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Zapped to the Past podcast (C64)

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The concept for Thrust II sounds great. Take C64 classic Thrust and make it open world! What could go wrong?


Plenty. This game doesn't have the feel of the original. And it's lost the unique fake vector look of the original. Which leaves us with this sickly yellow game.




I didn't get on with this at all and I wonder if that's due to the expectations of the name? Would the reviewers at the time and myself feel differently if it wasn't called Thrust? Possibly. But I can't help but compare it and it just comes up as lacking in comparison.


Big isn't always better.

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5 hours ago, Unofficial Who said:

The concept for Thrust II sounds great. Take C64 classic Thrust and make it open world! What could go wrong?


Plenty. This game doesn't have the feel of the original. And it's lost the unique fake vector look of the original. Which leaves us with this sickly yellow game.




I didn't get on with this at all and I wonder if that's due to the expectations of the name? Would the reviewers at the time and myself feel differently if it wasn't called Thrust? Possibly. But I can't help but compare it and it just comes up as lacking in comparison.


Big isn't always better.

No, it's just not as good and makes little sense. Why is it all Coldplay and full of trees and stuff when the story speaks of the killer red dust through which nothing can live? Stupid game.

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Back in the day I fantasised about playing almost every single C64 game that existed. Almost. There were some that just held no appeal for me for various reasons. And Roadwars was one that just looked awful from the screenshots.


And bear in mind my initial poor impressions weren't from the C64 screenshots. They were from the Amiga based Arcadia system screenshots.




Something about this looked crowded and messy even in 1988. So I'm not sure I can blame the C64 version for turning out like this.




It's not great. It's also a non starter when compared to the recently released Cosmic Causeway. Again I can't understand why this was released when it could only do damage to the Melbourne House / Mastertronic label. I'm somewhat surprised the C64 market didn't suffer an Atari style crash due to software like this and Trigger Happy and suspect that this was only avoided due to magazines like Zzap warning off consumers. Another one to avoid.

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What an odd week. Giana Sisters still holds up and I've spent a fair bit of time playing that this week. Skate Crazy is one I'll return too. Part one at least.


The rest though? Not great. I've seen a preview of next week's lot and...oh dear.

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First up is a budget title I ended up getting off a cover mount on C&VG in early 1989. (Yes, they did a couple of cover mounted cassettes but stopped, probably due to getting irate letters from non Spectrum/Amstrad/C64 owners and switching to rubbish stickers and badges.)


That game is Brainstorm, a puzzle game from the mind of Tau Ceti creator Pete Cooke.




The premise is simple. There is a ball on the screen. You need to trap the ball in a red area to gain more points than you entered the stage with. Magenta loses you points. Green warps the ball to a random point on the screen. All other colours are decoration. You have three lines that you can "draw" on the screen with. You use your pointer to click where the line goes and with practice you can draw loops and boxes quickly. And that's it for 26 levels. Simple premise. The line drawing routine is impressive and reminds me a lot of the routine in Atari's coin op Quantum. (If you have Atari 50 give it a quick go!)


It's a pity you can't switch between lines using space or the function keys. You have to drag your pointer to the right and select your line to switch. And once you've trapped the ball you can be waiting for what feels like forever for the level to end (which can be mitigated by selecting "BONUS" which causes your points and time to accelerate.)


I sat down a couple of days ago to revisit this as I'd never finished it back in the day and I zipped through most of the levels fairly easily. There were a couple of levels that required a trick to make it through, and another screen with fields of magenta with only a couple of patches of red was solved by pure luck as I accidently lanced the ball with my line over a patch or red trapping it there.


It's a simple idea that makes for perfect budget fare. It does feel like it was made for a mouse or a trackball rather than the stick or keys options here so I'm curious as to why ST/Amiga ports didn't happen.


Probably my pick of the week, just be wary if you're light sensitive as the congrats screen strobes harder than that notorious Pokémon episode.



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I don't know I can be fair to Karnov. The game that made the man that became Data East's unofficial mascot for a while.


Karnov the strong man. I love games with an inventory but when I saw the photos of Karnov in C&VG's arcade column I had some doubts.




This game sort of looked...I don't know. Messy? And when I did get to play it that's exactly what it felt like. Messy and random. A bit of an also ran next to Rygar and Rastan.


Still early screen shots of the C64 port looked promising and sometimes average arcade games could transform into really good C64 ones.




What we ended up with was this.




A Spectrum port. With colour clash and poor scrolling. I avoided this back in the day and having a quick go now, well it's hard to tell because it's a poor port of a game I didn't really like.


So what happened? As always GTW has the goss. https://www.gamesthatwerent.com/gtw64/karnov-v1/



We eventually got in touch with Don McDermott, who worked on a number of conversions in Greg’s team. He confirmed that Mr Micro at the time was overworked with projects, and there were not enough people to work on them.


More at the link. I assume they ported across the Z80 code line by line. A couple of issues there. Obviously you lose out on the hardware advantages of the C64. But you're also porting a game to a computer with a slower clock speed. This is dire compared to the native Z80 port.


So what version should you play? Not this one obviously. The Spectrum version? The arcade original?


I'm going to suggest a third option for those who really want to play Karnov. The NES port. I can't speak to it but Jeremy Parish makes the case for it here.



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I'm going to cheat a bit here because the next two offerings are so uninspiring I can't think of much to say.


First up Pro Golf which I thought was a golf game I got on a Zzap cover tape (it wasn't. I was thinking of Golf Master.)


And I can't be inspired to play this. In a world where Leaderboard exists I can't see the reason for this at all.




Am I missing out on a hidden gem? Maybe but from what @squirtle said on the podcast, probably not.

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As for Infiltrator II – The Next Day, more like Groundhog Day.


I mean compare and contrast.






Which is from the original and which is from the sequel? This is more like full priced DLC if anything.


I tried it back in September of 2021.



I don't think I can add much more than that!


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23 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:

I'm going to cheat a bit here because the next two offerings are so uninspiring I can't think of much to say.


First up Pro Golf which I thought was a golf game I got on a Zzap cover tape (it wasn't. I was thinking of Golf Master.)


And I can't be inspired to play this. In a world where Leaderboard exists I can't see the reason for this at all.




Am I missing out on a hidden gem? Maybe but from what @squirtle said on the podcast, probably not.

No Golf.

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I never really got on with the arcade version of Bionic Commando. It's hard, a bit fiddly and it's got this weird look that Capcom had for a little while before they settled on a more powerful standard.




I played the C64 version a few years ago out of curiosity and came away unimpressed as well apart from the excellent music. But I think that might be because I'd been playing all my old favourites and have less appreciation for the limits of the C64 than I do now. Because playing it again this week has been a lot of fun.


Don't get me wrong, it's nails hard and I've been playing it without a trainer which has led to me actually learning the levels rather than forcing my way through. And it's a tough nut to crack, I can only make it half way through level 2 right now.




It looks small and bitty but in action it's not too bad. All the controls have been crammed onto the joystick so I initially thought I'd lost the ability to launch my arm straight ahead to punch soldiers in the chest and grab items. Not so, crouching allows you to do that. (Take note @squirtle!) But once you get into the swing (sorry) of things you start to get used to how this plays compared to the arcade version. You need to be sure before you use your bionic arm or you'll leave yourself open to attacks. But once practiced you can pull off wild long swings or careful vertical rappelling. Or sitting just under a platform hanging underneath.


There isn't anything else quite like it on the C64 (to this point, there will be one more later.) The graphics are a little small but having seen many developers try and fail to do this sort of game with Rygar, Rastan and Karnov I've started to understand that this sort of game is incredibly hard to pull off on the old C64 if you're doing scrolling as well. Small is the price to pay and at least it gives you room to plan.


Comparing the arcade to the C64 back to back music wise the C64 version has the edge. It just has this amazing free flowing feel. Tim Follin is really showing his mastery of the SID here.


It's another one I wish I'd had back in the day and I'll probably keep breaking it out to chip away at this year. A draw with Brainstorm for pick of the episode.


The less said about the US version the better though!




There have been many other takes on Bionic Commando. I hear the NES is well regarded.




I'd tell you what Bionic Command Rearmed on the PC plays like but it seems my version doesn't play nice with my system.




There's also a sort of "modern" version from 2009 which doesn't play too badly but is now most well known for it's amazingly weird plot twist which I won't spoil here.



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By the time Lazer Tag was released I was suspicious. Partly on the merits of basing a game around a proto sport that involved invisible bullets. But partly because I held a grudge.


It wasn't always this way. I first read about Lazer Tag in the first issue of C&VG I bought where they covered what looked like the most amazing high tech game. A sort of real life FPS.




Photon was located in Texas and for once I shared something in common with the UK readers of the magazine. Texas may as well have been Mars. I was never going to play this.


Fast forward a few years. There are centres for Lazer Tag popping up everywhere. And the scout group I was part of at the time had organised to go one Friday. And it was everything I hoped it would be. We were kitted out with a gun and a sensor that we wore on our chest. No helmets although they always seemed like overkill in the photos anyway. 


The area itself was a dark labyrinth with flashing lights and rolling mist, basically every early 90's fps game ever. And I was good! Really good! One of the guys on the opposing team was being a bit of a cheat covering the sensor on his chest with his hand but I was able to get shots either past his hand or reflected from other serfaces.


The last time I hit him, he smiled with a "ya got me sort of grin." And then he charged. Stupid me had no idea why he was charging until he was on me, and with one blow to the head from his pistol butt everything went black.


And adult found me later on, oddly enough no-one in the troop saw anything and of course I couldn't say what had happened. (As a kid it was drummed into us not to "dob.") The allure of Lazer Tag was lost (as was scouts weirdly enough.)


When Mattel started selling the sets at toy stores "We supply everything except the stadium," I could not be less interested. I did think the game would be awful (unless they added pistol whipping) and the reviews confirmed it.


Why this story? Because it's more interesting than the game based on the game.


This is awful. I mean the brief they were given was awful. I assume it was "make a gun game, but not a violent one!" No pistol whipping here.




As said in the podcast you can get more success by running to the end zone. It's spongy and without any character. I avoided this back in the day and it's not worth playing now. I feel for the people who had to make this.


A coda to my story. My ex wife went through a period of being obsessed with Lazer Tag and we went to Lazer Tag centres a handful of times. Inevitably being the only adults we frequently were in adults verses children matches which she loved. "Smaller targets, just ups the difficulty." I'm sure there are young men and women out there who still have nightmares of her as a sort of determined Lady Death  moving at speed and shooting them with unerring accuracy while cackling. (And no, there was no pistol whipping in those games. Obviously.)

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On 11/02/2023 at 05:33, ManWithNoName said:

This thread is great. I only had a C64 for a short while - it was 'borrowed' from work by my Dad - but I read Zzap! quite often and loved it.

Glad you're enjoying it. Are you listening to the podcast as well? I've loved using it as an excuse to revisit or rediscover old games.


I'd forgotten a whole line of follow ups when talking about Lazer Tag. I mentioned I felt bad for the developers tasked with making this a game, in part because I don't think this concept works in a 2D space. I think the concept really started to work in the early days of 3D fps games and I wonder if the guys at iD had ever played Lazer Tag or visited Photon in their youth? I'm sure they must of. Quake and Unreal Tournament's early levels of corridors and gantries always reminded me of those old physical arenas. In 2D it's hard to represent the blind corners and verticality that makes those arenas work.


While Lazer Tag is a thing of the past by the late 90's Nerf guns were a big thing and Nerf Arena Blast was released for those too young to play Quake. I played a demo of this back in the day and it wasn't a bad alternative.




Eventually Nerf guns were supplanted by paint guns which has led to this little game becoming somewhat popular.




So arena shooters are bigger than ever really, it's just that 1988 was way too early for it to work on the hardware available at the time.

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And now because we've moved onto Paintball I'm putting up this story that is not related to the C64 at all but it is paintball related and any excuse to report this.


It's the story about a child soldier from Sierra Leone and his experience being taken out to paintball by his new New York friends who had no idea about his past experiences. It's 20 minutes long but well worth the listen.



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I knew The Fifth Quadrant wasn't for me the moment I saw screenshots. The perspective just didn't appeal to me and it looked very empty for a game in 1988.




Still I gave it a quick go today having adored Nick Strange's conversion of Starquake to the C64 back in the day. This does feel very much like a game from 1985-86 in the Ultimate / Bubble Bus vein. It was described in the podcast as being sort of like Atic Atac in feel and I don't think that's far wrong. At least it's a budget release.

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Stormbringer is the fourth in the Magic Knight series of games and I bought this with my hard earned dosh on release. Partly because I love an arcade adventure. But mostly because of this guy in the screenshots. (Apology for using a Spectrum shot here but I couldn't find a C64 shot of this screen.)




Look at the size! Look at the definition! What an amazing sprite!


Of course what a static screenshot can't tell you is how it looks when animated. Spoiler: he's not animated at all. On the C64 he's probably made up of static character blocks. If you walk into him you will be killed...via a text message saying he's killed you. No movement at all.


The C64 port looks like a faded version of the Spectrum game.




It has excellent music though that you can listen by using an object in your inventory. Speaking of which it uses the same windimation system that was used in Spellbound which feels somewhat clumsy now. (Back then it felt like THE FUTURE!)




Back when I had this I had almost infinite time to play games and a limited library. And I'd spent money on it. Despite all this I really didn't make much headway and fell off the game, not even loading it up when walkthroughs became available.


It was the first game I played though that did a neat trick at the time, letting you play a game of Space Invaders while the game itself loaded!




This was revisited by Namco back in the PSOne days who then put out a patent on the idea, why no-one ever challenged them on prior art is beyond me. 



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Just wanted to quickly bring up a weird title that wasn't covered in the podcast Micro MUD.




MUD stood for Multi User Dungeon and was a text based multiplayer RPG and it was the in thing...if you were rich enough to have a PC, a modem and the money to pay the phone bills which from memory was payable by the minute. Many was the story I'd read of UK users getting into deep shit when the phone bills came in.


Many wanted to play but were locked out due to costs. So Virgin released a single player reproduction of MUD for the C64.


As you can imagine this was seen as quite an empty experience as the computer playing as other human players were annoying more than interesting. These games live and die on the personalities of the players. As such this is somewhat pointless.




Somewhat. I guess this might now be useful as a museum piece or in academia as a sort of simulation of early multiplayer RPGs in the 80's pre World of Warcraft. A relic from a time when games like this were inaccessible to all but the rich or those that could "borrow" computing time at university.


If you're interested in a more in depth write up I suggest http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2018/02/game-282-micromud-1988.html



MicroMud is underwhelming as an RPG, but it performs relatively well as a text adventure, and I almost wish I could have played it as a straight adventure, without the distractions of NPCs and the constant threat of resets. I didn't solve anywhere near all the puzzles, partly because I didn't figure some of them out, and partly because other NPCs kept wandering off with keys and other items I needed to progress.


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Barbarian II : The Dungeon of Drax. Never has a warrior been so powerful, so....hang on, we've done this before right?


I remember reading the Gold Medal review for this game my jaw hanging open looking at the screenshots. Palace had been a powerhouse on the C64 since Cauldron. Barbarian was a solid game but here they'd "done a Fist II" and turned their one on one combat game into an arcade adventure. And one that looked amazing. Seriously big and bold characters that made the C64 ports of games like Rastan look like Mr Puniverse. 




A year later I was given a copy of this by a friend and excitedly loaded it up. Gold Medal games were always a treat and I wasn't disappointed by what I saw. Indeed it was even more impressive with fully animated backgrounds, something that was a bit of a rarity on the C64.




You also got to choose from a choice of two player characters, one of either gender. That in itself was rare.




And then I started playing. But something was wrong. Not with the game obviously. It was a gold medal. But I just could not gel with the controls. And the map. As noted in the podcast it was similar to Tir Na Nog, Flash Gordon and the old Ultimate Sir Arthur Pendragon games. Side on but mapped in such a confusing way that true north could shift radically between screens.


It was hard but hard in an annoying way. The smallest enemies in this game pose the most threat like tiny dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. They're quick, avoid many of your attacks and will annoyingly prod and poke you into rivers of lava (which don't harm them) or pits (that they don't fall into.)


And if this happens you can't jump over said pit as you'll bounce right back in.




The sound wasn't as good and...well....it was smaller than Fist II. Less enjoyable than Fist II. The sound was also sparser. I couldn't get past the nagging feeling that I'd played something like this before but better (if a little rougher.) This felt a lot like Rimrunner, a brilliant looking game but flawed and dull after a while. Even with trainers and infinite time I ended up putting this down and never finishing it.


In retrospect you can see where Palace lost their way in a similar way to many other companies that end up competing against themselves to make prettier and bigger looking games. This game does look stunning, the animation is amazing. It has "fatalities" in combat on both sides that are unique years before Mortal Kombat was even thought of. But it's nowhere near as compelling as the previous game, a game that had two barbarians facing off in one of two screens. Sometimes more is less and this is the case here. If you love pixel art and animation it's well worth loading up but despite the critical acclaim this has dated poorly and may well have been overrated back in the day.


Just as a postscript, despite finding the game lacklustre at the time (which I blamed on myself for "not getting it") for the longest time I felt that the C64 developers who made ports of games like Rastan, Karnov and Rygar were "lazy" because they couldn't make their game look as good. 


Looking back with more experienced eyes I can see how the designers of Barbarian achieved much better results. Flick screen instead of scrolling and large borders that hide that they only need to make major updates to about 50% of the screen.


Palace closed it's doors before it could release the final part(s) of this trilogy.


Barbarian 3 on the C64 https://www.gamesthatwerent.com/gtw64/barbarian-3/


of which only sketches remain




And Super Barbarian https://www.gamesthatwerent.com/2020/07/super-barbarian-amiga-st-pc-c64/


of which some screenshots remain.




(For more go visit gtw via the links above!)

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Speaking of boring...I gave The Flintstones a swerve back in the day.


To be honest I'm not a fan of the cartoon being too young to understand the appeal of a cartoon based on The Honeymooners. But this compilation of three game types didn't appeal because there was better already out there.


Of the two sections I played Part One was a really annoying game where you have to paint a wall while looking after your child who constantly wanders out of her crib to scribble on the wall.




Why would I play this when I could already play Poster Paster from 1984?




And as for the ten pin bowling why would I play this




when 10th Frame was already out there?




Both of which played better and looked brighter than this grey game. It's a nice try but there's something that's almost Andy Capp levels of depressing having a game that's made up of painting a grey wall light grey and then going ten pin bowling.

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On 14/02/2023 at 23:42, ManWithNoName said:

Most people who watched The Flintstones BITD had no idea it was based on The Honeymooners, just that it was a funny cartoon with dinosaurs in it and a car that was powered by your legs.


I think I just found the husband and wife yelling and nagging at each other weird.


I totally watched it though, what else was there to do? I think I actually prefer the previous Flintstones game over this just because of the sprite work.




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Star Wars Droids. There is a lot to unpack here.


I have fond memories of liking the cartoon although I'm sure it was dreadful. But I was desperate for Star Wars content. Really desperate. How desperate?



It's got everything. It's got punks.




Sorry I mean...




And it's got  C3PO and R2D2. The ever living. The ever immortal. At this point those two aren't part of cannon, they are literally the cannon as the most important beings in the Star Wars universe.


So in the game...actually first a detour. Let's travel back to 1987. Back when the Amiga was first new as much as I wanted one from day one there were some ideas and concepts that had me somewhat worried about the future of gaming. And one of these was Barbarian. Not that one. This one.




This game was critically acclaimed in some magazines because of the presentation and the amazing looking graphic. For 1987. The thing that worried me was the icons under the screen. The game was mouse controlled and it felt like a real step back. Surely more direct control would be better than messing about with large buttons.


A year later and someone has looked at Barbarian and what they've taken from it is...well it wasn't the graphics.




This screen is a great case in point. You have two droids coming at you. And a gun. So the controls you need to use here are duck, throw a thermal detonator, turn around and throw another thermal detonator. Leaving aside why C3PO is chucking bombs around willy nilly instead of being to do all the preceding on the stick you have to move a pointer from function to function. Which means you can't do anything quickly enough.


It also looks dull and seems to have not much to do much with the cartoon.


Is there any fun to have here? Well sort of. When looking for a long play of this game I came across maybe the most Australian streamer ever who was not having much fun. When he was describing taking out a robot and then two enemy robots. "Roight, we finally take care of him and then these two c--ts turn up". My partner who was listening as well creased over laughing at this. (Content warning, some strobing patterns and a lot of swearing.)



Oh the game? It feels like it was either rushed or reskinned from another project. Even as a fan of the cartoon the reviews clued me in that I should avoid this. You should too.

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When I heard Hercules: Slayer of the Damned! mentioned in the podcast in the same breath as Samurai Trilogy my heart dropped. But then I played it and...it's not bad. A vast improvement over their previous title.




It's colourful. Well animated. The sound is meaty. The background is animated. It's not bad.


So what works against it? The concept of only being able to damage your foe when the snake at the bottom of the screen feels a bit fiddly. The enemy lacks variety, it's skeletons apart I guess from the minotaur. And the goal of the game, hit one of twelve "tasks" as they drop from the top of the screen into a pot feels at odds with the combat of the game.


But the reason I forgot this decent game existed is the reason most of you have as well. This feels like it was designed to compete with Barbarian. And Barbarian is the better game. But it's had the poor luck to be released the same month as Barbarian 2 which feels like it has much more variety compared to this forgotten game. Worth a look.

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