Chase HQ Arcade

Chase HQ

Chase HQ was my first arcade love. It’s the first arcade game I can actually remember, well, remembering. I knew the name, I would actively seek it out in the various horrible, dingy, seaside arcades I forced my family to take me to as a kid.* It was colourful, it was noisy, you got to drive a car, bash into another car, and a man leaned out of the window and fired a gun. Brilliant. Simple, effective arcade action. I did whatever Nancy told me to do. I still probably would.

So it was only natural I would want my very own version to play at home. As Lewis has already touched on here there was a time when everyone was obsessed with something being ‘arcade perfect’. The dream held by every school boy was that they could play an exact replica of the game they played at the arcade in the comfort of their own bedroom, away from the frightening puffa-jacketed older boys who might beat them up or intimidate them by standing right behind them and watching them play.

Of course it all seems so quaint now, bloated as we are on fancy graphics and plasma tellys. Why, the arcade itself now struggles to compete with home consoles, relying on ever more elaborate and expensive gimmicks to try and get people to fritter their pound coins away as they once did with their 20ps. Ahhhh, ’twas a different time.

At the time my brother and I were proud owners of an Amstrad CPC6128k (with disc drive, and I’m sure it was spelt disc not disk back then). Now the Amstrad CPC version of Chase HQ was never going to be arcade perfect. Even at 10 years old I knew that.

While the arcade version looked like this:

Chase HQ - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot - 1

The Amstrad CPC version looked like this:

Chase HQ - Amstrad CPC - Gameplay Screenshot

Didn’t matter though. I was well used to such differences and had lowered my expectations accordingly, I just wanted the chance to play Chase HQ at home. Is that really so much to ask?

I found a mail order company in an Amstrad magazine selling Chase HQ at a very reasonable price. I can’t remember how much now, something like £5, but it was cheap. I saved up the odd 20 pence and 50 pence given to me by grandparents and aunts and uncles until I had enough. I got my mum to write a cheque for me, posted my order and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And after about 2 months my parents tired of me asking if Chase HQ had arrived every time I got home from school. My dad called the company, it seemed they had gone bust. I wasn’t going to ever get the game. They had though, in a thoughtful parting gesture, cashed my mum’s cheque, effectively stealing from a 10 year old.

Now this is were Robert Maxwell gets involved. At least I think he does. I’m sure I remember my Dad saying the company had gone bust partly because one of Maxwell’s companies, I presume Mirrorsoft but again I don’t know, owed them a huge amount of money. So, in a roundabout way, Robert Maxwell stole Chase HQ away from me. How did he sleep at night? Maybe that was the final guilty nail when he was on that boat…

Though now I think about it (and having done a little bit of research on the internet – I checked wikipedia) that doesn’t seem that likely. Still, I like to blame him, he did enough crooked things that adding another seems fair enough.

I never got Chase HQ. Very soon after that incident it became increasingly difficult to find places selling Amstrad CPC games, certainly older ones. It seemed I just wasn’t meant to play it at home. In fact after that experience I stopped playing it in the arcade. The game had been soiled in some way.

So, how did Chase HQ make my life slightly better? Well, it taught me to be wary of ads in the backs of magazines – an important lesson to learn whatever your age.

Gunfighter

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Gunfighter

At some point in the early 80s my parents aquired a Philips Videopac G7000, also know as Magnavox Odyessy². The world’s first computer games console was of course 1972′s Magnavox Odyessy (I say of course though I only found this out when googling the Videopac). I say aquired as I really can’t imagine my parents actually buying a Videopac off their own backs. I have a vague memory that an uncle may of given it to us when his kids no longer wanted it. That or my Dad got it from a man in the pub.

The Philips Videopac G7000

Whatever, I don’t remember it arriving, it just seemed to always be there. It was kept in a big plastic bag on top of a wardrobe and whenever my brother or I wanted to play it we had to ask my Dad to get it down and set it up on the TV. Consequently we didn’t play on it that often and it was always a bit of a treat when we did. Kids these days with their Nintendo stations and their xwees, they don’t know they’re born, etc. We had several games, but I only remember two – Laser War, a kind of space meteor type game (I may blog about it one day) and Gunfighter.

With Gunfighter you took control of, unsurprisingly, a Gunfighter in the old wild west. Each player was represented by about twelve sprites, with a couple of sprites representing the mandatory cowboy hat. You moved about the screen, firing your one sprite gun at your opponent and the one sprite bullet would drift across the screen, usually missing the other cowboy and bouncing off… things – not quite sure what they were, stones? Cacti?

gunfighter-ad

It was simple, slow and would no doubt be incredibly boring if I played it now, but back then it was a little bit of magic. I still remember the sounds, the way the screen would change colour when someone was hit, the feel and click of the joystick.

This game was the first multiplayer game I ever played. I mostly played against my brother, who I remember often beating. Though seeing as I’m three and a half years older than him that’s not so impressive – my hand to eye coordination was a little bit more developed… That didn’t stop me lording it over him, showing off and generally being a horrible, boastful, little git. I played against my Dad as well. More often than not he won but I used sometimes beat him. I think it was the first thing that I beat my Dad at (lets brush over the fact that he was probably letting me win to be nice). Probably my earliest memories of beating anyone at anything – of victory – are of Gunfighter. I was a true twelve sprite cowboy.

gunfighters-gameplay-screenshot

My dominance of Gunfighter couldn’t last forever of course. My brother soon got the hang of it and started beating me, rubbing my nose in his every victory just as I had done to him. I seem to remember that led to sulking and lots of ‘Not playing anymore’ on my part.

So Gunfighter taught me that what comes around goes around – to be a gracious winner as there’s every chance that next time I’ll be the loser. To this day I try to follow this creed, especially as more often than not I tend to be on the losing side when playing games. Especially if I’m playing Lew.

Rise of the Robots

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Rushing home we inserted the first disk and were confronted by a very impressive intro. ‘This is going to be great’ we thought. Then, after an hour or two, we both felt something was wrong. Could Rise of the Robots be… rubbish? Neither my brother or myself could believe it. In fact I remember assuming that we were playing it wrong, that it was our fault that you could beat every robot by doing a flying kick. ~Ian

Rise of the Robots

Format: Amiga 1200 Genre: Fighting Game Released: 1994 Developer:

Mirage ‘Even if you don’t believe in Father Christmas, it might be worth writing to him to make sure he doesn’t bring you a copy of this’. Jonathan Davies, Rise of the Robots review, Amiga Power 45. In 1993 various video game magazines ran previews of a beat-’em up that seemed to be from the future. It looked stunning, with graphics that promised to be far superior to anything else out there. Not only that but the gameplay was going to break new ground too, with computer opponents that ‘learned’ as they fought you, adapting their fighting style to match yours. All in all Rise of the Robots, for that was the name of this legendary game, was going to be THE game of 1994. Unfortunately, as Jonathan Davies alludes to in the above quote, Rise of the Robots was shit. Rise of the Robots was more than just a video game, it was an event. The previews of 1993 turned into a steady stream of hype throughout 1994. There was talk of tie-in books, comics, toys, cartoons and a film. It was to be released on practically every platform and giant cardboard robots were cropping up in video game shops across the country. Brian May was even going to write the soundtrack.

patrickandbrian
Brian May pictured with a relaxed GamesMaster

Being an impressionable 14 year-old I was extremely excited about Rise of the Robots. It looked simply amazing. I mean, you got to be a kung-fu robot! Just watch the video below for a taste of the building excitement. It ‘redefines the fighting genre and raises the ante on gamers with a futuristic motif proven in focus groups’. Focus groups like the motif, what more do you want?

Just after Christmas (the same Christmas I got UFO: Enemy Unknown), with a decent chunk of Christmas money jangling in our pockets, my brother and I went to Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street and, £40 later, we had picked upRise of the Robots. I always remember how huge the box was. Well in fairness it had to be. On the Amiga 1200 Rise of the Robots came on 13 disks. That’s right, 13.

Rise of the robots - amgia

Rushing home we inserted the first disk and were confronted by a very impressive intro. ‘This is going to be great’ we thought. Then, after an hour or two, we both felt something was wrong. Could Rise of the Robots be… rubbish? Neither my brother or myself could believe it. In fact I remember assuming that we were playing it wrong, that it was our fault that you could beat every robot by doing a flying kick. That there was a way of turning round and jumping over the other fighter we just hadn’t worked out how. That you could pick a fighter who wasn’t the blue cyborg, you just had to complete it or something. How could all the hype be wrong?

Rise of the robots - amgia

Rise of the Robots was crippled by its flashy visuals. So much computing power was devoted to having beautifully animated robots that there was nothing left for the rest of the game. I distinctly remember reading Jonathan Davies review and just feeling sad. Ok, at least now I knew it wasn’t my fault the game seemed to be poor. It was poor. But I felt swindled, the victim of a con.

Rise of the robots - amgia

An important lesson for any child to learn is that all that glitters is not gold. Sometimes that which glitters is simply that, a glittery thing. Not only that but rubbish stuff is often coated in glitter to try to distract you from the rubbish underneath. Rise of the Robots, covered in metaphorical glitter (plus fairy lights, shiny baubles and tin foil), taught me that lesson. So in that way, and in no other, Rise of the Robots made my life slightly better.