The scene around classic machines it never ceases to amaze us and to show that their technical limits are there to be broken. Many years after these machines were relegated by more powerful ones and the studios that had grown with them jumped to 16 bits, a group of developers insist on making us see that their capabilities were not fully explored despite the thousands of games they hosted in their glory years. The last example, and perhaps the most spectacular, is found in Travel Through Time Volume 1: Northern Lights, a awesome narrative driving game for ZX Spectrum 128 that has stunned the community around Sir Sinclair’s venerable computer.
Zosya Entertainment, the creators of the project, are a St. Petersburg-based company specializing in microcomputer games, which they sell in custom boxes and also release for free to the community. They have had some notable projects in recent times, but they have undoubtedly been surpassed with Travel Through Time, a narrative driving game set in Scandinavia where we will play Sven Larsson, a young man who is interested in amateur racing competitions that are held in your region.
Spectacular technical work
As a result, a journey through time and the different evolutions of cars through the decades will begin. But while the narrative factor is interesting, what really makes this title stand out is how incredibly impressive it is technically. Made by three people, Kit as programmer, Manu as graphic designer and Tiurula in charge of the evocative music, we can say that the game equals or surpasses the great professional references of the genre in 8 bits like the conversion of Chase HQ or Continental Circus. Large and detailed cars, a varied circuit and a framerate that stays around a very remarkable 25 FPS are some of its first letters of introduction, but the best comes when you spend some time.
Its greatest virtue is richness and variety of circuits. Details such as the dynamic shadow when we cross under a bridge, something that today may sound irrelevant in these days of ray-traced games, but which is impressive in the context of the machine in which we are seeing it. Another example is found in traffic signs, which not only mark curves or changes in the line, they also warn us of things such as zebra crossings or level crossings. Are they an anecdote, a part of the landscape? Well, at one point in the race, focused on arriving as soon as possible, a sign warned us of a level crossing that we ignored in our rush to sprint only to see how a train took our unfortunate protagonist ahead.
As these details there are several and speaks of the care that has been put into development. The fact that you have different environmental conditions like driving at night or in winter -with the limited palette of the Spectrum- is remarkable, but the best thing is when at certain moments a dynamic landscape appears on the horizon, peeking or hiding depending on the moment of the race, leaving the feeling of being before a game that would have been considered true black magic in its time and that nevertheless works perfectly on any Spectrum with 128K of RAM, as well as emulators.
Also, a fantastic game
And leaving aside the impressive technical work behind it, Travel Through Time it allows itself the luxury of being a hilarious arcade driving game as well, with a marked influence of Out Run in the way in which we must manage the two gears of our vehicle, the bloody way in which some cars position themselves to cut us off or the fluidity of control and scroll. The variety of race styles (time trials, checkpoints, competition), how well designed the circuits are or the excellent interface are honey on children to a group that is crowned by an entertaining story and excellent music. That we have a free game of this caliber is a gift, another one, for those who follow the news of what is being done today in all the historical machines. If we want to buy a physical edition, it will be available sometime in July, while the free digital version is available in different formats on the official page listed below.