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Zapped to the Past podcast (C64)


Unofficial Who
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Ep2 Pt2 is now out and we look at the following games:

 

Hypercircuit

Quasimodo

BC II - Grogs Revenge

Big Mac

Dambusters

Blagger Goes to Hollywood

Glider Pilot

StarFire/Fire One

ESTRA

 

It's not a great list I'll give you but there are a couple in there that were OK... 

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1 hour ago, Unofficial Who said:

Can't wait to listen, the only one I've spent any time with is StarFire/Fire One which I love but that's all down to nostalgia.

 

Edit: I played a ton of Grog's Revenge! Interested to see what you both thought of it.

Ermmm... Have you played StarFire/Fire One lately? Zzap gave them a tacky and they were not wrong...

 

Grog' Revenge... Interesting one this...

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StarFire/Fire One. It's not your dad's videogame!

 

Actually it is. Zzap had this right when they said "Old favourites but new disasters." But they had it wrong too because the game wasn't meant for them or for us. They were too young to be the target audience. You're also too young to be the target audience. Even I at almost 50 is too young to be the target audience.

 

But I have some nostalgia for this. Not because of the joy it bought me. But because of the joy it bought someone else.

 

My mother's boyfriend lived in a depressing bedsit in the inner west. And it was always a drag when we went there. It smelled of old people and despair and there was nothing to read and no games to play. It was so BORING. And this was in the early 80's, Sunday TV was a wasteland.

 

One day though he showed us his new acquisition. A computer. I would have killed to have access to a computer and here it was. And so we played around with the only cartridge he had, Forth (a programming language) and coded some sort of city bomber game to pass the time.

 

The next time we were there he had this.

 

624846-starfire-and-fire-one-commodore-6

 

It's a great cover but the games themselves? Not great. Starfire was pretty basic in comparison to Star Raiders on the Atari 2600 and Fire One was no great shakes either. But three things made them great.

 

1. They were the only games there. And I was at an age when I would play ANYTHING.

2. They had really amazing HUDs at the time. Starfire has a HUD that would flash up when you had a Tie Fighter in the middle of the screen and it would lock on. Fire One had a pop up HUD that would help you in regards to allowing for the relative motion for you sub and enemy ships.

3. The adult who owned this was thrilled. Totally thrilled. Because these were arcade perfect replications of what he had played in the arcade. The novelty of running something off a cassette tape that a few years ago required something the size of a small car to pull off was a miracle.

 

Let's do a quick comparison.

 

Starfire (Arcade)

 

667001-star-fire-arcade-screenshot-three

 

667002-star-fire-arcade-screenshot-the-s

 

Starfire (C64)

 

124596.gif

 

Fire One! (Arcade)

 

667007-fire-one-arcade-screenshot-ready-

 

Fire One! (C64)

 

fire_one_01.png

 

If you aren't looking at them side by side and are just going from memory than they're pretty close. And here's some more context. Zaap (and the podcast) are right. It made no sense to sell this in 1985 up against Elite and...well if Silent Service wasn't out yet it would be soon. But this was released earlier in the US and Australia (the tail end of 1983 in the US according to Mobygames.) And the games they're based on? Starfire was released in the arcades in 1978, Fire One! a year later. For us this pack was a dated curiosity. For my mother's boyfriend? This was a miracle and it might actually be the first arcade compilation, at least that I know of. For him getting two arcade cabinets for the price of one game was a bargain that he didn't tire of for weeks.

 

Which means the few fans of this game won't have read the review, won't have listened to the podcast and won't be on the forum as they'd be pushing 75 now!

 

I gave them both a quick go just now and they aren't that bad but it was a bit spooky thinking that I'm one of maybe a dozen people in the world playing them in 2021 and also realising that this was probably the last time I'd ever play them.

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That's a great post, @Unofficial Who, and is one of the reasons why these kind of games do hold special places for some players. The nostalgia factor is strong here. We had none of that and were coming to them fresh off the back of the better games we had played in part 1 and... Well, we called them as we saw them. 

 

One of the hardest things in the this podcast is divorcing yourself from 12-15 year old me and looking at the games now. Some stand up still, some don't, and playing something that you remember liking only to see it just ain't that great is a tough thing to admit. Look at the review of Talladega in the last episode for evidence of that.

 

Just another note, we get increasingly, or more accurately, I get increasingly annoyed with these kind of cheap cash grabs with one or two year old games being released at full price into the market back then. There were loads of them, and my heart deflates every time I boot one up to see 1984 or 1983 on the splash screen.

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29 minutes ago, squirtle said:

That's a great post, @Unofficial Who, and is one of the reasons why these kind of games do hold special places for some players. The nostalgia factor is strong here. We had none of that and were coming to them fresh off the back of the better games we had played in part 1 and... Well, we called them as we saw them. 

 

One of the hardest things in the this podcast is divorcing yourself from 12-15 year old me and looking at the games now. Some stand up still, some don't, and playing something that you remember liking only to see it just ain't that great is a tough thing to admit. Look at the review of Talladega in the last episode for evidence of that.

 

 

Totally fair and playing them both again I could see how basic they were, but there was something about the enthusiasm of the adult who showed me this back in the day reminding me of the troubles some of the forum are having introducing their kids to their favourite things like Star Wars (one response being, "I remember my father trying to get me to watch and like Ben Hur.") So yeah, I wouldn't recommend these games to anyone but me remembering some fondness for someone now elderly or departed. It's a moment in time for me.

 

34 minutes ago, squirtle said:

Just another note, we get increasingly, or more accurately, I get increasingly annoyed with these kind of cheap cash grabs with one or two year old games being released at full price into the market back then. There were loads of them, and my heart deflates every time I boot one up to see 1984 or 1983 on the splash screen.

 

It happens less as the years go on as the C64 becomes more Euro-centric but it's interesting comparing experiences. Being in Oz we kind of received our culture from both the US and the UK and while we were a PAL territory what we would get and when (if we got it) was dictated by local wholesalers and distributors like OziSoft and ECP. We'd get all the cricket and rugby games going. Gridiron though? Nope.

 

It also means for me BC landed a little differently...

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5 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:

 

Totally fair and playing them both again I could see how basic they were, but there was something about the enthusiasm of the adult who showed me this back in the day reminding me of the troubles some of the forum are having introducing their kids to their favourite things like Star Wars (one response being, "I remember my father trying to get me to watch and like Ben Hur.") So yeah, I wouldn't recommend these games to anyone but me remembering some fondness for someone now elderly or departed. It's a moment in time for me.

 

 

It happens less as the years go on as the C64 becomes more Euro-centric but it's interesting comparing experiences. Being in Oz we kind of received our culture from both the US and the UK and while we were a PAL territory what we would get and when (if we got it) was dictated by local wholesalers and distributors like OziSoft and ECP. We'd get all the cricket and rugby games going. Gridiron though? Nope.

 

It also means for me BC landed a little differently...

Yeah, I tried to get my son into Star Wars... He didn't get it. Ah well.

 

And yeah, it does get less as things go on, but in the here and now of looking at them, the stuff from Datasoft, BroderBund (Karateka excluded) and a bunch of others is tough to when playing them in amongst the better stuff that is coming out.

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BC II - Grogs Revenge

 

It was interesting listening to the confusion as to why anyone would care about BC. In Australia BC (and The Wizard of ID) were big. Not Garfield big. Not Snoopy big. But bigger than Andy Capp. And that was due in no small part to the Sunday Comics in the Herald and Telegraph papers. I followed the Wizard of Id and BC until his change of theme in the mid 80's when he started using the strip to proselytise his faith rather aggressively.

 

Anyway BC's Quest for Tires was really popular among all my friends but I never saw this or BC II in the shops. This was one I played over at friends places.

 

It's not too difficult a game in concept. Make your way up the mountain and collect clams to pay the toll. Grog can be avoided, I think he appears on the map below but you can hear him when he gets close.

 

And after a very short time the game gets dull, there's not much here and the big issue with the game is it's just so much more fun to kill your character off rather than play well.

 

Case in point.

 

Grog's_Thor's_Wallride.GIF

 

And

 

Grog's_Klippensturz.gif

 

And

 

Grog's_Grog_attacks.GIF

 

Even in the caves if you slam the wheel against the wall for the rest of the trip through the tunnel it makes a discordant off kilter sound.

 

In terms of looks it's fantastic and really captures the feel of the strip. (Although it's doing the old trick of having an ultra big status HUD leaving a very small area for the screen to update.) But there's not much there underneath the surface. I never made it to the top of the mountain. However all these years later and I've just discovered what an amazing troll it is!

Spoiler

 

 

 

 

 

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I'm a huge Chris Butler fan and I always wanted to play Hypercircuit but again it was out of print by the time I got my C64. Lucky me, while this shows early promise it's jsut was too claustrophobic.

 

A few 80's things I noticed.

 

89755.gif

 

It reduces the play area with a huge status bar at the bottom of the screen. I didn't notice this too much back in the day but I'm noticing it a lot following your podcast.

 

The setting of "inside the computer" is obviously inspired by Tron.

 

That music? I think there's three reasons for classical tunes being so popular on the C64. First and foremost classical tracks are in the public domain. (Which might be why some companies changed the music for the home ports of Bomb Jack.) Secondly that SID chip was one of the first home system chips that could actually handle classical compositions. Third? Well this has to be a big influence.

 

 

Back to Hypercircuit . If you're in any way interested in Chris Butler I'd recommend skipping forward to Z (or Z Pilot) which takes some of Hypercircuit routines (like that smooth multidirectional scrolling) but removes the maze for a much better experience. Something for everyone to look forward to in issue 8!

 

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I used to love Hypercircuit but haven't played it for a very long time.

 

I haven't played either of the BC games for many years either but I recall them being a bit .. finicky. The second one especially. I was only vaguely aware of the tie-in back in the day but they still had massive appeal because of the awesome graphics. I used to quite enjoy them back then; I'll have to give them another go.

 

Back in the day I liked these American releases coming over here after a bit of lag. It meant we got to play them and some were quality. Bruce Lee was Datasoft IIRC. Lode Runner Broderbund. There's this big Euro bias when it comes to the C64, but there are lots of quality games from the US.

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Hypercircuit is a decent arcade game as we say, and it's smooth and playable, but just a bit repetitive. With games like Yie-ar Kung-fu just doing a Jarre tune, I don't think there was any consideration for copyright for music back then. 

 

The BC games are very fiddly but nice looking, that's right. 

 

And yes, it may have been good to get these US games over here but going back to them now shows them up for what they are and they are clearly a year out of date most of the time. Wait until we get Doughboy. 

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Hypercircuit marked the first of the games from this podcast I hadn't played. Quasimodo marked the second and...I've never really gotten on with Hunchback games. Even the Hunchback parody screens in Jet Set Willy (a clever way for Matthew Smith at the time  to show up the industry by making most of Hunchback a fraction of his masterpiece.)

 

I liked the chunky graphics, I liked the first screen, a clone of the old game Orc Attack. I did not like what I played of the rest. Too cramped. Too slippery. And that title music. Such a dirge.

 

I'm sure 12 year old me would have had the patience but I don't .

 

 

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14 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:

Hypercircuit marked the first of the games from this podcast I hadn't played. Quasimodo marked the second and...I've never really gotten on with Hunchback games. Even the Hunchback parody screens in Jet Set Willy (a clever way for Matthew Smith at the time  to show up the industry by making most of Hunchback a fraction of his masterpiece.)

 

I liked the chunky graphics, I liked the first screen, a clone of the old game Orc Attack. I did not like what I played of the rest. Too cramped. Too slippery. And that title music. Such a dirge.

 

I'm sure 12 year old me would have had the patience but I don't .

 

 

I was a fan of the ambition rather than the implementation. There was a hint of trying to mix up genres and make this into something a little more...adventurous. It's not brilliant, no, but it's certainly better than Hunchback at the Olympics which we come to in an episode or two.

 

We couldn't work out what the eighties fascination was with Hunchback/Quasimodo and games. Seems like such a strange mix.

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Big Mac was a bit of a surprise. It's a little too unforgiving but ahead of its time as a puzzle platformer.

 

I can see this

big_mac_02.png

 

eventually leading to more modern games. However switches leave me cold so while I applaud what it did it doesn't grab me in the game way Lode Runner did. (Also in Australia new games cost between $22-$35 at the time and budget games like Big Mac cost about $9-$10. By the time the Mastertronic range came out here there were more tempting offerings.)

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5 minutes ago, squirtle said:

I was a fan of the ambition rather than the implementation. There was a hint of trying to mix up genres and make this into something a little more...adventurous. It's not brilliant, no, but it's certainly better than Hunchback at the Olympics which we come to in an episode or two.

 

We couldn't work out what the eighties fascination was with Hunchback/Quasimodo and games. Seems like such a strange mix.

 

Quasimodo seemed like an early mascot they kept trying to make happen. An off brand public domain alternative to Popeye maybe? It's really weird.

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9 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:

 

Quasimodo seemed like an early mascot they kept trying to make happen. An off brand public domain alternative to Popeye maybe? It's really weird.

There's even a type your own game in we discuss from the Crapverts called Hunchy! 

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I couldn't bear to play the remaining games. I salute you for making the sacrifice.

 

ESTRA looks like a shareware game I played on the Amiga but slower.

 

Dambusters Well you both put it perfectly. It's redundant due to the better paced successors Ace of Aces and Desert Fox. I can see why they went for a night mission first, far easier to draw the ground with inky blackness and intermittent lights. Reminded me though of the similarities between the movie and a later one.

 

Spoiler

https://worldwarwings.com/star-wars-a-new-hope-is-exactly-the-same-as-the-dam-busters/

 

When you watch the video below, you’ll see that each shot in their respective films has the same quality and style. It makes perfect sense when you realize that it’s because Gilbert Taylor was the man behind both “Dam Busters” and “Star Wars: A New Hope.” Even some of the exact shots from “The Dam Busters” made it into a galaxy far, far away.

Even crazier, if you look closely, you’ll be able to spy German gun towers firing from the surface of the Death Star. The only major difference is that the shots are green and red rather than white.

 

 

Why this detour? It's more interesting than the game!

 

Blagger Goes to Hollywood I mean look at it.

 

nHwO7QZ.png

 

That playing area! Is this a game for ants? (Nope, Ant Attack was far better.) I know this might be considered sacrilege but I wasn't fond of Tony Crowther's C64 output. (His Amiga stuff though ranks as some of my favourites on the system.)

 

And Glider Pilot.

 

Glider-Pilot-002.gif

 

Total non starter, especially when we had this soon afterwards.

 

mercenary-retrospective-140266819917.png

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I used to love the original arcade game; they had it at a social club my parents used to go to. I even wrote a terrible version on the Spectrum in BASIC featuring a caterpillar (dunno).

 

I liked Hunchback II on the Spectrum too and remember footage of it during development being broadcast on TV at the time, but I can't remember which programme.

 

I think the arcade game was quite popular.

 

edit: actually I had Hunchback II on the C64 too but remember nothing about it all unlike the Spectrum version 

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30 minutes ago, carleton said:

Listened whilst driving today and as you said we’re going to the worst stuff my body was ready. And then you mentioned Big Mac. One of my favourites. Happily you didn’t slam it.

It would have been easy because it looks like nothing special, but there's certainly a neat puzzle idea in there that I was not expecting and found quite engaging. 

 

Glad you're still enjoying it though. 

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