Saboteur! - A brilliant ZX Spectrum game gets a florinthedwarf review

The Milk Tray man has certainly upped his game.
Prepare to enter a world of ninjas, secret bunkers, hard as nails security guards, confidential floppy disks (this was the 80's) and the odd angry dog, as this is the world of the Saboteur! No running around, all guns blazing taking out the aforementioned guards (and maybe the odd dog), you'll require stealth, skill and cunning to get out alive.

Your mission, which lets face it - you've accepted, is to gain access to a warehouse and recover a floppy disk which contains the names of rebel leaders and get out again, ideally alive.

Seems safe here. Do I really have to go in?
Sounds like a simple one - how hard can it be to sneak in, tip toe around, grab said disk and then go on your merry way? Well, quite tricky as it goes. Those pesky dogs take some dealing with, taking no time in making a decision whether they would like to savage you or not. They want to savage you, in case you haven't guessed yet. Those security guards pack a punch too, literally. A swift flying kick to face will fell them but let's not get too ahead of ourselves just yet.

So, what have your 'employers' given you to arm yourself in your mission? A nice Ninja sword, maybe? Nunchucks? No. A single shuriken. They must have a lot of faith in you, or just being tight. I'll go for the latter. So, when you've dispatched said solitary shuriken into the chest of a pesky security guard, you are literally empty handed. Though luckily, scattered around the place are some handy make-shift weapons. Hurrah! Take a look through some boxes that are placed around the warehouse and you'll find a plethora of weapons at your disposal. From a brick to metal pipes, bits of wood and the odd shuriken (maybe it's the one you used earlier) you'll never be too far away from something to cause some damage to people who may get in your way.

If you stand still enough, it makes you completely invisible to dogs.
If you had used your single use shuriken and there are no leftover building materials to hand, you'll either have to pop down to B&Q or you'll have to learn to use those feet and hands of yours. Flying kicks, punches and standing kicks are available for you to take down your foe though if the foe is of the canine variety, it's crouching time! Of course you can't flying kick a dog, which is a shame (unless it's one of those Afghan hounds, which if rumours are to be believed, can grow up to eight foot) so it's time get down and dirty. As your employers didn't supply you with distracting doggy treats, you'll have to get inhumane to get rid of these mutts.

You seem very confident. Prepare for disappointment!
One of the first things you'll notice about Saboteur is the atmosphere it creates. The black of the main character against the blue backdrop when you start, really does create a dark, sinister, secret and eerie feeling. It's the same when you enter the building, you get that cold, claustrophobic feeling that you really are on your own and that the only person who can save you is you. Maybe this down to the programming genius of Clive Townsend or maybe it's down to the Speccy's limited colour palette. I joke! It's the first one, obviously! The best Speccy programmers always made the best use of, what pains me to say, the Speccy's 'limitations' so much respect and dothing of caps is due. Right, enough of pandering to programmers (Hi Mr T if you're reading!) let's carry on with Saboteur-ing!

From the start menu you have the usual selection of selecting controls, and when these have been selected, there is an option to select the level of difficulty. Of course, being the coward I am I will always choose the easiest difficulty. Upon doing which, you will be greeted with the message in the image above - pah! If you say so! According to the game instructions, selecting the level of difficulty will determine the amount of time you get to complete your mission and how much energy the enemies take off you. Though, I'll have to take their word for it as on the difficulty scale of 1-8 available, I don't think my finger has ever strayed further than number one. I guess I'm not the most ruthless of saboteur around.

Excuse me, sir. You seem to have your foot attached to my chest.
As you delve deeper and deeper into the warehouse, you'll find a lot more things to discover. Hit what looks like the bottom floor and you'll find an underground train carriage which takes you even further into realms of despair. I don't mean the London Underground when I say that, just further into this very complex warehouse, though there are some comparisons to be found - notably angry looking people with bricks and weapons lying around the place. Though, that's where comparisons with the London Underground must end as instead of getting tutted at for using the wrong side of escalator, you should be running as fast as you can (impossible during rush hour), kicking people in the face, sliding down ladders, evading angry dogs and dispatching of enemies in the blink of an eye.

Run! Get to the flying vehicle over there! That's how it goes, yeah?

There's such a pace to the game as you enter each room - if you find company, do you take them on or try to pass them unnoticed? You find a room of ladders - do you go up or down and which is the right one to take? You'll find plenty of security systems, automatic guns and the odd helicopter to keep you on your toes and with the clock ticking, you'll have to use your wit and initiative to make best use of the time at your disposal.

Saboteur! is right up there when it comes to classic Spectrum games. Groundbreaking in terms of gameplay and one that still creates an atmosphere to this day when you play it. Now, get out of here and go and get me that floppy disk, dammit! Here, take this single shuriken to fight multiple enemies - that should do. Best of luck!

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