Father of X-Com.

Source // Wikipedia

Like many abstractly named games, I didn't have a clue what Rebelstar was about until researching it. After researching, I sat a thought "All of that? On a ZX Spectrum?"

There is only one game that you'll probably be aware of that will help me explain Rebelstar, and that is X-Com. It doesn't matter if you think about the recent releases or the earlier X-Com classics, so long as you have that style of game in your mind, you'll know what Rebelstar is all about, because Rebelstar is X-Com

Not 'like X-Com', 'is X-Com'. Developed by the same guy, Julian Gollop. Rebelstar is X-ComOn a ZX Spectrum.


It's too incredible an idea to grasp that not even my emulation wants to work. I really, really need to sort that out sometime, because I really need to play Rebelstar.

You play as a whole bunch of rebels, and you're up against a whole bunch of enemies on your mission to destroy a computer called ISAAC. And, naturally, you're on a time limit to do so.

One by one you'll equip and position your expendables as much as you're able to before running out of action points, then waiting to see what the enemy does in the top down view of the one and only map you'll be playing on. Hopefully it won't be to horribly murder all of your team...

Fun Times

If you think that this is starting to sound like a dumbed down X-Com, don't worry, for the likes of aimed shots, cover and even attacks of opportunity make their presence known in Rebelstar. Units have individual morale stats, encumbrance limits, stamina and so on. This is X-Com in all but name.

With multiple little variations in the situations you face and the success of your strategy, Rebelstar appears just as replayable as any X-Com title is, and with multiple ways to interact with the level you'll be able to explore different approaches to your mission in order to see what does and doesn't work.

You can call in reinforcements if you destroy some defence computers around the base. You can ignore the enemy entirely and head straight to ISAAC for a quick finish. You've even got 8 difficulty levels available to you, should you need to adjust the game in that way. One map may not sound like enough until you've seen how packed it is with things to do.

Final Word

I don't know what's more ridiculous - that the game contains so many features that are found today, or that I'm assuming that the technology of the mid 1980s couldn't do any of it. Rebelstar is proof that it can, and that games can have far more depth than you might realise.

Hopefully I'll be able to play it at some point, rather than watch it. It's probably something ridiculously simple getting in my way, maybe a PEBKAC error or something. I don't know, but I can say that Rebelstar has pinged up on my radar for the first time thanks to this 1001 list, and it won't be disappearing any time soon.

You really should see if you've got more luck in emulating it than me, especially if you're a fan of X-Com.

Fun Facts

The game was released for the budget price of £1.99, helping it achieve the title of second greatest Spectrum game of all time. In today's money, that's around £5/$7. How many games of 2016 would be able to sell that low and achieve that much?

Rebelstar, developed by Julian Gollop, first released in 1986.
Version watched: ZX Spectrum, 1986 (RZX Archive)