Retro Review: PSSST
Platform: ZX Spectrum
Publisher: Ultimate Play The Game
Developer: Ashby Computer Graphics Ltd
It’s no understatement to say that Tim and Chris Stamper have left a huge mark not only on the video game industry but also on me. I grew up with their games and any self-respecting video game fan (of a certain age) will have heard of Ultimate Play the Game and Rare.
They have created some absolutely classic video games and I believe this is why Rare Replay, which was released last year on Xbox One, was so popular with fans. The first game I tried when I fired it up was Sabre Wulf and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was nearly in tears playing this game some 30 years after I originally played it. Such was the wave of emotion remembering being 8 years old, sitting on the floor with my ZX Spectrum in front of me, loading up Sabre Wulf on the cassette player, and playing it for hours and hours.
Even at a young age you become familiar with brands and the Ultimate logo became synonymous with fantastic games. JetPac, Lunar Jetman, Atic Atac and Tranz Am kept me entertained for a very long time.
Out of the ashes of Ultimate came Rare and again the Stampers would entertain and influence a new generation of gamers. They pushed the boundaries in terms of graphics and gameplay with such amazing games as Donkey Kong Country, Blast Corps, Goldeneye 007, Diddy Kong Racing and Perfect Dark. It seemed like everything they touched turned to gold especially with my all-time favourite game from Rare; Banjo-Kazooie.
A lot of people have said that Rare haven’t produced the same level of quality since their acquisition by Microsoft but there are still some great games in their catalogue like Viva Pinata and Kameo: Elements of Power. Most of the games I’ve mentioned and more can be enjoyed on the amazing Rare Replay and I totally recommend you pick it up or at the very least read my review here.
One of the games I haven’t mentioned by Ultimate but one that I loved as a child was a game called PSSST. The reason I chose to review this title above the others is because whenever I mention the game to anyone it seems like I’m the only one who has heard of it, let alone played it.
Like a lot of the best games the premise is very simple but the addictive nature of the gameplay is what keeps you hooked. You control Robbie the Robot and his job is to protect a flower from all manner of creepy crawlies that want to gobble it up.
You move around a single screen where a tiny flower is growing in the middle. There are shelves on both sides of the screen with three aerosol cans coloured yellow, red and blue. Each can has its own type of pesticide and can affect the bugs in different ways.
Initially the game is very simple with slugs slowly moving towards the plant intent on munching its luscious green leaves. Quite quickly though the game becomes very tricky as different enemies appear meaning you frantically have to switch between the cans as they nibble at your poor plant.
One of the things I’ve always loved about PSSST is watching your plant grow. Leaves sprout from the stem of the plant as it gradually gets bigger and if you manage to fend off the bugs the plant will sprout a huge flower signifying the end of the level. Of course as the bugs attack the plant it shrinks and you lose a life if it is completely eaten.
PSSST is still really fun and most importantly of all very playable some 33 years after its original release. Considering that this game is made within the restrictions of 16k of memory it is pretty astonishing what they achieved. Let’s just put that in perspective, nowadays people send basic emails bigger than the size of this game and for that reason alone I think it deserves some recognition.
Graphics – Very simple by today’s standards but everything is really nicely defined with the plant, Robbie the Robot and the different bugs looking great. It is also very colourful. 5
Sound – There is hardly any music or sound in the game but it’s hard to be critical of a game that is 33 years old and has less memory than your average email. 3
Playability – PSSST is a really simple fun game that will have you tearing your hair out but it also has that one more go factor. 6
Re-Playability – I was astonished that PSSST played so well considering its age and I really enjoyed replaying it after all these years. 6
Overall – Although PSSST may not be an all-time classic game, it means a lot to me and I’m so pleased that it still plays well. It took me back to a more innocent time in my life when I was first discovering the joys of video games. If you have any memories of the game then I would recommend you go back and try it out for old time sake. 5