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Zapped to the Past podcast (C64)

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I'm not going to play Touchdown Football I'm not interested in playing old and not great versions of sports when the podcast has alread done that.


However what I love about this podcast is that it makes me aware of games I had no idea existed.


This is pretty simplistic. Almost like an Atari game.




Hang on...that logo on the title screen




I had no idea Imagic were still making games at this stage, it appears that the original releases from 1984 we among the last.


People aren't really sure when Imagic finally shut down but during the creation of Activision Anthology back in 2002 it was discovered that Acitivision had quietly bought up some or all of their IP which is why a number of their old games appear on that compilation.


Imagic is probably deserving a topic of its own one day.



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I've spoken before of my love for large arcade adventures but it's apparent that I was either picky or choosy enough only to play the very best. (Or Fist 2 which I love but we'll talk about that another time.)


My experience of games like Core were limited to other magazines who seemed to give it an OK score and some small and attractive screenshots.




First impressions aren't great here but there's a few Spectrum ports that I love despite the issues they raise.


This is not one of them. The flick scrolling is so slow that it would have been preferable to just make it flick screen. The sound effects are unchanged from the Spectrum. And the game itself is lifeless. A lot of the screens look the same and there's a couple of large instant death hazards. When there are better alternatives like Starquake and the Yesod games this is a bit of a non-starter. The Zzap crew are completely in the right on this one. Avoid at all costs.

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The warnings from Zzap and the podcast were enough for me to only watch a video of Groovy Garden. I want my two minutes back. This is awful.




Am I rushing through these so that I can spend more time on the final entry? Um maybe. Or maybe a lot of the selection tis week aren't great.

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Tubular Bells




Why? Just why? This seems like a reaction to Jeff Minter's visualisers by adding music but that advantages of Jeff's visualisers is that you're playing your own music and as good as the SID is it's just not going to match Oldfield with a whole suite of synths at his disposal.


This sort of project was pretty much doomed until CD-Rom allowed use of the music directly as well as allowing more contant being made available which led to a sort of short golden age of interactive music explorer style experiences in the 90's (XPLORA1: Peter Gabriel's Secret World being one of my favourites.)

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23 hours ago, Unofficial Who said:

I was really amused though about the discussion about the name of the sport. Table tennis? Because it's played on a table? I mean would you call tennis dirt tennis? Or ground tennis? That makes no sense. Ping pong is perfectly natural!



Lawn tennis.

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Shogun kind of passed me by being based on the TV series based on the book based loosely on history. Thing is I think Virgin missed a trick here and by appealing to existing game fans rather than fans of the media the game was based on they could have pulled more punters in. I'll explain later.





The book revolved around Captain Blackthorne, an outsider to Japan who was loosely based off historical figure William Adams, the first Englishman to reach Japan and who became a samurai and trusted advisor to the shogun. He's also the guy the protagonist in Nioh is based on. There's a massive rabbit hole worth exploring for those interested.


However this game allows you to choose any character from the roster of characters, each with their own skills, follower base and resources.


There's a great wiki at https://www.lemon64.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=46206



The goal of this game is to first acquire 20 followers. Once you hit the magical number of 20 (even for a second), the Buddha will hand down additional instructions which would include bringing the Buddha, scroll, and mirror to a specified location (usually the Temple Of The Buddha, the Night Buddhas Shrine (inside the Shogun's Palace) and the Tunnel Of Love). The last task (bringing the items to the specified location) has a specific time frame in which to accomplish the task so it's better to have the three key items already in your possession when you reach 20 followers. If you are able to accomplish the last task within the allotted time you win the game!


This makes the game interesting, win conditions predicated on follower count. This would become a much more familiar formula in later rpgs where character recruitment over time changed from just another body in battle to much more interesting mechanics such as adding to your home castle functions in Suikoden and adding story content and changing the content of end game outcomes that would be a core part of many Bioware games.


Here the characters are semi independent depending on their class.


The weird thing about this game is the presentation with a side on view but with characters that float about ignoring them as landscape. This means the map is somewhat representative rather than feeling solid. But it only made sense listening to the podcast when it was being explained and when they mentioned this was a Virgin product.


All the pieces fell into place and here's where I reckon Virgin missed something. Because game is built on the bones of Sorcery.




So Sorcery was a game by the "Gang of Five", a trading game where you had to navigate 17 screens trading objects until you had the one to dump in the end screen.




It was side on and you flew about (the platforms here are solid and screens are accessed via doors) and it was much beloved by reviewers who gushed over this, especially the Amstrad version.




As soon as the mechanics of Shogun and the presentation was explained I realised what this was.




This is a much more sophisticated version of Sorcery. I borrowed a copy of Sorcery from a mate who loved it back in 1986 and completed it in a weekend. I thought it was OK. He thought I was nuts, he and a bunch of others rated it very highly.


I knew of no-one who had Shogun either original or pirated (despite seeing it in the shops.) I suspect that had Virgin instead of marketing this purely as a tie in had instead marketed this as a follow up to Sorcery advertising it as combining the best of the "Gang of Five" with the best of James Clavell then they would have attracted far more attention to the game. As it was many consigned it to being not for them in the same way Dallas and Not a Penny More was ignored by the then young audience.


I didn't play this for long but I did appreciate the design ambitions via watching a few walkthroughs. If I had this back in the day I could see myself playing this to completion and then replaying it to see if I could complete it as a samurai, monk or peasant rather than a lord.

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4 hours ago, Unofficial Who said:

Tubular Bells




Why? Just why? This seems like a reaction to Jeff Minter's visualisers by adding music but that advantages of Jeff's visualisers is that you're playing your own music and as good as the SID is it's just not going to match Oldfield with a whole suite of synths at his disposal.


This sort of project was pretty much doomed until CD-Rom allowed use of the music directly as well as allowing more contant being made available which led to a sort of short golden age of interactive music explorer style experiences in the 90's (XPLORA1: Peter Gabriel's Secret World being one of my favourites.)


By coincidence I have been researching this game for a forthcoming Retro Gamer article (Issue 226, submitted it yesterday).


So you have to wait until late October for some interesting insights into how it came about...

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Just now, merman said:


By coincidence I have been researching this game for a forthcoming Retro Gamer article (Issue 226, submitted it yesterday).


So you have to wait until late October for some interesting insights into how it came about...


So I get the answer to my "why?" Can't wait!

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Green Beret is a classic retro game that could just not be remade today.


Imagine a modern game involving stabbing hundreds of soldiers in the chest or roasting them alive with flamethrowers. The theme is pretty gross and it's telling that when graphic fidelity rose the most popular games in this genre leant more towards the comical Metal Slug.


I remember my reaction when I borrowed a copy from a friend. "Hang on, I'm only armed with a knife? Is this some sort of joke?"


It isn't, Green Beret is the Dark Souls of eight bit games. Rock hard but satisfying when you master it.


And it's an incredibly faithful conversion from the arcade game. (C64 top, arcade bottom)












I played this for a good two weeks until I mastered it. And despite having to use my big toe to activate the secondary weapon I managed to finish it.


There's not much more to say, if you can get over the grim 80's theme of the game and are up for a challenge this is one of the best arcade conversions on the C64. The graphics are as close as you can get. The music is possibly better on the C64. The controls and the levels? 20 years later I was able to use the skills gained from mastering the C64 version on the arcade and GBA/DS ports. (Edit 30 years later? Forget about it, I'm too slow to complete any of the good versions now.)


Easily best game from this episode and to this day one of the hardest games I've ever completed

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2 hours ago, Unofficial Who said:


So which version do you prefer playing now? The arcade or C64 port?



I don't really have a preference between them, but if I had to pick, I think I actually prefer the C64 version. I prefer the running animation on the main character and I'm more used to the timing of the C64 version. Put me in front of either version, though, and I'm a happy boy. 

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6 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:

I think I'm going to have to dig through the emulator I'm using and see if there's a way to assign space to a button for port 2 games. Because I found trying to use space as a secondary replaying Green Beret to be tough.

I had a look round the Internet for that very same thing. Some people suggested joy to key or something like that. I never took it any further as I wanted to keep the playing experience as close to the original as possible. The thing with the special weapons in GB is that I use them all immediately aside from the last one you get for the end truck sequences. 

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Green Bert is ace, from the Galway loading music to the intermission sequences between levels. Dave Collier pulled off a clever coding trick with an early form of sprite multiplexer, although there is some flicker and disappearing bullets.

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I picked up Tau Ceti on a budget release in Australia and the instruction manual wasn't great. Fortunately at the time I'd read several magazine guides so I felt like I had an idea of how to play the game going in.


I wrote about this here back when I had this weird idea of going through issues of Commodore Format from issue 1 and playing through the Powerpack games and writing about them. Obviously an idea with no legs :) 


There was also a short thread here on Tau Ceti and the sequel.





Let's talk about the plot. As touched on in the podcast there's a lot going on. So here's the cliff notes.


-A colony was set up on Tau Ceti III.

-A pandemic killed all the colonists.

-Decades later a cure was found.

-The automated defence system for the colony is damaged and is attacking anything that comes close.

-A single pilot in a Gal-Corp Skimmer (a small hovercraft) may be able to slip through defences undetected.

-Your task is to travel from city to city, finding the cooling rods for the central reactor.

-Once you have the rods you can take them to the central reactor in the city capital Centralis and power down the defence grid.




Well sort of.


You have 8 missiles. 8 anti missile missiles. 8 flares. A laser. And infra-red for night vision.


Here's a few tips on what not to do.


-Don't rush to Centralis. It's the most dangerous place in the game and you really want to leave it until later.

-Don't rush ahead. It's a good way to draw the attention of flying drones and mines.

-Don't destroy every building. For one you'll need the civilian buildings to work your way around. Most maps group their main buildings in the centre. Some are weird though. I've come across one city where the buildings were laid out in a spiral. One where a string of buildings led to a reactor in the distance. The other reason is you might hit one of the tine defence sphere buildings. These will fire out lasers at a high right at every angle and will kill you within seconds if hit.


This is a game about flying low and carefully and taking out only the buildings and craft that you have to. It's all about learning the difference between


What you want to dock with




What you want to destroy




and what you want to use as landmarks.




By day Tau Ceti is a stunner. Super smooth with shadows.




And by night it's pitch black. Unless you use a flare or use the blurry infrared.




The GUI was intuitive to use as well with a mixture of text commands and icons. (Just don't type a rude word.)




It's easy to see some of the tricks now. The amazing 3D images with real time shadows were in reality flat shapes (since all the buildings were "round" they would look the same at every angle. The 3D shapes are actually just flat lines being extended or shrunk making for a fast and smooth illusion.) The multitude of instruments and map meant that the main view screen was smaller than other games. The skimmer being auto-stabilised meant that the game didn't need to deal with banking left or right.


But it's full of so many amazing features for a 48/64k game from 1986. A built in GUI. A note pad. Day night cycles. And so many little touches. Like how you'd bounce if you hit the ground at speed (especially if you ran out of fuel.) The sun moving across the sky. The odd shooting star or star winking out as it went nova. Blinking lights on some of the buildings. The blur of the infra-red. The way the landscape would bleach out at night when a missile hit something illuminating the area.


It's a very quiet game. The hum of your engines, the occasional laser beam. The swooshing launch of a missile. The grinding and hissing of a bulkhead door on docking.


This is a port of the Spectrum game but it's a rare port where John Twiddy has taken Paul Cooke's original and improved it. Here's some Spectrum shots for comparison.






There's an excellent guide here https://www.c64-wiki.com/wiki/Tau_Ceti


You'll need a blank cassette or disk (or freeze option) to finish this. It's worth at least exploring as one of the most atmospheric games on the C64. @squirtle, it's worth having another try at this one, even if you don't finish it (seriously the ending is underwhelming.)


I was sorely disappointed and jealous that the sequel / prequel Academy never made it to the C64.




A stone cold classic, one of my favourite games on the C64 and my favourite of this episode.


Edit: The C64 missed out on two followups.





Once complete, John really saw the potential in the game being extended, and tried to convince CRL to let him work on a new sequel called ‘Attack On Centralis’. John was convinced that he could use some techniques from Paul Woakes’ Encounter to speed up the game considerably and make something a lot better than the original.

CRL sadly turned down the idea, possibly because they knew that Pete was working on an official sequel and were waiting for that instead. It isn’t known how far John got with his sequel, or if he even started the game. No doubt that John probably had a
few test routines running which demonstrated what he could have done.





 basically John Twiddy was working on this unofficial sequel, but had it turned down by CRL before it could be finished. Pete had however started an official sequel called Academy and finished it on the Spectrum. By this time it seems that John Twiddy had moved onto pastures new, namely System 3, and left CRL without a programmer with possibly enough knowledge to create a conversion of Academy on the C64. So the game never surfaced.

Clement Chambers (Head of CRL) had the following to say:

“Academy came out; I’m pretty sure. However Attack on Centralis didn’t. My development head got poached and took Pete Cooke (Tau Ceti) with him. Academy was Pete’s last game for CRL and Twiddy did the C64 port and hence would have done the C64 Centralis port. Hence Twiddy evaporated and went off. The company in question went bust and left them all in the lurch; so in the end it evened out.”


Edited by Unofficial Who
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14 hours ago, squirtle said:

Yeah, good game this. I might revisit it at some point, but looking ahead to issues coming up, I've no idea where I'll find the time. There are nearly fifty games alone in February 87...


I suspect you might have to have more episodes for some issues or just drop coverage of some games. I mean there's only two of you unlike Zzap who had a team 2-3 times that by '87.

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10 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:


I suspect you might have to have more episodes for some issues or just drop coverage of some games. I mean there's only two of you unlike Zzap who had a team 2-3 times that by '87.

It's a discussion Graham and I need to have but I think the consensus is going to be doing more than two episodes per month. For Feb87 it'll probably be four episodes. I'm enjoying playing all the games, bad or not, so actually cherry picking them does not seem like the right thing to do any more.

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I.C.U.P.S. didn't receive stellar reviews at the time so I skipped it and playing it now...well the sprite work is OK but it's a weird first set of levels that as the review says feels like Bumping Buggies. It just doesn't work in the space setting. It just doesn't feel good to play.




As for part two, I have no idea how this plays as I couldn't get that far.



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Ollo and Ollo 2 were two games that I saw everywhere back in the 80's. Every second kid seemed to have it at my school and we're talking original copies. Because this was locally made and sold through ECP. I'm pretty sure these were sold separately but also ended up sold along with the creators other games in the U-Bewdy All Aussie pack.




Ollo is similar to a lot of early arcade vertical scrollers.




And as mentioned in the podcast Ollo 2 is pretty similar to Z.




The big problem is that the competition from the UK on the C64 made both of these titles instant also rans.

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I'm going to admit to not playing The Legend of the Amazon Women

This is a sideways scrolling beat-em up where according to https://www.mobygames.com/game/zx-spectrum/legend-of-the-amazon-women



You are Lady Wilde and you have survived a plane crash with no other survivors deep in the Amazon jungle, and to make matters worse your baby daughter Penelope is missing. There is a legend that a tribe of Amazon women live in this area of the jungle and so you have come to the conclusion that they have taken your baby and you want her back. Picking up a club you start to walk along a path that will hopefully reunite you with Penelope.

Legend of the Amazon Women is a side-scrolling beat-em-up that sees you take the role of Lady Wilde and you must walk from left to right over various sections to get your baby back.




Here's the thing, I'm sure the creators didn't intend for the game to be read this way as it's inspired by swords and sorcery movies from the 20th century but....




...I think the optics of this game look a little off in the modern era in a way unintended at the time.


There's a lot more going on technically under the hood. About the Spectrum version the creator says





"Ah one of the most infamous pieces of cover art - Quite apart from it being plain terrible (someone wrote at the time it should have been called "Leg end of the Amazon Women") it misrepresented the game in the most appalling way. I had no control over that and absolutely hated it. Whatever you may think of this game I was actually quite proud of what I managed to pull off technically here. There is actually a lot going on. The characters are build up from sets of legs, arms and a weapon that are shared, the leg in the back being drawn one pixel higher and at a different stage of the animation than the one in the front. A torso and Head that was unique to the player character and the amazons. This was to save memory. I was very tight on memory in general on this one. I even hid some data in the sky that cannot be seen because the pixel and background colours are the same."


I might be being unfair but watching a video of this being played didn't tempt me at all.

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I've been putting this one off.


I've mentioned before that when I was a kid I loved Airwolf. (The TV show, not the game.) Helicopters were cool! And Infiltrator looked to be Airwolf in all but name. Fly a helicopter, then sneak into secret bases? Perfect fodder for me. But I never picked up up being spooked by the multiloading. (Which is stupid because in my later years I would go on to play the tape versions of both The Bard's Tale and Labyrinth. And enjoy them!)


When emulation became a thing this was one of the first games I tried.


And bounced off. I've tried a few times and I suspect part of it is time, I've just got much better options now and games that rely on 3D seem to age the most. But I gave it another try and if you want to do the same there's a great wiki at https://www.c64-wiki.com/wiki/Infiltrator


There's loads going on here and it's clever and ahead of it's time in many ways.


You start off by taking off and flying to the base you want to infiltrate.




And this is impressive with animated hands and some basic landscaping.


When you find a base you land quietly nearby.




And then you need to sneak into buildings presenting false papers if called over.




And in buildings it's almost like a prototype Hitman / Metal Gear with disguises and knocking people out.




I think had I access to a disc drive back when I was a kid I would have loved this. I would have loved the complexity of flying the chopper where taking off requires at least three button presses and I would have enjoyed sneaking into a base.


However seeing it next to other games reviewed this month I think it suffers in comparison to Tau Ceti (flight) and NEXUS (for sneaking into a base, no really and I'll get to that later.)


Re-reading the review I think I have the same impression as Gary Penn where the games phases look worse as the game progresses.


I'd love to hear alternate views on this but it's just not my bag despite being incredibly ambitious for the time.

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