Back in the heady days of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, one game stood out — because it featured a London Underground tube train.
The game, which was loaded on a cassette tape, was published by New Generation Software, which had previously released the first 3D game for the ZX81, the iconic 3D Monster Maze. Their next game, 3D Tunnel was released in 1983, and although the tube train only appears later in the game, and only on the 48K version, it was a major feature on the cassette tape cover, alongside the usual monsters you might expect, spiders, bats, rats, and oddly for a tube tunnel, toads.
“Your objective is to reach the other end of the tunnel alive. You progress through the various stages by shooting the prerequisite number of animals. As your skill improves the tunnel will randomly meander. To retain lives you must avoid collisions with the walls of the tunnel and the approaching animals.”
Hitting a bat – 20 points; a toad – 40 points; a spider 50 points; a rat – 80 points and (only on the 48K version), avoiding a London Underground Train – 100 points.
While the graphics look laughable today, at the time they were revolutionary, and in April 1983, Computer & Video Games magazine (pdf) said that “some of the most impressive graphics you are likely to see on the Spectrum can be found in 3D tunnel”.
The underground was described as a “masterpiece of programming. You can see the lights twinkling as it approaches. When it becomes larger you can even see the passengers in their seats and hear the rush of wind as the train passes”
Although the graphics were lauded, the gameplay was deemed to be a struggle. But think about it – an entire computer game in less memory than might be used for a social media icon button on a website today. Early computing may look rudimentary, but they were marvels of compressing as much game into as small a memory as possible.
Despite that, the game was a commercial success, no doubt helped by the cassette tape cover that described a London Underground that wouldn’t have surprised people using the network in its early 1980s run-down state.
If you want to play the game – there are some online emulators over here.
More details about the game over here.
And a video of the game – skip to 5:52 if you want to see the tube train.