Project Future

There’s a very particular genre of ZX Spectrum maze games where you travel room to room, exploring a pretty reasonably sized map and as you roam, enemies spawn in at random. I mention this only because it remains my favourite lost genre of videogame.

There’s similarities to a bundle of roguelite games (I really dislike the wooly, almost meaningless, taxonomy here but what can you do?) and to top down 8-bit RPGs but the focus isn’t on puzzling or story, it’s running from room to room and doing a bit of dodging or shooting. The larger goal is invariably collect 5 thingies or something, where the main obstacle keeping the player from their goal is just finding their way to the thingies without snuffing it.

They’re kinda simple but the pleasure for me is in both learning to navigate the twists and turns of the map and the speed you flit through them. It really appeals to my ADD brain, you know?

courtesy of RZX Archive

You’re never lingering in one room for more than an incredibly short while. There’s a possibility of getting held up shooting stuff but really that’s only ever momentary.

Dominic Wood’s Project Future is probably my favourite of them all (though Steve Crow’s homage to Ultimate’s Atic Atac, Wizards Lair, comes an incredibly close second place).

I’m an absolute sucker for chunky cartoon graphics, I’d sooner be running through a spaceship than a forest or whatever and I like games to use all the colours. Project Future is all that.

I’ve also a soft spot for its use of the Spectrum’s FLASH command to liven up backgrounds a tad and the enemy death animation that mimics a part of a Vidkidz style sprite explosion is, obviously, right up my street. I enjoy that the map is laid out to approximate the floor plan of a spaceship.

Really though, it’s the little bubbley lead character that is Space Cadet Farley with their massive helmet that got me first. Readers, I would marry them and we could both go for space jaunts in our space C5 and everything would be wonderful forever.

As long as there’s a maze, mind. Otherwise the deal is off.