Ant Attack

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Ant Attack
Ant Attack cassette cover art
Cover art
Developer(s) Sandy White
Publisher(s) Quicksilva
Engine Softsolid 3D
Platform(s) ZX Spectrum
Commodore 64
Release date(s) 1983 (Spectrum)
1984 (Commodore 64)
Genre(s) Action
Mode(s) Single player

Ant Attack is a ZX Spectrum computer game by Sandy White. It was published in 1983 by Quicksilva, and converted to the Commodore 64 in 1984. It was written almost entirely, by hand, in Z80 machine code,[1] with some incidental routines added using Sinclair BASIC.[2]

The same type of isometric projection was used in Sandy White's later Zombie Zombie.

Summary[edit]

The player controls either a boy or a girl (the game allows you to choose at the start) who has to enter the walled city of Antescher (a reference to the artist M. C. Escher) in order to rescue their significant other who has been captured and tied up somewhere in the city. The city is inhabited by giant ants which chase and attempt to bite the player. The player can defend themselves by throwing grenades at the ants. Once the hostage is rescued, the two must escape the city. After this, the whole thing starts again with the hostage located in a different part of the city, with each location being progressively more difficult to reach than the previous.

While both Q*bert and Zaxxon used isometric projection, the shading and extra degree of freedom (ability to go up and down instead of just north, south, east and west) introduced in Ant Attack were innovative for personal computer games of the time. The author himself has proposed that it "was the first true isometric 3D game".[3]

Ant Attack was the first game to allow the player to choose either a male or female player character. The game was also the first title developed with the action viewable from an isometric perspective, pre-dating Knight Lore by a year. According to the staff of video game magazine Edge it "marked the very beginnings of the survival horror genre".[4]

Almost all of the game code, including all of the main routines, was written by hand on paper using assembler mnemonics, then manually assembled,[3] with the resulting hexadecimal digits typed sequentially into an external EEPROM emulator device (aka SoftROM[5] or "softie") attached to a host Spectrum.[1] Similarly, the character graphics and other custom sprites were all hand-drawn on squared paper and manually converted to strings of hex data, although this was at the time a relatively common method of creating sprite graphics. Additionally, some minor add-on routines such as high score registration were finally added on to the core game using regular Sinclair BASIC.[2]

Reception[edit]

Ant Attack in play

The game was nominated in the 1983 Golden Joystick Awards for Best Original Game of the Year, eventually coming second to Ah Diddums.[6] The ZX Spectrum version was rated number 14 in the Your Sinclair Official Top 100 Games of All Time.[7]

Easter Eggs[edit]

A female player jumping near the cube (ZX Spectrum version).

In the ZX Spectrum version, the empty area outside of the city walls to the southeast has a cube with the word "AMMO" written on its sides (one letter per side; as only two sides are visible at once, seeing the whole sequence requires rotating the camera view). This was a spare sprite with no active part in the gameplay - however, it was used as part of a promotional telephone competition metagame in conjunction with several national newspapers, where hints were given via entries in the classfied adverts section, with the prize going to the first contestant to call through having found both the box and all four companion spawn points on the final level.[8] It also apparently shares a sprite allocation (although not its appearance!) with the grenade used by the player character,[9] and thus disappears if a grenade is thrown - not that likely an occurrence when the box is actually on screen, however, as there are no enemies to attack.

Additionally, the author's initials (SW) and a copyright symbol (©) are drawn in an upper corner of the map, using the same block graphics as the "normal" buildings.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Video interview with Sandy White". Youtube. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Comments guestbook with owner's replies, page one". Sandy White personal homepage. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Sandy White. "Sandy White - an Ant Attack homepage". Archived from the original on 6 April 2006. Retrieved 2006-03-28. 
  4. ^ Edge staff (2009-07-31). "The Making Of: Ant Attack". Edge. Retrieved 2009-12-08. 
  5. ^ "SoftROM mini feature, Issue 2, March 1984". Your Sinclair online archive. 
  6. ^ "The Golden Joystick Award", C&VG, Issue 29
  7. ^ "Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time". Your Sinclair. September 1993. 
  8. ^ "Letters page, Issue 4, June 1983". Your Spectrum online archive. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  9. ^ Cartwright, Tyrone. "Hacking 3D Ant Attack". 3D Ant Attack PC Remake website. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 

External links[edit]