by Chris Stamper, Tim Stamper
Ultimate Play The Game
Crash Issue 21, Oct 1985   page(s) 10,11

Producer: Ultimate
Memory Required: 48K
Retail Price: £9.99
Language: Machine code
Author: Rare Ltd

Many moons ago in a hidden valley between the purple mountains and the seas of the Seven Islands there was a great calamity: darkness descended upon that land, evil overran all that was good and death and hunger spread. Those who remained became twisted and striken with evil and the village in that valley became possessed with powers so black that nobody dared enter.

Years later the story became leg end and only the songs and tales remained of those who had tried to enter the valley never to return... for those who trespass into the village become enslaved by the immense power of the evil Overlord.

After listening to the story of the battle with the forces of evil in the Nightshade village one night, you decide to set off down the valley... and thus the scene is set for the latest Ultimate game.

Nightshade is yet another arcade adventure utilising similar 'Filmation' programming techniques to those in Knight Lore and Alien 8. This gives a realistic 3D panoramic view of what's going on around you.

The program differs from the last two games in that the scenery scrolls rather than 'flicks' as you move from one location to another and there are no objects which you can shunt about and use whilst playing.

The game itself is set in a typical mediaeval village, complete with ancient looking houses, streets, barns, churches and the like. As you walk down the streets you can see the facias of the buildings in detail, with walls, gables and windows. If you like the look of a building then you can enter it through its door. When you do so the front of the buildinp will disappear showing what is behind - useful as it lets you see what you're doing.

Most of the buildings are connected so you can travel from one to the other by moving through the series of doors and rooms inside. Many of the buildings also have back doors allowing you to go through to the street behind.

Throughout the village there are loads of marauding thingies which rush after you and try to take one of your five men. Each man can be hit three times by a nasty, the fourth touch will resu it in him being lost. When you start with a new life he is white, when hit again he turns yellow, then green; the next touch after that turns him into a puff of smoke and he disappears.

The marauding thingies are all excellently animated and vary from small jelly like bacteria which slide along the ground to huge gremlin types which give chase waving their arms and generally disport themselves in a loathesome and revolting manner.

Your man looks a little like the knight from Atic Atac and he's extremely well animated as he wanders about. There are some nice touches too: for instance when he bangs into a wall he puts his hands up to protect himself. He's not defenceless either and can throw things at the nasties to protect himself as he travels around. These 'antibodies' (varying from sticks to what looks like the end of a mace) can be picked up from the rooms of just about any building. Running over them will automatically put them into a tube at the side of the screen. The tube only holds a limited number of objects so it has to be replenished very regularly to increase your (very slim) chances of survival. There are extra lives which can be picked up and there are also boots which, when collected, allow you to run at high speeds for a short while.

When you throw an antibody at a nasty it doesn't always kill it straight off. Some of the bigger ones need to be shot several times with an antibody. The gremlin, for example, splits into two smaller creatures which again have to be shot. The smaller creatures then turn into a bubbling mess which still gives chase until shot for the final time. Thankfully you don't have to go through this rigmarole every time you shoot something - most, like the flames, smaller sliding things and squat, toad-like creatures die immediately after being shot once.

The object of the game is to find and pick up the four super antibodies (bible, hammer, cross and egg timer). Once found you have to track down the four evil characters which run the show (the monk, the skeleton, the ghost and Mr Grimreaper) and throw the correct super antibody at it. If you can do that then the village will be freed from the evil which has ruled there for so long and everybody will live happily ever after... until the next Ultimate game, anyway!


Control keys: X/V/N left, C/B/M right, A/S/D/F/G forward, Q/W/E/R/T fire, CAPS SHIFT/BREAK SPACE pause
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Sinclair
Keyboard play: responsive
Use of colour: excellent
Graphics: excellent
Sound: good
Skill levels: one
Lives: five
Screens: a closely guarded secret, it seems

An Ultimate game is always something to look forward to - just wondering what it will be like is fun in itself. While loading I read the usual obscure Ultimate instructions which gave absolutely no hints; as with all the other Ultimate games the idea behind it is to in out what on earth you have to do! Nightshade is well up to their usual standards but unlike Knight Lore and Alien 8 it does not set new standards in programming. The idea of using the walls which flick out when you enter a building is a very good one but it tends to leave the screen rather blank. The graphics of the nasties and the village are very good with only a few attribute problems. Colour has been used effectively along with sound but don't expect anything too outstanding. Nightshade is likely to appeal to the younger games player or to people who are fed up with the latest state of arcade/adventure/strategies and want to play a simple game where you don't have to worry about how to crack certain codes etc. Overall it is a very good game with excellent graphics which makes a welcome change from all the complicated stuff which is being forced on us.

After Knight Lore and Alien 8 I wondered how far Ultimate could stretch the limitations of the Spectrum. It's now obvious that they've just about reached its peak - Nightshade doesn't differ much from the last two, and in fact I must say that I'm pretty disappointed with it. There aren't any objects you can jump round or shunt about, making the whole game seem rather flat and uninspiring. The game itself isn't too difficult - once you've got used to playing huge scores are easily reached. I can't really see it as many problems as Alien 8. Still, the game's bound to be a smash and even if it does sometimes rely on cheating (materialising a nasty on top of you so you can't do anything) it's good fun to play.

Nightshade is as I'd expect it to be. Yet another technically brilliant game from Ultimate. The graphics are stunning, cleverly using high resolution detail to good effect. Making the characters large enough to kill any attribute problems but still cramming them with detail is a good idea. The smoothness of the scrolling window was amazing for the amount of detail packed into it; there's been nothing like it yet on the Spectrum. Controlling the main sprite was a lot easier than controlling Sabreman in Knight Lore because of the new option for directional control. A great little touch was the cautious look over the shoulder our hero gives himself after moving off. The thing that confused me was the actual object of the game: 'oh, we can't tell you that' said a helpful voice at Fortress Ultimate in answer to our enquiry. I was also told, when asking how large the playing area was, 'It's pretty large'. All in all I can't say that I was as impressed as I have been in the past. I think compared to earlier releases it's lacking in playability. Nightshade is still very good though, and technically a lot better than anything else for the Spectrum.

Use of Computer: 82%
Graphics: 94%
Playability: 92%
Getting Started: 74%
Addictive Qualities: 86%
Value For Money: 90%
Overall: 91%

Summary: General Rating: Not quite up to Ultimate's usual standards but still a truly excellent and absorbing game.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Spectrum Issue 20, Nov 1985   page(s) 45


Plague and pestilence, death and destruction. You'll find them all in Ultimate's newie, Nightshade. Sounds like a job for Sabreman - with help from Teresa Maughan!

Imagine a deserted village, lost in time, enveloped by an evil force. Here, hideously foul creatures roam the streets, flesh falling from their rotting bodies. Sounds like the new Michael Jackson video, eh? It's actually the scenario for Nightshade.

The game is set in a world of death and decay. The only life forms are mad monks, gruesome ghouls, deadly demons and mutant monsters. It's your awesome task to release the Kingdom of Nightshade from the grips of an evil curse that's brought plague to the land. There are four objects for you to locate that'll wipe out the four main nasties and lift the curse.

Sounds simple, huh? Well, you'll have to avoid swarms of nasties such as lethal germs, gyrating blobs and maniacal meanies. Touch them and they'll infect you with the fatal disease - but fortunately you don't die straight away, you just turn a bit of a funny colour!

To defend yourself, you must go inside the rooms and collect various antibodies to fire at the nasties - but be warned, you've gotta be quick on the trigger.

The graphics are well up to the usual Ultimate standard. The village is built up of beautifully drawn houses - and as you enter them the walls disappear so you can check up on all that's happening inside. The gooks and goblins don't have the evil aspect that the scenario suggests but they sure are some of the cutest you're ever likely to encounter. And the scrolling is nothing short of superb - you won't have seen it faster or more flicker-free.

It has to be said, though, that Nightshade is a couple of steps back from Alien 8 and Knight Lore. As an arcade adventure, the adventure element is almost non-existent - the game is much more a good of shoot 'em-up with the added excitement of 3D scrolling and a vast area to wander around in. Trouble is you may find the game becomes tedious unless you're heavily into mindless alien bashing.

But having said that, you have to remember that Ultimate hasn't yet come up with a naff game - and though Nightshade's not their best, it certainly can't be classed as a duffer.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 51, Apr 1988   page(s) 85


From Ultimate's classics to the cute and quirky Head Over Heels, we've had our arcade adventures in the strange 3-D of isometric perspective.

But, says WILL BROOKER, some of those first tentative steps in the new dimension work better than today's glossy games.

Way, way back when Hungry Horace was still a national hero, 3D Ant Attack sneaked out under the Quicksilva label. Its Softsolid graphics of the walled desert city Antescher were hailed as astounding, and 3D Ant Attack wedged itself firmly into Spectrum history as the first game with truly three-dimensional views.

The next isometric blockbuster was Vortex's Android 2, released in the spring of 1984. In gameplay it's just a 3-D version of the old arcade game Berserk, but the graphics (which CRASH gave 96%) brought it up to this magazine's Game Of The Month standard.

Programmer Costa Panayi followed this up with the impressive TLL - a fighter-plane simulation with a carefully worked-out dynamic playing area. There's not a lot of game behind it, but the flying is enough.

The Softsolid technique was soon followed by the first 3-D 'adventure movie' - Hewson Consultants' The Legend Of Avalon. Its adventure element is a bit dubious, and the term 'arcade adventure' would be disputed for years after its release, but the game was a great success with its colourful, pseudoisometric graphics.

In 1985 the spate of high-quality isometric games continued: Ultimate's classic Knight Lore was followed by another Vortex game, Highway Encounter, and the next technical advance was Filmation 2. An Ultimate invention, this allows graphics of Knight Lore's quality to be scrolled smoothly over a large playing area. Filmation 2 was used for Ultimate's Nightshade, but was soon knocked into a cocked hat by The Edge's Fairlight.

Even back in the golden year of 1986 there were unimaginative clones which sometimes threatened to swamp all the review pages with their identical, and by then extremely boring, isometric screens. But some games brought a breath of fresh air to the already tired genre: the humorous Sweevo's World from Gargoyle Games, Ocean's surprise hit M.O.V.I.E, and Hewson's Quazatron. A Spectrum version of the Commodore 64 hit Paradroid, Quazatron amazed everyone by being superior to the original.

Not so original but also well-implemented was Ocean's Batman, and Quicksilva's Glider Rider deserves a mention along with Design Design's Rogue Trooper for taking a gamble and nearly succeeding.

Last year Ocean had a megahit with Head Over Heels, M.A.D. had a budget Smash with Amaurote, and Gargoyle brought out the first (and probably last) Hydromation game, Hydrofool - the sequel to Sweevo's World. CRL's 3D Gamemaker utility now enables everyone to rewrite Knight Lore, and last November saw the first real isometric adventure, Incentive's Karyssia.

Of course, whether isometric perspective presents a 'true' 3-D view is arguable - the player in these games is 'positioned'somewhere up in the air, outside the playing area, so any game using the technique looks forced, like a technical drawing. Though its representation of object and rooms may be highly effective, if we're going to nit-pick we can't say isometric perspective gives a realistic view.

But the technique has proved perfectly satisfactory for countless games, and it's pointless to damn them all for lack of realism.

More significantly, it will be interesting to see if the market for isometric graphics ever dries up, and if the public will one day reject the genre as outdated and overused, just as it once refused to accept any more Pacman clones.

91% Issue 21

Nightshade just scraped into the Smash bracket, and the autumn 1985 release is now generally considered to have marked the beginning of the end for the former masters of Spectrum software at Ultimate.

The gameplay's similar to Atic Atac's: wandering around the playing area (in this case a medieval town) destroying materialising nasties and collecting 'super antibodies' to kill off the four major villains. But the real star of Nightshade is the Filmation 2 technique, which scrolls the highly-detailed buildings about and lets you effectively see through the walls in a cut-away view whenever you pass behind them.

It's become a cliche that 'the trouble with Ultimate's games is that they have great graphics but no game bolted on', but in this case it's undeniably true. Though the pseudo-medieval atmosphere is strong and the characters are well-animated, Nightshade is extremely boring. It eventually boils down to searching in vain for the major villains, just for the dubious thrill of getting killed by them instead of by lesser monsters for a change.

Overall: 27%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 43, Oct 1985   page(s) 22

Publisher: Ultimate
Price: £9.95
Memory: 48K
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, cursor

Here comes Ultimate once more with the continuing saga of Sabre Man.

Nightshade is, as you might have begun to suspect, more of the same - the brilliant 3D graphics system of Knight Lore and Alien 8 juiced up and improved to simulate a mediaeval village. Somehow the programmers have managed to get colour into the screens.

In order to see your little hero in the narrow village lanes one or two walls drop out of the picture, remaining as white lines on the screen. That system does, however, allow for some wonderfully detailed views of inns, barns and the like.

As usual with Ultimate there is little information on what you are supposed to do. The village is said to have been possessed by a great evil, which turned the inhabitants into werewolves and other hideous creatures. Those monsters are some of the best yet, coming in a tremendous variety of shapes.

Your weapons lie in the village rooms and you collect various missiles to stock up your ammunition. Some will not do you much good - there are monsters which transmute into others if hit, or split into two, and it's going to take you some time to establish which does what to whom.

Meanwhile, there are four hyper-nasties - a mad monk, a skeleton, a ghost, and Mr Grimreaper, death himself. They are scattered about the village, and must, we suppose, be sought out and destroyed, presumably with four special objects, the eggtimer, Bible, Hammer and Cross.

The game is well-paced - very much an arcade-style production compared to the logic puzzles of the two earlier Filmation games.

On the other hand, there is a sense of deja vu creeping into Ultimate games. It's now well over a year since Sabre Man first appeared, and the concept is wearing a little thin.

Nightshade looks a lot different from Knight Lore and Alien 8, but not so different as to stifle doubts that Ultimate may be running out of steam. Or dare we hope for something really special this side of Christmas?

Overall: 5/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 70, Jan 1988   page(s) 91

Label: Ricochet
Author: Ultimate
Price: £1.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Tony Dillon

Now he's back, in Nightshade. Yes, in Nightshade you take the role of the guy with the funny hat who has to clear a town of disease by collecting the antibodies and slinging them at the germs found in various buildings dotted around. The animation is crisp, as with all Ultimate filmation games, with one difference in this town, it scrolls, not flips. The graphics are excellent too, with some funny spots.

All round, a totally sponditious game. Right on Rick (O'Shea).

Overall: 8/10

Summary: Another great Ultimate rerelease from Mastertronic. In its day Ultimate was without rival.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 49, Nov 1985   page(s) 22

MACHINE: Spectrum
SUPPLIER: Ultimate
PRICE: £9.95

Well, they've done it again! Just when you thought Ultimate had squeezed the last out of their famous 3D maze/puzzle games, the C+VG Golden Joystick award winners pull something new out of the bag.

Ultimate's latest is set in a strange plague ridden village called Nightshade. The village has been blighted by an evil force which has transformed the villagers into a bunch of demons, vampires and other foul creatures.

Your job is to lift the curse on the village. Simple, eh? No, not really! In true Ultimate style the solution to the cursed village is left entirely up to the player.

The graphics - mysterious deserted half timbered houses and odd assorted demons are great. Sound effects are up to standard for the virtually dumb Spectrum and game play is just great fun.

Actually a brief spin among the monsters and I've discovered that your brave adventurer can pick up antibodies from within the haunted houses to protect himself. You can use them to zap a few monsters.

Contact with the minor monsters drains your strength - but should you come into contact with the nasty Mr Grimreaper you're done for.

Another nice touch is that you can switch your angle of view with a touch of a key. Useful to prevent monsters creeping up behind you.

Nightshade is another instant classic from Ultimate - it'll keep you guessing for some time. But how long can they keep using a similar format for their games?

Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 9/10
Value: 9/10
Playability: 10/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue 10, Oct 1985   page(s) 29,31

Arcade Adventure

"Very pretty" splutter the wretched cynics from SlamBang Software every time Ultimate launches a new masterpiece "but" and here you sniff a whiff of vinegar "it's not a game". Well Nightshade is the prettiest show from the Zouche with Filmation II allowing you to smoothly scroll where no Spectrum has scrolled before.

As your knight errant walks through the 3D village maze, walls disappear leaving a line on the floor to remind you not to bump your nose. You must collect four charms to wipe out four plagues but your quest is hampered by some of the zaniest monsters ever.

These range from lower forms - lampshades, fizzers, slimes and blobs and supermonsters including a Chelsea supporter - well it looks like one, waving a scarf above its head, except that it has not noticed that the scarf has been knicked so it still gormlessly waves its mits in the air - mohicans, mini-mohicans and owls.

Stop reading now if you want to stay honest. Otherwise - you can collect a stack of antibodies to fire at monsters. Antibodies come in four delicious flavours - maces, spinning crosses, whirlpools and cucumber slices.

Any of these will kill the lowlife but beware if you hit an owl with a mace or a mohican with a whirlpool, a hooligan with a cucumber or a mini-moke with a cross, they turn into lowlife. Firing a cucumber at an owl turns it into a mohican which splits to cause double trouble if you hit it again. Likewise whirlpools turn mini-mokes into owls and split on a second hit, while crosses turn mohicans into hooligans before splitting, and maces turn hooligans into mini-mokes which split.

Stepping on a banana skin speeds you up and bottles restore your life. I said this genetic engineering sounded dangerous. And so to the plagues. An egg-timer will kill the grim reaper, hammer kills skeleton, crucifix kills monk and bible kills ghost. When you are close to your target the charm flashes. So much for problem-solving. Very pretty, technically brilliant, but ultimately not much of a game. Nightshade has finally turned this Alien 8 fanatic into a cynic.

Overall: 3/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 44, Nov 1985   page(s) 25

Latest in the saga of Sabre Man takes him into a haunted village. The 3D graphics of Knight Lore are juiced up further to display the streets of Nightshade, with colour and an ingenious transparent wall system to allow you to see into the narrow lanes.

Enter buildings and collect weapons to rid the village of the evil that infests it. Monsters run riot, and are in Ultimate's best grotesque tradition. Nightshade is fast, very much a zap game compared to recent offerings, and clearly another winner. A year ago, Ultimate reigned supreme - can the graphics wizards hold their place at the top? Nightshade makes it a close battle.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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