Metro-cross (C64) – Retrobyte

Sometimes when i’m not entirely sure what game to play next, I dig out a bundle of Zzap/Commodore Format mags and flip through to get “inspired”.  Again this helped me to produce a small list of titles to dig out.

Metrocross was one of those titles, and yet another game which gives me some fond memories – picking up the budget version of the game second hand many moons ago.  I remember that the game didn’t look that much on the front cover or the back, but it was a new title in the second hand shop and worth a try for a quid.

The c64 version

The game itself is a conversion of a Namco title which doesn’t get as much attention as maybe it should.  The idea of the game is simple – control your futuristic man and get him racing from left to right across a checkered floor to the finish line within the time limit.  However, the checkered floor comes covered in hazards such as holes, obstacles and squares which slow you down.  There are objects to aid your progress, such as skateboards to scroll across even slow tiles at speed, springboards to propell you further along in the game and over holes and collectables that stop the timer, help you speed up and give bonus points.

The game automatically scrolls, with your character always running.  All you have to do is move your character around the race area and across 32 courses in total.  It’s pretty different to most games you may have played back then, and still holds up today – though its a shame there is no simultaneous 2 player mode – which could have increased the fun scale.

As a conversion, I never really knew how accurate it was at the time – mainly because I had never seen the arcade itself.  It wasn’t until thanks to MAME and one of the Namco classic collection packs that I managed to see just how close it was.  Zzap’s 53% grading is very harsh indeed, and something that should be ignored.  Although the graphics are a bit blocky, with sprites being expanded – the game plays brilliantly and is an extremely accurate conversion (Though music could have maybe been beefed up a bit).

I’m off to play it again now, so if get the chance – check it out for yourself (It should be available on various retro compilations, but also may even be on one of the virtual consoles of the big 3).

Additional trivia – The general format of the game was never really cloned to the heights of Pacman.  Actually it pretty much wasn’t cloned at all, apart from one C64 game which never fully materialised.  Inspector Gadget was a licenced game of the cartoon series by Melbourne House – although an arcade adventure game did surface, there was an earlier version of the game which was a blatant clone of Metrocross and can be checked out here on GTW64.

It’s actually quite fun, although buggy – and would have been more welcome than the terrible game that eventually got a release.

Other games being checked out today

Pretty much a day of C64 (Though a bit of PS2 after to test out a donated console from my nephew that he was getting rid of).

The Muncher (C64)

http://www.gamebase64.com/game.php?id=5083&d=18&h=0

A Rampage sort of clone with a very large main godzilla character breaking up cities – including a level named “Nintendo village”.  Great little yelps when you pick up people and eat them, or crunch sounds when you jump and land on them (Considering the 8-bit pixalage, not as gory as it sounds 🙂 )

Bedlam (c64)

http://www.gamebase64.com/game.php?id=715&d=18&h=0

Never played it before, though always seen the adverts – thought i’d give this Xevious clone a whirl to see if it as average as the magazines made it out to be.

Forgotten Worlds (C64)

http://www.gamebase64.com/game.php?id=2874&d=18&h=0

Stunning conversion by Arc Developments.  Graphically superb and very accurate conversion.  Really good use of hi-res and multicolour backgrounds.

Growing up with Dizzy

It’s all getting a bit too weird now … each time I encounter someone of the age of 18-24 and bring up the Dizzy series of games, then they sort of give me this bemused look like i’m talking a foreign language (And also with the concept of loading games from cassette tape – sigh!).  Sadly its true that since the last of the Dizzy games were released back in 1993/94, the franchise has been lost to the midst’s of time and new generations mostly haven’t had the opportunity to sample the simple adventure delights of the series.  My own daughter loves the games, but only discovered them through my retro gaming past-time and general reminiscing.

Dizzy

Inspired by the recent Dizzy article in Retro Gamer magazine this month, I felt like writing some of my recollections of growing up with the Dizzy games (With a C64 specific spin – due to my roots) and why it seems sad that new generations are missing out on the little egg on legs…

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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?…

A new release for the Vic 20…

It’s been on sale for a little while now, but I did a little exchange with Jason (Kenz) Mackenzie from Psytronik Software with some C64 games for a nice shiny new copy of ‘Realms of Quest’ for the Commodore Vic 20.

The game and bits
The game and bits spread out

This is a vastly impressive RPG for the 32K expanded Vic 20, and comes with an easy to use menu system, impressive multi-colour graphics (Which have only really started to be seen on the machine as people begin to push it), a surface world map, underground 3d tunnels.

I never really got into RPG’s or the likes of Ultima, apart from playing Zelda on the Gameboy, but the quality of this new release was so brilliant, plus the fact it is a new Vic 20 game meant that I had to grab it.

As well as all the usual very polished colour inlays by Kenz (With artwork contributed), the game comes with a neat instruction booklet with full colour elements. The disk itself (Being a large container for a 35.5k (Is that right?) game) contains most of the developers previous work as bonus material.

From what i’ve seen via emulation so far, this is a superb title and one that raises the bar on the Vic 20 a notch or two. I just now need to get my Vic20/C64 combi setup sorted and play it on the real thing!

Details on how to order the game can be found here:

http://www.psytronik.com/main/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=73:realms-of-quest-trilogy-vic-20&catid=36:vic-20&Itemid=59

And for other Psytronik titles, check out the main Psytronik website at: http://www.psytronik.com/

My trip to ‘Retrovision 2010’

Last weekend saw Retrovision 2010 come and go, and what a brilliant 3 days it was. Plenty of retro gaming, socializing, eating and drinking all in one, it has been an experience i’d like to do again next year with Retrovision 2011. Apart from getting bad Laryngitis on the day we arrived, it has been a big highlight already for 2010. (Full set of my photos can be found here btw)

Based in Oxford at the Follybridge Inn, travel was a bit of an issue for me as I come from all the way in south east Kent. It meant having to get up at 4am and leaving the house at 4:20am to get my 5am coach to London Victoria. After a bit of a wait at the station, I was on the next part of the journey to Milton Keynes where I met up with Vinny [Mainolfi].

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Retro Byte: Blue Star (Vic 20)

Well, annual leave is almost up – so thought i’d squeeze in a quick highlight of a Commodore Vic 20 game which might only really be obscure because its a Vic 20 game, and these are a rare thing. That said, they don’t seem to be that rare these days, what with about 30 new games released for the machine in 2009!

Blue Star is a game which came out a few years ago and which really blew me away with its simple, but very fun elements all within a minuscule 3.5 kilobytes of RAM.

Early part of the game, screenshots thanks to Jason Kelk.

If you know of the game ‘Jet Set Willy‘, then this game will be familiar in terms of its genre. It is a colourful multi-screen platformer, with a good number of screens, enemies and things to collect. The major boast compared to Manic Miner, is that this game does not suffer from the infinite death syndrome which caused pain for many gamers with the JSW series. Blue Star rectifies things with an energy system.

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