Please sir, I cannot tell a lie. Sometimes, I really just want my videogames to let me switch my overly thinky brain off and allow me to run round a maze and explode things. The prettier the colours, the better. Scratch that! The more colours, the better.

I’m not an especially competitive person so stuff like kill/death ratios mean nothing to me. Ranking and whatever? The same. I do enjoy watching a number go up but that’s about where that particular thrill ends. “Ooh, that was a 7, love a good 7, me. An 8? Oh yiss!” like the embarrassment that I am.

I have no shame in admitting that when I first spotted Super Destronaut: Land Wars, I had my fingers crossed that it would live up to my hopes that here was a game that would not only let me watch a number go up but also run around a maze exploding things into lots of colours. Readers, it did not disappoint.

I’m being a bit silly here, obviously, but it’s really important to remember that it’s 2020, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I’m perpetually fluctuating between upset and angry (so much so I’ve taken up an MMO). If ever I needed a game that didn’t require anything of me, it’s right now.

In less interesting times, I doubt I’d hesitate long to take a gander at Land Wars, in times this interesting, I bloody well crave this sort of thing. And Land Wars hits the spot beautifully.

It’s a ridiculously neon affair, more Tron than the recent VHS tribute brand of neon that games have adopted. It’s the right kind of neon, yeah? Colourful, glowing, gratuitous. Enemies are huge, chunky pixel, also neon, things (this is definitely not a game where you’ll be squinting to see where enemies are hiding, that’s a definite). They bounce around a bit, act a little bit threatening but even on the higher difficulty levels they are often little more than target practice.

I know I probably sound like a broken record but this is all fine and desirable, I’m not slating the game here. This is what I want from it.

There’s a few rudimentary challenges you can indulge in if you prefer a bit of structure (they rarely stretch far beyond “shoot 5 baddies with this weapon” or whatever) or there’s a selection of slight difficulty adjustments if you want the game to push back at you a bit but this isn’t Destiny or something here. It’s a four quid neon shooty lazer maze thing with no ambition to be anything more than that and hand on heart, I love it.

Super Destronaut:Land Wars

It’s not a game you’ll learn to master, it’s not a game that prizes mechanics or depth or anything that isn’t lasers in a maze. It does everything I hoped it would, as nicely as I hoped it would.

In these tumultuous times, I’m not asking for much else so put those neon lasers into my face and let’s forget about the world outside for a while. Molyneux only knows, we could all do with that right now.

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.