The Pyramid - A 1983 ZX Spectrum game by Fantasy Software gets a Florinthedwarf review

Loading image by Andy Green

Ah, pyramids. A majestic sight filled with wonder, treasure, sand, and if computer games are to be believed also full of mythical evil creatures that want to eat you. Just look at the game Fred for example - plenty of creatures vying for your blood there from bats (ok, not mythical), scorpions (again, not that mythical), Mummies, ghosts and vampires (finally got one). Here, in The Pyramid, things are a little different in that department - no bats or vampires are here but instead it's filled with strange alien-like creatures, some with boggly eyes, some are just star shaped but what you can rely on is that there are plenty of them. Taking various shapes, forms and moving in various directions, they're here to make your quest pretty darn tricky and make a good job of it they do, too. They must be well practiced in that area. It's nice to see people (or things) putting the effort into their profession. Or is it?

I've always thought there's not enough cyan in the world  - my prayers have been answered!

There's never a bad guy that wants you to have an easy ride, is there? Totally not fair. Can't they just take a day off and let me get on with collecting some diamonds and getting out of here. Apparently not. So, as we're not going to have an easy job of it, we may as well have a look and see what perils lie ahead of us instead. As you take the plunge into the pyramid fully equipped with your laser and strapped in your little floaty bubble (I'm sure that's its technical name), you're shown the map of the pyramid which is made up of a very high number of chambers. Which can only mean one thing - the chances of you getting out alive are pretty slim. Sorry. We can at least give it a go though, eh?

Is that a diamond? The things people throw out into their dustbins, eh?
Each chamber you enter is full of creatures of various guises and each set will move in their own directions. That'll be left and right, up to down and down to up of course, each having its positives and negatives. To escape each chamber you have to collect diamonds and drop them through one of the gates you'll find at the bottom of the screen. Depending on if you choose the left or right side will decide on which way you navigate through the vast pyramid.  Now this is where the movement of the enemies can have an effect on your progress. To progress and escape each chamber, you need to collect the aforementioned diamonds that fall from the top of the screen and then drop them into one of the gates below.

Depending if you choose to go left or right will affect which way you navigate your way through the vast pyramid. This is where the movement of the enemies will affect how you go about this. The enemies will move either across the screen or up and down the screen so when that diamond begins to fall, you've got to be on it; as in, you have to start shooting these blasted beings as if the diamond touches one of them, it disintegrates in front of your very face. Argh! You could argue it's preferable if the enemies move side to side as you can always see where they're coming from and blast away leaving a clean path for the diamond to fall so you can collect it. Whereas, if they move upwards, you won't really know where they're coming from until it's usually too late, leading to either you losing some energy or the diamond disappearing in front of your very eyes. Or both. Dammit.

Zzap! Pow! Erm, zzap again! Ooh a diamond! Ah, bugger.
The difficulty in catching the diamonds is increased by the fact that these precious stones don't exactly fall into your lap. Lurking under its fall, you'd think that it would just enter your bubble-like craft so you can be on your way. No. To catch one of these beauties, you'll find takes a second or two as your ship does a little shake before accepting the shiny goods. Which incidentally, is not good as those seconds could lead to you, and the diamond, taking a hit from an evil little creature making it time to start again. You'll see at the bottom left of the HUD a counter which tells you how many of these monsters you have to kill before a diamond drops. Lose the diamond and the counter resets to start the process again though this will also happen if you require more than one diamond to open one of the gates below. Oh, forgot to mention that. A lot of the gates require just one diamond to open, though others require two or more before it'll let you through to the next chamber, which makes the game even more tricky.

 Another things you need to worry about (yes, another thing) is how you go about dropping the diamonds into the gates. This is where the movement of the enemies comes into play again. After collecting a diamond, simply fly over which gate you wish to open and you'll see it slowly descend towards its target which is quite majestic to look at...for about half a second and then you'll see it evaporate when an enemy comes lurking from below, snatching your chance of escape. So, you have to be very careful here when the enemies scale the room; it is slightly easier when they move across the screen as you can shoot a clear path or, what I tend to do, is move to the bottom of the screen and shift across above the gate and 'huzzah!', one open gate! Or possibly half open. I guess I'll find out when I get there. 

I'm blue, da ba dee - no, it must mean I have a diamond. Whoop!
Don't let all this negative talk put you off, The Pyramid is a fine, fun game; it is a little tricky in some elements but it's colourful, smooth, quirky and there are so many different looking enemies in it that it compels you to try and make it to the next room to see what's in it. That's certainly what drew me to play it so much when I was a kid and I guess you could say it still has the same pull to me now. A lot of the enemies I'd forgotten about but it's great to see those weird faces with rolling eyes, the weird possessed dustbins - it really shows a high level of enemy creativity in the game, they're all animated differently too which adds a lot to an already well made game.

I certainly have fond memories of playing this back in the olden days, wondering exactly what kind of ship I was floating in and it looking like I was poking a needle through the front of it when I fired the laser. Ah, the wonder of youth (but seriously, why are you poking a needle through the front of the ship?). The Pyramid would go on to be the first of a trilogy of games written by Bob Hamilton with Doomsday Castle following shortly after and Backpackers Guide to the Universe released the year after.

Right, that's enough facts for the day (yes, one is my limit) it's time to buckle up, jump inside your bubble (or possibly the other way around) and see off those evil dustbins. Just a reminder, if you do happen to see a diamond falling from the sky, don't let it get eaten by a googly-eyed monster. I guess you kind of knew that anyway.

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1 comment:

  1. The Pyramid was one of my favourite Speccy games back in the day, and one that is still pretty fun and playable today.
    You missed a detail in describing the collection of the diamonds, though. You can only pick them up when they're cyan, otherwise you'll lose energy - and 'do a little shake'..


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