• Graeme Mason

The Antstream Arcade Archive: The Plot

In our latest Antstream Arcade Archive feature, we look at another specific game from the Antstream Arcade retro gaming vault, giving you the lowdown on its story, gameplay, tips and more. This month, with Guy Fawkes Night just around the corner, we proudly present the ZX Spectrum game The Plot, also known as The Gunpowder Plot.



So what’s it about?


Aliens have invaded Earth, and it’s up to you to repel them in your sturdy laser cannon. The fate of the planet is in your hands.



Wait. What?


Only joking! It’s November 4th, 1605, and English Catholics have had enough of their persecution under the Protestant King James I. Led by Robert Catesby, a group of men infiltrate The Houses Of Parliament, placing a huge pile of explosives in a rented undercroft (cellar) beneath the building. Sitting next to 36 barrels of gunpowder – enough to completely obliterate The Houses Of Parliament – is Guy Fawkes, diligently guarding the kegs until the state opening the following day. Unfortunately for Fawkes and his fellow conspirators, he was discovered during a search and disaster was avoided.



So, I have to catch Guy Fawkes, right?


Oh no – you ARE Guy Fawkes! The Plot puts the player in the role of the infamous saboteur (or rather, attempted saboteur), skulking around The Houses Of Parliament and preparing to blow the troublesome king sky-high. We know from history that Fawkes and his pals fail in their plot – this game gives you a chance to rewrite history and succeed in assassinating James I.



Crikey! Should I assume this involves more than just lighting a match?


Unfortunately so. The Plot is a flick-screen platform game as Fawkes explores The Houses Of Parliament, picking up carelessly strewn sticks of dynamite. Collect eight sticks, and it’s enough for a barrel; compile eight barrels, and it’ll ensure there’s nothing left of the building and king save for some rubble and ash. Fawkes can also pick up fireworks to use them against his enemies.



I imagine the locals aren’t exactly pleased to see me.


Somewhat bizarrely, there are no guards in this Spectrum version of The Houses Of Parliament – instead, a vast flock of bats is Fawkes’s primary opponent. Fortunately, our little pyromaniac can light his fireworks and zap the enemies, giving him a free run throughout the room. Fawkes begins the game at the entrance of the building, and there are 49 locations to explore, including a batty belfry and slimy dungeons.


How was The Plot received back in the day?


Your Sinclair reviewed The Plot in issue 30 of June 1988. “The Plot is pretty simple stuff, but it does hold a tough challenge,” noted the anonymous reviewer. While mentioning that the player effectively takes on the role of a terrorist/freedom fighter (delete as appropriate), it concluded that The Plot was one of the better budget games around at the time. Released by Firebird on its Silver Bird range, The Plot retailed for a pocket-money friendly £1.99, although, naturally, you can play it for free on Antstream Arcade.



I’m ready to alter history. Can you give me some tips on how to help Guy Fawkes in his, erm, noble cause?


Fawkes can enter doors by facing them (his back to the screen) and going up, and you can keep track of visited locations with the helpful map in the top right-hand corner. It’s best to work out early on which are the trickiest screens and could therefore use the assistance of a firework rocket or catherine wheel. Once down in the dungeons, don’t panic if you’re seemingly trapped: a helpful small boat constantly sails on the river below The House Of Parliament. Head down to the jetty, and Fawkes can hop on and off as he needs to. Finally, once Fawkes has assembled all the dynamite, he can head back to the start screen and light a special firework, causing a massive explosion and thus changing the course of history.


The control selection screen is very appropriate.


Indeed. 417 years later, we continue to celebrate the attempted demolition of The Houses Of Parliament with bonfires and fireworks. The Plot’s menu screen colourfully celebrates the latter.



What happens if I fail?


Don’t ask.


Thank you for reading - watch out for another blast from the Antstream Arcade Archive soon, and happy bonfire night!

To discuss The Plot and every other game on Antstream Arcade, head over to the Antstream Arcade Discord channel.


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