We've been tracking Elite's retro game releases through its ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection [App Store] and associated apps for some time now. This weekend, Elite released another emulated classic that many gamers on both sides of the pond will recall fondly: Barbarian from Palace Software.

Barbarian (distributed in the U.S. by Epyx as Death Sword), originally released for the Commodore 64 in 1987, is a hack and slash fighter that places you, the barbarian, in a series of fighting pits on a mission to slash your way through warrior after warrior and ultimately defeat the evil wizard Drax and rescue the ample Princess Mariana. It's all in the spirit of Conan. The game was noted for its realistic character animation (despite its simplistic graphics), considerable gore, and pleasant dose of wit. More than all of these, perhaps, it was noted for its racy box cover art featuring a bikini-clad Maria Whittaker, who had recently made an appearance as a topless Page Three girl in The Sun, and some dude. The outcry was dramatic.

Being a title running in Elite's ZX Spectrum emulator, Barbarian: ZX Spectrum is, of course, the ZX Spectrum version of the game. Unfortunately, this was not one of the strongest ports. Due to limitations of the Speccy's hardware, the actual play area and the characters within are rendered in monochrome. The detail is there, but the presentation feels pretty sparse. Another negative in this emulated iOS release is the control scheme. Despite Elite's "iDaptive" control system, where button (or key) layout can be custom arranged, the types of wildly varying moves that you need to pull off in rapid succession to excel in this game are not particularly conducive to touchscreen-style D-pad play. Happily, the customizable controls let you move the D-pad out of the way of your character in landscape mode, but that doesn't help with the feel of the controls.

Barbarian for the C64 and other platforms of old featured both a single player campaign mode (the quest to rescue Mariana) and a two-player challenge mode. It's worth noting that the version presented here offers only a single player mode.

See a video of the game as played on the ZX Spectrum.

Barbarian: ZX Spectrum is a stand-alone title with versions for both the iPhone [link] and iPad [link], and will be appearing as part of a new download pack for Elite's ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection [link] on Friday, when the number of available games in the collection will reach 108.

As a fan of what I knew as Death Sword on the Apple II back in the day, I was happy to see Barbarian arrive on iOS, even if it's come in a non-native fashion. I'd wager that the happy customers here are going to be other oldschool gamers who have fond memories of gut kicks and decapitation as Palace delivered them. Those unacquainted will probably find this one wanting.

  • http://twitter.com/coolpowers Simon Windmill

    I can't remember if I had the ST or Amiga version, but I do clearly remember the "EE-YIT!" sound effect.

  • Johnnyfromcalgary

    To expensive and confusing with all the add on packs

    • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

      It is a little odd that Elite sometimes brings out a stand-alone game and then later makes it part of a download pack for the master app, but let's not fault them for bringing over 100 emulated titles to iOS.

  • Mike

    The gameplay in that video looks masterful. It may give elder scrolls V Scrim a run for its money.

  • Adams Immersive

    That’s awesome how they curl into a fetal position and roll at each other! If I’m ever in a deadly fight, I’m totally going to try that!

  • Hail

    I used to be addicted to the Amiga version.

  • Jim

    Looks interesting. Some of these games are quite fun. I never had a Speccy back in the day because I had a good computer instead.

  • Revolutionary Concepts

    Oh wow blast from the past. I remember many an hour spent playing this as a kid. The Amiga version had about the most impressive graphics going at the time. To say nothing about the err bountiful cover art on the sequel! Ah such happy mameries 😉

  • Wisedude

    Amiga version was great I loved chopping heads off my friends but this spectrum version doesn't look close to it unfortunately.
    Saying that though there is one single game that makes this emulator tempting for me and it's Jullian Gollup's chaos it's perhaps one of the uglier looking games ever made but it's the best multiplayer game I've played in my life I'd class it as the first ever multiplayer TBS game.

  • http://twitter.com/Inaba_kun Phil Baxter

    As a Commodore 64 gamer back in the day it's disappointing to see the iOS Spectrum emulator adding content all the time, while the iOD C64 emu languishes on the sidelines without any new content in several months.

    I know the developer is working on an Amiga emulator, but it's too bad he seems unable to do two things at once.

    • TKO

      I thought it was inevitable the C64 releases would slow down. The same will happen with this one too. ..Would be nice to see a few more C64 releases sometime, but the current collection ain't too bad -- it's got most of the real landmark titles there.

  • Erf

    The amiga version indeed looked way better and I don't get why they bring back old games without polishing the gfx to modern standards anyway, at least a bit closer to that... I was a fan of that games as well in the early 90s but come on... Time goes by and I would just play this game 2 mins to get some memories brought back but get bored in no time. Such gfx just can't please me nowadays... And think of all the kids out there who never played a 8bit game... You'll never catch their attentions with that...
    old classics = yes
    old standards = no....

    • Jimmy

      ya, we need those game not as emulated games but as ports on a modern technology level.

  • Simon

    I used to love playing the Amstrad CPC464 version; the sound effects and music did add that bit extra; gave that "Conan" feel to it. This port looks ok; apart from the graphics and sound the animations and everything else seems to be there. Shame there isn't a C64 port though; I would have definitely picked that up but might wait a bit on this one.

  • Peter Babiy

    Haha, this is great! I remember beating my brothers each time right after we'd get home from school. Love the sound effects and the graphics are just awesome (in its own way). Def goin to check it out!

  • Stu

    Hey, that wasn't just "some dude" on the cover -- it was the legendary Wolf from Gladiators...


    • TKO

      There was a dude? :p The field of view was overwhelmed with Maria Whittaker in those Barbarian posters. 🙂 (My mum wasn't the least impressed when the first of those posters went up on my wall .. hehe.)

  • Anonymous

    Best decapitations in any game, ever, period!

  • buy outlook 2010

    this is great! I remember beating my brothers each time right after we'd
    get home from school. Love the sound effects and the graphics are just
    awesome (in its own way). Def goin to check it out!

  • buy outlook 2010

     Best decapitations in any game, ever, period!