Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Commodore 64 Round-Up #1

I've mentioned here a few times how limited my experience is with the legendary Commodore 64 - rectifying this and many other gaming oversights was the main reason for starting this blog - and since doing so I have begun to scratch the surface of the C64's immense software library but not by nearly enough. I have therefore decided to start covering a few more titles for said beige breadbin starting with this splendid Round Up! For the first one I've chosen five random platformers:

Trolls and Tribulations (1984)

In this early release you apparently play the part of some dude who's disguised himself as a troll in order to infiltrate some underground caverns and grab all the treasure! There are several scary beasties patrolling the depths - one type (cretins) can be (and need to be) shot while the other types (skulls, spiders, and buzzards) cannot and must instead be avoided. As well as the treasure, you'll need to look out for keys to pass the numerous locked doors. There are seven stages altogether, each consisting of five fairly short scrolling mazes ("over 200 dark and eery chambers" in total) which are generally well designed and accompanied by some catchy music. Progress through them is hindered somewhat by some rather sluggish controls which often makes moving around the platforms (particularly jumping) and avoiding the enemies a frustrating experience but, with practise, it's just about bearable. The collision-detection is quite forgiving though, and the difficulty level is just about right which makes this a pretty fun game, and a rather one addictive too! Grew on me a lot, this one... 7/10

Hoppin' Mad (1988)

Despite being released by a fairly major label (Elite), this strange game has never been very well known, and my first impressions of it probably told me all I needed to know about that. Pressing fire thrusts you straight into the action which see a group of four red balls bouncing along the ground, and from right-to-left for a change. I really didn't know what was going on to start with but it seems the object is to keep at least one of these balls going under you've collected ten of the balloons that drift by now and then. Doing this then sends you to the next stage where the same task awaits. There are twelve themed stages in total (beach, forest, snow, underwater, etc) and, as well as a few bonus items, each stage features various things that will burst the balls. If may sound mildly interesting but sadly, despite some decent and varied graphics, it isn't, mainly because it just doesn't feel like you're actually doing much. It's slightly addictive for five minutes or so but I still quickly got bored of this one... 4/10

Bionic Ninja (1988)

Any game which has 'ninja' in its title will immediately grab the attention and this one will sound good from its outline too - the side-scrolling stages are two-tiered (much like Rolling Thunder and Shinobi) and feature tonnes of soldiers and floaty robot things. Our hero can take them out with his fists and feet, shurikens, or a sword. Sadly, however, it's been executed horribly and has resulted in a game that's even worse than Hoppin' Mad - that at least was only boring, this is just... crap. There's no in-game sound whatsoever, for starters, and the repetitive graphics do nothing to encourage further exploration - the main character looks more like Bicentennial Man than a ninja! Worst of all, though, is the gameplay which has given us control of the least-agile ninja in the history of the universe, making it exceptionally difficult to consistently avoid the attacks of the infinite enemies. I didn't play it for that long, admittedly, but there doesn't even seem to be any level structure or bosses or anything like that - it just on and on, occasionally changing the foreground graphics a little. I feel sad now :( ... 2/10

Dr. Mad vs. The Topsy Turvy Moon Men of Mars (1993)

Here to cheer me up, however, is Dr.Mad, whose strangely-named game was bound to catch the eye! It was a rather late release by Direct Designs who were trying, apparently, to cash in on the many console-style platformers that were very well established by this point. It casts you as the squat doctor of the title who has to make his way through numerous themed worlds filled with bizarre creatures which can be zapped by the doc's ray gun (which is nearly as big as him). Aside from said weaponry it plays a bit like a Mario game (or Giana Sisters game, as may be more appropriate in this case) and isn't therefore very original. It is, however, rather good. The graphics are colourful and varied and the music is superb, now ranking among my favourite SID tunes. Dr. Mad is an appealing fellow, too. He moves rather slowly through the stages but they are nicely designed and enjoyable to play through. The only drawback here, really, is the irritating push-scrolling which often makes it hard to see what lies very close ahead... 7/10

Scumball (1988)

This slightly unpleasant-sounding game was a Mastertronic budget release and, like many such titles, also had a Spectrum release. I'd still not played it before but was pleased to find a flick-screen platform/shooty adventure which places you in control of a small jumpy robot. Based on that and the slightly otherworldly look of the graphics, I naturally assumed it was set on an alien planet of some sort but it's actually set in our own sewer system and charges you with getting rid all the slimy nasties that have set up home there. Our helpful robot, which is female, incidentally, is a pretty agile little thing and can fire several weapons as well as leap about the place while looking for the grenades (as can be found in any sewer, naturally) which are needed to destroy the master 'Green Slime' and permanently expel the foulness. It's a fairly short game, but tricky too - there's a lot that can drain the robot's power and no indication that this is happening besides the actual energy meter in the corner of the screen shrinking. It's also a game that features Speccy-style graphics - something which I believe C64 fanboys found mighty irksome! It's pretty good fun though, and worth spending some time on... 6/10

Look out for another C64 Round-Up soon! :)

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