Gregg explains the design mastery behind Sabre Wulf
We were curious to know which of Ultimate’s games Gregg liked the most. “out of all of them, Sabre Wulf’s always been my favourite,” he explains. “A lot of people plump for the 3D stuff, but it never really grabbed me – I always felt it was a little bit too fiddly for me. I admired the technical achievement but Sabre Wulf was an arcade-style game, and I just loved the jungle setting and the fact that this wolf was chasing you around the jungle.”
It’s no great surprise, given that the game still holds up well – Darran spent a couple of weeks playing through the game when Rare Replay was released in 2015. Interestingly, it was that compilation that led Gregg to a deeper understanding of the game’s design. “I think at the time someone showed me the map of the jungle, and I was stunned at how small it was. When I was a kid playing those games, I just imagined it to be absolutely colossal – it was really easy to get lost and you kept wondering where to go. And then someone showed me the printout of the map, and it’s actually a bit disappointing seeing how small it was, but it was just so cleverly put together.”
So how is the illusion of size achieved? “I think it’s the sameyness of the graphics, actually, that do it,” Gregg explains. “It’s a positive thing, in that a lot of the locations kind of look familiar, so you feel like ‘have I been here before? I’m not quite sure.’ So I think it actually worked quite well, but then you had these occasional flashes of the mountains at the bottom or the top, where you got the reference. And then they introduced new baddies as well, so the further you got you started to see that rodent-type thing, and even though the little rodent wasn’t that special, the fact that you had to be that far to see it. In many ways, the forethought – ‘oh, the player’s got this far, let’s show them a new thing, now they’re this far, let’s show them a new thing’ – has stuck with me until today.”
[ZX Spectrum] Gregg points out Sabre Wulf’s jungle design as one of his favourite elements.