In the run up to the launch of the extremely exciting ZX Spectrum Next, as well as reviewing old issues of Your Spectrum and Your Sinclair, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the games that made me fall in love with the ZX Spectrum in the first place back in the 80s. Not just the big hitters but some of the more obscure early games too.

I was six years old when my Dad brought home our first ZX Spectrum 48k, and I was transfixed. This magical little black box filled me with wonder and as we acquired more games I was hooked. Looking back on some of those early games now, it’s often crazy to think how much they held our attention. They look very, very basic. And yet some of them are still very playable today. Take Derby Day for example.

Obviously nowadays betting on horse racing can be done in a number of ways. Lots of people, like myself, jump on a betting app to put an annual wager on the famous Grand National race each year. Some will get their horse racing results from a website. But back in 1983, if you were a child, the best way to get your horse racing fix was to either put some pennies into those physical horse racing games down the arcade (which I also loved), or play Derby Day on your Spectrum.

Derby Day was published by CRL Group PLC in 1983, and on the face of it looks like a very basic game, but it is surprisingly fun to play. A lot of the interface of the game is that very basic Spectrum screen where you just have a few lines of basic text against a block colour background. But it offers hidden depths. You play the role of a punter betting on horse races. The computer plays as ‘Honest Clive’ (never trust anyone with a name like that) and gives you a list of horses and odds that you can choose from and bet however many pounds you want to bet. You can also choose to play the game using 100 pence instead of £100 (as a way to make the betting angle more suitable for young kids, I assume). You then get to watch the horses race. For small 8-bit graphics, staccato animation and no music, the tension is surprisingly high! I may throw this game on next time my retro buddies are round having beers. I reckon it could get quite exciting. I certainly remember screaming things like “COME ON YOGI BEAR!” when I was playing this back in the day. I’m not sure how ‘random’ the winners are, but you never know who is going to win.

What makes the game even more immersive is that it allows you to put your names into the game, and there is even a mode where you can name your horses too. Hours of fun. I remember absolutely loving this game when I was younger. So simple, yet so immersive. Definitely one of my early classic Spectrum memories.

Thank you to zxspectrumgames4 for the YouTube video.