Insert Disk collects Sabre Wulf for the Commodore 64 (C64).
It’s old but it’s also a classic. Sabre Wulf is loved by a generation of 80’s gamers. This episode I take a look back at the game to see if it’s still as enjoyable today in this retro game review.
Greeting all and welcome to today’s show. Today we’re travelling back to 1984 to look back at one of the influential game titles of the day. Today I’m taking a look back at Sabre Wulf. Sabre Wulf is probably better known as being a Sinclair Spectrum release but today I will be looking at the Commodore 64 version as I have slightly better looking boxes for this version. Sabre Wulf is a game that those born after the 80’s are unlikely to be very familiar with but there’s a good chance that you may have heard of one of its sequels “Knightlore” which is still talked about a lot more today than previous entries in the Sabre Wulf series.
The series of Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde and Knightlore formed a successful development period for “Ultimate Play the Game” studios. A small back-room operation that had already pumped out classics such as Atic Atac in in 1983. If you’re looking to collect the Commodore 64 version of the game then you can expect to look out for some very decent packaging. Although there are the re-releases and budget releases the most collectable is the first edition. Sometimes known as the black box edition. A range of games were released in this packaging format and oozed quality. The matt black box along with interesting cover designs made these really stand out from the smaller standard cassette boxes of the day.
Inside the box you get an English colour manual explaining the back story, game s features and loading instructions. You also get a much cheaper black and white multi-lingual manual. Most important of all is the cassette tape. Something that you don’t find in games these days is the upgrade offer card. Simply send back your cassette along with £9.95 and you will receive the disk version of the game along with the sequel Underwurlde. Or take up the offer of sending back both cassettes if you have them with just £4. For younger viewers I’d like to explain what must now seem like a very strange practice. You see cassette tapes were notoriously slow to load. The process of pressing play and then sitting around for up to 10 minutes for a game to load was a huge drawback when wanting to play your favourite game. You also had to rewind the tape after use.
Floppy disks were more expensive and you did need a separate disk drive to play them with but the loading speeds were far faster. Whereas it was common for micro-computers in the early 80’s such as the Sinclair Spectrum and Commodore 64 to use cassettes by the next generation of computer, machines such as the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga had fully made the switch to floppy disk. For now though let’s fire up the cassette player.
The Sabre Wulf series is led by the protagonist Sabreman. Each game sees Sabreman in a different adventure, usually involving fighting various monsters. The jungle setting of Sabre Wulf is both visually appealing and dangerous. I have to say it’s been a long while sine I played this game and it’s every bit as difficult as I remember. The aim is to navigate a maze to collect pieces of an amulet. Once you have all of the pieces you can escape via the dungeon. This sounds easy but in practice it’s anything but. On every screen dangerous animals spawn and attack you. One hit and you lose a life. To make things even more challenging if you wait around too long an indestructible bush fire will spawn under you. Most monsters will attack and behave the same way. However, there is a native that will not be killable. There are also pink rhinos that you shouldn’t wake up and regular rhinos that cannot be killed so must be avoided. You have only your sabre to see off all enemies so holding down the fire button is highly recommended.
Whilst the game is fun but at times the design does nothing to help you as a player. Enemies will often unfairly spawn under you and the repetitive graphic tile system can make memorising the maze a real challenge. I ‘m not making too many excuses though, I’m also terrible at playing this one. Despite the challenge I do enjoy Sabre Wulf for what it is, the game is fast and furious and each time I did want to come back and progress a little further.
So, if you’re looking to put this one in your collection how much should you pay? For the non-black box editions pay almost nothing at all. It’s likely that you can find a budget release for next to nothing or in a bundle with other tapes. For the black box edition mint in box though, expect to pay anywhere up to £10 or $17 US. Ultimate Play the Game studios releases are holding their value at the present time. The sleek boxes and overall good games are an attractive item for collectors.
Sabre Wulf is perhaps best summed up as a product of its time. Its pace is insanely fast but addictive. For a quick sample of retro game action I can definitely recommend investing some time and money in this one is 80’s games are your thing.