You don’t get the show #24: Video games are offensive


No we’re not going SJW on you, but we do have a couple of games that do enter that realm of offensive. We look at Custards Revenge, Bonetown and Ethnic Cleansing.

Oh and we have a game where you can decide whether to save Trump or not and sex girls unboxing a Commodore 64.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Steve London (Halcyon 6)


We talk a look at Halcyon 6 the game inspired by classics such as Star Control, Master of Orion, X-COM, Civilization and new classics like FTL and talk to its composer Steve London who loves classic Commodore 64 and Amiga games, cool pizza toppings and the Toronto Maple leafs.

Halcyon 6 began as a Kickstarter passion project with a goal of $40k and raised over $180k. We get into all that and of course Steve’s love of music in our interview.

About Halcyon:

In the midst of a disastrous war, you and your ragtag group of Terran officers discover an ancient, derelict space station, and attempt to harness its mysterious power to turn the war’s tides in a grand, desperate campaign to save the human race from extinction.

Halcyon is available now on Steam early access.

Bonus: Check out some Halcyon game music from SoundCloud.

World 1-1 Review

World 1-1 Review

World 1-1 is an amazing video game history documentary movie created by the team made up of Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez, two awesome, young but thorough movie makers from Miami. Although World 1-1 automatically might make you think of the world start screen from Super Mario Bros., the film is actually about what I call the rise and fall of the original Atari (I would have probably called the film The Rise and Fall of Atari). The film covers the birth of video games from their origins in scientific labs, onto games being played on what at the time were time-shared supercomputers, to the creation of arcade video game machines, and onto the rise and fall of early video game consoles (video gaming at home).

world 1-1 movie poster

To say the film is thorough would be an understatement although the movie mainly focuses on arcade and console game development. Although I love this film a lot, I can criticize that it barely touches on what was going on in the home computer field, which although Nintendo saved the console gaming market (probably what World 1-2 will be about), home computers also saved video games and people’s interest in electronics and computers with great machines such as the Commodore 64, Atari computers, and later Commodore Amiga (much before IBM clones and DOS become popular).

Getting back to what makes World 1-1 so great, the film has many great interviews with not just most of the important people that worked in Atari and Activision but also many interviews by people who work in Microsoft (and other important companies) and many famous people in the video game world such as arcade specialists and many of what I consider to be experts in video game history. This movie is like entering a time machine and seeing what it was actually like to have worked at Atari. There are many great stories of crazy things that would happen or also recollections describing how many breakthroughs came about. Some of the interviews also talk about the important business decisions that took place both from the managerial perspective and how the engineers and the rest of the employees responded to such decisions. Just like everything in life all things must come to an end and the movie deals with the death of the original Atari corporation in a very classy and dignified manner.

I highly recommend you view the movie as part of what I call some of the best movies and shows in video game, internet, hacker, and computer history such as: Pirates of Silicon Valley, Micro Men, Middle Men, The King of Kong, The Social Network, TRON, Takedown, Silicon Valley, and Halt And Catch Fire. World 1-1 and those shows and movies are what I call to be essential to watch if you a true interest in video game history. Chances are that if you’re reading this you already have such an interest.

You can buy the movie directly from the creators’ website or you can even get it over at Steam.

If I have to give the movie a numerical score I would say it’s a 9.5 out of 10. Stop reading this and go watch it NOW! ūüôā

Here is an interview we did with the creators from when they were trying to get the funding for the film:

Here is a further interview we did after it got funded. It talks more about the making of the film:

Commodore 64: A Visual Compendium Kickstarter

Commodore 64: A Visual Compendium Kickstarter

The “Commodore 64: a visual Compendium” is a Kickstarter for a¬†high-end, coffee table book that celebrates the visual beauty of the worst best-selling computer the Commodore 64. ¬†This will be the first book by new publisher Bitmap Books who specialise in high-end books all about computer games. Created by lifelong Commodore 64 fan and Graphic Designer¬†Sam ‚ÄúMrSID‚ÄĚ Dyer to combine his passions for visual art and retro gaming.

The final book will be 200 pages and ready to be posted in September 2014. It will showcase loading screens, graphics, maps and cover art along with information such as facts, a small review or even a quote from one of the developers.

The book will start with a foreword by legendary Sensible Software Graphic Artist, Stoo Cambridge. Whilst at Sensible, Stoo created artwork for games such as Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder and Mega Lo Mania. The book will start with the very early games such as Juniper Lander and work its way through games being released now by companies such as RGCD and Psytronik Software. Featured throughout the book will be double page spreads full coloured illustrations by Oliver Frey, a selection of game maps, and loading screens.

A pledge of ¬£25 will secure a copy of the book along with one of five ‘Loader’ postcards

Other rewards include

  • Personally signed books by Stoo Cambridge
  • The chance to own your OWN spread in the book. You choose the game to be featured and even write your own mini-review to accompany the image.
  • A full page advert placed in the book next to the campaign supporters.
  • One of 100 exclusively copies of the PAL only game Micro Hexagon on cartridge. 50 will even be signed by programmer Paul Koller and musician Mikkel Hastrup.

microhex+carts[1]

The Kickstarter has already achieved over 75% of his target in just over 5 days. You can find out more about the book and the campaign here.

Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom (1982)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 23,297 (one credit)
Also Available For: Master System, SG-1000, PC, MSX, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, ZX Spectrum, TI-99/4A, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari XE, ColecoVision, Coleco Adam, Intellivision
Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

It may have taken a¬†few¬†years but it still wasn’t long before the first few licensed video games started to appear. One of the first such games to grace an amusement arcade was this example, by my beloved Sega no less, and was based on the (mis)adventures of Captain Rogers. Well, I say ‘based’ but this is a game that, name aside, has pretty much nothing to do with the source material – something that would become a familiar story in the years to come – but as we all know, that doesn’t necessarily make it a¬†sucky¬†game, just an unfaithful one. Planet of Zoom, for example, takes the form of an into-the-screen shooter. Nothing unusual there for a 70’s sci-fi show, I’ll grant you – plenty of shooting done in most of those. However, as long as it might have been since I’ve immersed myself in the gallant exploits of Buck, Wilma, and Twiki, nothing else from the game seems familiar.

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

Actually, now that I think about it, I can’t even be sure that we’re playing the game¬†as¬†Buck! Oh well, whoever may be at the controls, it’s your job to guide their ship through a tonne of dangerous stuff, and the best means of doing this is by blasting the crap out of it all. To this end, the ship offers unlimited use of its cannon, and you can also move it around the screen freely and increase or decrease its speed as you see fit. Each round is divided into eight stages (or sectors) of which there are three types – trench (as seen in the screenshot to the right), open space (next shot down), and planet (bottom shot) – but the object of each is the same; namely, to either fulfill an enemy quota or to finish within the time limit. If you can take down the required number of enemies before the time expires, you’ll move on to the next stage with any remaining time awarded as bonus points. If the timer runs down before you do this, you’ll still progress but with no bonus.

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

Most of the stages merely pit you against various kinds of oncoming enemies which include many flying saucers, hopping ground-based buffoons, red/purple versions of your own ship (almost), fast winged vessels, and angry-looking grey/red craft. As well as being mighty dangerous by themselves, most of them can also fire missiles and stuff at you, and there are also a few other hazards too. One of the trench stages features a series of barriers with gaps on the left, right, or middle, one of the planetary stages has a load of weird slalom-style gates (which offer only your continued existence as a reward for passing though them), and there is also a stage featuring a much larger boss ship which, for some reason, attacks with its back to you allowing you to simply blast all four of its engines to see it off. Defeating this befuddled clot isn’t too hard and each time you do it’s on to the next round where the stages are in a different order.

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

This process goes on forever as far as I can tell, which means things could potentially get more than a little repetitive. Fortunately, the action is fast and involving enough to keep this from setting in too much. The stages all look the same each time they’re repeated but they work well – the scrolling is pretty fast and the enemies move quickly via some superb scaling. The colouring is also impressive with lovely pixelly explosions, nice shaded skies, and even some occasional eye-melting psychedelic effects on some spacey stages. The sound is a little more basic, consisting only of a constant blooping sound (the ship’s engine?), as well as shooting and explosion effects. They’re loud though, and¬†do¬†contribute to the enjoyment of Buck’s adventure which is a pretty decent one. I think it’s clear Sega’s inspiration for Space Harrier lies here, and the later game is understandably the one that’s more fondly remembered, but I was pleasantly surprised by its spiritual predecessor which is more playable in some ways as well as being slightly easier. Buck and friends may have a pretty limited involvement but they can still be fairly proud of this.

RKS Score: 7/10

Little Computer People

little computer people
It might have inspired¬†The Sims¬†and that happily forgotten¬†Tamagotchi¬†craze, but David Crane’s¬†Little Computer People¬†was far from a commercial success back in 1985. Surely the¬†atrocious cover art couldn’t have helped much…
little computer people
The game itself though remains fresh, unique, innovative, pretty brilliant and beautiful in a way only those chunky Commodore 64 games can be.
little computer people
And did you know that its complete title is¬†Little Computer People Discovery Kit¬†and that it was also known as a¬†House-on-a-Disk? Oh, I see…

Street Fighter

Welcome aboard the Crapsville Express. Last time,¬†Hard Drivin‚Äô¬†was served up as a turd for¬†Review A Bad Game Day¬†–¬†this year the gong goes to another coin-op conversion.

Street_Fighter_1-c64

Game: Street Fighter
Genre: 
Fighting
Format:
 C64
Year: 1988
Publisher: GO!
Developer: Tiertex

Street Fighter

Prior to the sublime ‚ÄėStreet Fighter II: The World Warrior‚Äô SNES home conversion, there was the abhorrent C64 fighting game‚Äô Street Fighter‚Äô.

Where does one even start with this game? For those of you not familiar with the series, ‚ÄėStreet Fighter‚Äô made its debut in the arcades in 1987. On the back of its success, the home version quickly followed on all conceivable platforms of the time, including the C64.

Street_Fighter_1-c64

Tiertex brought this foul stench of a fighting game to our trusty and much loved 8-bit home computer. I suspect the coding was done by a drunk programmer or their pet monkey. How this passed any quality assurance testing is beyond my comprehension. Anyway, on with the review…

‚ÄėStreet Fighter‚Äô, as you may have guessed, is based on Capcom‚Äôs 1987 arcade game. You enter the worldwide martial arts tournament as Ryu and fight opponents from across the globe in order to become the street fighting champion. Ryu‚Äôs fighting arsenal is made up of various punches and kicks ‚Äď that‚Äôs it (no special attacks!). Each battle has timed rounds; the winner being the last fighter standing. After each battle, Ryu competes in bonus rounds, smashing bricks to earn extra points.

Street_Fighter_1-c64

If you manage to bribe a friend to play ‚ÄėStreet Fighter‚Äô, you could have yourself a two-player grudge match ‚Äď Ryu vs Ken. The winner proceeds to take on the computer-controlled fighters, while the loser is subjected to watching this dreadful game being played ‚Äď even the CIA plays by fairer rules of torture!

Street_Fighter_1-c64

The graphics are childish and messy ‚Äď they do nothing to show off the C64‚Äôs abilities. The fighters tend to clash with the background. I reckon I could have drawn better sprites and backgrounds with crayons! ‚ÄėHow about the sound?‚Äô you may ask ‚Äď let‚Äôs not even go there if you like your hearing the way it is. The effects and tunes are better suited for an Atari 2600 game, not a game that should be taking advantage of the C64‚Äôs SID chip. The clincher of this turdfest is the control ‚Äď before there was button mashing, there was joystick and wrist breaking. The control is absolutely abysmal, by the time you attempt to pull off an attack; it is already too late, game over (which is probably a good thing!).

Street_Fighter_1-c64

The C64 had quite a few poor arcade conversions in its time, and sadly ‚ÄėStreet Fighter‚Äô makes this list. Had it not been for the stinker¬†Hard Drivin‚Äô,¬†this would have been number 1 in Crapsville. Play it at your peril!

GraphicsCrappy sprites with even crappier backgrounds.

15%

SoundTurn down the volume on your TV, I am warning you!

10%

PlayabilityLaughable. Apart from the terrible look and sound of this game, the controls let it down big time.

5%

LastabilityIt will last as fast as you can turn off your C64.

2%

OverallStay away! This is another poor C64 arcade conversion. If you want to play a great fighting game on your C64, try International Karate!

9%

 

 

Five Video Games To Play In Summer

Summer_Games

When the temperature soars outside, there is only one thing to do ‚Äď turn on the air-conditioner and grab a video game that will keep you cool and simulate that summer experience.

Wave Race 64 [N64]

Wave_Race_64
Grab your jet-ski and hit the waves. This early N64 title has realistic water effects and an array of differing environments and courses that will keep your heart racing. Play on your own or call a friend over, you will have an absolute ball. Bonsai!

California Games [Lynx]

california-GamesWhen you think of California, you think of sun, surf and lots of obscure sports, right? California Games on the Atari Lynx brings four events which will have you playing till the batteries run out. Connect the Lynx to a power outlet and have some fun in the sun.

Virtua Tennis [Dreamcast]

Virtua Tennis
With all the Grand Slams being in summer, it is perfectly natural to pull out your Dreamcast and start playing Virtua Tennis ‚Äď the best tennis video game ever, period! Practice makes perfect, and the mini games are equally entertaining as blasting your opponent on clay, grass or even hard courts.

Summer Games II [C64]

Summer Games II
No summer games list can be complete without Epyx‚Äôs seminal favourite. From the triple jump to the cycling event, grab seven of your mates, a sturdy joystick and have some fun! Make sure you watch the closing ceremony fireworks ‚Äď a perfect touch to a perfect game.

Out Run [PC-Engine]

Out Run
Jump in your red Ferarri, crank up the stereo, swing past your girlfriend’s place and hit the road. Feel the wind in your hair as you race down the highway to make it to the next checkpoint. Make sure you enjoy those cool and refreshing tunes along the way.

Well, there you have it. These are just a few video games to keep you cool this summer. Which video games will you play?

Haunted Hill

haunted-hill-c64

Haunted Hill

With all the hubub about DRM and digital distribution of games, it’s real easy to forget that some platforms have been using the concept for DECADES.¬† One such platform was the Commodore 64, a system very near and dear to my heart.¬† And as such, I’d like to present a game that is similarly dear to me, as it’s one of the first games I ever played, Haunted Hill for the Commodore 64!

Written by George Richardson for Merlin’s Associates, its a simple Centipede style game released as a shareware title in 1983. But, as you’ll find out, it’s more than just that.

Gauntlet

Gauntlet_Atari

Gauntlet (1985)
By:¬†Atari¬†Genre:¬†Maze / Run ‘n’ Gun¬†Players:¬†1-4¬†Difficulty:¬†Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 20,332 (starting with 2000 health)
Also Available For: Master System, MegaDrive, NES, Lynx, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, Atari 8-bits, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the ‘Maze Games’ feature here at Red Parsley arrived at the Gauntlet series for a review but the decision to return to it wasn’t a hard one. This is mainly because it’s one of my favourite games but I’ve actually spent surprisingly little time with the arcade original. The decent conversion for the Spectrum occupied much of my time in the late 80’s before the fantastic Gauntlet 4 arrived on the MegaDrive (basically a conversion of the first game but with tonnes of extras) and occupied much of my time in the 90’s as well! The series certainly has its detractors, though, who argue that it’s repetitive and frustrating. I definitely didn’t agree with them back then but perhaps time has dulled the appeal of Atari’s classic. Henceforth, I shall find out…
Gauntlet_Atari

The basic gameplay of Gauntlet (and Dandy – see below) must surely be known by near enough all gamers by now but for the benefit of those who have somehow missed it, it works like this: between one and four players can play simultaneously but first each needs to choose a character from the four available – Thor the Warrior (who has good fighting strength), Thyra the Valkyrie (who has strong armour), Merlin the Wizard (who has strong magic), and Questor the Elf (who is the quickest). From then on, your party (or maybe just you) are faced with an unending series of overhead-viewed dungeons filled to the brim with malevolent beasties intent on shortening your adventure! Whether they do or not is entirely up to you though, as each coin you insert gives your character health points and you can insert coins, and therefore play, forever if you want.
Gauntlet_Atari

There are six types of enemy altogether – Grunts, Ghosts, Demons, Sorcerers, Lobbers, and Death. All of them except Death are created endlessly by generators placed all around the maze-like stages which have three strength levels with each monster they create being of the same level. The generators can be destroyed in the same way as the monsters they produce – either by shooting or fighting them one at a time or by collecting potions and using magic which clears some or most enemies on screen in one go. The strength of both of these attacks depends on the character chosen although special potions can also be found occasionally which boost an aspect of a character’s abilities – extra shot power or extra armour, for example. Watch out though – a pesky thief appears now and then and it’s these abilities that he’s most keen on stealing. Deaths appears in smaller numbers than the other enemies but they can only be killed by magic – otherwise they’ll drain 200 health points before disappearing. Grrrr!
Gauntlet_Atari

The stages themselves are each around two screens wide by two screens tall, although some loop instead, and they are usually designed in as maze-like a way as possible. Most include several paths, some of which are often dead-ends. There are usually many doors blocking off sections that must be opened by finding keys and some stages feature teleporters which move you to the nearest similar device. Treasure chests for bonus points are abundant but far rarer are special medallions that grant temporary invisibility (the enemies home in on you as far as possible otherwise) which are a welcome, albeit brief, reprieve when they are encountered. Each player character gradually loses health points as the game wears on anyway but contact from enemies does of course reduce them much faster so it’s a good idea to keep an eye open for revitalising food which comes in two forms – cider, which can be shot, and what looks like roast dinners, which cannot.
Gauntlet_Atari

As original and distinctive as it seemed at the time though, the concept of Gauntlet may not have been entirely born in the futuristic labs of Atari’s secret underground bunker. Ed Logg, credited as designer of Gauntlet, may or may not have had one eye on an Atari 8-bit game called Dandy, released two years previously, while putting his game together but the two titles certainly have some similarities. Whoever was responsible though, Gauntlet was the game which rose to prominence and it’s one that’s attracted and maintained a sizeable fan-base over the years. There could be many reasons for its enduring popularity but the simple fact is Atari’s game was available to a much wider audience, and arguably came at a much more convenient time as well.
Gauntlet_Atari

Another reason for Gauntlet’s success over that of Dandy could simply be that it was better. It has a huge number of stages for one thing – a hundred unique dungeons which appear in random order from the eighth one onwards, and after the hundredth stage they start repeating as well so it’s a game without end! The cast of characters, both heroes and villains are also very memorable too. The differing attributes of each – shot strength and speed, magic power, fighting ability, armour, etc – meant that everyone had their favourite even if the differences between them became purely cosmetic once a few of the special potions had been collected which each boost one that character’s attributes accordingly. The relentless onslaught of enemy creatures pouring from their respective generators meant that you rarely get a minute’s peace too!
Gauntlet_Atari

The enormous abundance of evil creatures to slay may make Gauntlet a tough slog for the most part but it’s rather impressive from a technical point of view. All sprites, objects and pieces of wall and floor take up one square on an unseen grid of 15 x 15 which makes up the visible play-field so everything is more-or-less the same size. This doesn’t take much processing power with regards to the inanimate parts of each stage of course, but the sprites are all animated, detailed, and there are absolutely masses of them nearly all the time. It’s still pretty impressive now so you can only imagine how mind-blowing it was at the time! Of course, this did present a challenge to the talented programmers charged with converting the fab game to home systems but even then the results were mostly spiffing!
Gauntlet_Atari

Sadly, the audio here is almost silent though. There are a few simple sound effects but no in-game music which is hard to get used to since the fantastic MegaDrive conversion that I’ve played so much has had an equally fantastic soundtrack added. Breaking the near-silence now and then though, is the famous voice of the unseen dungeon overseer who offers occasional advice and support. He may sound a little ropey today but back then he was a revelation and his many comments have proved to be almost as enduring as the game itself! Indeed, despite the inane wafflings of the many naysayers, Gauntlet is still great fun and a highly enjoyable challenge. Yes, it¬†is¬†repetitive, as most games in the early years were, but not many of them offered four players the chance to unite and fight evil monsters to the death! Even for the solo-player, the lure of seeing new mazes or achieving a new high-score is enough to keep you playing. A timeless classic that offers a near-unlimited helping of simple, addictive adventuring. Still hate those bloody Lobbers though. Grrrr!

RKS Score: 9/10

LeMans

LeMans - Commodore 64Format: Commodore 64 (C64)
Media: Cartridge
Year: 1982
Developer: HAL Labratory, Inc.
Publisher: Commodore
Game Mode: Single Player

LeMans

Gentlemen, start your engines! How apt that I pull out the LeMans C64 cartridge on this day, the start of the 2013 Formula 1 (F1) Grand Prix season. I am aware LeMans and F1 are two separate sanctioned sports, but hey, it is a racing game, and that is all there is to it. Perhaps I should have ripped out Checkered Flag on the Atari Lynx. I just have to stop second guessing myself and stick with this old game.

LeMans - Commodore 64

LeMans on the C64 is a top-down up-the-screen driving game, where you as the driver, must hit the pedal to the metal and drive to a never ending finish line. The goal of the game is to pass as many cars as you can. The more cars you overtake, the more points you earn. It‚Äôs not about the finish line in this game, it is all about accumulating the highest points score.The faster you go, the more points you earn ‚Äď 2 points per metre to be exact. Every 10 cars passed you earn 1000 bonus points. Keep an eye on the countdown timer, as you will only get time extensions every 20,000 points. This is old school tough.

LeMans - Commodore 64

The strategy to doing well in LeMans is to drive as fast as you can for as long as you can, passing computer drivers (watch out as they veer in your path!) and traversing all kinds of terrain. The terrain sections in LeMans is what makes the game quite interesting ‚Äď there are icy roads (your car slides as if it‚Äôs on skates), divided highways (squeezing into 2 lanes), night driving (relax, you have headlights) and the famous ‚ÄúLeMans Esses‚ÄĚ.

LeMans - Commodore 64

Every time your car is hit by another vehicle or if you steer into the walls, your car turns into a wreck and you must ‚ÄúPit‚ÄĚ to the left as the¬†on-screen¬†message tells you to. This kills off precious seconds, so try and avoid hitting or being hit by cars and stop steering into walls. If you can avoid damage to your vehicle, then you will be well on your way to that precious high points score.

The only (fun) way to play this game is with the ‚ÄėCommodore Paddles‚Äô. The Paddles add to the playability of the game as you hold the accelerator button with your left thumb and steer with your right fingertips. There were no ‚Äústeering wheel‚ÄĚ contraptions for the C64 back in the day. The Paddles did (and still do) the job just right.

Well, enough of my ranting, I am off to play another game before the F1 race kicks off.

Test Drive

Test Drive

Test Drive (1987)
By: Accolade Genre: Driving Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Atari ST First Day Score: 7,460
Also Available For: Amiga, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Apple II

There are a few games you could credit with the surge in popularity of racing games on home systems during the 90’s but the one that sticks in my mind most is probably The Need For Speed on the 3DO. Not only was this unexpected release fantastic but it was also quite realistic. The many,¬†manysequels that followed it soon went down the manic, arcadey route rather than continuing the approach of the original and this is also true of most of the similar games that starting appearing. Amongst my favourite of these were the Test Drive games on the PlayStation. The series had undergone a ‘reboot’ around this time (purely coincidental, I’m sure) but the first games in the series actually had a lot more in common with the original NFS.
Test Drive

In fact, I had forgotten just¬†howsimilar the two titles are until I played Accolade’s game for the first time in about twenty years for this review! There’s no options before starting the game aside from one important one – the selection of your car. The choices here include many of the supercar favourites of the day – Porsche 911, Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari Testarossa, Corvette, and the good old Lotus Esprit Turbo. Each comes with a detailed stats screen to help you make your choice, after which you’re on the road, ready to go. The game is viewed from the driver’s perspective and each car can only be driven with manual gears, and it’s a full gearbox too, not the usual ‘low’ and ‘hi’ gears! There are five stages altogether with each separated by a stop at a ‘gas’ station where you’ll discover your average speed and points earned.
Test Drive

The stages are all segments of the same road which winds along a clifftop, movie-stylee – one side is sheer rock with the other side presumably consisting of a drop of equal sheerness! Normal traffic passes along the road in both directions now and then, although it’s not¬†too¬†busy, and there are also police radars which will summon a police car if you go too fast. There’s no time limit or other vehicles to race so you can approach the presence of the rozzers one of two ways: either go too slowly to bother them, or the way I’m sure most gamers will choose – go as fast as possible to outrun them! The supercar you’re driving isn’t a Daytona stock-car that will bounce around all over the place though – they’re very delicate things, even more so than I would’ve thought. Not only does hitting the rock face or another car cause you to crash (indicated by a smashed windscreen) but even revving the engine too high will result in obscured vision too!
Test Drive

Fans of the original Need For Speed will no doubt find most of this very familiar but it appears that Accolade got there first! Indeed, Test Drive must have surely been the first ever ‘supercar simulator’ and it’s the opportunity to drive these amazing cars that provides the game’s biggest draw. To that end, it’s a pretty good game. Each of the cars handles differently and the roads, which later on feature the odd oil spill or pothole, are good fun to drive along. Graphically, I remember being mightily impressed with this all those years ago but the intervening years have seen it age considerably. The presentation screens are still lovely but the in-game aesthetics less so. The oncoming cars (and occasional big rig) aren’t too bad but the scaling can be quite poor. If you’re travelling at any decent speed they’ll often seem to appear from nowhere prompting panic-lunges to try and get out of the way in time!
Test Drive

Don’t think that the absence of any kind of time-limit means you can crash as often as you want either – five wrecks equals game over here! Talking of which, one area that Need For Speed improved dramatically is the crashes. EA’s game was famous for its spectacular comings together but the spectacle here begins and ends with the broken glass in front of you. Even the track-sides and backgrounds are rather dull too, and the sense of speed isn’t great, although there is a handy rear-view mirror. So, the visuals might have aged somewhat, which is understandable with this kind of game, but I’m confident the audio was never any good, or at least this version. There are a couple of short (and not especially nice) tunes but the in-game sound is restricted to a horrible engine sound and that’s it! So, this is certainly one to play with the sound turned down, but is it one to play at all?

Well, like NFS, I think Test Drive was probably made as more of a technical showcase than as a thrilling and involving racing game. Accordingly, there’s really not much to it – no opponents, no car upgrades, no forked roads, and certainly nothing as radical as a championship or tournament mode. What there is, though, is pretty good. No time-limit or opponents also means you can relax and drive how you want to rather than be forced to tear through the stages like a maniac, although having said that, the between-stage pit-stops do encourage you to up the ante (as well as provide the odd lairy ‘motivational’ comment) and the lure of improving your average speed is quite strong. It is all over pretty quickly though, so that, along with the number of superior examples of the genre on the ST and Amiga, means that this original probably won’t hold your attention for long

RKS Score: 6/10

 

Pitstop II

Pitstop II

Pitstop II (1984)
By: Epyx Genre: Driving Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore 64 
Also Available For: PC, Amstrad CPC, Atari 800, Apple II, TRS-80
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Pitstop II

One of my many objectives when starting this humble blog was to finally force myself to try out some titles on the systems that have gone largely ignored by me over the years. The first one to enter my mind was the mighty C64. I may have become somewhat distracted since, but the process began with the pair of ‘Exploring the C64‘ posts for which I requested some game recommendations from seasoned C64 veterans. One of these recommendations was Pitstop, a game that turned out to be so bad I immediately thought I’d been the victim of a practical joke. Subsequent research, however, has revealed its sequel to be substantially better thought of. It’s taken me a good while to work up the courage, but here I shall find out if the ‘Pitstop’ name has been redeemed…
Pitstop II

It’s no surprise to find that it’s an F1-based game once again but it’s immediately apparent that it offers far more than its prequel. Impressively for the day, it’s a one or two-player game but regardless of which you choose, the game employs a split-screen viewpoint anyway – player one occupies the top half of the screen and drives a red car, player two occupies the bottom half and drives a blue car which is controlled by the computer in one-player games. The pre-race options screen offers you the choice of three difficulty levels, you can set the number of laps (3, 6, or 9), and you can select any of six real racing circuits from Europe and the US. As the name hints at, however, it can get a little more complicated than that.
Pitstop II

As well as the ‘red’ and ‘blue’ cars, there are also a seemingly unlimited number of other racers pootling around the circuits, at a much slower pace of course, which means they’re pretty much just there to make your life more difficult. That’s to be expected with a game of this nature but¬†unlike most similar games, or at least ones from this time period, you also have to be careful how you drive as not only can you run out of fuel but you can also wear out your tyres too. Driving too fast around corners too often, for example, will soon see your car squeal off to the side like a burst balloon and stop dead. This, as well as the fuel situation, can be overcome by making one of the titular pit-stops. These can take some time but are unfortunately necessary if you want to make it to the end of a race in anything resembling a decent position.
Pitstop II

Mercifully, the CPU car also makes pit-stops from time to time as well which makes this a surprisingly fair game. It looks a lot nicer than the first game too – it’s far from a stunner but streets ahead of the hideous original. Control of the cars is a bit odd to start with – they feel very skiddy, as if you’re actually playing a bobsleigh racing game or something, but it’s fine after a bit of practise. There’s no in-game music here either, but apart from these minor grumbles Pitstop II is notable improvement over the original which scared me so. You’ll probably tire of the one-player game before too long but this was meant as a two-player game and in that capacity it’s fantastic. It’s still hardly the most complex racing game, even for its time, but Epyx have certainly made this a much more enjoyable game than the first effort.

RKS Score: 7/10

Paradroid

Paradroid-commodore-64-gameplay-screenshot

Paradroid (1985)
By: Andrew Braybrook / Hewson Consultants Genre: Shooting / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore 64 First Day Score: 1,275
Also Available For: Atari ST, Amiga, Archimedes
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Paradroid

Well, I suppose it’s time I got around to reviewing some Commodore 64 games here at Red Parsley. My unfamiliarity with the system makes choosing one something of a ‘lucky dip’ though, so how do I choose? Most of what I know about this game is a result of the coverage the remake that appeared on the 16-bit computers received in my favourite magazines of the day. This C64 version is the original though, and many fans would insist that it’s still the best, so let’s see what the fuss is all about. The game is apparently set on a fleet of spaceships, each of whose various decks, which are viewed from overhead, are populated by lots of droids which have been turned hostile by some malevolent asteroids. It’s therefore your job to destroy them. Sounds simple enough!
Paradroid-commodore-64-gameplay-screenshot

I’ve always assumed that this is a rather complicated and puzzley game but the first few minutes I played it were spent moving my amusing-looking droid around shooting all the others I encountered. I suspect it gets more involved than this, however, and that indeed proves to be the case, but not by as much as I thought. As mentioned, the object of the game is to take out all the other droids on each deck of the ship. The humorous droid I spoke of is the very weak one you start off with and a device known as the ‘Influence Device’ allows you to exert control over it. You can move it around the spaceship in the eight basic joystick directions and it can fire an energy weapon in its direction of travel. The decks of the ship vary in size and all but the smallest are divided into numerous rooms. Droids occupy these rooms but you won’t know how many there are until you enter.
Paradroid-commodore-64-gameplay-screenshot

Each game is started at a random point on the first of the never-ending ships. Each of them has lifts to facilitate your movement up and down through the decks and there’s also terminals here and there which you can log onto which give information on the remaining droids. Each one you encounter is represented by a number which indicates its power (your default droid is numbered 001). The higher the number the faster it can move and the harder it is to destroy. Some droids can also shoot back, with the power of their shot also increasing with their number. There are no power-ups to collect so to contend with the ever powerful droids you’ll have to employ an alternate technique. Any droid can ‘link’ with another and this enables you to take them over via a mini-game which involves basic circuit diagrams and logic gates.
Paradroid-commodore-64-gameplay-screenshot

Here, you control one side of the screen and the droid you’re trying to take over controls the other side as you battle for control of the droid’s circuitry. Success means you ‘become’ that droid but they only last for a limited time so you’ll need to continually transfer to new droids. It’s also wise not to try and take over a droid that is much stronger than the one you already control as you will likely lose, and losing means your current droid is destroyed and you’ll revert back to the weedy default droid. If¬†this¬†droid is defeated in an attempted transfer, it’s game over. And it’s a game over screen I’ve seen quite a few times now! I was a bit worried about playing this game as I thought it was going to be rather complicated meaning I’d have to spend hours learning how to play it, searching the internet for guides, etc.
Paradroid-commodore-64-gameplay-screenshot

Fortunately, it’s not as complex as I feared, but it¬†is¬†pretty tough. This is no console game so there’s no multiple lives and continues to ease you in. If you lose the default droid, that’s it! Mini-games have never really been my forte either, and it is here that I predictably have most trouble with Paradroid. It’s a good concept though and, whilst probably not invented here, it does suit the game very well. Also suiting the game are the graphics. My experience with C64 games is limited but I do know that they often look quite blocky and use a distinctive colour palette and that is the case here too. It’s not a bad thing though and the style used is a good one. The mostly-monochrome colour schemes change from deck to deck and they can get a little garish (green and red? groo!) and it would be helpful if some colours were altered when being used against some of the lighter background colours, but overall this is a decent looking game.
Paradroid-commodore-64-gameplay-screenshot

The sound is pretty minimal which was surprising to me – all this tooting C64 fans do about their beloved SID chip and there’s nary a tune to be found here! There is a few ditties though, and some atmospheric sound effects too. I suppose full-on musical tracks might not really suit a slow-paced game like this either, so perhaps it was a conscious decision to not include any. In any case, it doesn’t adversely affect the gameplay. I think it’s safe to say I’ve not played anything quite like Paradroid before and playing it for the first time over 25 years after its original release makes me think about how many other unique games I missed out on. It’s certainly a captivating game and pootling around these ‘robo freighters’ is an oddly therapeutic experience. I’ll probably have to play it for years before I get really good at it but with a game as original and well-designed as this one, it’s no real hardship.

RKS Score: 8/10

Renegade

Renegade (1986)
By: Technos / Taito Genre: Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 29,800
Also Available For: Master System, NES, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Apple II

Renegade-arcade gamplay screenshot

Poor old RKS has a tough life as a gamer. Despite being¬†relatively¬†normal in most ways, I only have few friends who share my interest in this particular subject and only one who also likes retro games, and he lives far enough away that I don‚Äôt see him often. When we¬†do¬†meet up, one type of game we nearly always play is scrolling fighting games, but it only occurred to me recently that we always play the same few: Double Dragon, Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, etc. Upon¬†realization¬†of this, I decided to give a few other examples a try to vary our rare gaming sessions a little. One of the first games I thought of was Renegade ‚Äď one of the first such examples of the genre and supposedly also one of the best which, alarmingly, is yet another title I‚Äôve never gotten around to trying. Playing it for the first time for this feature, however, revealed that it‚Äôs not strictly speaking a¬†scrolling¬†fighting game at all. Hmmm.

Renegade-arcade gamplay screenshot

As most of you probably already know, each of Renegade’s¬†meager¬†four stages are quite small. They¬†do¬†scroll, but are only about four screens wide – a space which is populated by different ‘hoodlums’ on successive stages as well as a boss character who becomes active once only three of his henchmen remain. Your job as the unnamed (in the arcade version, at least) vigilante is merely to beat the crap out of them. You can move in eight directions and there are three buttons – one attacks in the direction you’re facing, another attacks behind, and the last performs a jump. A double-tap of either direction allows you to run and you can attack while doing this or jumping. Even the most basic enemies require numerous hits to defeat but you can knock them to the ground fairly easily at which point you can straddle them (oo-er!) and continue smacking them up. It’s also possible to grab an enemy and perform a throw but they can grab you as well. All of these moves can also be performed on the boss characters, but since they’re stronger the attacks are often less effective.

Renegade-arcade gamplay screenshot

The four stages take place on a subway platform, a¬†harbor¬† an alley, and the gang’s hideout, and each is home to unique enemies. The amount of energy their attacks cost you is dependent on what they attack you with. Some have only their fists but others are armed or even riding motorbikes. Thugs wielding knives or guns can even kill you outright with one hit, and this makes an already rock-hard game harder then ten adamantium-coated diamonds! You only get one life, you see, and unusually for an arcade game you don’t even have the option of adding coins to continue. I’m not an especially gifted gamer, admittedly, but I was having so much trouble I even had to resort to fiddling around with the DIP switch settings. However, despite changing the difficulty to easy upping the lives to the maximum of two (!), I was still making little headway. The extra life wasn’t much use as it makes you start the stage again anyway, so I decided to try a more strategic approach of running around and picking off thugs only when an opportunity presented itself. And then I ran out of time instead!

Renegade-arcade gamplay screenshot

Even some sneaky tactics such as knocking enemies off the end of the railway platform on the first stage usually backfired as I was knocked off instead. Boo hoo. It’s quite a nice-looking game though. Stage graphics are good and the sprites, whilst not too numerous, are varied, distinctive, and animated fairly well too. The sound isn’t bad either, with average music but pretty good effects and even the odd snippet of speech (“Get lost, punk!”), and it’s an exciting, action-packed, and enjoyable game to play, but that difficulty means that any enjoyment is usually short-lived. Even having not previously played it, I knew that Renegade was a landmark title that brought with it several innovations, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so unforgiving! Arcade games are usually tough but would a continue feature have been too much to ask? Renegade is actually a Western ‘localisation’ – the original Japanese game is part of the ‘Kunio-kun’ series, so I’ll have to give that a try to see if it’s as tough. For now though, I’m either a wussy who needs¬†a lot¬†of¬†practice, or by jove, Renagade is a toughie –¬†too¬†tough for me!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Co6e7cg7DSQ[/youtube]

RKS Score: 6/10

Alien Syndrome

Alien Syndrome (1987)
By:¬†Sega¬†Genre:¬†Run ‘n’ Gun¬†Players:¬†1-2¬†Difficulty:¬†Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 96,400
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, Sharp X68000, NES, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Alien Syndrome-sega-arcade-gameplay-screenshot

Like many game companies in the mid-to-late 80’s, it seems almost certain that Sega were also bitten by the ‘Alien’ bug, so to speak. That is to say, they drew inspiration from the Alien movies for one (or some) of their games. The fact that this release came the year after the super-successful sequel to the classic 1979 film would tend to back up that theory as it’s a game that may seem familiar to some fans. Rather than a gound-based colony, however, it takes place in a series of seven spacecraft. These were presumably craft operated by humans but they have become overrun by hideous alien creatures of various descriptions and their human crew taken prisoner. It therefore falls to Ricky and Mary, two suspiciously Space Marine-like soldiers, to liberate each ship in succession and eradicate the alien scum that now dwells within.

Alien Syndrome-sega-arcade-gameplay-screenshot
The interior of each craft is viewed from an angled overhead perspective and usually consists of a maze-like series of corridors, rooms, or open areas linked by walkways. The human captives, or ‘comrades’, are dotted around the scrolling stages and a set number of them must be rescued (by touching them) within a pretty strict time-limit before the exit is unlocked. This inevitably leads to a much larger and more dangerous alien boss who you must shoot the crap out of before moving onto the next ship. Each stage has unique enemies, usually two different kinds, and from the second stage onwards an infinite number of them are produced by Gauntlet-like generators. Destroying these will finally stem the flow of alien filth and allow you to cleanse the stage. If you want to, that is, as the only actual requirement is to rescue those pesky comrades.
Alien Syndrome-sega-arcade-gameplay-screenshot

Blasting the idiotic aliens does take up valuable time of course, but it also makes the game a lot more fun! Each new alien encountered looks and acts differently to the last. Some can spontaneously reproduce, others chase you, but most of them are able to shoot at you. A single touch from any alien or one of their projectiles is enough to take a life from Ricky or Mary but surprisingly the aliens are just as fragile – from the first stage to the last, a single shot is all that’s required to take them out. Except for the bosses, obviously. Typically, you start the game with a pea-shooter gun which just about does the job, but its range and rate of fire is somewhat limited. There are four other weapons available, however – laser, flamethrower, napalm, and a rapid-fire cannon – which, impressively, not only have unlimited ammo but also last forever as long as you don’t lose a life.

Alien Syndrome-sega-arcade-gameplay-screenshotIt’s also possible to collect up to two small guns that follow you around and shoot backwards every time you shoot your normal weapon which can be shot in eight directions but only forward. These, and all the other weapons, can be collected from panels on the walls where you can also find bonus points and maps that show the basic layout of the stage as well as the location of the remaining comrades. Points are awarded at the end of each stage for any remaining time and for any comrades rescued beyond the quota but, if you’re like me, you probably won’t see too many of them! I usually tend to play games in a very meticulous way, trying to do everything and see everything, so I found the time limits to be quite tight. Aside from that though, Alien Syndrome isn’t an overly tough game and is actually, dare I say it, even pretty fair.
Alien Syndrome-sega-arcade-gameplay-screenshot

Part of the reason for this it that the aliens are defeated by a single shot from whichever gun you’re carrying at the time (even the one you start with) but it also helps that their movement doesn’t seem to conform to any repeating patterns. Their appearances are apparently random and their movement is seemingly dependent on your own, so your progress is pretty much just down to your own ability. Accompanying you on your refreshingly-unfrustrating mission are some tunes and sound effects which aren’t too bad, although not especially memorable, but about the only thing I don’t really like about Alien Syndrome is its graphics. It’s running on Sega’s System 16 board which I`m not hugely fond of at the best of times and this means that most of the colours used are rather pale and drab and there`s some quite unpleasant patterns used for the stage floors. That aside though, there’s little to complain about, and some of the aliens look great!
Alien Syndrome-sega-arcade-gameplay-screenshot

This is particularly true of the big and imaginative bosses and there’s quite a few different normal sprites too. The two playable characters don’t look much different and are even less different to play as but they’re not there to provide a bit of variety – they’re there to facilitate a two-player game, and they do that well. A few differences between wouldn’t have hurt anyway though, I suppose! Oh well, it’s still an enjoyable game, for one¬†or¬†two players, and proves to be a very addictive one as well. The stages themselves get bigger and more complicated but are never overly large or complex – this is a game that’s about fast and frantic shooting and nothing more, and with the ever-increasing hordes of aliens in the later stages, you’ll need to be precise as well as fast! It’s a shame it doesn’t look a bit nicer but if you can handle the offensive patterns, this is a game that’s aged well.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1jkQ-NM1UE[/youtube]

RKS Score: 7/10

Hard Driving

Hard Driving

With a plethora of terrible games out there, I thought the decision would be quite easy. Little did I realise, I found myself struggling to come up with one bad game that truly grated my retro gaming nerves. I could write about how terrible ET was for the Atari 2600, but I thought that everyone already knew that. Then, a light bulb went off in my head ! Why not write about a game that promised so much and delivered so little ‚Äď Hard Drivin‚Äô on the C64. Get your vomit bag out and read on‚Ķ‚Ķ

Hard Driving - Gameplay Screenshot

 

Format: Commodore 64
Year: 1989
Publisher: Tengen
Developer: Domark

Don‚Äôt be fooled by the ‚ÄúC+VG HIT‚ÄĚ on the cover of this game. This game was more of a miss than a hit. Originally released in the arcades in 1988 by Atari Games, Hard Drivin‚Äô was a revolutionary coin-op. It was touted as the world‚Äôs first authentic driving simulation. The game featured state-of-the-art polygon graphics and realistic force feedback controls, all designed to offer gamers a sense of what it might be like to sit behind the wheel of a high-performance car. So how do you convert this sense of driving, to an 8-bit system and still make it playable ?

Hard Driving - Gameplay Screenshot

Well, in hindsight, you can‚Äôt. This conversion was an absolute catastrophe on the trusty C64. It featured hideous monochrome graphics, and the control system was a joke ‚Äď any slight pressure on the joystick, and your car would instantly veer out of control.

The other frustrating aspect of the game was the sense of speed, or lack thereof. Driving at 140mph felt like my grandmother could walk faster with her walking frame. Perhaps the speedometer was measuring speed in hours-per-mile.

Hard Driving - Gameplay Screenshot

Did I mention the graphics ! It is absolutely laughable when seeing oncoming traffic ‚Äď it looks like a flying double bed coming at you at a snail‚Äôs pace. Embarrassing as this game is, it was never released as a standalone game, nor at full price ! Perhaps the publisher knew it was a pile of stinking poo.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYwgMy3ckkw[/youtube]

In a nutshell, this C64 conversion offered the gamer to drive a painfully slow and uncontrollable vehicle around a bland and ugly looking world. This title easily wins the award for the worst C64 arcade racer ever, period !

GraphicsAs close to hideous as possible. Prepare your visual cortex for an ugly onslaught

9%

SoundYour ears will be begging you to stuff plugs in them

9%

PlayabilityNo sensation of speed, bland and utter ugly track design. You will stop playing it after a few seconds

1%

LastabilityYou will turn off this game faster than you can say ‚ÄúThis is crap!‚ÄĚ

0%

OverallHard Drivin’ on the C64 wins the turd ribbon for being exactly that, a stinking turd

4%

Links 386 Pro

Links 386 Pro

Links 386 Pro was a game-changer when it arrived back in 1992.  Long before Tiger Woods was winning championships and wooing pretty birdies, Access Software had been making golf games.  Their first, Leader Board Golf for the Commodore 64, came out in 1984, so they had quite a bit of experience already under their belt.  But this golf game was different; not only was Links 386 Pro a technological marvel, it was also an amazing game to play.

Links 386 Pro

Links 386 Pro Front Cover

The graphics were absolutely stunning with amazing detail.¬† The trees and bushes along the fairway, scenic backgrounds, even the clouds in the sky ‚Äď this was an unbelievable game to play.¬† It felt like you were actually golfing these courses.¬† Compared to the cartoonish and blocky graphics that gamers were subjected to over the years, Links 386 Pro was the pinnacle of the computer golfing experience.

But this game had more than just great graphics. The sound quality was outstanding: the whoosh of the club, the smack of the ball, the glorious sound of the ball entering the cup, all this and more enhanced the experience of and the illusion of actually ‚Äúbeing there‚ÄĚ on the links.¬† Players could mulligan their shots (but it would show up on their scorecard). You could preview the course and analyze the grade of the shot.¬† You could even split the screen to watch the ball coming and going from different angles!¬† So many features added to the enjoyment of the game.

Links 386 Pro

Links 386 Pro Game Play Screenshot

All those features had a cost; at the time of its release, Links 386 Pro pushed the technological envelope.  This game can be run on a 80386SX-25 MHz with 2 MB of RAM, but the slow screen redraws made an upgrade to a minimum of a 80486DX-50 MHz with 4 MB of RAM required.  To access the graphics a Super VGA card capable of 640×400 resolution was needed, which helped spur on SVGA card sales.  Many computer salespeople loved Links 386 Pro for the easy sales it produced (all they needed to do was make a comparison demo and the newer, more expensive computer found its way into the buyer’s shopping cart!).

Links 386 Pro also satisfied gamers‚Äô needs to trumpet how good they were.¬† A recording mode allowed the player to share that perfect game with all your closest gamer friends ‚Äď and post it on the bulletin boards to brag to everyone else.¬† Whole competitions erupted between golf simulation aficionados seeking to become the world‚Äôs best golfer (simulated golfer, that is!).

There were many add-on courses for Links 386 Pro, which gave the game a longer shelf life.  You could golf in Hawaii, challenge the pros at Pebble Beach, enjoy the majestic view of Banff, take on the pride of the British Isles at the Belfry, even experience the terror of the Bermuda Triangle.  There was a course for everyone!

Links 386 Pro

Devil’s Island Links 386 Pro Expansion Screen Shot

All in all, this game is an important piece of retro gaming history.  Anyone who experienced its sheer epic gameplay back in the day will remember the joy of shooting a low score, and, ever so rarely, the Links 386 Pro version of Caddyshack’s,

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDtd2BF-zV0[/youtube]

‚ÄúIt‚Äôs in the hole!‚ÄĚ: YES!!! YES!!!

Torben Larsen: Cope-Com

cope-com-logo

Name: Torben Larsen

Company: Cope-Com

Profession: Creative Director

Favorite Classic Game: Ping Pong

Quote: It was the first game I played sometime late 1970’ties on a TV console. The simplicity and fun factor still holds today and reminds me of how far the games have developed since that time ūüôā

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDrRnJOCKZc[/youtube]

Bio/Current Event:

Cope-Com was founded in 1987 by Martin Pedersen and Torben Larsen with the aim of making great Amiga computer games. With the award-winning game titles Hybris and Battle Squadron they successfully proved the capabilities of the Amiga home computer.

Martin Pedersen started out with a ZX81 (actually an upgraded ZX80) in 1982 and later switched over to the ZX Spectrum, which was eventually exchanged with an Amstrad. In 1985 he did the game ‚ÄúThe Vikings‚ÄĚ for the Amstrad. At the same time Torben Larsen was doing the graphics for the same game on the Commodore 64. This was how the two met.

Feeling limited with the Amstrad and its technical abilities, Martin and Torben decided to take a closer look at the Amiga in 1985-86. The technical aspects of the Amiga in terms of more advanced processors, better screen resolution, more colors, and 8 bit sound sampling, was very impressive to both of them.

Being excited about the great possibilities of the Amiga, they decided to develop games for this machine. They started out with their first Amiga title, a shoot’em up called Hybris. For this game they teamed up with the American publisher Discovery Software International Inc. Hybris was published worldwide in 1987 and was an instant success on the Amiga. The game received several Amiga awards and was praised for its high technical standard, great game play, and sharp graphics.

Taking on the challenge after Hybris, they decided to develop an even better vertical shoot‚Äôem up for the Amiga called Battle Squadron. This time they teamed up with Innerprise Inc. as publisher. The game was released worldwide in 1989 and again an Amiga classic was born. The game featured two simultaneous players and a novel gaming ‚Äúpredator‚ÄĚ enemy effect. Battle Squadron received a 109% rating in Amiga Computing, and 90-100% in many other computer magazines of that time.

As of 2012 Cope-Com is now working on converting their great classic Amiga games to new formats, such as iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and Android.

Have a look on the past and current projects from Cope-Com here on their website:

The Interview: Tortured Hearts

Obsolete Gamer is always on the lookout for great upcoming games. We recently had a chance to look at the Tortured Hearts project. Here is information from their official press release.

Tortured Hearts logo 2

 

Zoltan Gonda, and Csaba Foris, both well known for the legendary Commodore 64 RPG ‚ÄúNewcomer‚ĄĘ,‚ÄĚ have teamed up once again to bring PC gamers another RPG which brings back the story and gameplay that won‚Äôt let you sleep until dawn. Supported by Lenore Hoehl, the team has already produced the full story in a development environment, including a crafting system, character development sytem and many more. Currently the team is at the funding stage via Kickstarter to move the project further on with the graphics, music and sound effects, voice-overs, and combat system.

Tortured Hearts‚ĄĘ: Or, How I Saved the Universe. Again. is an epicly epic, satirical RPG, dedicated to the proposition that most RPGs take themselves far too seriously. Since almost every imaginable plot scenario and character has already been used and overused to the point that cliches are unavoidable, Tortured Hearts‚ĄĘ instead revels in pointing out that the life of adventurers is one endless heroic cliche, some sort of existential trap created by the gods of RPG worlds.

Tortured Hearts - Screenshot

Tortured Hearts‚ĄĘ is set in the unique custom world of Eupherea, where things are different. For example, the gnome race hasn‚Äôt yet been written out of the Big Picture. Celestial bureaucracy, which functions much like ordinary mortal bureaucracy, has a hidden hand in the affairs of things and especially in the lives of adventurers.

The PC is one of many seasoned and stereotypical adventurers seeking their fortune. But it bothers the PC to be a stereotype; he doesn’t want to be identified as another loot jerk. He’s jaded by the same old dungeons and fetching quests. Yet, wherever he turns, there are still the inevitable rats to kill, puzzles to solve, errands to run. He seeks thrills, but the thrill is gone. His own quest is to get a thrill out of life again.

Some quick facts about the game:

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† About 100-150 hours of gameplay.

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† 200 areas

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Over 500 NPCs / Over 100 quests

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Single player game, with 8 possible companions.

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Six playable races: human, elf, half-orc, halfling, dwarf, and gnome.

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Character skills and abilities can be developed freely. There are no predetermined classes with built-in limitations, only trends which you can follow or not. A similar system was used in Newcomer‚ĄĘ, now perfected.

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Combat will be turn-based

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Highly replayable: Because many NPC interactions involve choices, there are many possible ways to get through the world.

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Graphics: 2D/3D style compareable to animated cartoons.

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† A crafting system which will create saleable items and buffs.

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† A variety of companions who contribute in an interactive way with the PC, the NPCs and each other

Obsolete Gamer reported Jorn Asche had a sit down with the team behind Tortured Hearts.

Tortured Hearts - GUI_Mockup3

Please introduce yourselves a bit to our readers, not everyone might be familiar with the projects you’ve been in so far:

Zoltan Gonda ‚Äď Lead designer and writer‚ÄĒhas been making games since 1990. An early project was Newcomer(TM) for Commodore 64, which is still around. He worked for Digital Reality and Stormregion, game developers in Hungary, on several strategy games. He made two of the top community mods for NWN 1, Tortured Hearts I and Tortured Hearts II.

Lenore Hoehl ‚Äď Writer and producer ‚Äď Worked with Intension Games of Hungary and later with Zoltan Gonda to make several casual games. Lenore also worked with Zoltan Gonda on the NWN modules.

So there are lots of RPG’s out there. What are the main aspects of Tortured Hearts that makes it different from all the other games out there?

It is more intricate in its choices and plot progression. You cannot do all the quests in one play through, for instance. You will not be able to see all the responses of any one group of henchmen. There are multiple outcomes to quests as well as to the game as a whole. The art and the world are unusual and detailed.

Tortured Hearts - 3D Concept

Which setting did you choose for your game? Will it be more a fantasy setting or can we even expect elements of the real world in the game?

The game starts in a fantasy world of Eupherea and progresses to more fantastic locales. But the behavior of people individually and socially is understandable and like behavior everywhere; for instance greed, and stupidity, and hope are the same and expressed as they are in the real world.

The subtitle of the game is ‚ÄúOr how I saved the universe. Again.‚ÄĚ Which role does the main character and his companions play in the game and are there several different endings of the game?

The protagonist and his companions are all very experienced and professional adventurers. They have ‚Äúsaved the Universe‚ÄĚ any number of times because that‚Äôs what heroes do. Yes, there are several endings.

Does the world of Tortured Hearts ‚Äúlive‚ÄĚ? Do people have a special time frame when they go to work, sleep or anything of that sort?

No, we tried that in the 1st NWN mod and it was too hard for all but the most dedicated hardcore player. However, the NPCs are walking around, talking and interacting with each other and objects, so areas look alive. Sometimes the NPCs will be ‚Äúout‚ÄĚ for the PC until a condition is set.

Tortured Hearts - 3D

On the Kickstarter page a turn-based combat system has been announced. Can you give us some details? Will there be boss-fights as well?

Of course there will be boss fights. Initiative in fights depends mostly on stats with a small random factor. The party grouping can be controlled by the player and their inventory accessed during combat. There are personal traits called Tactical traits which are taken on creation, including the companions, and these are either offensive or defensive, so a different party group will have a different mix of these feat-like qualities and this will make combat a little different in every game. In combat, the player can let the companions fight through AI or control them individually.

What will the character system look like? Will it be depend upon experience points or will there be event trainers in the game who you’ll need to progress further?

Characters will have skills and abilities and one tactical trait. The skills and abilities are dependent on experience points, abilities costing more than skills. Crafting depends on skills. One craft, Junk Art, requires an NPC to complete.

Will there be also a possibility to automate the character development for all those who would like to focus more on the fights and the story of the game instead of character development?

It could be done, although it seems like it would crippling rather than helpful. We can do anything on popular demand though.

Tortured Hearts - Screenshot-2

How many main quests can be solved and how many sidequests are in the game? How long will it take to complete the game?

There’s really only one main quest. There are more than 100 side quests, most of them optional. It will probably take a minimum of 30 hours to do the essential side quests that advance the plot, and over 100 hours to do as many as possible (some will be mutually exclusive, see #2)

How far has the game been already developed? What needs to be done next?

The story has been worked out. The areas have been laid out and the connections between them mapped and transitions planned. Simple convo cut scenes have been programmed. The conversations between the PC and NPCs, between NPCs, between companions have all been done and programmed. The quests have been written and programmed. Characters and items have been created. We are now working on the GUI. Next we will model the areas and import them to the game engine, then put in the placeable items and NPCs.

How much time did you invest in the project?

At least 6000 man hours over four years.

How can the costs for such a project be calculated?

By taking the jobs to be done times the cost of man hours to do them. This project will take more than 10 people working full time for at least eighteen months.

Tortured Hearts - 3D Concept 2

Can you give us a example of a similar project so we can relate the costs? I think many people might be curious first when they read at Kickstarter that you’d like to have $300,000.

Games are like movies, the cost can be very high for a studio. I don’t know how to answer that except to say that it’s often in the millions for a big game, and this might be underfunded at $300,000. On Kickstarter, you should also remember that all the money will come in a lump sum which in the US would be subject to between 25% Р30% tax if not offset by the end of the year; if it weren’t offset the total would be cut by that much, so collecting from Kickstarter at the end of your fiscal year could be a big, even ruinous, problem.

Also Kickstarter and Amazon take a 5% cut of the pledged amount, each, so there’s another $30,000 gone. Also, Kickstarter requires rewards, and pledgers like tangible rewards, this is a big cost to the developer too. Even if we only gave away digital rewards, like a game, at a low price, it would cut into our future market by giving the greatest fans, the ones most likely to buy it, a special low rate.

What will you do if you don’t get the money in the time between?

We are going to very thriftily use what money we have from other work to make a playable demo, which we think will convince people to support the project.

Tortured Hearts - Enviornment

Which versions of the game will be available? Are there plans for a special edition with printed map etc. ?

At the moment we are only planning for a digital release, due to the cost of tangible boxes and maps. In a future Kickstarter we plan to have things like maps as digital rewards; unless we get overfunded, tangible maps and books would be a huge expense. We might sell them from our website.

Are there special races that can be played and can you tell us somehing about the way it changes the gameplay?

The races are very typical: human, elf, dwarf, gnome, halfling, half-orc. No half-elves. The different races start with different attribute stats as in D&D. After that they can develop by XP in whatever way the player desires.

You can few their website here.

Also check out their Facebook page.

Here is a link to their Kickstater page.

Guerrilla War

 

Guerrilla War - SNK - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Ah yeh, Guerrilla War, released by SNK in 1987, was the first game I played with a rotary joystick. Unlike Ikari Warriors where you had the joystick to move side to side and shoot, Guerrilla War allowed you to move your fighter and at the same time, rotate the gun to shoot in 8 directions ! ¬†This rotary ‚Äúgimmick‚ÄĚ seemed to work, as it was used on other games, notably, Heavy Barrel and Midnight¬†Resistance.

                        Guerrilla War - SNK - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

The game is a 1 or 2 player survival shooting game, in the mould of Ikari Warriors. Play can be simultaneous or either player can join in at any stage during the game. The players have machine guns to mow down baddies and grenades to lob at them. Along the way, the players can also get into tanks and cause maximum damage (and get further into the game). There are bonus weapons too, when certain enemies are killed.

                        Guerrilla War - SNK - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

The freedom fighter, and communist leader connection was due to the original Japanese version of¬†Guerrilla¬†War, titled, Guevara. The Japanese game was based on the exploits of the revolutionary, Ernesto ‚ÄúChe‚ÄĚ Guevara and the Cuban commy leader, Fidel Castro. Fearing extreme anti-Communist sentiments in the West, SNK did a regionalisation of the game‚Äôs dialogue and instruction manual for its US and European releases.

Guerrilla War - SNK - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

The game’s description was changed to: The country is struggling against the cruel domination of the king. The guerrilla leader and his comrades attempt to secretly land on shore, but the king’s military is waiting for them. Fight your way inland and attack the fortress.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4JmBDVWV-0[/youtube]

If you want to play a superlative Ikari Warriors rip-off, then this is your game. The rotary joystick is a godsend, as it allows you to walk and shoot in all directions, causing absolute carnage. Go on, throw a coin in the slot, and play some Guerrilla War.

 Guerrilla War - SNK - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot - Cabinet

Manufacturer: SNK
Year: 1987
Genre: Vertical Scrolling Shooter
Number of Simultaneous Players: 2
Maximum number of Players: 2
Gameplay: Joint
Joystick: 8-way Rotary
Buttons: 2 [Fire and Grenade]
Sound: Amplified Mono (single channel)

 

 

Pirates

Once upon a time it was a lot more avante-guard to be a pirate, long before the unwashed masses embraced the Disney Jack Sparrow movie juggernaut, and even before some wag convinced enough people to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day.  In the heady days of the dawn of the PC graphic adventure, pirates were nothing more than literary devices or the stuff of all things dastardly; pirates portrayed in PC games were more Blackbeard or Captain Hook than Errol Flynn. And then along came Sid Meier.

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Box art for Sid Meier’s Pirates!

Sid Meier is a gaming legend today, a name that is as much a brand and promise of great gameplay, but in 1987, this was not the case. ¬†To be sure, Sid Meier‚Äôs name already carried some weight in the simulation community, as a designer of games such as¬†F-15 Strike Eagle¬†and¬†Silent Service. ¬†His games were always enjoyable and well-coded, but more importantly, sold well. ¬†The marketing gurus at MicroProse suspected that people were buying Sid Meier games because they were designed by Sid Meier, so it seemed reasonable to help make their buying decisions for them by announcing his involvement directly in the product title. ¬†From this reasoning the very first game to feature ‚ÄúSid Meier‚Äôs‚Ķ‚ÄĚ in the game title was born:¬†Sid Meier‚Äôs Pirates!

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Sid Meier РGamer godThe game was for single players, made long before the mad, lemming-like multiplayer rush of today that all gaming companies seem to have embraced.  (Wait, was that an editorial?)  It was an open-ended game, letting the player make the choices on where to travel and what to do, with the only caveat being that eventually the player’s character would grow too old to continue on the pirate’s path, and would retire.  Depending on what actions the player took (that is, what rewards and successes they achieved during the game), the game would then give a litany of how their character lived the rest of their days, from a lowly beggar in the streets to the prestigious role as adviser to the King.  The game world itself was created using a series of questions-and-answers, beginning with what pirate era the player wanted to play within (1560: The Silver Empire; 1600: Merchants and Smugglers; 1620: The New Colonists; 1640: War for Profit; 1660: The Buccaneer Heroes; and 1680: Pirates’ Sunset).  This was followed by which nationality they wished to be (Dutch Adventurer, English Buccaneer, French Buccaneer, or Spanish Renegade), which Difficulty Level they wished to play in (Apprentice, Journeyman, Adventurer, or Swashbuckler).  Finally, a Special Ability was chosen: Skill at Fencing, Skill at Gunnery, Skill at Medicine, Skill at Navigation, or Wit and Charm, each with its own advantages (for instance, Wit and Charm was used to keep on a Governor’s good side; whereas Skill at Medicine kept injuries to a minimum and prolonged the character’s life).

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Swordplay in Sid Meier’s Pirates!The game world was then generated from these questions. ¬†Of course, the final variable was the copy protection, which requested when either the Silver Train or the Spanish Treasure Fleet arrived in a particular city. ¬†Failure to provide the correct answer stacked the odds so far against the player that even the game manual stated, ‚ÄúHeed the advice and start over, otherwise you‚Äôll find your situation most bleak.‚ÄĚ ¬†Takethat, software pirates! ¬†Actually, in some ways the manual was as interesting as the game, as there was a wealth of historical information on pirates and the historical context within which they plied their trade. ¬†Well worth¬†reading!

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Decisions, decisions in Sid Meier’s Pirates!

As for actual gameplay, the live of a pirate was sometimes short, but always challenge-filled and exciting, which the player soon discovered for themselves.  Since a pirate fought with a sword, fencing was part of the game.  Since pirates sailed the seas to prey upon treasure-laden ships, navigation and naval combat was part of the game.  Since pirates often sold their loot to merchants (money laundering was alive and well in the pirate era), trade was part of the game.  Since pirates sometimes sacked small townships, that, too was part of the game.  Since pirate ships didn’t magically manifest crewmembers to sail the seven seas, recruitment was part of the game, and since a silver tongue helped a pirate live a longer life, diplomatic contact with town governors was also part of the game.  All in all, this was an impressive pirate simulation.

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Pirates! Gold for the Sega Genesis

If the Career Mode was too large of a time investment,¬†Sid Meier‚Äôs Pirates!¬†offered six historically accurate scenarios to test your swashbuckling mettle. ¬†Each scenario was in a different time period, and each offered unique challenges to overcome. ¬†These scenarios were:¬†John Hawkins and the Battle of San Juan Ulua ¬†– 1569¬†(wherein you have a slow, but powerful galleon to command, with many ports unwilling to trade and a fleet not powerful enough to force them to comply);¬†Francis Drake and the Silver Train Ambush ‚Äď 1573¬†(can you match the verve and skill Drake showed battling the Spanish Fleet at the height of their power with only two small ships?);¬†Piet Heyn and the Treasure Fleet ‚Äď 1628¬†(your fleet is powerful, but the season is late and finding the treasure ships is becoming a difficult task and will take expert planning to locate and dispatch);¬†L‚ÄôOllonais and the Sack of Marcaibo ‚Äď 1666¬†(an abundance of manpower but a shortage of powerful vessels make ship-to-ship battles difficult, but port sacking attractive, with the additional challenge of the fragile nature of your men‚Äôs morale);Henry Morgan the King‚Äôs Pirate ‚Äď 1671¬†(the dangers of having a powerful pirate fleet in both naval power and manpower in that you must keep everyone fed, content and treasure laden to succeed); and¬†Baron de Pontis and the Last Expedition ‚Äď 1697¬†(the munchkin scenario, in which you have a large strike force and a more than reasonable certainty to win any battle, making the only challenge how much treasure can you loot?).

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Pirates! for the Nintendo Entertainment System

Sid Meier‚Äôs Pirates! was first released in 1987 on the Apple II, Commodore 64 and IBM PC (PC Booter) platforms.¬† It was quickly ported over to the Macintosh (1988), Amstrad (1988), Commodore Amiga (1990), and even the Nintendo Entertainment System (1991).¬† It would be remade in 1993 with improved graphics and sound, then published under the title¬†Pirates! Gold, for IBM PC (both DOS and Windows), Macintosh, and ‚Äď because Nintendon‚Äôt ‚Äď the Sega Genesis. The remakes didn‚Äôt end there, as it was again remade in 2004 for Windows XP, returning to its original title ofSid Meier‚Äôs Pirates!, and then again in 2008 for mobile devices, imaginatively calledSid Meier‚Äôs Pirates! Mobile.¬† Perhaps in the next decade it will be remade once again.¬† (I recommend they try Sid Meier‚Äôs Pirates! Gold as the title for next time.)

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Box art for Pirates! Gold

Sid Meier‚Äôs Pirates!¬†was not only popular amongst gamers, it also performed well in the eyes of the gaming press.¬† It was awarded ‚ÄúAction Game of the Year‚ÄĚ by¬†Computer Gaming World, and also the¬†Origin Award¬†for ‚ÄúBest Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1987‚ÄĚ.¬† The game also ranked at #18 in the¬†Computer Gaming World‚Äôs 150 Best Games of All Time.¬† Clearly, this game has remained in the gaming public‚Äôs eye for a reason, making¬†Sid Meier‚Äôs Pirates!¬†a worthy addition to anyone‚Äôs game collection.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2RigX8BVlc[/youtube]

Magisterrex has been gaming since the days of Pong and still owns a working Atari 2600. He tends to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games.  If you’re into classic old school gaming check out his blog here

Kyle Kulyk: Itzy Interactive

Itzy Interactive-logo

Name: Kyle Kulyk

Company: Itzy Interactive

Title: Co-Founder/Lead Developer

Raid_on_Bungeling_Bay_Cover

Favorite Classic Game: Raid on Bungeling Bay

Quote on why it is your favorite: I just found out recently that this was Will Wright’s first game. I loved this game as a kid. It was one of the first games I played where your play area wasn’t confined to the immediate screen, and things happened off screen! Wait too long and fortifications were being built that would hamper your efforts. In the middle of a mission – too bad! Your carrier is under attack. It seems like nothing now, but at the time this was pretty revolutionary to me.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZUi_EEMwRQ[/youtube]

SimCity: The City Simulator

Sim City - PC - Box

If there ever was a game that you weren’t really sure if you were playing a game or using an educational tool…but you didn’t care because it was so much fun, SimCity: The City Simulator was it.  Published by Maxis Software in 1989, SimCity was written by a young Will Wright (he of the incredibly addictive The Sims fame), and would go down as one of the most influential and popular games in gaming history.

In SimCity, players had to construct an entire metropolis starting from nothing but a bulldozer and random terrain.  Along the way to full city status sims begin to populate your city and make demands.  They may need more housing or shopping centers; perhaps crime is rampant and a police station is needed; maybe frequent brown outs are creating a demand for a new power station; perhaps your sims are bored and want a stadium…and so on.  Meanwhile, the city needed just the right level of taxes to encourage growth, yet still pay for all those fire and police stations.  Random emergencies could wreak havoc on your city, with tornadoes devastated entire zones, earthquakes leveling buildings, airplanes crashing and resulting fires requiring immediate response.  If you guided your city with a steady hand, your tax coffers filled up and your sims considered you Simsville’s best Mayor ever.  If you failed to keep on top of the ever-changing developments within your city you could find yourself in the ranks of the unemployed.

Sim City - Amgia - Gameplay Screenshot -

Although the core of the game was designed for open-ended gameplay, the game also included scenarios which revolved around achieving a specific goal within a certain time period.  These were based on both past situations as well as possible futures that urban planners had already had to solve or were in the process of planning for.  The past scenarios included dealing with crime-ridden and an economically-depressed Detroit in 1972; a post-earthquake San Francisco in 1906, and rebuilding Hamburg at the end of World War II (this one was only in the IBM PC, Amgia, and Atari ST version).  Future scenarios included Boston suffering a nuclear plant meltdown and Rio de Janeiro flooding from global warming.  There was even a fantastic scenario based upon the classic Godzilla movies, wherein the player had to rebuild Tokyo after an attack from the King of the Monsters.  Further scenarios were released in the SimCity Graphic Set 1: Ancient Cities and SimCity Graphic Set 2: Future Cities.

Sim City - Amgia - Gameplay Screenshot -

The path to¬†SimCity‚Äôs¬†initial release wasn‚Äôt an easy one. ¬†Originally titled ‚ÄúMicropolis,‚ÄĚ Will Wright, its creator, developed it for the¬†Commodore 64, a platform he had previous success in with the now-classic,¬†Raid on Bungling Bay. ¬†By 1985 the game was ready to go, but he couldn‚Äôt find a dance partner willing to publish it, as the powers-that-be struggled with its open path gameplay and lack of winners versus losers. ¬†He believed in the potential of what he had coded, so he partnered with Jeff Braun (a successful publisher of font packs for the¬†Commodore Amiga) and founded Maxis Software in 1987, and sought the rights to publish his game with his own company. ¬†After two more years of code changes and legal wrangling (which included cementing Broderbund Software as Maxis Software‚Äôs distribution agent),¬†SimCity¬†was brought before the gaming public.

Sim City - Amgia - Gameplay Screenshot -

Interestingly, although Will Wright had originally coded Micropolis for the C64, the first platforms SimCity was released on were the Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga, followed by IBM PC (MS-DOS) and then the Commodore 64.  EventuallySimCity: The City Simulator would be ported to the Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Commodore Amiga CDTV, Amstrad CPC, and even the Super Nintendo.   The game was, of course, a smash hit, and garnered several gaming awards, including: Best Computer Strategy Game (Video Games & Computer Entertainment), Game of the Year (Computer Gaming World), Best Consumer Program (Software Publisher’s Association), and many, many more.  Its legacy is also well-recognized, earning a top ten position on the still-respected Computer Gaming World’s 150 Game of All Timelist.

 

Sim City - Amgia - Gameplay Screenshot -

The legacy of SimCity is more than just accolades, as its incredible success motivated Maxis Software to publish many variations on the theme: SimAnt, SimIsle,SimCopter, SimLife, SimFarm, SimEarth, Streets of SimCity, SimTown, and SimSafari.  Maxis even picked up the publishing rights for two similar Japanese games, A-Trainand Yoot Tower (which was renamed SimTower to take advantage of the sim-craze).  SimCity also spawned several sequels and remakes, including SimCity Classic(updated for Windows), SimCity Enhanced CD-ROM (which added FMV to the SimCity experience), SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, SimCity 4, and SimCity Societies.  And, of course, there is a direct link between Will Wright’s SimCity: The City Simulator and his epic seller, The Sims (and all its subsequent sequels and expansion packs).  Clearly,SimCity had a huge impact on the gaming universe.

Sim City - Amgia - Gameplay Screenshot -

Sadly, Maxis Software did not last as an independent company. ¬†Although Maxis had been partnered with Broderbund since its inception, by 1995 they hired their own sales team and launched their IPO, taking Maxis public for the first time. ¬†Unfortunately, the buzz from¬†SimCity 2000‚Äės success had long worn off, and the pressure to fulfill the stock analysts‚Äô projections took its toll on the company. ¬†Wright and the other designers were pressured to abide by a strict deadline in 1996, with Maxis‚Äô management team demanding all four games in development by released. ¬†The designers complied, but the games they published that year did not catch the gamerverse on fire (I‚Äôm looking at YOU,¬†SimCopter), and the share price of the new company which had such an incredible history slide precipitously. ¬† In 1997, Electronic Arts made $120 million stock offer that they couldn‚Äôt refuse, making Will Wright and Jeff Braun very wealthy young men. ¬†For his part, Braun became the biggest shareholder of Electronic Arts, and gave him the ability to invest in a variety of technology companies. ¬†As for Will Wright, the money afforded him the time to do what he most loved ‚Äď and did best ‚Äď in developing new games. ¬†Thanks, Electronic Arts!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzHVcvZw_7Q[/youtube]

If you’ve never played SimCity: The City Simulator, you’ve missed out on an integral piece of gaming history.  For a retro gamer, it’s still as fun as it always was, which is a sign of just how well it was crafted by Will Wright.  Between great gameplay and a long-lasting legacy, SimCity deserves to be on anyone’s best games of all time list.  Pick up a copy and see for yourself!

Magisterrex has been gaming since the days of Pong and still owns a working Atari 2600. He tends to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games. ¬†If you’re into classic old school gaming check out his blog¬†here

Exploring the Commodore 64: Part 2

Having now had my first taste of the much-loved Commodore 64 , I figured it was time to revisit it and try a few more games. Like the first post, the games featured here were all available elsewhere but were probably most famous as C64 games, especially a certain few, but unlike last time I’m somewhat more familiar with these games, having played them or similar games elsewhere, which should actually prove better for familiarising me with the C64’s abilities. One thing to note is that, as you may have noticed, all the games selected are arcade-style games. I thought this would be okay since I’m just seeing what the C64 is like as a system and I don’t really have time to learn the intricacies of some of the great strategy and adventure games the system offers such as The Sentinel, Forbidden Forest, Citadel, etc, but I certainly intend to play them eventually, at which time I’m sure you’ll hear about it here! For now though, here’s my first impressions of these games:

International Karate (1986)

International-Karate-commodore-64
I’ve long been a fan of the supreme IK+ on the Amiga but I must admit I’ve never played this prequel before. As far as 8-bit micro’s are concerned I was always an ‘Exploding Fist’ fan but if the time I’ve now spent on this is anything to go by, I’ve been missing out! IK+ is great fun but is pretty fast-paced, even manic at times, with its three simultaneous combatants. IK is a little more sedate. Since it’s just one-on-one contests, you’re afforded more time to try to out-fox your opponent and score a knockdown. I greatly enjoyed this one with its finely-honed gameplay, good selection of moves, and nice, varied backgrounds, and it will definitely see more play!

Wizball (1987)

Wizball-commodore-64
It was at R3Play when I was reminded of this game, while watching the great Jon Hare doing his presentation. He asked who had played Wizball (his first big hit) so I enthusiastically raised my hand! Then he asked who had played the ‘proper’ version on the C64. I had to sheepishly lower my hand, but I vowed that I would play it, and soon! I used to own the Speccy version and I didn’t really have a blinking clue what I was doing, but I also later bought it for the Amiga and enjoyed it much more there, actually making a little progress (just a little though!). Having now played this original version, I’m… a little disappointed to be honest! I’ve been hearing C64 fans raving about this game for so many years, I was expecting to be bowled over. I was expecting all my indifference towards the game to disappear as it became instantly clear why the game was so revered. But that never happened. The graphics are quite nice and I found it very addictive, but I also found it tough and frustrating too, and the sound is awful. I did quite enjoy playing it, and it’s a game that it’s satisfying to do well at so I’ll keep trying, but not this version I’m afraid. I’ll go back to the Amiga version I think, sorry C64 fans!

Turrican (1989)

Turrican-commodore-64
This is another one I’ve played elsewhere (kind of), specifically Mega Turrican for the MegaDrive, but it is again a game best known on, and originally developed for the C64, and I must say… it’s impressive stuff! Turrican was perhaps initially noticed for its admittedly superb aesthetics but, as I soon discovered, even this first version of the first game is far from a one-trick-pony – the superb graphics and music merely complement the top-notch game design rather than cover its flaws. Although seemingly influenced by Metroid on the NES, Turrican is much more focused on action, specifically shooting, but of course even I knew that much already! There’s a lot of blasting to do here though, with several weapon power-ups available to increase the range and power of hand-held gun (or ‘arm-cannon’), and with a large number of varied enemies to mow down as you clamber around the large, multi-tiered stages, there’s certainly a lot to hold your attention. I’ve played a good few ‘run n gunners’ over the years, and I greatly enjoyed the MD version of Turrican, so I’m pleased to find that this original version is just as much fun to play. Now to have a look at the sequel!

Dropzone (1984)

Dropzone-commodore-64
Considering I’m supposedly an Archer MacLean fan, it’s rather embarrassing to confess here that I have never previously played this game! I am a big fan of Datastorm on the Amiga though, and finally playing Dropzone reveals the Amiga game to be far more like Archer’s classic than Defender, of which it is supposedly a clone. So, not only was it quickly familiar to me but I also soon saw why it’s so loved (unlike my time with Wizball!). It took me a few moments to work out where I was supposed to be dropping off the pods but I was soon blasting away fairly convincingly. Having said that, Datastorm is no walk in the park and this game is even harder! The pods are seemingly abducted by the Landers (sorry, they’re called ‘Planters’ here) every few seconds so the priority is to rescue them very quickly it seems. After that it’s a manic shooting gallery as you attempt to take out all the evil alien ships. This really is a superb shmup, probably the best I’ve played on any 8-bit micro, and has some great little touches, especially those fantastic firework-like explosions. A superb title I would’ve undoubtedly spent a lot of time on if I had a C64.

Pitstop (1983)

Pitstop-commodore-64
Now I don’t like to be unkind to a system which I’m pretty much just using as a guest at this point, but whoever suggested I give this one a try must’ve surely been taking the piss! I’m firmly of the opinion that into-the-screen racing games are a genre that the earlier systems couldn’t really do justice to, and this is a very early example, but c’mon! This Epyx release reminded me one of those handheld LCD games where you move the car at the bottom of the display left or right across three lanes to avoid the infinite slower cars that also occupy them. Those devices are okay for what they are but I would expect a lot more from a C64 (or indeed a Speccy) F1-style game! The graphics and sound here are dire and the gameplay gets annoyingly repetitive after just a few minutes of play. Maybe the sequel is better but I can only assume I’ve been the victim of a joke with this game!

The Verdict:
Well, it took me more than 20 years but I’ve now finally played some games on this iconic system, and it’s a little tough to summarise my experience. To use a football analogy, it’s like supporting Liverpool for all these years, then trying to see what it would’ve been like to be a Manchester United fan the whole time (the CPC would be like Scunthorpe or something of course – hee hee!). Sure I could enjoy watching the United team play but would my heart really be in it?

I certainly can’t deny that the C64 is a competent machine though, with some outstanding games, and is almost certainly more technically gifted than the Speccy – despite having far blockier graphics, the extra colours do make a difference and the famed SID sound chip makes a huge difference – the Speccy’s audio ‘abilities’ are hard to defend, even as a Speccy fan! I’m a big fan of videogame music so I imagine listening to old SID music must be an enormously nostalgic experience for gamers who grew up with a C64 and that’s something I certainly missed out on.

The experience of being a C64 owner must’ve been pretty similar to that of being a Speccy owner – the machines are fundamentally very similar of course – but I reckon I would’ve had a great time as the former. Perhaps they are suited to different types of games befitting their particular specialities but I’ve greatly enjoyed discovering these great C64 games regardless. That said, I’ll always have more affection for the Speccy, that will never change (it is best, after all!), but I am no longer a stranger to the ways of the C64!

Lode Runner

Way back in time, when I was gaming the night away on my Apple II clone (a Circle II), all things Zork ruled my gaming existence.  But when I needed a respite from adventuring in the Great Underground Empire, Lode Runner was the game that took its place.

Lord Runner - Apple - Box

Lode Runner¬†was an arcade hit published by Broderbund Software in 1983.¬† The game‚Äôs backstory was that a vast fortune in gold bullion was heisted by the Bungeling Empire, and it‚Äôs your job to recover it.¬† Some of the gold sat around waiting for you to pick it up, and some was carried by various agents of the Empire –¬† which required a slightly more creative approach.¬† Essentially the only way to get their gold was to bury them alive, and wait for the gold to pop out once they were crushed to death.¬† Your Lode Runner was able to blast the dirt to either side of him (and more than one square, if needed), which would eventually automatically refill.¬† The trick was to make certain that an Agent would fall into it, and be unable to get out in time before the hole refilled.¬† Blast too soon and the hole would refill long before the Agent arrived; blast too late and the Agent would either climb out of the hole and expunge your Lode Runner from virtual existence or the hole would not open at all.¬† Timing your blasts, and knowing when to kill your Agents off, was the point of the game.

Lode Runner - Gameplay Screenshot

Lode Runner for Apple II screen

Yes, it was simple. What 1980’s game wasn’t?  But it was fun.  And clearly many, many gamers thought so, too, as Lode Runner was released on multiple platforms, including: Apple II (1983), Atari 400/800/XL/XE (1983), Commodore 64 (1983), MSX (1983), PC Booter (1983), VIC-20 (1983), Macintosh (1984), Nintendo Famicom (1984), ZX Spectrum (1984), PC-88 (1986), Nintendo Entertainment System (1987), Amstrad CPC (1989), and the Atari ST (1989)…among others!  That’s a lot of systems, a large audience, and a reason why Lode Runner remains a classic gaming memory.

Lode Runner - Sierra - Box

Lode Runner: The Legend Returns cover.

Like any classic game, Lode Runner had its share of updates and sequels, again a sign of a game that has a classic appeal.  The list is impressive:

  • Load Runner‚Äôs Rescue (Commodore 64, 1985)
  • Hyper Lode Runner (GameBoy, 1990)
  • Battle Lode Runner (TurboGrafx, 1993)
  • Lode Runner: The Legend Returns (DOS/Macintosh/Windows, 1994)
  • Lode Runner Online: The Mad Monk Returns (Windows/Macintosh, 1995)
  • Lode Runner 2 (Windows/Macintosh, 1998)
  • Lode Runner 3-D (Nintendo 64, 1999)
  • Battle Lode Runner (Wii, 2007)
  • Lode Runner (Xbox 360, 2009)

Lode Runner has been considered a classic for some time. It made #80 on Computer Gaming World’s 150 Best Games of All Time list, and was mentioned in 2003 as one of the best games of all time by Gamespot in their The Greatest Games of All Time series.  The creator of Tetris, the classic puzzle game that all puzzle games are compared to, was quoted in a 2008 interview with Edge Magazine that he considered Lode Runner to his favorite puzzle game for many years.  There was even a 1986 Lode Runner board game created by Donal Carlston (the creator of the still-popular board game, Personal Preference)!

Lode Runner - Online - Box

Lode Runner Online: The Mad Monk Returns cover

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jnRWMvxb7o[/youtube]

Back in 1983, a big bowl of salt ‚Äėn‚Äô vinegar potato chips, a jug of chocolate milk, and an afternoon of wiping out agents of the Bungeling Empire was a recipe for good times.¬† Now that I‚Äôm older (married with children, no less!), there‚Äôs no more chocolate milk nor salt ‚Äėn‚Äô vinegar potato chips, and my afternoon gaming has now been replaced with late evening gaming. But¬†Lode Runner¬†will always hold a special place in my gamer heart, and if you‚Äôve never played it, find one of the updated versions and have great time!

R-Type available today for Android devices

r-type

Fans of classic space shooters rejoice because R-Type is coming to your Android phone starting today from DotEmu.

Pilot the R-9a Arrowhead, the last hope of human race in its war against alien invader! Your mission is clear but not so easy: blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire!

Initially developed and published by Irem in 1987, R-Type has become an essential game on arcade cabinet, Amiga, Atari, Amstrad, Commodore 64 and PC. Today this masterpiece is ported and published for Android devices by DotEmu SAS.

R-Type for Android is a real diving in your youth and will include all the features you enjoyed in the original game:

  • A large amount of items and powers-up to collect through various and sharpened sets.
  • Strong enemies and bosses at the end of each level (8 altogether).
  • The famous ¬ę¬†charge shot¬†¬Ľ for more power!
  • Share your results with your friends with OpenFeint!

R-Type for Android will come along two difficulty modes and a new intuitive control system Рfull touch mode Рto directly control your spaceship. Get your hand on a real blast from the past and (re)discover all the hype from the 80’s!

R-Type¬†for Android is compatible with devices running on OS 2.1+ and with a screen resolution of 480×320 HVGA or above. Supported devices will include Samsung Galaxy S / Google Nexus S, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc.

Also great news for fans, R-Type Android is officially Xperia PLAY optimized providing the best user experience!

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMlrLbxywGU[/youtube]

R-Type Android is now available for $2.99
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.dotemu.rtype
And soon for Amazon Appstore.

Exolon

Exolon (1987)
By:¬†Hewson¬† Genre: Run ‘n’ Gun¬† Players: 1¬† Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 15,850
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Enterprise 128

Exolon gameplay screenshot

Having recently revisited one game by the great Raffaele Cecco, and the one I knew best, I thought it might be time for a long overdue look at another, this time on the system where he made his name. I was always enticed by the attractive-looking screen shots of Exolon in the Speccy magazines I enthusiastically read in the mid-to-late 80’s too, which makes the fact that I never played it all the more odd. There’s no story here as such with the game merely plonking you on some alien-infested planet and advising you to proceed from left to right wiping them out! This involves guiding your battle-hardened space marine through 124 screens filled with everything the aliens can throw at you.

Exolon gameplay screenshot

The marine is outfitted with the snazzy Exolon suit, a powerful exoskeleton equipped with a hand blaster and backpack grenade launcher, and it is these that will facilitate your progress. The screens, or ‘zones’, are occupied by a mixture of targets. Some feature aliens themselves who swarm from right to left across the screen indefinitely. These can be taken out easily with your hand blaster but there are also ground-based guns and missile-launchers which can only be taken out by grenades, and it’s the same for the non-hostile but still inconvenient obstacles which appear to consist of hardware such as satellite dishes as well as strange alien structures. You’ll also encounter land-mines which can’t be destroyed at all. Your brave space-marine is a little delicate though as contact with one of these, or indeed any enemy/bullet/missile, results in instant death!

Exolon gameplay screenshot

The first thing you’ll probably notice about this game is the quality of its graphics which really are superb. The colourful screens full of well-defined sprites and objects are enjoyable to battle through and still impress today. The sound is pretty minimal though with just a few basic effects to listen out for. Control over spacey is pretty good – he can jump and duck to avoid enemies and, although his blaster and grenades supplies are finite, he can pick up more along the way which also includes a power-up for the blaster. You’ll get a bonus at the end of the level (25 screens equal one ‘level’) if you forego the upgrade but I’d get it if I were you – this is a pretty tough game (much like all of Mr. Cecco’s games, in fact)! It’s not too unfair though with few screens proving notably harder than others and you should make gradual progress, and you’ll want to too as Exolon is a well-designed and thoroughly enjoyable run ‘n’ gunner and among the best on the Speccy.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGpQxt3vn3o[/youtube]

RKS Score: 8/10

Deviants

Deviants Gameplay Screenshot

Deviants (1987)
By: Players Software Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 57,360
Also Available For: Nothing

After recently playing Impossible Mission as part of my ‘Exploring the Commodore 64’ piece, I found myself remembering this little-known Spectrum budget title. Although it was a proper budget release, I originally received on a cover-tape provided by the ever-kind chaps at Sinclair User, which was nice as I probably wouldn’t have discovered it otherwise! So what has it got in common with the much more famous Impossible Mission? Well, besides both being flick-screen platform games, they both feature puzzles that I can’t work out how to solve! In the case of Deviants, the prologue explains that the titular race have been confirmed as the source of an attack on a colony world, ‘Krause’. A squad of ‘Star Warriors’ were sent to the asteroid from which the attacks originated to plant thirty bombs. However, their mission was only a partial success – they planted the bombs, but were killed before they could arm them. So, it’s your job to make your way through the asteroid complex and arm the bombs.

Deviants Gameplay Screenshot

In order to accomplish your mission, you must locate and arm each bomb whilst avoiding or shooting the green, zombie- like creatures (presumably the Deviants themselves) wandering around, going about their dastardly business. The rapid- fire assault rifle-type gun you’re equipped with takes them out within a few shots (which sees them crumble to the floor in a pile of dust) but it has a finite supply of ammo, so keep an eye out for the extra ammo icons dotted around here and there. Contact with the Deviants reduces your energy level but luckily there are regeneration booths here and there too, which will top up your reserves. It’s the arming the bombs that I have trouble with, however. When you touch one, the screen switches to display six ‘activator valves’. Some are open, some are not. To arm a bomb you must open all six valves, but rather than make things simple, each switch is connected to one or more valves, so you must try and work out which keys to press to open which valves, and all within thirty seconds!

Deviants Gameplay Screenshot

The key to arming the bombs lies in deciphering the ‘logic puzzle’ of the valves. Unfortunately, I’m not a Vulcan and logic is sometimes an alien concept to me, so herein lies my only problem with the game. Even with having to stumble my way through the bomb sequences, however, this is still a highly enjoyable game. The graphics are really nice with several colours being used to good effect and it’s a big game too, with getting on for 200 screens of platforms to explore. It’s very addictive as well – I remember playing this game a lot on my Speccy, but avoiding the bombs and just exploring and shooting the Deviants, so imagine how much I’d have liked it if I could activate the bombs too! Since rediscovering the game for this review, I have worked out the puzzley bits (kind of) and gotten addicted to it all over again!

Deviants Gameplay Screenshot

Considering it was originally released for a paltry ¬£1.99, I’m surprised Deviants wasn’t better known. I’ve certainly played a lot of full price games that weren’t as enjoyable as this and it hasn’t aged at all. I’ve really enjoyed rediscovering this budget classic. It’s not perfect by any means but it does what it sets out to very well and I recommend any Speccy fans reading this to give it a go.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RU41ulqX1iA

RKS Score: 7/10

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Worst Show Ever

Worst Episode Ever

Everyone has off days and pretty much every day the staff at Obsolete Gamer is a little off. This time for the show, we wanted to focus on horrible things you have done during gaming. Examples of horrible things you would do during gaming world be like pooping in a sock or forgoing a shower for days on end. While we were able to hit on that topic, we kind of went off mark into rants about gamers versus non-gamers, race relations and the horrible new Commodore 64.

In the end, I think the show was funny as hell, but those who can’t take a joke or get offended easily should go listen to church lady weekly.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Worst Show Ever

Or have a listen on our official OGS page and let us know what you think.

Or download our podcast from Itunes

Equinoxe – Evolution (8‚ÄźBit Girl) EP

Equinoxe - Evolution (8‚ÄźBit Girl) EP cover

Evolution (8‚ÄźBit Girl) contains seven tracks of post modern electronic dance music, featuring an array of 8‚Äźbit samples from the C64/SID, Amiga/OctaMED, NES, genuine datasette and
more.

The EP is a collection of love songs to the 8‚Äźbit generation.

Evolution is intended to bridge the gap between the classic music of the 8‚Äźbit era by using the Commodore 64 as an instrument. Surrounding the C64 are analogue synthesizers, grooves and beats that bridge the gap between the 1980‚Äôs and today.¬† Using VSTs, computer sequencers and synths, equinoxe has decided to go back to the machine that started his musical journey: synthesising and recording new sounds, and emulating classic ones using this iconic machine and other devices, to craft them into music that is easily accessible so that a new generation can enjoy the classic sounds of this truly unique machine.

1. Back in the Day

‘Back in the Day’ is a driving piece of music that sets the tone up for the album and introduces themes that will be heard later on. Originally the track was going to have a more epic ‘Overture’ like feel to it but rather than start slowly it was decided to break straight into the groove!

2. 1984

Inspired by David Whittaker’s score for ‘Lazy Jones’, 1984 is a short track which reminds us of where the music all started on the early computers. Thanks to these early games the music started to get more complex and ambitious, ‘1984’ takes us back to the style where it all began.

3. His Name Was SID

Primarily using sounds sourced from a Commodore 64 with some tracker sequences from the Amiga, ‘His Name was SID’ is a 8-Bit version of a previous song by equinoxe and is inspired by loading screen and in-game remixes of pop songs that were programmed for early home computers.

4. Evolution (8-Bit Girl)

Evolution is a love song to the 8-Bit Generation. Inspired by the simple, catchy melodies and groove of loader music and influenced by classic C64 composers such as Rob Hubbard and Martin Galway, Evolution is a bond between the music of the C64 and the music of today. It features samples like a the Ghostbusters game loading from C64 datasette, and a mobile phone interference.

5. ConsciousNES

Using sounds sourced from a Nintendo NES, ConsciousNES maintains the groove and the feel of the album but shows us the other side of 8-Bit, the console side.

6. Continue?

The themes and feel of ‘Back in The Day’ are revisited in a long form track that plays out the album.

Free Bonus Download: Sanxion Loader (Thalamusik) (equinoxe Remix)

A remix of Rob Hubbard’s classic loader music for ‘Sanxion’, ‘Thalamusik’ just had to be remixed while working on my 8-bit project as it’s one of my favourite C64 tunes ever!

Head to http://equinoxestudios.co.uk/music for more info.

Bubble Bobble

Bubble Bobble - Arcade Gameplay Screenshot 1

Bubble Bobble (1986)
By: Taito Genre: Platform Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 180,180
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, Saturn, PlayStation, X68000, NES, GameBoy Color, GameBoy Advance, Nintendo DS, FM Towns Marty, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Apple II, MSX, PC

What more can be said about this all-time great? Whilst perhaps not as well known as Mario or Sonic, the cute dinosaurs of Bubble Bobble are just as iconic to many gamers, myself included, and have now appeared in a lot of games on nearly every system ever created, in one guise or another. My first encounter with the bubble-blowing twins was in ‘Kwiki Meals’, the cafe near my college. It was here that I ventured every lunchtime to play Bubble Bobble (and eat a burger), and I was often late back to class! It was the game that first brought the great Taito to my attention and they’ve been one of my favourite companies since. Sadly, both Kwiki Meals and the arcade masterpiece it once housed are now long gone but I’ve had a regular fix of Bubble Bobble ever since.

Bubble Bobble - Arcade Gameplay Screenshot 2

Most of you will know the drill by now – Bub and Bob have been turned into dragons by the evil Super Drunk who has also kidnapped their girlfriends! In order to get them back and be restored to Human form, they must battle their way through a hundred rounds of multi-platformed, monster-infested caves until they can face, and hopefully defeat, Super Drunk. Bub and Bob, who start each round in the bottom left and bottom right corners of the screen respectively, must clear each single-screen round of baddies in order to proceed to the next. To do this you must trap them in bubbles which both Bub and Bob can blow at will. The bubbles fly forward quickly, before floating up the screen being carried by the air currents in the caverns. Freshly-blown bubbles are surrounded by a shiny orange aura until they are a certain distance away and it is only during this brief period that enemies can be trapped in them.

Bubble Bobble - Arcade Gameplay Screenshot 3

Once an enemy is trapped in a bubble, it must be popped quickly to kill it, either by touching it with the spines on Bub and Bob’s head and back, by jumping on it, or by pushing it into a wall. If you fail to pop it quickly enough, it will pop by itself, and the re-released enemy will be angry and much faster. It’s also possible to bounce off bubbles instead of popping them when you jump on one or fall on one from above. This is an essential skill to learn as sometimes it’s the only way to escape from part of a level or reach some high platforms. Bubbles also stick together if they touch each other, whether they contain enemies or not, so if you time it right you can cause a mega-pon chain reaction meaning mega-points! There are eight different types of standard enemy altogether and each has his own movement patern. Learning these are obviously the key to success here, but don’t take too long – if you stay on one stage too long, the undefeatable Baron Von Blubba will appear and stalk you until there’s nowhere left to hide!

Bubble Bobble - Arcade Gameplay Screenshot 4

One of this game’s many memorable points is that it jointly holds the record with its own sequel as one of the most fruit laden game ever (this is a good thing)! Items are spilled on a platform somewhere in the level every time an enemy is vanquished and other items appear seemingly out of nowhere now and then. There is an enormous amount of them to be found, some of which are very useful, particularly the umbrella which skips several levels, and there are power-ups and various kinds of screen-clearing smart bombs too. Some other items are even available in different colours, varying their effect. Also appearing liberally are lots of different fruits, gems and foods which can be seized for bonus points. Additional bubbles sometimes get ‘blown’ onto the screen by the air currents running through the caverns, and included amongst these are ‘special’ bubbles which, when popped, unleash special powers. These include fire bubbles, which spill fire which scorches enemy’s, lightning bubbles which sends a enemy-killing lightning bolt across the screen, and water bubbles, which send a torrent of water cascading down the platforms killing all enemies in its path. The last kind of bubbles to be found contain letters. Collecting them will gradually spell out E-X-T-E-N-D down the side of the screen. Complete the word to clear the round and get an extra life!

There are many more little intricacies and nuances to this game and to be honest, I could go on all day about them, but discovering them for yourself is one of the things that makes Bubble Bobble as great as it is. Despite initially seeming random, almost everything you do has some sort of affect on the game, from how quickly you finish a round right down to a particular digit of your score when you reach a certain point. Many games have been called classics over the years. Whether they truly are or not depends on your definition of the term I suppose, but few are as genuinely timeless as Bubble Bobble.

The cute, colourful graphics which are full of character, that music by Zuntata which could just be the catchiest tune of all-time, the flawlessly structured gameplay, the fiendish stage design, the fantastic fun of jumping around the platforms trying to time an attack to perfection, playing the game with a friend, it goes on and on. It’s regularly sited as one of the greatest games of all-time, and it’s hard to argue. Bubble Bobble isn’t just a single screen platform game, for many it’s the single screen platform game! It’s certainly true that it’s among the most enduring platform games of all-time and that kind of lasting adulation can only be for one reason…

RKS Score: 10/10

The 8-bit Book 1981 to 199X

 the 8-bit book cover

 

The aptly titled¬†8-bit Book 1981 to 199X (link) is the third and final book of the¬†Golden Years trilogy by excellent indie publisher¬†hiive books. It is thus complimentary to the¬†ZX Spectrum and¬†Commodore 64books and, as expected, follows their template, though simultaneously changing and broadening their focus.¬†The 8-bit Book, you see, covers over 200 games released for such diverse machines as the¬†BBC Micro, the¬†Amstrad CPC, the¬†VIC-20, the¬†MSX, the¬†Dragon 32, the¬†Oric-1, my personal favourite¬†Texas Instruments TI-99/4A, the¬†Atari 8-bits, Sinclair’s¬†ZX81, the¬†Apple II and even the¬†Sam Coupe. Not that the¬†Speccyand the¬†C64 are ignored, mind; far from it. It’s just that only games that were missed from the previous books are dealt with. Oh, and don’t expect any consoles in the book. This is all about the glory of the 8-bit micros.

The book is divided into 10 chapters. The first nine each cover one year worth of games, while the last one all those late 90s releases. Interestingly, every chapter starts with a prologue that briefly describes each period, whereas the book begins with an excellent foreword by David Braben of Elite fame.

8 bit book repton page

 

As is the case with the rest of the books of the series, each page of¬†The 8-bit Book¬†covers one game and presents it complete with all the relevant info you might care for, a description of the game and an eclectic selection of pictures covering everything from screenshots, to game boxes, to cartridges and loading screens. As for the accompanying text itself, it’s very well written and higly informative, not only describing the game itself, but also (among other things) providing behind the scenes information, mentionig reviews of the era, sequels and even remakes. I guess that by having a look at the freely available¬†ZX Spectrum Book you’ll have a not-so-rough idea of what to expect.The games covered range from well known classics like¬†3D Monster Maze,¬†Elite¬†and¬†Miner 2049er, to platform specific hits such as¬†Frak!,¬†Get Dexter¬†and¬†TI Invaders, to less played versions of well known games such as¬†Manic Miner¬†for the¬†Sam Coupe, to brilliant obscurities like¬†Forty Miner¬†and everything in between. What’s more,¬†The 8-bit Book¬†has quite a few articles on games from every conceivable genre, almost equally covering all included formats and even sporting a few oddities that showcase the creativity and imagination of 8-bit developers.

All in all, expect a truly varied read that effortlessly jumps from nostalgia to gaming history and even touches on design philosophy. You can order a copy, find out more and see a preview of The 8-bit Book 1981 to 199X here.

 

Exploring the Commodore 64: Part 1

Commodore 64

As retro gamers, we, by our very definition, have been playing games a long time. During this time, only the most privileged of us had the luxury of access to most or all of the systems available. Most of us had to make do with just one at a time, and often not even the system of our choice either.¬†I didn’t really know much about home computers when my parents bought me a ZX Spectrum for Christmas but luckily it turned out they had made a good choice.

I soon discovered that¬†some of my friends also owned Spectrums, including one of my best friends, Stu. A couple of my other friends owned Amstrad CPC’s, including my other best mate, Luke. I did not, however, know anyone who owned a Commodore 64 which, looking back, is pretty strange!¬†Not long after becoming a Speccy owner I also somewhat predictably became a Speccy fanboy and began looking upon the C64 as an inferior rival machine, something¬†which the lack of any C64-owning friends made worse.¬†As a result of this, I have to this day not played any C64 games! As you might imagine, as a self-professed retro gamer, this is an entirely unacceptable state of affairs! To this end, I have decided that I must immerse myself in the world of all the computers and consoles I missed the first time around due to having a rival machine, or for some other reason, and¬†I will start with the much-loved Commodore 64.

My original idea was to ask my fellow Retro Gamer Forum members to vote for a single game that they felt best represented the old beige breadbin, and then do a detailed report on that, but I was soon besieged by many suggestions covering a great variety of genres. So, instead I will have a quick play of some of these titles and present my first impressions of both the games themselves, and the system generally, here in this series of features.

The first game I tried (and, historically for me, the first C64 game ever played) is:

Buggy Boy (1987)

Buggy Boy - Commodore 64 - Gameplay Screenshot

This is one I’ve heard about ever since it first came out but never got around to playing on any system. I’ve long heard, however, that the C64 version is the best. So… the best version of a previously unplayed but highly regarded game… Seems like as good a place to start as any! In my experience, into-the-screen racers are rarely enjoyable on older systems so to find that this is an instantly accessible and playable game is all the more pleasing. As most of you will no doubt know, the game involves racing around each of the five courses to a fairly strict time limit. Driving through gates and collecting flags earns you points, whilst hitting any of the many objects that litter each course (such as rock, walls, barriers, etc) costs you valuable time. I’ve really enjoyed playing this highly-regarded classic. The graphics are a bit blocky (one of the things I used to use in my anti-C64 arguments!) but there’s nice use of colours and it’s great fun and very addictive. I’ll definitely be returning to this one at some point. So, we’re off to a good start!

Uridium (1986)

Uridium- Commodore 64 - Gameplay Screenshot

I think I played this very briefly on my Speccy but this represents my first go on it proper. It’s a fairly unique game in that it’s both a horizontal and vertical scrolling shooter! In other words, it’s viewed from above but scrolls horizontally, and it’s a little disorientating to start with. To be honest I found it really tough going – in addition to the odd viewpoint, it seems to be something of a trial and error game with seemingly unassuming ground objects causing death but others not. After quite a bit of practise however, I made some progress, as you can see from the screenshot! Graphically I found it a bit drab and I don’t like the sprite for the ship you control (the ‘Manta’), but the music and sound effects are pretty good. It’s very addictive too – it’s one of those shmups that’s tough but one that you’re determined to do well at. Another good one then, and one I’ll be playing again. Having said that, I can’t imagine I’ll be seeing all fifteen levels any time soon!

Impossible Mission (1984)

Impossible Mission- Commodore 64 - Gameplay Screenshot

I actually had (and still have) this on my good old Master System, so this version is actually a slight step down for me. However, it and its sequel are most famous as C64 games so I thought I’d give this version a go too. Running and jumping around the multi-platformed complex of Professor Elvin Atombender remains as playable and addictive as it ever was and I can see why this version was so popular. Control over your athletic avatar is as precise as you would expect and, after some practise, some pretty lengthy sessions can be enjoyed. However, the problem that I experienced in the MS version is also a problem here – those bloody puzzles! I was never much cop at them and I’m still flummoxed! A timeless classic though, to be sure.

Rescue On Fractalus! (1985)

Rescue On Fractalus- Commodore 64 - Gameplay Screenshot

Whilst I had heard of this game, I really didn’t have a clue what to expect, so after loading it and flying aimlessly around the jagged landscape for a while, I figured I’d better try to find out how to play it. A brief period of research later and I actually made some progress! Apparently the goal is to fly around looking for downed pilots and rescue them. Of course, there’s more to it than that – you have to actually land your craft near the pilots, cut the power, wait until they run over, then let them in before they die in the poisonous atmosphere whilst lots of mountain-top guns try to stop you! I enjoyed getting the hang of this one and was particularly proud of myself when I rescued my first pilot, but I still found it to be a bit aimless – I was flying around for about 10 minutes without finding a pilot at one point. Still, perseverance will no doubt pay dividends and persevere I will.

Enforcer (1992)

Enforcer- Commodore 64 - Gameplay Screenshot
After having this one recommended I was surprised to see how late it was released. I was well into blasting away on my MegaDrive by this point so it’s little wonder I’ve never heard of it. If I had played it during that period though, I’m not sure it would’ve been a huge step down – this is impressive stuff! Clearly taking its inspiration from other classic shmups, notably R-Type, this game really shows what the C64 is capable of. Featuring fast, numerous sprites, both decent in-game music and sound effects (even the Amiga rarely had this!), silky smooth scrolling, and plenty of challenging, addictive shooting action. On first impressions at least, this is the best shmup I’ve played on any 8-bit computer.

So, after playing my first five C64 games, I’m now starting to get a good idea of what the system was like. First impressions are excellent but I’m not finished yet! I’ll play a few more yet before giving my final verdict on the classic micro, so look out for the next five!

Top Five Spectrum Compilations

Spectrum Compilations

Anyone who grew up in the 80’s and had a classic 8-bit micro would have worshipped the game compilations that appeared regularly throughout the latter half of that decade, and with good reason – a single new game would cost us upwards of ¬£8, so who could say no to a collection of five, sometimes even more, games for a pound or two more? Whoever thought them up was a hero to all of us Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, and Commodore 64 owners! I was a proud Spectrum owner and of all the years I enjoyed gaming on it, a large percentage of this time was spent with compilations and the treasures contained therein. Here are my favourites:

Spectrum Compilations - The In Crowd 2

5. The In Crowd (1989)

I remember for many years my favourite Spectrum mags were going on and on about this one but it was one of the few ‘big name’ compilations I didn’t own. It wasn’t until the 8-bit era was coming to an end that I finally managed to get hold of a copy. Was it worth the wait? Well, it has some decent games that’s for sure: Karnov, Gryzor, Barbarian, Crazy Cars, Predator, Combat School, Platoon, and Target Renegade. While it’s true there’s not many classics on here, this compilation still proved amazing value for money by sheer weight of numbers!

Spectrum Compilations - Arcade Muscle

4. Arcade Muscle (1989)

This is another one I got quite late on, but given my love of arcade games and conversions of them, it was inevitable it would make an appearance here! There’s a bit of everything too. Platform fans get the rock-hard Bionic Commando to vex them, car (and shooting) fans get the never-ending Road Blasters, shmup fans get one offering of each type with the fantastic Side Arms and 1943, and lastly fighting fans are also catered for by the original (and oft-forgotten) Street Fighter! Quite amusing to see after playing the later games in the series, but it’s a decent enough Speccy brawler all the same. A nice variety of highly playable games from US Gold.

Spectrum Compilations - Giants

3. Giants (1988)

Say what you want about the OutRun conversions, but I still enjoyed the Speccy effort included here, monochrome graphics and all! The only game here I didn’t play much was 720 and that’s just because I didn’t really ‘get’ it. California Games is here and as much fun as ever (I particularly enjoyed the BMX event on this version) and Gauntlet 2 and Rolling Thunder are both fantastic games, and great conversions too. The latter is rather hard but very playable, and Gauntlet 2 is… more of the same old¬†Gauntlet action really, but who’s complaining?

Spectrum Compilations - Magnificent 7

2. Magnificent Seven (1988)
A bit of a stupid name considering it had eight games on it (although one them was ‘free’ to enable Ocean to still use the catchy moniker). I had this one for near enough the entire time I had a Speccy. I remember my sister and I having great fun trying to work out what to do in Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s minigames thanks to this one, and it also led to my lasting affection for Arkanoid and Head Over Heels. The other games weren’t bad either – The Great Escape, Yie ArKung Fu, Wizball, Cobra (by the late, great Jonathan ‘Joffa’ Smith – RIP), and the slightly wiffy Short Circuit. Cracking compilation and nice variety too!

Spectrum Compilations - Taito Coin-On Hits 2

1. Taito Coin-Op Hits (1989)

Yeah, good old Taito! A compilation featuring eight games¬†is good enough, but eight Taito games? They have long been one of my favourite games developers and this is one big reason why (or eight). I was already a big Arkanoid fan by the time I got this, so to find Arkanoid 2 included alongside the first game here was great news, and there’s some equally great news if you’re a vertical scrolling shmup fan with the amusingly-named Slapfight as well as the blinding Flying Shark included, both receiving great conversions, particularly the latter. Fans of close-quarters combat are accounted for with Rastan, Renegade, and Legend of Kage providing many hours of violence. Lastly, we have the immortal Bubble Bobble. The only thing that could’ve made this collection even better is the inclusion of The New Zealand Story! Taito Coin-Op Hits is, in my opinion, the Spectrum compilation with the consistently highest quality of games on it. I’d certainly be impressed if there’s any better!

Chase HQ review

Chase HQ Title screen

Chase HQ (1988)
By: Taito Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 4,723,860 (one credit)
Also Available For: PC Engine, X68000, Master System, Game Gear, NES, Game Boy, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Before the days of polygons, it was pretty rare to find a decent driving game. Even in the arcades they were pretty rare. If you asked any gamers around my age to name their favourite, most would probably say OutRun, and with good reason – it was a revolutionary game that made a huge impact. There was a few other good examples from around that time as well though, and one was Chase HQ. This effort from the awesome Taito was clearly influenced by OutRun – what else wasn’t in the years after its release? – but it’s not just a shameless rip-off, no sir. Whilst the basic gameplay has shades of Sega’s classic, Taito also injected it with themes taken from some of the American buddy cop movies and TV shows which were so popular at the time. It sure sounds like a perfect combination but how does it stand up today?

Chase HQ screenshot

Taking on the role of police detective, Tony Gibson, it’s your job to pursue one dangerous criminal on each of the game’s five stages. They have all commandeered some sort of powerful sports car and are fleeing out of the unnamed city (which is probably LA), They have got a head-start too so you, along with your partner, Raymond Broady, need to move quickly to make up the lost ground. After a briefing from the lovely Nancy back at ‘Chase Headquarters’ you’ll get sixty seconds to catch up with each felon in your black Porsche 928 Turbo. Once you’ve reached him, you’ll get another sixty to smash his car up until they stop (they‚Äôre all men ‚Äď women don‚Äôt commit crimes, remember)! Your ride is equipped with three helpful turbo boosts per stage/credit which can either be used to catch up with the ‘con’ quicker, or to smash into him more aggressively once you already have.

Chase HQ screenshot

You’re probably thinking that it sounds like a lot of fun, but you may also have thought that it sounds rather short. Well, you’d be right on both counts, but the latter point is pretty much the only bad thing about the game. Rather than attempting to craft a longer lasting, more subtle kind of driving game, Taito have instead gone for an intense ten minute blast of a game. It’s not particularly difficult either but some replay value is added by the accumulative bonus you receive for passing each of the many civilian cars the roads are filled with without hitting them. Technically the game is a noticeable step up from OutRun too. The sprites are probably a little better and more varied and the game plays a bit faster, but the biggest improvement is in the stages themselves.

Chase HQ screenshot

Rather than sticking to one backdrop each, the backgrounds and scenery here change numerous times per stage and are pretty varied too. The courses are also much less flat than OutRun’s and each features a fork mid-way through with one route being longer than the other. The audio is also pretty half-decent. The music, whilst perfectable fine, could never hope to best Hiroshi Miyauchi’s immortal tunes, and the effects are okay too, but Chase HQ’s most noticeable addition is the speech. Your partner is pretty vocal throughout the game, willing you to drive faster and getting excited once battle commences, and good old Nancy has a fair bit to say for herself, both during the briefings and over the police radio during the game too.

Chase HQ screenshot

Such is the glorification of crime and violence these days, I’m confident that if this game was released today you would play the role of the criminal, most likely with the object not only to escape from the pursuing police officers but to kill them too, and bonus points scored for killing civilians too, or some such nonsense. As it is though, this is very much a ‘good guys sim’ and remains one of the most memorable cop games released. The combination of OutRun and cop film was a superb idea for a game and makes this play very differently to the former. It also creates a fantastic atmosphere and makes it a different enough game to stand proudly next to OutRun instead of in its shadow. It won’t take you long to see all Chase HQ has to offer but it’s such a fast, exciting rush of a game, you’ll be back time and time again. A genuine classic.

RKS Score: 9/10

Why I Prefer Video Games Over Board, Card, and Pen & Paper Games

Why I Prefer Video Games Over Board, Card, and Pen & Paper Games

I grew up playing a ton of board games, card games, and pen-and-paper RPG games but for many years now I’ve been sick of playing them and have favored video games ever since multiplayer and playing online against other people became abundant.

Battletech Box
Battletech Box

Well, even before then back in the days of hotseat (hotseat is multiple players playing on the same system at the same physical location), especially on my Commodore 64 and Amiga, as well as my friends’ NES, Sega Genesis, and SNES consoles, I would rather play a good balanced video game than deal with the arguments and drama that playing traditional games came with.

Now I love board games, card games, and RPGs but the problem I found throughout the years is that most people you play with will cheat at every opportunity or they don’t really know the rules of the game or they create their own house rules that sometimes make the game have nothing to do with the original game.

I grew up playing Monopoly, Sorry, Talisman, Battletech, Hero Quest, Munchkin, Guillotine, Chez Geek, Magic the Gathering, Jihad (the Vampire the Masquerade card game), Dungeons and Dragons (every version; AD&D every version as well), Shadowrun, Mechwarrior, and Vampire: The Masquerade. I’ve played more but those are the ones that easily pop into my head right now. I remember playing Battletech at a game store called Gamesters here in Miami with my friend Tom Birmingham and it was us two against two other players. The other players would do shit like waste time then make their guys move twice and fire twice. Even with their cheating, we decimated them.

Munchkin Card Game
Munchkin Card Game

For card games, especially Munchkin, there would be so many arguments that one time my friends stayed up all night playing the game and they decided to wake me up at 5 AM asking me to make a rule judgement. The conversation went something like this:

Friend 1: “Yeah we wanted to know how to interpret the Loaded Die card…”
Me: “You have got to be fucking kidding me. You know I’m going to kick you guys each in the balls the next time I see you.”
Friend 2: “I told you not to wake him up because of the game.”
Friend 1: “Shh… Anyways, we want to know if you can counter a Loaded Die card with another Loaded Die card.”
Me: “Yes, now please fuck off and never call me again not even if there’s an emergency. And yes, I will cock/cunt kick you all next time I see you. Good night.”

Vampire The Masquerade book
Vampire The Masquerade book

For pen and paper RPGs people would cheat on their die rolls just so their character would always do well. What’s the point of doing something if there is no penalty? How about playing a game where your character can actually die? What would be the point of real life if no bad things happened? Another problem that I found is that almost nobody knew how to actually role-play anything other than being a combat monster useless fucking character that killed everything that the Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master (GM) had spent hours designing. I always think of the D&D sketch by the Dead Ale Wives when I think of RPGs. For that I’d rather go play Diablo, at least that’s the point of that game!

Anyways, I grew tired of people ruining games for me so even as a kiddo I knew that unless the controller was broken in hotseat or somebody was using a bot online, video games would solve all that shit by preventing arguments from happening. Whereas on a traditional game you have to enterpret the rules and logic, in a video game everything is happening much faster (no need for die rolls other than internally within the program) and everything is more fluid. Whereas before playing something like Battletech, a battle would take 4 hours of real life time, that would translate into a 5-10 minute match in an RTS game.

Spy vs Spy on the c64
Spy vs Spy on the c64

The logic is simple and it’s even more obvious to me these days as I grow older than video games will continue to propagate even more and those old games will just continue to die. Now yes, I do agree that they should continue to exist. What are you going to do when a natural disaster happens and there’s no power? They’re great for that. Sometimes they’re great for parties so that at least you can play something with a non-gamer.

Auto Assault Box
Auto Assault Box

Now I’m not encouraging people to play an MMO unless it’s something like Auto Assault or Mechwarrior (two dead games) or PlanetSide (still around but almost nobody plays it) where skill and strategy mean something but more something along the lines as playing Starcraft or any favorite FPS game or anything else for that matter, so long as it’s not a gear based shitty game.. Just be careful with the online cheaters that will employ bots to win like a little bitch!

Another problem that traditional games have versus computer games, especially pen and paper RPGs is that they would take up so much time that it essentially became a ritual that you would have to dedicate time for each week. Think of it as the dedication a WoWhead gives their guild for raiding and other stuff in that game, except instead of clicking on World of Warcraft from any computer to connect you have to go to their house, buy food and drinks, and then drive home (usually really late that night or the next morning). It was even worse as a kid because of parents imposing curfews but I guess that doesn’t matter these days since parenting has gone to shit. =P With online gaming these days, you literally can play any game 24 hours a day and find people willing to play with you. You can’t beat that (although that does create problems like gaming addicts and more but that’s another topic for discussion)

Ur Quan Masters Battle
Ur Quan Masters Battle

I’d rather play a video game against a friend where it’s much harder to cheat than play a traditional game that could potentially ruin a friendship. I’ve seen some of my friends get into a permanent feud both over traditional games as well as video games but not as much for video games. Anyways, I’ll take something like a hotseat game of Star Control 2 (The Ur-Quan Masters) over a shitty game of Monopoly! However, just because I love video games that doesn’t mean that I won’t join you for a quick board game or card game or RPG session either!

Free Stuff: Zophar’s Domain – Home to all Emulators

Zophars Domain logoFree Stuff: Zophar’s Domain – Home to all Emulators

Many of us grew up playing on many different platforms and systems. Whether you were a computer person or a console gamer, it probably has been many years since that was our main gaming platform. Just because we are now playing on modern computers and consoles doesn’t mean that we won’t get the urge to play a classic game from a dead system of our younger days. That’s where emulators come in, and Zophar’s Domain has EVERY emulator you can think of from any platform to any platform.

Zophar’s Domain Logo

Whether you use a Windows PC, a Linux system, BeOS, an Apple, an Amiga, a console, a phone, or a calculator, if there is an emulator for it so that you can run old computer or system like a Commodore 64, a Commodore Amiga, a Sinclair Spectrum, an Atari console or computer, a 3DO console, a Turbo Grafixx 16, arcade (MAME always comes to mind), any Nintendo or Sega system (ZNES and Genecyst always come to my mind when I think of emulators for these), or some rarer ones, Zophar’s Domain will have them if they exist (usually).

As a quick summary, usually when you want to emulate something you need a properly installed emulator and you’ll need a bunch of ROMs (think of them as disk/cartridge images for games/software/etc, depending on the platform). Now, although Zophar’s Domain will give you the emulators you need and you have every right to emulate software that you have already bought before, the legality of sharing ROMs is not as clear. For that reason, you will NOT find ROMs at Zophar’s Domain but it’s really easy to find them, even using google these days or torrents.

So… fire up a good emulator and relive part of your childhood once again! Either click the name Zophar’s Domain above or click here. If you’re too lazy to install an emulator on whatever it is you use or are worried of the legality of it, you can always go to our arcade section and play an emulator directly from Obsolete Gamer.

Motivational Monday: Knock Offs

knock offs demotivational poster
knock offs demotivational poster

Motivational Monday: Knock Offs

Sometimes you just want the prestige of having something popular, at the top of its game. You want everyone to know you have it and have no shame in showing it off. Unfortunately, for many of us obtaining the best is not always possible. Thank goodness for knock-offs.

The knock off is as old as time and it is the art of copying something good, but not good enough that it has the quality of the original. Knock offs can be found in everything from shoes to clothes to electronics and video games are not immune to the knock off. This week we take a look at some of the knock offs that has made their way into video game history.

Now before we begin just a warning. The term knock off can upset people especially those who created something they were proud off. In many cases the court or the court of popular opinion deemed that something was not a knock off. However, I call em as I see em so enjoy.

K.C. Munchkin

I have seen a number of Pac-Man clones in my day, but this one has an interesting story. The Munchkin video game was created for the Magnavox Odyssey. As you can see it looks a lot like Pac-Man, but it was different enough. The problem came because Atari was exclusively licensed to create the home version of Pac-Man, but Munchkin came out first. In 1981 Munchkin was released and Atari sued. At first the courts refused to stop the sale of the game and then the following year on appeal ruled in favor of Atari. Strangely enough the release of Pac-Man by Atari turned out to be a major failure.

The Great Giana Sisters

So why would you try to copy Mario Bros? Why not? The fact was that Nintendo had a hit on their hands and in all likelihood the game was not going to be ported to the personal computer. The Great Giana Sisters was developed by Time Warp Productions and was to become available for systems including the Amiga, Atari ST and Commodore 64.

The game looked and played a lot like Super Mario Bros. at least in the first levels. Also, it didn‚Äôt help that on some covers was the sentence; ‚ÄúThe brothers are history.‚ÄĚ Yeah, it probably was not a good idea to taunt Nintendo who retailed with a Bowser size lawsuit and got the sisters locked down.

Funny thing, the Great Giana sisters is going to be available on the Nintendo DS.

Munch Man

I really don’t want to call this game a knock off because I owned both it and the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A that it was released for, but it was loosely based on Pac-Man. The cool thing was the differences including the fact that you were trying to connect links to form a chain not eat dots. Also the ghosts in the game, called Hoono’s change from level to level. As the game continues your enemy gets much faster than you and their vulnerability time is greatly reduced.

I loved Munch Man as a kid, the sounds of the game was so trippy to me. Come on, that sound when he eats the bad guy? Classic!

Imitation is the most sincere form

Intellectual property is important and as a writer I understand this even more. With that said some of these games were just great fun and I am glad they were made. There are tons more knock offs or clones out there. If you want us to do an article on them drop us a line.

Robert Eng: GameTable Online

Game Table Online logo
Game Table Online logo

Name: Robert Eng

Company: GameTable Online

Profession: Vice-President of Operations

Favorite Classic Game: Jumpman

Quote: For the era it was a good game but I just have fond memories of the family Commodore 64, the industrial strength Atari style joysticks, setting the game to the endless ‚ÄúRandomizer‚ÄĚ setting, and competing with my sister. Hours of repetitive fun!


The Obsolete Gamer Show: Episode 7

PVP vs non-pvp PVE
PVP vs non-pvp PVE

Player versus Player and Player versus Environment was the topic for this week’s show. We were happy to have our good friend Edwin in the studio with us and had a great conversation via Skype with longtime Obsolete Gamer fan, Liz Poisonkiss.

We started off with a recap of last week’s show which featured MMO’s and then moved into our Facebook fanpage question of the week which asked which our fans preferred to play PVE or PVP type games. From there we talked about our Insider Discussion question of the week which asked our panel which had a bigger impact on PC gaming RTS or FPS games.

From there we dove right into the main topic discussing the differences between a FPS mindset playing games such as Quake 2 and the strategy side of RTS games such as the original Warcraft game. Edwin also talked about his online Street Fighter games and said that he preferred to play again a human which we all agreed.

We premiered a new feature on OGS called Skype with a fan where we talk with people who have participated on our Facebook page and Forums and our first guest was longtime fan Liz. Who shared her thoughts on being a gamer girl, fps versus rts and pvp versus pve.

In our final segment Ignacio, Edwin and I discussed our various experiences in PVP from MMO’s to X-box live to arcades. Overall we had a good discussion about an important subject in the world of gaming. So give us a listen and we will be back next week with a brand new show.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Episode 7

Anna Morris: Zoe Mode

Zoe Mode logo
Zoe Mode logo

Name: Anna Morris

Company: Zoe Mode

Profession: Business Development Co-coordinator

Favorite Classic Game: Spy Hunter (on Commodore 64)

Quote: Growing up in a tiny village in the countryside meant very little access to exciting technology. When my brother and I were given our cousin‚Äôs old Commodore in the late ‚Äė80s, we were hooked straight away. Spy Hunter was always my favourite (despite being rubbish at it) because of the addictive gameplay and awesome theme tune.


Gamer Profile: Alex Aguila

Alex Aguila

There are those who play video games, those who immerse themselves in the video game culture and then those for who gaming is really a part of them. There are millions of fans, but when you truly have a love for all things gaming it sets us apart from the rest. I was honored to spend a few hours with one such person for whom gaming had touched at an early age and stayed with him throughout his life.

Alex Aguila’s love of all things electronic gaming led him to co-founding Alienware, but his love of gaming began long before.  From a very early age he became fascinated with video games, so much so, that after seeing the Atari 2600 in action he saved up money  From there he began collecting games from Colecovision to the Commodore 64. Even before the success of Alienware, Alex had an impressive gaming collection that has continued to grow over the years.

I was able to personally view his collection and it was awe inspiring. It was much more than the sheer volume, but the care he took in preserving them and the joy he had in talking about them. Many older games were still wrapped in their original plastic. Others though opened were in pristine condition and we talked about how classic games had a collectors feel long before expensive over bloated collectors’ editions of games became the norm.

What made me smile like a child in Electronics Boutique was that I could hear in his voice that he truly cared about the gaming industry. There was excitement in his voice when we talked about the past and how in the 90’s a golden age of gaming began when there was so much choice in gaming in arcades, home console systems and the emerging PC gaming market.

Simply put when you convert a shower into a display case for your collection of console systems you know you have a true gamer before you. Besides the normal Sega Genesis and Nintendo Entertainment System, Alex also had systems I was not aware of like the Vectrex which is an all in one video game system that used vector graphics. Alex then showed me an Atari that was unopened and joked about how he posted on Atari Age that he was considering opening it so he could play. He told me many people offered to send him opened Atari systems just so he would keep his sealed.

In addition to console systems Alex also had an impressive collection of handheld videos games. Long before the Gameboy, these simple but addictive games ruled the market. Then I took a look at his clone’s collection. Clones are systems made by third parties that can play games from systems such as the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Some, like the FC twin allow you to play both Super and classic Nintendo games on the game console. Another cool device was the Retro Mini portable, a device that used the original NES cartridges, but allows you to take it on the go.

Alex is a complete fan of all things electronic gaming meaning that he can enjoy playing the original Atari 2600 using the original cartridge as well as utilizing modern equipment and technology such as emulators. He stressed the importance of those in the community who work to not only preserve classic gaming, but allow new fans to enjoy games of the past. Using programs such as DOSBox allows many gamers to play classic PC games that just won’t run correctly on today’s operating systems.

When I walked into Alex’s arcade room I almost fainted. It was like something out of my childhood dreams except for the large Dallas Cowboys star on the wall. Right away what caught my eye was the M.A.M.E. arcade cabinet next to the air hockey machine. However, something else that caught my eye was the collection of pinball machines. Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect between pinball fans and video game fans and it was good to see that Alex enjoyed both.

On the back wall were several classic arcade cabinets including Defender, Joust and Robotron. The systems were all from Retrocade and Alex explained that originally he wanted to keep the classic original cabinets, but it is truly a lot of work dangerous even to care and maintain due to the circuit boards and electronics used in those older systems.

Alienware-Logo-Wallpaper

After my tour I sat down with Alex and we talked about his own gaming history from his first console to meeting game designers and developers with Michael Dell. I was even able to instigate a challenge between Alex and Arthur Lewis, Alienware’s general manager.

This began during my coverage at E3 where I was able to talk to Arthur over at the Alienware booth. In addition to telling me about his own love of gaming he mentioned getting together with Alex to play Tecmo Bowl and that they were scheduled to have a game soon.

Arthur Lewis @ E3

Alex tells a story about a classic gaming of Tecmo Bowl against Arthur where the loser would have to walk around the hotel halls in their underwear. Alex lost and believed the underwear thing was just a joke, unfortunately it was not. Alex said that it has been a while since they had played and that if a rematch did come about Arthur would find himself on the losing end. Of course, I plan to press this to see if a rematch will happen though I doubt the loser will have to do anything too embarrassing.

Alex Aguila Interview

PlayPlay

Saying goodbye I felt slightly sad to be honest. Being there and seeing someone love video gaming as much as I do reminded me of my summer days of spending hours doing nothing but gaming. On the other hand it is truly nice to find people who continue doing something they love even as they mature and their lives change. My day with a true gamer, Alex Aguila is not one I will soon forget.

Rick Dangerous & Rick Dangerous 2

Rickdangerousbox

No time for love, Dr. Jones…” Well, in here there’s always plenty time for passionate and long lasting love, classic video game love that is!

Rick Dangerous – Amiga title screen Rick Dangerous II – Amiga title screen

Anyway, when there’s no Dr. Jones somebody has to step in and take his place and be that smart heroic persona that saves the day, in style. This is exactly where Dr. Dangerous comes in… Well, I’m not sure he’s a doctor but with that kind of surname he bloody sure should be!

Rick Dangerous – Level 1 – Amstrad CPC – Running away from a falling boulder, Indy style…

I¬†realized¬†I cannot review Rick Dangerous without taking a look at Rick Dangerous II – as these games are like Star Wars – sure, you can watch one and have fun but until you’ve seen them all you know nothing of the dark side… Or until you’ll push some LSD with magic mushrooms and few nicely rolled fat spliffs, but that’s just sliding a bit to much of topic here… ^__^

Rick Dangerous – Level 3 – C64

Games of the dark side (I should trade mark that statement!) that Rick Dangerous 1 & 2 surely are, were developed by Core Design and Published by Microplay in 1989 & 1990 respectively, on most major systems of the time – Amiga, PC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum & Amstrad CPC. And even though these computers all had different capabilities and limitations the game plays equally awesome on all of them and only benefits from slightly higher resolution and bigger sprites in better colors on more advanced ones.

Rick Dangerous II – Level 3 – Atari ST

The adventures take place in undisclosed early years of the 20th Century where you’re in control of British chap going by the name of Bond, James Bond. I’m sorry, I must have been stuck on the game’s similarities to a certain movie series ‚Äď of course you play as somebody else… Jones, Indiana Jones. Ehm… I mean… Dangerous, Rick Dangerous! That’s more like it! Anyway, the similarities of Rick and Indy are many and they’re more than obvious ‚Äď both Rick & Indy are adventurers seeking forgotten treasures and fighting bad guys for a living, and also they both sport hats & brown leather jackets, so popular in the early 1900’s. Now, that’s enough to become an heroic icon in my books!

Rick Dangerous – Level 2 – ZX Spectrum

As Rick, in both games, you’re bound to go through hundreds of screens ‚Äď most of time each being a separate part of a bigger level ‚Äď of blood, sweat and tons of swearing. Rick Dangerous with its hellish unforgiving laugh-in-a-player’s-face difficulty makes other tough games look like a kindergarten toys. In fact there were times when I thought that the game was punishing me just for playing it! Not many games have that kind of, ehm… …incentive to them, but that said it actually works quite well as inspite of being hard as my auntie’s cookies are ‚Äď Rick holds tons of “just one more screen and I’ll go to bed” gameplay to it.

Rick Dangerous II – Level 2 – PC DOS – PC outing of RDII could work in two different graphic modes – CGA and VGA, with pallettes of 16 and 256 colors respectively, even though the game never really used all 256 colors.

Each level consists of numerous places and ways that your character can part with his life, and for that matter ‚Äď he will! Constantly, time after time, playthrough after playthrough! Rick Dangerous is one of those games that back in the days of its release caused joystick manufacturers to see huge increase in profits. Not that there were so many users playing it and wearing controllers out but if others reacted to the game similar to how I did ‚Äď their joysticks also ended up in pieces thrown at the wall. All of them, one after another, in one sitting… Yeah, I know, that was pretty stupid & lame… But so was I.

Rick Dangerous – Level 4 – PC DOS – CGA mode…

You are not helpless however ‚Äď you have your wits, charm, adventurers 6th sense and also if the earlier ones are not enough ‚Äď a gun & some explosives to help you go through each area. Both, bullets and explosives are limited though, so you’ll find yourself often stuck between an easy way to complete a difficult task or an unknown that may end up fatal because of you not having any means of defense. The sooner you’ll learn how to properly utilise and save these tools of the adventurers trade the sooner the game will grow on you as you’ll be able to complete a stage without dying in same spot more times than you have fingers… And toes… Put together.

Rick Dangerous II – Level 4 – C64 – Commodore most definitely sported the best looking and most playable out of the all 8bit outings…

I realize that these two games are tough as a year-old doughnut and tend to bring tons of frustration where its not necessary, but maybe it’s because they hold a serious challenge? And challenge is what’s pushes me more and more until I beat the basta… I mean game, until I beat the game! I don’t know the exact reason, but even though Rick Dangerous is as difficult as passing a whale on a toliet – through tears of anger and pain – it will no doubt grow on anyone who’ll spend time learning it’s gameplay mechanics & all the quirks. It’s not a game for everyone as on times it feels as if the Developers took pleasure in laying out incredibly tough obstacles just to see the player fail numerous times but it is a game for everyone to try and see if they’re up to the challenge.

Rick Dangerous II – PC DOS – Rick’s first experiences with ACID… He never listend in school when kids were tought just to say “No”…

Quick Note: I don’t know of any places that the game could be purchased other than eBay but if you just wanna give it a quick whirl, see how it plays, you can always find it either on Abandonia for PC or Planet Emulation for all other platforms, as Rick Dangerous is now considered abandonware. Also below you’ll find intros for both titles – they’re not much but they’re there nonetheless.

Exile

 

Exile title
Exile title

 

Exile is probably the best game most people have never heard of. It was first released on the Acorn Electron and BBC Micro in 1988. The game was designed and programmed by Peter Irvin and Jeremy Smith (the author of Thrust, another ground breaking game that was converted to all the computers know to man).

Like Thrust, Exile is a game based on cave exploration with a physics mode. But unlike Thrust instead of just having Gravity Physics, Exile also has features such as inertia, mass, explosions, shock waves, Water, Wind, Fire, Intelligent Animals (Frogs, Wasps, Frogman, Snail, Fish, Spiders, Birds and Imps), Automated Turrents, Serveral different types of Robots all with Artificial Intelligence, Teleportation, Gravity, Weighted objects, and different weapons. It was the most complex game available for the BBC Micro, and possibly all 8bit machines.

 

Exile Amiga Title Screen
Exile Amiga Title Screen

 

The game also offered an enormous and detailed world, which was perfect for exploration. This large map was inhabited by many different creatures, robots, and puzles. All this was explained in the plot as the crew of the Pericles having set up a base in a natural cave system, with Triax having his own base in caves deep below.

Exile’s AI programming featured innovative routines like creature strategy code that knew about noises nearby, line-of-sight vision through the divaricate caves and tunnels, and enemy’s memory of where the target was last seen.

The main game is an character astronaut with a jet pack. He cannot die, if he is attacked or injures himself when he reaches a point near death he is automatically teleported to safe locations previously reached and designated by the player, until he these locations run out and he is ultimately back to his orbiting spaceship. Despite this, the game was still very difficult to complete and could take hours to play through.

The story of game starts as follows;

The player takes control of a space-adventurer Mike Finn who is ordered by his superiors on Earth to divert his spacecraft to the planet Phoebus to investigate the distress calls broadcast by the members of a previous mission. Finn’s mission is to rescue any survivors of the mission from a psychotic scientist, Triax, exiled there many years before.

 

Exile Amiga Gameplay
Exile Amiga Gameplay

 

Exile was supplied with a novella setting the full background story to the game and the game objective. It also provides limited clues regarding the scenery, objects and lifeforms that are encountered in the game.

The game came out for the Commodore C64’s dying days in 1991, and it the last game I bought for my c64 before I sold it. I pre-ordered¬†the game after being blown away by a covertape demo (given away with Commodore Format, I think). When I upgraded to the Commodore Amiga shortly after, Exile was my first purchase.

The Commodore 64 offered better graphics and sound than the BBC and Acorn versions, and the Amiga version which was also released in 1991, had even better graphics and sound including a an atmospheric theme tune containing a deep voiced Exile sample and some eerie strings.

Allthough most gamers have never heard of most people have never heard of Exile, those you have played it will never forget it. Amiga Power magazine voted the  Exile to be the best game of 1991. The multi-format magazine Edge retrospectively awarded it 10 out of 10, together with only 2 other games.

Ghouls N Ghosts

Ghouls N Ghosts splash screen
Ghouls N Ghosts splash screen

Ah, the game that made me break one of my many Sega Genesis‚Äôs. Ghouls ‚Äėn Ghosts was released to the arcades in the spring of 1988. Maybe by Capcom, it was the popular sequel to the 1985 arcade smash Ghosts ‚Äėn Goblins.

In Ghouls ‚Äėn Ghosts the heroic knight Arthur must once again faceoff against the demonic hordes of Loki. After an attack on his kingdom Arthur‚Äôs lover, the lovely Princess Prin Prin, is killed along with many innocent civilians. To avenge the death of his love and restore her soul and the souls of the others Arthur will have to take down the big man Loki himself.

Ghouls ‚Äėn Ghosts plays pretty much like Ghosts ‚Äėn Goblins it is a platform run and gun type of gameplay meaning you have to always be on your toes firing away at the enemy and¬† avoiding traps and pitfalls. Luckily this time around Arthur can fire upwards and while jumping fire downwards which is a must in this game. In addition Arthur has an array of weapons at his disposal including a mega axe, a golden sword and even golden power armor.

Ghouls N Ghosts screenshot
Ghouls N Ghosts screenshot

When Arthur jumps in certain spots on the map a treasure chest will pop out of the ground. If Arthur destroys the chest he can find two things. First is an evil magician who turns him into a duck. As the duckyou are pretty much undead chow because you have no armor or weapons. The best thing to do is avoid any enemies until the effect wears off.

The second thing that can appear from the chest is Arthur’s golden armor. The golden armor allows any weapon Arthur currently has to gain a charged power up move that unleashes a special attack. Sadly, the golden armor works just like the normal silver armor where as if Arthur is hit it will break apart leaving him pretty much naked.

Once you work your way through five levels you discover you need a special weapon in order to defeat Loki. This restarts the game and you must fight your way through the same five levels and back to Loki’s chamber.

The game is extremely fun to play, but it can be very unforgiving at first, but once you learn your jumps, attacks and timing you can make it through the game without too much trouble. I can say this now, but when I first played it I had an awfully hard time and ended up punching my poor Genesis to death.

Ghouls ‚Äėn Ghosts had some great music composed by Tamayo Kawamoto. The bosses were well designed along with the levels making sure your twitch level was high. In addition to great arcade success GnG was ported to several systems including the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, CP System, Commodore 64, X68000, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, SuperGrafx, Sega Master System, Mega Drive/Genesis, Virtual Console, ZX Spectrum.

Are we better gamers?

Pro Gamer shirt
Pro Gamer shirt

If you play MMO’s you will hear a lot of people talk about the experience of being old school. Take for instance a game like World of Warcraft, there are many players who feel if you did not play when the game was brand new you just don’t have the knowledge and experience to be one of the elite. Some go as far as to say that if you did not play an even older game, Everquest for example, then you don’t understand what it is like to play a really hardcore MMO. Since I played both I can understand that going through things in Everquest such as losing experience when you die, losing all your stuff because you could not retrieve your body and never getting to see that endgame boss because another guild was just better than you is something you most likely won’t experience in World of Wacraft.

It got me thinking about gaming in general. For those of us who grew up playing Atari 2600, Commodore 64 and the NES many of the games for those systems offered a very harsh learning curve. Take the first Ninja Gaiden, it was one of those games that could seriously raise your blood pressure. You had to perfectly time your jumps while slashing enemies that would re-spawn if you fell backwards. If you died you would start far away from where you were and you only had a limited amount of continues. Many of the games today you can continue almost exactly where you died and you can continue as many times as you like.

However, the case can be made that there were simpler patterns to games of the past and once you learned them they were just as easy. In Everquest many of the early enemies were defeated in the exact same way so once you knew the pattern it was not too hard to defeat. Today the AI offered can be tweeked to offer more of a challenge and even randomness to the encounters you face. In the end the question is are we only talking about learning a pattern that only takes time to master or are games today actually harder because there are more things to learn overall.

It could be said that if you learned jumping and moving on the fly in Super Mario Bros you could then apply that to Ninja Gaiden. If you were good at one vertical side-scrolling shooter then you could beat them all. Can the same be applied to an adventure game? If you were good at Resident Evil then would you naturally be good at Silent Hill?

Overall our experiences with games in the past be it twenty years ago or one year ago will affect how we play the next game. If your hand eye coordination is high then that alone will give you an advantage on the next new game. I can say from experience that learning to play Quake 2 with the hook and using only the rail gun made me a better player in Counter Strike so it is obvious that the more games you play the better you will become.

An x-factor could be age. If you were ten years old when playing NES games and are now in your thirties then going back and playing them might be a bit more difficult. This could be for many reasons from lowered hand eye coordination to a change in interest to that type of game. Today most gamers would not want to sit in a single room waiting to kill one monster that may not spawn and if it does may not drop the reward you want, that was how it was in Everquest. If that happened in World of Warcraft there would be a revolt. We all have changed over time and in addition new types of games have come on the scene. Women gamers and people over the age of fifty playing games are at an all time high and games have to adapt to the changing demographics.

My verdict is that because of the wide array of games available in the late eighties and early nineties that to be a true well rounded gamer took much more time and skill. There may have been your standard hack and slash games, but there were also many unique and challenging games especially on early computer systems. If you were one to try out every game you could get your hand on you quickly found out how hard some of these games really were and if you were able to beat them you were a much better gamer.

Want to test this out yourself? Load up a game like Battletoads. If there is one game that can test the frustration level of a gamer it is Battletoads. Next try and find a new game that matches that level. Honestly if you can beat Battletoads without flipping out and kicking your dog then you are pretty pro.

About the Software Preservation Society (SPS)

Software Preservation Society logo
Software Preservation Society logo

About the Software Preservation Society (SPS)

SPS is a privately funded association of art collectors and computer enthusiasts striving for the preservation of computer art, namely computer games.

Art is an important cultural asset. Thousands of museums and archives all over the world preserve and restore pictures, books, movies and audio recordings and information in general for generations to come. To accomplish their assignment, national libraries are backed by law which, varying from country to country, forces production companies to deliver copies of publications, books, audio recordings and movies to the archives for long term preservation. It seems that as of today, nobody has ever thought or actively cared about the true, unmodified and verified preservation of computer games. Without any action taken, time will run out, very quickly.

Unlike games from the 1970s (delivered on solid state ROM-modules) and games from and after the mid-1990s (delivered on optical media like CD-ROMs and DVDs which are supposed to last for decades), computer games from the 1980s and early 1990s were delivered on magnetic media like tapes or floppy disks and are now at the brink of extinction.

From a preservation point of view, tapes and floppy disks are a nightmare for several reasons:

1. Tapes and floppy disks constantly degrade, in two ways. First is the physical degradation of the orientation of the metal particles which form the magnetic field and store the data. This process is slow, and given the fact that the data is encoded digitally, it may be too late to do anything when reading errors occur. Reading errors happen when it has become difficult to decide if a particular bit is 0 or 1. Preservation should occur before it becomes a gamble to get a good read.

2. Second is the chemical degradation. The metal particles bound to the plastic platter of a floppy disk or the surface of a tape can come off the surface. In fact, in most cases the bonding will simply fall apart after years of temperature changes, moisture and other issues of improper storage. Record companies struggle with this problem when remastering old recordings and have developed a process called baking where the original master tape is actually put in an oven to rebind the coating to the transport material. After baking, playback is a one try only process because the media will fall apart after passing the playback head of the machine. While similar to the original is sufficient for analogue material, even a single misinterpreted bit in the digital world means instant failure.

3. While no user can actually press industry standard vinyl recordings, CDs or DVDs at home (recordable media can be spotted by simply looking at it), tapes and floppies can actually be written and modified with consumer-grade equipment. It takes a lot of expertise to distinguish a professionally replicated medium from a home made copy. Even if a disk was produced by a commercial replicator, it does not necessarily mean that disk is still authentic and appropriate for preservation. Apart from a game possibly being copied over the original (as we have seen many times to “fix” a broken disk), many games themselves persist some kind of save state or high score, thus changing or erasing data that was available on the disk in the first place. As soon as the disk has been modified in any way, the authenticity of that copy is put into serious doubt.

SPS has successfully mastered these challenges and developed software and hardware technology to deal with the problems arising during the preservation process. Founded by computer expert and preservation pioneer Istv√°n F√°bi√°n in 2001 as CAPS (the Classic Amiga Preservation Society), our highly specialized team has more than nine years of field experience. SPS members have not only been involved in playing games on the machines which are regarded retro today, but were programmers and designers also responsible for some of the games and programs available on these platforms.

While our original disk imaging tools (working on e.g. a standard Amiga 1200 with a compact flash adapter) are still good and easy to use, we are currently moving on to a completely self-contained floppy controller “KryoFlux” developed by SPS that works with any modern PC via an USB connection. This does not only speed up imaging of disks, but also enables physical media restoration of any title preserved so far.

Preservation at SPS usually is a two step process. Contributors from all over the world can help imaging disks with our unique technology. At SPS, our experts then use the Softpres Analyser to investigate the disk structure and create an IPF (Interchangeable Preservation Format) file. Scripting allows a flexible, even game-specific, way of representing data when read by a tool, or when rewritten to disk. Often rather different methods are required to represent various disk formats or copy protection methods when intended to be read by e.g. an emulator or to be written back when restoring an original disk. Due to the high quality of the preservation technology, IPFs have become the de facto standard demanded by Amiga users when looking for unmodified images true to the original.

While disks themselves are the problem that needs to be addressed quickly while they are still readable, SPS is also striving for complete archival of manuals and boxes in the form of physical products as well as digital scans. As of today, SPS has digitally archived about 3000 games produced for the Commodore Amiga, but now also supports other computer platforms like Atari ST, CPC, Spectrum and the Acorn Archimedes, to name just a few. Complete support for other platforms, like the C64 (which is a real challenge due to a second “computer” built straight into the floppy drive) is in the works, but disk imaging of such material already works today. It is only a question of manpower when the data imaged will be ready for presentation in dedicated IPF files. Again, this is a race against time to protect gems of yesterday from fading into oblivion.

For more information visit http://www.softpres.org/

Contact the Software Preservation Society:

Softpres.org Germany
Christian Bartsch
email: cb@softpres.org

Softpres.org UK
Kieron Wilkinson
email: kieron@softpres.org

***

If you want to see part of this article you can do so at SPS’s facebook page. If you want to see how their analyser software works view this facebook page. If you want to follow them through facebook click here to go to their fan page.

We must help in order to ensure that many games and programs we enjoyed in the past get preserved for generations in the future.

Glen McNamee: Obscure Internet

Obscure Internet logo
Obscure Internet logo

Name: C64Glen or Glen McNamee if I’m being formal.

Title: I do clever things for a monstrously large IT service company, as well as run Obscure Internet

Company: Obscure Internet

Favorite classic game: Wizball (Commodore 64)

Quote: It’s my favourite for a millions reasons. By the geniuses at Sensible software it’s a game I still play it regularly today, because the game play is fantastic, there is still is absolute no other game like it. It’s weirdest games ever, a stroke of mad genius, featuring screaming cats, hostile geometric shapes, and drops of paint firing bullets at you, flith raids, and a brilliant and original soundtrack.


The Commodore 64

Commodore 64 box
Commodore 64 box

The Commodore 64

Who can forget the awesome and sometimes just plain strange commercials of the 80’s and 90’s for computer and console products? Obsolete Gamer is searching the globe to find some of the classics from the Sears version of the Atari 2600 to the Commodore 64.

Commodore 64 Fact #16 ‚Äď About 10,000 software titles were made for the C64.

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