Platforms: ZX Spectrum 128k
Only recently has GTW made a surprise recovery of an abandoned Commodore 64 development of Denton Design’s classic Wreckers, though more famous is the ZX Spectrum 128k edition which was promised in 1991, but would never see the light of day.
This is odd considering that the game was fully reviewed by Crash magazine in May 1991, but then something seemed to happen behind the scenes which prevented a release. And it was a decent review too – perhaps a swan-song for the platform from the Denton Design greats.
A few issues later, Crash were reporting that the game hadn’t been released yet. Your Sinclair also gave a preview of the game in May, but oddly no review at all. It wasn’t until much later in October of 1991 that Your Sinclair were reporting that the game was due out in September now.
So firstly, did Crash review a near complete game? Or secondly, did Audiogenic get cold feet about releasing the game on the ZX Spectrum?
At this time, quite a few companies were starting to withdraw support for the machine, and the magazines themselves were nearing their end too. However, Audiogenic did release World Class Rugby in late 1991 on the Spectrum, another game by Denton Designs.
So it is a bit of a mystery at this point in time about what happened exactly. Peter Carver from Audiogenic didn’t actually recall seeing the ZX Spectrum get to a preview stage, let alone a complete stage – but did highlight that it was a very long time ago. He didn’t know why it never saw release.
Martyn Carroll spoke with the developer John Heap a few years ago, who first of all confirmed sadly that he did not have a copy of the game, adding that it was “probably for the best”. According to Martyn, John was not a fan of the conversion he had made, and was very surprised about the high Crash score.
What isn’t yet clear though is why it never got released. Did they hit a particular issue which was game breaking, not picked up by the Crash review? Sometimes magazines did get a very close to completion build for review, which was at a reasonable enough stage to be “reviewable”.
We spoke with producer Gary Sheinwald, and he also could not recall there being a ZX Spectrum version at all, even though his memory is pretty sharp when it comes to 30 years ago. It’s almost like it was being developed as a side project!
Gary did suggest that it would make logical sense to cancel a complete version of the game for purely financial reasons. The cost of packaging, duplication and more all adds up, and of course the ZX Spectrum market was practically gone at this stage. In comparison to World Class Rugby, that was a big title which would likely sell a lot more due to the World Cup that went ahead that year – so it would make sense to just focus on releasing that as a final hurrah.
But then why not sell the game to one of the magazines to put on their covermount? Maybe there were concerns that doing such a thing would affect sales of the 16-bit edition?
It would next be hoped that perhaps some of those who previewed/reviewed the game may have kept a copy, but Nick Roberts was quick to say that no games were ever taken home by staff (it wasn’t allowed), and it is likely that such software was lost when Newsfield were liquidated. Whoever brought up everything could well have had a copy – but it couldn’t be recalled who had brought what.
So trying to find something of Wreckers could be difficult. The next steps would be to try and work out who did any graphical work, and see if they maybe kept anything. Antony McCabe was an artist for World Class Rugby – perhaps he had some involvement on Wreckers? Mike Wolliston was a tester, and may have even tested the ZX version. There are some other potential leads which we will try and follow.
If you know anything more, then please do get in touch to help us with this search and hopefully bring this long lost Denton Designs game home.
With thanks to Martyn Carroll for information about the title, Peter Calver for his input, Gary Sheinwald for his recollections and Stephen Stuttard for the hi-res scans.