| This diary reveals thoughts and feelings
that C64 games have woken in the C64hq staff after hours
of playing the games to their completion, checking that
the games work and taking screenshots along the way.
2006-09-03: Emerald Miner
Emerald Miner (1989) is a privately made and sold action game that lies somewhere between Boulder Dash and Dig Dug. It draws its inspiration from a commercial Amiga game called Emerald Mines. As in Boulder Dash, we control a miner who moves under the ground, digging through it in search of emeralds. There are various things to avoid, including bugs, falling boulders, and water that fills up caverns rather quickly.
Already in level 3 we meet the deadly water. As water moves almost as fast as the miner runs, it is important to find out ways to stop it from expanding to all caverns. A number one observation is that water expands only down and sideways. Therefore it is possible to safely mine a cavern even below water as long as you make a short upwards tunnel to stop the water from chasing you. Also small, confined trickles of water can be eliminated with bombs.
Keys are needed for doors that lead to further levels. Keys can also be used to open chests that contain random items. It is always good to keep a few extra keys in your pocket. Some levels do not provide you with any keys, and it is well possible to get stuck in a level when you run out of keys. Therefore it is also advisable not to open boxes when there are no spare keys around.
The game mechanics appear to be less finetuned than in Boulder Dash, for example. When digging through ground, first a piece of ground disappears and after that the miner moves into the empty space. This makes it possible to get caught under a boulder when you dig through a thin layer ground with boulders stacked on top. In Boulder Dash this never happened. In Emerald Miner, it does not happen always, but sometimes it does, and it may become a bit frustrating to guess when it happens. It also seems odd that explosion chain reactions proceed upwards infinitely fast, but downwards they proceed only one block at a time.
Emerald Miner's level design makes most of the challenges optional – if the player wants, he can quite often run straight to the next level. But if he so chooses, the player can try to gain maximum points by rolling boulders on each other and collecting the resulting emeralds. There are practically 35 levels in the game. Some early levels contain text, such as level 6 which states "Hi Dan! This is not Dig Dug 2". Levels 7, 25 and 33 appear to be nearly identical. Level 35 has the text The End written into it. The only exit in this level is located at a far corner, surrounded by brick wall that is immune to bomb blasts. This level seems impossible to complete.
Still, there are more levels in the game, all the way up to level 42. You can reach the levels after 35 by a trick that I found by accident. First, prepare two copies of the game disk. One is to be the original disk, and the other is an exact copy except that the disk label is changed. I named it "c64.com" "00 2a" but probably other names work too. Then play the game normally with the original disk, until in level 34 switch to the renamed disk. When you finish level 34, the game tries to read the next level. But because the levels are stored in the directory track that has been altered, the loading fails and you get level 34 again, only that the level number is this time 35. Now switch back to the original disk and complete the level again. This time the loading succeeds and you get level 36. When you finally complete level 42, the game jams, so apparently there is no level 43.
2005-12-04: Total Recall, Predator 2, The Predator
Total Recall (1990) is a typical licenced game. The game presents some scenes from the movie and keeps the player busy with the usual kind of platform and driving action. As a hint to the second level where you drive a car, there are two ways across the river, and the lower one is just too slow. The best thing in this game is the ample endscreens. Also the music is moody, although the in-game graphics do not seem to support the mood.
Predator 2 (1991) is another movie-based game. In this Operation Wolfish shoot'em up we advance step by step along the general lines of the movie. The game seems a bit vague as many times nothing special happens on the screen except for the masses of drug gangsters walking here and there, shooting every now and then. Towards the end the game becomes very hectic. I had to use a credits cheat. I played the crack by Fantastic 4 Cracking Group, and it seemed to have some bugs concerning the use of rockets in the later levels. I suspect these bugs are not in the original game.
The Predator (1994) is a crappy game made in Shoot'Em Up Construction Kit. The game contains graphics ripped from Predator 2, and also the game is in the same genre. We shoot everything that stands or walks on the street, advancing from a level to another. After the eighth level the backgrounds remain mostly black, so I assume the authors did not intend the game to be played any further. I played the crack by The Bingo Team.
2005-12-03: Breakthru, Dare Devil Denis, Darkman, Navy Seals, Mag Max, N.O.M.A.D
Breakthru (1987) is a technically very low-quality game that still manages to keep me entertained. Gameplay is rather crude as are the graphics and sounds. We drive a breakthru vehicle through various scenarios in an effort to recover a stolen USG111 spyplane. The spyplane's model somehow reminds me of U.S. Gold who released this game. While we drive on, enemy vehicles keep appearing and driving all around the screen, greatly disrespecting physical laws and other plain facts of real life. There are obstacles that we can jump over by pressing Space. The game keeps a nice flow of variation going, at least in the first levels, and that pleases me. A big downside is that from level 3 on I could not shoot properly anymore. For some bug-like reason my bullets disappeared immediately after being shot. That made the game a bit more difficult. Luckily it is not necessary to destroy almost any enemies to proceed in the game. This bug happened in both the Mad Max/MHI crack and the Triad crack. I did not encounter the bug when playing the Computerbrains crack using their sprite collision cheat.
Dare Devil Denis (early 1980s?) is a platform with the genuine early 1980s atmosphere. There is a lengthy background story involving thoroughly bizarre things like eating porridge for invulnerability. There is also the standard classical music SID transcriptions playing on the background. It all gives a very personal touch to the game. I can imagine Simon Pick programming this game in a room by himself, implementing ideas to the game as he figures them out.
Note that the game calls itself Dare Devil Denis even though the game's package calls it Daredevil Dennis. I respected the programmer's opinion in choosing which will be the name of the game in our database. I played the game using the Trebla crack. I was unable to find a crack where the cracker would not have altered the game in some way. All the crackers had written their name in one of the screens that you see in the beginning of the game.
Darkman (1990) is based on the movie with the same name. The game is basically a beat'em up but it includes also middle phases where we take photographs of people, run over rooftops, or hang from a chopper on a rope over a highway. The game is presented in a smooth fashion; the graphics are neat and the title tune is good. Towards the end, however, the special moments do not top those that you have already seen in the first levels. The ending is rather disappointing. I completed the game using the crack by Triangle.
Navy Seals (1990) has a typically American theme. We, Navy Seals, the protectors of the world, must go and shoot some Arabs. Despite the politically doubtful clothes of the game, it provides interesting strategic action content. The game is a platform but not brainless in action. Any bullet can kill, so you must be careful in your actions. We also have a rather wide selection of moves, and so do the Arabs. However, the enemies mostly stand put and shoot in our general direction. Usually it is easy to avoid a bullet because the Arabs only shoot while standing. Ironically, in the last level they have also learned how to squat. By shooting green boxes you may find life replenishment or random weapons. Even though different levels have different names such as Harbour and Hostages, in all of them we just have to plant time bombs to packs of Stinger missiles. I completed the game using the Legend crack.
Mag Max (1986) is a shoot'em up from Nichibutsu much like Moon Cresta. In both games the hero can be built up from pieces that you can find here and there. In Mag Max the building up just does not seem to help much – our spaceship gets a lot bigger and is thus an easier target. The extra firepower that the three additional pieces give us is not very necessary as all the enemies can be killed by just one regular shot. Another thing that seems odd to me is that progress in Mag Max is not shown in any structured way. The scenery changes every now and then but nothing relevant happens. The same enemy attack formations approach you time after time. Three times I was ambushed by a boss monster. Every time after shooting it down, the same old thing continued. Here is a hint for the boss monster: When it appears, there is a second or two before it starts shooting. Immediately move very close to one of the two heads of the boss and shoot it. As you are very close, your shooting is very rapid. The head should die in a fraction of a second. Then shoot the other head in the same way. I played the Triad crack of Mag Max.
N.O.M.A.D (1986) is a rather original shoot'em up. We control some kind of a robot in technically decorated corridors and rooms. There are stationary guns and moving creatures to stop us, but we can shoot all of them. Furthermore there are doors that can be operated by switches. The corridors branch but in general all the branches lead to the same place unless you get confused and start circling. In the end you find a boss monster. After you kill it, you restart the level without much celebrations.
Controlling the robot is tricky. First of all it is not always clear which direction you are facing. Furthermore, turning while moving results in a few uncontrollable extra turns, and whenever you hit a wall, you bounce off facing a totally different direction. Add to this the gravity in some rooms and you really have a big control mess in your hands. Sometimes when you bounce from a wall, you may jump back into the wall and get stuck. I played the Newlook crack of the game.
2005-11-30: The Addams Family
The Addams Family (1992) is a nifty platform game from the late era of the C64. The game is pleasantly full of things, and gameplay feels good. There are lots of little puzzle-like things to solve which mostly concern how to jump from a place to another. Remember to jump on enemies to bounce higher. I completed the game using the Enigma crack. After loading a new level some crap appeared on the left and right side of the screen. It went away, however, when I died all my lives and used a credit to start again from the new level.
2005-10-13: The Time Machine
The Time Machine (early 1980s) is a text adventure written by the grand man of text adventures, Brian Howarth. Location descriptions are short and there is not much content in the game, as is common to Howarth's games. To those who wish to play this game, note that pressing Enter, i.e. giving the empty command, displays important information about your location in place of the crude graphic display. Also, as usual, the command I or Inventory shows your inventory, Save saves the game, and Quit quits. I completed the game using the X-R crack.
2005-10-12: Where's My Bones 2
Where's My Bones 2 (1986) is a hack by The Tapebusters Team (TTT) on the game Where's My Bones? by Lee Braine. TTT has edited the game, changing the titlescreen, sprites, and levels. All the three levels are more or less based on the sole level of the original game. The second level contains a lot of text written into the level's walls. The third level seems to be exactly the original game's level. The sprites are ripped from Cauldron and perhaps from Monty on the Run. The player sprite is now smaller than in the original game, and it enables passage through narrower holes. In the first level there is one set of bones that does not disappear when you collect it. This results in repeated collection of more and more bones, finally reaching the number of collections required to complete the level. Apparently this is not a bug but a cheat intended by TTT. They even mention it in a text on the wall of the level. I played the Manik crack.
2005-10-11: Mega Paratrooper, Paratrooper, Paratrooper [Compute!]
Mega Paratrooper (1990) is something quite awful for a game. The game seems to be severely unfinished, or maybe the authors never intended it to be really playable. The game is partly in German and partly in English. The first part, Gate 1 as the game calls it, is a bad joke for a shoot'em up. All you have to do is all you can do, and that is to keep your fire button depressed. There is some sprites moving on the screen, but it is all the same what happens and where your shots fly. You win by keeping fire depressed and that is all.
Gate 2 is all about reading a cryptic telegram on the screen and then choosing the right equipment for a battle. There is no battle to be played, you just have to make the right choices or otherwise you are given a crude game over. After surviving Gate 2 you are rewarded by some actual gameplay. Gate 3 is the familiar caterpillar game where you control a worm that wants to collect fruits (or blocks in this case) while avoiding hitting itself. After a vague amount of playing (I collected over 3000 points) and dying (I died six times) you without any warning advance to the next Gate. If you do not manage to collect enough points before dying you get game over instead.
Gate 4 is the ultimate fight according to the game. But instead of a good fight there is only a safe that you are to break into. The excitement of the gameplay is condensed into choosing between whether to move the joystick to the left or to the right. The safe has a dial with fifty numbers. You break the safe by first turning the dial down to the correct number. The correct number is revealed by one of the lock parts clicking open. Now you change direction and dial up to the next correct number. After finding all the four correct numbers, you press Fire and then you are probably supposed to see the end screen. Unfortunately it did not load properly in any of the three cracks I had. However, I was able to load the end part separately. Just load the file YA from the disk and you see it. I took screenshots using the Dominators crack.
Paratrooper (early 1990s) is a small Swedish BASIC game, originally distributed on disk 10 of the Swedish SYS PD library by Softwolves. You can still find SYS PD on the net. Overall the game is quite entertaining, much due to its music and simple gameplay. The game appears very primitive, as if it was made in early 1980s, but the newschool soundtrack reveals that the game is from around 1990s or later. The High Voltage SID Collection states 1989 as the release year of the background tune which was made by Jens-Christian Huus, evidently before the game and not knowing of the game. On the other hand, the SYS PD index disk, dated 1993, lists the game along with the contents of all the SYS PD disks. That means that the game was released between 1989 and 1993. No further information on the release is available as the only identified author of the game, Peter Karlsson, also known as Mr. P, claims to have forgot details about the game. However, Karlsson recalls either typing the game from a magazine or copying it from another PD directory. He also claims to have modified the game, hence his name is in the credits.
Paratrooper [Compute!] (1984) is another simple BASIC-made parachuting game, perhaps a model for the later Swedish PD game. Gameplay is simple and enjoyable.
2005-10-01: Emlyn Hughes Arcade Quiz
Emlyn Hughes Arcade Quiz (1990) is a quiz game in arcade clothing. The game consists of several difficulty levels. Each has a scrolling checkered play area where you move. Each square may be a question, a coin, or some special square. Coins add up to your bank account which is also your score when the game ends. Money also enables you to buy easy access to later levels. You can complete a level in a fair way by moving on the play area faster than it scrolls. If you go too slowly – for example by getting stuck in a question square, answering many times wrong – you lose the game. This gives you the choice whether to just quickly complete a level or to stay there for a while, looking for bonuses. The questions come from several areas that are colour coded on the game area. There are lots of questions but still it is not uncommon to get the same question twice in one game. I found many of the questions rather nice. Some were difficult because they were rather specific to the British culture or the 1980s, but the other questions were often easy enough to answer correctly.
2005-09-28: All Terrain Vehicle Simulator
All Terrain Vehicle Simulator (1987) is a racing game in the spirit of Kikstart. In ATV Simulator the vehicle is implemented in a cool way by giving separate sprites for the tires and the body of the vehicle. This gives a good feeling of off-road racing. Sadly, there are only six different levels, and they are rather short. After completing them all, you get back to the first one with a much stricter time limit. Like Kikstart, ATV Simulator has a two-player option with the modification that the screens of the players can move independently of each other. If one player cannot make the time limit, he is out of the competition and only the other one can continue. I played the crack by Lurid & Tricycle.
2005-09-26: Alien Smash, The Chrome Brothers, Fire Eagle
Alien Smash (1992) is a game devised in the Shoot'Em Up Construction Kit. Alien Smash offers little content. There are easily defeatable boss monsters after every few screenfuls of normal shoot'em up action. The other enemies do not really give more surprises. I played the crack by Troep+Garbage.
The Chrome Brothers (1992) is also made in SEUCK but gives more excitement than Alien Smash. Both games have the same author. The Chrome Brothers is a platform game with cutey style. The heros can only climb and shoot – and shooting helps in just about nothing because its takes lots of time to shoot down an enemy. So the interaction is pushed down to a minimum. But the three levels keep having tricky parts one after another. The most entertaining part though is to hear the hero's cute death squeak. Watch out for the P key as it resets the game.
Fire Eagle (1992) is another shoot'em up made in SEUCK by the same author as The Chrome Brothers and Alien Smash. Fire Eagle is very difficult. Most enemies shoot forward at a fast pace, and we have only one forward-shooting weapon with no upgrades. This means that in order to kill the enemies we have to sweep in front of them, submitting to their firing. There are many places where the only means of survival is to know where the enemies will appear, and shoot them before they manage to shoot any bullets. Another nuisance is that sometimes after losing a life we reappear inside a wall, unable to get out. This of course results in another life loss. On the other hand, boss monsters can be passed by just waiting in a safe corner for a while. Shooting them down is good only for obtaining points for extra lives.
I was unable to get the Laser crack of Fire Eagle running in the Vice emulator apparently due to some PAL/NTSC detection problem. In CCS 2.0 it ran fine. The other crack by Troep+Garbage worked fine in both emulators, and that is the crack that I ended up playing.
2005-09-18: Carry on Laughing
Carry on Laughing (early 1980s?) is an oldie platform game like Manic Miner. Carry on Laughing is loosely situated in school world and extends into imitations of scenes from famous computer games of its time. Its nine levels feature school dinner, a school bully reminding me of Brutus from the Popeye game, an athlete impersonating Donkey Kong, a ship that could be from Tales of the Arabian Nights, a chemistry lab in the shape of Pipeline, and a few other scenes possibly with models that I do not recognise. The nine levels are located in a 3x3 grid. After completing one you can choose which adjacent level you move to. After completing each level you get a bonus. Alternatively you can avoid some difficult levels and move between the easy ones.
Carry on Laughing is another gamer where I could not find a crack that had not messed up the game by changing texts into crack credits. I played the ABC crack of the game.
2005-09-15: Hyper Active
Hyper Active (1988) is a fast-paced shoot'em up. The action consists mostly of flying around the horizontally scrolling game area and shooting lots of enemies. The levels are of four different kinds. Only in survival levels the condition for proceeding onwards is not just to kill everything. Instead, you must pick up static pods and deposit them into a yellow container located somewhere in the level. When you manage to get a highscore, you can enter your name in a cool highscore writer that transforms a letter into another in a 2D vector animation. A similar writer can be seen also in Mikie, which is programmed by the same guy as Hyper Active, Tony Pomfret. I played the crack by Hotline.
2005-09-14: Helikopter Jagd
Helikopter Jagd (1986) is an enjoyable helicopter rescue game in the style of Choplifter. This time the rescue mission happens at sea. There are people in the sea, and we pick them up. We have to take care of the chopper's fuel level by picking up occasional yellow gas barrels. There are also a few different buoys and rocks in the sea. Inhabited buoys contain another person to rescue. A white beacon buoy is a place to drop the saved souls before they become too many, drawing the chopper down to the sea. There are of course jet fighters, boats, minichoppers and missiles to stop us. That is why our chopper is armed with a laser and bombs. Bombs are mainly for the boats, but you can even hit a missile or another flying thing with it. If you manage to do it, you hear a special sound effect. Any mid-air collision of the jets, minichoppers and missiles produces a parachute jumper – another person to rescue. After rescuing enough people on a white beacon buoy, you reach a new level with new dangers such as ufos.
All the four different cracks of Helikopter Jagd that I managed to find have additional text in the titlescreen with the credits. Some of the original credits are replaced by cracker information. I played the crack by FCG, and it is also seen in the screenshots. The original text says "In conjunction with Quelle Soft" in place of "Broken and packed by Duke of FCG".
Painterboy (1987) is a Finnish game made as an advertisement for the Tikkurila company. Tikkurila has been a Finnish company making paints since 1862, and in the 1980s it started spreading also to other European countries (see www.tikkurila.com). The game is based on a series of Tikkurila TV-advertisements that were shown in Finland at the time. The advertisements involve a team of two paintermen, a senior expert and a young apprentice. The common factor of the advertisements is that the apprentice is distracted by a gorgeous lady, and the older man is commanding him to focus on his work instead of flirting with girls by saying "Poika, eipäs pelehditä!" The interjection "Poika!" is also sampled into the game.
The game itself consists of the two paintermen doing their job. First you choose the correct paint for the next target. If you choose wrong, the senior painter will scold you. Then you drive around the city area, seeking the place to paint. While driving you get some direction help from the black and white compass rose on the lower left part of the screen. The white squares point towards the place you are supposed to find. When you manage to reach your target – easily recognisable by a flashing Tikkurila logo – you start controlling the apprentice, and your goal is to paint the building. Beware of colliding into the senior painter – he actually does nothing to help you in your job – and into other living things running around the place. You can even spot the girl from the TV-advertisements. Pressing fire puts your hand into a vigorous painting motion. Paint all the blue areas into red. By pulling down on the joystick while painting you can bend down to reach low parts. To pass over to the other side of the senior painter, walk out of the screen and keep on walking to that direction until you come out from the other edge of the screen. The game ends when you have crashed your paint van three times or when the clock has turned from 11 to 12.
The game does not contain credit information, but searching on the net you can find a CV of Teijo Pellinen where he lists Painterboy as one of his merits. I played the Hotline crack of the game.
2005-09-04: Magic Carpet, Oils Well, Manic Miner, Paratroopers, China Miner
Magic Carpet (1984) is a simple arcade game where we fly a magic carpet through three caverns. The caverns provide little content but lots of variety. Controlling the magic carpet requires good precision and dexterity as is common to early C64 arcade games.
Oils Well (1983) is an arcade game that distantly resembles Pac-Man. We control an oil drill that has a very Pac-Manish tip, trying to collect all worthy droplets from the cavern. There are little critters around that we can also eat. But if the critters hit the oil pipe, it breaks down. There are eight levels of increasing difficulty. The game gets hectic in the later stages when you have to return the pipe repeatedly back to the surface just to eat some critters that are just about to bite the pipe.
Many cracks of Oils Well throw you back to the BASIC prompt when it is time to show the high scores. Soft resetting the C64 puts you back to the game. One version shows a T on the top left corner of the game screen. This is probably the signature of the cracker. I completed the game using the crack by Desperado.
Manic Miner (1983) is one of the classic platform games of the early 1980s. There are 20 non-scrolling levels that prompt you to collect a set of keys and then reach a gate to jump to the next level. Loyal to the early 1980s platform game style, each level has a name, a set of lethal critters, and a layout often tied together by a loose theme. Level 2 is called The Cold Room and it is equipped with penguins, level 8, Miner Willy Meets the Kong Beast, has a supposed Donkey Kong creature and a few barrels rolling on the platforms. Level 10 is The Endorian Forest and it contains creatures that perhaps imitate the Ewoks from the Star Wars movies. Some of the levels have special effects. In level 5, Eugene's Lair, after you pick up the last key, a big white monster (probably Eugene himself) descends rapidly onto the final gate. You can only complete the level if you leave as the last key the one that is closest to the gate. In level 19, Solar Power Generator, there is a beam of light that is reflected whenever a mirror carrying critter gets in its way.
There is a crack of Manic Miner where Tim of Laser Cracking Service has built a screen editor. This version goes by the name Manic Miner Construction Set even though it is nothing but the original game with the home-made editor attached as a loader menu to the game. I completed the game using the Remember crack. In level 19, Solar Power Generator, I faced odd behaviour that is probably a bug in the original game. After jumping on the platforms for a while, Miner Willy suddenly started walking in the air, one block above the platforms as they appeared on the screen. Dying reset the odd behaviour but it soon occurred again.
Paratroopers (1983) is another classic arcade game from the early times of computer games. This C64 version is pleasantly configurable. We can choose between single and rapid fire, normal and guided missiles, mobile and stationary bse, and vertical or angled fire. Guided missiles change direction in air along with the gun turret that we control. It is possible to send a series of slow shots in the air and then make them wave through the air, sweeping enemy aircraft on the way. I played the game using the Remember crack.
China Miner (1984) is an oldschool platform game in the vein of Manic Miner. China Miner, being a later product, improves on Manic Miner in sound and graphics, and contains the same kind of humour as Manic Miner. Level 3 is called Manic Minter and it features little jesters with a J printed on their shirts. This may be a reference not only to Manic Miner but also to the game-maker legend Jeff Minter. Level 5, Loony Jetman, features four men in space suits and a jetpack. This supposedly refers to the Lunar Jetman comic and game. Level 6, Fort Apuckerlips, featuring kissing lips and blinking laser gates, reminds us of the game Fort Apocalypse which has laser gates similar to those seen in level 6, at least to my memory. Level 11, The Yobbit, featuring odd punk-like creatures, obviously refers to J.R.R. Tolkien's novel The Hobbit. Level 12, Horace Goes Walkabout, features weird deformed creatures that are actually straight imitations of the Horace creature that features in the C64 games Hungry Horace and Horace Goes Skiing. I completed the game using the Manik crack.
2005-09-02: Where's My Bones?
Where's My Bones (1984) is an arcade game, quite similar in style to the later game, Caverns of Eriban, by the same author, Lee Braine. The game is almost a platform game, but you do not move on the platforms. Instead, you fly. This little twist in game mechanics may seem small, but it may be the first step to branch off a new minor game genre off the platform games, cave flying games. Even if this is not a big merit, people still remember Where's My Bones from the 1980s as a game they found interesting. I completed the game using the great Lucid & Tricycle crack.
2005-05-06: The Big 100 collection
The Big 100 collection was released by Wicked Software. It was used as inspiration for the C64 Crap Game Competitions (C64CGC) in 1999 and 2001 (http://www.cgc.cosine.org.uk/index.html). The Big 100 is said to be one of the worst compilations of crappy games. And there is something true in that. Most, if not all of the games are programmed in BASIC, many are hastily translated from another language, and playability in general is a bit this and that. Also the games lack a lot on the technical side. But there is also something good. Some of the games have a good idea and they are amusing or interesting at least for a while. Read below for more comments on each game.
To be precise, the collection contains 100 games and 1 utility. The utility program is Invisible Clock which displays the time in the bottom border. Some of the games appear as many copies with varying names, so the number of different games is 96. 0 and X can also be found as Noughts and Crosses. Only the filename differs. The same happens with Draughts and Checkers, Golddigger and Gold, and Nailboard and Shuffleboard.
2005-06-24: Pengo, Rocky, Space Maze, Starfighter, Zap!
Pengo (early 1980s?) is a primitive version of the game known as Petch or Pengo. In the original game the monsters can be killed by crushing them with movable blocks. In this Pengo by Courbois Software I was unable to kill all the monsters. In fact the remaining monster was able to walk through all walls and even out of the playfield. It seems that this game was not finished when it was released.
Rocky (early 1980s?) is a boxing game for two players. There are only two kinds of punches – stomach and head – and seemingly no blocking moves. I was left missing a stamina meter for the players. Currently the only warning for a knockout is the raising hiss of the audience.
Space Maze (early 1980s?) is a version of a classic game of accuracy. We fly a spaceship through an ever narrowing tunnel, avoiding collision with the walls. The controls feel sticky and the game is slow. Compared to the low quality of the game, the Get Ready screen surprised me with its existence.
Starfighter (early 1980s?) is a shoot'em up probably inspired by the Star Wars movies and the Buck Rogers game. Nothing much happens in the game. We keep on shooting alien ships that look a lot like TIE Interceptors. Every now and then our ship speeds up for a while as a sign of achievement.
Zap! (early 1980s?) is a simple game of accuracy. Enemy missiles fly across the screen and we are to shoot them down. Everything flies slowly – at least in the beginning – and the distance from our gun to the missiles is long, so a proper hit requires some aiming. After a while the number and speed of the missiles increases. Despite its simplicity, Zap! works nicely as a whole and is a relaxing game for a while.
2005-06-23: Flight Simulator, Klondike, Shuffleboard
Flight Simulator (early 1980s?) is a flight simulator almost identical to High Flyer. You are to land a plane. Press A and D to tilt the plane, W and X to lift and drop the nose. Space toggles undercarriage. The minus key shuts down the engine and turns it back on. I found no other way to slow the plane down.
Klondike (early 1980s?) is a Solitaire card game with an interface similar to the computer game Patience. The computer Klondike differs from Patience in that you can bet on your play. There is also no possibility to shuffle the deck in Klondike, and drawing happens card by card.
Shuffleboard (early 1980s?) is a two-player computer version of the traditional game Shuffleboard, known in the early times in the UK also as Shovelboard. The objective is to push disks along a long table, trying to make them stop at targets that score the most points.
2005-06-22: Crash!, Push, Space Hit, Alien Attack, Tennis, Centipede 2025, Crazy Golf
Crash! (early 1980s?) is a Caterpillar game played against the computer. There are 8 different skill levels that include partly invisible worms and distracting aliens moving in the game area. The computer opponent is not very smart and is easy to win except maybe when the worms are partly invisible to the human eye. The filename is named Pathways, but the game calls itself Crash!.
Push (early 1980s?) is a unique action puzzle game. We move in a rectangular area with lots of pushable boxes and a few enemies. We must avoid the enemies and at the same time try to trick them between the boxes. The enemies cannot be crushed, but they can be disposed of by surrounding them with boxes so that they cannot move anymore. This requires careful movement and fast thinking.
Space Hit (1983) is a variation of the classic meteor avoiding game. We fly on a space ship in a meteor storm. A crash into a meteor is fatal. We can shoot meteors but it costs points. The variation is that there is a mothership that we need to protect. The mothership is unable to avoid the asteroids itself.
Alien Attack (early 1980s?) is an arcade game reminding of Space Invaders. We are to destroy a big UFO. There is a horde of aliens in the way. A static mass of aliens acts as a shield in front of the UFO. We must shoot through it. Other aliens home in on us, trying to block our bullets or just trying to collide with us. The game is very fast paced and a bit difficult. For some reason the game filename is called Spy Attack.
Tennis (early 1980s?) is a Ping Pong game for one or two players. It seems to be translated from Dutch as some of the text is not in English. The game is very simple.
Centipede 2025 (late 1980s?) is a version of the classic Centipede arcade game. The game contains sprites from other games. The spider is from Forbidden Forest, and the scorpion is from The Great Giana Sisters. As the latter game was released in 1987, this game can be at most as old.
Crazy Golf (mid-1980s?) is an arcadish golf game with a nice idea. Unfortunately the game lacks something in its implementation. The game is slow to play. Most annoying is to try to get past trees as the golf ball tends to get stuck. Apparently it is impossible to go over the large tree. The only way to the other side that I found was to hit through the tree trunk, avoiding the leaves. It worked at least a few times. After swinging to the hole the game changes into putt mode which is less annoying. This game could be very good with better implementation and more variation in the golf courses.
2005-06-21: Eagles and Gators, Grand National, Dubble Fighter, Miner 64
Eagles and Gators (early 1980s?) is a two-player game of reflexes. Both players try to conquer area with their animals. An animal can be assigned to pushing the area border further by pressing Fire at the right time. The game is simple but the idea is nicely fresh.
Grand National (early 1980s?) is a game where you bet on race horses. Playing the game is mostly waiting for the slow horses to jerk forward on the screen. It is one way to get excited, and perhaps not at all worse than betting on real horses. For some reason the title screen shows bare garbage.
Dubble Fighter (early 1980s?) is a two-player game where each player controls a jet fighter, trying to shoot the other down. The fighters move at a constant speed unless you push joystick forward which causes a speed boost. There are no fuel or ammunition limits. The game area is viewed from above and it wraps at the edges. I remember typing down a highly similar game with merely different graphics after seeing the BASIC listing on a Finnish computer magazine called Mikrobitti. I faintly recall that Mikrobitti called the game Top Ace. Perhaps the listing was published also on a few other computer magazines and somebody got the idea of selling the game.
Miner 64 (early 1980s?) puts us in the shoes of a gold miner. We are armed with a drill, a pump, and some explosives. Normal ground can be digged with no sweat but granite requires the drill. Occasional underground streams flood the tunnels and we need the pump to get rid of the water. Explosives are another way to dig through hard stuff. Digging takes money, especially with the special equipment, so we have to surface from the mines every now and then to deposit any gold nuggets. There is a bug in the game. Once you are underground, you can blow up the hard ceiling of the mine and surface without the elevator. Then you can dig through the bank.
2005-06-20: Sea Search, Switcher, Torpedo Run, 2D Tennis Game, Cosmic Carnage
Sea Search (early 1980s?) is a simple adventure based on historical facts. We challenge Vasco da Gama in search for India. The sea search starts from Lisbon, proceeds around Africa, and ends in the West Indies. The journey consists of events such as catching whales for food, and landing at rivers in search for supplies. Some events have action content, mostly in the form of typing the word "flee" as fast as possible. There are indeed many dangers. A pirate ship or a terrible storm may stop the journey short, and in many cases there is no way to avoid them. The main point in the game may just be to demonstrate how difficult sea travel was in the late 1400s.
Switcher (early 1980s?) is a variation of the two-player game noughts and crosses. The game board is 5x5 squares, each having a neutral colour, or a colour of one of the two players. On his turn a player can either colour a neutral square with his colour, or he can rotate one row or column of the game board by one square. The winner is the player whose colours first form a straight line of five. The idea is innovative, applying noughts and crosses in a way that is easily implementable only on computer.
Torpedo Run (early 1980s?) is a simple action game where you are to shoot enemy ships with your attack submarine. There is a line of friendly submarines in the war zone and you have to watch out not to shoot them. The positive things in this game include that it does not seem to contain bugs, and that of the little content, most is action. The game's name is written only in the filename. Use the cursor keys to move the submarine and Space to shoot a torpedo.
2D Tennis Game (early 1980s?) is a simple tennis game. As the name suggests, the ball movement regards only two dimensions. You control the movement of the ball by moving to the direction where you want to hit when you touch the ball. Moving towards the opponent's half gives the ball more speed while moving away slows it down. One can say that the game is mostly just a complex version of Pong, but as the game seems to contain all the rules of tennis that I know, it is more tennis than Pong.
Cosmic Carnage (early 1980s?) is an arcade game in the vein of Space Invaders. Waves of alien ships slide closer and closer to us. They must be destroyed before they hit our spaceship. The aliens do not shoot. Further levels in the game are more difficult as the aliens start their slide closer to us. These increases in difficulty end after level 4, and all successive levels look the same.
2005-06-16: Casino Royale – Monaco, Flipper 9, Moonbase, Patience
Casino Royale – Monaco (early 1980s?) is a computer Blackjack game. You can choose a one- or two-player game. The game is simple just like Blackjack. There is nothing much more than the excitement of when you will lose your money.
Flipper 9 (early 1980s?) resembles a slot machine where you try to bounce a coin from the side of the machine into holes at the bottom. Flipper 9 has nine holes and you have 15 coins to fill all holes. The strength of your bounce is the only thing that determines where the coin falls.
Moonbase (early 1980s?) is a lunar landing game that seems unfinished. First of all the game does not contain its name anywhere but in the filename. Secondly I found no way to actually land the lander. No matter how slowly I touched the pads, the result was always a horrible explosion. And by a horrible explosion I do not mean a big ball of fire but an immensely ugly sprite.
Patience (early 1980s?) is a computer version of the card game known as Patience or Solitaire. The game allows three sets of rules. The differences involve the number of changes allowed. The game does not give any instructions on how to operate the cards, so here it comes. You move cards from a place to another by giving a pair of codes. Numbers 1 through 7 are codes for the stacks of cards marked with the same numbers, H is your hand, and A is the final stacks where you are to put the cards in ascending order of rank, each suit in its own stack. Pressing N draws new cards to your hand. Pressing C before a number lets you move a whole column of cards on one go. Finally, if you seem stuck, pressing Arrow Up shuffles the cards in your hand, giving you new possibilities. Even though I managed to crash the game a few times (try pressing C, number, H, number), the game is nice to play and I prefer the keyboard interface to the mouse interfaces of the computer solitaire games that were made a decade or more later.
2005-06-15: Stardragon, Treasure Quest, Bally, Canyon, Europe Quiz, Joe the Ball, Prisonball, Spacebomb, Submarine, Blocktower
Stardragon (early 1980s?) is a very simple arcade. The goal is to shoot a star dragon piece by piece. Only head shots count. Our ship is easy to control. Otherwise the game feels quite repetitive. After destroying the star dragon three times you move to next level in which the dragon is longer and moves wilder. Annoying things include the flashing of sprites. The star dragon is mostly so long that on alternate frames you see only its head or its tail. The same goes for the ship and the bullets. This makes it also difficult to get interesting screenshots as all the dragons look like they are of the same length. Another annoying thing is that the name of the game is shown the first time after you have played one game. The title screen contains only very short information on how to play.
Treasure Quest (early 1980s?) is a maze game dressed up as a text adventure. The goal is to find an old pirate treasure. The game contains no real parser. You can only give movement commands to the principal compass points, up, and down. The game map is not easy to draw, and most of the rooms are the uninteresting "you are in a twisty little passage" kind. There are a few landmark rooms such as the hall of the gnome king, a room with a book, a black hole, etc. It is possible to complete the game by just trying out directions until you get some idea how to get from one landmark place to another. Despite being very simple, the game succeeded in keeping me entertained for the few minutes I played it. Some room descriptions were surprising, and the game has a few surprising twists. This game is better than I first thought.
Bally (early 1980s?) is a simple breakout game with rather innovative levels. The first is the classical brick wall. The second introduces a brick wall to your front and back. When the ball passes the bat, you lose a life. The third level presents a more complex variation of the second level. The game was apparently first called Squash but then hastily renamed to Bally. In the titlescreen you see an animated Squash text come on the screen but on the last minute it changes to Bally. During the game you see the name Squash all the time. The hasty renaming may have been done because the Big 100 collection where Bally appears has another breakout game called Squash.
Canyon (early 1980s?) is a light strategy game for several players. The game offers also a one-player option but in practice there is no point in it. The game's idea is that players take turns in dropping bullets down the canyon. The canyon has spoons that can catch the bullets. If you hit the handle of the spoon, it turns and drops the bullet it is holding. The total number of bullets dropped below the lowest spoons determines the winner. F1 aims the bullet and F3 drops it.
Europe Quiz (early 1980s?) is a trivia game where you are to know the capitals of European countries. The game is full of typos such as Belguim and Zwitserland.
Joe the Ball (early 1980s?) is a game where you control Joe the Ball. Joe keeps on bouncing and you can only tell him to go left or right. Joe moves very stubbornly and he is in danger of getting blown up by spikes and brick walls that lie here and there. You guide Joe through a series of screens with increasing difficulty. Screen 6 is highly difficult. Screens 7 through 10 are very easy, and screen 11 seems impossible. Maybe that is why screen 10 says it is the last screen.
Prisonball (early 1980s?) is an interesting breakout game for two players. Both players have their own bats. There are three balls on the field and five layers of bricks. If a ball gets past a player's bat, it appears on the other player's side. The player who has touched a ball the last time earns the points the ball makes in destroying tiles. At times the brick layers come back. I really like the way Prisonball improves on classical breakout. I would like to see a remake of this game with more care put into implementation. Even this game is well suitable for playing.
Spacebomb (1983) is an action game where we try to find an atom bomb. The game has a serious flaw. When I enter the third level, it returns me to the BASIC prompt immediately.
Submarine (early 1980s?) is a submarine simulator. We command the submarine Polaris. Armed with an infinite supply of torpedoes we are set to sink a given amount of tonnage. That includes transports and warships. Warships shoot back, so it is good practice to keep moving and stay under the surface. Commands for moving and aiming torpedoes are given in degrees in a top-down view on the battlefield. The simulation is fairly simple and thus also easy to enjoy without too much hassle with details.
Blocktower (early 1980s?) is a computer implementation of the well-known mathematical problem called Hanoi Towers. You can choose towers from 1 to 7 blocks tall. The rules are the usual; you have three piles, and one starts with all the blocks stacked from largest to smallest. You move one block at a time and you can place only a smaller block on top of a bigger. You are to move all the blocks to another pile. The optimal solution is known to be exponential to the number of blocks, so you better start with small towers.
2005-06-14: Munchie, Safe-Cracker
Munchie (early 1980s?) is an educational game that teaches addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Kids are lured into calculations with the help of the Pac-Man character. Addition is easy but at least the level 9 division exercises take quite a lot of time to solve without pen and paper. Or maybe I should just dig out a pocket calculator from the drawer.
Safe-Cracker (early 1980s?) is a version of Mastermind. You are to guess a row of five colours, each of which can be chosen from 15 possibilities. Depending on the difficulty level the computer tells you if you have guessed a correct color and perhaps even if you have placed it in the right position on the row. The game seems very difficult as there is also a time limit for solving the right row.
2005-06-13: Astronaut, Battleships, Dragons, Grubs
Astronaut (1983) is a two-player action game. Two astronauts in spacecraft fly around in a small arena and try to shoot each other. Due to a few serious bugs the game is in actual practice unplayable. There are eight directions for movement. If you face diagonally up and right and you shoot, the bullet does not fly but stays put in air. An even more serious bug is that if you try to move diagonally down and right, you die instantly. Unless you change your course immediately to some other direction, you will lose all your lives successively and lose the match. The BASIC listing of the game reveals that the game was made by Elwood Computers in 1983.
Battleships (early 1980s?) is a computer version of the battleships game that is usually played on pen and paper. You can play against a friend or against a computer if you leave the second player name empty. The game does not respect the rule that no two ships must occupy adjacent squares. The titlescreen of the game says Battleship, but the real name of the game is Battleships. It can be seen in the BASIC listing of the game. Due to a bug the last S is not displayed in the titlescreen. If you go edit the program code on line 40 and move the game name one character to the left, you will see the whole name of the game.
Dragons (early 1980s?) is a simple action game. You move among dragons, trying to kill them all. You can defeat a dragon by standing in the square in front of its feet, diagonally below his head, and pressing Fire. Entering a square adjacent to a dragon's head gets you killed. The program listing contains some remarks apparently written in Dutch which may give some hints of the original author and language of the game.
Grubs (early 1980s?) is another Caterpillar lookalike. In Grubs you do not grow length when you eat apples. The game area is static. After you have eaten all the apples without touching any poison, the game ends bluntly.
2005-06-12: Daredevil Dave, Gold Rush, Matchbox, Ping Pong, Smasher, Star Ship Entry, Tug-A-War
Daredevil Dave (early 1980s?) is a cute little game where we play the role of Daredevil Dave, a daring motorcycle stuntman. Dave knows his job very well, so all that the player must do is choose the right speed for different jumps that Dave must perform. Too slow and too fast a speed will result in an accident. The stunts become more and more difficult as you pass them. Finally you face an impossible jump.
Gold Rush (early 1980s?) is an original variation of the classical Caterpillar game. The player controls a man who is to collect pieces of gold within a time limit of two minutes. He must not hit the borders of the game area or trees and other random objects. The man moves very quickly and thus he must be controlled with precision. After collecting all the gold in the area the man moves to the next level with a different shaped game area. Level 6 and all later levels have plain rectangular game areas. I noticed one bug: when moving with joystick, the movements for northeast and northwest are reversed.
Matchbox (early 1980s?) is a puzzle game where you change colours of 3x3 squares in an attempt to produce a given pattern. Colours change from orange to blue and back to orange. You can only operate on orange squares. When you change an orange to blue, some of the surrounding squares change their colours too. Which squares do it depends on which square you operated on. There are five different target patterns to choose from.
Ping Pong (early 1980s?) is a simple text mode breakout game. The bat cannot affect the direction of the ball so the game gets frustrating when there are only a few tiles left to clear. Further frustration is caused by the unpredictable movement of the ball and the nasty fact that the bat is sometimes a lot slower than the ball.
Smasher (early 1980s?) is a computer version of the common amusement park attraction where you have a hammer to smash heads that peek out of a dozen of holes on a board. In this computer game you press numbers from 1 to 8 to smash at that hole. You have one minute for smashing. The game is rather minimalistic but surprisingly close to the original.
Star Ship Entry (early 1980s?) is a simple arcade game where we try to land our space ship past a few blocking ships. The game boasts with its bad and typo-filled English "...for even more enjoyment this game was invented with a 3D veiw as if you are realy there trying to land your own space fighter."
Tug-A-War (early 1980s?) is an interesting computerisation of the classic outdoor sports game tug of war where two parties pull a rope trying to obtain all of the rope to their side. In this computer game the rope is replaced by a sequence of squares coloured with four different colours. There is also a mark located in one of the squares. On their turns two players choose how many squares from their end they want to change colour. The players have the opposite sequences in which the colours change. If you change the colour of the mark, it moves one or two squares according to which colour it was on originally.
2005-06-11: Golddigger, Aktiv, Pacman Jnr., Row Boat, Space War, Supermaze, Worms, Adonis, Beekeeper
Golddigger (early 1980s?) is a simple collect game. You walk underground between randomly placed rocks and gold nuggets. You can pick up gold and you can blow up rock with the 10 dynamite charges that you have. Whenever you blow up a charge, new rocks appear in random positions. Be sure to go deposit your gold back home before you run out of dynamites. The new rocks have a bad habit of blocking your way home.
Aktiv (early 1980s?) is a physical training program, quite far from a game unless you consider physical exercise as a game. You can select a difficulty level. It determines how many repetitions there are of each move. You can also select the number of minutes you want to practice. After this the program shows you the moves that you apparently should do along. The Big 100 collection calls this program Keepfit Fanatic but the titlescreen shows Aktiv as the name. This was most likely a cheap attempt to rename the game for an English audience.
Pacman Jnr. (early 1980s?) is a very simple Pac-Man game. It is in text mode, there is only one level, one enemy, no sounds, and no power pills.
Row Boat (1983) is exactly the same game as Baby Monty which is allegedly written by Antony Crowther. Row Boat claims to be made by Elwood Computers. Even the graphics are the same in both games. The only difference is the titlescreen. It also seems like Row Boat has some occasional sprite bugs. Also the number of boats seems to be 0 at all times whereas Baby Monty shows the correct amount of moles left.
Space War (early 1980s?) is a terrible game. It seems to make an attempt at being Space Invaders but fails horribly by total lack of playability. Sprite movement is very blocky and there is almost no feeling of being in control of the game. Our spaceship's bullet imitates the sideways movement of the ship and does not hit enemies every time when the sprites overlap. The game over screen crowns the horror by flashing the border black and white in an obvious attempt to trigger an epileptic fit in the player. This is the worst game I have seen. It must have taken effort to make this game as repulsive as it is.
Supermaze (early 1980s?) is a maze game. We are in the middle of a maze we do not know and we must get out. Luckily the game builds the map of the maze as we proceed. We can even have a peek at the whole maze by pressing Fire. Oddly the congratulations screen after getting out of the maze flashed by my eyes very fast. Maybe it is a bug.
Worms (1983) is a fairly good Caterpillar game. There are 16 different levels. In each you have to collect five sweets that make the worm grow longer. After the fifth, exits open to the sides of the game area.
Adonis (early 1980s?) is an enhanced version of Ghosty by Elwood Software. Adonis does not carry copyright markings. Adonis improves on Ghosty in graphics and in gameplay. Falling into the moat does not kill you but only gives you penalty points. Your goal is to survive for 60 seconds.
Beekeeper (early 1980s?) is an arcade game of some sort. Unfortunately I was unable to operate it. The game instructs the player to use the joystick. Only joystick in port 2 seemed to have effect. Fire button made the hero fire, but pushing the joystick created only a ticking sound without any movement on the screen. My experience with this game is thus very limited.
2005-05-15: 10 Pin Bowling, Airraid, Chopper 1, Ghosthunters, Keno, Pinball Arcade, Space Galaxy, Super Pinball, Battlestar Fighter, Draughts
10 Pin Bowling (early 1980s?) is a simple bowling game. The game rules seem to be correct. Hitting the pins is sometimes very difficult. Once my ball managed to slip between to adjacent pins without hitting either. On the other hand, once you find how to do a strike, you can do it almost every time.
Airraid (early 1980s?) is an arcade wargame where you shoot down black bombers from a pitch black sky. You have a cone of light and three flares to help aiming. There is some interest in the game but the pace is terribly slow and the action seems to get a bit repetitive after a while.
Chopper 1 (early 1980s?) introduces a familiar game scenario – a big city is under an attack by a UFO. The rules of the war are clear: The UFO cannot be shot but to be fair it only drops 100 bombs on the city. Our chopper must defend the city by shooting the bombs. There's a lot of action, which makes this game better than an average game in the Big 100 collection.
Ghosthunters (early 1980s?) is a game very similar to Ghosty. Ghosty is made by Elwood Software and Ghosthunters is made by Elwood Comp. The authors are obviously the same. The game's controls are very blocky and slow. There is one amusing point though. All the ghosts smile in a very cute way.
Keno (early 1980s?) is a gambling game in Las Vegas style. We try to guess a bunch of numbers that the computer has randomised. As in gambling in general, losing is inevitable, just like the game informs at the end.
Pinball Arcade (early 1980s?) is an extremely simple pinball game. The ball moves horizontally at a constant speed, and the vertical movement is very limited. In fact I could not shoot the ball back to the top of the pinball machine once it had reached the flippers. The ball does not roll on any surface but sustains a jumping motion. Bumpers are the only objects on the playfield that score points.
Space Galaxy (early 1980s?) is a lousy arcade game, just as the name suggests. We control a space ship that is to shoot alien ships. The aliens do not shoot back. The only way to die is to run out of fuel. But refueling can be done at any time by reaching the bottom of the screen. To top all this lousiness, the end screen says "Siruis has defeated you again!", with the typo.
Super Pinball (early 1980s?) is a breakout game with an innovation. There are two bats to control, one for the right half of the field and one for the left. The game is quite fast and it requires lots of skill to keep the ball in the field. However, the physics is very simple. The ball moves only diagonally, there is no way to aim the ball, so when there are only a few tiles in the field, the game gets a bit stressing.
Battlestar Fighter (early 1980s?) is an arcade game that seems to be inspired by the Star Wars movies – the enemy starships look like Tie Bombers. But there is something terribly wrong in the game. I was not able to hit the enemy ships even once. Many of my shots went straight at the enemy but I got no points and the ship was never destroyed. I believe this is a bug in the game. Even the title screen has a glitch. This game obviously did not go through any kind of quality control.
Draughts (early 1980s?), also known as Checkers, is the game of draughts played against the C64. The rules did seem to have some quirks. At one point I was able to move my regular man two squares diagonally on one move. I was also able to eat my own piece, and I could eat an opponent's man with my man by jumping backwards. And once I was not allowed to eat an opponent's man by jumping forward. The C64 moved his kings always just one square at a time. The game was quite easy to win, perhaps because I took use of the unusual rules.
2005-05-08: Mastermind, Panzer, Quadrato, Snocat, Squash, Xyron
Mastermind (early 1980s?) is the well-known Mastermind game on the C64. As the original game is very simple, there is nothing surprising in the computerised version either.
Panzer (early 1980s?) is a simple tank simulator. Enemy tanks drive across a field and you must take a shot at them. If you miss, the tanks may shoot back. There are three tanks to choose from and they differ in turret speed, armour, and firepower. The most interesting thing about this game is that after staring at the checkered battlefield for a few minutes, shooting the tanks, when you look away from the screen, you have a nice optical distortion in your sight.
Quadrato (1986) is a puzzle game where you try to find a given pattern from a randomised game board. You work against time. The game seems quite easy as I got a top score on my first try.
Snocat (early 1980s?) is similar to the better known game Olympic Skier, and in particular its downhill part. Snocat is just a lot simpler. We drive a snow car to the top of a hill. The speed is terrifying and the hill is sparsely covered with trees. Luckily the car has brakes.
Squash (early 1980s?) is a highly simple breakout game. There is just nothing special in this game.
Xyron (early 1980s?) reminds me very distantly of Gateway to Apshai. Xyron just lacks content, playability, and immersion.
2005-05-07: Thunderbird, Yahtzee, 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Backgammon, Caterpillar, Domino, Frogs, Haunted Castle
Thunderbird (early 1980s?) is a breakout clone utilising simple character graphics. The ball cannot be aimed at all, so the game lacks the tactical aspect of Arkanoid or Krakout. Moreover the ball moves always rather slowly, so the game requires little reflexes. The goal is not to break all the tiles but to break through the tiles and let the ball escape to the opposite edge of the screen. As an extra, if the ball hits a punched tile, the bat – the Thunderbird – shoots a ray that creates three more tiles.
Yahtzee (early 1980s?) is a computer version of the well-known dice game. There is no computer opponent. The game rules seem to be adapted well. Even though the game is in English, I managed to get an error message in German. Apparently the game was translated from German to English when it was put into the Big 100 collection.
3D Tic-Tac-Toe (early 1980s?) is a noughts and crosses game on a 3-dimensional board of size 3x3x3. There is no computer opponent. You move your pointer on the board only in two directions, left and right. The pointer jumps to the next row and to the next board when appropriate. Very simple but working.
Backgammon (early 1980s?) is a computer version of the well known dice and board game. The game does not contain the gamble aspect of the original Backgammon game. But it does contain bugs. In the endpart of the game, when the players are bearing their checkers off the board, the computer opponent's checkers were left on the board when he bore them off. I had no idea that I was losing until the game was suddenly over – with a handful of the opponent's checkers seemingly still on the board. Also, whoever translated the game into English missed at least the phrase "Aai-ik ga de bar in", which should be something like "Argh, I go to the bar."
Caterpillar (early 1980s?) is the classical worm game. In this version the worm cannot advance but to squares that are two squares from its body. The first line of the BASIC source listing contains the name Elwood Computers. I believe it means that the author is the same as the Elwood Software of Ghosty, another game found in the Big 100 collection.
Domino (early 1980s?) is the domino block game using a double-6 set, played against a computer opponent. There is one exception to the common block game; you can only place your domino at the right end of the line of dominoes. There is also no scoring. The winner of a game is forgotten in the next game.
Frogs (early 1980s?) is a puzzle where you are to lead two squads of four frogs across a bridge, the squads leaping over each other. The puzzle has an optimal solution, and once you find it out, there is nothing more to the game.
Haunted Castle (early 1980s?) is a simple and slow arcade where you collect the witch's cats from her castle.
2005-05-06: Poker, Save Your Teeth, The Starlight Zone
Poker (early 1980s?) is a very simple poker hand simulator. The title says it's you against the CBM64. But in reality you do not play against anybody. You gain score by getting good hands. There is no betting and no opponent. The game never ends. Your score just gets get negative if you lose too much.
Save Your Teeth (early 1980s?) is a buggy arcade game. The concept sets us to defend teeth that are attacked by various kinds of teeth-rotting foods. The idea is funny and it closely reminds me of Jaw Breaker. But the game itself has at least one serious bug. The foods jumped to a totally different place a few times when I tried to shoot them while being on top of them with my toothpaste tube. Frustrating.
The Starlight Zone (early 1980s?) is an extremely simple action game based on avoiding sprites. It dwells on the territory of Squish 'Em but lacks a lot of the magic of it.
2005-05-05: Bump-n-Run, Connect'em, E.T. Puzzle, Ghosty, High Flyer, Leaky Roof, Othello
Bump-n-Run (early 1980s?) works on the idea of table hockey. Each of the two players control a target that is able to capture the puck. There is a goal in both ends of the playfield. The players must capture the puck, speed up the target, and then release the puck by pressing Fire. The puck glides on the field, hopefully hitting the right goal. If the targets bump into each other and one is carrying the puck, they exchange the puck. A simple idea that seems addictive. The controls are not that smooth though.
Connect'em (early 1980s?) is another classic game that can be played with cross-ruled paper and pens. Players take turns to draw one line connecting two adjacent points on the paper. If a player manages to close a square he gets one point and he must draw another line. The paper in Connect'em is either 7x11 or 7x6 squares and at least with the bigger paper it takes quite some time to get to the interesting endpart of the game. The computer opponent didn't make very good moves in the endpart. There is also the possibility to play against another person. The texts in the game are a weird combination of English and Swedish.
E.T. Puzzle (early 1980s?) is a computer version of the classic slide puzzle on a 3x3 board. In a slide puzzle, one of the squares is always empty, so the game's author has cleverly decided to use one sprite for each puzzle piece. After you complete the puzzle, you are rewarded with a windowbreaking interpretation of the E.T. theme.
Ghosty (1984) is a very simple and lousily realised arcade game. We control a monk who is supposed to shoot down ghosts that threaten the monk's monastery. After finding a suitable play rhythm the game becomes rather dull.
High Flyer (early 1980s?) is a simple flight simulator. We are in the controls of a passenger jetplane. The plane is running out of fuel and we have to land. The procedure is easy – slow speed down, take course towards the airfield, lower the altitude. Soon you will see the runway. Then lower the landing gear and touch down. Despite the simple procedure, the relatively fast pace of the game gives you good chances of failure. Quite a nice game for its simplicity.
Leaky Roof (early 1980s?) is a very simple game where you collect falling waterdrops into a bucket, one at a time. The drops speed up, and very quickly many of the drops are totally out of your reach because the bucket moves only very slowly. Frustrating.
Othello (early 1980s?) is the classic Othello board game with a computer opponent. The opponent has three difficulty levels. At least the second one was not very good as it gave me very easily possession of the all corner squares and most edge squares.
2005-05-04: 0 and X, Arcade Baseball
0 and X (early 1980s?) is a noughts and crosses game on a three-dimensional board of size 4x4x4. There is a computer opponent that provides some challenge. I lost my first three games but won the fourth. The best part in 0 and X are the comments the computer opponent throws in to cover the delay while it is thinking. I found the comments fairly amusing and even humane. I like this game.
Arcade Baseball (early 1980s?) is a reaction game disguised as baseball. The computer pitches the ball and the player presses Fire on joystick port 1 to swing the bat. The ball flies to one of several holes. Each hole is either Out, 1 Base, 2 Bases, or 3 Bases. Depending on the number, the runners advance that many bases. There is also a two-player mode where the second player can pitch by pressing F1, F3, F5 or F7. Each F-key gives a different kind of pitch.
2005-05-27: Questprobe 1, Uuno Turhapuro muuttaa maalle
Questprobe 1 (1984) featuring The Incredible Hulk is the first of the
Marvel Comics text adventure series by Scott Adams. The game is quite short
and repetitive. Many have said that this adventure is of the worst from Scott
Adams. I cannot much argue with that. One of the funniest things in the game
is when the Hulk says "The Incredible Hulk (Tm) very mad."
To my surprise I found a version of Questprobe 1 that took a whole diskside
and contained greatly enhanced graphics. The actual game seems to be the same
in both versions. The regular, small version is marked Version 1c/126 in the
game's title screen. The enhanced version is marked Version 3-127. It appears
that the enhanced version is a re-release by Commodore because Commodore has
its name in the first screens of the enhanced version and there is no mention
of the company in the small release.
Uuno Turhapuro muuttaa maalle (1986) is a Finnish game based on a movie with
the same name and released in the same year. A Finn myself, I feel it is my
obligation to explain some background to this game. Uuno Turhapuro is a fictional
Finnish comedy character. There are around twenty Uuno Turhapuro movies all
the way from 1973 until 2004. Uuno is a pig for a man. As he is thoroughly lazy,
Uuno is happy to be married because his wife makes him food while he lies on
the sofa. Uuno causes great distress not only to his wife but also to his father-in-law
who is a well-off man. The game starts as Uuno returns home and finds a note
from the fridge. It says "I guess this is where you will find this note the
quickest. As you may have noticed, I have moved away. I will not tell where.
My lawyers will contact you later. -Your ex-wife Elisabeth." The movie plot
continues so that Uuno travels to his home village, and to his surprise he finds
his ex-wife there. Also the father-in-law has moved to the village in an attempt
to get far away from Uuno, not knowing that it is his home village. The village
is under threat by a big road building project, so Uuno sets out to collect
money in order to stop the building project. This is what the game is about.
Uuno collects money (rahaa in Finnish) by plowing a field, waterskiing, and
finally by looking for his father's illicit still in the woods. Remember to
pick up bills in the woods. It seems that two of Uuno's good friends, Härski
Hartikainen and Sörsselssön, can be spotted from the game. Sörsselssön
rides a bike in the first level and Hartikainen is smoking a cigarette in the
third level. Other characters include the father-in-law who wears yellow trousers
in the third level, and Uuno's father who throws a rock or a similar object
at Uuno in the second level.
The game credits Amersoft and Nasse-setä Oy. I have a strong belief that Nasse-setä
Oy is a joke. Nasse-setä is another Finnish comedy character, played by the
actor of Uuno Turhapuro. And finally, please note that the correct Finnish spelling
of the game's name involves only two capital letters, not four.
The crack by Hotline seems to be screwed up. The font totally lacks the letters
A and E and also some of the graphics is mangled. Also the crack by TWR seemes
to have som slight sprite bugs. I completed the Byterapers+The Sharks crack
of the game.
2005-05-26: Trivial Pursuit
It was very difficult to arrange all the copies I found for Trivial Pursuit.
To my knowledge, there are four versions of Trivial Pursuit: Commodore Genus
Edition, Baby Boomer Edition, Young Players Edition, and Trivial Pursuit –
A New Beginning, also known as Genus 2. Some of the versions are also translated
to other languages. I found German versions of Commodore Genus Edition and A
New Beginning, and a French version of Commodore Genus, and apparently there
exists also a Spanish version of the game.
The original games seem to have come on two disk sides. The first one contains
the game engine and the second one contains additional questions. Some crackers
have managed to squeeze the two sides on one, but some have not. The big difficulty
comes from the fact that most of the cracks I found do not carry any signature
of the cracker. Missing title screens cause extra trouble because it is just
about impossible to name the game without the title screen. However, I tried
to look how other C64 sites have named the games, and I also tried to look at
the filenames on the D64 images. I managed to find a question disk that claims
to be for the Baby Boomer Edition, but all the Baby Boomer game disks were actually
copies of the tape version of the game, so the question disk is useless as it
is. Of course one can try copying it into a tape image.
In the middle of all the difficulties and ambiguities, I decided to complete
and shoot Trivial Pursuit – Commodore Genus Edition and Trivial Pursuit
– A New Beginning, both in English.
Trivial Pursuit – Commodore Genus Edition (1988) is a computerised version
of the world-famous trivia board game. The game comes with a few different question
sets of which one can be loaded into memory before the playing starts. The questions
include not only the regular ones that are written in text, but there are also
tasks to identify a picture or to recognise a melody. The question procedure
is implemented in an interesting way. It is of course very difficult and actually
downright impossible to make a good trivia game judge out of a computer. Trivial
Pursuit solves the problem by asking the player if he answered right. It is
then up to the players to determine if the given answer was close enough to
the one that the computer reveals. I completed the Hotline crack of the game.
Trivial Pursuit – A New Beginning (1988) is a spiced-up version of the
Trivial Pursuit board game. The basic rules of the game are largely the same
as in the board game but the game has been dressed up as a challenge of space
travel. Answering right to trivia questions gives you access to six items that
correspond to the wedges of the original game. When you have all the items,
you face a final question.
2005-05-24: Oh No!, International 3D Tennis
Oh No! (1988) is a high-adrenaline shoot'em up in the vein of Insects
in Space and Galax-I-Birds. We guard flashing dots called oxes. We cannot die,
but the game ends when all the oxes have been stolen by alien transports. Hitting
an alien merely bounces us around the area. Being in the right place at the
right time is crucial in order to shoot the transports before the oxes are gone.
It is worth knowing that shooting a red stationary alien gives you an extra
oxe. Shooting a blue alien seems to help advancing to the next attack wave.
The last, 11th level presents extra difficulty by having a spherical texture
cover all the game sprites. After completing the last level you get to read
about the game's authors' view of Wizball and Nebulus. I completed the Hotline
crack of the game but took some of the screenshots from the Pulsar crack as
it has the original titlescreen texts.
International 3D Tennis (1990) is one of the few C64 games using 3D graphics.
The tennis simulation itself is unsurprising to me. However, my experience with
tennis games is minimal. It is sometimes difficult to hit the ball as it requires
good timing. Also the ball sways left and right sometimes even while flying
in the air. Pressing S in game (but not while the ball is on the court) gives
you the scoreboard. Pressing number keys gives you different views to the court.
Many of the views are totally useless while playing but may be fun to use when
you let two computer players play against each other. A nice detail is that
in a season game, the stadiums grow in size the farther you get in the games.
One season takes awfully long to complete. There can be around 20 tournaments
in one season, and in each of the tournaments you play up to 6 matches, maybe
even more, depending on the size of the tournament. Each match contains 1-3
sets, depending on your choice. In each set you have to win 6 games in order
to be successful. Of course you can lose some match but that will drop you out
of the tournament.
2005-05-22: Insects in Space
Insects in Space (1989) is a nice shoot'em up from Sensible Software. I fancy
the simple yet impressive weapon of the heroine. Even though hitting an enemy
requires some accuracy, rapid fire makes up all difficulties so that in the
last hand the game is a lot about firing like a maniac. If you feel like doing
some high-precision work, you can also concentrate on saving the little men
that live on the bottom and top grounds of the world. They are constantly grabbed
by killer bees. You have to shoot the bee, grab the man, and carry him back
onto ground. Do not miss the nice if rather short title tune by Martin Galway.
2005-04-29: Kid Grid 2
Kid Grid 2 – Kid vs. Kid (2004) is a recent sequel to Arti Haroutunian's
game Kid Grid. Kid Grid 2 was made by the group Hack'n'Trade by improving on Arti's
game that was made over 20 years ago. The basic idea of the game is the same as
before – conquer area on a checkerboard by outlining squares one by one.
But as an extra twist the game has also a two-player mode. There are two Kids,
controlled by joysticks in port 1 and 2. Kid and Kid compete for the ownership
of the most squares. Both Kids have their own colour. It is possible to overwrite
the other Kid's colour with your own. The regular monsters are there too to complicate
the competition. No more is there a limited supply of lives. Kid and Kid are only
stunned by the monsters.
The two-player mode is an excellent idea. Duelling against another human makes
the original game more interesting. There are different strategies to use against
the human opponent. You can try to conquer new squares as fast as you can, or
you can try to sabotage the other Kid's squares. Every detail in Kid Grid 2 is
well done. The game retains the original look of the game but still manages to
stand out from the original game. Playability is just like in the original. There
are no bugs. The game comes with separate instructions that show wrong my earlier
assumption about Kid Grid that the monsters are all alike. Thuggy is the most
persistent monster whereas Squashface is the most unpredictable. Overall, it is
remarkable how Mathman and Frantic of Hack'n'Trade took the trouble to improve
on Kid Grid with such quality. Kid Grid 2 is a great distinction on Arti's original
2005-04-28: Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles [Konami]
Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles [Konami] (1991), also known as The Coin Op,
is an arcade game about the mutant turtles. Compared to the turtles games of the
previous year, this one is much more straightforward. The safest way to complete
the game is to use only the jumpkick attack. While you are in the air you are
invulnerable, and all attacks inflict the same amount of damage anyway. Just about
the only exception to the jumpkick rule are the big robot bosses who are better
dealt with by waiting them to come to your level, then hitting once, and running
The crack by The Sharks lacks the two player option. The crack by X-Ray had serious
bugs in the end of the sewer level when the boss should arrive, but luckily X-Ray
also installed a level skip that can be activated by pressing backspace. If you
press it before the bug appears, you can continue from the next level. I completed
the game using the Hotline crack which worked all the way to the end.
2005-04-27: Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles
Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (1990) is a vastly enhanced version of Teenage
Mutant Ninja Turtles. There are improvements everywhere in the game. First of
all, there is a lot less loading during the game. This makes the game already
a lot more enjoyable. Secondly, the game's controls have been altered to better
suit fast action. Everything on the screen moves smoother. Jumping is performed
by pushing the joystick up, not by holding Fire down as in Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles. Graphics have undergone some slight modifications that make the game
look a lot clearer. Sadly, all cutscenes have been removed as well as at least
two huge boss monsters – a huge robochicken and an electrocuting tank. On
the bright side, the removals contribute to the much smaller size of the game.
There is one good general tip to be found in the game: Ultimate mastery is of
the mind, not the joystick. In area 3 the jump to get the missiles for the party
wagon is now very easy to do. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the jump was impossible.
Also the party wagon doesn't move anywhere unless you have collected a bunch of
missiles. In area 4 I was surprised to find out that emerging from one of the
sewers was followed by my immediate return back to the same sewer. It required
lots of tries until the game let me stand on ground and move away from the sewer
instead of returning back in. I didn't notice a similar glitch in Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles. And one final note on sloppiness: The very last text in the game
talks about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, not Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. I completed
the Triangle 3532 crack of the game.
2005-04-23: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) is such a frustrating platform beat'em
up adventure that I can't figure out another as bad. People knew how to make platforms
and beat'em ups already in the 1980s so why is this game crappier than any other?
I don't know, but I do know what makes this game so crappy. First of all there
is too much to load for such little content. There is loading before and after
every little piece of sewer or house even though each of them is very short. Secondly,
the action is very far from being ninja-like and exciting. The turtles move slowly,
just like real turtles. Weapons – both the heros' and the enemies' –
hit their targets from odd distances. The turtles are difficult to control; not
only do their jumps fall down early way too easily when they just scratch a wall,
but also the control to make the jump – hold Fire down – is too clumsy
to have any positive effect in an action game where enemies don't wait for your
Fire button. On top of it all the graphics look messy. For example, there are
energy-reviving pizza pieces here and there in the levels, but the pieces are
sometimes very difficult to spot from the background.
Here are some hints for completing the game. Choose a trainer mode if possible. I found it infinitely frustrating to try to beat up the enemies without infinite energy. Mostly the game is just wading forward in enemy meat and collecting items as you spot them. In general, when you are on the map, you should just walk as far as you can, then enter the last building you see, beat your way to the end, and that usually completes an area. In area 2 there is a stage where you swim in caves and your objective is to disarm timed explosives. The trick of disarming is to hit the turtle's legs to the wire between the bomb and the timer. When it succeeds, you see the turtle wiggle for a while and after that the timer's red light will not flash anymore. In area 3 you find yourself in a city with barricades blocking some roads. The idea is that you find missiles that your party wagon can shoot to destroy the barricades. The problem is that the missile packs that you can access in the area blocked by the barricades are behind jumps that are seemingly impossible to perform. What I did was to jump into the party wagon (press Commodore on the party wagon to do it) and trick myself behind one of the barricades so that I could pick up another set of missiles. The trick uses the fact that a barricade blocking your passage to the east will push you left. But if you drive the party wagon south while the barricade pushes you, you can slide your wagon to the other side of a barricade. The rest of the game has nothing surprising. In the end there is some pizza as your reward for saving the world.
The cracks of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Mirage, NEC, and Horizon seem all
to be very close to being identical. If one disk is broken, it is possible to
use the same disk from another crack. Mirage complains in the end of the instructions
that can be found on the second disk of their crack that NEC and Horizon have
ripped Mirage's cracks. The Mirage crack incorporates an unusual cheat program
that changes the contents of the first disk so that on all successive loads you
will have the cheats that you chose. I completed the game using the crack with
the NEC crack intro.
2005-04-16: Blagger, Son of Blagger, Blagger Goes to
Hollywood, and Blagger Junior
Blagger (1983) is a classic platform game by Antony Crowther. It is easy
to see what appeals to gamers in this game. The hero sprite is well animated,
he is easy to control, the levels have themes along with semihumorous titles,
and the game is challenging, yet not too difficult. The game should be possible
to complete with a little practice.
There is a joke release of Blagger by the name Blagger 2. It was altered from the original game by German Altering Company and released later in Venlo by Tristar. An even more interesting crack is the one by 1701. It includes a level editor. This release is also known as Blagger Construction Kit. It however includes the original game (with a few obvious alternations) and the level editor is seems to be rather hastily added to it, so I consider it a crack of Blagger instead of being a game of its own. There is one crack that I classified as unknown at first. But later I noticed that in the game's first level the enemy sprite which is a cart that originally was carrying an oil pump is now carrying the text 1302. Also the collectable boxes that was originally named Safe are now named Sune, and the hero sprite has an extremely long, wiggling nose! I took the liberty of calling this the 1302 crack. I completed all the 30 levels of the game using the Laser crack.
Son of Blagger (1984) is a sequel to Blagger. This time the game area scrolls in all directions. Levels are located as rooms of varying shape inside the big game area. Completing a level means collecting all keys in the room and then moving through the level door. After the final, twelfth level you see a little bonus screen and get back to the first level.
There are a total of three cracks of Son of Blagger by Me+Clonekid. Every crack is of different size. Perhaps successive releases were made after successful attempts to crunch the game into a small and smaller space. The games cracks don't seem to differ in other ways. I completed the game using the smallest crack from Me+Clonekid.
Blagger Goes to Hollywood (1985) makes quite a long step away from the original Blagger games. It is not a platform anymore, and even the programmer is not Antony Crowther. At first sight this game feels a bit chaotic and unfinished and doesn't quite have the same intensive and intelligent feeling of Crowther's Blaggers. But after trying out the game for a while one can find some pleasing aspects.
The game sets Blagger in a set of rooms. Each one is a setting from a famous TV-series or movie. Blagger wants to put an end to the hero of each stage. To do that, he needs the items that relate to that hero. To kill Superman, Blagger needs cryptonite. To get rid of Jaws, Blagger needs an air tank and a gun loaded with the right kind of bullet. Tarzan and James Bond can be killed with anything. The final adversary is Darth Vader and light sword is the right weapon. I beated all Hollywood stars using the crack by Ass. Check out also the solution I typed down for the C64 Walkthrough Site.
Blagger Junior (early 1980s?) seems not to be a commercial release but carries
close resemblance to Antony Crowther's Blaggers. The game begins with an instruction
screen that is apparently written in Dutch. The actual game plays Jarre's Equinoxe
5 with an earshattering lead instrument. The visuals of the game seem so messy
that at first sight the game looks like it is not meant to be played at all. But
it is. The levels are completable despite the fact that the difficulty level has
been geared close to the maximum. I completed all the ten levels of the game using
the Computerbrains crack.
Quasar (early 1980s?) is a shoot'em up with the third dimension. Quasar
looks pretty much like Buck Rogers but lacks music. After playing some time I
started wondering why nothing really happens in the game. The levels repeat with
minimal variation and difficulty stays about the same. Very minimal.
2005-04-10: Aquanaut [Interceptor Software], Aquanaut
[The Power House], Arctic Shipwreck, and Quango
Aquanaut [Interceptor Software] (1984) is just about as difficult as an
old action game can be. This might be characteristic of the game's author, Ian
Gray. In the game we are to avoid homing missiles all the time. The missiles cannot
be destroyed by shooting, only by making them crash into a wall. Our ship is as
fast as the missiles which makes evasive manoeuvers almost impossible. There is
one helpful thing to do. If you shoot the missiles, they slow down for a very
short while and move a little bit up. By shooting a missile continuously you can
make it hit the ceiling. You can also outrun a missile but that's sometimes a
matter of luck. I can say straight that I would never be able to complete this
game on a real C64 without any kind of cheats.
Aquanaut [Interceptor Software] has several cracks many of which have a small
but crucial quirk. In order to get proper colours in the game, you have to change
the foreground color manually in the BASIC prompt before running the game. That
is, after you have loaded the game by commanding LOAD"AQUANAUT",8,1 or similar,
change foreground color to brown by pressing Commodore-2. Then command RUN. This
way you get white foreground colour in the game. If you don't change the colour
in the BASIC prompt, then the foreground colour in the game is the same dark blue
as the background colour. You can also try out other colours by pressing Commodore
and some other number between 1 and 8, or CTRL and some number between 1 and 8.
It took me some hours before I figured out the fix to this colour quirk. My finding was guided by one specific copy of the crack by 1404. The copy had a short BASIC program that displayed some documentation to the game and then loaded the game. In the loader's listing I saw the colour change. Of course I didn't believe it was crucial, but after a lot of trying with different things I finally realised that the colour change was significant.
One of the crappiest cracks ever made of any game is the Aquanaut crack by The Metro Boys. The game is jerky and slow. To add to the confusing feeling, the member of The Metro Boys who made the crack is called The Mafia Guys. How does it sound to your ear: The Mafia Guys of The Metro Boys? The Mafia Guys emphasises in his crack intro that he is just a person, not a group. Looking at the name it would not be evident. Despite the crappiness of the crack, some nice documentation is included in the release. I completed Interceptor Software's Aquanaut using the Computerbrains crack.
Aquanaut [The Power House] (1988) is a somewhat uninteresting shoot'em up from the company that seems to be specialised in making games that are hard to grasp. The Power House's Aquanaut lacks something in gameplay. The hero submarine is slow in its movements and it is a bit frustrating to try to avoid the fast and more or less randomly moving enemy masses. One cool effect in the game is the narrowing tunnel where we avoid dark blue instant kill mines. The mines move with different speeds creating a nice visual depth effect.
Power House's Aquanaut has been cracked by Ikari among many others. There are two imports of the Ikari crack. One import is by The Survivors. Their import intro calls the game incorrectly as Aquanoid. Another import is by Legend. After you press Space to exit their import intro, you can see a flash on the screen as the texts of the Survivors' import screen fly by, just to be erased off the screen as quickly as possible. It seems that Legend wanted to hide the fact that they imported an import.
The Ikari crack doesn't work all the way to the end of the game. When the distance meter has reached the second to the last position, the scenery should change to something that resembles giant pumpkins. The Ikari crack shows garbage instead, and after scrolling a while the background stops totally. There are also no enemies to be seen. I completed the game using the Soldiers Against Protection crack which worked fine until the very end.
Arctic Shipwreck (1983) has a cool idea for a game. We control a mammoth on an ice raft. There has been a shipwreck and the survivors are lying helpless on the raft. Situation is critical as the raft tilts very easily to all directions. The mammoth must run around the raft, balancing it so that the people won't fall off into the deadly cold water. There is also an occasional pterodactyl to pick one person as its meal unless the mammoth is to run into the big bird and drive him off.
I got fascinated in the game so much that I played it until the 17th level which looked exactly like the 16th level. It occurred to me that levels are colour coded in the following way. Every time you complete a level, the colour of the sea changes. Colours are blue, green, black (although the Black Sea is not arctic at all), and red. After the sea colours have cycled back to blue, the colour of the people change. Possible colours are black, red, yellow, and gray. That makes 16 different levels. The score display looped back to zero after 99999. I played the Bombjack crack of the game.
Quango (1984) is a Boulderdash-like game from Ian Gray. His very own puzzle-like thinking can be seen from the game's design. There are eight levels where we collect mushrooms. The levels consist of small subpuzzles, less than ten each. To solve a level it is enough to figure out how to get the mushroom from each subpuzzle. The puzzles are positioned one after the other so that once you figure out which direction to go in the first place, it is fairly easy to keep on track. It is important to keep on track because there are lots of dead ends in the levels. Dead ends are frustrating on one hand, but on the other hand they tell you that you are on the right track – just choose a different route from the last crossing. There is no such thing as a dead end in a place that is not almost the right route.
The second level introduces slight variants to the first level. Subpuzzles still have the same basic solution but you have to improve on some details in order to stay alive. The third level is again the same as the first level. The game's manual talks about eight caverns but I guess that's just what the releasing company wanted but didn't get.
Compared to Boulderdash, Quango is considerably simpler. There is the same basic game area in all the levels, with slight variations included in every other level. Once you understand to go around the level in counter-clockwise direction and you figure out how to solve each subpuzzle, it becomes fairly easy to survive in the game. This on one hand may make the game boring after a while. On the other hand it gives the player a good feeling of mastery. Once you get the trick, you can get much higher scores than your friend who just hasn't quite found the trick to one of the subpuzzles.
The co-op crack of Quango by Cyborg Power Systems and Gotcha of GCG has some glitches
in the game font. There is an unknown crack with even worse graphical glitches
and where also the game sprites have been replaced by letters in the Quango title.
I played the nice and recent Commo Bam crack.
2005-04-09: Caesar's Travels
Caesar's Travels (1984) is a sequel to Caesar the Cat. The plot continues
where the action game prequel left off. Caesar loses the battle with mice in the
pantry and he is thrown out of the house. Caesar's big challenge is now to re-find
his place in the world that is full of choices. The game has a strong educational
edge, heavily weighed towards young children.
The game proceeds by giving sets of options to the player. A similar game format can also be found in the much later game Steve Keene Private Spy. To choose your liking, press one of the F-keys. F1 is for running and walking, F3 for jumping, F5 for climbing, and F7 for hiding and waiting. On other screens you can enter an answer to a simple educational question concerning counting objects, naming a color or a shape, or recognising a melody. Pressing Enter gets you back to the previous screen in case you want to change your mind.
Caesar has a total of 18 different futures to choose from. One of the most delighting
is the one where he travels to Paris, climbs a lot of stairs which he later finds
to lead to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and is taken as a pet by a friendly lady.
Another nice one is where Caesar sees a building on fire, sees a man under burning
wood, and shows firemen to help the man in distress. Caesar is rewarded with a
medal and the firemen ask him to be their mascot. A third, even more unbelievable
ending than the Eiffel one is the one where Caesar gets lost in woods, is captured
by aliens, and starts a new life on Mars.
Supremacy (1990) is a fairly straightforward action strategy game. The
user interface may be a bit cryptic, and that is what initially got me thinking
that this game is complex. But after some hours of trying I got used to the controls
and after that playing goes on smoothly.
To start with, it is good to read at least the documentation provided by Dominators. To add some essential points to their writings, note that every space ship (excluding the solar panel) need a crew before it is of any use. Crew can be assigned in the cargo screen. Another important point is that you can transfer money from planets to your starbase with the big button with a yellow arrow and two planets on the left of the planet statistics screen. It took me a long time to figure these things out, so I hope this info will be of considerable help to anyone who decides to try this game out.
I also found a copy of the game that works only in NTSC machines. This copy is titled Overlord and not Supremacy. It is the same game however. The only difference between the two versions apart from working with different standards is that the credit list in the PAL version mentions Tape Protection, and the credit list in the NTSC version mentions Disk Protection. Apparently one was a cassette release and the other a disk release.
At least two copies of the game jammed after some playing. The jam was always the kind that when I sent a ship to another planet and the game prompted me for the destination, I could only move the cursor but no press of the Fire button would affect anything anymore. Also Space wouldn't work. In a normal situation I could have escaped the destination prompt by pressing Space. The jam was persistent in most cases even when I continued from a previous snapshot of the game session. Also the game save/load prompt had the same kind of jam as the ship destination prompt.
I also encountered another kind of bug in Supremacy. A few times it happened so that one of my planets was under attack and I was about to lose the battle. I used to send a carrier with fresh platoons on the battle planet. But if I landed the carrier on the planet when I had lost the battle already, the carrier was lost. However, all the platoons inside the carrier stayed alive. I just couldn't control them anymore. This was bad because such useless platoons ate up the maximum of 24 total platoons I could have at any one time. At some point in the game – probably when I reconquered those planets – the stranded platoons were finally deleted from my lists. It was essential in order to win the second opponent.
Supremacy gets a bit difficult with the two final opponents. I took the liberty
of not completing but the first two of the four opponents. Luckily the crack by
Dominators which was imported by A Touch of Class and retouched by North East
Importers has an additional feature to see the end sequences when the game loads.
I took the endscreen snapshot using that feature.
2005-03-16: Frankie Crashed on Jupiter
Frankie Crashed on Jupiter (1985) is a humorous and fairly simple text
adventure from Kingsoft. We are seemingly the sole survivor of a crash of our
spaceship onto Jupiter. We try to get out and reach the city in Jupiter. There
is no doubt about which company made the game because they advertise themselves
throughout the game. They mention their previous games Grandmaster and Zaga in
favourable light. For example the spaceship captain – dead of course –
has a slip of paper in his pocket, and the paper reads "Grandmaster is the best
chess pro..." You can also see Zaga on a computer in the crew's restroom, and
there's "an original Zaga distribution disk with write protect notches on both
sides." The whole game actually consists of finding parts for a Commodore 64 computer
and assemblying it all together. The computer gives us a password that is required
to get to the city on Jupiter. I liked this text adventure very much because of
its relaxed mood and humour.
2005-03-12: Back to the Future 3
Back to the Future 3 (1990) is another nice game based on a movie. Playability
is good and different levels are really different. The game contains nice special
little things to liven things up. To start with, level 1, the riding sequence,
alternates between a side-scroller and a vertical scroller. There are Indians
and Yankees to shoot, gorges to jump over, and other stuff to avoid. Level 2,
the shooting stand, has among the usual bandits also a green commando and a granny.
And by shooting all the six colours of little ducks, you get a special item sequence
consisting of a teddy, a radio, and other silly things. By the way, the way to
complete level two is apparently to get over 50000 points. Level 3 is totally
silly – defend yourself against bandits by throwing saucers at them. You
can control the saucers slightly with joystick while they are flying. Level 4
is full of action. There is a big train on the screen, it's moving all the time,
and other stuff is flying across the screen. The feeling is really cool. The game
ends with a proverb.
Predator (1987) I consider a good example of a movie based game. The game
follows the main ideas of the movie and still doesn't copy it outright. Most importantly,
the game is not just a shoot'em up dressed up in the movie's clothes – Predator
is more an adventure game than an action game. This can be seen in the crucial
role of problem solving, and the fact that enemies are scarce in the game overall.
You are given lots of freedom to choose your means of progress – there is
an amplitude of weapons to choose from, and several items too, not all of which
are easy to figure out a use for, and some even seemingly needless. What counts
most is can you figure out the ways to overcome the biggest obstacle, namely the
There are two versions of the game around. The more common one seems to be an
incomplete release. There are rumours around that it cannot be completed. Namely
the log at the very end of the game must be lifted and then lowered in order to
crush the menacing creature, but the log is inoperable in the incomplete release.
I tried only the complete version. The incomplete version is also missing large
parts of the intro, and the title tune is different from the other version. The
incomplete version is also missing a highscore table. The crack by Triad gives
a peek into the supposed endscreen. There is a cheat that lets us win the game
right after the first level has loaded. The endscreen reveals a picture of scorched
forest, and then a picture of the hero – if he is supposed to be Arnold
Schwarzenegger, the main actor from the movie, then he is awfully thin –
and our score. According to the rumours this screen is unreachable by normal means
of gameplay. Most strangely, neither of these endscreen pictures can be seen in
the complete version. The forest picture is totally removed, and the thin Arnold
has been replaced by a better picture that can be seen also in the titles. In
fact the endscreen that you see after completing the complete version of the game
is exactly the same what you get when you die in the middle of the game. Quite
a disappointment. All the cracks I found, except the Double Sided Delinquencies
crack, which was apparently done even a few years after the game was released,
are of the incomplete release.
2005-02-27: Turbo Charge, Citadel
Turbo Charge (1991) is a racing game with a little plot, lots of shooting,
and nice music and graphics. Shoot everything you can. In the middle of every
level there is a border checkpoint. When you reach it, your car gets repairs and
extra fuel according to how many other cars you have destroyed. Brutal but cool!
In the later levels it is beneficial to shoot endurant, hostile cars from a pistol
range and not let them get close to you. Almost no fuel canister should be missed.
Fuel is best used in speeding past hostile helicopters. Press Space for a turbo
boost. Some extra excitement comes from the occasional incoming traffic and splitting
roads that prove quite lethal. It is surprising, however, to find an occasional
helicopter or jet fighter fly inside a tunnel. As in many other System 3 games,
you can find the company logo in the game. I found the logo in two places in addition
to the intro. One was an obvious place as you can see in the screenshots, and
the other was not that visible. Another fabulous detail are the level endscreens
which vary slightly in their details, not to speak of how the colours get a bit
darker when you drive into a tunnel! The game's endscreen is as enjoyable as the
intro. Everything is spiced with a pinch of humour. Overall, Turbo Charge makes
a brilliant exception to the general rule that games of the 1990s lack soul.
Citadel (1989) is a rare mixture of a shoot'em up and a puzzle game. Surviving in the game is in the last hand based on not getting hit by the numerous enemies. There are locked doors to operate and maze-like levels to explore, but all the logical puzzles are very easy. It suffices to roam the levels, open all the door switches, and if you end up in a dead end, then just back up and take a lift to the other floor and continue there. Eventually you will find the exit to the next level. Personally I would probably have enjoyed the game more if it favoured puzzles over action. As it is, the game doesn't feel like a full shoot'em up. There just isn't enough firepower to crush the enemy hordes. The levels differ from each other slightly. Each has its own visual style. The last, eighth level's speciality is that enemies hide in their bunkers until you reach the middle of a group of them. Then they attack all at the same time. Citadel earns one special plus for its nice ambient sounds. The electric doors make different hums in different levels. All of them are fascinating in their industrial style. Another special plus comes from the great tunes that Martin Walker has embedded into the game.
There is one thing I noted about Citadel cracks. First of all, when you wait for
a while in the title screen, the game starts introducing game objects, which you
can speed up by pumping Space. The Cosmos and Fairlight cracks have a similarity:
Near to the end of the list there are weapon pods. The letter E in the third weapon
pod's name has been changed into a messy character in these two cracks.
Tusker (1989) is an adventure game that leans heavily on action. The main
character and the title seem to be ripped straight out of Indiana Jones. Only
the whip is missing. There is a nice solution available on the net. My biggest
problem in completing the game was where to get water. The hero gets thirsty very
quickly. The game manual reveals that in the first level you get water by hitting
a cactus with a knife while you are holding a water bottle. I used this but at
first I couldn't figure out how to find water in the remaining two levels. However,
I managed to complete the game without drinking in the last two levels. It was
tight but possible. After some wondering I found out that in level three you get
water in the fountains in the temple. Just hold the water bottle empty handed
and punch the fountain. Level two's water supply is still a mystery to me.
The crack by Ikari+Talent crashed when it was time to load the endscreen. I also
tried out the crack by Unicess. It seems to have a sprite bug. When a knife flies
to the left, it has some garbage as its shadow. It also seems that the game has
a crash bug in level two. After you have given the medicine to the shaman and
received the key, when you emerge from the round door with a big face on top,
go out of the screen and come back, running into the first pair of tears that
fly from the face. The game will crash. Another sprite bug is in the first level
when you enter the map room in the cave. Reading the map with the book gives you
a view on the level, but when it stops, you have lost the lower part of your body
and so has the tribesman in the room. This gets fixed however when you exit the
room or if you re-read the map.
2005-02-20: Deadlock, Time Machine, Vendetta
Deadlock (1990) is another game that was never released and never finished,
but thanks to Games That Weren't, it is available for the public in the form of
four game previews. Deadlock is a platform shoot'em up that emphasises graphics
over playability. The result is flashy but not that enjoyable as a game. There
are some keys to use in the previews. This list is abbreviated from info available
on the GTW site: the F-keys deal with your weapon, to use a lift face out of the
screen and hold fire to call, to go through doors face out of the screen and press
up, the plus and minus keys cycle through which room to start in and P makes you
go to that room. Not all of these keys are available in all the preview versions.
Time Machine (1990) has a fascinating idea for a game. The game is kind of a puzzle game where solving one puzzle enables us to advance to further screens. The plot has disguised this problem solving as altering the past to cause things in the future. Namely, the hero has been trapped in the distant past and he must create the future anew.
It must be mentioned that Time Machine's title tune is a great piece to listen to. Every time I load the game, I stop to listen to the tune before continuing. I enjoy the tune but as a downside it takes a lot of my time and slows down my game screenshooting job for C64hq. I wonder if Martin Walker thought of this kind of negative side effects when he made the tune. By the way, while listening to the tune, you can amuse yourself by pressing the keys 1 and 2. They choose which line in the title screen is flashing but apparently there is no deeper meaning in the effect.
I found one crack of Time Machine by TSMI, but it wouldn't load. Another crack by Censor Design loaded fine but it had a serious bug in the fifth screen of the second age. I moved on to use the Triangle 3532 crack which seemed to work fine till the end. After the endscreen the game ended in a crash once. Another try from an earlier snapshot gave no crash. The oddities may be in the original game. Namely, no copy I tried played the title tune after I had played one game and died all five times. Moreover, I found that the crack by Crazy had some weird issues about dying. After falling into a hole in the first screen, the hero sprite just vanished.
Vendetta (1990) is an adventure in the style of Last Ninja. This time our weaponry consists of plain kicks (to distinguish them from cool ninja kicks), knife swings, grenades, and automatic weapons. Important items are hidden in the scenery just like in Last Ninja. The biggest difference comes from the total lack of background music. To me it lowers the game's entertainment level considerably. Vendetta compensates with driving midsequences. There are splitting roads, other cars and helicopters to shoot, and the police to stop us every once in a while.
There were a few places where I managed to walk outside the game area in a way that was definitely a bug in the game. It seems that the game isn't as finished as Last Ninja where I have found no such flaws despite countless hours of gameplay.
Vendetta has many cracks. The crack by Triangle 3532 I could unfortunately not
load despite my tries on a real C64. By the way, do not confuse this game with
another with the same name that was released one year earlier. I think I am going
to take screenshots of that game for the next update.
2005-02-13: Armalyte 2
Armalyte 2 (1990) is a shoot'em up that was never released. Thanks to the
Games That Weren't site, this collection of previews is available for the public.
The game shows promise in the large arsenal of weapons but there is nothing much
more in the preview. It would have been nice to have also this game finished.
Remember to check out also the separate music made by Reyn Ouwehand.
2005-02-12: Galax-I-Birds, Robocop 3
Galax-I-Birds (1986) is a tongue-in-cheek shoot'em up. There's lots of
action in the looping 16 levels of varying, if a bit high difficulty. The game
might be enjoyable as an occasional time killer.
Robocop 3 (1992) is a movie-based game of the usual kind. The first level is an
Operation Wolf -like shoot'em up, and the rest of the levels are more shooting,
this time in a sidescrolling platform style. There are elements from the Robocop
movies such as the corporation, their walker droid, and a big bunch of angry criminals.
It's an enjoyable game but lacking some of the fascinating moods seen in the games
from early 1980s. Then again, is it necessary to compare games from different
eras? I know I am heavily biased towards the old, so maybe Robocop 3 is a decent
game after all. Decent among its contemporaries.
2005-01-31: Caesar the Cat, The
Jewel Chest, Kid Grid, Kokotoni Wilf, and Ms. Pacman
Caesar the Cat (1983) represents the harmless category
of family games from early 1980s. The game concept is
tame enough to suit young kids, and the gameplay is fast
enough to challenge adults. Caesar's mission is to catch
mice and carry them out of the screen. The first batch
are normal gray mice which are relatively easy to catch.
After catching a few, the mices turn into blue ninja mice.
They are very quick and it is more a matter of luck to
catch them. If you manage, they turn into white turbo
ninja mice whose supernatural teleportation powers can
only be matched by sheer luck. The game area contains
breakable items which will break very quickly.
The Jewel Chest (early 1990s?) is a very simple game.
The basic idea is that of Tetris but all the falling pieces
consist only of one block. The block colors vary, and
the idea is to form lines of three of the same color.
There is no available info on when the game was made.
The graphics are not too flashy, except for the titlescreen,
and that might suggest the game is a product of the 1980s.
But the bad gameplay and overall lifelessness of the game
tell it is definitely from the 1990s. The game would be
totally dead if it wasn't for the cheery tune that plays
on the background. That tune is the only reason why I
screenshot this game.
Kid Grid (1983) caught my eye because it is made by Arti
Haroutunian, the same man who made Juice! (yes, with the
exclamation mark). And not only that but the game also
looks very much like Juice! and is released in the same
year by the same company. I find it fascinating to group
games by how closely they relate to each other. Maybe
Haroutunian used the same routines for both games. Or
maybe he was experimenting with this master idea that
he had, trying to find a real hit game.
While in Juice! you jump on blocks to colour them –
much like in the famous Q*Bert – in Kid Grid you
must walk the outlines of the blocks to colour them. The
result is a mixture between Q*Bert, Stix and Pac-Man.
Haroutunian obviously decided to give the game personality
to the extent that he gave names to the four enemies,
regardless of the fact that they do not differ but by
look. There are lots of levels. Some of them form letters
of the alphabet. I tried to read a hidden message from
the levels but found nothing.
Kokotoni Wilf (1984) is an early platform, from the old
times when game characters were not cute and sprites were
scarce. We control a butterfly man who is apparently on
a mission to gather nearly 70 pieces of an amulet. The
adventure proceeds through prehistory, present, and the
futuristic and mysterious year 2001. There seems to be
a background story behind it all but I am unfortunately
unaware of it. The game was not too large and it had a
clear map structure, so I decided to build a game map
out of screenshots.
Ms. Pacman (1983) is yet another Pac-Man game. Playability
is very good and all the usual elements are there. As
a nice bonus there are simple intermissions between some
levels. It is actually quite remarkable how the authors
have created a love story behind this simple arcade game.
I guess this is how brands are made.
Shadowfax (early 1980s?) is as simple a game as
can be. The main idea is the good old "dodge and shoot
incoming sprites". There is absolutely nothing more. I
hear that the game's animation of a galloping horse and
a rider is imitated from the earliest (or at least one
of the earliest) known animated series of pictures which
was made by Eadweard Muybridge in 1881. The game's name
refers of course to Gandalf's horse in the Lord of the
Killer Watt, and Trollie Wallie
Kickman (1982) is an arcade that requires fast
reflexes. I cannot quite figure out how did anybody come
up with an idea for a game like this but here it is, a
combination of Breakout, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man.
I found two versions of the game, one having slightly
simpler graphics and a tag hinting that it is Version
02. Whether the other version is Version 01 or perhaps
the Final Version, I do not know. In any case, both games
act the same way, so it is quite certain that they are
the same game. Both carry the Commodore copyright tag.
Killer Watt (1984) is a little Antony Crowther game that
was missing from the site. All the elements of an early
game are there: the game tune covering Bach's Toccata
in D minor with a few transcription errors, shameless
use of colours, taglines written all over the game map,
etc. I like this kind of games. They really look like
they were made out of the pleasure to create something.
There are a few cracks of Killer Watt available. I found
that in a crack whose SYS line mentioned SR! has a glitch;
after you have played the game once and you return to
the main menu, the text is a bit thwarted.
Trollie Wallie (1984) appeals to me with the nicely transcribed
music; Popcorn and Jarre classics bring the eighties feeling
to the game. The game is the same subgenre of platforms
as are Monty Mole and Big Ben – the game world is
quite small but advancing is difficult due to a wide variety
One particularly interesting element in Trollie Wallie
is the scrolltext that is hidden into the game world.
In the original game the scrolltext says that the graphic
artist of the game – merely referred to as Claire
in the title screen credits – is actually the sister
of the game's author, Andrew Challis. The author also
credits Siggy for the map. The crack by Mr. Geil can be
identified by noticing that the scrolltext has been altered.
Mr. Geil has written that "[the game] has no copyrights
by Interceptor Software. It was cracked by Mr. Geil".
It appears that the crack by Clonekid & Oddball has a
glitch in one of the enemy sprites.
Kamikaze (1990) is based on the same idea as the
old classic Choplifter. On the outside, Kamikaze looks
polished; Ash+Dave doing the programming and graphics,
and Johannes Bjerregaard doing the music. These elements,
when considered separately, are of high technical quality.
The game scrolls smoothly, nothing flickers. The jazzy
title music is nice to listen to for a while and the sound
effects are not distracting. But considered as a whole
the game does not seem to give much. I liked Choplifter
very much, so why do I not like Kamikaze? I have no straight
answer but my guess is that there is too much polish and
too little content. I want to have things to interact
with. In Kamikaze I cannot land except when the game permits
me. I can only fly and shoot, and even the flying seems
more like controlling a sprite on the screen than flying
a plane. The control method was very much the same in
Choplifter, but I suppose that the unpolished look made
the controls a bit more immersive. Perhaps Kamikaze fails
because all the little glitches have been removed and
what is left is just a sprite that I move around the screen.
There are only four different levels, and they all look
very much alike. Enemy sprites fly around the screen all
the time. The best tactic is not to shoot enemies almost
at all. Whenever you shoot one down, a new one appears
– very likely at an unexpected place. There is no
sign of an increasing level of difficulty as the game
progresses. Only the annoyance level rises as you have
to make more and more there-and-back flights to pick up
the hostages. It is not fun.
Speaking of glitches, I found it overly difficult to kamikaze
the gate in level 2 in the Bonzai crack. Level 1 went
just fine but despite my numerous attempts, I could not
get a collision with the gate in level 2 – only
the ground and other lethal obstacles. After loading up
the Dominators crack there were no problems any longer.
2004-12-12: Injured Engine, The Institute, Journey to the Center of the Earth Adventure, Juice!, and Kermit's Electronic Storymaker
Injured Engine (1984) is a fabulous game in its uniqueness. The game is an educational simulation of the combustion engine. We have a car engine at our inspection. We can make it run and see what kind of symptoms it shows. From the symptoms we can deduce what problems the engine may have. For example, if the engine doesn't start at all, the problem might be in the spark plugs. To help us in the fairly difficult task of repairing and tuning a car engine, the game provides us with brief but thorough explanations on how different parts of the combustion engine work. I found this part of the game most interesting.
The Institute (1983) is a text adventure with notably enjoyable graphics and an interesting storyline. We are being treated in an asylum, and our way out is through our dreams. Most of the game is spent inside wild dreams caused by sleeping powder. It is notable that in such an early game they have already used digitised graphics. You can see the authors' faces at the beginning, and something quite funny at the very end.
Journey to the Center of the Earth Adventure (early 1980s?) is a very simple text adventure. What is interesting is that the original was obviously done on another platform. There are at least three different conversions available on the C64, all of which seem to be very much alike, but which still have differences in text layout.
Juice! (1983) is an old favourite of mine, showing high resemblance to the arcade hit Q*Bert. The story, as much as I am unaware of the instructions, seems to be that we are there to fix a complex of electric wires in order to provide a steady flow of juice – that is, electricity. There are the common Q*Bert nasties to slow us down, and in further levels the pipes are more and more hard to fix. In the final, sixth levels you need to jump three times on a square in order to change it into a working pipe. If you jump on the square the fourth time, the pipe is erased and you are back to nothing. This combined with the occasional electric charges that damage the pipes makes the last levels very difficult. There is a good strategy, however. Note the squares where the electric charges pass. Make sure those squares have either a complete pipe or a damaged pipe, and make sure all the other squares have a complete pipe. Wait until the electric charges have passed once more, turning all their squares to damaged pipe. Those squares usually form a continuous path across the play area. Now you just need to make a pass over those squares, and you are done.
Kermit's Electronic Storymaker (1984) is a very simple and silly little playtool apparently aimed at small kids. You can write your own stories by combining nouns and verbs from a given selection. You can see your sentence live on the screen. For example, when you compose "In space, Kermit spins in the bathtub", you can see Kermit the Frog sitting in a bathtub, in space, and the bathtub is spinning around! All the possible combinations are quickly seen, and after that interest is quickly lost. The concept is very original and that's why this creation might be worth checking out.
2004-12-11: Jammin' 2
Jammin' 2 (1987) – also known as Beat it! – is an arcade game with some puzzle elements. The logical part of the game got a bit annoying at times. Looking at a screen full of flashing colours trying to avoid bombs and chainsaws makes me feel frustrated. Despite the psychological hardships I managed to play through all the 60 levels in the game. My reward was that I didn't get to write my name on the high score table! What a game! Still I got to admit that there are nice ideas in the game. I liked the psychiatrist – an enemy who doubles the hero. We control the two copies of ourselves one by one, and we don't get to choose when the control changes. On the second hit the psychiatrist creates a third hero to control, then a fourth, until on the fifth hit you become insane and lose a life. The level design shows some common surprises too. The names Ben, Kate, Tracey, Martin and Tony are written into the levels. All but Tony can also be found in the titlescreen credits.
Turrican (1990) is... Turrican! I can think of no other suitable superlative. The game is well designed and enjoyable in many ways. Still, the most important thing in Turrican may be the fame it has gathered and still continues to have after all these years. This particular game is not necessarily my personal Turrican favourite, but as it is the first one of the series it needs to be paid part of the respect that I have for the other Turrican games.
There is a lot of variety in Turrican. Just as you think you have had enough of a certain kind of levels, you are introduced with a new environment. The first levels are normal shoot'em up platforms, the second levels take place indoors with special emphasis on downward-leading chutes. The third levels give you a totally new perspective as you speed up and down with a jetpack listening to an uplifting soundtrack. The fourth levels set you in an unusual world combined from H. R. Giger and diagonal planes, and the fifth levels give you mazes in a construction site setting. There are ample bonuses everywhere. Extra lives and bonus diamonds can be picked like apples from a tree, which gives me a lot of pleasure.
The Turrican battle suit is equipped with a variety of weapons. From F7 you throw a grenade, from Space two energy bars sweep the nearby area, pulling the joystick down and pressing Space activates the gyroscope mode which renders you invulnerable, and holding Fire while pulling the joystick down activates a mine, and most useful, holding down fire shoots a controllable flash of lightning. Remember to use your weapons as you get a new set every time you die – and you will probably die often.
The going gets a bit monotonous at times despite the wide range of elements in the game. A background tune as groovy as the two heard in the third levels might also have cheered up the sometimes monotonous feeling of the later levels. As it is, the game is mostly filled with pure sound effects and no music. Still I have to emphasise the fact that little music there is is excellent. Manfred Trenz himself confessed in an interview with the Games That Weren't site that he regrets being unable to include in-game music to Turrican.
There are annoying glitches concerning the laser weapon obtained by collecting green bonuses. When the laser is full length and you shoot it on some backgrounds, for example in the upwards scrolling level 3-1 or the blue background in the fifth levels, the laser either changes the background color or may even leave a laser beam lying in the background. This bug seemed to appear in several cracks, so it might well be in the original game too.
The Genesis Project jewel crack excels above all in its poetic scroll text. There Snacky equates himself with gods and his jewel crack with the creation of the world – with the difference that while the creation took six days, Snacky needed only one. The Crest and Transcom cracks miss the digitised intro speech and some credits in the titlescreen.
2004-12-05: Journey to the Center of the Earth [Chip]
Journey to the Center of the Earth (late 1980s?) is a massive adventure game. It is based on the book by Jules Verne where professor Lindenbrock makes a journey to the center of the Earth. The game takes place where the book ends. We play the role of another professor who accompanies Lindenbrock on his second journey. However, right at the beginning the expedition is split by an accident, and we continue the adventure solo.
Production emphasis was clearly put on graphics and story in the original game. What is left of it in the C64 version is the story. The rest is crap. What you get between the terrible loading times is a choice whether to go up, down, left or right. There are action scenes – avoid falling rocks, avoid a mammoth stampede, fight a vicious brown gliding thing (I suppose it is a pterodactyl), stab away hungry crocodiles etc. – but they are implemented in the crappiest possible ways. I never thought a C64 game could look this ugly and lifeless.
One funny thing to notice in the Strike Force & Movers crack is the disk switch prompt. It asks you to press the mouse button after switching the disk! Luckily joystick button does the trick. The other cracks talk about joystick button instead of mouse button. There seems to have been a total rewrite of the story texts between the Strike Force & Movers and other cracks. The storyline is the same but there have been many little changes in spelling and choice of words. But most notable for gamers, the water collecting action subscene and finishing the first leg of the trip doesn't seem to work in the Strike Force & Movers crack. It seems they got their version of the game a bit too early.
Interview (mid-1980s?) is a game that doesn't really look like a serious attempt to make a commercial game. One might think it is just a free-time hack by some odd dudes. The game presents us as a programmer looking for work. The game is obviously a work of irony made by programmers who are fed up with the business. The game presents the hero as a poor fellow who might very well be ripped out of any Chaplin movie. The Scott Joplinish background music supports this as does the numerous manholes you can fall in, banana peels you can slip on, biting dogs which wreck your suit, etc. The whole world is against the lone programmer. Yes, it cannot be but total comedy.
The title screen gives us the names Pity Cseri and Pety Barna. As the game was made by Andromeda Software, the real names must be Istvan Cseri and Peter Barna who are better known from the game Scarabaeus.
The Chromance crack contains documents from the tape cover. The crack states to be the first, and it also states that the game was released in 1992. The game itself doesn't look like it was made in the nineties at all, so Chromance must mean it's the first crack of a re-release. There seems to be something wrong in the Chromance crack – the intro sequence seems to have the light gray color changed into black. The supposedly correct colors can be seen in the Gulas and The Yak Society cracks. The Yak Society has also corrected a typo in the storyline that is seen in the intro. The (supposedly) original game says "you are reqested to attend an interview" whereas the Yak crack says in correct English "requested". But the Yaks have also changed the signature in the intro text from M. G. Dixon into The Yak Society! The Yak crack is the only one that has Front Runner mentioned in the title screen. I first started playing the Gulas crack but after completing the second and final level the game crashed. I moved on to the Yak crack and it worked all the way to the end. I must say the end is somewhat amusing and of course worth a check.
Katakis (1988) is a well-known shoot'em up made by the legendary Manfred Trenz. However, after playing this, I cannot say it's top of the genre. Maybe I would appreciate this game more if I had played it before trying out other superb specimens such as Enforcer (a.k.a. Katakis 2, also made by the master Trenz). There are big bosses at the end of each level but they are too easy to kill. Just aim for the eye or mouth. Most of all you need luck that none of the zillion random shots hits you. Hiding behind your satellite saves you from almost all incoming fire. Level 10 big boss is a bit more difficult. But if you manage to fly right in front of his head, you are safe from bullets. A general guideline is to keep on shooting like mad and to collect bonuses (but avoid the dark S bonuses because they slow you down).
The Shining 8 crack claims to be complete but it ends after nine levels. The whole game has twelve levels plus an endsequence. And oh, the number of typos in the end texts. This tops the previous record by Street Fighter 2. Trenz (I assume he wrote the text) talks about anhinilation, titelcover design, favourite acarde games and fictitious events. I guess the development team didn't see it necessary to proofread the little text they have at the end since not too many people would reach it. And whoever reached it would be happy of his accomplishment and not be too picky about typos. But the modern times give C64 emulators and the possibility to complete a game with only little sweat saving lots of energy for criticising typographical errors!
2004-10-23: The Oriental Update
This update is to celebrate the new header graphics on C64hq. As you must have seen, it is in oriental theme, and so is this game update! We give you games of oriental fighting skills, in both brutal and spiritual sense. Hurrah for the new header graphics, hurrah for the Orient, hurrah!
Budokan (1991) shows the spiritual side of beat'em up genre. The game has got so much good comments all around that I was really looking forward to playing this one. First of all, the music is great. The original tune composed by Rob Hubbard and converted to C64 by Pablo Toledo grasps the feeling of concentration and seriousness. The game itself does the same. Getting the plentiful moves right takes practice, and surviving in a real match with even fighting styles (yes, I don't mean beating a karateka with bo is any difficult) takes skill, not just good luck. Sadly, I couldn't find the moves for the C64 version of the game. I tried to use the moves of the PC version but they seem to differ from the C64 version. For one, I couldn't find the nice triple spin nunchaku attack. Fighting is sometimes slow and takes patience but it is rewarded with the feeling of being involved in martial arts in a deeper way that fast paced beat'em up games can never offer. The more you wait the more you get ki. That just about sums the game, not only individual fights in the game.
There was only one crack of Budokan around, the one by Dominators. Their note tells that the graphics of the level 4 adversary in the Budokan tournament were messed in the original copy of the game. They have fixed it a bit but the result is still a man consisting 50 percent of random garbage. Somebody should really do a quality crack of this game and fix the mess. Anyway, thanks to the nice stamina trainer, even I was able to complete the tournament. It seems that I just don't have the skill and reflexes to beat the 12 opponents.
2004-10-17: Ninja Spirit, Thai Boxing, Fighting Warrior and the horrible Dragon Ninja
Phew, it really is a busy day today! The best game of the day is of course Ninja Spirit (1988) (and of course Budokan is above these all but that is self-evident). This little piece of art is so full of action that I couldn't almost believe it! And this comes from the same guy who wrote the slow and steady Ghosts'n Goblins – Chris Butler. But the graphics are the same messy style though.
Let's get to the action! There are enemies flying and running past you, you are running past them and killing whatever comes to your way and jumping over the rest. Every hit kills (you, not the enemies every time) and you have a cool range of weapons. My visual favourite were the bombs but in practice the boosted shuriken (it shoots in a fan to three directions) was the best. And get a few ninja spirits throwing a few more fans of shuriken around and you feel like a killing machine.
Note that the chain weapon is very useful with boss enemies who walk on the ground. You can jump over them, then start firing the chain at them. While the chain is on the move you stay still, so you can stay a very long time in the air, out of the reach of the boss enemy's weapon.
There is at least one level that is ridiculously difficult and you will need more luck than skill to survive it. It is the fall down to the final boss monster. You cannot slow down your fall, and you will have to shuttle past a thick cloud of other ninjas who have their swords pointed at you. They can't be killed. Surprisingly the boss monster is a piece of cake. And yes, there is a proper endscreen. Lovely!
Thai Boxing (1986) is made in the spirit of the early 1980s. Graphics could be described as naive (in an artistic sense, not in a bad sense) – though there are some nice elements in the backdrops – and the music is light and cheery, not really something you would expect to hear in a game about a brutal, violent sport. Except if the game was made in the early 1980s. A very nice graphical element are the tiny maintenance men in white suits. When a round is over, they come to wipe the contestants' faces clean from wounds and blood stains! This innovation reaches the amusement level of the green head-kicking goblin in Barbarian, even though it is different in style. By the way, beware the tape versions of Thai Boxing. Get a disk version and you are able to load the three sets of backdrops. And here's a tip: flying kicks rule. If you get bored with it, try alternating it with the low sweep kick. If you think you really are a master, try punching or kicking at head between your jump kicks. You'll be on your way to success.
Fighting Warrior (1985) is the only game in the bunch that isn't actually oriental. We are an Egyptian prince, famous of his swordfighting skills, on his way to rescue his girl who is about to get sacrificed to gods. There are only three moves, a masculine pelvis stab and two slow swings. One hit means one stamina point, regardless of attack, regardless of enemy. Go fight! Most enemies can be overcome by walking towards them so that they have to back up in order to keep up with you. After a while, walk backwards until you are out of sword reach. Time a slow swing so that the enemy walks into it. It seemed to work for all kinds of weirdos on two legs. The hyena cat (or similar animal) is a bit more difficult. The special winning strategy for it seems to be to back up a tiny bit, to a masculine pelvis stab, then back up a tiny bit, do a stab, etc. And remember to swing open the jars to reveal bonuses and pyramid entrances. After wandering about for a while and encountering enemies of varying color, you stumble upon a girl in mummy wrapping. An accurate swing at the wrapping and... there's a girl at the end!
Dragon Ninja (1989) sucks, so I chose to use cheats. The evil fighting men and women look like fragile stickmen to the extent that one might think they are out of Double Dragon. (Note, I'm not against Double Dragon, only its sprites.) The enemies run here and there without any obvious reason and you try to kick what you can. Sadly the controls are so poor that it's just a matter of luck to hit something. There are a few boss monsters that look almost smaller than you (not very credible!), and on the top of it all, you are on your way to rescue the president of the United States of America. I don't want to do this! I bet he will just offer me a burger or something equally stupid.
It's surprising that so many groups have chosen to crack this sucky game. At least two crackers state that this game is so full of sprite bugs that they don't care to fix them. Even Remember said this in their intro, so the bugs must really be plentiful and nasty.
2004-10-05: Double Dragon and the sequel
The lone third episode of the Double Dragon series in our game database gets now company from its two predecessors. Double Dragon (1988) and Double Dragon 2 (1989) are beat'em up classics. The first one is a bit simple even though the note at the beginning of the game tells you that the programming team pushed the C64 to its limits and still they have a little sprite glitch at the characters' waistline. Bah, just look at the sequel. Do you see any glitches there :D. You steal weapons from opponents by simply beating them down once. Progressing in the game is steady, if a bit slow at times. Especially well I remember the end fight at the big doors on the mountain. Enemies come pouring in, and playing with only one player it took me almost two times the level clock to beat them all down. At the end, there is a girl. But... there are two guys and just one girl. It's not very fair to the second player!
The sequel is of course more advanced. Now the girl is dead and we must beat the bad guys some more. Now sprites look fleshier and weapons can be collected from the ground – and not anymore only by the players! I found the big box throwing men quite nasty. Luckily the good old hit and run technique works a long way. The scenery is spiced with machinery, mostly harmful. Fair enough, they are harmful to the adversaries too. I found it very enjoyable to keep pushing the enemy grunts in the way of the harvester. The end fight has a surprise (and is long). And... at the end there is again a girl! Remember to get the wax out of your ears to hear and understand the speech. I didn't. :-/
Be sure to also check out the 1992 cartridge release of Double Dragon. There is a fab crack by Nostalgia featuring Lasse Öörni. The game is technically much more advanced than the original release.
2004-10-15: First Samurai
First Samurai (1992) is a top-quality platform. Surprising considering the release year, this game feels nice to play. There is no horrible lack of content what I think very many of the 1990s C64 games have (of course Budokan is one great exception to this rule). Technically this game is superb. The animation is very smooth and character control feels very natural.
I found two cracks of the game. The crack by Legend didn't seem to work properly. I tried out three different copies of the crack but they all crashed after completing level 4. However, the crack worked when I entered in the start code for level 5 and began the game there. It took me some time to try all the copies out! The Unicess crack works fully.
The first four levels of the game are actually located in one and the same map, as are also some of the later levels. There is a scroll bug that you can enable by jumping ferociously to the left at some point in level 1 (near a fire pit that has a food chest on a little piece of land in the middle of it). The bug captures the hero to the left edge of the screen, continues scrolling, and finally carries him to the far left edge of the map. You can reach the boss monster of level 2 like this. Possibly the same bug could be used to reach the boss monster of level 4 which resides at the bottom right corner of the map.
First Samurai has lots of content, a total of 10 levels. Basically the idea in each level is to pick up all the special items (blocks of wood in the first level, ancient scrolls in the last) so that make your helper wizard mage use them in the final blockade in the level right before the boss monster. The mage can also be used to create passages over thin air or break down walls. Finding all the special items can be tough at times, so I drew a map of the levels, save for level 5 which is just a one-way walk through a speeding train. Be sure the check it out on solutions.c64.org in case you are in trouble. ;)
2004-10-10: The Attack of the Phantom Karate Devils
I got terribly fascinated by the name The Attack of the Phantom Karate Devils. The game (1983) is a crude-looking beat'em up. Graphics are huge and blocky, reminding me of the cool Macmillan games The Trap Door and Popeye 86. The controllability in TAotPKD is something quite unique. I immediately got the feeling that I knew some karate. The kicks and punches are very fast and they shoot out in series like bullets from a machine gun. This game is very cool and an immediate classic in my eyes although I can't remember playing this before.
Here are some tactics for the game: Kicks are the best. You can use the powerful left kick only when you have over about 100 energy and the less powerful right kick when you have over about 60 energy. Avoid staying in a fistfight with your enemy; it doesn't give you enough score. The only reasonable way to survive all the levels and especially the bridge (i.e. third level) is to use kicks when you can and jump'n'hit the knives in the air so that you get promoted to the next dan. Every object you punch while jumping gives you an extra 50 points. Promotion happens at 256 points and it gives you extra energy, helping you survive to the next door. Also remember to jump through doors as also it gives you 50 points. Knives can be jumped over but throwing stars are homing, so you must punch them or you'll lose lots of energy. Remember that you can also jump over an enemy if he is too much of a nuisance. When the door opens at the bridge, jump, and you'll get down behind the bridge where the door is.
What is very odd about this game is that the fourth level – the Control World – seems to be buggy. The background graphics are all messed up. I tried everything to find a copy where the graphics would be correct but I failed. I ended up playing until the Control World in seven different copies of the game, from about four different crackers. Thanks to the snapshot feature in the Vice emulator this didn't take too much time – I could restore my game whenever I got beaten down. All the copies behave the same way. I'm not sure if I have an original copy and thus I don't know if the original behaved this way too.
2004-10-09: Street Fighter 2
Street Fighter 2 (1992) contains surprisingly many typos concerning the lack of text in the game. In the contestant info screens you can see Ryu weigh "150 ibs" instead of 150 lbs. And in the few lines of text you are given on game completion, the game developers show you their lack of respect by telling that you are "aleady seeking the next challange." Yes, all your base are belong to us. (The same kind of typos are found in Budokan, but I don't want to talk about it since Budokan is such a nice game.
One copy of the game bugged in the endscreen so I had to complete the game twice. It wasn't hard at all and it surprised me. The second time I put the emulator on double speed and chose the hardest difficulty level. Still I didn't lose a single round. And it was the second time I ever played this game on the C64 (and it was without cheats of course). I found instructions to the game from Project 64, but somehow I just couldn't get some moves work as they were told in the instructions. Maybe I'm a bit handicapped or maybe something is explained by the game's titlescreen: "Due to the limitations and spec. of this machine some of the implementations contained in the manual may be incorrect." It sounds to me that the makers didn't really care about the C64 version!
2004-10-01: Three times Smash Designs
Smash Designs released Turrican 3 just a few weeks ago. The first version was reportedly quite buggy and now Smash Designs released version 1.1 with bugfixes. While playing the game I noticed practically only two major bugs. One was at the end of level 3-1. The game slowed down to half speed and the big boss didn't seem to get hits. It took me maybe more than half an hour to shoot it down! The other bug appeared when loading level 3-3. The bug was that the level didn't get loaded! I just saw the loading screen and nothing happened. When I loaded an earlier snapshot in Vice – back from level 3-1 – I got the end boss of 3-1 working normal speed, and later on level 3-3 loaded properly. Apparently the bug is just a question of luck.
Turrican 3 is heavily based on Turrican 2 but with a few extra twists. Everybody remembers the cool level from Turrican 2 where you speed through narrow tunnels with the Gunhead fighter. Turrican 3 adds a new sequence where you dodge the attacks of a piranha-looking boss monster, reversing back to the narrow tunnels! Now that is cool. :) Also Turrican 3 seems to be more difficult than Turrican 2; enemies are harder to kill and extra lives aren't too common. A nice improvement is that the white ball weapon is now more effective. By the way, when you fly your fighter, watch out for hidden extra lives. They are not the usual big round symbols but small figures of a spaceship. You can find a few if you look carefully.
It's interesting to see how Smash Designs' games have developed over the years. They released Time Out in 1992. It is a simple shoot'em up – even so simple that it doesn't involve any shooting! The game is basically the fast flying part of Turrican 2 and nothing else. It gets a bit boring after a while. The endsequence is already what we have seen in Turrican 2.
AEG writes in the end scroller of Turrican 3 that the making of the game started in 1997. Before it got finished he managed to code another game, namely Crush in 1999. Crush could be described as a heavy improvement over Time Out. Crush is a full scale shoot'em up in the style of Katakis. I'm afraid I was a bit disappointed with Crush boss monsters. Most of them didn't even seem to shoot back and they were way too easy to defeat. The end sequence is once again what we saw already in Time Out and even in Turrican 2 before it – a lone ship flying out of a huge complex, followed by a sequence of explosions and the end scroller. Even though the result is more finished than it was in Time out, it can be seen that AEG is still working on the same idea, trying to reach it in better and better ways. Turrican 3 was his goal from the beginning but it took him 12 years to reach it, and on the way he created two other "practice projects" as a byproduct. In the end, I think nobody can but look up to his persistence and skill in working on such an ambitious project and pulling it out as satisfactorily as everybody can now see. In addition to AEG and his efforts, one cannot but admire the work of the other people involved in the projects. I would like to give a special mention to the musicians involved in the games. I have liked the Crush tunes for quite some time and I think Turrican 3 tunes will be added to my favourite list right now.
2004-09-28: Three Soccer games, theme Italy
The soccer game updates continue. This time we have Italy 1990 (late 1980s?), Italy '90 Soccer (1988) and Italian Cup Football (mid-1980s?). The first must be the best known. It is based on Microprose Soccer but improved in several ways. You can now choose the formation and the players from your team, and each team member has his own skill levels. The game speed is a lot faster now (I really like it) and ball control is not as simple as in Microprose Soccer.
Italy '90 Soccer – just like Italy 1990 – got its name most likely from the Football World Cup that was held in Italy in 1990. It's a fact that games with seducing titles often sell the most. But this game must have made an exception. The players run terribly slow on the field. Playing resembles more chess than football. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone.
Italian Cup Football is a shallow football manager game and does not involve any action. Despite being simple the game has some thought behind it. Namely on the first rounds of the Italian Cup the games are played with only one formation. On later rounds you get to choose the formation of your team several times in a game. And on later rounds you get to make managerial decisions which assumedly affect the outcome of coming games. This game really resembles a role-playing game more than a football game. ;) If you are a fan of football and especially Italian football, you might find excitement in playing this game to the finals. This game is not bad at all but these kind of games are sadly out of style nowadays.
2004-09-27: Popeye Pinball
Popeye Pinball (1984) completes the C64hq games database's Popeye series. Now we should have all publicly known Popeye games available on the C64. The game itself is not much to speak about. The ball simulation is poor and the pinball machine is simple. I only found out that on the left targets you can gain bonus multipliers. You can also light POPEYE by hitting the targets on the top but it didn't seem to do much. If you're looking for pinball games, try out David's Midnight Magic.
2004-09-26: Two more Jack games from Thor
The C64hq games database had already Giants Revenge (yes, written without an apostrophe) surprisingly made by Fred Gray who is better known from his music. It was time to bring the missing siblings together: Jack and the Beanstalk (1984) and The House Jack Built (1984) form together with Giants Revenge an interesting trilogy. The first part is Jack and the Beanstalk where we are introduced to the classic story about Jack who climbed a giant beanstalk up to the skies and stole some goods from the local giant there. The game is simple yet amusing. Most difficulty comes from remembering the areas where it is healthy to walk. In the giant's room it gets quite difficult. Still it is possible by simple deduction: the correct path goes where the enemies are waiting for you!
Giants Revenge is probably sequel to Jack and the Beanstalk. This time the adventure proceeds under the ground. There is a giant to deal with, again. But The House Jack Built is different. This game requires more experimenting and attention. There is no giant, only Jack's own house and his wild pets roaming around. The aim is to collect all the items that have been scattered around the place as in the other Jack games. But this time the items are harder to get to. There is no immediate danger of dying if you take a false step. You just have to find the right place to walk. Sometimes it is difficult as visual clues are scarce. I spent probably two hours finding the way to the cross on the living room carpet. The valid path was just so narrow that I didn't happen to hit it earlier despite my systematic tries. By the way, most of the versions I found of The House Jack Built crashed when Jack was entering Mars (yes, the moon and Mars are part of Jack's house :D). The only fully working version I found is a crack by Joey.
J-Bird (1983) is a clone of the well-known Q*Bert arcade. Nothing much to say about this. It brings nothing really new to the original idea. But I happened to find on the net a nice history of Q*Bert, written by Jeff Lee, one of the creators of the original arcade game. And there's another history written by Warren Davis, also from the Gottlieb company who made the original game. Check them out if you like nostalgic game history.
2004-08-30: Steve Keene Private Spy
Steve Keene Private Spy (1987) is a unique game. It presents a comic book adventure of Steve Keene, the private spy. The game proceeds by choosing Steve's (and others') dialog from a few given alternatives in some of the screens. In a few places the game proceeds to a short action sequence. The game is really fun to play, even when the jokes are a bit silly. The animated comic screens provide some extra fun in their details. Actually the game contains two different Steve Keene adventures, each spanning on three disk sides. Which adventure you dive into is chosen in one of the first screens by the dialog of Steve's boss when he is waving a newspaper in his hand. In both adventures there are several alternative paths that lead to game completion. There are many death scenes too, though violence is never too explicitly presented in the adventure. Instead, it is replaced by clever humour such as the hinting comment about shattering aquariums and in-flooding comic screen borders if you choose Steve to fire his gun. The game was so entertaining that I chose to explore all the alternatives in the game, making a map of all the possible paths through the game. I'm thinking of releasing it on solutions.c64.org as soon as I get to redraw my messy sketch. Check this game out, there aren't very many of these around!
2004-08-26: Emlyn Hughes International Soccer
Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (1988) seems to be a serious soccer game that
is both about management and about playing soccer. The ascetic menu screen contains
many options and several play modes ranging from friendly games to championship
games. You can arrange your team and use your own tactics based on the individual
players' skills. For those who didn't know (such as myself), Emlyn "Crazy Horse"
Hughes is a British soccer legend who played a lot of games for Liverpool and
who was later awarded the OBE medal.
The Fairlight crack of the game is the smallest version there is but it doesn't
work properly. When you move in the menus, you get mess on the screen very quickly.
And the so-called instructions written by SSD/Cosmos aren't very helpful. They
only say that the longer you press the fire button, the more strength your kick
gets! The Ikari crack is the most complete one – it has also the menu tune.
2004-08-22: Popeye 3
Popeye 3 (1992) is quite a crappy wrestling game starring Popeye. There are just
about three moves you can make and it's all about wiggling the joystick hard enough.
If you're into wrestling games, pick Championship Wrestling instead of this one.
2004-08-21: Everyone's a Wally, Howard the Duck, In 80
Days Around the World
Everyone's a Wally (1985) is a difficult one in the Wally series (C64hq has also
Herbert's Dummy Run). I had a walkthrough but still the game was difficult. Most
annoying was the fact that there are five main characters in the game, and while
you control one, the others walk around and carry important objects to random
places. Most of the time goes in walking around trying to find necessary items.
The game is terribly difficult in other ways too. I found most difficult trying
to get out of the cave that is guarded by a ferocious shark. The only way I figured
out was to wait and wait until another character walked into the cave. After the
other character walked out of the cave, I waited for a few seconds for the other
character to walk past the shark, then went out myself and switched to the other
character before the shark could get me. Computer-controlled characters don't
get damage but you can switch to them only when they are in the same screen as
Howard the Duck (1986) is a multipart game that I remember from the eighties.
The fact that my memories of the game were quite scattered was apparently due
to some releases of the game where the first and the third part of the game were
to be loaded separately. In the first part you guide Howard on a volcanic island,
smacking little black servants on the way and water-skiing through the one and
only river on the island many times. In the second part you fly Howard in a peculiar-looking
airplane to the volcano. The third part is loaded from disk. There you walk in
the volcano, over a bridge, evading falling rocks, and finally blast the bad guy
with a bazooka (three times). I wonder why bazookas are out of fashion nowadays.
In the 80s quite many significant battles seemed to end in the good guy blasting
the hell out of the bad guy with a bazooka. Just remember to take at least the
second hardest skill level so that you get to play all the three parts of the
game. Personally I got very fed up with this game as I had to complete the first
two parts about 10 times to find out which versions worked and which didn't. There
are two UCF cracks, and the first one doesn't work through to the third part.
The crack intro of the fixed copy says it's the "fully working Howard the Duck".
Anyway, other groups made use of the first crack and released their own ones,
mocking UCF. Still the second UCF crack remains the only version to my knowledge
that has the nice intro animation.
In 80 Days Around the World (1987) is a multipart action game based on the novel
of Jules Verne. In the game, Mr. Phileas Fogg travels around the world by various
means of transport. He won't make the trip in time unless he bribes the people
around him. And his money won't suffice unless he gambles successfully during
the eighty days. The trip isn't continuous – four times is the travel interrupted
by trouble. First in India, Mr. Fogg is forced to run around, throwing spears
at savages and various other threats. Second in Japan he has to charter a ship.
Somehow this is achieved by performing acrobatic tricks with a bunch of Japanese
(this is by the way by far the most difficult part in the game). Later in the
USA Mr. Fogg's party is attacked by Indians. Now Mr. Fogg must dance an Indian
dance (this is the most amusing part) and guide himself through the wilderness
by sailsledge. Finally, after arriving back at London, Mr. Fogg is imprisoned.
Once again must he run and throw spears at various hostile creatures. An amusing
detail; there is a man trying to pee on Mr. Fogg!
Note that the ACE crack of the game is missing the first traveling sequence. The
Wanderer crack seems to be much closer to the original version. But check out
the funny "Rainbow Aces" screen in the ACE version :).
2004-08-14: Euroopan kartta, Jawbreaker, Moon Cresta
and Terra Cresta
Euroopan kartta (1985), or Map of Europe as the name would go in English, is an
educational game implemented in the Finnish language. The game teaches the player
the names of Europe's countries, cities and places. There are a few play modes
to choose from. The nicest one is the chopper game where the game names a place
and you must find it while the clock is ticking. An extra fun factor is added
by countries that don't exist anymore. This game has the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia,
Yugoslavia, and East and West Germany. Note to Finns wondering where you can find
Scandinavian keys: press Shift-: for Ä and Shift-; for Å and £ (the pound key)
Jaw Breaker (1984) is a simple Pac-Man game. We control teeth, eating cookies
and occasional bonus goods while avoiding germs (who smile all the time). The
usual Pac-Man idea is enhanced by constantly moving horizontal walls. There is
an educational factor in the game – if you hit a germ, your teeth fall out,
and when you complete a level, you get your teeth brushed!
Moon Cresta (1985) is a simple yet smart shoot'em up. The originality is in the docking phase of the game; your ship is actually in three parts, and after annihilating a few waves of enemy fighters with the nose part of your ship, you dock with the middle part and gain more firepower. Yet again, after more destruction, you dock with the tail part and your firepower is boosted even more. If you die, you lose the foremost part of your ship. Watch out for the lightningfast meteors!
Terra Cresta (1986) is a sequel to Moon Cresta, probably best known for its title
tune by Martin Galway. The game is technically more advanced than its prequel
– the background is now scrolling. The three-part-ship idea is replaced
by powerups that give you more firepower and the "formation mode" where your powerups
line up in a formation around you and shoot in several directions. Terra Cresta
is a nice shoot'em up, though the in-game tune began to get on my nerves after
Hopeless (1986) is a fine game by John Vanderaart. When I played the game for
the first time, I was amazed by the size of the game world and fascinated by its
peculiar shapes in the big in-game map. Moreover I found the game tune fit the
game in an excellent way. In the end, after you have grasped the idea of the game
and got familiar with the map, the game isn't difficult at all. You have plenty
of energy and lives to complete it. The enemies aren't too aggressive and all
the locked doors are easily opened – essential things are never hidden in
a difficult place. This makes me feel that the game was aimed for quite young
players. Despite it, the game appeals to me.
2004-07-08: A bunch of Monty games
We had three Monty Mole games in the database (Monty on the Run, Auf Wiedersehen Monty, and Impossamole), so it was about time to get some more online. Here is the rest of the Monty series on the C64 – at least the part I could get my hands on.
Baby Monty (mid-1980s?) is a very simple and short arcade where you guide Baby Monty, "Monty Mole's little brother" who "has fallen into a mega-dark cavern from his shelf at the Gremlin Graphics software house." This is the setting Antony Crowther puts us in. The introductory story is just about the best in this game because there isn't much more! But the story is worth reading. Check out the first screenshot or download the game to try it out.
Monty Mole (1984) is one of the classic C64 platformers. Quite different from the Spectrum version by Peter Harrap, the C64 version by Antony Crowther has at least better graphics even though people have said that the Spectrum version is better overall. It must be really excellent because already the C64 version is very enjoyable. The idea is to pick up lumps of coal, not forgetting the bucket to put it all in. There are over a dozen levers in the game area and they must be pulled in order. After each one, a new lump of coal appears somewhere. When you pull the next lever, the old lump disappears for good if you haven't picked it up. In the end this means that pulling a lever too soon will let you helpless at the final jump. Only when you have collected all the coal will a bridge appear to close the last gap. Along with the lumps of coal, also boxes of worms appear. They provide energy for Monty so that he can take more steps in acid, get hit by missiles and fall from heights. The game area features lots of variety, including the usual conveyor belts, ropes, vanishing floors, but also a random maze, bits of text like "Hello my name is Tony" and "Gremlin Graphics" and some secret doorways (it is essential to spot them). Controllability is fine and there's quite a lot to explore. Overall Monty Mole is a fine game.
Monty Plays Scrabble (1984) doesn't really have anything to do with Monty Mole. It is the C64 conversion of the Scrabble game of the Monty Plays this and that series. But once the title mentioned Monty, I had to try it out. :) The game was quite a disappointment though. I quickly learned the basic rules of Scrabble from the net, but only to find out that the game was ridiculous when played against the computer. Of course there was no way for the computer to check if my words were real English. I won the game with a few tactical words like ANOQEI placed over a triple-word-points tile. I think the game would be quite nice when played by real people. Monty himself is just too easy to fool.
Mutant Monty (1984) isn't perhaps officially part of the Monty Mole series but just like Monty Plays Scrabble, I was interested in the game because of its name. The setting is very Molish though – collect all the gold (not coal anymore, maybe this is where the mutantism steps in) and proceed to the next level. This time there is a damsel waiting at the final, fourteenth level. The game involves some quite precise timing and good reflexes but overall everything felt only moderately difficult. Some levels refer to things like Tolkien's hobbits, the C64 itself, llamas and the old Hunchback game.
Cosmic Cruiser (1984) is another not so Monty-related game but it has a modification called Monty Cruiser where the hero spaceman's sprite is replaced by that of Monty Mole from Monty on the Run. Check it out!
Cosmic Cruiser seems to be more often known by the name Galacto Honoris. However, Cosmic Cruiser is most likely the only correct name for the game. The other name seems to come from copies where the title screen has been removed, and the next screen shows only the big text Galacto Honoris which is probably only meant to support the game's background story. We are the lone pilot of an old Cosmic Cruiser and our mission is to save fellow earthmen from a distant space station taken over by a hostile group of Rallomians.
The actual game is a simple one. Everything happens in a single screen. You must shoot open the windows of the big spaceship and then rescue people from the ship the the landing pad at the lower left of the screen. The windows can be broken only by the cannon at the right. To enter the cannon, press fire when you are at the cannon's seat at the bottom edge of the screen. Everything else should be quite self-explanatory. May you serve mankind with galactic honor!
2004-07-07: Beamrider, and Gary Lineker again
Beamrider (1983) is an oldschool arcade game and another good example of the quality of the old age of computer games. Graphics are very simple. They are actually quite symbolic, the extreme opposite to the modern style in games that strives after realism. Beamrider's sounds are really simple too but gameplay is good and variety is high. The game requires lots of reflexes. It reminds me of how people used to think that playing computer games wasn't all a waste of time – games improved your reflexes.
Gary Lineker's Hot Shot (1989) is yet another soccer game. Nothing much special here save the cheery Daglish tune and the fun idea of using game magazine names as soccer team names. The gameplay itself is low quality. Compared to Microsoccer, this sucks. But then again, there are even worse soccer games out there. Most amusing was that goal kicks didn't always reach outside the penalty area!
2004-07-06: Solar Jetman
Solar Jetman (1991) never got officially released. Exclusively salvaged to the Games That Weren't site by the game's artist, Haydn Dalton, this game was long lost. But by a lucky strike, we now have the full game for our great enjoyment! The game is basically Thrust but with lots more ideas, better playability and neater graphics. The title tune is very good but it's always hard to say that something would beat Hubbard's Thrust. :)
What I figure of the plot, we are the solar jetman on our mission to salvage the Golden Warpship, piece by piece. Each piece can be found on a different planet. We have a base on each planet where we can refuel, rearm and re-equip our jetpod. The jetpod is equipped with a gun to shoot away the nasties flying in the air and the various turrets hanging on the walls. The planets vary in size and gravity, but one thing they all have in common – there are lots of caverns. Before the warpship piece one must pick up enough fuel for liftoff to the next planet. After picking up the required fuel the flower-like jumpgate – usually hidden in the furthest corner of the deep caverns – activates and lets our jetpod pass to the no-gravity zone behind it. The ship part can be found there. In addition to fuel and warpship pieces one can find permanent jetpod bonuses like a mapping device and a booster (very very handy), instant shield recharge, a spare jetpod, or just some alien garbage that is worth a few hundred credits. Most things are good only when towed back to the base. The towing part is familiar from Thrust; the ship casts a tractor beam (or maybe just a strong rope) to the object which then follows the ship in a semi-realistic fashion.
Towing is much easier than in Thrust, though neither of the games is realistic. In Thrust the swinging is very wild and most often fatal whereas in Solar Jetman the towed object doesn't swing very much. The only exception is the warpship piece in the no-gravity zone. The best results are obtained by very slow movement. If the piece starts pulling the jetpod to awkward directions, just put on your shields and the tractor beam is cut and you can slow down any bad movement.
If your jetpod gets blown away, you the jetman automatically eject from it. You are then on your own, armed by your pistol and more straightforward controls. Actually some difficult passages can be passed much easier as a plain jetman than with the jetpod. This is good especially when there are lots of pulling or pushing gravity wells (blue and red balls).
Tricky gravity fields can also be passed by getting a momentum killer or an anti-gravity device. They can be bought from the occasional shops that you visit between certain planets. The shops contain also a wide variety of weapons. Star bullets are my personal favourite. They fly straight forward and shoot at all moving things with excellent accuracy. Also all kinds of booster enhancements are welcome especially in planets with strong gravity. Finally, you can buy better jetpods. Available are the Nippon Sports Jetpod and the Italian Racing Jetpod.
A few words about the game's controls. The pod is fairly easy to fly – fire button thrusts and pushing the joystick forward fires the nose gun. Pressing Space fires any extra weapons you have bought from shops and equipped to your current pod. Remember that when the pod blows up, the weapons go with it. The game can be paused by pressing Shift Lock, or by pressing fire on your joystick and N on the keyboard at the same time. Eventually you will get yourself a mapping device. It can be used anytime except when you have warped through the special flowery warp gate to the no-gravity zone where the warpship piece resides. The map can be viewed by first pausing the game and then pressing Space.
The game has a very Nintendoish look and feel which of course comes from the game being a port from NES. Solar Jetman is a sequel to Lunar Jetman (released at least on the Spectrum) which again is based on the comic that appeared during 1984-1991 in the Crash magazine. Check out the net and you will find scans of the comic. And of course; check out the game itself!
2004-05-14: Hawkeye and Save New York
Hawkeye (1988) is a classic, I hear. Sad to admit that the only classic thing I know about Hawkeye is the nice loader tune by Jeroen Tel. The rest I have been quite unaware of until today, save one black and white screenshot I saw in a computer magazine in the late 1980s.
Hawkeye makes me feel that Boys Without Brains had a grandiose idea behind the game but in the end the implementation didn't carry out all of it. What is left is a nice but a bit flat and repetitive platform shoot'em up. There are good elements in the game, such as the big hawk heads at the top of the screen, big enemies and a few surprises in the levels. I see the surrealistic giant hands reaching from the ground populate this game just like they populate big titles like Shadow of the Beast and Wrath of the Demon.
Save New York (1983) is a long-time favourite of mine. In this game you fly a jet and try to shoot down aliens that eat away New York's skyscrapers. Building dynamics are satisfactorily implemented. Although I'm supposed to save New York, I also love shooting the buildings so that they collapse down. Seeing the tallest skyscraper go down to the lowest floor with SID rumble is the best I know in this game. :) There is also the subway network, and you can descend from your jet to walk the tunnels by foot. But it's rarely worth it. Only when an alien egg has hatched and the born critter is jawing away the last supporting pillars of a building will you need to go down to hunt it down – assuming of course that you're the hero and not the villain. Regardless of who you play, remember to pick up the fuel packs delivered by the occasional jetplane.
2004-04-24: Four soccer games
Super Soccer (1987) wins the title "the soccer game with
the worst controllability I have seen so far". The game
developers have obviously tried to create something new
and unique but they unfortunately failed. The game is
so slow that it's no wonder matches are ten minutes long
at minimum. Any shorter match would be too short for doing
much anything. (Compare: many soccer games offer two+two
minute games.) And the controllability! The players stand
in the field like their feet were glued to the ground.
And when one starts running, it takes many seconds for
him to speed up to full speed. Why does it have to be
made this complex? Everybody knows how to run: you just
move your feet. There's no five-second acceleration phase!
And the computer opponent. There are three levels and
I tried the middle one. It was not uncommon to see the
computer opponent steal the ball from me near my goal,
then run with it all the way through the soccer field
to his own goal, and give the ball to his goalie, who
in turn could not pick the ball up but was left stading
there to guard the ball. At this point I usually came
and gracefully kicked the ball into the goal to end the
miserable show. Maybe movement was made so complex that
it was too hard to create a proper computer opponent.
In any case, this game is to be avoided.
Graeme Souness International Soccer (1992) bears the name
of a former famous midfielder and not-so-famous manager
of the Liverpool Football Club. The man is apparently
a legend (although I don't know about him anything else
than what the Liverpool website tells me) but the game
isn't. While it looks nice with those mini-miniature players
running around the field, the game is void of interesting
things. Apparently there are no fancy special moves like
there are in good soccer games. Probably the best part
in this game is the hypnotic title tune by Andrew Rodger.
It's definitely worth a listen.
International Soccer (1983) from Commodore is a simple
game. There are many versions moving around. I managed
to gather 15 of them of which only two were the same version
but with different size. It's popular to change the text
in the ads surrounding the soccer field. Originally the
ads are for Commodore of course. People have also been
keen on tweaking the game. There are versions with variable
game time, different ball speeds, selectable trouser color,
and versions with the players replaced by eggs with legs
or people in wheelchairs. When the wheelchaired goalie
jumps for the ball, he loses his wheelchair temporarily
and carries walking sticks instead! Overall, the game
itself is slow-paced and quite simple but serves well
as a relaxation game.
Soccer Rivals (1980s?) is a board game where you get to
be the manager of your own soccer team. You don't get
to play the matches but in the end you don't even want
to. The game is very addictive. The main thing is the
list of players in your team and their skill levels. You
can buy and sell players, and you can train them to be
better. Chance plays a dominant part in all happenings.
There are some very nice little ideas here and there in
the game. The best may well be the funny little animated
stick man who shows the highlights of selected matches.
In a highlight the ball flies towards the stick man from
different angles. He then takes the ball, plays some tricks
with it and kicks it towards the goal. A simple text tells
if it was a goal or a save. Just brilliant! Leading your
team to be the League Champion takes some time and good
luck. But even if you don't reach i,t the game is rewarding.
Very good design, absolutely recommended playing.
2004-04-17: Super Pipeline and
Super Pipeline (1984) is one of the many arcade games
I spent my childhood with. The foreman with his white
coat and big nose is a game character I remember probably
even almost as good as some Mario and Giana types. The
little sidekicks, the workmen, are expendable as the game
instructions kindly remind us. And what good bodyguards
they make! Whatever lobster or Venusian spider there is
coming towards you, your workman will give his life to
save you. But the best way to survive in the game is to
not let anybody come tinker with the pipes in the first
place. If you can find a good place on the right side
of the screen, able to easily shoot everybody who climbs
the ladder and able to shoot any appearing lobster in
the back with only minimal movement from your place, you
may complete a pipe quite easily. But if someone drops
a plug to the pipe, hell breaks loose. All in all, the
game has an original idea, and is nice to play even after
all these years.
Super Pipeline 2 (1985) is a worthy sequel to the first
game. The game idea has been changed somewhat. There is
no ladder anymore but the nasties climb to the pipe along
a smaller accompanying pipe. This makes the "shoot them
before they come" strategy useless. You just have to survive
by fixing holes as they appear. The game developers finally
understood to make the level end animations vary. Whereas
in the prequel there was only one animation, the sequel
has about eight different animations some of which are
quite funny. Pipes get more difficult towards the end.
The final, 16th pipe takes very much skill and even much
more luck in order to be completed.
Booga-Boo we love you, Booga-Boo love people too. That's
what the instructions to the game Booga-Boo (1983) say.
We control a flea-like sond called Pulga-64 which has
been sent down onto an unknown planet to do some exploration.
There isn't much to explore really, just one cavern full
of ledges to climb up back to the safety of the planet
surface. The game is fun because the idea is very original
and playability is just fine. The game isn't too easy;
completion will require some very exact joystick movements.
The game is of Spanish origin. Did you know that "pulga"
is Spanish for "flea"?
2004-04-06: Beyond the Forbidden
Beyond the Forbidden Forest (early 1980s?) is, I think,
a great starting point for the coming series of Paul Norman
games on C64hq. The game shows some extremely unique design
ideas. As a one-man project it is really a work of art.
All graphics have a very free look. Colors are thrown
all over the screen. In still images it may at times seem
like a mess but in action it works. And I like it. It
is perhaps one element that gives many of the C64 games
of the early 1980s their magical feeling. The 3D effect
is okay although it gives using the bow and arrows some
extra trickiness. The music is nice too. I just wish some
of the jingles were a little longer. All in all, I think
that Beyond the Forbidden Forest is one of the classics
that should be checked out by any person who is interested
in C64 games.
2004-04-02: No Mercy
No Mercy (1989) is a shoot'em up from the Swedish game
team Twisted Minds. There are some points in the game
that make it distinct from games that are made by ordinary
game developers. This one is made by demo people, and
it shows. Maybe the most distinct point is that there
is an intro with scrolltexts talking about groups and
parties, spiced with a bit of the usual defiance: "[...]
So we hope that everybody who knows [Gollum and The Sarge
of Fairlight] should better forget to test their cracking-abilities
on this game." Well, the game was cracked anyway. The
Genesis Project crackintro says "Mortals dared to challenge
us... [...] We did not want to crack this, but the scrolltext
within it did not show the required respect towards our
The game itself is quite enjoyable. It is an Operation
Wolf look-alike with seven levels full of action and some
surprising moments too. Graphics are nice, music is nice.
I even found myself listening to the highscore tune a
few times over.
Rubicon (1991) is a flashy platform shoot'em up game from
the late C64 era. Music and graphics are very nice. Also
gameplay is very good. Still the game doesn't reach the
levels of innovativity seen earlier in Bionic Commando
or even Wonderboy. Even the coolness factor stays below
that of Shadow of the Beast which might otherwise compare
quite closely to Rubicon in its style of being a product
of the late C64 era where technical merits seemed to be
the most important thing in games. Maybe the raised level
of competition brought by 16-bit computers is the cause
to this unfortunate bias that took game developers' focus
away from originality. Anyway, the game is nice to play,
although at places a bit difficult. In most places it
is enough to shoot all that can be shot and avoid those
things that can't. However, towards the end of the game
there is a stream of lava that forces our hero to jump
into water. Surviving the water requires the player some
old sport game skills, namely joystick wiggling. The end
is very rewarding and quite funny too. Just read the text
in Cyrillic letters or take note of the fact that the
Swedish government is associated with the US one in terms
of importance. From that it isn't hard to guess where
the developer team comes from.
2004-03-10: Gary Lineker's Super
Gary Lineker's Super Skills (1988) is not an actual soccer
game but a game where you practice soccer skills. Having
a look around the Internet I couldn't find screenshots
of anything but the first stage of the game. The reason
for that may not be only that people haven't bothered
to play the game much further. Namely all the cracked
versions that I found were stripped of the later stages.
So watch out for that in case you happen to try out the
So what made me enlist in the Gary Lineker soccer training
program? It was my choice simply because I am probably
going to play and screenshoot lots of soccer games in
the future. I have to be in good shape in order to survive.
So there I was, a soccer rookie waiting for a considerable
skill boost. I met Lineker first at the gym. This was
the first stage of his training program. He made me sweat
like a pig with all those push-ups, weight lifting, etc.
Gary himself was supervising my progress with a stopwatch
so I had only little time to rest between exercises. He
also gave me only one bottle of water to drink through
the whole training program. It horrified me – the
risk of dehydration was evident.
Eventually I survived the gym. There was no time to rest
because Gary chased me right out to the side of his own
soccer field. I was about to begin the second stage of
the training program. My pulse was near 200 and I had
to take a few deep breaths before continuing. Gary threw
me a ball and told me to do some juggling. I tried to
imitate what I had learned from the footbag event in California
Games. In the end I managed quite fine, although there
were no seagulls to play with.
After juggling Gary showed me to the soccer field. He
had set up a course for me. There were red and blue cones
that I was supposed to dribble around the cones while
advancing on the field. To my surprise, the field was
endless. I thought I'm going to die of old age before
completing this phase. But I dribbled as hard as I could.
Soon the sequence of cones was replaced by a few goals
I had to score into. And then there were some more cones.
And then one goal again, but this time with a goalkeeper.
I scored. Gary was so impressed that he took me to his
special training area. There I was supposed to kick the
ball into old car tires that were hanging from ropes.
And I kicked the ball, and then there was some more dribbling,
and... Finally Gary's stopwatch showed zero, and I was
relieved of my torture. But, man, was the training program
good or what?! Now I can beat any team in Microprose Soccer
and other soccer games with no sweat. I can really recommend
Gary Lineker's training program for all those who want
to spice up their C64 soccer skills.
2004-03-09: Gazza's Super Soccer
Gazza's Super Soccer (1989?) is a cute little soccer game.
Gazza seems to be quite easy. At least the C64hq soccer
team won a small cup with no sweat. Still I could argue
that the game succeeds nicely with realism. Kicks can
be configured on the fly – the amount of curve and
height of the kick. And the varying viewing angle of the
field feels okay, although the game would do as well even
without it. Overall, Gazza's Super Soccer feels like those
games that you might occasionally play to relax when you
got nothing else to do. You can't practically lose any
match, so playing Gazza is a guaranteed way of building
one's self-confidence. ;-)
2004-03-07: I Play: 3D Soccer
I Play: 3D Soccer (1991) is a nice soccer game. The tempo
isn't very fast. Compared to Microprose Soccer, the in-game
graphics are quite ugly. But after a while I got used
to them and after a few matches they felt practical and
did their job okay. Whereas success in Microprose Soccer
is heavily based on the player's active work on the soccer
field, this 3D Soccer has a more realistic touch. The
player controls only one fixed player on the field. All
computer controlled players are active. They go for the
ball, make fouls, and sometimes even goals (both the opponent
and the player's own team). The 3D view is an interesting
way to view the field. The overall picture is quite easy
to get by looking at other players and the field overview.
The game offers a simple tournament among the player's
choice of teams which can be selected from a wide range
of European teams. Overall the game offers somewhat simple
but effective entertainment from the soccer maniac people
2004-03-03: Microprose Soccer
Microprose Soccer (1988) starts my screenshooting streak
of soccer games. I played this classic a lot when I was
a kid. Microprose Soccer is actually two games in one
– the outdoor (European) and indoor (American) soccer.
Be sure to check out the cool Remember crack and the loader
The graphics in Microprose Soccer are really neat and
the music too. Some 15 years ago when I played this game
I didn't know who Sensible Software and Martin Galway
was. But you always notice quality when you come upon
it, so it's no wonder I never forgot the main menu tune
nor the in-game tune.
The game is very nice to play even after all these years.
It's simple enough: I get to play some soccer whenever
I want to, and there's no need to do tedious managering.
It's also very playable: The little guys go exactly where
I tell them to. The different kinds of kicks are neat
and useful. And not to speak about the changing weather
The only minus might come from the nasty way the good
teams are superior. For example, in one indoor match against
Baltimore, the C64hq soccer team had a good reason to
believe they were treated unfairly. Whenever Baltimore
had the ball and C64hq was coming to get it with a sliding
tackle, the Baltimore player was always able to answer
the tackle instantly with another quick tackle that enabled
him to take the ball back from the C64hq player before
the poor guy had any chance of getting up from the tackle.
Because of this, making goals was mostly a matter of luck.
But if one doesn't want to compete with Baltimore and
such teams, the game is very very enjoyable.
Gunship (1986) doesn't perhaps need much introduction.
This helicopter simulation is much loved, and for a reason.
The amount of detail and realism is really impressing,
which is probably best seen in the immense manual. The
more one studies the manual and understands about helicopter
flying, the more immersive and interesting the game becomes.
The first missions are quite easy but by touching up the
difficulty parameters flying becomes really interesting
Two different cracks were found. The one by Eagle Soft
Incorporated was the first I tried. Actually I tried out
four copies of the ESI crack, all from different game
collections. None of them worked properly. Even the best
working version ended my game in a black screen after
a refueling land in the middle of a mission. Perhaps these
errors were caused by physical defects on the floppy disks
of which the disk images where made, who knows. The other
crack is by Lurid & Tricycle, and it worked all the way.
Ville, a beginner helicopter pilot, sits in the cockpit
of his AH-64A Apache gunship. He has just been assigned
by the headquarters (C64hq, of course) to fly a few missions
and take nice pictures from his trips. Ville hasn't ever
before flown a helicopter, so he is shuffling his flight
manual looking for instructions on how to get up in the
air. "Okay here it is. Engines on, lock rotor to engines,
collective up," mumbles Ville to himself. The gunship
lifts abruptly from the helipad, causing a slight cheer
of success from the pilot. "I'm in the air! Now where
is the enemy?!" wonders Ville. He eyes the map and sets
course to the primary target – a supply depot guarded
by anti-air guns.
"I'll get this done the quickest if I just turn the collective
up all the way and fly as fast as possible," thinks Ville
to himself. The gunship blazes through air at a speed
of nearly 150 knots. The unexperienced pilot pays little
attention to the altimeter which already shows an altitude
of a few thousand feet. "Air is air, it shouldn't matter
where I fly." By the time Ville reaches the depot, he
sees half a dozen white dots on his threat display. "Missiles!
Must drop chaff and fire flares." Ville hits the controls
of the helicopter in an attempt to avoid getting killed.
With luck he evades a couple of missiles but quite a few
– probably optically guided – hit the gunship.
In seconds the engines fail and the high altitude is only
a memory. As his last words Ville swears that in his next
life he will take the time to read through his flight
manual prior to flying a single mission.
One of the finest missions of Ville the gunship pilot
took place in Western Europe. Ville flew for the Nato
air force against well-equipped Warsaw Pact elite troops.
The primary mission was to eliminate a supply depot located
deep in the enemy territory. As a secondary target there
was an enemy headquarters, also located deep behind the
enemy lines. According to Nato intelligence reports, enemy
AA gun and tank activity was known to be high in the area.
Ville made plans to first clear out the way to the primary
target by taking out the guns with a heavy load of AGM-114A
Hellfire missiles, and then fly back to base, refuel and
reload with a few unguided FFAR rockets for the depot,
and fly back behind the lines to destroy the main target.
Following this plan, Ville took off at 0500 hours. The
wind was heavy, making precision flight difficult. Luckily
it was not too hot (73 degrees Fahrenheit), so there were
no lift problems with the heavy missile arsenal. Ville
proceeded towards the enemy territory carefully by flying
low from one hill to another – a standard textbook
solution – and taking quick peeks behind hills to
spot any Pact troops. The area was perfect for this kind
of flying; lots of hills covered the terrain. Only a few
kilometers from home base Ville already found a small
concentration of T-74 tanks and BMP-2 infantry combat
vehicles covered by one SA-13 surface-to-air missile launcher.
In a minute their story ended in a Hellfire-induced series
of explosions. None of the targets had time to react,
so the lone gunship pilot proceeded on his course.
Soon there was an incoming radio message stating that
surveillance has discovered a hostile Hind helicopter
airborne. The Apache threat display hinted the same; a
helicopter 5 km ahead, closing fast. This was a real threat
because there were no hills nearby to hide behind. Ville
started dropping some altitude to remain hard to spot,
and slowed speed to minimize low-altitude turbulence.
He started eyeing the horizon. Luckily the infra-red enhanced
vision soon enabled him to spot a small moving apparatus
against the dark night sky. The Apache TADS system immediately
locked on to the target which was still at over 2 km distance
– safely outside the Hind gatling gun range. Ville
activated his left Sidewinder, and fired away. After three
seconds the Hind was a fireball, falling down fast.
A bit over halfway to the main target there was another
radio message that warned of an airborne Hind. The threat
wasn't yet visible on the threat display, so Ville continued
on his course. But soon Ville discovered something located
in the cover of three hills. It was a Warsaw Pact base.
"This must be where all the Hinds come from," deduced
Ville, and quickly decided that even though the base wasn't
a predesignated target, it was best to get rid of it for
his own future safety. The three hills gave Ville good
cover so that he could approach the base without getting
noticed. A quick last peek over a hilltop revealed two
infantry troops located 500 meters behind the base. According
to intelligence reports, the local Pact infantry was armed
with nasty IR-guided anti-aircraft missiles. As Hellfires
are ineffective against infantrymen, Ville's best choice
was to get close to the base unnoticed, destroy it, and
get quickly back avoiding any contact with the infantry.
He proceeded with this plan.
Everything looked good. Ville was closing the base at
the very low altitude of 50 feet when his threat display
showed a hostile aircraft closing in fast at just two
kilometers' distance. "It's the cursed Hind! And at the
worst possible moment," thought Ville silently, concentrating
on fighting the swirling low-altitude air currents. 700
meters was close enough for the TADS-guided Apache chain
gun. An angry look and five rounds of ammo were enough
for the base which was quickly ripped apart leaving just
smoking ruins. But the Hind was there at the same time.
Three bursts of hostile fire made a mess out of the Apache's
nose optics and chain gun. Without nose optics, all guided
missiles were useless, including Ville's plentiful supply
of Hellfires. The chain gun was doubly ruined as also
it used automatic guidance.
Without practically any functional weapons, Ville had
absolutely no other choice but to turn the collective
all the way up, immediately head for home, and hope for
his life that the Hind pilot would have a sudden heart
attack so that he couldn't chase the easy target the Apache
had become. The Hind was known to be faster than the Apache,
and that could have been Ville's death sentence. But a
miracle happened, and the damaged Apache was still able
to reach the great speed of 160 knots (about 290 km/h)
– perhaps thanks to the weight loss caused by jettisoned
ammunition and violently removed nose optics. Thus Ville
was able to keep the chasing Hind out of gun range until
he made it to the safety of home base.
After a quick repair, refuel and rearming, Ville took
off the second time still determined to fight his way
to the primary target. With the helibase destroyed, the
remaining mission was considerably easier. Infantry troops
were sparse, and AA guns were fairly easy to take out
from distance. After a total of nearly 80 minutes the
mission was successfully completed.
2004-01-22: Enigma Force
Enigma Force (1985) is a game that everybody seems to
like. That's what I thought when I browsed through the
Internet looking for a complete solution for the game.
Everybody's comments seemed to be positive. But not mine.
Sure, I had made friends with the insectoid leader, and
I had killed Zoff, the bad guy. All solutions I found
told me to go to the escape shuttle next. And so I did.
Several times even. And I just couldn't get the proper
endscreen. Finally, after several days of trying and experimenting,
I figured out that all the surviving Enigma Force team
members must be set to go to the shuttle at the same
time. If even one member is standing still at the
moment when the first member enters the shuttle, the mission
will not be completed. Sucks! I had to go to lengths trying
to trick the first team members to run around picking
objects while I was still giving commands to the last
That's not the only thing I don't like in the game. Team
members can be assigned several commands which they then
carry out in order. This would have been quite useful
with long sequences of move commands. But alas, team members
played lazy and didn't really move when I didn't looking
at the room they were in. So in actual practice I had
to assign the commands to everybody and then watch the
last team member (usually the ultra-slow droid Maul) travel
through all the rooms. If any team member got engaged
in battle, he wouldn't follow my orders any more. Instead,
he would fight until ammo and/or health ran out, and then
flee to a random direction. This did not only wreck the
idea of successive move commands, but also the use of
explosives as an effective weapon. Explosives do kill
everybody in the same room. But in order to drop the bomb
there must not be any enemies present because otherwise
the team member carrying the bomb will engage in battle
and delay carrying his orders... until the bomb explodes.
There is also something good in the game. I like the small
special things like the team member reports about low
ammo, sighted enemies, being surrounded, receiving one
too many bullet holes etc. Also some items are not really
needed but you can make use of them if you choose so.
For example Sevrina (the blue lady) can use the toolbox
as a master key. Overall, the game is nice but it could
be much better.
2004-01-01: Popeye 86
Popeye 86 (1987) has that same Trapdoorish style that
continues to fascinate me now as it did in the 1980s.
Big animated characters, several rooms to explore, and
surprising things to find and use. It's easy to think
that anything could happen in the game, it's got so much
variety. This is a prime example of what I'd call "the
good oldschool C64 games" – instead of glitter there
is consistent style and behind every corner there is something
new and surprising.
The plot of the game is the same as in the perhaps better-known
arcade Popeye; collect hearts for dear Olive Oyl. The
game provides lots of head scratching. Each key fits in
one door only. Before I got the idea of that, I had already
been scratching my head for weeks :). Then there are some
small puzzles. Which item is used where. I had some trouble
finding the right time to jump on the firing cannon. In
the end it was mostly a matter of luck. Some of the rooms
are actually mazes because Popeye can move in three dimensions,
and walls blocking the depth axis are not visible due
to the straight-projecting perspective. Those are solved
with persistence. What was by far the most difficult room
was the fruit machine. Sure it's easy to make the machine
roll, but it took me several months before I figured out
how to lock the correct items into place. Here it is:
walk up the stairs to the item, then turn right. You hear
a short sound that informs that the item is now locked
(or unlocked if you do it again). To lock a top row item,
walk all the way to the top of the stairs, then turn.
To lock a bottom row item, walk only the first steps to
the halfway, then turn right. And yes, there is some reward
for completing the game. What on earth makes the roof
of Olive Oyl's house jump up and down?
Eidolon (1985) is a refreshingly unique game. It's basically
a maze roaming game with lots of action content. A nice
feature is the fractal engine that creates the 3D caverns
realtime. But what is the nicest is that there is a plot
that motivates the game throughout and explains the endscreen.
Without instructions and the plot this game would be *quite*
bizarre and even pointless. To complete each level, correct
jewels must be collected (preferably all jewels). There
are guardians in the way. They can be shot or avoided.
Pacifists get extra points :). There are fireballs flying
around the caverns. All can be collected, but red ones
must be shot first with the same colour. Collecting fireballs
provides extra energy and helpful time freezes. There
is also a dragon in each level. The dragon is released
by correct jewels, and then it must be slain. Each dragon
has its own colour of weakness (and when they all finally
combine, it's a real mess!). One trick to survive a thick
bunch of fireballs shot by a dragon is to launch a blue
fireball that absorbs them. After hitting the dragon enough
many times, the way to the next level is open. The going
gets *really* wild with the final dragon. Too bad the
gameplay suffers somewhat from the plentiful animation.
But the endscreen is really something you want to see,
so keep on fighting. ;)
Elite (1985) must be one of the best-known games there
is. We make a career as a space-ship pilot. Both trading
and dogfights in space make most of the game. There are
also special missions to complete. Missions are given
for advanced pilots. The rumour has it that the C64 version
of Elite has only two missions where some other platforms
contain as many as five. One of the C64 missions is the
elimination of the stolen military experimental craft
Constrictor. Here's the story of Constrictor, adapted
from commander Nurmi's logbook.
After a few months of trading computers and furs, and
shooting ships up, the competent commander Nurmi arrives
at the system of Arexe. The way to the space station is
crowded with pirates, as usual. Suddenly, after blasting
through the hull of the several hundredth unfortunate
pirate ship, the commander receives an anonymous message
on screen. The message says "Right on, commander!". It
seems that not everybody is against the notorious commander.
Immediately after docking to the space station, commander
Nurmi is received by captain Curruthers of Her Majesty's
Space Navy. He briefs Nurmi about the lately stolen army
spacecraft, Constrictor. "The ship must be destroyed!"
summarizes the captain. "Well, I wouldn't have it any
other way", mutters Nurmi silently.
A prompt trip to Xeer, the system where the ship was stolen
from, results in a short report: "The Constrictor was
last seen at Reesdice, commander." At Reesdice, more up-to-date
reports tell that the stolen ship has jumped to further
systems. The trail of leads reaches Arexe. (Here again!)
At the shipyard, someone knows: "Yep, an unusual new ship
had a galactic hyperdrive fitted here. Used it too." "Finally
a good reason to use my own galactic hyperdrive", commander
Nurmi thinks to himself a minute later and accelerates
to intergalactic light speed by pressing CTRL-H on his
The second galaxy lacks further leads. Commander Nurmi
scans through nearby systems. Hmm, the planet Isoned is
scourged by killer edible arts graduates. Charming, but
not useful. A rather long scouting round through ten systems
finally reveals: "Some whoreson beetle headed flap ear'd
knave new ship was seen at Errius." Uncertain of the specific
content of the message, commander Nurmi decides to investigate
the Errius system more closely. The trail of clues continues
there. The rogue ship seems to have warped through half
The nearly infinite sequence of hyperjumps ends finally
at the Orrara system. There commander Nurmi is attacked
by the stolen ship! A long and deadly lasershow ends in
the destruction of the bad guy (of course). Impressed
by commander Nurmi's combat manoeuvres, the GalCop Federal
Law Center promotes Nurmi's combateer rating to dangerous.
The real reward is received at the Orrara space station.
Commander Nurmi is offered a position in the grateful
Her Majesty's Space Navy. Pleased with the accomplished
mission, commander Nurmi once again heads his ship to
outer space and accelerates to light speed...
2003-10-20: Adventure Construction
Adventure Construction Set (1984) is an editor of roleplaying
adventures. First the small size of the game (just two
sides of a disk) and quite messy graphics made me think
that this construction kit is more a joke. But when I
fired the game up and started to edit one of its default
adventures, I found out that there are actually a plethora
of options to fiddle with. You have all freedom to draw
maps, change statistics and items of enemies, and even
to name and select images for creatures and terrain objects.
If somebody decided to plunge into creating an adventure
with this editor, he would have a good chance of creating
something quite interesting and fun. I'd really like to
see what people have created with Adventure Construction
Set. There must be lots of home-made adventures out there,
saved on floppies but then forgotten. If you find one,
please take the time to send it to me!
2003-10-12: The Secret Diary
of Adrian Mole and Borrowed Time
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (mid-1980s?) is a thrilling
life simulation in the style of the great Alter Ego. The
game is based on the book by Sue Townsend (Sue also appears
as a guest star mid-game). We get to read Adrian's secret
diary about what happens to him each day, beginning from
the New Year's day when he is 13 (and three quarters)
years old. Every now and then we get to make a decision
for Adrian, each time out of three possibilities. Every
Monday Adrian sums up his progress in life with a percent
The storyline keeps the interest up. There are several
plots merging: happenings at school, the drama between
Adrian's parents and Mr. Lucas from next door, Adrian's
first love Pandora alias "Box", and several short everyday
adventures from the life of a growing-up teenage kid.
An enjoyable story like this doesn't suffer at all from
old age. Recommended reading... I mean playing.
Borrowed Time (1985) is a thrilling text adventure by
Interplay. Yes, the game engine is the same as in the
superb adventure Tass Times in Tonetown. This time we
play a detective solving crimes by gansters.
With pleasure I remarked the optional "living tutorial"
at the beginning of the game. There is explained in detail
how text adventures work. It is heart-warming to see such
care being taken of the player. In general, everything
in the game seems well thought of. I really like these
kind of games that are made with dedication.
Entombed (1985) is an adventure game with lots of little
puzzles. It took me more than a year to complete the game.
This was caused by the trouble of finding a copy that
worked all the way to the end. But finally a working copy
was found. The game itself keeps up a good tension to
its benefit. Some problems are way too hard for me –
I am grateful for solutions found on the net. The game
would be a bit better if controlling the hero was easier.
He gets stuck in corners too easily to my liking. The
best part of the game is of course the rooms. Some are
quite cleverly built, so it's nice to find new rooms and
try to figure out how they work.
2003-10-10: Adventureland and
Bozo's Night Out
Adventureland (early 1980s?) is another text adventure
with a parser that I would call terrible. Also the location
and item descriptions are next to nonexistent. ("Examine
axe." – "OK, I see nothing special.") I have no idea
how anyone can have completed games like this. Fortunately
someone has, and he has also written a solution. Actually
I had to combine two different solutions, because neither
worked on their own!
Bozo's Night Out (1984) is an entertaining game. You control
a drunkard trying to get home from Gibbo's Joint, the
local pub. The streets are full of dangers such as old
ladies and policemen. Not to speak of the park which is
controlled by vicious squirrels. Every time you get home
safely, you gain some pints (instead of points!). The
game is clever in the way it gets more and more difficult.
Controlling the drunk man is really amusing when the pint-o-meter
is high. He reacts slowly, sways back and forth, and sometimes
walks backwards. Not to mention the elephants. What also
is nice is that every time you get hurt, the game gets
Explorer (1987) goes under my category of really weird
games. When I first loaded the game up, I just couldn't
figure out anything at all. The game shows me a picture
of a jungle. I can move a bit here and there, and there's
a menu with some strange commands. But what to do?! Luckily
we have the instructions, which straighten everything
out. The game is actually a sort of a navigation simulator.
We wander on an unknown planet looking for nine pieces
for our broken spaceship. We have movable radio beacons
and a sonar that gives us distances and directions to
the beacons – and the nearest spaceship part. The game
has quite a slow tempo, but the unusual idea of navigating
with a sonar gives the game a nice touch.
In order to complete the game, I saw it necessary to partly
decrypt the location naming system of the game. Namely,
there are warp gates here and there which allow you to
jump on any place on the planet. But the place can be
pinpointed only using a free sequence of up to 32 characters.
After lots of tests and head-scratching, I found out that
there is a bug in the game. Directions between 180 and
270 degrees are inverted so that 181 means 269, 182 means
268, and so on. That's why the game seemed a bit complex
In the end, I managed to find all ship parts by using
three-letter location names to get me around. The planet
consists of a 65536x65536 grid of places (which makes
up four billion locations, not forty billion as the game's
instructions state). By varying the two last letters in
three-letter location names, you can get around the planet
in 1024 meter steps. After finding all the parts, I sent
them to a single location... with no results. There stands
the weird-looking pile of ship parts, and still I can't
get to my home planet. It's so sad...
In the game, there was hidden credits for programming
and graphics. Well, it wasn't that much hidden. Just press
'x' in the main menu.
2003-07-06: Monty on the Run
Monty on the Run (1985) has earlier been familiar to me
mostly by its great music by Rob Hubbard. The game itself
is quite enjoyable although a bit difficult, I'd say.
What is notable is that Monty on the Run presents several
very good game design ideas. In the beginning, the game
is a platform with all the usual weird-looking sprites
that you must avoid. But as you will gradually find out,
the game moves from location to another. First you are
in a house, then in a sewer, then inside a big tree. And
what is notable is that it's not all about jumping and
running. You get to fly with a rocket pack and even to
drive a car. These elements give variance to the game
and rise it high above many other games. I think Monty
on the Run is a brilliant example of how games really
were innovative before the late 1980s. Sadly a few years
later games became to be evaluated not by unique design
ideas but by the constantly rising technical standards.
2003-06-26: Thunder Blade
Thunder Blade (1988) is another shooter with some nice
visual effects. Everything looks big and a bit messy.
It makes the game differ somewhat from the "ordinary"
games that use small sprites for moving objects. The game
itself is quite short. Four levels don't take too many
minutes to complete if you know how to play them. The
most difficult parts are the ones where you fly into the
screen dodging pillars and bullets at the same time. It's
good to know that the chopper's speed can be controlled
by F1 and F3 in some screens. A little detail: the level
2 big boss has "SEGA" printed on it. You can see it in
one of the screenshots except for the S which is covered
by the huge explosions. I wonder why we have to destroy
the SEGA ship?
Erebus (1986) must be one of the most boring shoot'em
ups I have ever played. There are no enemy bosses, just
pulsating and swaying formations of brainless enemies
that look like fish and bubbles. What is the point here?!
There are 12 levels but they all look very much alike.
After playing the first I had seen everything there is.
Moments of surprise are totally missing. Technically the
game is fine. I didn't spot any bugs and the graphics
are stylish. Only meaningful content is missing but, unfortunate
for Erebus, that is the most important thing a game needs.
I can see here the beginning of the late 1980s.
2003-06-24: Ultima 1 - The First
Age of Darkness
Ultima 1 (1986) began the famous Ultima series. During
the many years of the Ultima saga (the twentieth anniversary
is to come soon?) the creator Richard Garriott (a.k.a.
Lord British) has been developing his fantasy world (which
has gone by the names Sosaria, Britannia and some others
too) as well as the game engine that always has upgrades
from game to game. A remarkable fact is that Garriott's
roleplaying games are about the same setting (some more
loosely than others). Each game tells one part of the
history of Garriott's world.
Before Ultima 1 there was Aklabeth, a really simplistic
hack'em up roleplaying game, and Ultima: Escape from Mount
Drash, which I haven't seen but assume it to be also a
simple game. Neither is available on the C64 as far as
I know. Ultima 1 is a primitive game as well. Despite
that, it has been one of my true favourites since my childhood.
Thanks to its simple nature, it is easy to get into the
game. And once I begin playing it, it's hard to stop.
Garriott has managed to capture the essential feeling
of character management.
The game character has personal statistics containing
the familiar intelligence, strength, experience points,
inventory and so on. The scheme is familiar from the Dungeons
and Dragons (D&D) roleplaying games which must have been
a great inspiration for Garriott. He has adopted even
the idea of the D&D monetary system of different types
of coins; Ultima 1 has copper, silver and gold. One silver
is ten copper, one gold is 100 copper.
One distinctive feature in Ultima 1 is its dungeons. They
are presented in wireframe three-dimesional graphics which
brings definite freshness to the game. The visual result
is not that stunning but the immersion of crawling in
a dungeon trying to find a ladder up to escape before
you perish is much enhanced. The 3D view was later bettered
in Ultima 5 (which I personally consider the high peak
of the whole Ultima saga). Sadly it was separated from
the series after that. Today we have the isometric Ultima
games, and the fully 3D Ultima Underworld games.
Although Ultima 1 is fun to play as a simple hack'em up
game, there is also a plot you can follow. Kings and pub
rumors tell you bit by bit that there is this (supposedly
very evil) guy called Mondain, and that he has an amulet
of immortality. Surprisingly, our hero (to be called the
Avatar in later games of the Ultima series) is to find
a time machine, go to the past, and destroy Mondain's
amulet before it is made. This is a bit funny to me because
most of the game seems to be based in a typical fantasy
medieval roleplaying game setting. Such don't usually
contain time machines, not to speak of aircars with lasers,
space shuttles, and shooting little enemy spaceships that
look surprisingly much like TIE fighters. Both the aircars
and the TIE fighter look-alikes must come straight from
the movie Star Wars Episode 4.
It's possible to spot many things from Ultima 1 that come
up again in its numerous sequels. My experiences are mostly
from Ultimas 4 through 6. In Ultima 1, there is of course
Lord British, who I strongly think is the alter ego of
the game's author, Richard Garriott. Lord British is to
be in the sequels the one and only, righteous ruler of
the fantasy land Britannia.
In Ultima 1, the world is called Sosaria and the name
Britannia doesn't come up. There are "the Lands of Lord
British" and several other continents such as "the Lands
of the Feudal Lords" and "the Lands of Danger and Despair".
Ultima 1 has some names of cities and people that come
up in Ultima 5. There are the quite unimportant characters
Gwino the Jester and Iolo the Bard. In Ultima 5, one finds
that Iolo, a bard, is a good friend of the Avatar and
that he is closely associated with a female bard called
Gwenno (which spells nearly Gwino). Iolo has become quite
a central character. Ultima 1 contains towns called Yew
and Britain which one can find from the sequels on the
map of Britannia. There is also the Castle of Shamino.
In Ultima 5, Shamino is a close friend of the Avatar and
the bard Iolo.
The amulet of Mondain comes up in Ultima 5 again: the
amulet that has been broken into three shards (due to
successful completion of Ultima 1) has become the source
of power for three shadowlords who have turned Britannia
upside down in a very bad way.
In Ultima 1 there are mystical places where you can boost
your abilities every time you gain an experience level.
These places, "Tower of Knowledge", "Pillar of Ozymandias",
etc. come to be shrines of the eight virtues in Ultima
5. The mechanism of gaining abilities remains much the
Also the enemies have remained partly the same in the
sequels. You can find gremlins, mimics, ettins, giant
rats and spiders, and many more from both Ultima 1 and
5. Some renamings have taken place as well. Tanglers will
become reapers, and wandering eyes will become gazers
(the same enemy is called a beholder in D&D, if I remember
From all this, it seems quite clear to me that Richard
Garriott has had a vision from the beginning. His vision
has become more clear and gained detail through numerous
iterations of Ultima games. Such dedication for a game
series is most admirable. This is the way that important
pieces of the history of computer games are made.
Spindizzy (1986) stole my heart. Being a 3D platform just
like Bobby Bearing, Spindizzy fascinates me. Slopes and
falls, good controllability, neat graphics, and what is
the best, Spindizzy can be completed (unlike BB)! However,
being completable doesn't mean that any normal person
could complete it. I saw it wise to use a time cheat because
there are lots of rooms where you need lightning-fast
reactions and very good motoric skills in order to survive.
Very easily does our probe (the hero of the game) fall
from heights, break down and take a few more precious
seconds to resurrect. There is also an option to make
the probe move faster. I used the slow mode. The fast
mode is probably for cyborgs only.
The screenshots I took from Spindizzy don't really do
justice to the game. Some clever and beautiful things
are spread over more than just one room. You need to play
the game in order to realize them. To name a few special
things, the words SPINDIZZY and HAWKWIND are spelt into
the world, one letter in each subsequent room. There are
also two places where you have to advance through rooms
that have no floor. How is it possible? Well, you just
speed like hell through a few rooms and then use your
speed to bounce on the trampolines that lie in the rooms
between the floorless rooms. There are also fortresses,
pyramids and a crescent. All in all, there's a lot to
see and it's enjoyable (though hard) to find out. Warmly
2003-06-18: Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1985) took me quite a while
to play. It's been more than three months since I first
loaded the game up. Since then, I have mostly been occupied
by the question "How to complete the game?" We control
our hero and try to gain humanity little by little in
various action subgames. But each game gives you only
a certain amount of humanity. There seem also to be certain
ways to ruin your game by not getting as much humanity
out of a subgame as you can. Therefore I was obliged to
find more and more ways to maximise my points. But never
did I get the maximum. A quick browse through the net
revealed that I'm not alone. Seemingly no-one has completed
Frankie Goes to Hollywood ever. It seems to me that this
game is like the text adventure Castle of Terror: both
were intentionally made so that you can never reach the
maximum score. I guess it's a trick used by the game developers
to raise more interest in the game as the possibility
of completion will always remain a mystery.
2003-06-14: Wrath of the Demon
Wrath of the Demon (1991) is an action game which seems
to cover some other, well-known games. The first part
where you ride a horse and punch small demons on the way
looks like a direct cover of Shadow of the Beast. The
parallax scrolling, music and the demonish enemies all
remind me of SotB. The main difference is that WotD feels
harder to control. Thus the game may get a bit annoying
if your reflexes aren't in top shape. The second and third
parts bring back good memories from Barbarian. We are
determined to beat up a few goblins and a dragon. As a
little detail, our hero has changed his hair colour from
gray to brown :-).
After the swordfight the game returns to be a SotB style
beat'em up platform (without the platforms). Crude SotB-ish
tentacles reach for us from the ground and demons, a bit
larger than before, fly past us. Too bad the hero is too
slow to hit or dodge much anything. Not even the deadly
caterpillars. I just can't figure out why he doesn't use
his sword but insists on punching demons bare-handed.
And this time the hair has been dyed yellow. And so the
A little hint for the big brown giant coming later on.
Let him come all the way to the left. Then give him a
series of jump'n'sweeps. When he has retreated all the
way to the right, you retreat and repeat the thing all
The part that consumes the most time is the runaround
in a dungeon. If you're going to play it through, reserve
a lot of time! The dungeon is so large that it takes several
minutes to run from one place to another, excluding the
time it takes to figure out what to do and where to find
it. The idea is that there are two levers that open together
one of the two flashing barricades. Behind the barricade
there is a key which opens one of the three locked doors.
There you will find another lever which opens the other
barricade behind which there is a key which opens another
locked door and a goblin hiding there. The goblin has
a third key which opens the third locked door. There you'll
soon find a dragon who holds a fourth, flashing key. The
flashing key leads finally to the big bad demon.
Too bad I couldn't figure out how to kill the demon. We
are once again armed with our fists alone. I couldn't
get any punch go even close to the demon.
Because I've heard that the PC version of WotD is actually
good, I went and downloaded it from the Home of the Underdogs.
Compared to the C64 version, the PC version has more colors
but a bit clumsier animation and cheesier music (Adlib
doesn't beat the SID!). As a plus, the PC version has
a nice intro and short cutscenes between parts (all missing
from the C64 version). Also the hero was easier to control.
I guess the PC crew had more luck in fine-tuning the game.
Otherwise the PC and C64 are very much alike.
2003-06-01: Enforcer [Double
Enforcer [Double Density] (1992) is a great sidescrolling
shooter. The touch of Manfred Trenz is clearly visible.
When I see those bombers, jumpers, tight corners, extra
lives hidden in special places, those familiar weapons,
the H.R. Gigerish alien characters etc, I can't help thinking
"This is just like Turrican 2". Trenz has his unique style
and he uses the same elements in all his shooters. I think
it is for the good that he does that. With such fingerprints
he does manage to create a game world which is something
more than just wall blocks and hostile sprites. Trenz
knows how to create a meaning to a game.
My last amazement with a sidescroller was when I played
Salamander. Its large sunflare effects in the fire level
(and the beautiful birds) made me gasp air and think "Can
they really do that on the C64?" Enforcer does the same
to me again. When I see over ten enemies and over ten
bullets flying on the screen at the same time with my
shields, two sidekicks and a smoothly scrolling background,
I get the feeling that Trenz hadn't heard of the limit
of eight simultaneous sprites. And levels like the crystal
cave show that Trenz has artistic talent as well.
I must also say that the fast techno soundtrack by Markus
Siebold (seemingly the only thing not done by Manfred
Trenz) couldn't suit the game better. A remarkable fact
is that his in-game music is so groovy even though it
seems to be using only two out of the three SID channels.
Thus the last channel is left for sound effects and the
music doesn't suffer from shooting sounds and explosions.
Enforcer is one of the many games that make it really
worthwhile to spend some time playing the old C64 hits.
2003-05-28: The Enforcer [The
The Enforcer [The Power House] (1987) is a messy-looking
platform. I remember the game from my childhood. It was
one of the first games I had. I felt the game kind of
exciting because it didn't make much sense :-). It's quite
a typical platform, okay, but only technically. The game
is missing semantics, i.e., a background story that would
bind the happenings in the game into something that is
familiar from the real world. There are numerous creatures
roaming on the platforms, but they hold no special meaning
to the player. They are just those avoid, avoid, shoot,
avoid kind of sprites. I was surprised that the game earns
some merit for its level design. Most levels (totaling
16) have a unique visual and architectonic style. There
are also several kinds of special objects such as doors,
conveyor belts and suction tubes.
2003-05-25: Empire the strategy
game and Enforcer [Methodic S.]
Empire (1984) is a simple strategy game in the style of
the well-known board game Risk. This piece of software
is likely to be someone's free-time product. The only
credit is the dedication "To Steve from Gerry 1984". The
game is playable despite its crude looks, slow pace and
simplified rules (troops can't be moved, they can only
Enforcer [Methodic Solutions] (1987) is an arcade shooting
gallery game. You see a bunch of people moving around
in front of you. Your job is to shoot those who have a
gun. Thus, the game can be seen to represent the views
of those people who think that in order to make peace,
you must kill all the baddies. Well, it doesn't work.
After killing one bad guy, you are one too, so others
go after you. And it's the same in the game, in the end
you die (or then innocent people die and you lose your
job). But it doesn't happen very soon. The game felt so
easy that the most probable reason for a game over is
boredom. Still, I'm not saying that the game is bad. It's
2003-05-24: Castle of Terror
Everybody knows Castle of Terror, the text adventure by
Melbourne House (1984). But there is another Castle of
Terror, a seemingly non-commercial product of a German
fellow called Hans Baer in 1988. This one is a simple
oldschool platform in the style of Blagger and such oldies.
Castle of Terror features digitized speech and drumrolls.
There are also some mildly humorous details such as the
obligatory leaking moments and the "fair lady" we are
bound to save. Apart from the late-1980s-trendy digitized
samples, the game feels some four years older than it
The text adventure Castle of Terror is an enjoyable game.
The music of Neil Brennan is full of excitement and the
game setting is well done. The game has an exceptional
quality. It can't apparently be completed and that was
deliberately done so by the author, Grahame Willis. Michael
Lambert has done some research for the Classic Adventures
Solution Archive and received a confirmation for this
from the author of the game.
2003-05-21: Elite Squad
Elite Squad (1990) is a puzzle game done in the post-1980s
newschool spirit (read: technically superb, but lacking
good design). Break special blocks with a bouncing ball
on a set of tiles most of which can't take more than one
bounce. In the end there is a nice caricature rewarding
the skilled player. I just can't figure out how it relates
to the game. Perhaps it doesn't. Perhaps this newschool
style is about combining non-related creations in arbitrary
2003-05-06: Comments on some
of the games uploaded today
Dominator was done by some of my favorite game makers
and the quality is just awesome! Paul and Hugh did really
well with the graphics and programmer Jason Perkins has
according to myself always delivered quality games (think
Deflektor). I really like the idea of using scrolling
in different directions but it was too bad they didn't
use that more.
Even though being very simple, Dynamoid is a kick ass
game! I used to play it alot and when I was deciding on
which games to screenshot this time, this was my number
one choice. Thank you Thomas Detert for the excellent
Hot Rod drove me insane! Really insane! If you're gonna
play the game, which I recommend you to do, make sure
you learn how to steer the car from the beginning. It's
so irritating to bump into something because it takes
ages to get that speed back up again. The cut scene when
you meet a girl after a race seems half done and could
as well had been left out.
I've always been a fan of Antony Crowthers' games and
I really wanted to put up another AC game up here, but
Killer Ring stinks to high heaven! If you want to play
a shoot'em up from the early days, play Gyruss instead.
Moon Patrol is a favourite and was a blast to shoot. It's
really simple but you know, it kind of reminds me of the
days in the arcades. I recall that a sprite-strecher (the
tree in screenshot 12) was a bit revolutinary when someone
did this in a demo around 1989-1990. MP must be one of
the first productions with a sprite-strecher like this
(which is really interesting to me:-)).
2003-04-27: Eliminator [Hewson]
Eliminator [Hewson] (1988) first reminds me of Trailblazer.
They both are kind of racing games where you speed along
a neverending pathway avoiding pits and other traps. However,
I like Eliminator better due to its good controllability,
more sensible looks and the nice game engine. The road
twists and turns in many directions in a very credible
way. It's really astonishing to see such 3D effects on
the C64. I can't understand why the group Pulsar disapproves
of this game in their crack intro.
It was exceptionally difficult to take representative
screenshots of Eliminator because the snapshot feature
of Vice (the C64 emulator) didn't work properly with the
game. Therefore I had to use cheats (thanks to Sharks
for their +5 release) and complete the game on one go.
It became a bit frustrating in levels where you have to
know in advance which paths are blocked and where you
must jump in order to survive. I guess I had to start
the last level at least 50 times before I reached the
first continue point.
Energy (1987) is an action shooter with tactical elements.
In addition to keeping our energy level above zero we
have to maintain the aura of several worlds. Enemies come
in many forms. There are the usual bubbly clouds, skulls,
eyes and the like who can take only one or a few hits.
They attack in several different formations. Then there
are vicious dragons who are a bit harder to wipe out.
Dragons leave us energy, aura, world change and some other
bonuses. At times there comes a huge spaceship. I couldn't
quite figure out the meaning of all this but the game
impressed me nonetheless. I think that Energy resembles
Wizball quite much, and that's a lot said!
The game doesn't credit anyone for specifically the music
but I happened to notice that the titlescreen music is
the same that HVSC has for Energy Warriors. After a short
browse through the Internet, I noticed that this game
can be found on different names. There are Energy, Energy
Warrior, Energy Warriors, and they all seem to be the
same game. I wonder if this is just a mix-up or if the
game was really released under all these names.
There is a release by Gravedigger of the Darkness (GD)
called Energy 2. It seems to be the same Energy with some
modifications. GD advertises the game by 78 new sprites.
There really are new sprites in the game. I recognized
that at least one was ripped from Wizball. Also the titlescreen
has some cosmetic modifications.
2003-04-24: Eliminator [Americomp]
Eliminator [Americomp] (early 1980s?) is another product
of the 1980s when the only way that mankind could deal
with extraterrestrial creatures was to shoot them as much
as possible. The violent action is supported by beeps
and other extremely computerish sound effects. The game
doesn't show off with its originality but then again,
it's not that bad either. Our spacecraft is swift, and
it happened to be quite pleasing to dodge through large
groups of UFOs and not crash into them. There is some
magical appeal in the game even though it is old and naive.
Oh, and here's one more game whose music is currently
missing from HVSC.
2003-04-23: Enter the Ninja
Enter the Ninja (1987) is a cute little arcade. We control
a guy who must kill all enemies with throwing stars. Gameplay
is just simple sprite collision checking. The game is
quite difficult because our hero is so much slower than
his enemies. The first level can be completed with a little
practice. In the second level the enemies get a lot quicker,
so in addition to skill, you need a lot of luck. In the
third level, even luck is not enough :). To my surprise,
I noticed that the short tune the game plays on the background
can also be found from the PC game Colonization by the
name Joe Clark. The tune must be a cover of something,
and HVSC lacks this information.
2003-04-22: Marble Madness and
Marble Madness (1986) is a classic and certainly started
a genre of its own. I remember this game from my childhood
although I never really got into playing it. All the more
fun it was to get to complete it now. However, having
played Bobby Bearing and Gyroscope before, I found the
abstract 3D landscapes a bit too faked. At times it was
hard to figure out if there was a wall or a drop next
to the marble's path. Also rolling down some of the slopes
didn't feel realistic at all. If you're interested in
Marble Madness, please also check out Bobby Bearing. The
two have a lot in common. Although only Marble Madness's
music is missing from HVSC.
Bobby Bearing (1986) has been a fascinating game for me
for years, and it still continues to be that. It is hard
to figure out what exactly makes up that atmosphere. Certainly
the surprisingly realistic physics simulation is an important
factor but also the game world itself – consisting of abstract
and seemingly meaningless platforms that in the end form
logical areas and paths with different implicit meanings – contributes
much to the game. Compared to Marble Madness, Bobby Bearing
has managed to make the abstract game world into something
more permanent than the arcadish roll-through-once world
of MM. One thing that BB misses, though, is the special
extras that MM is full of. Hoovers, tubes, mini-enemies
and the like would be a great addition.
A sad thing about my experiences with Bobby Bearing is
that I haven't been able to complete it. I've tried out
several copies of the game. These include releases by
Nostalgia, Dynamic Duo, Non Stop Crackers and Shadowfire
Cracking Group (SCG). Every version locks up the C64 after
I have rescued four bearings. It may well be that the
game was released unfinished. However, I haven't yet played
a provably original copy.
There seem to be lots of different versions of Bobby Bearing
out there. Some of them play the tune by Ben Daglish and
some don't. Most versions begin with the same fixed set
of positions for the brother bearings, and randomize new
positions when you reach game over and start over again.
An exception is the SCG release where the initial brother
positions are different. There are also some minor cosmetic
differences in the SCG release compared to other releases.
All versions seem to act the same way when pressing the
cheat button Q. When a brother bearing is on the screen
and Q is pressed, the brother is supposed to be unrescued.
However, every version seem to act like the bearing was
rescued the proper way. All versions display the name
of the fourth brother like "TSHSPS" or some other buggy-looking
text. Usually the letters change during gameplay. Never
does the name look like anything normal. The first three
bearings are called Barnaby, Bert and Bungo. There is
one version that begins the game by displaying the game
2003-04-14: Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451 (1984) is a text adventure based on Ray
Bradbury's novel with the same name. I have read the novel
several years ago. The game seems to continue where the
book ends. We play the role of an ex-bad guy who is now
fighting for the resistance. Plainly speaking, the game
consists of walking around the city fetching a few important
items and changing our identity all the time. I was stunned
by the fact that many essential commands were some 80-letter
long quotations that you had to figure out without any
clues. Or perhaps that is just a clever copy-protection.
Lucky for me, there is a good solution available at http://solutions.c64.org
. Fahrenheit 451 stands out from other text adventures
with its plentiful dialogs and room descriptions. I've
played a few C64 text adventures and quite many of them
seem to economize on text. Overall, the game left me a
good after-taste. That's a good sign of the fact that
games with a good background story don't really grow old.
I also enjoyed the game's ending quite a lot. There are
actually two alternatives, one for cautious quitters and
another for brave martyrs. The end music is technically
very bare but is of top quality as a composition. Too
bad it's not in the HVSC at the moment. Guess I'll have
to put in a SID request and hope that somebody is able
to rip it.
2003-04-11 : Eagles and Tass
Times in Tonetown
Eagles (1987) is quite a repetitive sidescrolling shooter.
I think the game was made mainly as a two-player game.
Since I have only one brain to control my two hands, I
gratefully let the computer play the second player. The
computer pilot seemed to be of no use, however, because
it only flew around aimlessly. Not that there is any big
point in the game - just shoot down the little buggers
to get a high score. The aircraft controlling is smooth
and the plane looks neat. Background graphics got a bit
boring (after playing the game for 8 or so levels). Between
levels there are seemingly impossible bonus screens. There
you must shoot down the other player. The computer got
me every time, so no extra points for me.
Tass Times in Tonetown (1986) is a more or less brilliant
graphical text adventure. I enjoyed the game from the
title screen on. Especially the theme music by Dave Warhol
(and/or Russell Lieblich?) was groovy and enjoyable. The
game is so easy that even I could almost complete it without
a solution from the Internet. And sadly the game is also
quite short. But what the game lacks in length and technical
details such as the parser, it makes up in the storyline
and content. Recommended playing.
2003-04-03: Eskimo Games
Eskimo Games (1991) is another "games game", possibly
one of the last ones ever made commercially? There are
events of shooting snowballs (with a bazooka-like weapon!)
and building an igloo. Still the name of the game might
be a bit misleading. What have Eskimos to do with collecting
bird eggs from nests on a cliffside? And the Tapper-like
bartending event is perhaps even less Eskimo-like, except
that the customers are served bowls of ice-cream, I see.
Four events is quite few, and I get the feeling that the
authors didn't immerse themselves into designing the idea
of the game, but were more likely trying to make some
money in the game business that was about to move away
from the C64. Nevertheless, the game is fun and especially
2003-03-20: Shadow of the Beast
Shadow of the Beast (1990) has a really cool atmosphere.
It's a straightforward platform but still a long way from
Giana Sisters and the like. Perhaps it's that little storyline
that is told bit by bit along my progress in the game.
I have seen some Shadow of the Beasts on the Amiga. The
graphics and music are pure honey for my eyes and ears
:-). The C64 version is quite loyal to the Amiga version,
I think. One funny thing to note: there is a typo in the
title scroller. There it reads "Pysgnosis presents" with
the 'y' and 's' swapped :-D. How can they not have noticed
it! The text is displayed immediately every time the game
has loaded. Go see the second screenshot, it's right there.
2003-03-18: Elven Warrior
Elven Warrior (1989) didn't much impress me. It is quite
a messy-looking platform. There's nothing terribly wrong
with the game. It's just that it doesn't bring forth any
original concepts in a clear way. Somehow the game resembled
Knight Games 2 although the latter is not a platform.
There are three things in common. Firstly, the graphics
have the same look. Secondly, both games have the very
rare feature of in-game explanations of what each collectable
item does. Thirdly, both games contain knights :-). If
it wasn't for the games' credits, I could bet that they
were both made by the same guys.
Parallax (1986) gave me high hopes from the beginning.
I had listened to the title music by Martin Galway before
but I had never played the game. I was surprised to find
a shoot'em up. There is a plot also. But I couldn't help
feeling a bit disappointed. I think that with the great
ambient title music and the plot, the Sensible Software
boys could have made the game a lot better. I say they
should have stuck more to the plot, used that, and given
less up to making *just another shoot'em up*. I first
tried to imagine flying in an alien world divided into
five areas (as the story says), but soon I found out that
I was just shooting very weird looking alien vessels that
just kept coming and going regardless of anything. Then
there were the scientists. I rescued them one by one and
hoped that the game would reveal more about the plans
the aliens are having about beating the cream out of the
Earth. But nothing came up. Another scientist, and another,
and another. All the relevant semantic content of the
game was in the very beginning, in the music and in the
plot. All the rest is just a shoot'em up. Or did I miss
something essential because I used cheats?
In the end of the last level, after I have shut down the
last main computer (the fifth Big One), I am supposed
to find an intergalactic teleport and jump to home Earth
as a big hero. I found a teleport which has a label "Earth
2000 light years" but it didn't help me. I couldn't leave
the alien world no matter what I did. Some of the other
normal teleports had turned into mysterious death traps.
If I entered one, the teleportation didn't stop until
I pressed fire and blew my ship away. There are suspicions
in the Internet that there really is no end sequence in
Fairlight (1986) is an exciting adventure game based in
a medieval setting inside a castle. We are supposed to
rescue a wizard from one of the towers. I found a solution
and a map from the Internet. Following them carefully,
I managed to reach the end, almost! When climbing up the
tower, my way was blocked by monks. No problem, I began
destroying them with potions and crucifixes just as my
solution told me to do. But the second monk didn't obey
the rules. He wasn't destroyed. He just stood there blocking
my way to the completion of the game. Moreover, when I
walked into the guy the game told me he was locked! The
walkthrough knew this was coming and there it read:
"...WARNING: This is what you have to do, but in
my version of Fairlight the potions don't kill these monks,
and therefore you can't complete the game. I don't know
whether this is the result of a faulty copy or a serious
bug in the original code of the C64 conversion..."
I tried out five other copies of Fairlight but
they all have the same phenomenon. The monk is locked.
It seems that the original C64 version was released with
this bug. Fairlight was ported to C64 from Spectrum. I
have read that the Spectrum version works okay, so perhaps
somebody made a mistake during the conversion to C64.
Bo Jangeborg, the author of the original Spectrum version,
can't tell exactly what causes the bug. When I asked him,
he answered: "It might very well be that it is impossible
to complete the C64 version. It sounds as if I might have
used a bit to flag doors as opened or locked and that
that bit accidentally was set for the monk in the C64
Bo Jangeborg confirmed that the C64 conversion was done
by Trevor Inns. Alas, I haven't been able to find him.
2003-02-15: Robin Hood Legend
Robin Hood Legend Quest (1992) seems to be a remake of
another platform called Super Robin Hood. I'm glad that
it is because the older game is quite ugly and doesn't
seem to work correctly in emulators (I tried out Vice
and CCS). Robin Hood Legend Quest features awesome graphics.
Just one thing bothered me, namely the constant smile
of our hero Robin. Whatever horrible dungeon slime he
happened to crawl in and how ever many arrows he had taken
in his chest, he was *always* smiling! :-D
It took me some luck to figure out how to complete the
game. First I got stuck in the end of the first level.
There were ladders but the game didn't allow me to climb
them to the next level. Later on I was playing the game
from the beginning again. I happened to notice that some
guards leave behind keys that are totally invisible(!)
and I can only hear a short jingle when I pick them up.
I found by accident one invisible key that I hadn't picked
up before, and that gave me access to the next level.
I hope the authors did document that feature in the manual
2003-01-15: Project Firestart
Project Firestart (1988) was a big positive experience
for me. Never did I think that a C64 game could have so
much movie-like content. It was really exciting to play
the game. There are a lot of cutscenes around the space
station we are exploring. It seems that some of them are
chosen randomly, so you don't have to look at the same
animations every time. But just image how much trouble
the game makers have seen to create several alternative
cutscenes to make the game vary a bit every time you play
2003-01-10: Suicide Express
Suicide Express (1985) is a very difficult game! There
are just so many things going on on the screen at the
same time with enormous speed that I wonder if anyone
is able to get the 100000 points needed to complete the
game without using cheats. I didn't get anywhere when
I played it some ten years ago, and I didn't get much
anywhere now either. So I used the cheats. There is synthetic
speech in the game and I think it is not sampled. It's
marvelous how flexible the SID sound chip is.
2002-12-30: Lode Runner
Lode Runner (1983) is a classic, no need to mention that.
It is also a crazy game, I say! When I started playing
it, I thought "it's such a small game, so maybe it doesn't
have more than, say, ten levels." I played them through
and passed to level 11. "Okay," I thought, "maybe twenty
is the limit." No, it wasn't. "Fifty?" No. "A hundred
levels just like in Bubble Bobble?" After several hours
I managed to play to level 101. "Argh! Is it 128 levels
then?!" Finally after completing the 150th level I was
filled with complete enlightenment and true joy when I
saw the first screen again. This time the treasure-hungry
monks just ran a lot faster.
There were many screens that were fun. One even made me
laugh by displaying a large text made up of ladders after
picking up all the treasure. The text told me to RUN!
:-) There were also screens that took quite a lot of wits
to complete (or then I'm just too stupid for these games).
Overall, I can say that Lode Runner has lots of content
and that despite the large number of levels, there is
little or no repetition in them. Very good work from Brøderbund.
Only one thing makes me wonder. Did anyone complete all
the 150 levels on an arcade machine? If somebody did,
he must have had to play the game from early morning to
late evening. Perhaps he had to hurry in order to complete
the game before the arcade hall was closed. :-)
2002-12-23: Max Headroom
Max Headroom (1986) seemed totally weird at first. But
in the end it turned out to be a very straightforward
runaround with very little variance. You just have to
find secret codes in over a dozen floors of a skyscraper.
All the floors have the exact same architecture, only
the wall colour changes to give some idea that there really
are several different floors. In every floor there are
four trigger happy robots walking mindlessly here and
But the end sequence is really something! I have seen
one Max Headroom commercial (none of the shows, however)
and I can say that the end sequence comes very close to
the real thing. I don't want to spoil anybody's joy of
getting to experience the end himself but I have to say
that it's a bit hard to hear what Max says there. Something
about pathetic little modems, perhaps? :-) To my surprise,
the end sequence is not in HVSC. Somebody should rip it
as soon as possible.
2002-12-04: Robin of the Wood
Robin of the Wood (1985) was one of my favorite runarounds
already in the 1980s. I greatly enjoyed wandering around
the forest whacking down the stupid guards and listening
to the nonstop background tune. I didn't pay attention
to it earlier, but now that I played the game again after
gaining some knowledge of baroque and medieval music,
I happened to notice that the nice tune in the start menu
might be using an unequal temperament. Such were used
in the music of the 1600s and earlier but never in modern
music. The effect that sounds like the tune is played
a bit off the note is a sign of an unequal temperature.
I think it's great to hear such rare elements in music.
It shows that the composer really wanted to create medieval-sounding
2002-09-23: The Big Deal
The Big Deal (1986) seemed to have a lot of potential
at first, but unfortunately the game seems to be almost
inhumanely difficult. The idea is to make food in a lunch
restaurant. I did everything I could and still the game
just gave me those "Looking worse" ratings. And there
seems to be several bugs in the game. The top left screen
gfx were sometimes messed up, and once the music went
crazy. The fact that the game is mostly in Germany didn't
help me much. Two years of Germany in school, a very small
traveler's dictionary and some Internet dictionaries were
my aid. Wo sind meine Zutaten?!
2002-08-11: Frank Bruno's Boxing
Frank Bruno's Boxing (late 1980s?) is an arcadish boxing
game – and horribly difficult! I couldn't ever have completed
even the first opponent if my C64 emulator didn't have
the snapshot feature. I had to take snapshots literally
every second in order to complete the game. It was pure
chance. The best I could do was to wag the joystick blindly
and hope that my punches went through and that the opponents
would not use their instant-kill blows. It was a nightmare.
To my surprise, the last of the ten different opponents
(he is called Pete Perfect, or something like that) was
a piece of cake :-).
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