• Graeme Mason

Antstream Arcade: The Clone Wars


When it came to arcade licences, the Eighties were a wild ride for owners of home computers such as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. While the official games began to filter through by 1985, unendorsed versions of classic arcade games were common in the early days of the decade. We have plenty of official-licensed arcade games available on Antstream Arcade – but if you want to experience what home developers were up to when the lawyers weren’t looking then we’ve also got a range of Spectrum and Commodore 64 games ‘inspired’ by their arcade forebears. This is the Clone Wars of Antstream Arcade!


Aftermath – ZX Spectrum

Inspired by – Missile Command

The nuclear missiles of Atari’s Missile Command rain down on the player’s cities and this theme of ballistic destruction forms the incongruously named Spectrum game Aftermath from Alternative Software. As in the arcade cocktail cabinet classic, eradication of the deadly missiles is imperative before they reach the vulnerable domes below – only you stand between your people and the terrible fate of utter nuclear devastation!


Crazy Erbert – ZX Spectrum & Commodore 64

Inspired by – Q*Bert

Released into British arcade in 1983, Q*Bert is an idiosyncratic arcade game thanks to its highly unusual game screen, a triangular pile of Escher style blocks upon which the strange trumpet-nosed being known as Q*Bert lives. Crazy Erbert cheekily swipes part of the name and pays homage to the original arcade machine with plenty of wacky gameplay and innate oddness. What else is there to say other than “@!#?@!”?


Galencia – Commodore 64

Inspired by – Galaga

Unlike the other games in this list, this game harks from more recent times – 2017. Taking its cue from the Galaga family of arcade games, the most significant part of Galencia is the ability to create a powerful double fighter by allowing a particular type of enemy to capture one of your craft. With its varied levels and compelling mechanics – the asteroid section in particular offers a critical risk/reward motivation for the player – this is great shoot-‘em-up, ripped from the arcades of 35 years earlier.


Grebit – Commodore 64 & ZX Spectrum

Inspired by – Frogger

Few videogame concepts come any simpler or more peaceful than Frogger. Stuck at the bottom of the screen with an increasingly busy road and river to cross, Frogger quickly became a smash hit for arcade owners upon release. Grebit is an excellent clone of the Konami hit with the Commodore 64 version just edging its rival, the ZX Spectrum.


Hungry Horace – ZX Spectrum

Inspired by – Pac Man

The Horace games were an early attempt to create a saleable mascot for the ZX Spectrum computer, and this is the first game in the series. The more famous Horace Goes Skiing combines a simple Frogger clone to its skiing simulation; Hungry Horace skims Namco’s renowned dot munching classic Pac-Man, only with some perversely tricky mazes, often trapping the player down dangerous dead ends.


The Muncher – Commodore 64

Inspired by – Rampage

Both inspiration and homage are available on Antstream Arcade in the case of The Muncher. If destroying cities as an over-sized monster is your thing then you can scratch the itch with arcade game Rampage before transforming into a marauding dinosaur on the Commodore 64. Gremlin’s game was originally a standalone title known as T-Wrecks before the Chewits licence was stuck to its cover. Roar!


Penetrator – ZX Spectrum

Inspired by – Scramble

As an early progenitor of the shoot-‘em-up genre, Scramble has been a tabletop LED game and inspired a legion of copycats. This 1982 Spectrum game from Melbourne House is one of the more well-known, and even includes the landscape editor that its programmers used to design the levels. It’s a decent shooter, too, and well worth investigating if you’re a fan of Scramble.


Pengon – Commodore 64

Inspired by – Pengo

Block-shoving puzzle game Pengo instigated a huge wave of similar games on the 8-bit computers thanks to its authentically addictive central concept of squishing enemies by pushing blocks against them. The Commodore 64 game Pengon – yes, they just added an ‘n’ to the end of the name – gleefully snatches the idea, and it’s a decent attempt at bringing Pengo to the computer. Also see Codemasters’ Kwik Snax.


Pheenix – ZX Spectrum

Inspired by – Phoenix

Taito’s fixed shooter Phoenix is another pathfinding early Eighties arcade game, boasting a novel boss fight as well as multiple colourful enemies. One hit wonder Megadodo – aka programmer Martin Ward – dropped the ‘o’ and added an ‘e’, creating one of the finest arcade homages on the ZX Spectrum. Colourful and extremely control-responsive, Pheenix is an instantly accessible arcade classic that Spectrum fans can now enjoy on Antstream Arcade.


West Bank – ZX Spectrum & Commodore 64

Inspired by – Bank Panic

For our last clone we venture back to the Wild West with the Bally Midway arcade game Bank Panic. In the thankless – and rather lethal – role of town sheriff, the player rotates around the bank’s twelve numbered doors, shooting any varmint who appears from within while avoiding innocents. Gremlin’s West Bank openly riffs on the concept, is available on both ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 on Antstream Arcade and is a very fine game in its own right.

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