1991 Thalamus

Platform: ZX Spectrum

Following on from our recent post about a long lost conversion of Creatures 2 for the Amiga, we now take a look at a planned ZX Spectrum conversion – and one which seemed to get relatively far… Perhaps!

A rather good looking Creatures on the ZX Spectrum – but was it running?

Creatures took advantage of the C64’s strong graphical capabilities, and was pretty much made for the machine. It became an iconic series for the C64, with a main character that almost felt like the platform’s very own “mascot” of sorts, when SEGA had Sonic, and Nintendo having Mario.

As Thalamus was also supporting the likes of the ZX Spectrum (as well as 16-bit platforms), it comes as no surprise that other 8-bit conversions were in their minds.

Your Sinclair and MicroHobby magazines would both contain previews of a ZX conversion which looked pretty decent, with lots of colour and holding its own against the C64 graphics. There seems to be no evidence of an Amstrad CPC edition – though please do get in touch if you find any mentions of one, though contributor Patrick Furlong has informed us that Thalamus never supported the CPC or released anything for the platform.

However, could it be that the screens were merely mock ups?

There is something that feels very Grandslam ‘Beavers’ about the whole thing (which had been just mock ups produced for magazines). Clyde in the screenshots doesn’t seem to have any different animation frame shown and everything just feels perhaps a little too “clean”.

Of course, we hope to be completely wrong – and that a conversion had got relatively far into development. Your Sinclair ended their preview in April 1991 by suggesting that the game should be ready in the next two months – so maybe they saw something more?

Well, nothing was to surface in the end – and plans seemed to be dropped fairly quickly afterwards. We obtained a Thalamus newsletter from 1992, which only had 16-bit versions listed in their release schedule for the first game.

The fact that there were no ZX Spectrum games on their schedule suggests that they had dropped support for both platforms at this stage. This would be the likely reason that no Creatures conversion was to be in the end.

Further on in the game.

It’s early days yet, and we don’t know who was behind the conversion for certain. A good starting point would be those behind Delta Charge and the cancelled Armalyte conversion. Maybe they were involved?

Well, we contacted Ste Day (artist on the canned Armalyte conversion) and he first of all confirmed that Thalamus were serious about a ZX Spectrum conversion. He was slated to do the graphics for the game, along with John Wildsmith after the ZX version of Armalyte was complete.

However, Armalyte only got to a “proof of concept” demo stage before cancellation. Ste suggests that it was because Thalamus had ceased trading, though we believe it may have simply been support for the machine being dropped as Thalamus had kept going for a few more years.

When presented with the preview screens for Creatures – Ste had no idea where the graphics had come from, and they weren’t by him. So, were these mock ups by someone else in preparation for John to take the game on, or was it passed to another team?

Andy Swann, who worked on Delta Charge, confirmed that they had no involvement at all on Creatures. He felt that no-one was really pleased with them (themselves included) after the release of Delta Charge (which had been given the prize of ‘worst full pricer of 1990’).

So if the Your Sinclair screens were of an actual development under way – then it was by another as yet unknown development team. Our early thoughts are that the screens were just mock ups and the plan was for John and Ste to convert once Armalyte was done – we’ll see and hope to learn more soon.

With thanks to Neil Grayson for the suggestion of covering, Ste Day for details about his (almost) involvement, Patrick Furlong for the CPC correction and Stephen Stuttard and for the scans.


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