one-off at the wrist

Knight Lore tickles

So, thoughts of my past wind-ups collection has obviously set my mind on other past toys/games [though I love all things mechanical, especially automata, of which wind-ups are arguably younger junior partners, strangely I’ve never before made the connection with the figures you control in computer games – which often also seem to have a life of their own] and perhaps it being nearly Halloween my subconscious has turned specifically to an early Spectrum isometric platformer [a sub-genre of both 3D and 2D platformers where a three dimensional environment using two dimensional graphics is presented via isometric projection] I used to spend hours playing back as a kid in the mid 80’s – Knight Lore.

The title really was quite revolutionary for the time. I’m not sure what grabbed me the most about the game, its great clean line monochrome 3D feel graphics or its shear playability. Though the puzzles were not on the whole mega-difficult [though some were seemingly impossible] merely requiring good timing and joystick dexterity, much thought had obviously gone into the gameplay.

Cleverly constructed around one-at-a-time room environments, meaning you either didn’t know what was in the next room [perhaps certain death if you stepped into the room too quickly – indeed there was always a room I could never get into] or had forgotten [there being so many rooms that looked very similar] the route you had taken, the game map was essentially a maze. A maze of numerous dead ends that had you retracing your steps and therefore infuriatingly having to re-solve exactly the puzzles you had just struggled to overcome, but in reverse. Essentially the mission was to collect several requested objects and bring them back to a central location, but, your start position each game and the objects’ locations were randomly changed from game to game [and you had to remember exactly which ones you’d been requested to collect – many a laugh to be had from painstakingly travelling all the way out and back to find you’d brought back the wrong object!]

To add to the fun not only could you move around and use/step on some objects such as tables or the objects you had collected, to get across puzzles, but some platforms disappeared when you stepped on them [making them ‘one time only’, even if you escaped death – you then had to go out the room to reset the puzzle]. All whilst against an overall ticking down game clock [only 40 game days to complete the whole adventure] and a day/night clock that saw your character turn into a werewulf, when your otherwise carefully avoided ‘enemies’ automatically came after you [one touch meant instant death].

I’m certain that part of the appeal was also the dodgy/easily worn out technology of the time [it was a completely different experience playing via keyboard]. Malfunctioning ‘jittery’ joysticks causing twitches in movement and therefore character death, led to no end of crazed laughter. [It always seemed to happen when you were about to get a high score/solve a puzzle for the first time/were on your last life but just about to win an extra one].

What still astounds is not only was such gameplay mesmerism possible with only 48K of computer memory [the dreaded ‘Speccy-tape‘ 5 minute mis-load is another world of cringe-worthy laughter. I imagine that I still dream in Spectrum datastream noise] but that such simple but sophisticated graphics had us spellbound not only for hours on end [an evening of gaming] but for months at a time [every friday night throughout the Winter]. The game is best described as being like a bout of tickles – you want it to go on but you want it to stop.

I am delighted to have found this site with a compete room map, which might after all these years allow me to discover what was in that room.

If you want to try out some retrogaming, find an emulator here.


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