|Developer(s)||Tim and Chris Stamper|
|Publisher(s)||Ultimate Play the Game|
|Mode(s)||Single player, 2 players (hotseat)|
Pssst is an action video game developed and published by Ultimate Play the Game that was released for the ZX Spectrum in June 1983. In the game, Robbie the Robot has to protect his plant (a Thyrgodian Megga Chrisanthodil) as it is attacked by various insects, each of which needs a different repellent to neutralise it. Pssst was the second game to be released by Ultimate, after Jetpac.
The game was written by Chris Stamper and graphics were designed by his brother, Tim Stamper. Pssst was one of the very few Spectrum games also available in ROM format for use with the Interface 2, allowing "instantaneous" loading of the game (the normal method of cassette loading could take several minutes). The game received positive reviews from two publications upon release, with critics mainly praising its presentation and gameplay. It was placed 40th on the "Best Selling Software" list by Personal Computer Games in December 1983.
The game is presented from a single, 2D perspective, and revolves around Robbie the Robot's objective to defend his plant from interstellar space slugs. The plant grows from a pot at the bottom centre of the screen, and spray cans containing three different pesticides are located on ledges on each side of the screen. Bonus items such as fertiliser and spades appear on unoccupied ledges which will increase both the players score and the plant's growth rate.
There are three types of coloured insect, and three types of pesticide, which will either kill, stun, or have no effect on the insects. The player can only carry one type of pesticide at a time; during the early stages of the game the lethal pesticide can be carried at all times, but later stages have more than one type of insect on screen at once, making the choice of pesticide more tactical.
As the plant grows, it will sprout leaves; these both increase the growth rate and increase its vulnerability to the insects. Once the plant reaches a predetermined height, the player will be able to advance to the next level. A life will be deducted whenever the plant dies or the player makes contact with an insect.
Ashby Computers and Graphics was founded by brothers Tim and Chris Stamper, along with Tim's wife, Carol, from their headquarters in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in 1982. Under the trading name of Ultimate Play the Game, they began producing multiple video games for the ZX Spectrum throughout the early 1980s. Prior to founding Ultimate, the Stamper brothers had backgrounds in designing arcade machines, but failed to market their games successfully. The company were known for their reluctance to reveal details about their operations and upcoming projects. Little was known about their development process except that they used to work in "separate teams"; one team would work on development whilst the other would concentrate on other aspects such as sound or graphics.
Pssst was one of the few Spectrum games also available in ROM format for use with the Interface 2, allowing "instantaneous" loading of the game when the normal method of cassette loading could take several minutes. The game used the common technique of placing planar sprites with image sprites atop another, which often created graphical errors and overlapped colours on the console. Pssst was also able to run on the 16K version of the Spectrum.
Paul Liptrot of Home Computing Weekly praised the graphics, stating them as overall "smooth-moving" and colourful, as well as praising the "addictive" gameplay. In the second issue of Personal Computer Games, the game was placed 40th on the its best selling software list. In the fourth issue of Personal Computing Games, Pssst was nominated for a 1983 game of the year list on account of Ultimate's "famous graphics". According to the reviewer, other attributes of the game included its "originality" and "fun" in comparison to other Ultimate titles that were released in 1983. In a retrospective review, a reviewer of Retro Games! Now summarised that the game "was not the best" of Ultimate's releases for the ZX Spectrum, despite considering it to be "less lauded" than the others. However, they considered Pssst to be a "taste of things to come" and a significant improvement over the "clunky" and "jumpy" animation of previous games for the ZX Spectrum.
- Gilbert, John (March 1984), "Interface Games are Fast but not Furious", Sinclair User (EMAP) (24): 54–55
- "PSST is this the Ultimate?", Personal Computer Games (1), June 1983: 5
- Liptrot, Paul (12 July 1983). "Pssst review". Home Computing Weekly (19): 33. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
- Kean, Roger (April 1988). "The Best of British – Ultimate". Crash (Newsfield Publications). Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- "ZX Interface 2 direct by mail". Popular Computing Weekly 2 (40): 1. 6 October 1983. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
- Stafford, Graham (June 1986). "Game Design". Crash (Newsfield Publications). Retrieved 22 August 2015.
- "PCG Soft Hits list". Personal Computer Games (2): 12. December 1983. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
- "Search hots up for game of 1983". Personal Computer Games (4): 25. September 1983. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
- "Pssst – retrospective review". Retrogameshow. 16 August 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2015.