I am a sucker for Space Invaders and those games which it spawned, such as the great Galaxians and the equally brilliant Phoenix which has some brilliant additions. I have played several very good versions of Phoenix, on various platforms (the Atari 2600 /VCS version is an excellent example of a conversion), and when I noticed Pheenix (I don’t know how I knew it was a Phoenix port because huge efforts had gone into the name to hide from the potential copyright claims) by Megadodo in my ZX Spectrum collection I knew I had to try it.
For those who have never played a Phoenix clone you are a ship at the bottom firing up to kill waves of birds, the titular Pheenix, which behave similarly to Galaxians in the first waves, moving around and diving at you occasionally. The next two rounds add a level off difficulty as the birds start as eggs, hatch and can only be killed by hitting the middle section, not the wings. This was where I noticed the first missing piece, in other versions you can wing the birds and knock a wing off which will grow back, in this version the bird doesn’t die, and the wing stays in place, a small pedantic nit pick though.
The birds fire plenty in the first levels, but then you reach a boss level, and need to shoot the alien in the middle of the spaceship. This alien is well protected by the birds firing at you as you try to shoot through the layers of barriers to take out the alien invader. The ship also fires, rapidly and plentifully right at the spot you need to be in to hit the alien. This is a very tough level to get through just to get taken back to the start all be it with faster enemies firing more bullets.
So that is Pheenix, and here are some opinions, firstly, after it loaded and I had pressed “s” to start I found the Sinclair interface was not a joystick option, so it was keyboard only for me although being an earlier game being played on a later 128k machine that is expected. The sounds were pretty good for a Spectrum game, certainly better than I would have guessed. Additionally the graphics were of a better quality than usual, and I didn’t notice any colour clash during my time playing. Gameplay was tough but fair, no blaming the game when you die as the controls are spot on but you can always blame the aging keyboard or joystick if you have a Kempston joystick interface.
For sound, graphics and playability Pheenix scores highly as a ZX Spectrum game, and overall I rate it an 8/10