Category Archives: C64

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:

More like the new Pre-order

Wolfenstein Returns

Perhaps you’re like me, and the original Castle Wolfenstein, made by Silas Warner and Muse Software for the Apple II in 1981 and the C64 in 1983, defined your computer gaming experience back in the day. And perhaps Activision’s 2001 Return to Castle Wolfenstein remake, itself a re-telling of id Software’s seminal 1994 3D remake of the original, helped to define the modern online shooter in your mind.

Well, the news from Gamespot is that B.J. Blazkowicz is back for more two-fisted adventures with Wolfenstein: The New Order, announced today by Bethesda Softworks. The game is being developed by MachineGames, a Swedish outfit made up of former key members of Starbreeze Studios, makers of The Darkness and the Riddick games.

As I said, Return to Castle Wolfenstein was a watershed game, not necessarily for its rather pedestrian single-player campaign, but more for its amazingly well-tuned and just plain fun online component. Pitting Nazis against Allied forces, the simple-yet-deep strategy and wonderful level design destined the title for greatness. Here’s to raising a stein to the success of this new entry in the Wolfenstein saga.

via Gamespot

The Return of Commodore?

I love the Commodore 64 as much as anyone. As the single best-selling line of computers in history, there are a lot of anyones.

That said, even I think this is going a bit far. Commodore USA is re-releasing the C64, with the same bread loaf shape, same dark brown keyboard with the same line of tan function keys on the side. It looks just the same as it did when you unwrapped the box in a frenzy while sitting under the Christmas tree in 1984.

Another thing hasn’t changed either from 1984. The price. Due to the fact that they sold a tonne of them, C64 computers are not exactly collectible. In good shape, they fetch maybe 50 bucks on eBay. The base model from Commodore USA goes for $250 USD. The top of the line costs $895. Now, before you have a coronary, the higher end models come with a netbook dual core Atom processor, 4G of RAM and a 1T hard drive all shoehorned into this brown betty. You can see the feature list and prices here on the Commodore USA website.

It won’t exactly run Crysis 2, but if you want to blow the minds of the friends by pulling out a C64 and playing, say, Bioshock 2 on it, now’s your chance. I recommend doing so while mechanically singing “More than meets the eye”.

A Quick Look Back: Mail Order Monsters

Post Office refuses to
deliver to your house ever again

As part of the glorious early history of Electronic Arts, Mail Order Monsters (1985) is an intriguing and involving game that offers a metric tonne of fun, originality and replayability.  Either against the capable AI, or pitted against another human in front of the computer, MOM makes for hours upon hours of vat-bred enterslainment.

The game was designed by Even Robinson, Nicky Robinson and Paul Reiche III.  Reiche had previously designed the classic Archon: The Light and the Dark chess-like fantasy game for EA, as well as its equally enjoyable sequel, Archon II: Adept. The one-on-one battle system from these games are reprised in MOM, now with some deep creature customizations available for players to tailor their charges to their tastes.

Title Screen

EA revolutionized video game packaging in their formative years, presenting their wares in large, flat, square cardboard sleeves reminiscent of LP record albums with colourful, creative covers.  The entire premise of MOM is summed up by the image up front: a tricked-out creature bursting forth from an envelope.  The whole idea is that the player is a participant in a futuristic pastime, that of growing and splicing various beasts for sport.  It offers three types of play from which gamers can choose: the Free Trial, where one can pick from any of the 12 stock monster types without any customization, and take them for a test drive.  Choosing Rental opens up the game considerably, putting the player on the Morph Meadow and letting them walk around to the various facilities available.

You got your scorpion in my Lyonbear

Visiting the Vats lets you pick out and grant stats to a “morph” to do battle with, along with allowing as much physical changes as you can afford with the currency, or “pyschons”, granted you.  Care to add a stinger to your Lyonbear?  Be our guest.  Think acid spitting is more your style?  Right this way, we have some particularly caustic toxics today.  You can then take your newly formed charge and visit the Weapons Shop for outfitting with some more mechanical armaments, like a Gas-Gun, or a perhaps a Multilaser for you tentacled types.

Leading the creature around the meadow

Then its a trip through the Transmat, and time for some one-on-one mayhem.  A battleground of varying landscape types is randomly chosen, and one of three game modes is chosen by the player: Destruction is a duel to the death, there’s Capture the Flags in which the flags must be obtained in order, and The Horde featuring co-op play against a steady stream of invaders while competing for the most kills.  Once chosen, a large map appears, with the two monsters as small dots.  As the creatures approach each other, the view narrows to feature the two combatants at close range.  The players not only have to contend with each other’s monsters; randomly placed among the battleground are guardians and other enemies, who come under the control of your opponent when tripped. Upon completion of the duel, the winner is presented in a graphical flourish, and the game is over.

Battle royale
M.U.L.E. cameo

If Tournament is chosen from the main menu, then the players have access to the corrals, granting the opportunity to save their creatures, and upgrade them with phychons awarded to the victorious. The corral also features a nice homage to famed early EA game designer Daniel Bunten, with one of the eponymous creatures from his classic EA game M.U.L.E. waiting inside it.

MOM is charming, deep, fun, and challenging.  The amount of creature customization available is staggering, and ensures that the game gets many a spin through the floppy drive as would-be monster handlers try their hands (or claws) at the vast amount of strategy on offer here.