Hidden secrets in games


Update: 11th July 2016 – Added Jet Power Jack hidden hacker messages (See top)

I’ve always had a bizarre interest in the things we were never meant to see – I don’t know why, it’s something i’ve had ever since the day I discovered a cheat which allowed me to be immune to fire/water in Fantasy World Dizzy and helped me to discover odd looking screens which were not part of the game. The desire for discovering unseen materials is why I run a preservation project for games that never saw the light of day.

Getting hold of and sharing something that we waited months for back in the day when magazines showed promising previews of a particular game, and which eventually never showed. However, it’s not just unreleased/lost games which interest me, but its the little details within the games that DID make it.  Most of you are probably well aware of the term “Easter egg” in the computing world, being a small piece of code which is buried away and unlocked in a particular way (Via a code or a key combination).   With C64 games, there are loads of easter eggs buried away in the shape of mini-games,  demo’s and messages from the developers – unlocked via a combination of key strokes or accessing a strange part of a game. Finding an easter egg is pretty neat, but there is much more awaiting discovery that we may not be aware of – things classified as easter eggs maybe, but not intentional ones…

No, i’m talking about bits of unseen ‘assets’ within games …  unused sprites, music, background graphics and even levels! There is a lot of this kind of thing tucked away in the games we all love and know very well, but unless you’re actively digging around – you most likely will never get to see these things.  You may not for instance get to see the cheeky message hidden away in Army Moves Part 2 (See below) unless you were hunting around in the code with a Machine Code monitor. After starting a thread recently on Lemon64 forum, it seems others out there are interested in this kind of thing – and its got me hungry for starting up a new segment/category on the up and coming new GTW portal site (Which btw will be here soon!).

Very quick fire pages/entries for particular titles with hidden bits and pieces, showing you the assets or even how to get access to them.  It’s a slight expansion from just covering unreleased/lost games, but I think it will be an interesting one.  Let’s see how it goes…. As a taster, below are some samples of hidden bits and pieces discovered in a few C64 titles (Thanks to those over at Lemon64 for discovering them)…

Jet Power Jack – 1984 English Software. Thanks to Vinny Mainolfi, some developers can be pretty charming in their hidden messages – this probably part of a scroller that can be unlocked:

ccs0

ccs1

Turrican (1990 Rainbow Arts) Vinny has been busy recently, and one of his recent bits of brilliance has been with enabling walk through wall cheats on a variety of games.  Turrican was next, and it didn’t disappoint.  On level one, Vinny discovered that the year 1989 is hidden in the background (see below).  Also on World 1.3, you will find the initials “DTE” in another part.   As well as being able to explore parts outside of the map, there could be a lot more to discover, especially with the likes of Turrican 2 yet to unlock…

1942 – 1986 Elite Tucked away in the sprites is the main character from Ghost n Goblins, along with the flame torch and dagger weapon.  Not sure how he would have appeared in a WW2 game 🙂

Army Moves – 1987 Imagine Hidden away in part-two, you can access the following story from Zach Townsend:

******************** HI TO ALL HACKERS, AND MANDY SMITH IF SHE’S THERE. (LITTLE TART ). ANY FAN MAIL, SEND TO OCEAN SOFTWARE. ANY EXTREMELY PRETTY BLONDES ( AGE 17+ ) LOOKING FOR A REAL MAN, THEN PHOTOS IN THE POST A MOI ‘. NOW FOR A BIT OF INSIDE INFO ! EYES – BLUE. HAIR – YES. SEX – SURE, ANYTIME.BRAINS – WELL, I’M WORKING FOR OCEAN. FAVE GROUPS ARE :- LEVEL 42 – SIMPLE MINDS – AHA – WHAM – DURAN-DURAN – MICHAEL JACKSON LEVEL 42’S LATEST LP ON CD IS MEGA BRILL FAVE GAMES :- WHY ‘ARMY MOVES’ OF COURSE NO, I HAVEN’T GOT ANY FAVE’S. TRAMPOLINING’S GOOD FOR A LAUGH, BONKING UP AND DOWN ( I MEAN BOUNCING, DON’T I ?) ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE’S A GIRL WITH A BODY LIKE H.NN.H’S, DOING IT AS WELL. HI TO PALS AT CANTERBURY COLLEGE – STEVE, PAUL, MARK ETC. + ALL THOSE I’VE FORGOTTEN.WHY WERE DELTA AND NEMESIS SO CRAP, AFTER GOOD REVIEWS ? MAYBE I’M JUST SPOILT BY THE ARCADE MACHINES. I DUNNO. WHEN DO I GET A PORSCHE ? WHY DID SO MANY PLONKERS BUY BREAKOUT II? WHO WATCHES MOONLIGHTING ? YES, ITS GOING DOWN THE DRAIN. TAMING OF THE SHREW, MY BUM CAN CYBIL SHEPHERD ACT ? NOOO. CAN BRUCEY BOY SING ? NOOO. IS NICK KAMEN A COMPLETE PLONKER,OR DOES HE JUST ACT LIKE ONE ? WAS CROC DUNDEE GOOD ? BY THE WAY, IF YOU PLAY THE CASSETTE ON SIDE B YOU SHOULD HEAR SAM FOX’S NEW SINGLE. IT’S CALLED ‘EEEEEEKKK !!! I DIDN’T MEAN DO THAT !’ IF THIS GAME GETS A BAD REVIEW THEN OCEANS’ TAKE THE EDITOR OUT TO DINNER ISN’T WORKING ANY MORE. OKAY, I’LL SIGN OFF NOW, BYE *** ZACKER

Cobra – 1986 Ocean Software Again – hidden away in the main sprites is this nasty shaven headed thug which never made an appearance in the final game: Cobra thug sprites

Delta – 1987 Thalamus Check out the SID file and its sub tunes to hear an array of little Sanxion tune snippets which were meant for when you collected different powerups.  Although the tunes were tucked away in the game’s code, they were never used.

Fantasy World Dizzy (Or most Dizzy games on the C64) Grab yourself a copy of issue 15 of Commodore Format and type in the immunity listing cheats for either this game or Treasure Island Dizzy.  The immunity to fire/water will mean that dropping into the large lake/lava areas will have you falling through nothing, until you hit some rather bizarre looking screens with random objects/coins placed on them.

In fact, its just parts of the memory that you’ll see – probably collecting a coin will corrupt the game 🙂 … But one screen is a temporary storage area for objects either turned off in the game or not yet activated.  You can also get onto the title screens in most cases!

Finders Keepers – 1985 Mastertronic Locked away in the sprites is a horse with your main character ready to be overlaid.  Unless this appears in a previously unseen ending, this was never used. Finders keepers sprites

Fuzzball – 1992 System 3 We have done a fair amount of hacking around with this one, especially as its a lost/unreleased game.  Locked away was not only a series of unused sprites across the 2 level demo… Animation 1 … but also remains of the other levels (sadly without graphic elements) with sprite pointers intact.  These were accessed by changing level pointers in the code.  Unfortunately they weren’t playable:

A hidden level – missing graphics, but with sprites moving as intended

Spellcast – 1991 Genesis / Zzap 64 We love this game demo – as well as there being pointers for other levels (About 8 in total we think), there was also this skeleton creature locked away and unused:

Maybe this was something intended for level 2?

Super Pipeline 2 – 1985 Mastertronic An awesome game.  Plenty of sprites locked away potentially (Though I think the developer’s heads which are in the sprite memory were actually used?)… However, this certainly wasn’t used… a woman’s torso which has the bra disappear in the next frame 🙂 I *think* one of the staff heads should have been situated on top – staff secretary perhaps? 🙂

Topper the copper – 1985 English Software Not really unused assets as such, but something potentially a bit naughty.  It seems locked away in this game are sprites from Gremlin Software’s Thing on a Spring.  Very odd it was thought, but then it becomes clear where the developer got his inspiration from when you see the main sprite in action (Which animates rather like Thing 🙂 ) Things are being examined now to see if actually Topper the Copper borrows any code from Thing on a Spring.

The Eidolon – 1985 Activision The popular 3D romp from Activision has a creature locked away and unused, but with a careful bit of hacking can be reactivated in the levels:

UCM (1987 Mastertronic) A quick addition thanks to Vinny Mainolfi, who found this tucked away in the game code: HI THERE! TO GET INFINITE LIVES, TAKE OUT THAT NASTY LITTLE DEC JUST BEFORE THAT JSR BELOW!  SAY HI TO ME IF YOU SEND THE POKE INTO ZZAP!  CHEERS.  GREMLIN

Fiona Rides Out (1985 Interceptor) Another  addition thanks to Vinny Mainolfi, who found this tucked away in the game code:

Velocipede 2 (Players) Yet another addition thanks to Vinny Mainolfi, who found that most of Velocipede 2 is controlled by BASIC.  Here is a screenshot of the high score code:

Kick Box Vigilante (Players) Seems like Players games were popular for hidden messages!

kickboxer

Steel Eagle (Players) And yet another! …  send your fan mail!!

steeleagle

Street Machine – 1987 Software Invasion I wonder where the artist took inspiration for the rotating car sprites they developed?…

streetm-sprites1 streetm-sprites2

Jail Break – 1987 Konami Oh how I was so disappointed to see one of my favourite arcade games as a kid turn out like this.  Really unplayable and almost impossible to play.  Interestingly the game is missing the cop car sequence at the start and the large vans.   Thanks to Vinny Mainolfi for some cheats to check the game properly and a Sprite Viewer, here are both items (part of the cop car is missing, and a hefty 6 spriter cart) which were never used in the game, but are still neatly tucked away.  Not sure if they are ever called?

jail-sprites

Also in the code – one of the game display messages is “RHONA I LOVE YOU”.  Something that gets triggered with a certain key press??

Way Of The Exploding Fist – 1985 Melbourne House Thanks to STE86 for flagging this one up, and what seems to be a set of sprites for an abandoned bonus level where you should chop a block of wood (like on the cover).  Here is part of the animation sequence and the block breaking up…

way-exploding

Dick Tracy – 1990 Titus Thanks to Neil Grayson for giving permission to show this sprite sheet, which was uncovered as part of the Commodore Format article on Dick Tracy recently in 2015.   These sprites were tucked away in what has been found to have been a incomplete game that was released.  Far more actions were intended for the game, but never activated due to the game being rushed out.  A shame – Dick Tracy could have been a far better game!

Click to view full size!

dtspritesheet

Alley Cat – 1984 Solar Software. Thanks to Vinny Mainolfi for finding this tucked away in the game when doing a crazy hack for it.   It is very clear that Alley Cat was a blatant clone of John Shay’s own Robin Hood Hunchback clone – but where it seems he just changed the sprites and some of the text.  This end screen where Maid Marion once was, is indication of that.  If you get here, then the game just continues to count up your score for eternity.  Hidden away for over 30 years…

Alley Cat - final screen
Here is the final screen …. I guess Maid Marion is now a yellow fish? 🙂
Robin to the Rescue - final screen
And here is the screen in the Robin Hood game. No fish here….

 

Hawk Storm – 1989 Players. Thanks to Vinny Mainolfi for finding this tucked away in the game.  Basically if you freeze and restart the game with an AR cart, the scrolly changes somewhat!

Starburst – 1989 Reflective Designs. Thanks to Vinny Mainolfi for finding these tucked away in the game.

starburst1 starburst2

 

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4 thoughts on “Hidden secrets in games

  1. -trb- January 3, 2012 / 10:38 pm

    In Turrican I or II is somewhere in memory a hidden message by Manfred Trenz iirc. There are also credit notes in memory from the music composers (e.g. the phone number of Markus Siebold) and music routine coder(s).

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