Retro Gaming: Flight Simulator / Invaders – ZX81

I was emptying the contents of my old  works laptop bag this morning and amongst all manner of cables, dongles and manuals , I found these two ZX81 cassette games in one of the side pocket. They were part of a collection of VIC20 games a colleague of mine had given to me and I must have put them there to take home with me I guess. Completely forgot of course!

zx81_a (Custom)


So a spot of lunchtime retro gaming is in order then. There’s no actual ZX81 & TV here of course (there would be if I had my way) and so it’s emulation this time around. I’m not sure if it’s the best one out there but I’ve been using Eightyone for ages now and is pretty much perfect for z80/81 gaming.
Flight Simulator, is tape #14 of the ‘G’ series by Psion and as per the norm, another one of those great covers that Psion did really well during their partnership  with Sinclair Research.

A quick brush up on the instructions and we’re off to practise our approach and landing. It all looks a bit daunting, but fear not I’m in good hands as it just so happens that my co-pilot this lunchtime, and the newest member of our I.T. team, has spent the last 17 years in the R.A.F. He did point out that it was in I.T. security and not  actually piloting , but I said we’d worry about the minor details when we’re airborne 🙂

A quick look at the navigational chart shows that I’m heading in the right direction, assuming that’s me hugging beacon IW, heading eastwards towards beacon IE. If not, then this initial flight might be a little longer than anticipated. Co-pilot looks at his watch and  his lunchbreak ticking away.


7 km out, at 800 feet  and cruising at 154 knots.  Just a little lower and I can sail  past any SAM sites undetected. My co-pilot says ‘What SAM sites?’ and mutters something about the undercarriage.


Switching over to ILS mode, you get a nice representation of the runway – although in this screenshot it looks more like a bell. On the left the ILS instrumentation will advises if you’re on or off course. Failing that, just look at your co-pilots expression.


Guided in by my co-pilot, we touched down gently (twice) and I applied the handbrake-thing before we ran out of pixels.



I’ve got to say, for a old ZX81 game, Flight Simulator is actually rather impressive. It looks pretty good, is smoothly animated, has three different graphical screens, various dials and instruments  are updated in real-time and there’s even a rudimentary guidance system allowing you to plot flight plans  using the inner and outer markers.

The next challenge is to pilot the tricky westbound approach. With a  mountain range at 1500ft, there’s not much room for  error. That will have to wait though, my co-pilot wants to shoot invaders and finish off his cheese sandwich.

Invaders by Quiksilver

7 rows of 13 invaders.

3 Levels of play.

Random Saucers with mystery points.

3 lasers cannon.
3 shields.
Bonus Ship.
Laser Cannon Count.
High Score.

Pretty much everything you would want from a Space Invaders game really and it’s not actually that bad considering the basic visuals.

IMG_4460 (Custom)

We found it a tad on the slow side though until you ramp up the difficult from 10 (easy) to somewhere around 1 & 3.

All in all, two damn fine games to add to my small ZX81 collection and  I should very much like to investigate a few more.

zx81_b (Custom)


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