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Emulation, News

Marvin v1.3.0 – Android app of the week!

Marvin on the HTC Desire, a spectrum in your pocket. Oh the memories! Best of all the app is free!

Driving home from London on Friday at 8pm is not a chore for me.  It’s at this time the tech hour is broadcast on LBC 97.3 and no matter how bad the traffic, it’s always a great journey home hearing the producers mostly concentrate on proprietary software whilst trying to avoid any questions from the phone-in that involve copyright issues, lest they find themselves in hot water.  Its a hoot.

I have to give LBC some credit here, since they have an app of the week feature, which I thought would be a good for Openbytes.  Unlike LBC though, I don’t have an iPhone, so it will only be Android apps covered.

Those readers whose beards are showing the first signs of greying (or indeed have completely succumbed) will remember the ZX Spectrum 48/128 range of computers, the glory days of loading software from tape, loading screens, multi-load and unexplained crashes….good times.  It seems a little ironic then that for many users who eventually found themselves on a PC, they would still be experiencing unexplained crashes for some time to come (until they discovered Linux) as Windows users get their fair share.

Marvin is a free ZX Spectrum emulator for phones running Android.  Currently in v1.3, the package can be found in the market place and better still, its free!  Marvin offers emulation of both the 48k and the 128k Spectrum, so lets look at how well it performs that task.

For the purposes of this review I am running Android on an HTC Desire which is a phone I have a great love for.  My affair with HTC started with the Hero and saw me upgrading to the Desire well before I was entitled to a free upgrade from my service provider – a cost I consider to be more than fair for such a great phone.  I wont elaborate on my praise of the HTC since this review is about Marvin.

The download is small and within seconds I was booting into that all too familiar “Sinclair Research LTD”.  Marvin offers itself for operation in both horizontal and vertical positions on the Desire.  The former displaying the Spectrum keyboard (yes, the beloved rubber keyed delight) and the later in joystick mode where you can use the touch screen to control movement via an emulation of the Kempston Interface (or a selection of other joystick options such as Cursor or Sinclair)

The menu system (accessed by the “menu” button on the Desire) is really self-explanatory and gives the option to reset into the 48k mode or the 128k.

Marvin handles the following file formats for spectrum files: .z80, .sna, .tap, .tzx and also allows them to be played within a .zip.  For those looking for the true Spectrum experience, .tap files can be loaded at a variety of speeds depending on how patient you are.  Whilst all these features alone would be great, Marvin manages to bring another surprise out of the bag…

Marvin’s killer feature, is the ability (from within the package) to connect to the World of Spectrum website, opening up a massive catalogue of software, which except for titles where there is a copyright issue or no permission, are able to be accessed/downloaded from within Marvin.  Should you be interested in Spectrum emulation on the desktop, you can visit the World of Spectrum here.  It’s a great site and a fantastic resource for your Spectrum needs!

Outrun - At the time these Spectrum graphics blew me away! Now my Spectrum fits in my pocket thanks to Marvin and Android!

Since Marvin has been awarded “app of the week” I think it goes without saying that its a great app.  Emulation is accurate in both speed and sound emulation.  For me Marvin brings back happy computing memories of years gone by with the World of Spectrum integration meaning that I have a massive library of software at my fingertips.

Today’s game player may never remember a time where the “save game” feature was rare and Marvin provides a very handy “save snapshot” option which will effectively dump the spectrum memory to a file, allowing you to continue your game where you left it.

Kempston emulation worked well, although I am not keen on the touch screen of modern smart  phones.

I suppose this highlighted the only flaw in Marvin and is the fault of HTC itself, not Marvin. It can sometimes challenging to play a game with a touch screen virtual keyboard and I would prefer a “solid keyboard” to the touch screen affair that HTC provides.  If only the HTC released a phone with the same size screen as the Desire and a pull out mini-keyboard……

Marvin comes highly recommended to any ex-Spectrum user and whilst the younger generation may not appreciate the gfx of an old 8bit machine, oldies will be in tears as they remember happy computing times with a “Spectrum in your pocket” – thanks to Marvin!

If you are interested in Spectrum emulation on the desktop (and emulation in general) you should check out the Openbytes feature on Puppy Arcade 8.

The homepage/blog for Marvin can be found here and of course you can get Marvin from the marketplace.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the Openbytes statement, here.


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About Tim Sparrow

Online tech writer, novelist/author of sci-fi literature and co-host of the TechBytes Show! I believe in multi-culturism & diversity. Luton Town FC supporter.

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