Where Time Stood Still

Denton Designs epic 128k only ZX Spectrum arcade adventure is a stunning game.

After the release of The Great Escape nothing was heard for a long time but then rumours began to emerge of a game called Tibet. Not a lot was known except that it would be 128k only. When it was released it created a massive stir with overwhelmingly positive reviews. A huge arcade adventure that really pushed the ZX Spectrum to it’s limits.

The Game

The plane is descending rapidly, Jarret struggling with the controls, searches anxiously for a possible landing site. Breaking through the clouds, the ground is suddenly upon him, and with one last heave on the joystick he prepares for impact.

Out of the wreckage tumble Jarret, the guide and pilot, Clive, a fat and wealthy man, Gloria, his delicate daughter, and Dirk, her newly betrothed.

They have found themselves on a strange plateau, nestled between the peaks of the greater Himalaya. The only way out of their predicament is via a high mountain pass somewhere on the other side.

As our friends will soon be aware, everything is not quite as it seems. Protected by the mountains from both climatic and other outside influences, this land has remained undisturbed for millennia.

When your party is attacked by dinosaurs and harassed by cannibals it becomes apparent that no western man has been here and lived to tell of it.

You, who initially control Jarret, must guide your party along tortuous mountain paths, across rivers and bottomless chasms, through swamps and forest, in the increasingly desperate search for the passage home.

Critical Reaction

There wasn’t a single magazine that wasn’t impressed with Where Time Stood Still;

Crash – 94/100

The first thing that strikes you about Where Time Stood Still is the detail in the 3-D landscape. This graphical quality is reminiscent of The Great Escape (also from Ocean). The scrolling is a bit sluggish at times but it’s not surprising considering the amount of detail on the screen. There’s a good in-game tune which becomes irritating after a while; fortunately it can be switched off in favour of sound effects. Where the game really scores highly is in the marvellous atmosphere it creates, totally absorbing the player in the action. The landscape is very large with many different features such as falling rocks, a swamp with a monster in it, and a waterfall. The various dinosaurs are well animated and quite scary when they suddenly appear to whisk off one of the characters. There are also some wonderful spear throwing natives and even a hand which pokes through a hole in the rocks to push you off the ledge. This is one of the most absorbing games ever — it’s a classic!

Your Sinclair – 9/10

The graphics are everything you could ask and as imaginative as you’d expect from Denton, and the depth of the game is quite superb. My only grumble is that you can’t save a game, which means you’ll spend a lot of time repeating the early stages when you make a fatal mistake.

But all in all Where Time Stood Still looks destined to go down as a classic Spectrum game and it’s almost certainly the best that’s been produced solely for the 128. More of this sort of thing, and the machine will have a whole new lease of fife. So get into the realm of the dinosaurs and find out how time flies when it stands still!

  • Sinclair User – 96/100
  • The Games Machine – 95/100
  • C&VG – 8/10

My Thoughts

This is without a doubt a superb technical achievement and one of the finest games to ever appear on the ZX Spectrum. It’s an arcade adventure that has you playing as Jarret the pilot of the crashed plane and you must guide the other survivors to safety. This isn’t an easy task as you have no map or clue to where you are or what to do. There are several items spread out around the crash site and you are going to need these so it is recommended that yo get them before moving on.

One of the things that really helped to make Where Time Stood Still stand out was the use of a WIMP UI. This was quite a novel feature in a ZX Spectrum game and made navigating the menus a pleasant experience as well as set it apart from other games.

One the problems with WTSS is that it is a large game and the lack of a save game option was nasty as there are some tricky sections, such as crossing the swamp. It wasn’t hugely tricky be design but due to the hardware limitations of the ZX Spectrum it did have a tendency to slow down and pause at a crucial point during the crossing. This could cause an untimely death as the swamp tentacles would grab you and drag you to your doom. Once you know where the pause is going to occur your ready for it and can cross safely.

One of the other problems was that there seemed to be a lot to do in the first half of the game, before you cross underneath the waterfall, but once you had crossed there wasn’t as much adventuring to do. There were ruins, a Stonehenge like structure, a sacrificial altar and an odd triangular area that could be a burial site for the nearby pygmy village. There is all this and more but so little to do apart from avoid the enemies and get the heck out of there.

I have completed WTSS but never with all four characters alive, just with one alive.

Overall it is a fantastic game, an epic, but would’ve benefited from, gasp, being a two part multiload. They could’ve then finished the game properly and added more to the game. It’s really really good as it stands but just lacks the final polish – although this doesn’t become apparent until you’ve spent many hours playing the game.

The Music

It’s a short piece but atmospheric and suits the game very nicely.


About Phendrena

Father, Retro Gamer, PC Gamer.

3 responses »

  1. bc says:

    Have you played the ST version of this? Better graphics, but the YM rendition of the tune is not as good as the AY version IMO.

    • Phendrena says:

      I’ve never actually played the ST version (even though a friend of mine had one) but from what I remember of seeing it the graphics while a slightly higher resolution weren’t that much different from the Spectrum.

      It interesting that you mention the music. While the ST version wasn’t coded by Denton Designs i’m surprised that the music would be that different as the Yamaha YM2149F is effectively the same as the General Instruments AY-3-8910 as Yamaha made the chip under license.

      I’ll have to track down the ST music and have a listen to see how it does compare.

    • Phendrena says:

      Having listened to the Atari ST version I do agree that the YM version is rubbish. It completely lacks the vibrant sound of the AY version. The YM music is very flat.

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