A C64stravaganza!

Hey, look, it’s Monday, and even though I said I’d stop Retro Game of the Week entries, here I am with a post!  No, RGOTW isn’t back, but I did say I’d post semi-regularly regarding some of the things I’ve been playing, and I did say I was going to play some Commodore 64… and so I have been.

When I was young, my parents scraped together enough money to get me the Commodore VIC-20, and eventually, the Datasette (basically a storage device that used regular audio cassette tapes to store data — yes, it was as slow as you might think it would be).  As my poor VIC-20 got atrociously out of date after some years, my parents, in their infinite lower-middle class generosity to their computer-crazed son, plopped down a brand new Commodore 64 in front of me.  Still had the Datasette, though, so loading something like Telengard would take an insane 30 minutes!  (The game was something like 35KB, smaller than most small images that it takes a fraction of a second to load from the internet these days.  Take that, priviledged kids.)  Eventually, they once again felt the sorrow of a poor nerd and ponied up the money for the 1541 disk drive, featuring 5 1/4″ floppy disks that held a whopping 170ish KB of data.  And loaded a lot faster than that damn Datasette — I was up and playing Telengard in a few minutes now!  (And thanks to me eventually acquiring a fast loading cartridge to speed up things, it loaded even faster!  It was no fraction of a second like it would load now, but hey, progress!)

So many exclamation points, I know.  The sign of a poor writer.  But it is a reflection of the excitement I had at the time for the Commodore 64 — a simple yet effective machine, every bit of it laid bare for me to manipulate, hack on, fiddle with, and, yes, play games with.  It was my first true love in computing, and it still holds a place dear to my heart.

My actual Commodore 64 hardware is long gone, long since broken and lost to the ages, but I still am able to play its games and toy around with it thanks to a magnificent emulator called VICE.  It is technically a multi-emulator that is able to run all 8-bit Commodore hardware, from the old PET computers to the VIC-20, Commodore 64, 128 and PLUS4.  It’s quite a magnificent feat of programming and very impressive work was done to simulate it very well, especially the magnificent Commodore 64’s sound chip (SID), which was capable of some impressive sound feats back in the day.

Did I mention it can play games?

International Karate+


This game is probably one of the games you think of when you think of Commodore 64 gaming.  It’s a very early example of a fighting game, where you can fight against the computer or another player to execute a variety of karate punches and kicks to knock down your opponent (unlike many fighting games, one good hit knocks them down and you gain a point).  The controls seem rather awkward at first as you only have the standard Commodore 64 8-position joystick plus single button to control your fighter, but as you play more, you quickly remember the movements required to pull of any move.  There were many variants of this game, and trying quite a few of them, I never was able to find the exact version of the game I played back in the day, but the version I ended up with was close enough.

Great Giana Sisters


Super Mario Bros. and Nintendo, eat your heart out.  The Commodore 64 proved it could play side-scrolling platformers, too, and delivered a very good Mario Bros.-like with this game.  Pressing up on the control stick to jump was a little awkward if you’re used to doing it with a button, but it was necessary, like International Karate+, to map everything to a single one-button stick.

Radar Rat Race


Hoooly crap.  I had completely forgotten about this one until scrolling through a game list for the C64 and happening on this thing.  The game is basically a clone of the arcade Rally-X, and is very well done and insanely fun.  Big smile on my face playing this one.

Raid on Bungeling Bay


I didn’t play a whole lot of this back in the day, but I did remember that the helicopter controls were absolutely awesome, confirmed by my replay of it today.  It’s a pretty simple multiscrolling fly-around-and-shoot-things game, but it’s really a solid game.



There seems to be many people who remember Speedball 2 and not this one, and claim that the second game was the better game.  I disagree.  2 had a more zoomed in view with clunkier controls and chaotic (in a bad way) gameplay, while the original seemed a lot more solid and fun to play.  2 wasn’t bad, mind you, but I think the original just has it beat in every way that matters.  In the end it’s just a simple football game, (“soccer” for my fellow USAians that are obsessed with that “other” so-called football) but hell, it’s fun, and that’s what counts.

I highly recommend grabbing the Vice emulator and giving these games (and others) a try.  You might find that the Commodore 64 will win your heart, as well.


Wizard (Commodore 64) is the Retro Game of the Day for 29 June, 2016

Like many kids back in the late 70s and early 80s, my first big console was the Atari 2600.  But of course, the 2600 was very limited in what it could do and what games it could play, and by 1983, it had shot itself in the foot with terrible games.  Fortunately, home computing was affordable enough to start me down that path, first with a Commodore VIC-20, then the wonderful Commodore 64, which I became absolutely obsessed with, not only playing games, but creating little programs and other diversions with that little 8-bit wonder.  I spent tons of time with games like the Ultima series, but I seem to remember a huge chunk of my time playing a simple yet addictive little platformer game that was an offshoot of the more well-known Jumpman games: Wizard. 

Technically I had its improved and expanded version, known as Ultimate Wizard, but the game was the same: navigate a wizard through a series of levels full of platforms, ladders, ropes, traps, monsters, and other obstacles for a very simple goal: get the key on each level and bring it to a lock.  The simplicity of the goal was in sharp contrast to the well-designed and challenging levels that made the seeming simplicity a lot harder as you have to position yourself exactly right to jump from place to place, avoid baddies that scurry around the level, and even navigating through disappearing and appearing level elements.  Most levels give you a limited number of a single spell specifically for that level after you get the key that can give you an advantage, but generally, your skill alone will determine your success or failure.  Moreover, the game includes a level editor that allows you to build your own devious levels.

It’s an insanely fun little game that I spent way too much time with instead of doing the things I was supposed to do at that age, unimportant things like homework, chores, and other things that obviously was less important than playing a videogame (heh).  Give it a try.  The vice Commodore emulator for the C64 seems to play it perfectly.


Telengard (Commodore 64) is the Retro Game of the Day for 8 June, 2016

Today is going to be another “cheat day” where I do not create a video of the RGotD I feature, because I’m not feeling my best today and I’d rather not deal with finding, loading up, practicing a bit, then launching OBS to record (and possibly re-record if I’m not satisfied with the results) my gameplay, which is my standard routine for these things every day.  Instead, I’m going to use an old video I recorded for a retro game that I definitely think is worthy of mention here, one that features a chilling, awesome little musical intro to a fantastic game.

Telengard is a game in the “roguelike” genre, named after the pioneering game of the genre of permadeath, randomly generated dungeon maze games, Rogue. While Telengard does not feature the random levels of Rogue, instead opting for a set maze that is actually not stored anywhere and is generated on the fly by an algorithm in the game code, it does offer the permadeath and random difficulty of its predecessors.  Setting off from an inn on the surface, your character enters the fifty level dungeon full of monsters, treasures, traps, and interesting objects such as fountains and thrones placed throughout the levels, his only goal being to become stronger and plunder as much treasure as possible throughout.

I probably played more of this game than any other Commodore 64 game possibly besides the Ultima games.  One reason is that before I had the 64’s floppy drive, I had the game stored on a Datasette, a very slow storage device that used standard audio cassettes as its media.  Despite the game only being roughly 30K (smaller than many images these days), it took about 30-40 minutes to load from the Datasette.  Quite a relief when I got the floppy drive and that was cut down to mere minutes, and probably less than a minute when I got the Fast Load cartridge.

Quite a difference now when I use Vice to emulate the C64 and can have it running in mere moments.  A remake for Windows (and wine for non-Windows) can be found here.

Archon (Commodore 64) is the Retro Game of the Day for 23 May, 2016

Years before Battle Chess gave us baked in battle animations to liven up a game of chess, Archon: The Light and the Dark gave us a true battle chess variant that featured all sorts of fantasy creatures on a chess-like board where squares shift between light and dark, giving creatures of that alignment bonuses in an actual battle that you get to control to gain victory over a contested square.  In other words, just because you attack a square, unlike chess, it doesn’t mean you are going to win it — you will have to fight for it with abilities unique to whatever character you control.  Some use melee attacks, some area of effect attacks, and many use ranged attacks, be it magical or weapon-based.  Each side also has a spellcaster that is able to cast various spells that affect the game, such as summoning a temporary creature to fight for them and resurrecting a defeated creature. Victory comes whenever you completely wipe out the other side or gain control of all five power points, one on each side taken by each side’s spellcaster and three in the middle column.

It’s not only a very fun board game but a very fun action game as well, given that it takes more than strategy to win the game, but good reflexes as well.  It also helps knowing which pieces attack which way and which enemies they are best at defeating — a creature with an area-based attack may be able to easily defeat melee characters, but might have more of a problem against ranged attacks where they can be baited into attacking and are vulnerable for a short time to the other player (each attack has a short cooldown before that attack can be done again).

A fairly decent update, Archon Classic, is available on Steam, and does fairly well at imitating the original, but if you need a true Archon fix, fire up the Commodore 64 and fight.

M.U.L.E. is the Retro Game of the Day for 3 May, 2016

From Wikipedia:

M.U.L.E. is a seminal multiplayer video game by Ozark Softscape. It was published in 1983 by Electronic Arts. It was originally written for the Atari 400/800 and was later ported to the Commodore 64, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the IBM PCjr. Japanese versions also exist for the PC-8801, the Sharp X1, and MSX 2 computers. While it plays like a strategy game, it incorporates aspects that simulate economics.

What a wonderful, perfect, delightful little strategy game about economics.  Economics has never been so fun.  Colonizing the planet Irata (Atari backwards, of course), you get to vie over plots of land to use for farming, mining, or energy collection, and each bit of land can be more advantageous than others for those purposes.  After gaining a random amount of resources for each plot of land you own (adjusted for certain events like acid rain, planetquake, or other random events), you get to compete with your fellow colonists to buy and sell these resources with each other and the store, which has a set amount of certain resources and will buy excess resources from players.

The back-and-forth action “selling line” done by moving your colonist up and down makes buying and selling not at all boring as it could have done with straight up “Enter your sale price” prompts.  It is a really brilliant idea that makes the game a standout and a joy to play even over 30 years later.

See, gaming, Electronic Arts wasn’t always about putting out the same safe games every year.  I miss the old EA.