Saboteur. Possibly one of the best games of my childhood.
I’m not talking about the under-rated 2009 EA title which I enjoyed throughly, I’m talking about the 1985 title by Durell Software which graced the tape deck of my C64 in 1992.
I first saw this title at my cousins (who is partly responsible for me wanting to get in to gaming if you’ve been listening to the podcasts) on the ZX Spectrum.
It starts off dead silent as you’d expect from a stealthy ninja approach, blue background, black character and oddly bright coloured walls?
In fact, the whole game is serenely quiet throughout until you start attacking or jumping around.
I think the first game brings in you via a submarine and you pop up at a miniature docks, pick up what I think was a hidden shuriken and then enter the building.
In the second game you fly in via a glider scrolling across a fixed width screen from left to right and had to choose how far along before you wanted to drop. You could spend ages just waiting for what you felt might be the right moment to land on the top of a roof just to fall to your death.
As for the escape that was by helicopter (or bike in Saboteur 2) and there was always so much relief in finding the sodding thing. I never remembered where it was, but I’m sure if I got hold of it today I’d put the time in to mapping out where things were exactly.
Back then it was the cutting edge and quite a few developers today should sit up and take notice. The graphics were simple but the game was truly awesome to play. They really don’t make them like they used to.
For some reason the ninja had a strange leaning back stance as if he was about to do a pelvic thrust, but that’s more than compensated by the ability to squat and look like you’re taking a dump on a dead guards head! Oh the hours I killed myself laughing just doing that!
It was one of the first games where you could truly lose yourself in the exploration of the buildings. There was a compulsion to find the hidden weapons and ladders to new areas, but it was vast and possibly one of the biggest appeals for me. Escapism.
Sure you could jump in to other games and play missons or race around tracks, but this allowed an effectively ‘free roam’.
It might not be ‘the’ first game to offer this, but it was the first one I enjoyed.
The escapism continues for me today in the GTA, Assassins Creed and Half-Life/Valve titles. Oh, and have we ever mentioned Borderlands?
There are a number of remakes and clones and if I find one I like I’ll let everyone know.
It has also been highlighted to me that there’s an Atari ‘Flashback’ console on the market right now, but demand is making it a little difficult to get hold of, and guess what? It has Saboteur as one of the fifty or so games that are included in the bundle.
Note: To anyone that loves me… BUY ME THIS FOR CHRISTMAS!