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Zapped to the Past podcast (C64)

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This is a game that taught me two lessons, one about being a good host and one about being aware of political issues in games.


This was another game my mother's boyfriend bought and it was pretty amazing for the time with it's pseudo 3D graphics. And this led to me inviting one of my mates over to show him. And I did.


By playing it. But I didn't know where the pause button was and so when my mother's partner came back from the shops I got him to answer the door instead.


This was not the polite thing to do. I hadn't thought I was being rude but said friend was sent home early and I was read the riot act on being a good host. You don't invite friends over to watch you play something and you certainly don't get them to answer the door in your stead. It's stayed with me ever since. Since then I've always been sure when having gaming sessions at my place that my guest always gets first go (and in many cases I may not play at all.) A good lesson to learn. I'm still mortified I hadn't seen it as boorish at the time.


Anyway Raid Over Moscow is a weird game and one that certainly wouldn't be made now for a multitude of reasons. It's one of those multi part games that were fashionable at the time for being "several games in one" where now designers would (mostly) make sure the core game is built upon and improved (unless it's a minigame compendium.)


Anyway the aim is to blow up three silos (after they've launched missiles, um not sure how that would stop them) before flying to Moscow and destroying their main reactor.


Each round begins with this excellent map.




You can sit back and watch the missiles arc across the sky and take out US cities or you can press pace to enter your space station which is....


...a massive garage for your planes.


Here's the first bone of contention here. Your garage is zero g so you have to let your man pace over to the craft where he's absorbed? into it and then you have to pilot the plane out in three dimensions. You can swivel, thrust forwards and thrust upwards. F7 opens the hanger doors to the vacuum of space but they're impatient and will close quickly.




For most people the game ends here. I love this screen and it's my favourite part of the game. Eventually I was able to fly the plane out in a smooth arc. It's a sequence that rewards skill and there's a neat little risk / reward principle where every plane you take out puts you at risk of losing a plane and takes time but might save you time later as they're used as lives on the next section. @squirtle has compared this to a misstep similar to the garage tutorial in Driver. Who's right? BOth of us really, but a level tis hard would not be the first screen in any game made now.


You then return to the map and slowly guide your plane (represented as a dot) to the city you're targeting.




Why? It's dull as dishwater now but back in the day it just looked cool.


You then have the silo approach. This is like a side on version of Zaxxon and the controls take a while to get used to. In fact the manual offers the advice of sitting side on to the TV when playing this part.




You can fly over and under obstacles although a missile will come along regularly and take you out if you're not near ground level. You can take out entire buildings on your strafing run as well as some poor truck driver for no apparent reason.


You then switch to taking out the silo.




You're hovering at this point and you only need take out the middle silo. If you have enough time you can take out the other silos as a bonus.


And then you rinse and repeat two more times.


After that you do the strafing run a fourth time before the set piece of the game. Battling in Red Square with a bazooka.




All you need to do here is locate the white door (by shooting the five doors until you reveal the white one) and then take out the six snipers and the tank, all of whom will be replaced if you aren't quick enough. You can also take out the domes of the building and if you're showboating you can take out a tower and have it take out the tank.


And here's where we might pause for a moment and talk about the second lesson I learned from this game about being politically aware of how media might be viewed differently by different people and with good reason.


Back in 1985 I did read about some protests outside the US Gold offices about the game which I thought was pretty lame being nearly a teenager. Did they not understand that this game was awesome? How could anyone object to that?


Fast forward a bit over ten years. My partner finds this game while looking through my collection and I put it on to show her. Background, born in Australia but half Russian. And she is appalled by this game. And this scene in particular. A game designed where you can destroy a building for fun and points. For me it was just a funny looking building.


That so called defence centre? In real life it's a museum.




She found the entire game design to be gross. "Just imagine a game from the USSR where Migs take out the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I tried to show empathy but it must have shown on my face I'd be fine with it being bought up on Mad Max and album covers like this




It took many years of talking politics with my mother in law to even start to understand how incendiary this game and especially this scene was. (US Gold would release it on other platforms as Raid! removing title references to Moscow even if the in game architecture remained unchanged.)


Back to the game, after killing six soldiers, a tank and causing untold damage to a cultural icon you descend to the reactor below to....play a weird Discs of Tron inspired frisbee game.






You have to hit the robot that's patrolling the tanks and injecting coolant four times. In the back. The second robot has to be taken out in two minutes or the reactor goes up with you in it. Run out of time or discs and you're toast.


If you win you do get a cool animated sequence which again set up unreasonable expectations for me later.






And that's that. A weird relic of the cold war and an odd Zaxxon / Discs of Tron variant.


I loved it when I was a kid blind to how adults might find it offensive or be fearful that it might escalate international tensions.

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I don't have any special stories about this. It passed me by since I never saw it in the shops and I'd written it off as a Sabre Wulf clone and I was already well served there as I had the amazing Firelord (more on that later.)


But given the positive response on the podcast I gave this a try and....it's really nice! I would have loved playing this back in the 80's. It looks lovely with great animation and best of all it doesn't flood every screen with random enemies!




What's the story with the hedgehogs though? A minor encounter with a guard lost me a couple of hearts but the hedgehog I came across almost wiped me out! Are they as dangerous as angry wombats can be?


I might return to this later, especially if/when I pick up one of those mini C64s as this is included on them.

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I wrote a bit about my introduction to the strip here when talking about the sequel. 


This game was a big deal back when I was at school. Everyone read it and this game was one of the cornerstones of multi player gaming in the 80's.


The premise is simple. Two spies, black and white have to find a series of objects and make their way out of the single exit to make their escape via a plane. Objects are hidden in furniture. Furniture and doors can be booby trapped.




This game was loads of fun until the optimal solution was found. Which was grab an object, hide it in a room and and trap it near the airport door. This allows the other spy to do the leg work and bring most of the pieces to you and you can swan in, loot the pieces from the room they died in and swan out to your plane, mission completed and friendship most likely destroyed.


I didn't end up getting a copy of this until around 1990/91 when it turned up on a cover mounted cassette. By then my brother had moved out and lacking friends at the time I had no-one to play this with rendering it of historical interest only. I still love the dual screen presentation here with the trapulator on the right hand side.


I actually have the PS2 remake in my collection but have never played it! Anyone have any idea how it compares?





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(scratchy voice) "CHIMERA!" (my partner) "Um, that sounds really unpleasant."


So the only exposure I had to this growing up was mediocre reviews and a fascinating article by the creator where he talked through the process of porting it to another system (the Amstrad I think) within seven days. And that article stayed with me because it took some of the mystery out of how games are ported.


The game itself? Well everyone wanted to make a Knight Lore style game on the C64 and this is...well, it's hard to parse. I died immediately on the first screen because the blue panel turned out to be an electric fence I need a spanner to get past.




Without the spanner you just prod at it and instantly die! Not one I'd recommend. But still a pivotal game.


Why? Because it was the start of the career of Shahid Ahmad who's had quite a long history in the industry now, especially his ten years working at Sony where he was a champion of getting indie games on the platform. And while my partner hated the screech that just came out of the C64 emulator she loves a lot of the work he pushed to get on the PS4, particularly Hohokum. If you love the PSVita or the indies that used to be pushed on the PS4 then this guy is one of the main people responsible.

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Back when we played Summer Games 2 as a kid I always imagined what it would be like to play the original as part of the game given the option was there to combine all of them. I searched for years for a copy to complement my tape copy of Summer Games 2 and finally got given a copy. On disk. Ten years later. Two weeks after my C64 powerbrick had caught on fire.


Timing is everything.


So tonight was the first time I'd played through these events and I was excited.


The opening ceremony is almost as good as the original and for '84 must have looked amazing.




The Pole Vault was an excellent start and felt like it would have fitted in right alongside the other events in the sequel. That pole flex is fantastic.




Platform Diving was fun as well although I did a belly flop which scored an average of 8.0 despite it being a performance that would have soaked the judges and sent the diver to hospital with massive bruising from his belly flop.




And this is where the game started to go south for me with 4x400m Relay. I found this over long with not much to do at all.




Followed by a straight old school joystick waggle with the 100m dash.




I didn't get on with Gymnastics at all despite giving the manual a once over. (It looks great though.)




Freestyle Relay like the other relay event felt dull. But blue instead of green.




100m Freestyle was better only in that it was shorter.




And the final event? Skeet Shooting felt like a return to form with some good timing required to not waste your shot.




It's an important title for the C64 but having played Summer Games 2, California Games and World Games to death this just didn't feel interesting to me at all. My fault coming to it 35 years too late. Summer Games? For me more like...



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When I first got into magazines around 1985 they saved me from loads of bad purchases of which this would have been one. Some may say (especially Graham and @squirtle) that this is one of the worst covers / adverts ever but I loved weird things so this drew me towards buying this instead of warning me off.




A near miss because this is another average Ultimate style arcade adventure maze game.


The twist here is that you move around the screen like a bird. Flapping around makes you move faster. And puts a strain on your heart. Seriously. My run had me die from a heart attack.




There's not much to say here except this came out the same month as Robin of the Wood!

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I bought Hero of the Golden Talisman at a time when I was desperate for a new game and had some money burning a hole in my pocket. I don't remember playing much of it. My memories of it was that it was kind of like Pitfall 2 with the Impossible Mission guy in it. And after it was mentioned on the podcast that Shaun Sothern made this I was really looking forward to spending some time with this.


Replaying it? Yeah, now I remember why I never played this more.


The first screen




leads you falling into some water




and after climbing a chain and making a jump...well if you're like me you're going to end up here time and again.


How to describe this. You know in Kikstart 2 where the control is really good but then you're thrown from the bike and on foot you're just hopeless? I'm not saying the hero here is like Tanner from the Driver games but he comes close. Really close.


Revisiting this has reminded me of money spent poorly. It has potential but honestly much older games like the aforementioned Pitfall 2 and H.E.R.O are much better.

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Finishing up on a high note, this bare bones version of Tapper is lovely.




It even includes the bonus stage.




One of the earliest crisis management games this appears to be just a sideways version of Space Invaders at first but there's a lot of things to balance, needing to serve customers before they reach the end of the bar, catch empties and maybe make a rush for tips. I missed this completely back in the day only becoming a fan of this when those arcade compilations started coming out for the Playstation.


The availability of the arcade version (below) makes the C64 original redundant but back at the time this would have been solid and it's quite clever how they use a static effect in the C64 one to show the level of beer left in each glass.




And that's me caught up in time for the next podcast tomorrow! Thanks again to Graham and @squirtle for creating such an enjoyable podcast and inspiring me to revisit some old favourites and discover some gems and apologies for hogging up this much of the thread!

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It's the Queen's birthday long weekend where I live. An extra day to lounge and relax.


But what's this distant sound? Could it be a new episode approaching?


Could it be one that contains commentary on 






-Dynamite Dan

-Willow Pattern

-The Last V8



That looks like a mixed bag.

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Ballblazer is a technical marvel. It's also a game that left me cold for some reason when I saw the magazine reviews. I think Rescue on Fractalus and Koronis Rift just fired up my imagination more.


If you're in the market for a one on one future sport then this would be the highpoint for years on the C64.




I do love the soft haze on the horizon.


And I love the music as well which was semi improvised on the fly.





Ballblazer's theme music, called "Song of the Grid" and heard between matches, was algorithmically generated, a technique designed by Lucasfilm Games team leader Peter Langston and called "riffology". The lead melody is assembled from a predefined set of 32 eight-note melody fragments, or riffs, which are put together randomly by an algorithm that also makes choices on several parameters including "how fast to play the riff, how loud to play it, when to omit or elide notes, when to insert a rhythmic break". The melody is accompanied by bassline, drums and chords, which are also assembled on the fly by a simplified version of the above approach. In effect the music plays forever, without repeating itself but without straying too far from the original theme.[2][3] Langston, an experienced jazz, rock, and folk musician, said of Ballblazer's music: "One reviewer, an eminent jazz player [Pat Metheny[4]], said it sounded like John Coltrane did it. I think that's my best compliment so far."


This game led to the first collaboration between LucasArts and Rainbow Arts with Masterblazer on the 16 bit computers of the day.




There was a more complicated remake on the Playstation (which I have but is still on my pile of shame) called Ballblazer Champions. This was made by Factor 5 and it looks less like Ballblazer and more like a prototype one on one version of Rocket League!



And I guess that's the modern equivalent of Ballblazer, now one of the most popular games of the moment.




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Underwurlde was a game I lusted after having seen murky black and white screenshots in a local magazine. However the Spectrum was an import only machine in Oz and so I eventually lived with disappointment.


Until tonight. Wow. Just wow. Have you ever read reviews and looked at screenshots (pre-internet) and then been surprised and let down by the actual game?


This just plays very differently to what I expected.


For a start there's a weapon on the first screen that requires you to use F5 to pick it up! Who would think of that? And then the way you're knocked around from screen to screen? 






Ultimate were leagues ahead on the Spectrum but by the time their hits were ported others had made much better games inspired by their work. I'd never made the Yesod connection before but as the hosts suggest Nodes and Arc of Yesod are much better alternatives with much less bouncing around. (Or alternatively Steve Crow's excellent Starquake or the bouncy Cauldron2 are great alternatives.)

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Imhotep. This was another game reviewers saved me from. I loved all things Egypt. And I loved Joust.


So the cover and the screenshots were like a siren call to me.




All the reviewers in unison said "avoid this."


And so I got Batalyx instead with one of the sub-levels looking like this but good.




Play this instead everyone!


Also until I listened to the podcast I had no idea there were on foot levels in Imhotep.



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@Unofficial Who Good lord! That PS1 version of Ballblazer really is Rocket League, isn't it. Wow!


Underwurlde = Nodes of Yesod. Sabre Wulf = Robin of the Wood. I know which ones I would rather play on the C64. By the way, I'm glad you liked Robin of the Wood. It's such a pleasant game to run around in. I'm curious to see if I'll still like Mission AD when we get to that as I never realised it was by the same people until you hear me discover that in the podcast.


Imhotep - So bad. So, so bad. So bad.

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Watching Thunderbirds on a Saturday morning was God's punishment for being too good with moving the TV from the living room to the bedroom. Our living room didn't have have a door so watching cartoons in there without waking my mother was a non-starter. So I would get up at dawn and slowly push the tv by the base to move it into our bedroom. Move too fast and the base would squeak and the jig would be up. "Early enough to watch cartoons, early enough to do chores." Get it right and we could squeeze two hours of cartoons before we had to do housework.


But eventually I became too good at being Solid Snake Jr and would end up getting the TV in the room just in time for the 6am showing of The Thunderbirds. Or as I came to know it "here's everything you need to fear about industrial accidents."


That intro though! Killer stuff. 




Which would always tempt us into watching something where some dead eyed puppet would almost die in a dark mine.


I saw this game reviewed in loads of magazines but sadly could never find a copy, it looked like the sort of game I would really enjoy and as mentioned it's switching between two characters to solve puzzles was very much like The Goonies. If you wanted a modern version of this then there are loads of games on Steam and elsewhere to scratch that itch now.


It does come with an unskippable cut scene.




Urgh, just let me play already!


The weird thing is I was expecting this to take place in a factory but instead we have another Egyptian tomb?




I liked what I played even if I trapped myself about ten screens in.

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This was one that escaped me. Back when I was a kid poring over tiny screenshots and ad copy this just looked the business. It had platforms! It had spies!


The reviews were good but I never found a copy. I did play the Spectrum version years later on an emulator and while I was disappointed that it was just a Jet Set Willy clone I could see why it gained attention on the platform.


The C64 version is a bit of a surprise in that it's not a straight spectrum port.




As you can see above Dan looks fully colourised against a sea of monochrome sprites which makes him pop a bit.




I can say with confidence if I had access back in 1985 I would have played this to death and I'd be waxing lyrical about this right now. But looking at it fresh 35 years later? It's a very nice Jet Set Willy tribute (some of the sprites are straight references) but if you're sick of Jet Set Willy you won't find anything to grab you here.

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@Unofficial Who I did like some of the innovations in Dynamite Dan, but it was still too close to another one of them for me. And yes, Thunderbirds was perfectly decent, but nothing special. Those tall walking statues were a bit weird though. Almost like something from another game.

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I remember a lot of reviewers being perplexed about this maze game back in the day. It's a little run of the mill and appears to be all about finding a critical path without making errors. But there's a few interesting things regarding the game and it's creator.


So here's a couple of screens from the game.






Here's an interesting thing though. Greg Duddle also created Treasure Island a year before.






So Willow Pattern is a sort of sequel? According to an interview back in 2000 here at http://plus4world.powweb.com/members/Greg_Duddle



Willow Pattern" on the C=64 is almost the same as "Treausre Island" on the Plussy. What's the story behind this?

It goes back even further, the second game that I ever wrote was Treasure Island for the C64 which was a very quick and simple game that was launched with a copy of the book. We re-used the mechanics for Plus4, then Firebird wanted a budget game quickly, so we revamped it as the Willow Pattern, which I did all the graphics for as well.


Anyway I had a look at his credits and he went on to create the solid conversion of Sabre Wulf to the C64 and later had a long career at Psygnosis.


It's been interesting seeing how some small average games lead to much more interesting things later.

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Ah The Last V8. I borrowed this off a friend at school. In my head I imagined something like this.




What I got was




There are many problems. The play area is one third of the screen. Combine that with the narrow roads, tight time limits and a car made of tissue paper and the play experience is more akin to playing this.




I returned it the next week after hours of trying over and over not to be taken out by bushes.


The music by Hubbard is nice but I can't see a single reason to play this now unless you're someone who wants something harder than Dark Souls.


But if you're a Mad Max fan you've already played this instead now.





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1 minute ago, squirtle said:

I did complete The Last V8 back then without going through the bush cheat, IIRC. It was stupidly, stupidly hard, but the Darlings would go on to so much more...


What? How?


Looking at this longplay it can be done in five minutes!



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14 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:


What? How?


Looking at this longplay it can be done in five minutes!



I was 14 at the time and with far too much time on my hands. Plus, something about the aesthetic and punishing nature of it made me desperate to finish it.

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Scalextric was something my brother and I used to look at in envy. It was the sort of toy only rich kids had (well middle class kids but we hadn't groked onto how poor we were in comparison to other kids). They had the room and the stability to have a set up.



This game was odd though. I mean the whole point of the licence was slot cars and instead you had this poor Pitstop 2 clone.




I mean I guess the draw here was the circuit designer.




But coming out after Pitstop 2? And ot really being a slot car game?


Weirdly enough I did the the slot car experience through my 3DS decades later.




Scalextric is a miss although I know my brother would have created many many cock and ball tracks had we had it back in the day.

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I spent a lot of time on playing Scalextric (the game).  The track builder worked pretty well and you could do some seriously complex tracks but the AI in one player had a flaw in that a certain type of corner saw the computer player slowing down briefly which made it so easy to win.

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Yeah, Scalextric is technically really impressive, but just isn't Scalextric. The number of tracks is impressive, even without the track builder. Throw in some AI racers and you'd have a decent F1 game for the time. Wrong licence. 

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On 13/06/2021 at 14:32, Unofficial Who said:

When I first got into magazines around 1985 they saved me from loads of bad purchases of which this would have been one. Some may say (especially Graham and @squirtle) that this is one of the worst covers / adverts ever but I loved weird things so this drew me towards buying this instead of warning me off.




A near miss because this is another average Ultimate style arcade adventure maze game.


The twist here is that you move around the screen like a bird. Flapping around makes you move faster. And puts a strain on your heart. Seriously. My run had me die from a heart attack.




There's not much to say here except this came out the same month as Robin of the Wood!


The C64 version of Metabolis was never released on its own - it was given away for free on the original release of Bounder.

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13 hours ago, merman said:


The C64 version of Metabolis was never released on its own - it was given away for free on the original release of Bounder.

And with good cause, although I hope it didn't affect the sales of Bounder... Strange that it was reviewed in Zzap, though, with a price and everything. 

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