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Zapped to the Past podcast (C64)


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So this is a bit of a sad memory for me.

 

I loved Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The band that is. But I could never find the game.

 

Except for once in 1988. It was on a sales table at a local department store. Cheap at $15. But I didn't have the money. And my mother didn't have the money. And so it sat there for weeks. And weeks. And then it was gone. And I had this awful feeling I'd missed my chance. Years went by. To rub salt into the wound Commodore Format in one of the final issues declared it the best C64 game ever made.

 

Which sucked because it would never be reprinted. It was very much of a time.

 

But then emulation came along and...I just couldn't get into it. And I still can't. And it pains me because I know if I had bought it then it would have been my jam. But I was way way too late to the party.

 

Is it the best C64 game ever made? I don't think so. But it is one of the most visually striking. Especially for 1985. Here's some shots from https://www.c64-wiki.com/wiki/Frankie_goes_to_Hollywood

 

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FGTH_Animation_Arcade_Wolke.gif

 

FGTH_Animation_Arcade_Kopf.gif

 

FGTH_Animation_Arcade_Blume.gif

 

 

 

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That is a shame that you never got to experience it back then, @Unofficial Who. I did play it back then and it was so unlike anything else in tone and feel and it still stands up for me to this day. I think I articulate my thoughts on it in the podcast, but it's the ability to play it at your pace and progress and never feel too punished that I loved about it. A fabulous game.

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This is one of the most influential games on the C64 and incredibly important to modern gaming. More on that later.

 

Rescue on Fractalus was another game I missed out on when it was first released and then missed out on again in the late 80's where it was in an end bin with all the other Lucasfilm games for $10 each. Far too much for me to afford at the time maddingly. Another sad miss, I'd been desperate to play it ever since it featured (under it's old punny name Behind Jaggi Lines) in a feature about games that would never be released.

 

I played it last night finally and lost two hours before putting it aside. The frame rate is low (I think it might be lower than the Atari original) but it's a great game if a little too easy. I would have lost days to it in the 80's.

 

After two hours I felt I saw all I needed to see. Great game though with a stark industrial feel to it. Worth revisiting. But a little easy.

 

Of course I played it without all the extra bits that back in the 80's were half the game. For that experience I recommend this great essay (where I nicked the screengrabs from.)

 

https://kimimithegameeatingshemonster.com/2020/06/30/a-sci-fi-save-em-up/

 

Quote

At first this extraneous information looks like something an over-enthusiastic intern would produce during their first week at Lucasfilm; a nice effort for sure, but ultimately just some light fiction to gently amuse idle players for a few minutes then safely ignored once the game’s booted up.

That’s not true.

It turns out the beautifully realised descriptions written on this fold-out piece of paper change the game completely – no, they are the game. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Whatever the case, once you’ve read it through you’re left in no doubt that the gap between what you’re being shown on your TV and what you’re supposed to believe is actually happening is wafer thin. Rescue on Fractalus, a game with pixels so large you can count them by hand, is everything – and exactly – what it wants to be.

 

(Really, read the rest, it's great and I've cut it off just before she expands on her point.)

 

rescue-on-fractalus-424.png?w=1000&h=

 

rescue-on-fractalus-362.png?w=730&h=552

 

So, the C64 version of this isn't as good as the Atari version. And yet it is important. Why?

 

Well Factor 5 loved the games and worked with Lucasfilm to make remakes for the Amiga. Their version of Ballblazer, Masterblazer came out but converting Rescue proved to be incredibly difficult. In the end they shelved the Amiga version to create a port on newer hardware. 

 

And it did come out eventually under a different name. We all played the redesigned version on the N64.

 

0b0e9a89becd0eb493f5778cb016778d.gif

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars:_Rogue_Squadron

 

Quote

After the success of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire on the Nintendo 64 in 1996, LucasArts began planning a follow-up.[11] At the time, Factor 5 was developing a game engine to create large terrain maps for their planned sequel to LucasArts' Rescue on Fractalus![11][28] After LucasArts signed a three-game exclusivity deal with Nintendo, Factor 5 was allowed to convert their work on the new Fractalus sequel into a Star Wars game instead.[28] The game's focus would be flight combat; this direction was inspired by a level of Shadows of the Empire in which the player flies a snowspeeder during the Battle of Hoth. Rogue Squadron and LucasArts production manager Brett Tosti stated, "That whole scene was actually the genesis for Rogue Squadron because everybody said, 'Why don't you do a whole game like that?' So we did."

 

So many of you are probably reaching for your Atari or C64 emulators eager to replay this classic. But there is another way. There's a fantastic remake at https://www.lsdwa.com/projects/fractalus/?

 

It's super smooth, playable with a controller and is compatible with vr headsets. It's true to the original including the mothership from the Atari version but it also adds a day night cycle and uses the original engine (or one like it) as a terrain scanner!

 

 

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I've worked from home all week so not had a chance to listen to the latest edition. Got to say I didn't like almost everything  about FGTH at the time, the one exception being the music on the flower level.

 

In other news I've just heard my game Millie and Molly scores a sizzler in the latest Zzap annual. I think it's going to be a while for the podcast to catch up to that. 

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@Unofficial Whothat's all amazing. I'm trying to avoid reading too much around the games we cover so your additions always add loads to my appreciation of stuff. Never knew it evolved into Rogue Squadron. And definitely going to check out that PC version.

 

@carletonmaybe just skip over our Frankie coverage then... ;)

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24 minutes ago, carleton said:

@squirtleabsolutely not, most of the interest is in the differing opinions.

If I'm honest, I think it's one of the best reviews we've done and one I actually sound like I know what I'm talking about. 

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14 hours ago, squirtle said:

@Unofficial Whothat's all amazing. I'm trying to avoid reading too much around the games we cover so your additions always add loads to my appreciation of stuff. Never knew it evolved into Rogue Squadron. And definitely going to check out that PC version.

 

 

Thanks, in this case all of the research was done by others, since I didn't have previous experience I just collated it.

 

I've always felt that the panel in Rescue on Fractalus was really bare bones and the piece by Kimimi put it in perspective. The ship you've flying as been completely gutted inside and out to make as much room and weight allowances as possible to pick up survivors. It looks like you're flying a tin shed because essentially you're flying a tin shed! 

 

Edit, this was a case where I'd come to an old game I missed back in the day and really enjoyed my time with it, even if it's been surpassed by the great remake.

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17 minutes ago, squirtle said:

Has that reading on the panel, your height and the ground height in one bar, been replicated anywhere? It should be as it's really clever. 

 

Not that I know of, it's a pretty unique game. Be interested to see how Elite deals with planetfall in the new version.

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1 minute ago, Unofficial Who said:

 

Not that I know of, it's a pretty unique game. Be interested to see how Elite deals with planetfall in the new version.

How odd. Seems so obvious when it's there in front of you - a bar showing your height and part of that filled in showing the height of the ground underneath you so you can see how close to the ground you are. This is so necessary when flying over mountains and stuff. Such a simple and elegant solution as well. 

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17 minutes ago, squirtle said:

We've just recorded Koronis Rift and Balllblazer and got The Eidolon up next time. Be interesting to hear your thoughts on them as well. 

 

Can't wait. But in the meantime we have this, Out on a Limb.

 

Back in the day Anirog had some of the best catalogs going and all their games looked really tempting thanks to the full colour screenshots used.

 

Before that this is probably one of the first adverts I saw in C&VG. That's some pretty good art by 80's standards.

 

nbiTpgy.png

 

The game though?

 

out-on-a-limb-c64-02.png?w=1200&h=

 

That sprite looks a lot like Mario but the rest of it seems influenced by Manic Miner. I didn't give this much of a chance, that little red flower on the right there? Instant death!

 

I don't want to be too harsh though, this was Sam Manthorpe's first C64 game. He would go on to better and brighter things with the excellently quirky The Detective  Game.

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@Unofficial WhoAs always, we come at these things with the mindset of what if I had spent my pocket money on these games at the time? It's one of the tenets of the show. These things cost money. I know at times we say if something is your first game, be proud of it, show it to your mates, and take what you have learnt and move on to something good. But as soon as a bigger company, in this case Anirog, try and leverage poor software for your cash... I spent enough pocket money on substandard shit back in the day... Pedro still haunts me.

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23 minutes ago, squirtle said:

@Unofficial WhoAs always, we come at these things with the mindset of what if I had spent my pocket money on these games at the time? It's one of the tenets of the show. These things cost money. I know at times we say if something is your first game, be proud of it, show it to your mates, and take what you have learnt and move on to something good. But as soon as a bigger company, in this case Anirog, try and leverage poor software for your cash... I spent enough pocket money on substandard shit back in the day... Pedro still haunts me.

 

I guess that was my thought when looking at Out on a Limb. Imagine choosing between that and Rescue on Fractalus!

 

By then no matter how poor I was I would scape together some money for magazines when I could afford it. As a buyer's guide they were essential. It took me some time to read Zzap (Emap's slander campaign against them was pretty effective, I remember kicking myself the first time I actually opened an issue and seeing how much better it was than CU.)

 

Anyway tonight I sat down and played another game I missed back in the day. The Great American Cross Country Road Race was out of print when I got my C64. I played it at a friend's place and loved it, it reminded me a lot of my favourite Atari racer Enduro. It had sunrises and sunsets and weather!

 

4howfr.gif

 

This popped up in the very same end bin years later as Rescue on Fractalus! I did not have the money.

 

While it's not the best driving game on the C64 it scratches that Enduro itch.

 

After a pleasant intro

 

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You're presented with an attractive map screen to plan your first move towards the east coast.

 

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The racing is basic but it's a lot like Enduro with the addition of gas stations and radar traps.

 

And....weather

 

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and sunsets!

 

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The big challenge I found was not blowing the engine, something I avoided this time (last time I played it 35 years ago I kept blowing the engine and having to walk the car to the next station.)

 

Trivia relating to the attraction I felt to this game back in the day.The creators were inspired by the Gumball Rally, but they were also trying to make a better version of Enduro! Which explains why the felt like the Enduro I was looking for on the C64.

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Finders Keepers

 

finders_keepers_02.png

 

This was the first time I played the first instalment of the Magic Knight games. I do love a good collect 'em up but much like you @squirtlethe Magic Knight games kind of left me cold. And this one was one was too basic.

 

Issues?

 

-That border, Technically impressive but that colour cycling is headache inducing. (Thank god you can turn it off with F7. No really!)

-All the objects are represented by little triangles that you have to stand over to examine. This felt like a step back after the Wally games.

-The jumping in this just felt wrong. 

 

For a budget game it looks lovely but by the time I got my C64 this game was redundant. I can see why this was a big deal for 2 quid but it's not for me.

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i thought GG Cricket was actually OK for a cricket game. The animation and replays were really pretty impressive.

 

Ian Botham was as bad as the Crapvert led us to believe.

 

Merlin... That cauldron is so huge!

 

Also, @Unofficial Who , have you been looking at the crapverts we've been doing? Some of those are hilarious.

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Going back to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, I can see how it wouldn’t stand up today, but imagine playing it during the Cold War with the actual threat of nuclear armageddon looming as an esoteric threat. In the days when Two Tribes was booming out the telly and radio all day long and Katherine Hamnett Frankie Says Relax t-shirts being worn alongside Say no to Trident.

 

Amazing that you have this wonderfully weird mix of avant-garde design and mini-games doing the kind of social commentary and presentation usually associated with Eastern European animation.

 

Also it came in a fantastic box.

 

A masterpiece of its time.

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28 minutes ago, womblingfree said:

Going back to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, I can see how it wouldn’t stand up today, but imagine playing it during the Cold War with the actual threat of nuclear armageddon looming as an esoteric threat. In the days when Two Tribes was booming out the telly and radio all day long and Katherine Hamnett Frankie Says Relax t-shirts being worn alongside Say no to Trident.

 

Amazing that you have this wonderfully weird mix of avant-garde design and mini-games doing the kind of social commentary and presentation usually associated with Eastern European animation.

 

Also it came in a fantastic box.

 

A masterpiece of its time.

 

There's a great "Making of" here https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2020-12-13-the-making-of-frankie-goes-to-hollywood

 

Quote

While the gameplay elements and its compelling gameplay would endear Frankie to audiences and reviewers upon release, the way it's presented impressed most in the early days of development. Using the Gift From The Gods engine as a base, Gibson worked on improving its scope for Frankie. "At Imagine, Ian Hetherington had an Apple Lisa computer with an operating system that used windows. I thought it would be cool if I could implement that on a Spectrum game, so had already begun work on it before Frankie."

 

Gift from the Gods made a huge impression on me, it was in the first issue of C&VG I read (and since a C64 port never came it's achieved legendary status in my head.)

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20 minutes ago, carleton said:

My mate fell over backwards trying to catch the ball when the computer hit a 6 in Graham Gooch's Cricket. I have no other memories of it.

 

As memories of that game go, it's probably best that's all you remember.

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Episode 9 is up! Games covered are

 

-Monty on the Run

-Speed King

-Super Zaxxon

-Shoot-em-Up

-Nodes of Yesod

-Rocket Roger

-Vortron

-Mad Doctor

 

I can't wait to post here about a couple of them. But you will (have to wait) as I've got deadlines this week that will preclude me from posting my thoughts. Which leaves the floor open to others!

 

One of my favourite C64 music pieces this month too!

 

 

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I need to catch up a bit but I'm intrigued what you'll say about Speed King. I really rated it back then and played it a lot. I've just checked out a YouTube video to see why and it doesn't look to have held up very well.

From memory I think the coder of Rocket Roger wrote it all out on paper as hex statements and his wife typed it in. Amazed he got a game out of that at all.

 

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