Category Archives: Commodore 64

Fail!

The Epyx Games Fail Reel

For the past two weeks TDE has presented the eight games of the illustrious Epyx Games series, from the 1984 release Summer Games, to California Games II in 1990. All to celebrate the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.  As they extinguish the Olympic flame in Russia, we present our own closing ceremonies with the Epyx Fail Reel. Falls, flubs and F-Ups from the furious competitions of the Epyx Games series.

With the thrill of victory, also comes the agony of defeat.  A lot of agony.

Here is a list of the other Epyx Games articles:

The Epyx Games: Summer Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: Summer Games II on the C64
The Epyx Games: Winter Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: World Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)
The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Games: Winter Edition on Amiga

For more on the history of Epyx and the Games series, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Excerpt from California Games, a computer game by Epyx 1987

The Epyx Games: California Games on the C64

Time for some totally awesome and knarly sports, dudes!

California Games was released for the Commodore 64 by Epyx in 1987, featuring six rad events straight outta the Golden State. It was designed by Chuck Sommerville and Jon Leupp, along with Ken Nicholson and Kevin Norman. Lending their graphical talents were Jenny Martin, Suzie Greene, Sheryl Knowles and Paul Vernon.  Taking sound duties was Chris Grigg. The sun-soaked sports featured in the game are Half Pipe, Foot Bag, Surfing, Skating, BMX, and Flying Disc.

This game might have been the most financially successful of the Epyx Games series, but I don’t know… it doesn’t quite gel for me like the previous titles. Some of the events are fun; trying to catch the break in Surfing is entertaining, along with some neat animations if you wipe out. Half Pipe is hella complicated when you first start, although after a tonne of practice you can get into a rhythm with the various skateboard moves that feels great.  The only other sport in the package that I enjoy is Flying Disc, aka Frisbee. The other events are very picky about timing, and the sidelong view in Skating and BMX makes it hard to judge exactly where your character is in relation to the sidewalk/track.

It is also disappointing that you don’t get something similar to the national anthems from the previous games.  Here you just choose from among a few different sponsors, with no musical theme attached to them.  Speaking of music, the overall score isn’t the best of the series by any means. Players are also left missing the opening and closing ceremonies…. after a static render of your trophy you’re just dumped unceremoniously back to the main menu when completing a full circuit of games. So California Games is a bit bogus, but still better than getting gagged with a spoon.

Every game in the Epyx Games series will be featured in posts all during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Here are the links to the other articles:

The Epyx Games: Summer Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: Summer Games II on the C64
The Epyx Games: Winter Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: World Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)
The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Games: Winter Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Fail Reel

For more information on Epyx, grok your local Dot Eaters article, dude!

Bull Riding event in World Games, a computer game by Epyx 1986

The Epyx Games: World Games on the C64

Just when you thought Epyx had exhausted all possible sports events for their Games series, they scoured the four corners of the globe to find esoteric pastimes from eight different countries.

World Games was released in 1986, designed by Matt Decker, Joe Simko, Chris Oesterling, Doug Dragin, Bob MacDowell, Jay Braman, Jeff Webb, Brent DeGraaf and Steve Mage. Graphics work is done by Michael Kosaka, Jenny Martin, Suzie Greene and Courtney Granner. It was the fourth game in Epyx’s series of great sports games, starting with Summer Games in 1984.

The wide and weird collection of eight events featured in World Games really gives the title a special feeling, although Weight Lifting and Slalom Skiing don’t stray too far from the Olympic field. Barrel Jumping definitely delivers some seat-of-your-pants thrills, and it and the Caber Toss contain what little joystick waggling is forced upon players. The I Have No Idea What I’m Doing award goes to the Sumo Wrestling event.

Back in top form with World Games is the musical score, providing an aural taste of each country in both clever and extravagant ways. For me the audio highlight is the tune accompanying the Canadian pastime of Log Rolling, a song that would make any Monty Python fan smile. As for gameplay in World Games, an emphasis is placed on intangible timing over precise control, which lowers this judge’s grade a bit. Overall, I’d say my favourite event is probably Bull Riding. Trying to quickly read what the bull is doing and make the right move to stay on its back can be a bit nerve wracking. The time it takes to make a successful ride will feel like the longest eight seconds of your life.

Every game in the Epyx Games series will be featured in posts all during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Here are the links to the other articles:

The Epyx Games: Summer Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: Summer Games II on the C64
The Epyx Games: Winter Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)
The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Games: Winter Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Fail Reel

As always, for more information on Epyx and the Games series, consult your local Dot Eaters article.

Kayaking in Summer Games II, a computer game by Epyx 1985

The Epyx Games: Summer Games II on the C64

Armchair Olympians returned to compete on the world stage with Summer Games II, released by Epyx in 1985. Scott Nelson and Jon Leupp were accompanied by Chuck Sommerville, Kevin Norman, Michael Kosaka and Larry Clague to make the sequel to the well-loved olympic-styled Summer Games. Eight new events were included, along with both an opening AND closing ceremony.

When starting a competition using the full slate of sports, the first event might completely put you off the game.  The Triple Jump is a pretty disappointing beginning, as it is very finicky about the controls and when you should actually move the joystick to make your hop, step and jump. This stands in stark contrast to the responsive feel of player control in the previous game. Also included here are your typical joystick waggling contests in sports like Rowing and Cycling. For some reason, I find the hoity toity events, namely Equestrian and Fencing, to be the most interesting. They contain a fair amount of excitement and strategy, with the one-on-one dueling of Fencing a particular standout. However, while playing the game to record the video included with this post, I thought the same exact thing I did back in the days of yore trying to fence in Summer Games II on my C64: I have no idea what I’m doing. I’d probably rate Kayaking the most fun out of the package, as reading the currents and aligning your kayak for the next gate is extremely satisfying.

One thing that isn’t quite as stellar as the first Summer Games, though, is the music. A few songs are just riffs on the main melody, and overall the score is not as bombastically funky as the first game. What you definitely won’t find lacking in bombast is the stellar closing ceremonies in Summer Games II. They are suitably awesome after a long and exciting competition, and can only be described ultimately as, if you’ll forgive me, an Epyx conclusion to the contests.

I’ll leave you with the video of glorious olympic-style competition. I really surprised myself performing so well in the High Jump, considering the very imprecise nature of how you flip your body up and over the bar. Excelsior!

Every game in the Epyx Games series will be featured in posts all during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.  Here are the links to the other articles:

The Epyx Games: Summer Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: Winter Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: World Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)
The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition on the Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Games: Winter Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Fail Reel

For more information on Epyx and the Games series, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Flat on my back as usual, in the Summer Games gymnastic program

The Epyx Games: Summer Games on the C64

There have been a lot of sports titles licensed to use the branding of the Olympic games, but the one that most captures the grandeur and scope of international competition in the hearts of classic gamers wasn’t an official Olympic title. Today we feature the seminal Summer Games, released in 1984 by Epyx.

Created by Stephen Landrum, Randy Glover, Jon Leupp, Brian McGhie, Stephen Murdry and Scott Nelson, no self-respecting C64 owner would be without this spectacular sports game in their collection. Released to coincide with the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles, Summer Games actually had it roots as an unreleased decathlon game for the Starpath Supercharger called Sweat! , for the Atari 2600. In the resultant computer game by Epyx we get eight Olympic-style events, all presented with loving accuracy and offering terrific control over the athletes. Except for gymnastics.  Zod, I hated gymnastics, almost as much as the figure skating in Winter Games. The following video of competition in several Summer Games events painfully highlights my fumblings on the mat.

Every game in the Epyx Games series will be featured in posts all during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.  Here are the links to the other articles:

The Epyx Games: Summer Games II on the C64
The Epyx Games: Winter Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: World Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)
The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition on the Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Games: Winter Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Fail Reel

For more on the history of Epyx and Summer Games, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Soaring to new heights in Winter Games

The Epyx Games: Winter Games on the C64

The bread and butter of computer game maker Epyx was their Games series, starting with the beloved Summer Games, initially released in 1984 to coincide with the Summer Olympic games held in Los Angeles that year. It was followed up by Summer Games II the following year, along with the game we feature today, Winter Games. All of the games in the series were great fun and reasonable representations of the included sports, but apropos of the commencement of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, we present to you the pomp, the passion, and the pixels of Epyx’s Winter Games.

The graphics are spectacular in the game, really putting the player in the environment of a grand winter sports spectacle, surrounded by mountains and running streams.  The music score is another standout, with a simultaneous grandiose and groovy attitude.  But the hallmark of all the Games games by Epyx is the precise feeling of controlling the athletes. The designers were well aware that the almost intangible “feel” of movement and control is what makes or breaks a sports title.  Gold medals all around for their work on recreating seven different Olympic sport challenges for the player, without any undue frustration. I’d like to complain about the figure skating in Winter Games, as it initially feels like the only part of the game where you’re not in complete control of the athlete… but ultimately I’ll have to be honest and say that my cursing and swearing in that part probably comes down to my own fumblings with the controls and not because of the design.

Every game in the Epyx Games series will be featured in posts all during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.  Here are the links to the other articles:

The Epyx Games: Summer Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: Summer Games II on the C64
The Epyx Games: World Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)
The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition on the Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Games: Winter Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Fail Reel

For more information on Winter Games maker Epyx, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Title screen of Airwolf, a computer game by Elite 1984

The Games of 1984: Airwolf

1984. It was only 30 years ago. Astronauts made the first untethered space walk from the space shuttle. The Winter Olympics took place in Sarajevo. Yuri Andropov died after only 15 months as Soviet Premiere.

Were you like me?  Did you anxiously run to the TV Saturday nights to watch Airwolf?

Airwolf was a cool show starring Jan Michael Vincent as rogue ex-Vietnam helicopter pilot Stringfellow Hawke, who comes into possession of the titular lethally high-tech attack helicopter, along with friend, mentor and fellow pilot Dominic played by Ernest Borgnine. Every week they would head off on dark missions of espionage, usually at the behest of government contact Archangel, played by perennial 70′s TV actor Alex Cord.

Airwolf the computer game, however, is a punishing exercise in abject frustration. Made by Elite Systems, the game has you piloting the chopper through some kind of complicated underground complex, packed to the rafters with diabolical traps and puzzles, in an attempt to rescue people and make it back out alive. You’ll notice the first problem with the game right away… for some inexplicable reason, Airwolf can’t hover. So trying to move with any kind of precision is impossible; you always end up bobbing up and down trying to maintain your altitude. Most of the barriers you try to move through are just a little bit bigger than the aircraft, so there is a tonne of bumping going on. You’re given nine shields that disappear as you take damage, and you might think that’s a lot. You’ll blow through them at an alarming rate, however.

One of the coolest things about the TV show was the soaring theme song.  In the computer game, it becomes a droning, repetitive dirge to your constant destruction. You’ll have the image of Airwolf taking off from its platform at the beginning of the game burned into the meaty flesh of your brain as you die and take off, die and take off, over and over and over again.  Just starting the game up and hearing that dreaded theme song as Airwolf moves off to the right is enough to make me break out into a cold sweat.

Here’s a video of gameplay from 1984′s Airwolf. God speed, Stringfellow Hawke.  You’ll need it:

Excerpt from Zork cover art.

Zorked: The Story of Infocom

I’d be hard-pressed to do a review of the computer gaming I did in my youth and not dedicate an entire chapter to the wonderful text-adventures put out by Infocom in the 80′s.

I remember that the first disk I ever bought for my gigantic 1541 floppy drive, newly attached to my Commodore 64, was a Commodore-labelled version of Infocom’s Zork.  Just a few minutes exploring the surface landscape and then delving deep into an ever-expanding Underground Empire had me hooked.

Box art for Zork, a computer text adventure game for the TRS-80, by Infocom 1980

Zork, TRS-80 version

Starting as an answer to Crowther and Wood’s original Adventure text adventure, a group of MIT students designed Zork as a program on a mainframe computer, and eventually developed a system to port it to personal computers. After an initial release by VisiCalc makers Personal Software, the Infocom team decided to publish the games themselves, and hence was a computer game giant created.

Ten Zork games were eventually produced, along with a huge library of other works spanning genres such as science fiction, history, mysteries, fantasy, and on and on.  When Douglas Adams got wind of what Infocom is doing with interactive fiction, he signed on with the company to adapt his seminal comedy science fiction book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  From this unholy pairing of Adams and Infocom “IMP” Steve Meretsky would come one of the most cruel, diabolical computer games of all time.

Even as graphics eventually supplanted text and the human imagination as the canvas of computer game design, the great writing and intricate design of Infocom’s worlds kept me visiting them. For our full history of Zork and Infocom, consult your local Dot Eaters article.