The more I play Blaster, released by Williams in 1983, the more the game amazes me.
Designed by Defender creators Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar, it features a startling 3D perspective as you soar over an alien landscape, blasting giant robots and rescuing floating astronauts. The visual effects are nothing short of astounding, especially considering the time at which the game was made. It’s no surprise that several designers at Williams would eventually move on to work on the ground-breaking Amiga computer at Commodore, known for its graphical and aural prowess. Added to the allure of this and several other Williams games, such as Bubbles and Sinistar, is that it came in an indestructible plastic cabinet, named Duramold by the company. Rumour has it, however, that the plastic would shrink over time, causing the monitor inside to eventually be ejected like a champagne cork. Talk about 3D effects!
Enjoy the following video we made of Blaster gameplay.
1975’s Jaws might not have been Steven Spielberg’s first theatrical film (it was his second; The Sugarland Express, released the previous year, takes that honour), but it most certainly was the first to put him on the map. The story of a resort-town police chief and his battle against a monstrous killer shark, it set the template for the movie blockbuster and kept a huge swath of the public away from their beaches, bays and bathtubs. While nominated, it didn’t swim away with Best Picture; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest flew away with all the big awards at the 1976 ceremony.
Jaws: The Computer Game was released in 1989 for the Amiga, C64, Atari ST and other systems. Made by developer Intelligent Design, Ltd. and published by Screen 7 Ltd., it is a strange mish-mash of strategy and 2-D platforming. Players take on the role of chief Martin Brody, who circles the island of Amity in his boat The Orca, following reports of shark sightings. He can close beaches to prevent attacks, although keeping them closed too long ticks off Mayor Larry Vaughn and can lead to Brody’s dismissal. Both Hooper and Quint from the movie join Brody on his quest, along with a team of six divers who pilot a submersible vehicle into the depths around Amity. The ultimate goal is to collect pieces of a special gun and a cache of bullets, which when assembled can be used to dispatch the fishy fiend.
Jaws: The Computer Game is actually fun to play. Trying to guess where the shark will go lends a bit of strategy, and the underwater parts are competent if a bit draggy and frustrating at times. The colourful graphics help keep things interesting, along with John Williams’ famous main theme from the movie, which lends tension leading up to the titular fish’s occasional appearances. It’s worth going back into the water for this one.
Here are the rest of the Oscar Week articles on TDE:
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.
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:
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:
Any self-respecting gamer with an Amiga computer back in the 90’s had to have a copy of Alien Breed, created by Team 17 in 1991. It started as a hardcore top-down shooter in the style of Gauntlet, that tested the mettle of many an Amigan with its endless hordes of alien attackers and stingy attitude towards health and ammo.
Enter the ravenous maw
In the game-changing wake of Doom, Alien Breed morphed into an FPS with Alien Breed 3D in 1995, becoming the first type of game in that genre for the Amiga. While the view the player had of the world in front of him was shrunk down to avoid over-taxing the Amiga’s processing power, the 3D Breeds included more graphical flourishes, such as advanced lighting effects, more detailed floors and ceilings, and more intricate level design. Labelled a Doom-killer, the dwindling user base of the Amiga computer platform ultimately left Doom developer id Software with little to fear.
Will Kevin Bacon be eaten by the evil alien?
Team 17 has returned to its Gauntlet inspired roots with a new series of top-down Alien Breed games for the PSN, the last of which, Alien Breed: Descent, has just been released. Both single and multi-player co-operative modes are available for this go-round with the Alien scum. Here’s a video from The Dot Eaters of some gameplay of the original 3D game.
The iOS version of the much-beloved Bitmap Brothers game, originally released for the much-beloved Amiga computer platform in 1990 under the name Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, is available for purchase in the app store today.
While receiving a slight graphical overhaul, play looks remarkably similar to how things went down in the arena back in the day: fast and brutal.
Here’s my path through gaming history. It most likely started with me and my sister in the lobby of a motel my family was staying at on vacation one year, probably in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. They had a sit-down PONG machine, and we spent a lot of time batting that little white dot back and forth. On another Florida vacation, I remember being at the heels of my mother, shopping at a grocery store that almost certainly Winn Dixie. I saw a tall machine with a big scope standing off to the side, with an apple box conveniently placed so little ones could reach. This was, of course, Sea Wolf. I drifted over to climb up and peer into the scope, and after hitting a few buttons on the console to my surprise the game started up; someone had left a credit in it. Sweeping left and right with the scope, I did my best to sink ships while avoiding the floating mines, trying to line up a shot on that pesky, speedy PT boat.
One day in the back seat of the car one fall, thumbing through the real Christmas bible, aka the Sears Wish Book, I saw the Atari VCS. And all those games! “Mom, can I have this for Christmas?”, I asked. The answer was unexpected. Instead of a “Heck no!”, I got a “maybe”. My parents had to drive a couple of hours to over the border, and pay 400 bucks for it, but I got an Atari under the tree that year.
A couple of years later I sold it at a huge loss for a ColecoVision, the epiphany of which I describe in this article on the site, here. Then I migrated to computer gaming, selling the Coleco at another big loss to buy a Commodore Vic-20. It would be over 20 years until I tried console gaming again. Next, of course, came the C-64. Then I got an Amiga 500. The Amiga was an amazing computer, which I will talk about in an article coming soon. Then an Amiga 600, and as Commodore and the Amiga regrettably went bust, I went dormant for awhile, until picking up a Pentium II somewhere along the line, then moved up the rank building ever-increasingly faster PCs.
Big things, small packages
I finally broke my console exile with the Wii… I was fascinated by the control scheme. From there, I picked up a PS3 and fell in with a great group of gamers over at The Beautiful Peoples Club, an organization for gamers over 30. These days, if I do gaming on the computer it’s with the sorry selection available for my 27″ iMac, although with Steam now supporting the Mac things have gotten better on that front. But still, mostly Team Fortress 2.
So that’s my long, strange trip. Hopefully I’ll live long enough to take a run through a holodeck someday.