Retro recollections: Saboteur

The other game that came along with Fairlight? That would be Durell Software’s Saboteur, a game I almost certainly purchased on the strength of its cover art.

So that game that I couldn’t remember that came twinned with Fairlight? Thanks to the rather more reliable memory of my brother, I can now reveal that (if you weren’t paying attention to the top of the page, right up there) it was Saboteur, a Durell 1985 Ninja-fest that was almost certainly the reason I purchased both games at all.

I mean, look at it.

Look at it.

It has everything that a slightly hyperactive child of the 80s could want. It’s a videogame, for a computer we had, AND IT HAS A NINJA on the cover.

Sure, in the modern age, with billions of polygons in the crinkles of a minor NPC’s smile, the simple fact of having a Ninja on the box art for a game might not have seemed like that much of a big deal.

But look again. The Ninja in question is very clearly dislocating his own foot while randomly firing a machine gun at some offscreen foe, while a fallen character slumps in front of a back of stage explosion. Also, for reasons probably best not explored, it looks as though the Ninja is seriously constipated.

OK, maybe I’m reading too much into it in 2017, but back in 1985? This was magic.


It was a simpler time, when the mere presence of Ninja could sell anything, even mediocre action movies.

The game itself… is OK. You play as the eponymous saboteur, whose mission is to infiltrate a heavily guarded building in order to steal a floppy disk.

Yes, games plots have come a very long way.

What’s impressive about this game, large sprites (for its time) aside, is the relatively large range of motion you’ve got. With just a one button joystick, you can run, jump, climb ladders, kick, punch and pick up a variety of objects to overcome guards, security cameras, dogs and other enemies along the way.

Saboteur can be quite easy, but it’s the first game I can recall playing that offered distinct difficulty levels that mixed up the warehouse layout and number of enemies, making it much tougher once you mastered that easy first level.

What’s particularly cool here is that you can buy a new (and official) version of Saboteur directly from the original programmer.

Really. Clive Townsend sells a Unity-based version of Saboteur through his web site, and a free, browser based demo is available.

I’ll be honest here and say I haven’t taken the dive into buying the “new” version, if only because it’s not (to my mind) in the proper green on black hues that I expected out of every Amstrad CPC 6128 game I played back in the day. But really, I’m just being fussy.


If I could apply a green screen filter to this, I totally and absolutely would.

Retro recollections are just random musings on retro subjects, usually whatever I’m playing at the moment.

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