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Zapped to the Past podcast (C64)

Unofficial Who

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Hoppin' Mad is an expanded version of a game I believe was previously compilation filler called Cataball.


It's bright cheery and simple. You have a row of bouncing balls. By speeding up and slowing down you avoid obstacles.


I didn't get on with this for one reason.



You scroll from right to left. I'm not sure why that should even be an issue and yet it's one I can't seem to get past! Simple bright arcade fare.


A NES version was in the works but never released.

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I'm going to skip Every Second Counts as it's based on a game show that was never shown where I lived so I can't really judge it fairly.


I do love how passive aggressive the screenshots look. It's the Luigi death stare of the 80's. Can anyone else step in here in regards to the game?



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2 hours ago, Unofficial Who said:

I'm going to skip Every Second Counts as it's based on a game show that was never shown where I lived so I can't really judge it fairly.


I do love how passive aggressive the screenshots look. It's the Luigi death stare of the 80's. Can anyone else step in here in regards to the game?



It's a fairly decent rendition of the quiz show. Similar to Blockbusters in that it manages to translate the format pretty well. 

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One thing the C64 was not short of was conversions of popular arcade hits. And what more popular arcade hit from 1986 could there be than the almighty Kyros!


Surely yo all remember this iconic scene from Alpha Denshi's timeless classic.




Yeah, this game is a lot.


Renamed Desolator:Halls of Kyros this overhead beat-em up is...well it's something. I think the word I'm looking for is dated.




It feels dated and slow. You can get stuck on the scenery. You have to be near the top of the screen to push scroll forwards. It's very weird but it's also a game that would have been incredibly average in 1986 let alone 1988.




I can't but but feel for the anonymous coders here. I mean they've made a very competent version of a deeply average game. I'm sure there has to be fans out there. I'm not one. Do you know anyone @squirtle who can speak for the defence?

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Just now, squirtle said:

All I can say is that I enjoyed my time with it. Running around punching stuff was silly and fun and different from the usual Commando style antics. Maybe I just like my combat up close and personal...


That might be it. I've tried other games like this (like Capcom's Avengers) and it's not been my thing. Maybe the next game on the list will be the one that captures my heart this week?

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On 17/02/2023 at 21:31, Unofficial Who said:

Maybe the next game on the list will be the one that captures my heart this week?


Destruct. Come back Desolator! All is forgiven!


Destruct is a budget sideways scrolling shooter that looks and feels like it came from 1984.




Something nice to say. Er...um....the death animation where the jetpack guys head flies off made me laugh.

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I remember seeing the reviews for Beyond the Ice Palace and thinking "hang on, this looks a little like a reskinned Ghosts'n'Goblins!" And, I'm not wrong in terms of game design, but I'm also not right as we'll come to later.




This is going to be short. Like the game. I love the look of it, it's a weird look for the C64, almost Amstrad inspired. I like that it gives you three weapons to choose from at the start of the game. But it's a short game, longplay videos are literally six minutes long. So they've hidden that by making the game hatefully hard.


And that's a shame, I don't know why they didn't go down the route of some arcade games (or even ancient 2600 games) that had the same problem but solved it by adding extra elements and difficulty per run. Think Paperboy, you can see the entire street in a couple of minutes but it's made special by adding new obstacles every time you start the next day.


This is just a slog. I'd recommend it to people who love ultra hard platform games but giving you nine lives and a somewhat ineffectual smart bomb at the start is almost an admission they made this too hard.


More interesting though is the story behind this game in that it was one of three games in the works that was originally going to be a Thundercats game. You can read about that here https://www.gamesthatwerent.com/gtw64/thundercats-2/



Nick Jones talks about what was meant to be Thundercats:

“From what I remember, the game was originally Thundercats which I was really excited about. I used to watch the tv show when I was younger. The first I found that things were otherwise was when various magazines came out with previews of Thundercats and the screenshots weren’t from our game.

The story I heard was that Elite had contracted three different teams to do Thundercats. I guess they were desperate to make the Christmas market. They ultimately chose to use another teams version. I certainly remember having real problems with the C64 version. It would randomly lock up ( usually after a couple of hours play ). The bug was REALLY hard to find and turned out to be a strange quirk with raster interrupts which I used to make the game smooth.

But it took me a long time to track down. Anyway, I guess Elite liked it enough to rebrand it to ‘Beyond the Ice Palace’. The game was more or less complete; from what I remember it was really just a few art tweaks. I’m not sure what happened with the third version or even who was developing it.”


More at the link.


As to which game is the pick of the podcast? Barbarian 2, but only for the pixel art. For gameplay none of them. 1988 is a bit of a rough time for the C64 and this is a rough selection.

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A controversial one to start with. Hawkeye.




This got a Gold Medal in Zzap. Overly generous. This got 3/10 in C&VG. Way too harsh.


Why? Well there was talk that the Zzap score might have been influenced by Newsfield owning both Zzap and Thalamus. Denied at the time and since. It was enough at the time for me to give it some side eye.


Newsfield to their credit put a demo on the cover of level 3 in late 1988 and while it was obviously for promotional purposes being able to play level 3 "The Moon" I was free to make up my own mind.




What I played was good. The graphics, sound and presentation were top notch (if a little cheesy with the hawk head indicators.) I was impressed. But after giving it a good run I tired of it quickly. To sum up the game, you run to the left and right (using the "hawk eyes" as indicators) to find invisible map pieces and powerups. Once you have four map pieces you exit the game stage right. And that is it. It's Defender but on foot and to me it just felt like busy work.




Playing it now, I'm still impressed by the audio visuals, how you warp in and how large some of the bad guys are. I can just imagine Rygar being made by this group. But the game itself still feels lacking. Run to the left. Run to the right. Shoot. It's not Gold Medal good. (But it's not 3/10 bad.)


I suspect this might be the game of the episode, although this is the only one of the bunch I've played before. As average as it is this game became somewhat of a blueprint for a couple of games that crop up in the early 90's, more on that when we get to it.


Also of note, people fighting in underwear seems to be a theme in this issue with this and Barbarian 2...

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...and Vixen continues the theme. And this is another title that's suffered unfortunate timing in that given the choice between this and Hawkeye the latter is the one you'd choose.


This got a lot of attention back in the day for the sexist racy cover photo that seemed to be the thing in this issue (what with Barbarian 2 and the two page advert for Psycho Pigs UXB this issue.)


It scored so low that I didn't even give it a second thought however on playing it now...this might be the closest the C64 had to a fast Rastan clone.




It does make the error of making all your enemies knee height which means you spend much of the game crouching and crouch running in the most undignified way before turning into a stoat fox.




Not an awful game but not great. I get the feeling with a bit more tweaking and polish it could have been great.


For some reason it really made me nostalgic for DOS classic Jill of the Jungle.



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Talking of dangers, here's one. Be careful what you wish for. Super Trolley is the fulfilment of a childhood wish sent in to Jim'll Fix It. "Yes, I will" he rasped through tombstone like teeth as a monkey's paw on the shelf behind him curled into a fist. We never saw this here as by now you've probably guessed Jimmy was unknown in Australia.


So we missed out on this bleak portrait of life that makes Andy Capp look like a rainbow.


First of all you make a game out of putting stickers on the tops of cans.






Then you try to find stuff in the labyrinthian store.




This was too bleak even for me. I gave up when I found shoppers gathering around shelves of cat food.


Avoid at all costs.

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The show must go on, I'll worry about restoring old screenshots later, and maybe rely a little less on them. Although it's been rough because in the recent lots there haven't many games that have held up or ones I had an interesting story about.


Poltergeist however is decent despite the average review it got in Zzap at the time.




This is a decent shooter that has an odd retro feel which reminds me in part of Gradius, Looping and old NES games (that I guess would have been contemporaneous at the time.) You can freely fly around the landscape trying to hit all the flashing boxes in a level and then land on a pad.


There's not much to it but it's good. It's fast and feels like a cut down version of Fantasy Zone. The first power up you pick up is great (three way shot) and YOU DON'T LOSE IT WHEN YOU DIE!


There's just one weird concession to keep up the speed on an almost full screen.


You have shields and lives. You don't have any visual indication on how many shields are left. You only see how many ships you have when you die. And you don't see your score before the game is over.


It's weird. I know that for years Edge championed clutter free or non existent UI but this was either a brave misstep or more likely an experiment in getting a full screen scrolling shooter to run on the C64.


This title isn't going to set the world on fire but as a budget release this is fine and as mentioned on the podcast perhaps reviewed a little harshly. My second best pick from this episode and worth at least a quick try.

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To Hell and Back, another I didn't play back in the day lives up to its' name.


The title screen would have you believe that you play as a baked potato.




But instead you are Archangel Bertram, on a mission to retrieve the Ten Commandments. Because they only had one copy in heaven.


The intro has a nice little animated skit which is neat but the game itself combines the difficulty of Ghost's'n'Goblins along with the thing I hated about classic Castlevania. Bad guys that can knock you off into a pit of lava.




I didn't play this for too long. Again I feel like a lot of these 1988 releases look and play worse than their 1986 counterparts and playing this just makes me want to play G'nG or Cauldron again instead. Not bad, just deeply average in a very crowded field.

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I am well behind so let's look at the weirdness that is the C64 port of Street Fighter. Or should that be Street Fighters?


Many of you might be thinking of Street Fighter 2, the arcade game that revolutionised what was becoming a stale genre, a game that arguably kept the arcade scene healthy for a few more year. The game that was the killer app for the SNES.


I'm not talking about that game. I'm talking about it's deeply average predecessor. The pre CPS system game.




It's not unattractive although it looks a lot like an Amiga game. You have the choice of two characters and it had two different versions for the arcade cabinets. One had the now standard six button layout. But the other had two big buttons. Which you slammed with your fist with as much force as you wanted. This was a bad idea, both for arcade operators and for arcade goers who could come away from an over enthusiastic round with real bruises.


US Gold paid serious money for the game rights and didn't want to leave anything up to chance. Which is why when they released the C64 version on one side of the tape they had the locally produced UK version, and on the other they had the US developed version. Which is incredibly strange. Because the UK version looked like this.




There are serious issues here. The fighters look like they're made of Lego. Worse still they match the colour of the background. Again we've got a game that looks and plays worse than say Way of the Exploding Fist which is almost four years old at this point. I can see why this ended up like this in order to preserve the background scrolling and the sprite size of the arcade game but this just doesn't look great.


And then on the other side of the cassette you get




The sprites are smaller here. There is no background scrolling. But these are fair compromises to make an attractive looking game. It does have an odd feel, like a slower version of Yie Ar Kung Fu. And just like that game I eventually came across this games version of Pole who polished me off in seconds.




I didn't buy this back in the day for a couple of reasons. One, I had loads of fighting games and arguably with IK+ I really didn't need anything else. But also not living in either the UK or the US I had no idea what version local distributors would run with and didn't want to risk being loaded up with the UK version.


So I skipped this. There are going to be many more Street Fighter clones in the next few months and most of them will make these two look like solid gold.


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Street Fighter - You can also see a similar menu system to Street Fighter USA in two other Capcom USA conversions, The Speed Rumbler and Side Arms).


Poltergeist has levels named after Depeche Mode songs that Gavin was listening to during development.


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I vividly remember the double page adverts for Dream Warrior. I used to love abstract dream like games as a kid, it was only later I worked out that these games were usually made out of bits and bobs. "It's so random BECAUSE IT'S A DREAM!"


Anyway talking of dreams...here's the loading dream. I mean screen.




Someone liked their post punk muscle men.


And here's the game where you stride the dream halls like a demake of Master Chief!




My heart sank when this was compared on the podcast to PSI Warrior, another dreamlike game I just didn't enjoy. And despite the massive main sprite and decent sound effects and music this just isn't my thing.

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Did any of you know any Mac owners back in the day? Were you one? (To be clear I'm talking about the Apple computer, not the raincoat.)


All the Mac owners I knew (one) would constantly rave at me about my shit toy machine. They would raise a finger and say things like "Ah! I feel sorry for you that you won't ever get to play superior games like Dark Castle."


I've never played Dark Castle on the Mac. Having only ever experienced it via screenshots I took 12 minutes today to watch a long play. I can see why Mac fans would have loved this in 1986. A platformer taking inspiration from contemporaries like Epyx's Jumpman and Nintendo's Donkey Kong Jnr. the player controls an ordinary peasant trying to take down The Black Knight through a variety of screens. And this game uses a lot of samples which must of been amazing back then but now comes across as quirky and somewhat annoying. With no joystick control is via keyboard with mouse being used to aim and throw rocks.




So what of the C64 port?


Well for a start you get colour and this great Fonz impersonation.




Some games just shouldn't be ported though and this is a case in point. I was surprised at how fast the game moves, I was expecting it to move much slower. However Mac disc access and C64 disc access is miles apart in terms of speed and this is one of those C64 ports where you spend almost as much time waiting for the game to load than playing the game. Without a mouse rock throwing is pretty difficult as well.




I didn't play this for long enough to give this a fair shake. I've always had the suspicion that this was much beloved on the Mac because in 1986 it was one of the only platform games on the platform. But the loading times just kill this stone dead. And you have other games in the same vein on the C64 like Jumpman Jnr and Bruce Lee, both of which are more compelling than this port. Both of which have a single load.


There's going to be more like this moving forward, this like the US version of Street Fighter is hampered by long multiloads that really break up the flow of the game.


A valiant effort to down port a pint into a thimble but a miss.

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Lastly we have The Games:Winter Edition. Another I skipped because the reviews were lukewarm and reading between the lines I just assumed most of Epyx's talent by this point had moved onto making Lynx games. I was surprised looking at this how many or the original hands they had on this.


It starts with an opening ceremony which has bigger bolder sprites and animation than the older titles, I'm not sure why I found this less impressive. He takes forever to run up those stairs! Almost like he's limping or has a stitch.




First even is the Luge and this is where the problems begin for me.




There seems to be an obsession here with emulating sports TV coverage with fixed cameras which makes each screen transition disorienting. The Bobsleigh in the previous Winter Games was far better. And even worse if you leave the luge alone you'll get to the end with a decent score anyway!


Cross Country is a pure joystick waggler which feels like a reskin of Rowing from Summer Games 2. But not as fun.




Figure Skating is just as confusing as it was in Winter Games although the animation is even better this time. Here's how I performed.




Ski Jump was probably done better in the original Winter Games. The switch to first person 3D does nothing but make the jump at the end of the ramp harder to judge.




Slalom is a less interesting take on the sport than the one that was included on World games with much less range of movement available.




Speed Skating has a weird dual view where you see a dot on the track and a closeup view which manages to take all of the drama out of the sport. No chance of Ray Bradbury style sailing past pile ups here.




And last we have Downhill which just feels like a first person version of Slalom and again isn't as good as the one on World Games.




There are two problems with this package. One is that there is a lot of loading over two discs. The time you spend in an event is often much less than the time waiting for a load.


But the other is competition. I've talked a lot recently how a lot of games released were destined to fail as they were competing against far better versions. At this point of the C64's commercial life if you bought out a new version of a game it really needed to be much better in some way even to get a look in.


In this case you have Epyx essentially competing against themselves when they'd already set the standard. An by upping the complexity they lose the big draw of these games, having a game simple enough to explain to a friend and be up and running in seconds. To my eyes it somehow doesn't look as good as the previous games. It's either trying to push the C64 into doing something difficult or it's just too busy.


Another case of more is less. I mean playing this alone is missing the point of these games I guess but even now I can have a good time playing World Games or Summer Games 2. A swing and a miss for this one.

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Playing them alone was what I did for 99% of the time, yet I never got bored of doing 8 people in the diving on Summer Games or going through all of Summer Games 2 over and over. These later Games games were a real mess for me. 

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23 hours ago, squirtle said:

Playing them alone was what I did for 99% of the time, yet I never got bored of doing 8 people in the diving on Summer Games or going through all of Summer Games 2 over and over. These later Games games were a real mess for me. 


They even looked messy on the page. I suspect that Epyx were being pulled in to many directions at once at the time.


Anyway, onwards and upwards! You and Graham covered the following this week for our delight.




Games covered.


-Dark Side


-Chubby Gristle




-Crazy Paving


-Bruce Lee


There's a stone cold classic in there, a brave attempt and some shockers.

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In August last year I revisited Driller which has dated badly. Where Incentive were smart was the theme of the game. In a 3D game so slow it doesn't have fps, it has spf (seconds per frame) the conceit that you were operating a heavy bulky piece of mining equipment worked. Mostly.


Where the immersion broke down playing that game for me was finding the hanger where you could switch to a lightly armoured flying scout. And that's where the game falls apart because while waiting for a 20 ton mining rig to turn or shift forward was believable turn based flying wasn't.


So while I was excited about Dark Side as soon as I read the review I knew it wasn't for me. Because in Dark Side you control a little man with a jet pack. And unless they'd switched from shaded polygons this was not going to work for me.




This could almost be an animated gif of the game in motion. It feels slower and since you really need to use the jet pack it's a complete non-starter in my eyes. Back in the day I'd decided if I was going to play this it would be on a 16 bit machine. Trying this now and checking out some videos of the Atari ST version in action my instinct was right. This one should not have been released on the 8 bit machines. They just aren't up to the task.


Incentive will release further Freescape games on the C64, and I did have some fun back in the day with Total Eclipse 2:the Sphinx Jinx. If you want to play Dark Side the way it's meant to be played you really want the Amiga, ST or PC ports. Not even another atmospheric tune can save this.

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One of the joys of following along with the podcast is I get to play games I've never played before.


Like arcade adventure Metropolis.


You fill the shoes of Moonboots who....what...hang on.....




...haven't I seen you before? When was it....where was it....no way.




Is this a clone of Pyjamarama? I mean maybe something happened during the porting process. Let's have a look at the Spectrum versions and compare.








That is cheeky that is. I suspect that the thing that saved The Power House from being sued was I think Mikro-Gen was defunct by this point. But what a bloody cheek!


I'm a big fan of Pyjamarama so I can tell you from the quick run I had with this that it has none of the charm nor the tight design of that game. And if this isn't a copy then there are a lot of co-incidences in the screen layouts.


Easy conclusion here, go play Pyjamarama instead.

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I have no idea why Chubby Gristle was released and for full price in 1988. Because this looks like an also ran Monty on the Run clone.




Not as bad as Brian Bloodaxe but not far off. The theme of the game has dated as well being a joke at the expense of fat people. You goal is to avoid being sent to fat camp by eating so much food you'll be too heavy to cart off the couch. Hilarious. What makes this in even poorer taste was that it was based on a real person that the creators found unpleasant.


It was awful, dated and unappealing in 1988, it's not even worth playing now. Even worse for this release there's an ancient budget release that's covered later this week that is head and shoulders above this.

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In the reviews Marauder looked and sounded average and playing it now it is an average push scrolling vertical shooter. It's slick although you're going to want to switch to sound effects to get some situational awareness.




A couple of things hold it back from being really great. The powerups for one. They shoot back at you which makes them a challenge but half the time the powerup is actually a powerDOWN reversing your controls or jamming your laser. You can't just find a safe spot to sit it out either as you'll be strafed by aircraft if you hesitate too long. In the several games I played most of my deaths were due to bad powerups.


And there's no escaping it, this feels like a SEUCK game. I don't think it's using Sensible's code and I'm not accusing the programmers or designers here of ripping off Sensible. More that SEUCK is so good that even decent games like this just look less appealing when you can roll your own.


It's worth a go, a couple of small changes and this would have been a must buy. As it is it's a little too hard. Better is to come in a year or two.

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