Category Archives: Epyx

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.

The Games: Winter Edition, a computer game by Epyx 1988

The Epyx Games – The Games: Winter Edition on Amiga

Our final entry in the Epyx Games series, The Games: Winter Edition was released for the Amiga computer in Olympic year 1988, with the real games held that year in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. You might remember those games as being the setting for the movie Cool Runnings, about the debut of the Jamaican Bobsled team in Olympic competition. Unfortunately, Winter Edition did not include the bobsled, nor Jamaica as a participating country, so players couldn’t recreate the John Candy vehicle. Not even in the Luge. The Epyx Games series did finally get to the big show, however. Winter Edition was an official licensee of the United States Olympic Committee, and therefore was the only game out of the series that contained Olympic branding within. Of course, all use of the Olympic rings imagery had to be accompanied with the USA logo, so the game seemed a tad biased towards the United States.

Along with the Amiga, it also appeared on several other computer platforms, including fierce competitor the Atari ST, as well as the C64, DOS and others. For the Amiga version, the game was made by developer FACS Programming Services, Inc., a subsidiary of Ann Arbor, Michigan-based F.A.C.S. Inc., for Epyx. Programming was handled by Don Sherry, Jonathan Hickey, Larry Ashmun, Alex Popadich and Joy Dorethy. The artist for the project was Mike Snyder.  Taking care of the music was Chris Ebert and Chris Grigg.

There are seven sporting events offered: Luge, Downhill (Skiing), The Slalom (Skiing), Cross Country (Skiing) Ski Jump, Speed Skating, and Figure Skating.  Rousing opening and closing ceremonies also round out the package, along with a podium ceremony for the victors in each competition. It’s also good to hear national anthems make their return, giving players a good education on the first few bars of every participating country’s patriotic ditty. Speaking of music, the score is not too bad here, with some well-designed and varied tunes to fire up the blood before an event like Speed Skating. Gameplay stumbles, however. Thankfully joystick jiggling kept to a bare minimum, although things start to break down a tad with some inscrutable timings required in Figure Skating and Ski Jump.  The former is actually interesting to set up, where you have to build a choreography for a routine before you skate, to a selection of music selections of various lengths and tempos. Then you must take to the ice and skate this routine, making the right moves at the right time in the music. Unfortunately, executing the different moves requires knowing the timing for holding or not holding the joystick in the correct position, which is initially unknowable until you’ve practiced each a thousand times. As for the Ski Jump?  I’ll let the attached gameplay video speak for itself, although I will say that I practiced for hours before I recorded the footage. I never did get the hang of it.

Problems with timings can be rectified with intense practice by the player, but nothing can improve the rough and unpolished graphics of Winter Edition.  Things like bare blue skies and lumpy athletes make one long for the clever details of the original summer and winter games artwork.

The Games: Winter Edition does slip and fall butt-first to the ice on occasion, but doesn’t completely disgrace its pedigree. Taken as a whole, the grand Epyx Games series of international sports competition deserves a solid gold medal of achievement in computer gaming.

Every game in the 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 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 Fail Reel

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

The Games: Summer Edition, a computer game for the Amiga by Epyx 1988

The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition

We’re back to the Olympian playing field with the Amiga version of The Games: Summer Edition, distributed in 1988 by U.S. Gold and developed by Code Monkeys for Epyx. There were versions of the game made for the venerable C64 too, as well as arch Amiga rival the Atari ST, as well as for the Apple II and DOS.

Like the original Summer Games, this reboot was made to capitalize on an Olympic year. The very next summer games, in fact, taking place in Seoul, South Korea. As usual for this series, there was no Olympic branding to be found in Summer Edition, as the product wasn’t an official IOC license. Of course, we all knew what grand, international sporting event we were actually playing in.

There are eight Olympic-style events on display here: Cycling, Hurdles, Pole Vault, Hammer Throw, Uneven Parallel Bars, Archery, Rings and Diving. It’s also nice to see appropriately epic closing ceremonies make a return to the series. Since the game was made on the Amiga, the graphics are a pretty big notch above the previous iterations. The audio quality of the music is also a standout, although the compositions disappointingly generic for a Games title. Where are the groovy riffs? Gameplay is suspect as well. Most of the events devolve into the dreaded joystick waggling contest, and both of the gymnastic events, the rings and the parallel bars, take the gold in “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing”. Trying to play them, with all their complicated joystick movements and contextual timing, one can see why certain Olympic events were left out in the other games. With an Olympian amount of practice, I’m sure people could figure things out and put on a good athletic performance. As for me, I’ll just rest here under the bars and wait for the medics to carry me out.

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 on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)
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.

Image from California Games II, a computer game by Epyx 1990

The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)

Welcome, moondoggies, to more sun-bleached sporting hijinks in California Games II, released by Epyx for the PC in 1990 as a sequel to their popular California Games. It was programmed by Gil Colgate, Kevin Furry, Darrell Fetzer and Jesse Taylor. Art was handled by Arthur Koch, Matthew Crysdale, Paul Vernon, Collette Michaud and Joel Mariano. Chris Ebert, Bob Aron and Chris Grigg did sound design. The game was produced by Matt Householder, and additional design was done by Tom Schumacher. You can really see the personnel rosters climb as the games advance, can’t you? Initially released for DOS, California Games II also saw light on the two big 16-bit computers of the era, the Amiga and Atari ST, along with later console versions for SNES and the SEGA Master System.

This post covers the DOS version, which is a great entry in the Epyx Games series. The available events here are Hang Gliding, Snowboarding, Jet Surfing (Jet Ski), Bodyboarding, and Skateboarding. I’d have to say that personally, I enjoy snowboarding and skateboarding the most out of this title. Although what to do with the helicopter in snowboarding is initially inscrutable (protip: don’t land on the platform, hover over the snowy slope next to it and hit the fire button to jump out), the multi-stage gameplay is a blast and mighty harrowing as you careen down the mountain. The jetskiing event is by far the worst, with little to do but try and keep between the buoys with a stiffly-handling watercraft. There is also no sound effects in this event, except for the music that constantly plays. Considering that the player is prompted before the race to “rev up your engines”, it’s funny that there’s no actual engine sounds! Bodyboarding is merely blah, although the graphics in this one really give me the idea that I’m actually playing a classic graphic adventure by Sierra Online.  Maybe a sequel to Codename Iceman or something. Matching the Sierra Online adventure game ethos are some of the dire ends you can come to. Things are not as laid-back in California as they seem.

The music is a bit better here than in the previous California Games, and player control seems responsive and tight. In all, a lot of fun to play. It’s totally tubular..although take it easy approaching the tunnels in while on your skateboard, or you might leave a permanent mark. Now THAT’S bogus, dude.

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 on the C64
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 bitchin’ info on the history of Epyx, glide over to your local Dot Eaters entry, man!

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.

Image from Summer Games, a computer video game by Epyx 1984

An Epyx Tale

Jumpman. Pitstop. Summer Games. Just a few of the classics from the library of Epyx, a company that produced computer games from 1983 to 1989. Its roots started with Automated Simulations, founded by Jim Connelley and Jon Freeman, releasing such D&D inspired computer games as the Temple of Apshai series, as well as Starfleet Orion and its sequel, Invasion Orion.

When the company morphed into Epyx, the focus was moved towards more action-oriented fare, to great success.  Epyx had a staff of 200 and revenues of 9 to 10 million dollars annually at its height, but projects such as the Handy colour hand-held gaming system, later sold to Atari and released as the Lynx, helped dragged the company down into bankruptcy in 1989.

The IP from Epyx is ripe to be updated and ported to modern systems, and people like Davis Ray Sickmon, Jr. are stepping up to the plate.  Sickmon, Jr. is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to produce a modernized version of Jumpman, first for the Ouya platform, and eventually for Android and iOS devices.  You can check out the project and throw some coin its way here on Kickstarter.

As always, for more information on Epyx, Jumpman and other great games by the company, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.