The Empire Fights Back © Clive Brooker 1984

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Five Cassette Games with an Original Sinclair Spectrum

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The Empire Fights Back cover sleeve

Fly through the asteroids

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Year of publication:-


Original Computer:-

48K Sinclair Spectrum



Design & programming:-

Clive Brooker

Other formats:-



With my first game Knight Driver successfully on sale, it was time for ideas for the next project. At the major Computer Exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London, I had the good fortune to speak to the guys on the Quicksilva stand (a major publisher). They invited me to join them for an evening meal at a French Restaurant in Holborn. Wonderful bunch of people - fun evening - discussed ideas for my next game. They even said that they would have published Knight Driver had it been ready six months earlier - I was just a little too late. Anyway, I had such a great and engrossing evening with the Quicksilva (The Game Lords - as their title went) team, that I completely lost track of time and missed the last train back to Kent. On such a high, waiting in Victoria Station for the 3.00AM milk train, it didn't seem much of a problem, even though it was back to work the following day!

I spend about a couple of months working the design for the game, but only achieved a controllable hovercraft that effectively bumped as it travelled along. Looked good, but I could not see a game developing out of it and abandoned the project. This was a little disheartening and without any firm ideas, I felt the need to be doing something and developed what would be the opening screen for TEFB. Just a simple picture of a forward view through a space ship, a la Star Wars. It looked good at the time, but was simply a single static picture. This suggested the next stage of developing a game and the animated asteroids took a lot of work. This gave the element of the first part of the game, dodge the incoming asteroids and if overwhelmed, fire one of the four wipe out everything in view missiles. The most difficult part of the programming was creating the pseudo moving star fields, relative to your inverse movement, a nice effect, though barley noticeable when playing. With that part of the game wrapped up, it became clear that there was just not enough content for it alone.

Loading screen

Collecting a core from a space mine

Spectrum loading screen

Collecting a core from the maze

Reverting back to Knight Driver style programming, I came up with the idea of an additional maze containing items to be collected without being hit by the baddies in the maze. With this element complete, in five different levels, I approached Hewson Consultants (publishers of Knight Driver) and had a meeting with them in Oxford. Andrew Hewson felt that something was missing and suggested that there should be a third stage with additional gates that could be opened when successful in the second stage. If these gates were randomly set, the variations on different games would be a good thing. I managed to implement this third stage quite quickly and was pleased with the result - I felt at last, that I had a complete balanced saleable game.

Open gates for stage three

Choose next space mine

Need to open gates 2 and 3

Choose a level, then lanuch for next space mine

As it turned out, Hewson Consultants declined the option, so I then sent the game to several publishers for consideration. Virgin Games invited me to their office to demonstrate the game, but eventually declined. I had made the mistake of making a last minute tweak, making the game far too difficult - even for me!! Not a good idea if you are going to demo your game to someone. Artic Computing also showed an interest but with no contract in sight, I eventually signed a rather poor contract that offered no payment up front, It's only saving grace was, if not published within 30 days, I had the option to revoke the contract. Shortly after signing and posting this contract, John Maxwell from Mastertronic showed an interest and we arranged a meeting just after the 30 day waiting period. At the meeting, he agreed to take the product onboard, subject to me being able to revoke the other contract. I met Jim Darling ( father of the Darling boys who went on to form Codemasters ), who reviewed my contract documents and letter of revocation. We signed up there and then, £250.00 up front and 10p per copy sold! Thus began, my relationship with Mastertronic, whom were to publish two more of my games.

My original working title for the game was Airwolf 2000, The Airwolf TV show was doing rather well at that time. Mastertronic came up with the name change to something that sounded like a Star Wars game. Mastertronic were very good at marketing!

As an aside, I was offered a contract from a company called Mirage Software, but their comment that they did not expect to receive any offerings so good, didn't exactly inspire my confidence in their intended range and output. As it turned out, Mirage Software never actually published anything - must have been a mirage!


Three intergalactic wars during the past Millennium have weakened the Empire which is now fighting to regain it's power and status. A rebel colony of mutants have taken over an old warship and are seeding the galaxy with deadly space mines in an attempt to gain control over the Empire.

You have been selected to pilot the miniature space craft Air Wolf 2000 and must enter the massive space mines to disable their control cores. Unfortunately, you have limited energy, so during your trips to the space mines try to avoid contact with the meteorites and stay on course (centre of the radar scanner). Inside the mines you must control your own robot to clear the cores and can only survive by understanding the movement patterns of the service drones.

Following clearing the cores, you arrive at the Central Control where you need to connect with first, the lower Boss Head, then finally the upper Boss Head. This maze has 5 numbered gates that open when you have successfully cleared the cores for that level. Avoid touching the patrolling drones, it's not good news!


There is a single time and score counter where you can gain points for doing well.

Flying through space, try to avoid the incoming meteorites, but make sure that your position dot doesn't stray off screen . Bonus points are awarded for as long as your position dot stays in the central flashing area. You have four meteorite seeking rocket bursts (Fire Button), though there are bonus points for those that are not deployed.

In the Space Mines you need to locate the number of cores (the same quantity as the level number) without touching any service drones which reset your location and deduct points. You can hold the Fire Button to freeze their movement, but there is a heavy loss of points for doing this. If you collect all the Cores, this will open the same numbered gates in the Central Control.

As more Core levels are deactivated, their corresponding gates are opened in the Central Control. Pressing fire ends your stay in the Central Control and you are back ready to select your next level. When you have opened enough gates, first, connect with the Lower Boss Head then the final Top Boss Head to complete the game and set your high score. If you don't complete the game, it will end when your score timer reaches zero.

Note, after you have connected with the lower Boss Head, now, touching a service drone will send you back to the beginning!!

Keyboard Controls


M = Right N = Left Q = Up A = Down V = Select mission 1 = Fire

If the Keys are not working, this is because the Emulator has inadvertently met the test my program makes for a Kempston Joystick connect. When I designed my games I wrote a single input routine that runs a test to see if a Kempston Joystick is connected and if that it true, then it disregards the keyboard. In this case, you need to select a Kempston joystick in your Emulators settings, so it can actually use the joystick.


Hints Tips & Cheats

To boost your Timer /Score

In space, try to avoid using the fire button, return your position dot to the middle, and don't let it stray off screen. Avoid the meteorites hitting you.

In the Cores, don't let the service drones hit you and use the Fire Button (freeze) sparingly.

In the Boss Head level, your Time/Score is always decreasing, don't stay there (Fire) if you don't have enough gates open. Avoid touching the service drones.

Pokes kindly reproduced from Hackers Anonymous



Infinite Lives & no asteroids


Infinite Energy


Infinite Shields


© Clive Brooker 2001-2012, 2020

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