Moons of Jupiter (Vic 20)

1982 Romik
Code and design – David Byrden

As you have probably guessed by now and from my blog, I have particular fond memories of games from my childhood, none more so than on the Commodore 64, Atari 2600 and also the Vic 20. One such Vic 20 game is yet another along with Chariot Race which is firmly en-grained into my memories, the classic ‘Moons of Jupiter’.

Cover art for the game

‘Moons of Jupiter’ was the product of David Byrden, who came over from Ireland to work for Romik Software back in the early 80’s. Romik were particularly stand out compared to most companies at the time. Most companies would hire a talented artist to create an amazing fantasy inlay – which very often covered up a game which was to be very poor once you loaded it up. Romik wanted to be open about what you were buying, so proudly presented screenshots on the front cover (Although earlier covers were actual carefully handdrawn screenshots).

David Byrden was caught up in the buzz of creating games when starting up with Romik, though the flirtation with developing games in a new era was to be sadly short lived:

“My technical skill in hardware was matched by my complete lack of business acumen and so I didn’t enjoy much success from gaming. I went to work for Romik, wrote some games-to-order which were greatly inferior, then the company folded in 1985 and I returned to Ireland. In retrospect I should have honed my coding skills and sold my services to a more long-lasting company.”

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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/

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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Recieved my MegaCart :)

Well, its been years in the making, but finally the MegaCart has arrived, and mine has just arrived yesterday!

The MegaCart in full - The guys have done a great production job!
The MegaCart in full - The guys have done a great production job!

What is a MegaCart?… Well, it is a brand new cartridge produced in 2009 for the Vic 20, the C64’s older brother. Overall it contains every single cartridge game ever released for the machine all on one cartridge, along with a selection of disk/tape games, utilities and hidden extras.

Everything is very well produced, as well as some very neat packaging, you get cartridge acting as a tribute to the classic Vic 20 carts of yesterday (Now complete with an Action Replay style reset switch).

Plugging in for the first time, you are presented with an excellent menu system with plenty of shortcut keys and boot features. You can select from a range of impressive tunes to play (and mute when you’ve had enough), add games to a favourites list and pick a random game from the impressive library.

Additionally the cartridge helps to provide the one-stop solution by providing RAM expansion boot options, and a touch of Action Replayness with the addition of the excellent EasyLoad+.

All set up and raring to go... The Vic 20 in the background is in a Rotronics case, but sadly the Space bar isn't working, so I need to rip this one apart and sort it.
All set up and raring to go... The Vic 20 in the background is in a Rotronics case, but sadly the Space bar isn't working, so I need to rip this one apart and sort it.

Although I still really need to sit down and enjoy my new purchase, overall this was an excellent purchase to dig out my Vic 20 again and fire up some old memories.

For more information on the cartridge, check out the website here.

Game spotlight – ‘Skramble!’ (Vic 20)

1982 Terminal Software

Back in 1989, I picked up my first computer… a Commodore Vic 20, packed with a load of games (all on tape) which gave me one of the best birthdays I ever had. There’s something about this machine (and which i’ll write about someday) which brings me back to dig out certain games, Skramble! (1982 Terminal) is one of them.

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