An abandoned ZX Spectrum video game of Total Recall reappears in playable form 27 years later!
In August 2012, I started a series of articles entitled, “What Could Have Been…”, which detailed the way some of our favourite films could have played out if different decisions had been made during the production process. Now I’m also turning my attention to cancelled video games that will never see the light of day.
In the late 1980’s/early 90’s, during the 8-bit era of home computing, the software companies liked to release games based on the latest blockbuster films.
They hoped that consumers would fall in love with these huge slices of cinematic entertainment and then rush out and purchase the game of the film to relive the adventure at home on the small screen.
In fact, many film tie-in games relied on this tactic. Quite often, games were complete rubbish and relied on the film’s name to sell as many copies as possible before word spread about the quality!
One of the best-known companies for film and television tie-in titles was Ocean Software who were based in Manchester, UK.
They produced many high-quality film/television-based games as well as arcade conversions that remained big sellers both on the original full price release and the cheaper budget re-release a year or so later.
I remember their biggest sellers as Batman – The Movie, based on the 1989 Tim Burton film and Robocop. Both were fantastic games for the ZX Spectrum, the computer I owned, as well as other 8 and 16-bit machines.
The big film for the summer of 1990 was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall. The sci-fi action adventure followed Schwarzenegger, playing construction worker Douglas Quaid, who discovers that he is really a secret agent from Mars.
Ocean Software bought the video game rights and tasked software programmer Paul Houbart to create a ZX Spectrum version of the game in time for the Christmas release that year.
However, according to World Of Spectrum,
…progress was so bad that the deadline (Christmas 1990) would never be met. Apparently the game itself, as far as finished, ‘left a lot to be desired’. The game was thus assigned to a new team, set to produce a new Total Recall from scratch, which they finished in just 2 weeks time.
This video below shows the game that released into the shops that year.
But what happened to the original version?
A rolling demo (an unplayable version of the game you could only watch) was released on a cover-mounted cassette with the Spanish gaming magazine, Micro Hobby.
Quite cheekily, the magazine even reviewed the game based on this unplayable version and awarded it 75%!
On the 25th of January this year, Ex Ocean Software developer Mark Jones uploaded a video of the unplayable version to his YouTube channel. You can see that below with commentary from Mark.
Based on this video, Adrian Singh, who used to create POKEs for ZX Spectrum games (a way of cheating in games, unlimited lives, ammo etc), contacted Mark and asked if he could have a go cracking the game’s code.
Adrian hadn’t done any Spectrum code hacking for 27 years but he’s obviously still got the talent! He sent back to Mark a playable version of the Total Recall demo. Here’s a video of Mark playing the originally abandoned game.
This new version allows you to explore areas of the game that were never shown in the rolling demo. Although playable, it is still an unfinished game, so expect glitches and bugs.
If you want to try for yourself, you can download the hacked demo here. Obviously, you’ll need a real Spectrum or an emulator to play the game.