One of the things about retro gaming is that you can sometimes look back at a title from your youth, and realise that actually nothing has ever quite bettered it. This is true of Mastertronic’s classic game Feud, developed by The Pickford Brothers. Released way back in 1987, it’s still a very much loved part of gaming history. I’ve seen a few attempts at remakes but nothing seems to have ever come close to the original for sheer evil enjoyment.
I say “evil enjoyment” because in this game of elegant simplicity, you and your brother are wizards, have a bit of a feud going on, and try to kill each other. Oddly enough this was one of the games that my sister and I played repeatedly–apparently, controlling warring siblings is good for real-life family relations.
The graphics were very good for the Spectrum at that time: bold and chunky to avoid the dreaded colour clash. And the sound effects were okay, too. This definitely isn’t a game that aims to wow you with aesthetics, though; the focus was on gameplay, which it has in joyful abundance. Played in a flip-screen area (of course, back in those days, scrolling game maps were virtually unheard of), the game simply consists of gathering herbs, bringing them back to your cauldron to create spells (once you have the right combination of ingredients), and using those spells to inflict the maximum effect against your brother.
You could play against the computer, but the real pleasure of Feud is playing against another human–or in the case of my sister, partly human. This is done on a split-screen display so you can, if you were sneaky enough, spy on what your opponent is doing–of course, they can do the same to you. The brothers, Learic and Leanoric, never seem to think that it would be a good idea to just get along. On what seems quite a large game map, you can find ingredients such as Feverfew, Burdock, Ragwort, and Bog Weed (yes, Bog Weed)–some easy to get to, others far more tricky. Each combination of two ingredients for a spell tends to require a lot of travel, and there could be other dangers besides your brother to be avoided. Naturally, the more powerful the spell, the more legwork and cunning is required gather the ingredients–but the end result is definitely worth it!
You have a range of spells–twelve in fact–to aid you or clobber your hapless sibling: Teleport, Protect, Sprites, Zombie, Swift, Freeze, Doppleganger, Invisible, Reverse, Heal, Fireball, and Lightning. Twelve might not seem like a great deal but there is a great deal of variety in how you can play the game, and a lot of scope for devious strategy. Reversing your opponent’s controls when they are in a dangerous area is always great fun, and watching fireballs and lightning strike the enemy never gets old.
Ported to various other systems, Feud for the ZX Spectrum alone managed an estimated 180,000 sales. It remains a much-loved game, a true classic of the 8-bit days.