Retro byte: ‘Switchblade’ (C64)

A bit of a quick entry this time round, as time is short and there are games to play rather than talk about them all the time 😉 …  A new title to highlight this time round is the relatively unknown ‘Switchblade’  (With focus on the Commodore 64 version).  My first experience of this was via a small demo on issue 11 of Commodore Format – and I remember quite well being blown away by a title which was very NES’esq in its style.  It didn’t take me long until I picked up the full version back in the day.

Start of the game on the C64.

In the game, you control Hiro, the last of the bladeknight warriors who must find 16 pieces and reassemble the legendary Fireblade to destroy an evil creature called Havok.

The game starts out with you above ground and kicking some bizzare scorpion creatures and picking up bonuses, until you reach a disused lift shaft which going into will result in you falling into the underground complex (Called the Undercity) – where your mission begins.

Undercity

The Undercity is a labyrinth of ladders, platforms, various monsters and traps throughout – which you must explore and discover all of the 16 pieces.  At particular points in the game you must destroy 16 larger creatures to progress to further parts of the game map.

One of the fun aspects of the game is kicking parts of the map and discovering little bonuses dotted around, and upgrades to your weaponry.   The creatures can get a bit annoying after a while, but trying to push further on in the game is compelling.  The only downfall is that things can get a little repetitive in terms of look and feel, but overall its a huge game and very surprising that they managed to cram it all into a single load.

Graphically the game varies – in some parts it is pretty awesome.  Animations are a bit iffy however, and the red landscape at the start is not very well defined.  Sonically the game comes with some of the best Ben Daglish music i’ve heard on the C64 (And which sadly happened to be his last work on the machine too).  The presentation is also very good, featuring a neat intro sequence and a great title screen with a superb animated logo.

The Amiga version
The Amiga version

It’s worth also checking out the 16-bit versions – but the C64 is a solid conversion overall, that the only thing you get are some improved graphics.  Additionally check out the sequel if you can, which is a very different game overall and well worth checking out.

Trivia:  The same developers later re-used the game engine to produce a cheap budget game for Codemasters in 1992 called Stryker in the Crypts of Trogan, which sadly was nowhere near as good as Switchblade.

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Retro byte: Chariot Races (Vic 20)

I know, I know … Another Vic 20 game, but its yet another one of those games that not many people will actually be that aware of unfortunately … and its a huge shame.

Chariot Races was produced in 1983 by a company called Micro Antics. It was a rather different game compared to the usual Pac Man clone of the time, where you controlled two large scaled chariot racers (Sinister and Dexter) navigating through a vertical scrolling traffic of chariot racers of similar shape and size.

Not a pretty sight, but very addictive - trust me!

In the game, chariots can be bashed from the sides and you can push into the front of them, but you must not collide behind another chariot, as otherwise your chariot will crash and crumble apart – signifying ‘Game Over’.  Other chariots must be bashed into the sides and crashed out of the game to earn you points.  The more points you earn, the faster the game gets and the more ferocious the opponents become on the track.  There are no levels in the game, you just keep going and rack up as many points as you possibly can before eventually crashing out.  It’s a classic hi-score based game.

Additionally, to add a bit of spice – if you maneuver too slowly in the game, you will have fireballs shot at you from behind, so you need to keep moving fast – which additionally gives you a bit more power when bashing into others.

The game was additionally one the first of its kind on the Vic 20 to have two players simultaneously who share keys on the keyboard to play.  Although it seems to be predominantly a two player game (The game always starts in 2 player mode), you can play by yourself, let player 2 crash out and then continue to do battle against the computer based chariots.

Overall there are a lot of very clever game play features for a title from 1983, making it a very fun little title.  Although it looks terrible, it plays very well and is extremely fun in two player mode as you do battle with a friend – but even in a single player game, its one of the best Vic 20 titles to ever grace the system and comes highly recommended if you are checking out the machine and its software library.

Actually after playing it a bit recently (including a 2 player game for the first time at Retrovision recently), i’m very keen to be involved in a C64 conversion of the title with some updates.  Maybe watch this space?…