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Zapped to the Past podcast (C64)

Unofficial Who

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4 hours ago, Unofficial Who said:

I'm not going to cover Gary Lineker’s Superstar Soccer, didn't play it back in the day and it sounds like it's not really my sort of football game now. Anyone else play this and have anything to add?



You should do. Just give it one game to experience the craziness that ensues in any game. 

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I was dead keen for 720. I hadn't played the arcade game but I had seen high resolution shots from it that made it look like it was set in the same sort of weird 80's inspired world of Tass Times in Tone Town. Helped a lot by the crisp medium resolution monitors that Atari's System 2 arcade games were using.




US Gold in order to promote this (and OutRun) released a cover mounted cassette on C&VG with the music from the game. It was like a synth punk hybrid and I loved it.


And then came Commodore User's "Cool Spool." Their first demo tape which included an entire course from Buggy Boy, part of a level from Flying Shark but also a third file just called "DEMO". This was an early build of Chris Butler's 720 conversion for the C64.


Just how early are we talking? It was the streets. No parks. No shops. No obstacles apart from the water. No sound effects. No music.


Just you and the streets. There was no game to demo here.


What there was instead was an empty but open playground.


I played this for hours making my own fun and setting my own challenges. How fast could I go? How much air could I get off a ramp? How much water could I jump over? How many spins could I do? In a way this kind of mirrored the experience my friends would have years later with the infamously generous Tony Hawk demo. For the draw was that open world games in 1988 were rare. Open world games without something trying to kill you? Rarer. The closest I had at the time was Spindizzy with time cheats. I had a lot of fun with the demo and had I been able to find a copy I would have.


However a year or two later a friend loaned me a copy. And this time it was feature complete.


The streets were now filled with weird chunky people, scooters and bees.




And now there were parks to skate.






There was structure. Music. Stores. A time limit.


And...the magic was lost. The physics were changed a little, they'd implemented falling states and now there was no time to play. You had to "Skate or Die" which wasn't as fun as just scooting about doing my own thing.


It's a solid port and I think about as good as you could do in a single load on the C64. But adding the full arcade game structure just made it a shallower experience. Here was a game now designed to throw you out of the experience in three minutes for the sake of coin fall, a model that just didn't translate that well to home machines.


What's interesting is that the barebones demo was a glimpse of the way skate games would move in the future being more geared around playing with the environment.


What I didn't know until tonight is like some other conversions...there was another....

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And here is the US port. It looks a lot better thanks to being disk based. Check out this screen that was ahead of its time.




What does this remind you of? It reminded me of...




The first thing that hit me was just how good the sprite work looked which made me wish US Gold had spared an artist to work with Butler on the UK version.




He's quite expressive and well animated too. There's loads of nice little touches like him actually handing over money to storekeepers. But there is a price. Part of that price is scrolling. It is juddery compared the slick smooth UK version. And there's multiload. This does allow for some of the events to look less barebones.




And you get these animated interstitials that look like something from an IBM game. Of the CGA era which is odd.




It actually looks pretty close to the NES port which leads me to believe the same people probably worked on it.




It might look better but the scale feels off with the streets being too big and the parks being too small. And it just doesn't control as well. And worst of all the multiload just breaks the flow of the game up too much.


Which version would I play? I'd probably opt for the UK version over the US version but I might even opt for the beta demo I played back in the day. As for the arcade game...that's been available from the PSOne to the 360 but I've never played a port that felt comfortable, probably because the original arcade game uses an odd slanted joystick that is underneath a paddle with 360 degree movement for spinning. So outside a time machine or a barcade / museum you might be better opting for one of the many PSOne and beyond games that feel like they built off the legacy of that 720 beta.

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Let's get the next one out of the way.


Ninja Hamster. A direct port of a poor Spectrum game. At full price.


I can see the thinking here, combine the Britishness of Danger Mouse with the martial arts fad. What could go wrong?




And it's worse in close quarters.




This feels like a joke that got out of hand. Like the Ninjabread Man game.


By this stage Way of the Exploding Fist was three years old and much better than this.

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Not sure why I-Alien was rated above some of the other games this month and I'm not sure why a lot of people looked at Ocean's V and thought "that's the game to clone!"


I avoided it back in the day because it looked dull. This was me playing it earlier.




I mean yeah.




It's just so unappealing. Is it a bad game? Well it all works. But it just feels dull. Another to avoid.

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I have to applaud the creators of Jinks for trying to do something original. In this case a Breakout / Arkanoid clone with massive multi screen levels. Instead of a bat you have a triangular wedge which you can flip and move about freely. All you need to do is get the ball into the goal at the far right of the level.




It's just that the play area is so large it feels less like Ultra Arkanoid and more like being a dog chasing a squash ball. It feels completely random and up to luck. I have to salute them for the ball physics and the idea but it's just too frustrating.

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On 26/09/2022 at 08:40, Unofficial Who said:

US Gold in order to promote this (and OutRun) released a cover mounted cassette on C&VG with the music from the game. It was like a synth punk hybrid and I loved it.


I still have that somewhere.


Never "got" 720.  By the time I had even begun to work out the controls and the requirements, those bees would appear.  Wasn't there something snazzy about the arcade game - controller shaped like a board or something?


Anyway, it was at this point the distance between the C64 and arcade games was beginning to get far too large to make an port seem reasonable.

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1 hour ago, Plissken said:


I still have that somewhere.


Never "got" 720.  By the time I had even begun to work out the controls and the requirements, those bees would appear.  Wasn't there something snazzy about the arcade game - controller shaped like a board or something?



1 hour ago, Camel said:

Arcade game had a trak-ball.



Not a board or a trak-ball but a tilted stick attached to essentially a large paddle/spinner. Chain driven with some sort of optical device.


There's a video here by a restorer that touches on the unique controller.



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14 hours ago, squirtle said:

I don't think I ever saw 720 in the arcades. Atari were very fond of their proprietary controllers.


That might be due to the legacy of Nolan Bushnell insisting that every new arcade machine was a new concept. Those controllers must have added loads to the cost given how over engineered they had to be. I remember reading somewhere that part of their stress testing involved a heavily jacked guy who worked in their warehouse, if he could damage or tear the controller out of the panel it was a fail and you had to go back to the drawing board.


Looking at that video the restorer talked about the big point of failure on 720 being the two optical sensors attached parallel to the two disks, one which tracked which direction you were facing and one which measured the speed of your spin. It's why as clumsy as the C64 ports are they are somewhat more playable now than trying to play the arcade version which relied on you spinning the stick in the same way you'd spin the steering wheel in Super Sprint. It's something that most retro collections fail to address. (The SNK collection released a few years back changed the control methods for games that used proprietary spinner sticks like Ikari Warriors changing the method to twin stick which as they stated made the collection less accurate but at least playable rather than assuming people were going to make custom sticks based on designs that had been out of production for decades.)


19 hours ago, Plissken said:

Anyway, it was at this point the distance between the C64 and arcade games was beginning to get far too large to make an port seem reasonable.


Yep, there seems to be a bit of a spot where these games would have benefitted from 16 bit ports. 720 seems to have been passed over which was a bit of a shame when you look back at the solid ports of Marble Madness, Gauntlet 2 and others on the Amiga. 720 on the C64 could never really hope to look like something running on System 2 hardware although having come to it first via the demo I kind of preferred the C64 control method. Back then at least when playing it with a heavy duty WICO arcade stick.


This is a better port than many others to come over 1988/89 where many ports just shouldn't have even been attempted. (I'm looking at you Galaxy Force!)

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Deflektor is so close to being brilliant but settles for just being very very good. I don't think I'd seen light guiding puzzles of this sort before Dan Dare, was there anything earlier with mirrors?


In any case Dan Dare had a puzzle set piece that required you to set up a light beam path from start to finish over a dozen or so screens leading to this satisfying result (spoilers for decades old game.)


Gang of Five then went on to make it a more central feature of their tank game Rebel but the design was let down by constant harassment by enemies and the mirrors being spread out among loads of screens again.




In Deflektor designer Costa Panayi took the core concept of the above two games and shrunk the playing area down to single screen areas for his Spectrum game.




The C64 port by Jason Perkins stays true to the original but aided by Steven Kerry on graphics and Ben Daglish on music gives us a much better looking version of the game.




It's a simple concept, use your mirrors to destroy the grey blobs to open the exit then shin your laser into the red exit receiver.


I first played this back in 1994 thanks to another Commodore Format cover tape and played it for a short time. Playing it tonight revealed the same couple of frustrations I had with it back then, two things that stop it from being truly excellent. The first, this game would have really shone if it had used passcodes instead of a "lives" system. Having to restart from the first puzzle when you lose is tiresome. The second is the addition of "gremlins" a few levels in. These spawn in randomly and mess with your mirrors. They detract from the game and turn it briefly into a shooting gallery. A "no gremlins" mode would have made for a better game. But it was the 80's and games found it hard to remove themselves from the lives/highscore model from the arcade.


It's still easily pick of the bunch this week and still worth playing now. In fact if you have a C64 mini it's probably already sitting there waiting to be played. 


@squirtle, interesting you and Graham should mention Portal, I remember coming across this room in Portal 2 a decade ago and instantly thinking of Defelktor.



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I'm going to skip revisiting ATV Simulator, I had this in the big box of disks that was given to me in the late 80's and just remember this being incredibly frustrating.




And also incredibly redundant as said box also contained a disk with Kikstart 2 on it. It's another case of a new release being not nearly as good as a previous one and possibly something that could only be sold back in the days of limited shelf life and short sale tails.


Play Kikstart 2 or even better modern spiritual successor Trials instead.

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Grand Prix Simulator passed me by looking too boxy and grey. If I wanted too play a Super Sprint variant on the C64 I already had BNX simulator. Trying it today, the cars are too boxy. However the handling really does show up the official Super Sprint conversion.




Not much more to say about this one other than I'm sure it would have gotten some playtime with my brother back in the day. Those cars though are the worst looking cars I've seen in a game like this.

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46 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:

Grand Prix Simulator passed me by looking too boxy and grey. If I wanted too play a Super Sprint variant on the C64 I already had BNX simulator. Trying it today, the cars are too boxy. However the handling really does show up the official Super Sprint conversion.




Not much more to say about this one other than I'm sure it would have gotten some playtime with my brother back in the day. Those cars though are the worst looking cars I've seen in a game like this.

You're not wrong, but it handles great and plays brilliantly. I really enjoyed this. It's better than BMX Simulator in my view.

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2 minutes ago, squirtle said:

You're not wrong, but it handles great and plays brilliantly. I really enjoyed this. It's better than BMX Simulator in my view.


I think you (and @Camel) may well be right but I just can't get over how drab it looks. I can't help but think with a bit more polish it could have been something special indeed.

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19 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:


I think you (and @Camel) may well be right but I just can't get over how drab it looks. I can't help but think with a bit more polish it could have been something special indeed.


9 minutes ago, merman said:

Screeching Shoebox Simulator. 

I get those comments, but it's all in the handling for me. Ace fun for £2.

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One of the lively things about video games in the 80's was seeing copies and clones of original concepts that would sometimes be superior than what they copied. A lot of Activision's early content on the Atari 2600 was taking existing works and translating it to the machine they were programming it for. And you saw it this month with the arcade conversion of Super Sprint being outperformed by Angry Wasps in a Shoebox Grand Prix Simulator. So when I saw adverts for Ramparts an obvious Rampage clone I did wonder if I should buy that instead.




The reviews put me off and the reviews were right. As pedestrian an experience the home ports of Rampage were this is clumsier and has less going on. It's harder to climb the sides of the castles and you do much less damage. It's not as cathartic either for some reason. The only thing I can recommend it for is the excellent Mark Cooksey music, one sting you might recognise from your favourite podcast.


Otherwise play five minutes of Rampage instead. We're going to see a lot of clones over the next year, the main lesson here is copy something then do it better.

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36 minutes ago, squirtle said:



But not as arse as Galactic Games!


I had this one although in my defence it was part of a locally made compilation that I bought for $6AU (less than the price of a budget game) purely to get my hands on disc copies of Labyrinth and The Last Ninja.


I played it once. Once was enough.


But so as to warn off others here's a quick overview of the game.


You get "funny" writing.




And you get the following events. I'm grabbing the descriptions from MobyGames.


100 Meter Slither: Players take control over a worm and have to race by making rhythmic and fast joystick movements. But because the worm uses up his slime for movement, players occasionally have to slow down to avoid burning dry.




It's your basic waggle fest here with decently animated worms and the, er, need to slime.


Space Hockey is a one-against-one hockey game. It features a living puck which tries to stay out of the goals and for rounds of 60 seconds each.




It's air hockey but random and a bit rubbish.


Psychic Judo: Here two beings with over sized brains shoot energy bolts at each other. Since there can be only one bolt at the screen at a time, so the faster player goes into attack mode and the other goes into defense: The defender can rise (and move) shields while the attacker needs to steer the bolt around them. If a bolt hits the unprotected defender, it transfers energy from the defender to the attacker - or vice versa if it hits a shield. This discipline is played best-of-five with 60-second rounds




I remember thinking playing this "I could be playing Room Ten instead."


Head Throwing is basically a normal hammer throwing event. Players need to gain speed by making rhythmic and fast joystick movements and release the head at the right moment to throw it as far as possible.




Um, this looks like the world's mangiest fursuit.


Metamorph Marathon: Here players need to navigate an obstacle race again the clock. They control a metamorph which can be morphed into five different shapes with different advantages and disadvantages. This means one of the player's task is to decide which form is best suited for which part of the course and to balance the energy reserves.




It's...well it's so rubbish I didn't complete this event, I just turned it off never to return.


The review in Zzap was pretty generous and even as something that I could either count as a freebie or having cost $1AU...just awful. A poor end for Tigress previously responsible for Deactivators and They Stole A Million. (I hope it wasn't the same people but not every game can be a hit.)


As bad as Bad Cat? No, but close.





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I actually own Project Stealth Fighter having bought it from a bargain bin at under $10AU. Bargain!




Except that it wasn't for me. I bought this far too late having access to my flatmate's Amiga and a multitude of demo disks. I did try to get into this but I learned as much as I loved flying in video game form I loved flying when the model was simplified. 


Back then I was exposed to Red Baron on my friend's 386 and reading the hefty manual for that cover to cover found a flight sim I could get my head around (even with issues like some aircraft constantly pulling to the right or left due to mechanical issues.)




This is about as modern as I can get when it comes to air to air combat. There's something understandable and visceral about being able to out manoeuvre an opponent at close quarters. With flight sims based off modern planes like Project Stealth Fighter so much of is is about flying and combat by instrumentation. And flying about on the C64 is just too slow unless you cheat like Mercenary did with only roads and one building being visible at once.




I bounced off this so hard that it pretty much put me off all modern flight sims. Space sims that play with the physics like Elite or Wing Commander I can deal with. Magic Carpet? Possibly never been bettered in terms of flight combat for me. And for pure flying I'm just hanging out for the release of Pilot Wings 64 on the Switch for that chilled out feeling.


This is an excellent game and if you don't have a boxed copy then https://www.c64-wiki.com/wiki/Project_Stealth_Fighter has a good run down. But it's an excellent game that just isn't for me and it was one of the games that taught me that not every Zzap Gold Medal would be something I would enjoy.


Handing over to....well anyone who actually played this and got something out of it.

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Demon Stalkers might have been published by Electronic Arts but being an Australian game it was in most game stores. And for a mere $6AU you could buy a demo version with a few levels on disc. This predated the Doom shareware release by a number of years and it meant that practically anyone I knew who had a disc drive had a copy. I only had a cassette drive in 1988 so I only got to play it sporadically. I loved the Gauntlet format so I loved what I saw. This was another one of those games that got away.




30 odd years on and it looks pretty rough on the surface. The sprites are a mixed bag (although I happen to like the rat sprites) and the scrolling with the floor patterns is a little stomach turning. It's telling that the busier levels eschew the floor pattern completely.




However playing it today I found myself really getting into it. The levels are incredibly well designed with various tricks and the ability to return to levels via different staircases. I would have kept playing happily for the rest of the afternoon except the copy I found crashed on level 8. I think with smoother scrolling and better collision detection this would have been a classic. Even as it is it's solid and it has one over Gauntlet in that you can run and gun leading to less stop start gameplay.


My experience with this genre mirrors that of my experience with JRPG's in the PSOne era. In that era I loved Final Fantasy 7 and was obsessed with finding the better RPG in much the same way I wanted to find the Gauntlet game on the C64 that was better than Druid. Turns out in both cases I might have had the best example of the genre in my collection already.


If you're a fiend for Gauntlet style dungeon crawls this was one of the best at the time. Nowadays I'd recommend Hades or Bastian to scratch the itch.

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I seriously wouldn't blame anyone for bailing on this thread until next week. Especially with games like Zip "gracing" the thread. So non descript that I have no memory of reading the review despite avidly re-reading these magazines over and over in the 80's.


And...well....it's shit. 16% back in the day, worth forgetting now.




It's another StarForce clone and there are so many better ones out there. Warhawk, Fire Track and Lightforce to name but three. This, this is awful. Anyone could make a better game in SEUCK in half an hour. Panned and rightly so, this reminds me a lot of the poor quality games that sunk the 2600. All blame here to the publisher who should not have released this.

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Mobygames calls it Side Arms Hyper Dyne, Capcom Arcade Stadium calls it Hyper Dyne Side Arms but for the purposes of this post I'll just call it Side Arms. I remember seeing the arcade game in 1988 at the bowling alley which I used too love going to at the time because they had loads of arcade machines and also because unlike the local arcade it was far enough out of the town centre that none of my bullies ever went there. During 1988-89 apart from random video stores this was my exposure to arcade content.


This game immediately impressed due to it's bright and bold graphics that reminded me of the battle scenes out of Robotech, the simultaneous two player mode and it's screen filling bosses.




Enemies would come at you from both sides but having a fire button dedicated for left and right made for a snappy experience. And I didn't play this at all. Because two machines away was this.




For me R-Type overshadowed this completely and Side Arms didn't get a look in. And that's a pity because as a poor (in both senses of the word) arcade player Side Arms is a much friendlier game allowing you some good progress before showing its teeth in level 2. I've since played a lot of it over the past 20 years due to various Capcom compilations and have grown fond of it over time.


In any case I avoided Side Arms back in the day on the C64 as the conversion looked uninspiring from the screenshots and reviews.




Strangely enough this game looks a lot better in motion. Some of the backgrounds are animated and the animation on the enemies is pretty decent. Unfortunately as the podcast mentions it loses a lot of the charm that makes Side Arms. First up the music is incredibly weedy. The SID is far better than this. The bosses are gone replaced with a glowing orb that spawns ships. The vertically scrolling sections are gone according to the Zzap review. And the control scheme is lacking. While I appreciate that it's difficult with a one button joystick you're left here having your back exposed when you retreat. A far better solution would have been just to have your little jet/mech man autofire and use the fire button to flip.


I'm with Graham on this one @squirtle, I think you were too kind on this one. It's lacking compared to the arcade game and it's lacking compared to other shooters on the C64 which by 1988 numbered in the dozens (and thinking back on it between 1984-1988 the C64 was arguably the place to be for shooting games.)


The arcade game is really influential this year in the number of jet pack/mech shooters it would inspire, two of which are reviewed in this months issue.


It's a good attempt but far better takes on this would be made with the likes of Zybex this issue and an impressive port of semi sequel Forgotten Worlds in 1989.


Given that you can buy the arcade game either as part of Capcom Arcade Stadium 2 OR just buy it alone for just over the price of a cup of coffee on almost every platform this old port is completely redundant.

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I can only speak to my experience playing it, and to that end, I did garner some enjoyment out of the C64 version. Graham compared this to my reaction to Out Run, which I really got no enjoyment out of and that was the difference for me. Now, whether this is a good conversion of the arcade game is another question and on that level, yes it is lacking, but did I enjoy my time with this game? Yes, yes I did. I think that is an important distinction to make here. I was critical of its shortcomings, but I cannot deny that I had some fun with it. Comparing it to things like Galivan and Mag Max which are similar in design, this was much better, even if it does lack compared to its arcade parent. Also, at this point, I had not played Zybex, which is probably better, but also has some issues of its own making.

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