Monthly Archives: February 2014

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.

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.

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:

Kool-Aid Man breaks through in a video game for Mattel's Intellivision, 1983

Crap from the Crash: Kool-Aid Man for the Intellivision

30 years ago, the video game industry in North America bottomed out. Having enjoyed a meteoric rise since PONG had created a sensation a decade previous, what had been a $3.2 billion industry in 1983 was reduced to maybe $100 million in 1984. It was utter devastation. One of the reasons for the Great Video Game Crash was because of the immense river of garbage product that flooded the market at its peak. In this series on TDE we’ll look at some of these lamentable games.

Games like the one we feature today, Kool-Aid Man, created by Mattel Electronics for the Intellivision under the auspices of General Foods, purveyors of the sugary beverage concoction Kool-Aid. The game was initially part of a promotion where you could get it, or a different version made for the Atari 2600, by sending in 125 proof of purchases to the company.  It later also saw release at retail.

I guess the Intellivision version could have worked, if they had have taken the kid-friendly and action(and sugar)-packed company mascot and put him inside of a compelling game. Instead, we get this dreck: a boy and a girl wander around a cavernous house, collecting the supplies needed for some delicious Kool-Aid: a glass pitcher, a Kool-Aid packet, and the most important ingredient: lots and lots of sugar. A whole bowl of it, in fact. It’s no wonder that Kool-Aid Man has the energy to smash through walls: he’s on a maniacal sugar-high. The kids collect this paraphernalia while avoiding the dreaded Thirsties, who bounce around the house with impunity. If one of these critters touch a kid, they are incapacitated, apparently with thirst. If each kid gets hit twice, no Kool-Aid for you! The player can switch between the two children via any button on the control pad, which they’ll have to, since there are three things to collect and the kids can only carry one thing at a time. If everything is gathered and brought to the kitchen sink, the titular jug then makes his thunderous appearance, causing what I estimate to be about $5,000 dollars damage to the kids’ near-endless domicile. Kool-Aid Man thusly gives the Thirsties their comeuppance while chasing down various badly-drawn versions of strawberries, lemons, grapes and such. This is the closest Kool-Aid will ever get to actual fruit. Then repeat, until diabetes sets in.

Typical for an Intellivision game, the action is slow, here to the point of plodding. Not good for a game catering to sugar-addicted youngsters. Having to schlep back and forth to pick up the various items is tedious in the extreme, with the repetitiveness made worse by the fact that the item placement is not randomized, so it’s just a matter of getting to each one while avoiding the bad guys. There are a few difficulty levels that speed up the Thirsties movement and shorten the time allotted to get things done, but you’re probably better off just getting up off your butt and mixing yourself a real glass.

Below is a video of the game in, well, I guess you could call it action. For more information on Mattel’s Intellivision console, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.