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ZX Vega – Hands on

IMG_6607The ZX Vega was recently launched at SMS Electronics in Beeston, Nottingham. (Link to a video of the production in the factory is at the bottom of the page, via @JuicyGameReview.) We were invited to play test the new console and have a tour of the factory where they were made, along with a few other website / media related people.

The console itself is a superb little device. It is perfectly sized for handheld play, being about as wide as an iPhone. The design of it is absolutely spot on, with the raised area at the back and the colour splash at the bottom right. Even the keys, (buttons used to select options and to “fire” in games) have that rubberyness to them. (Spellcheck currently tells me that “rubberyness” is not a real word, a fact no doubt disputed by millions of Spectrum owners!)

The console has two long wires coming from it – one to plug into your TVs composite sockets / Scart socket (with a Scart adaptor) and one to plug into your TVs USB socket to power it. (If your TV has no USB socket, just plug it into a USB plug adapter.) As Chris, one of the Vegas designers, explained, they chose Scart over HDMI partly because there was no real benefit graphics-wise in seeing blocky Spectrum pixels in HD, and partly to keep the cost down – the chips used on the hardware already had the capability to export to Scart and so adding HDMI would only increase the production costs.

On the underside of the console there is a micro sd slot onto which you can put your own Spectrum games. (You know, in case the 1000 games it comes with is not quite enough!) It also allows for software updates, released via the ZX Vega website.

It really does look the part, but how does it play?

IMG_6606It comes with 1000 games pre-installed. You just plug it in, select a game from the menu and it works. There are no loading times, a thing that will please most previous Spectrum owners. (I was going to suggest they add on option to have an “R Tape Loading Error” at random times, say every 10th or 20th time we try to select a game, just for old times sake?)

The games are a mix of ones you will recognise from the 80s and more recent games from still working programmers, like Jonathan Cauldwell. Skool Daze, Everyones A Wally, Horace Goes Skiing, Discs of Death, 3D Deathchase… absolutely LOADS of well known 80s titles are already on there.

What about Text-based Adventure Games? You may have noticed that the console does not have a full keyboard. The ZX Vega does come with quite a few Adventure Games installed, AND a “virtual keyboard” option built in, but it is unlike ANY virtual keyboard I have seen in the past. I’ll do my best to explain it…

When the Virtual Keyboard is selected, at the bottom of the screen the first 4 letters of the alphabet appear. You press the relevant button on the Vega to select the letter. These letters are in the same layout as on the Vega, (two letter on top and two on the bottom) so if you press the top left button, the letter in the top left will be selected. You don’t have to look down to know which button to press to select the correct letter.

If you scroll right using the d-pad, the letters on the screen change to the next 4 letters in the alphabet. So ABCD becomes EFGH, which becomes IJKL, etc… This sounds like quite a laborious way of selecting letters, but in reality it is SO quick. In fact, it is much quicker than having a full keyboard on the screen that you have to navigate your way around to select each letter. The vowels, more often than not, are in the top left of each page, making it incredibly quick to spell.

In short, (despite the impression my description may give,) it is a genius way of typing and given that current gen consoles also have 4 buttons I wouldn’t be surprised if they also adopted this system.

All the games I tried were responsive and playable, with both sound and graphics emulated perfectly. Text Adventure games were also completely playable. I could have spent hours playing on it.

Would I recommend getting one? Absolutely!

For a video showing SMS Electronics production of the ZX Vega console, filmed by JuicyGameReview (TheGebs24), click here – ZX Vega Production

To buy your own ZX Vega, visit the official website – here

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