Amaurote (Amstrad CPC)

25 October 2022

Yes, it's another 8-bit game that I used to play years ago. This time, I'm talking about Amaurote, a 3D isometric game with large maps to explore.

A horde of giant flies has taken over the entire city of Amaurote, and your job is to exterminate them. The tool for the job is the Arachnus 4 — a strange vehicle that might be described as a "bulb on four spindly legs". And you're under a strict budget!

Amaurote cassette cover artwork.

Do flies have claws?

The whole thing gives me 1950s film vibes. The alien-looking Arachnus, the giant insects, even the music (by David Whittaker) is fittingly eerie. As early 8-bit micro games go, the concept is very good. The gameplay suffers a bit though.


I had the Amstrad copy, and my prime complaint is that it's sooo slooow. On a screen with multiple flies and several buildings, the frame rate drops to an absolute crawl. Movements barely register.

My second whine is that the game takes too long to win. At a speedy rate of 15 minutes per district, it'll still take more than six hours to finish. There are no ways to save your status on real hardware, and the reward for winning isn't much.

My third complaint is with the Arachnus. Who designed this thing? Instead of a nice barrel that can be pointed directly into a fly's face, your bombs pop out of the top of the bulb. Aiming is very difficult, as the shot direction is based on the last movement you made, i.e. step forward to shoot forwards. And they bounce!

Screenshot from within the CPC version.

You can't shoot again until your previous shot has bounced into something. If you miss your shot (and you will!), your target will happily gnaw at your legs while you wait for another shot.

I will concede that there is some satisfaction to standing underneath a fly and blowing it to pieces.


There are three types of fly in the game - drone flies, scout flies and the Queen fly. Each one affects you differently.

  • Drones stay on the ground, and are the only enemy that can harm the Arachnus. There are loads of them, and they can absolutely gang up on you.
  • Scout flies fly overhead. They report to the Queen, and if they see you, all nearby flies will head in your direction.
  • The Queen is the brains behind the fly army. There is only one per district, and you need to buy an expensive Supabomb to destroy it due to the cocoon. She also slowly generates more drones.

This permits an element of strategy. Without the Queen, drone flies stop trying to attack. Unfortunately, that makes them incredibly hard to kill. It's much easier to aim at them when they're following you.

The Queen's nest.

You could instead prioritise the scouts. There are only a handful per district, and once they're gone, you can pick off the drones at your leisure before destroying the Queen.


As if the task wasn't hard enough already, you have this to worry about — almost everything costs money. Each port of the game has a slightly different accounting method, but on the CPC, you get $5,000,000.

  • Supabombs cost $45,000 each,
  • 30 more bombs cost $45,000,
  • A rescue costs $30,000, and
  • Repair costs a $64,000 call-out fee and $6,400 for every 1% of damage fixed.

You have to spend at least $1,125,000 on Supabombs for every district. About another million dollars are required for all the bombs you need. That leaves about $3 million to use on rescues and repairs and, as you can see, those cost a bomb. Ahem.


There are four main ports of the game, and the Commodore 64 version (which will be covered in a moment). Those four are the ZX Spectrum, Atari 8-bit, Amstrad CPC, and MSX.

  • The ZX Spectrum 128K version features a cutscene when you begin a new game. The 64K version has no music.
  • The Amstrad CPC version has a secondary health indicator — moving coloured squares in the borders. They slow down and go dark when your damage is high. Supabombs can destroy the outer fences.
  • The Atari version seems to be the most optimised. There are a lot more buildings per district, but they are fenced off into a smaller area.
  • Every version has unique maps. Tanelorn on CPC is different to Tanelorn on MSX, etc.
  • District names vary between versions. e.g. Sinewave and Tatung on MSX, Gong on Atari, etc.


I don't know if the MSX port was officially released (2,000 sales according to the Pickford Brothers), but if it was, version 1.0 has a major bug. It's so bad that I can't believe it wasn't discovered quickly and fixed, hence my suspicion, but I don't think there are any later versions around. Some bugs are deliberately inserted to make a game unwinnable (still looking at you, Chiller!), but I doubt this is the case here.

Anyway, the bug: the Arachnus is always moving down the screen, from the district selection menu to the levels themselves. It's like somebody's leaning on the keyboard.

This happens because there is an inverted logic error in the code, where the 'L' key is registering as pressed when it isn't, and vice versa.

To fix this, you can patch the ROM. Find this unique sequence of bytes:

04 4E 20 01

And replace them with:

04 4E 28 01

Movement will then work correctly. If you can't patch the ROM because you're using original disks on real hardware, well... you can hold down the 'L' key when you don't want to go down, I suppose.

Commodore 64 Port

The four 3D versions are probably based off of the same source code, because they all use the Z80 CPU. The C64 uses a 6502 CPU though, so I'd say it was written from scratch, and is pretty much a different game. Sure, it has the same backstory and the same music, but it's a 2D top-down affair.

Screenshot of the C64 version.

In the 3D versions, when you order something (e.g. a Supabomb), it gets airdropped onto the map and you have to use the radar to find it. On the C64, it's immediately available upon purchase. The game manual still says you can use F7 to activate the Supabomb radar, but of course, it doesn't work.

There is a rather cool lightning effect in some districts. In the Gotham district it's pitch black, except for when lightning strikes.

The drones are all idiots. They behave as if the Queen is gone, even if that's not the case. It makes attacking them difficult.


On some versions of the game, you are invited to "map this sucker!" in the introduction sequence. So I did. However, they're pretty useless. Generally speaking, you'll use the radar to find things of interest — follow the arrows like a sat-nav.

I was still curious to see if there were any easter eggs to find. Was there a secret bat-symbol hidden in Gotham? (No.) Hidden initials? (No.) Anything? (No.) They almost look randomly-generated.

Oh well. Click here to see them. I didn't bother with the C64 version.


As isometric 3D games go, this is one of the better ones, especially on the faster machines. The tile-based movement makes more sense than say, Alien 8, where moving one pixel to the wrong side results in death.

While the bouncy bomb idea is novel, I think it sucks. A tank would have been much better equipped to deal with the pests, but perhaps the game was too easy that way.

Lastly, I am impressed with the size of the game, at least on a technological level. 25 districts (64² tiles each), sprites, game engine code, and the screen buffer — all squeezed into 64KB of RAM. I love seeing efficient programming!


Created by Binary Design Limited for Mastertronic, 1987.

ZX Spectrum, CPC & MSX: Written by John Pickford. Graphics by Ste Pickford. MSX version packaged by Steve Hughes.

Atari: Written by Zero The Hero. Graphics by Ste Pickford.

C64: Written by Andrew Routledge. Graphics by Ste Pickford.

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