White Light – A review
Retro Software www.retrosoftware.co.uk
In the dim and distant past my parents bought a BBC B, a Sanyo colour monitor, 80 track disk drive and an Epson RX80 F/T printer. Cost a small fortune as you can imagine. Over the next several years I saved my pocket money, Christmas and birthday cash and spent it mostly on software, slowly gathering quite a collection. Predictably, since I was a teenage boy, most of this software were games, despite my father declaring,
”This computer is not a games machine!”
I begged to differ of course. I was always more a fan of action games than adventures, though Twin Kingdon Valley I especially enjoyed playing. Standout games for me were Arcadians, Planetoid, Thrust, The Sentinel, Psycastria, Elite, Exile and Fire Track.
Now, some three decades on my old BBC B and everything which went with it is long gone. Sacrificed on the altar of IBM PC compatibility. I’m married now with two children, the oldest, just a little younger than I was when I had my first beeb. Over the years I have managed to pick up the odd replacement along the way, to revisit the old kit and these days I have a Master Turbo, a BBC B+ 64 (which came free with my wife) and my most
recent addition, A Master Compact on which I’m writing these words. It still surprises me how much interest there is in these old 8-bit computers. There are forums and Facebook groups dedicated to Acorn kit all over the Internet and support and advice is only a message post away. All that said, I was amazed that new software is still being produced.
So, what is White Light?
White Light is a brand new game from Retro Software.
It will be instantly familiar to anyone who has ever played Fire Track, Nick Pellings’ almost legendary scrolling space shooter, one of my favourite games back in the day and one of the reasons I grabbed a copy of this. In fact White Light is pitched as an unofficial sequel. Here the title refers to the Galaxy’s greatest energy source. It’s been stolen by the Industrial Pirates and you must find it and destroy the pirates.
The game takes place on a beautifully detailed industrial themed scrolling landscape. You control your ship with the usual keys, z, x, *, ? and RETURN. Though the SHIFT key is a very useful bomb button when you find yourself in a tight spot. It destroys everything on the screen. Use them sparingly, you don’t have many. You can redefine the keys if you prefer and there is a joystick option should you wish. I was always more of a keyboard gamer so the default keys suit me fine. Hitting SPACE or fire on your joystick starts the game. Your main focus is to shoot the approaching ships before they shoot you first or just simply crash into you. They follow some familiar flight paths to Fire Track but there are also some differences. There are targets to shoot along the landscape as you go for extra points and a handy laser-upgrading power up is available to do extra damage. Graphical attention to detail is impressive. The background scrolling and star field are silky smooth and unlike Fire Track you can’t see through the landscape when you blow up one of the surface features. A minor criticism of the afore mentioned game I seem to recall. Nor does your ship’s gun continuously fire, I never saw the point in that. White Light features some nice touches such as a high score table, which if you write-enable the disc allows it to be saved, and keeping your weapons power-ups when you move up to the next level.
It’s obvious from just a few minutes playing this game that a lot of care and effort has been put into its creation. A project taking several years to complete, producing a very polished game.
So what might a child of the Playstation era think of a game like this running on one of Dad’s curious old computers?
My eldest Tom has played a few beeb games before, his current favourite being Kevin Edwards’ Crazee Rider, the first game I bought with extra graphics and music on the Master 128.
After a few goes, slowly getting the hang of the controls, Tom’s verdict was,
”This game is hard. But in a good way!”
Whenever the Compact is switched on, he keeps going back to it.
White Light is a high quality product. Superbly programmed by Sarah Walker with detailed graphics by John Blythe. I’ve no doubt this would have been a big hit back in the day. Game play is wonderful, getting steadily more challenging as the levels progress, rather than being way too easy or astonishingly difficult. Zarch on the Archimedes fell squarely in the latter category! The game music is wonderfully atmospheric. Though the sound chip in the Beeb is no SID chip it does have a charm of its own and this release uses it most effectively. The packaging is professionally produced and fits in nicely on the shelf with the games of old. If you still run a BBC B or a Master and enjoy a spot of gaming then make White Light a part of your collection. It’s brilliant to see software development still happening on the BBC; a computer so far beyond its designed operating lifetime, and that deserves to be applauded and supported. Fine work Retro Software. Very fine work indeed.
White Light is available from www.retrosoftware.co.uk on 5.25” & 3.5” floppy disc for use on real BBC Micro’s, Masters and Master Compacts and a download has also been made available to run on a Beeb Emulator.
Incidentally, if you’re wondering how I got these words from a 30 year old computer onto a modern blog page here’s how I did it.
- Bashed words into the Master Compact using Acornsoft’s View word processor.
- Saved the file as a plain text or ASCII file to a 3.5” floppy disc using
View’s ‘WRITE’ command.
- Read floppy disc in my Acorn RiscPC and import ASCII file into the Easi
Writer word processor.
- Tweak the formatting then save the file as a Microsoft Word document to an MS-DOS formatted floppy disc.
- Read the floppy in to Word on a Windows PC and upload to blog site.
A bit of a convoluted process I’ll admit. Next time I’ll hook up my BBC to PC serial cable and squirt the text directly across to the PC and straight into a word processor.