it almost half a minute quicker than either of the two versions. Coincidentally, both the SPECTRUM and DRAGON versions load up in just a bit under 2 and a half minutes. Still, the C64 version doesn't offer a proper loading screen, but you do get the rainbow-coloured raster bars instead of the infinite light blue screen.



Controlling Horace in both games is fairly simple, since you have no fire button. In Hungry Horace, all you can do is make Horace walk in one of the main four directions, as in Pac-Man. In the SPECTRUM original, Horace can only be controlled on your keyboard, with keys Q, Z, I and P corresponding the directions up, down, left and right. The DRAGON version utilises the cursor keys, and the C64 version is the only one to use a joystick.

For Horace Goes Skiing, the Frogger section plays exactly the same as Hungry Horace, but the skiing part only uses left and right to steer your skis to the directions from the player's point of view (not Horace's), and you can go diagonally downwards left and right, and by keeping the direction pulled constantly, you can also go diagonally up/backwards, but you also move upwards with the screen, so you can only go so far backwards as the screen allows.

There aren't all that many important differences in either game, but just enough to make it clear just which is which. Hungry Horace's most obvious difference is in the maze design, which is basically the same for all three versions, but there are some notable and less notable differences. The DRAGON version is the most different from the three, with the play area utilised much more tightly, particularly in the two middle rooms. You'll see the differences in the Graphics section. The DRAGON version is also the slowest to play, but the enemy behaviour logic feels the least illogical. The C64 version is, perhaps, the quickest of the lot, and also leaves you the least room for error, even though the screens are wider than in the SPECTRUM original. The original version tends to slow down quite notably, when the room gets occupied by more guards.

If there's one thing I really dislike about Hungry Horace, it's that picking up the bell, which is the power pill equivalent here, only allows you to attack one of the guards on the screen, after which they all reset to zero before gradually appearing again from some randomized exit. But this is way it has been made for all three versions, so it's an element that you can't really compare, unless you compare it to Pac-Man.

The C64 version differs from the other two by offering a level designer, although I'm not completely sure, how it's supposed to be used. I did try it out a couple of times, but I couldn't get any of my "creations" to replace any of the original levels. A DOS-based level editor for the Spectrum game was written by John Elliott in 2009, but that's about as close as the original got to the C64 upgrade in that sense.

In the case of Horace Goes Skiing, the most important difference is the speed of the game. Both the SPECTRUM and DRAGON versions are agreeably paced, and the DRAGON version slightly slower, but not nearly as much as with Hungry Horace. Perhaps more importantly, though, the DRAGON version is notably smoother than the original. The C64 version is also smooth, but unfortunately, it is also almost impossibly quick in both sections, and requires superhuman reactions to perform a successful run of the skiing section. Not only that, but in the skiing section, Horace controls with a slight delay, which makes it really unnaturally difficult to play. Much good did that loading speed do, in the end.

The other important factor that perhaps needs to be taken into consideration, is the rate of traffic and obstacles in both sections. The SPECTRUM version is, in comparison to the other two, rather scarce in terrain obstacles for the skiing bits, but then it was designed that way. The traffic is pretty harsh, though. In the C64 and DRAGON versions, the traffic is slightly easier to deal with, but the speed of the C64 version ruins the game, and the DRAGON version offers much more of obstacles in both sections. Then again, the DRAGON version's more sedate pacing makes up for it.

3. DRAGON 32/64

1. DRAGON 32/64



Now, let's take the rest of the way one game at a time. Hungry Horace, being a relatively simple rendition of Pac-Man, there's not much to see here, although you do still get three more rooms than in the actual Pac-Man. Graphical variety, though, you get none.

Hungry Horace title screens, left to right:
ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Dragon 32/64.

The only luxury you have in addition to the in-game graphics is the title screen, unless you happen to be playing the DRAGON version, in which you only get a "press a key to start" prompt in red letters (flashing) over an otherwise blank white screen. The SPECTRUM original shows the large, blocky game title in all the colours the machine has to offer in quick loop, shown on a blank white background, but at least you get the copyright and prompt to start the game under the title. The C64 version goes a bit further by going through its entire colour palette with an added spice of doing it all in a slim and fattened text, as well as having the background black.

Screenshots from the ZX Spectrum version of Hungry Horace.

Here we have Horace shown in the original version of his first humble adventure, and humble it truly is. While there are four rooms to get through before the game loops, the only graphical elements that alter at any point in the game are the guard heads, which turn to look like scared or angry punk rockers, as can be seen in the screenshot of room #2; and the other one is Horace himself, when he gets caught by a guard and starts changing his colour rapidly. Actually, in the info panel at the top, the bit saying "passes", meaning your number of lives, also flashes in the same colours as your normally blue hero. The only other animated thing in the game is the magenta-coloured bell, which swings back and forth in all of three frames.

Screenshots from the Commodore 64 version of Hungry Horace.

The C64 version's in-game graphics follow the original rather faithfully, although purists might argue about the colour choices. Horace's colour is purple instead of blue for some reason, the background is clear white instead of light grey, and the mazes are built of blue walls instead of cyan/turqoise. The rooms are also a bit wider due to the C64's natural screen size, which probably necessitated the second room's light re-designing. Also, on a more minor note, the "passes" text doesn't flash upon your losing a life, while Horace himself still does. On a higher note, the animation of Horace and the guards is much smoother on the C64, and the game doesn't slow down when more guards appear.

C64 exclusive maze editor in Hungry Horace.

Lest we forget, the C64 version does have a screen editor, but as it's not particularly usable, nor does it give much of new fancy graphics into the mix, it shall be neatly forgotten about in the scoring.

Screenshots from the Dragon 32/64 version of Hungry Horace.

If the other two versions felt a bit scarce in their graphical output, the DRAGON version might be considered an upgrade, once you have forgotten about the lack of a title screen. The colours are, again, all wrong, if you're a purist, but the rooms have been designed to have more filler bits in them, and almost every room has been slightly re-designed to make them more interesting. For instance, the  bottom middle part in room #1 is completely rearranged, and there are more walking areas in room #3. Everything has been redesigned to look more graphically interesting, everything from the walls to the guards - even Horace himself has been drawn with more character, and his animations are a bit funnier. As if all that weren't enough, the info panel has been altered as well, most notably by your lives display, which has a number of Horaces animated out of sync. Perhaps my favourite of all graphical enhancements is the flashing effect shown when you lose a life: instead of just flashing Horace, the whole screen flashes in green, black and white for a good while - as demonstrated in the bottom row by the two otherwise similar screenshots.

But this puts me in an awkward spot, in a manner of speaking. I always felt, part of the Horace games' charm came from the flashing title screens and the rather simplistic graphics. As Hungry Horace was, reportedly, the first commercial home arcade game ever to get published for the ZX Spectrum, the level of expectation of quality must not have been much more than what they got with this at the time. So, two years after the original SPECTRUM version, the surprisingly different-looking DRAGON version only feels like what the game should have been in the first place: not necessarily all that much upgraded from 1982, but certainly a bit more thought-over. Is it as iconic a look as the original SPECTRUM version? No, but it could have been, and I'm sure it is as iconic for Dragon 32/64 owners as the original look is for Spectrum owners. Technically speaking, the C64 version has the smoothest graphics, and it looks close enough to the original, but the colours are a bit extreme. To be perfectly honest, I'm going to have to let all three share an equal place here.




Have you ever had one of those plastic laser gun toys? I had one in the mid-1980's and the sound it makes it remarkably close to the noise you hear in the title screen of the original SPECTRUM version of Hungry Horace. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's a very quick "DWEE-DWEE-DWEE-DWEE", but you can also hear that in the video somewhere below, wherever it is. The same noise acts also as the Game Over noise. But the original Hungry Horace has no music as such, just some sound effects, the most prominent of which is the "blip, blip" noise that the swinging bell makes. Eating up a flower makes a very short "splut" noise, getting caught by a guard makes a lo-fi noise that sounds vaguely like "NO!", and catching a guard in his scared punk mode makes another weird "tschwooop" noise. Basic Speccy stuff, really.

The C64 version is like from a different planet, even though it's still a very basic representation of what the SID-chip can do. You get a proper title theme song, which is played by two short horn-like tones, overlapped by random in-game effects. Starting a game and entering a new room plays a short jingle, and you can also hear a short single-tone melody loop constantly playing in the background at a low volume while you're playing. Eating up flowers makes a "blip" noise at varying volumes, the bell makes a "ding dong" kind of a thing, losing a life results in something like an ambulance noise without the tone slide effect, going through tunnels makes a weird "dwib" noise, picking up the bell results in a high-pitched siren noise of sorts until you catch a guard-turned-into-punk, which itself makes an oddly long melodic phrase. There is no separate Game Over noise as such.

That leaves us with the DRAGON version. Here, you get no music of any sort, at any point. The title screen, or what's left of it, is completely silent. The game starts off with no fanfare, and the first sound you will hear, and will be hearing plenty of it, is Horace eating up a flower, which makes a fairly basic "BRP" noise. The bell doesn't make any sort of noise by default, because it's not swinging like in the other versions, but instead you need to activate it, after which it'll be making a ticking noise reminiscent more of a time bomb than an alarm bell, which is looks more like. When you catch a punked-up guard when the bell is ticking away, the same ticking noise makes an alarm-like sound. If you get caught by a guard, the game plays an odd swooshing noise that feels like you're being run over by an ocean wave. And that's all there is to it, which puts these in a clear order.

3. DRAGON 32/64



The second game in the series didn't take much of a giant leap with its graphical output, but it did give an opportunity to beef up the presentation, particularly for the conversions.

Title screen from Horace Goes Skiing, left to right:
ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Dragon 32/64.

In the SPECTRUM original, the title screen is almost precisely like the one in Hungry Horace, except now there is a text scroller at the bottom instead of two solid lines of text, likely necessitated by the game's much larger title. For the C64 version, they went with a bit more wintery look, even though it's still only stylized text, but this time there's no animation for the game logo. The DRAGON version made the biggest leap forward by having the loading screen included in the actual game code, which only has a flashing "start the game" type prompt text slapped in the middle of the game title logo.

Screenshots from the ZX Spectrum version of Horace Goes Skiing.

Although the actual game content is here, what you can't see in these screenshots is the transition animations, which feel like going through a rainbow-coloured rectangular wormhole. Look up the video to see that effect. Neither of the other two versions feature this transition effect.

Now, the game content is nothing if not quintessentially Speccyesque, particularly early Spectrum. Scarce in detail, but highly defined graphics with very effective colour choices. The animations aren't particularly smooth, and the visual effects are pretty much in the same league as in Hungry Horace, but everything works well enough. And yet, this was pretty advanced stuff for 1982.

Screenshots from the Commodore 64 version of Horace Goes Skiing.

Although it doesn't look much like it, the C64 version is a bit more colourful than the SPECTRUM version, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the chosen colours here are better. In fact, some of the monochrome sprite fit very ill with the grey road, most particularly the brown trucks. Certain objects have a bit more details in them, like the snow mounds and the ambulance, for instance, while some vehicles have been changed to something completely different from their SPECTRUM counterparts. Perhaps a bit ironically, for those who ever complained about the C64 version of Hungry Horace's colour used for Horace's sprite, this time it's the other way round: the C64 version is the only one in which Horace is constantly blue. Technically, the smooth high speed scrolling is more impressive on the C64 than the less speedy scrolling on the SPECTRUM, but as it affects the playability, I have to consider this an impediment.

Screenshots from the Dragon 32/64 version of Horace Goes Skiing.

Lastly, the DRAGON version is a mixed bag. Although it's severely lacking in colour by comparison, and all the graphics are a bit on the blocky side, Horace is again slightly more diligently animated, and the game looks surprisingly nice as a complete package. Much like for Hungry Horace, there's some special graphical thing that differs quite a bit from the other versions, and this time it's Horace's death animations. In the Frogger screen, as you get hit by a vehicle, you're automatically dragged to the nearest side of the road, from where the inevitable ambulance picks your lying body up, and in the skiing section, Horace turns upside down and crosses his skis. While the scrolling isn't particularly speedy nor smooth, I find it's the best of all three.

For a couple of reasons, the SPECTRUM version presents the quintessential Horace experience: it's neither technically brilliant nor is it uselessly pretty - just a case of "it'll do", but in a way that you wouldn't have it any other way. The colours are just spot on in their childlike manner, the details are funny but charming, and the scrolling is adequate. The C64 version tries too hard to fit into the C64's style, losing most of its inherent charm while at it, and destroying the whole experience by being too fast, and its only saving grace is the blue Horace. The DRAGON version has the most constant look with the machine's challenging graphical capabilities, and it feels overall the best compromise, but it just lacks the original's charm. Therefore, we have a clear order.

2. DRAGON 32/64



One could say that the SPECTRUM versions of all Horace games are constant in one particular thing: the title screen always looks and sounds the same. In other words, no, you still get no music in any notable way, as the title screen still makes that noise as described in the Sounds section of Hungry Horace. As for the other sound effects, there are still very little of them in Horace Goes Skiing. I suppose sounds just wasn't a priority back then. In the Frogger section, the only sound effects you will normally hear are the passing of an ambulance, which makes a stuttering beep noise in two pitches. When you enter the ski shop, you will hear a short "splut" noise. If you get hit by some vehicle, you will get a descending beep-arpeggio kind of a thing, which changes key twice during the descension. In the skiing section, you'll be hearing nothing, if not a series of more "splut" noises, when you hit a snowy bump or reach the end of the stage; or a long high-pitched beep, when you hit a flag. Hitting a tree will result in the most spectacular "aaargh" noise you will have heard on a Spectrum so far, which isn't really saying much since it's 1982. All in all, it's five distinctly different kinds of sound effects, plus the title screen noise.

Again, the C64 version features a title tune, and as you would in any normal circumstance expect, it is different from the previous game. It is also rather long, even though it goes through the same three-chord progression seemingly endlessly, because the melody instrument takes upon itself to variate itself ad nauseam. The sound effects are perhaps not as busy as you would wish for them to be. The only sound you will hear from the traffic is the occasional honk variations as you cross the road, but if you happen to get run over by a vehicle, you will first hear a "boing-oing" kind of a noise, while the ambulance fades in with sirens wailing at full blast. The skiing section has a nice swishy sound as you go downhill, variating the swishy tone as you move around. Hitting a flag results in a tremolo whistle kind of noise, hitting a snow bump makes a rougher crash noise, and hitting a tree makes a low "bonnnggg" sound, and that's all there is to it. Not much more interesting than the SPECTRUM version, but at least you do get a title tune.

A considerable upgrade from Hungry Horace, the DRAGON version of Horace Goes Skiing features a rendition of the same title tune that you hear in the C64 version, only a bit less professionally produced one - a wrong note here and there, and no percussive track. Unfortunately, having music has resulted in a serious lack of sound effects, as I have only encountered two: a beepy effect when going through snow bumps and a crash noise when hitting a tree or getting hit by a vehicle. No ambulance sirens, no honking, no effect for reaching the ski shop. Since having sound effects in this case is much more preferable to having music, once again, we have a clear order.

3. DRAGON 32/64



Right, ho. The mathematically organized Overall scores for Hungry Horace and Horace Goes Skiing will probably not surprise too many of you out there, but before I get to them, I shall remind you, that the Spectrum originals will always be my chosen versions, because that is their home. A fact proven by the latter Horace games, no doubt. Well, here we go, then...

1. COMMODORE 64: Playability 3, Graphics 1, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 7
2. SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM: Playability 2, Graphics 1, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 5
3. DRAGON 32/64: Playability 1, Graphics 1, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 3

1. SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM: Playability 2, Graphics 3, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 7
2. DRAGON 32/64: Playability 3, Graphics 2, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 6
3. COMMODORE 64: Playability 1, Grpahics 1, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 5

If there's anything to be gathered from these scores, it is that none of the versions are truly the best in all areas, and there is nothing so powerful as a deciding factor for these kinds of games, than nostalgia. But I have to say, I was positively surprised by the Dragon versions of both games, regardless of their scores here. Now, we continue on towards the other Horace games.



Written by William Tang for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and published by Melbourne House in 1983.

Horace and the Spiders was the third part in the series, and it was a Spectrum-exclusive. Since the second game featured two different styles of gameplay, it was only logical that the third one would mime elements from three different games.

Screenshots from Horace & the Spiders (ZX Spectrum, 1983)

The first section is a forced side-scrolling platformer, much like the endless runner games of today, and it drew comparisons to Atari's Pitfall! and Coleco's Smurf games. The second section continues in the same sort of way, now requiring you to get across a chasm using vine-like spider's web-ropes. The third and final section is essentially a Space Panic clone, although instead of making openings with a shovel next to you, you make holes into the spiderweb structure by jumping on certain spots. Obviously, you also fall down as you finish making an opening, but that's just how this variant is. After killing all the spiders in the Space Panic screen, you start over with a higher difficulty level, which is mostly notable in the first section's length and the amount of obstacles therein.

The fourth game in the series, Horace to the Rescue, was announced in 1985 but the game never appeared, due to the author William Tang suffering a collapsed lung and being unable to continue. His final works as a computer games programmer came in 1985 and 1986, with the Way of the Exploding Fist and Asterix and the Magic Cauldron, respectively.



Written by Michael Ware for the Psion 3-series of palmtop computers,
and published by Proteus Developments in 1995.
Converted for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Bob Smith in 2010.

Ten long years after William Tang's final Horace game got cancelled, Michael Ware brought the character back for one last hurrah in a fairly Horacesque outing. Horace in the Mystic Woods is yet another clone of another classic game, with some gameplay mechanic tweaks. This one is Manic Miner with more slippery movement. The rooms in Mystic Woods are rather small due to the Psion palmtop computer's very wide screen, but there are 64 of them, which is an unusually large amount for a Manic Miner clone. Happily, the game allows you to continue from the point you reached your inevitable end on your previous run. No passwords, though.

Screenshots from the original Psion-3 version of Horace in the Mystic Woods.

Although there seem to be plenty of emulators around for almost every imaginable platform ever created, finding a way to get to play the final official episode of Horace's adventures seems to be next to impossible. Some bloke by the name of Matthew Wilson had uploaded the entire map of the Psion-3 version of Horace in the Mystic Woods, so thanks to him for these few screenshots, more of which you can find behind the link here.

The closest we can get to the original is, thankfully, on Horace's original home on the ZX Spectrum, as Bob Smith made the heroic deed of porting the game to its proper platform in 2010. As far as most of us are able to tell, the conversion is as close to the original as you could ever hope it to be, and then some, since it obviously is much more colourful than the original Psion version.

You also get a beefed up soundtrack, as well as a few different colour modifications of the game. Happily, all 64 levels have been kept in, as well as the ending sequence, in some manner at least. All that's rather brilliant, because it also runs on a classic 48k Spectrum. Highly recommended, at least if you're a Horace fan.



Before we say good-bye to Horace, at least for the foreseeable future, let's take a look at some of the fan-made sequels and/or spin-offs, and see if there's traces of how the original Horace games were made.

Horace Takes A Trip (Spun-Out Software, 1995)

During the same year that Horace in the Mystic Woods was written and published, Ben Brown and Zeth Ward took the trouble of creating a trilogy of Horace-themed minigames on the (in)famous Shoot'em-up Construction Kit on the Commodore Amiga. So, you can already expect a certain quality here.

In the three separately loadable SEUCK creations, Horace takes a trip to the 1980's (in which he shoots his way through a level from the Spectrum version of the game "Xenon"), to outer space and finally a more questionable "trip". A surprising entry in the grand book of Horace, but avoidable.

Horace Goes To The Tower (The Mojon Twins, 2011)

It wasn't until Bob Smith's conversion of Horace in the Mystic Woods for the ZX Spectrum, that Horace found a new life, although he firmly remained on his home platform from this point on. In 2011, the ridiculously productive Mojon Twins created their own Horace game, which took the form of a flip-screen puzzle-platformer, much like many other games of the time were for the ZX Spectrum.

The idea is to collect a number of magnetic tapes from the titular Tower, but in order to access areas, you also need to collect keys and push around tiles that act as platforms, but which will reset to their original places once the screen has changed. Rather annoying, really, but other than that, it's a solid game and a worthy title to hold the name Horace.

Cousin Horace (Alessandro Grussu, 2014)

Although Jonathan Cauldwell's game creation kits for the ZX Spectrum (and more lately for other platforms as well) has certainly had its effect on the form of Speccy games in the last 20 years, there are some games that manage to break the mold, and Alessandro Grussu's multi-genre epic Cousin Horace is one of those rare examples.

The game starts with the usual flip-screen puzzle platformer, but the later levels also feature arcade adventuring in maze-like environments, as well as a traditional side-scrolling shoot'em-up section with hints of Scramble thrown into it. Because the levels are all rather large, it's only logical that the game is separated into five separately loadable sections, which can be accessed with codes that you get at the end of each completed section. Personally, I think that Cousin Horace is perhaps unnecessarily long, but other than that, it certainly honours the originals, and I would highly recommend it as an example of good modern Speccy games, and the Horace connection is an added incentive.

Merry Christmas From Horace (Steve Broad, 2016)

This little Christmas-themed Horace game is a simple, yet addictive side-scrolling platformer loosely in the style of Stop The Express, in which you collect floating Christmas presents and avoid getting hit by your old antagonists, the guards. You also get to pick up bonus items, such as shields. Not much else to it, really, but it's a fun little game that might nicely fit any retrogamer's Christmas playlist.

Horace & the Robots (Reptilia Design, 2017)

For now, the last Horace entry that I have come across is this Berzerk clone with a fitting Horace centric title. If you don't know what Berzerk is, it's another one of those arcade classics that shouldn't really need to be mentioned, but surprisingly few people seem to know it. Basically, it's a flip-screen maze-shooter, in which you need to destroy as many robots as you can. If you waste too much time in one room, you will be hunted by a bouncing ball-creature, previously known as Evil Otto. Who knows what he's called these days.



Because I've already featured Horace and the Spiders in one of My Nostalgia Trip Games videos, I decided to keep this video accompaniment to the first two games. If I ever record footage of any of the more modern Horace games, there's a 99% probability that it'll be in one of those Let's Play videos instead. Now, here's the video comparison for Hungry Horace and Horace Goes Skiing.

The rest of this month will be focused on building up future episodes of My Nostalgia Trip Games and hopefully, all other sorts of video things, so I will not have much time for writing comparisons, but I'll get back to speed in May at the very latest with another month filled with cheap Mastertronic titles. So for now, I'll be taking a small break with comparisons, but keep your eyes sharp for more YouTube material in the meantime. Thanks for reading, and happy upcoming Easter!

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