Description official descriptions
Deathchase sees you riding a motorcycle through 14 stages, with the aim of shooting out a succession of riders. Each stage starts with 2 bikes to shoot out, although planes and tanks also appear on the horizon, to be shot for bonus points. You start with 3 bikes and an infinite supply of bullets, with one bike lost every time you crash.
The levels are tree-lined, and at top speed it can be terrifying as you try to muscle through the gaps so as not to lose distance on the target bike. Every second level is played out at night, which changes the colour scheme. There are 14 levels to complete.
Credits (ZX Spectrum version)
Average score: 84% (based on 8 ratings)
Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 17 ratings with 3 reviews)
At some point in my childhood, I remember visiting my friend who encouraged me to get on his father's bike and drive around. I crashed into a fence after driving it for several seconds. The same thing can be experienced in 3D Deathchase where you have to avoid crashing into trees while you are trying to shoot down two bikes that have invaded your turf. This game was only released for the ZX Spectrum, but since I had a Commodore 64. I was one of the unlucky people who couldn't get to play it. Now I can with this emulator called Fuse.
There is only one word to describe the game: amazing. While playing the game, you can see your bike during the entire time, and the way you can see it steer left or right as you hold down the 1 and 0 keys is a nice touch. Both the bike and the leather gloves that grab hold of the handle bars are drawn nicely. When you see one of the bikes being blown up, the resulting explosion is satisfying. Although realistic, the way you can change your projectile mid-way when you nudge left or right is great.
What I like about the game is that it gets more difficult due to both the night cycle and the density of the trees increasing as you advance through each sector. You always know when you arrive at a new sector, because five sirens are heard while the sky is displayed in a rainbow of colors. As for the night cycle, I didn't have any trouble maneuvering through the trees despite many magazine reviews saying that it would be difficult
The bike powering down after you cleared a sector is a nice touch, but you have to accelerate it to get anywhere in the game. There are two types of acceleration: half and full. Although driving your bike at half acceleration makes it easy to manoeuvre through the trees, it is difficult to catch up with the bikes, and you need to be in range in order to destroy them.
Sound effects are minimal with the bike's engine heard throughout the entire game. I know that its grating sound is annoying, but that was what Speccy sound was like back then; and I was too busy trying to deal with the bikes to focus on the sound. One sound effect that I like was the explosions. As you see the shrapnel being scattered on the ground, it sounds just like a chopper.
Deathchase is quite addictive. As I played the game, and manage to reach sectors I didn't reach previously, I just had that "just-one-more-go" urge. Now I can able to get to sector five without losing all three lives. I know that if you can master the previous sectors without losing a single life, and in the next game do just that like I do sometimes, you should be ashamed of yourself.
There is also a helicopter and a tank which you can shoot for bonus points. As one reviewer on here said, when you shoot down both bikes when there is a helicopter or tank on screen, you have to wait until it disappears off the screen before the game loads the next sector. You can't even shoot them to hurry it up.
The Bottom Line
Deathchase is an excellent game that every Speccy user should play every now and again. The object of the game is to destroy two bikes while trying not to crash into trees whose density increases the further you progress. I know there's a story behind it, but who cares? The game mechanics and the graphics are neat, and it is more likely that you will be too busy trying to destroy the bikes to focus on the grating sound of your engine. The game needs your attention at all times; you just can't afford to take a break or let go of the important keys for one second. Mervyn Estcourt, the author of this game, still refuses to talk to Retro Gamer about his creation, so we'll never know what inspired him to do this.
ZX Spectrum · by Katakis | カタキス (43092) · 2013
The difficulty curve is built up quite nicely, with the initial landscapes featuring few trees, but the later ones being extremely tough to dodge through at any kind of speed. The controls are responsive, with joystick and keyboard options equally usable. The bike sprites look great, and the trees are simple but effective, and ensure that the game moves impeccably quickly and has little clash. The addition of tanks and planes to shoot at is a great idea - is it worth going for the large points bonus in the heat of the moment, knowing that you could fall adrift of the bikes and have to cut through a much tougher route to get into shooting range.
There was occasionally a long pause between levels - sometimes up to 15 seconds. Then again, the fact that you're always eagerly awaiting the next one shows how much else is right with the game.
The Bottom Line
Not many people have played this early release, but those who have invariably regard it as a classic, with fast paced action and elegantly simple design. I'd strongly recommend getting it on emulator so you can see for yourself. 8 flickery colours, a 3.54Mhz processor, a few motorbikes, a gun and a few trees is all it takes to entertain.
ZX Spectrum · by Martin Smith (81661) · 2004
Sometimes the simplest games really are the best. That would explain why I keep coming back to 3D Deathchase and why it never stops being an addictive, fun, exciting experience.
There's not much to the game: Race your motorbike at high speed through a forest. You have a gun mounted on your handlebars and your objective on each level is to kill two enemy bikers. Each level has two phases (day and night) and there are eight levels in total. Each new level adds more trees, making the ride more hazardous.
In this game, the trees are your only enemy. Sure, you have to shoot down the enemy bikers, but they pose no threat to you. They'll swerve around, trying to avoid being killed, but they will never fire back at you. Also, helicopters and tanks sometimes pass across the horizon. They can be shot for bonus points. But despite the fact the tank has a massive cannon mounted on it, it will not fire at you. Nor will the helicopter. So the only way death can possibly come is if you accidentally crash into a tree.
The collision detection is very good, so if you crash (or rather, when you crash), you will have no-one to blame but yourself. After the first couple of levels, the forest will become quite thick around you. Staying alive becomes harder and harder. You have to give this game your full concentration, or you're dead. There are tiny clearings in the forest, and each feels like a breath of oxygen as you pass through it.
Once you get past the rather garish graphics (pink and red tree-trunks? - Oh, the joys of the Spectrum!), this early '3D' game does a rather good job of simulating a break-neck chase through a dense forest. When it was released, I think it must have been the closest (safe and legal) way a kid could get to experiencing the thrill of the speeder bike sequence from Return Of The Jedi. I haven't kept myself informed about Star Wars games, so that has probably been well-simulated by now, but I don't know. Personally, I still haven't played anything that delivers a similar experience to this game.
Deathchase is addictive right from the start. Even though there are very few trees on the first level, it's still a challenge, just trying to take out the bikers. When you do kill one of them, the resulting explosion and juddering sound effect are a good reward.
The game is so compulsive that you don't want to stop. There is a pause at the start of each new stage, which is very useful if you need to urinate, eat something or just get up and walk around. But you'll probably want to jump right back in. Also, you can stop your bike, or slow down at any time, but why would you want to? Even when the forest is stupidly thick, the thought of stopping never enters my mind. The only way to play this game seems to be full throttle, all the way.
There's really nothing wrong here. Want me to nitpick?
The constant growl of your bike's engine could be considered annoying. But it's part of the experience. Turn the volume down a little if it bugs you.
The graphics might be off-putting to people who didn't grow up with the Spectrum. But they look much better when they're moving, and once you've played this a bit, I think you'll realise the visuals do their job very well.
There is one strange thing that happens if you finish a level when a helicopter or tank is on-screen. Instead of being taken straight to the next level, you have to wait a moment for the vehicle to exit, screen right. This is annoying only because you're itching to get back into the action!
Finally... The manual says something like, 'the ultimate prize awaits you, beyond level 8.' Well... I don't want to spoil anything, but I watched my brother as he finally, triumphantly, completed level 8, and went 'beyond.' And it's a let-down. But a predictable one.
The Bottom Line
There are some early arcade games that I have the utmost admiration for. They are all examples of a very simple concept, executed to perfection. Robotron is an example of this. Tempest is another. 3D Deathchase fits into this category, too. The difference, though, is I'm terrible at the first two games I mentioned. I admire them, but I suck at them. With Deathchase, I can at least get to level 7 sometimes.
These games all have a kind of 'purity' to them. There is nothing extraneous in their design, meaning it is all about the gameplay. They are difficult games to master and being good at them is more than a matter of quick reflexes; it's also about mind-set. In fact, if you can get into 'the zone' (where your concentration on the game is total), then the further you play, and the crazier the difficulty gets, the more relaxed you can become. However, if you start thinking "Oh no, this is really hard," or "I'm gonna crash!" then you probably will crash. This is interesting to me, from a psychological point of view.
Sometimes when I'm tired or my brain is fried from too much 'serious' thought, I spend 15 or 20 minutes racing through pink-and-red forests. It's pure, simple and fun.
ZX Spectrum · by xroox (3895) · 2009
- ACE (Advanced Computer Entertainment)
- February 1991 (issue #41) - Included in the list Greatest Games of all Time, section Racing Games (editorial staff choice)
- Your Sinclair
- February 1992 - #1 in the "Top 100 Spectrum Games of All Time" list
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by Martin Smith.
Game added August 31, 2004. Last modified February 13, 2024.