Since posting a few pics of one of my Spectrum Six Packs on Instagram and Twitter, I noticed that this flimsy box of bundled software seemed to stir up happy gaming memories for a lot of people. Since there is very little on the internet relating to this bundle, and since it was the first software bundle that millions of UK gamers saw, I have decided to delve a bit deeper into Sinclair’s choice of bundled software for the veritable Spectrum.
For the uninitiated, the Spectrum Six pack was a bundle of software released with both the original ZX Spectrum 48K and ZX Spectrum+. It contained a mix of educational software and games and was intended to provide a variety of titles to showcase what the ZX Spectrum was capable of. In this post I will be covering the original Spectrum Six Pack released with the original rubber keyed Spectrum and Spectrum+ models, not the ‘SOFT 888’ pack of six titles released with the Amstrad Spectrums. I will be dissecting that particular bundle in a later post.
There were at least two versions of the Spectrum Six Pack. The first, released with the rubber keyed 48K consisted of: Make-a-Chip, Horace Goes Skiing, Survival, Chess, Scrabble and Chequered Flag. The second version released with the Spectrum+ replaced Horace Goes Skiing with VU-3D and Survival with Tasword Two. The packaging remained the same apart from a sticker on the bottom right hand corner declaring either “FREE with every 48K Spectrum” or “This software including word processing is included with every ZX Spectrum+“. (Thus proving those who think the Six Pack was only released with the Spectrum+ wrong!).
Make-a-Chip (Incognito Software)
Make-a-Chip was an educational title by Incognito Software that purports to teach you the fundamentals of circuit design by letting you design and test your own circuits. Loading up this software, you actually realise that it is quite good at doing just what it was designed to do. Unfortunately, when I had this originally I was 12 years old and only wanted to play games…
Horace Goes Skiing (Psion/Melbourne House)
Horace Goes Skiing was the fun sequel to the first of the Horace games Hungry Horace. On the inlay it describes the Horace series as ‘interactive cartoons’ which might just be pushing it a bit. In this particular outing, Horace has to first cross a road Frogger style and then slalom down the mountain between flags. Fun for short periods.
Science Horizons Survival (Macmillan)
Another educational title, this time by the then masters of education titles; Macmillan. Survival is a life simulation of sorts whereby you choose an animal and move around a virtual world grid. You must find water, food to eat and avoid the predators. The idea is to learn what particular animals eat and what they get eaten by and in this sense it works. Too slow and boring to be fun though, turn based educational games aren’t ever going to be though are they?
Chess (Psion with Microgen)
Yes, the obligatory chess game was included within the Six Pack and it was erm.. chess, but now in colour. Unfortunately Sinclair’s machines had been inundated with chess titles since their release and a board game never plays as well without the board. Even this one with its shiny hi-res colour graphics written in ‘fast and efficient’ machine-code couldn’t make computer chess fun. I might have liked it more if it was easier to beat though.
Computer Scrabble (Psion)
Psion’s effort was not a bad rendition of the classic board game actually and graphically it worked well. The Spectrum was given an 11,000 word arsenal to beat you with, and probably would have been hard to beat if it wasn’t for the fact you could make up any word you liked. It is hard to fit a spell checker into 48K.
Chequered Flag (Psion)
My pick of the bunch is Chequered Flag by Psion. This is probably the only title out of the Six Pack that I actually enjoyed playing for extended periods. For the uninitiated (although you may guess from the title!) it was a first person perspective racing game whereby you raced a variety of cars around a variety of tracks. You had a choice of the automatic gearbox McFaster Special or two manuals; the Psion Pegasus and the (most powerful but hardest to handle) Feretti Turbo. Most of the circuits were based upon real-world tracks and included Monaco, Brands Hatch and Monza but there were a few invented circuits thrown in, namely Psion Park, Micro Drive (!?) and Cambridge Ring.
For all the aspiring product designers out there there was VU-3D, a 3D design and modelling program. I remember seeing adverts at the time showing a 3D car being designed using the program and thinking to myself how cool it would be to design cars on my Speccy. Alas you could only form simple 3D shapes with no real detail (this was 1983 after all). If you ever managed anything other than a rugby ball or a wine glass, please let me know. You deserve a prize.
Tasword Two (Tasman Software)
The Spectrum suddenly became a serious business tool once Tasword Two was loaded up. This fully featured word processing program written by Tasman Software, authors of various other office utility programs such as Tascalc, Tascopy and Tasprint, was probably one of the best word processors for any home micro at that time. Unfortunately whilst the program itself was up to the job, the keyboard on the Spectrum+ certainly wasn’t.