Review: Z-Exemplar


z-exemplar copyI’ve said many times before (but I’ll say it again) that the ZX Spectrum is an incredibly important part of my life. It was my first home computer and many an hour was spent playing some wonderful games that I still remember some 35 years after my dad brought home my shiny ZX Spectrum + with Beach Head, Hungry Horace and Return of the Jedi: Death Star Battle. In fact, whenever anyone mentions the ZX Spectrum, I go all gooey eyed and my mind drifts off to a simpler time where I am sat on the living room floor clutching my Quickshot Turbo joystick, utterly enthralled with the games that I loved playing.

Side scrolling shooters were a staple from that era, in fact, I’ve written about some of my favourite games in that genre such as Apidya and UN Squadron. There are plenty of other classics including R-Type, Scramble and Defender but, a game that I loved which you don’t really hear many people talk about was called Zynaps, developed by Hewson Consultants.

Z-Exemplar is special for several reasons and is clearly a labour of love for the developer Suminell Studios, who possibly had similar experiences to myself growing up.

The game is a side-scrolling shooter where you play the dashing hero conquering the universe. I soon found Z-Exemplar to be filled with some great typical British humour, and I chuckled during the amusing introduction which sets up your quest.

Even the tutorial had me grinning from ear to ear as it explains the core mechanics of the game. I won’t spoil the surprise but, let me just say that some classic characters from the ZX Spectrum are used in explosive ways.

You are presented with a map of the universe with your space station at the centre. Initially there are very few planets as it only shows those which are in your vicinity however, the more planets you conquer, the more areas become available to explore. As you decide which planet to tackle next, information is displayed about how hostile it is and your chances of success.

Although the game is easy to play it is also deceptively deep and features 21 different upgrades for your ship. There is a standard attack but, holding down the fire button enables one of your three special attacks. As you can imagine, the game is very frantic so it becomes quite tactical deciding when to unlock one of your upgrades, as you are left vulnerable for a second or two. There is currency which you collect by shooting down enemies, which helps unlock your special attacks and means you can buy even more upgrades.

Don’t be fooled by the graphics because the controls of your ship are really tight and you always feel in full control of your actions. The game can be very challenging but it is also very addictive with that ‘just one more go’ feeling. As well as Z-Exemplar playing fantastically well, trust me when I say it will keep you busy for a while as it features 961 planets to conquer. I recently played for an hour and only got 0.7% done!

Z-Exemplar is beautifully presented with a wonderful 8-bit style and fantastic chip tunes, which gave me a warm nostalgic feeling. There is even a quick loading screen in-between levels and despite being able to turn it off, I kept it on as it evoked memories of watching games load, slowly anticipating the screen fill up and the excitement of what was to come.

I had a smile on my face the whole time I was playing Z-Exemplar, as it was like stepping into a time machine where I was transported back to being that little boy, sat on the living room floor playing on my beloved ZX Spectrum. If you are a fan of side scrolling shooters and loved the ZX Spectrum, then do yourself a favour and buy this game as you will not be disappointed!

Please be sure to follow @suminellstudios on twitter and check out for updates and where to buy the game.

  • Formats: PC, Mac, iOS & Android
  • Current Price: £3.99 on Steam, £3.99 on Apple Store, £2.99 on Google Play Store,
  • Developer: Suminell Studios
  • Release Date: 25th November 2016

PC version review by Chris (co-host of 60 Minutes with and The Same Coin) from a code kindly supplied by Suminell Studios.