Originally Posted to GameFancier.com on August 13th 2010

Commodore C64

The good old C64

This week, as promised, we embark on something new. Something I hope you will find as enjoyable as I do, and if you don’t then we’ll call the whole thing off and promise never to mention it again. This is what being a gamer is all about ; the variety of choice, the thrill of trying something new and coming across the gems and the gallstones that lurk within the confines of your gaming cupboard. Yes folks, it’s random gaming (which one could alike to a rather weird form of speed dating)

The rules for the Russian Roulette of Retro are as follows :

  • My lovely assistant Mrs Retro Bear will select any 6 games from a library of over 800 titles
  • Unless specified, these will be across random formats
  • Each game will be played for a minimum of 30 minutes
  • If a game is enjoyable or particularly absorbing I can carry on playing until such point comes when I have had enough
  • No matter how bad a game is, it has to get a minimum of 30 minutes
  • After playing all 6 games, one will be selected as the Bullet and one as my Retro Recommendation

So without further ado, week one sees 6 titles from the Commodore 64. These have been chosen from a grand total of 423 original games, including compilations. The 6 games will be played across 2 nights, with a minimum 90 minutes playing time per night :

Kikstart (1985) by Mastertronic

Fact : Based on the popular BBC TV series which ran from 1979 to 1988

Kikstart Off-Road Simulator

Loading up Kikstart

Opens with a rendition of the Can Can, which is not aurally unpleasant. 8 courses to choose from with a variety of jumps, hazards, buses, cars, telephone boxes and water pits to tackle. The idea is simple : get to the end in the quickest time possible. You can play head to head if you wish as the game is presented in split screen format.

Awful rendition of the old Kickstart TV theme tune (You remember the TV series ? This was always shown during the school holidays and presented by Peter Purves, who was the guy from Blue Peter who wasn’t John Noakes), but thankfully that can be turned off. Controls aren’t bad, but you have to be spot on with your wheelies, jumps and speed otherwise you fall off. Sadly that is the most frustrating part about the game. You fall off a lot, but get a great sense of success when you manage to go 10 seconds without coming a cropper. Graphics and sound are very much of it’s day.

Verdict : Spawned a sequel and is pretty good fun, so all in all not a bad game to get going with.

Atom Ant (1990) by Hitec Software

Fact : The TV series ran from 1965 to 1968 and shared it’s half hour slot with Secret Squirrel

From the C64 golden age to the C64 dying days. Hitec licensed quite a few Hanna-Barbera games in the early 1990′s. I actually played and finished their version of Yogi’s Treasure Hunt on the Amiga. However, this is not one of their well known characters and perhaps unsurprisingly it’s a pretty poor effort.

The object is to fly Atom Ant up the building, collecting bombs to take to a diffuser at the top. You have to avoid a bizzare collection of enemies (from birds and bees to mini copters and bouncing hammers) while doing this, all against the clock. You can collect sugar lumps for extra points and Atom Ant helmets for extra lives. You start with 4 lives and lose one every time you hit an enemy.

Graphically this is pretty poor ; bland backgrounds and a poor main sprite, though the enemies are coloured well. There are minimal sound effects and an OK title tune but nothing special. It’s like a poor man’s Bomb Jack and there isn’t an awful lot to recommend it. I got to the third level on my second go, which suggests with a bit of practice you could get through it easily.

Verdict : Poor licence, poor game. Not even one for the kiddies which is where it was aimed.

Game Over II (1987) by Dinamic Software

Fact : The original Game Over featured a censored UK sleeve to cover up the female character’s ample chest

Some might remember Game Over, with it’s loading screen showing a buxom beauty and some fairly visible nipples. While we are missing a loading screen for this sequel, we do get plenty of nipple coverage on the game’s sleeve. Of course there is more to this than just nipples surely ? Well yes there is. What we have here is one of the many side scrolling shoot-em-ups that gave the C64 it’s name as the best machine to play this kind of game on.

Having said that, it’s rock hard. It boasts a really excellent title tune by Pablo Toldeo , but once you get into the game all you get are weedy “pew pew” effects when you fire your ship’s laser. Graphically it’s not brilliant, and certainly doesn’t push the C64. However it is quick, the enemies come thick and fast and you can’t resist going back to have another go.

Verdict : Not the greatest example of this genre, but a fairly solid entry which will provide a good challenge to trigger happy fans.

The Running Man (1989) by Grandslam

Fact : The film was inspired by a Stephen King novel from 1982. So not only do they make crap films from Stephen King novels, but crap games as well

Running Man

Still running..

I commented on this game back in the first part of my “movies made into games” blog a few weeks back, and made my thoughts pretty vocal. To sum up – the graphics are poor, the game moves at a snails pace, the collision detection is ropey, the sound and music are awful and the gameplay is repetitive, dull and totally uninspiring.

There is one point though which makes this game so mind numbing, and that is the loading. No matter that you have to load an entire side of one tape (which you then have to flip so it can carry on loading), but then each level is loaded in after that. Die, and you have to rewind the tape to the start. Aggghhhhhhhhhhhhh !!!!

Verdict : Load it up and blow your brains out. It is dog crap of the highest stink.

The Great Burger Riot (1987) by Nationsoft

Fact : I like burgers

Two of my favourite things (burgers and games) sadly do not a great combination make. This is a fairly poor budget title that provides a few good goes initially, but that soon fades. You are Hammy the Hamburger and the goal is to side scroll your way through the levels, blasting hot dogs, cans of cola and other assorted bits n bobs with your tomato sauce. At the end of the level, the hot dogs gang up against you and you have to dodge them and shoot a bottle of ketchup before it hits an electric sensor which trips some hidden wires and turns you to smithereens (not mincemeat because that’s what you already are)

If that makes sense and sounds like fun, then this is the game for you. What you won’t forgive are the poor graphics, lack of sound (though the title tune is OK and the Game Over screen is arguably one of the brashest and garish I’ve seen), the bad scrolling, sprites that appear from nowhere and kill you (and I don’t mean from off the screen either) and the real lack of control of your hamburger. If this was a full price game you’d have frogmarched it back to the shop and got a refund. As a budget title, you’d wait until your pocket money next week and ensure you made a better choice with your £2.00 that time around.

Verdict – Probably this week’s loser if it wasn’t for The Running Man. Poor title with very little going for it, and quite badly programmed as well.

Pro Ski Simulator (1989) by Codemasters

Fact : One of the few Codemaster games that actually featured proper review snippets from magazines as opposed to their own “absolutely brilliant” blurb that they used to put on the sleeve

Pro Ski Simulator

Not for amateurs

So the kings of 80′s budget software make an appearance with a fairly solid entry in their “Simulator” series. The graphics are quite nice, though nothing special, and while the opening soundtrack is boppy in an 80′s way, sound effects are quite sparse and limited. Like BMX Simulator, if you crash you suffer from being forced to face the wrong way, and as such you can easily get stuck behind an object. If you go too fast the scrolling does struggle to keep up, and the time limits are very, very tight indeed.

It is a rewarding game though and does have that “Ooo just one more go” feel to it which I like. That means I shall probably load it up again over the next few days and try and get beyond level 3. I have no hesitation in recommending this as good fun (if you can get the original or play it via emulation) and a good way to pass a few hours.

Verdict : Will have you humming the theme tune to Ski Sunday in no time at all.

So my Retro Roulette Bullet Of The Week : The Running Man – run away from this at all costs.

And my Retro Recommendation Of The Week : Pro Ski Simulator – some good fun on the piste.

Till the next time Retromaniacs – Look at the size of that thing……