Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Archive for the ‘First Impressions’ Category

Fast Eddie

Posted by Tracy Poff on February 26, 2016

Fast Eddie (2600) - cover

Fast Eddie is a platformer for the Atari 2600, published in 1982 by Sirius Software. It was programmed by Mark Turmell.

Fast Eddie (2600) - 01

The premise is simple: on each level, guide Eddie to collect prizes (the type of prize changes on each level–on the first level, you collect hearts) while avoiding the enemies (called “Sneakers”).

Fast Eddie (2600) - 02

Once you’ve collected enough prizes, the tall Sneaker (called “High-Top”) on the top floor shrinks down, and Eddie can grab the key and proceed to the next level. You earn one extra life each time you complete a level, and may hold a maximum of three in reserve.

Fast Eddie (2600) - 03

On early levels, some of the Sneakers will be stationary, but on later levels all Sneakers will move, and there may be more of them, in more difficult arrangements.

Though simple in concept, completing each level can be quite challenging. You’ve got to be very cautious if you want to make it through later levels, but you have to think on the move, because the Sneakers move quickly and give you no time to rest. The only reprieve you get is that you’re invulnerable while climbing a ladder. Just be careful not to drop off in front of a Sneaker!

This is a very playable early platformer. Though graphically unimpressive, due to the limitations of the Atari 2600, it has great, responsive controls and quick action, giving the feeling of arcade platformers on a home console. It’s definitely worth a look!

Fast Eddie was also ported to VIC-20, Commodore 64, and Atari 8-bit platforms.

Further reading

Posted in 1982, Atari 2600, First Impressions, Good, Platformer | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

OS/2 parlour games by Peter Wansch

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 23, 2014

Continuing in the grand tradition of this blog, I’ve let time pass me by for a while with no updates. I’ve not been idle, though.

Recently, MobyGames started accepting OS/2 games, so I’ve been spending a bit of time looking at old freeware titles for OS/2. There are an absolutely shocking number of parlour games for that platform! Here’s a quick look at a few I’ve added to MobyGames lately, all by Peter Wansch.


First, Connect Four. It’s a straightforward implementation of the Milton Bradley game. You can see me losing, above.

OS2 4.52-2014-06-18-09-32-30

Second, Master Mind. Pretty straightforward as well, though this one does offer a Beginner difficulty, on which the four colors chosen must be distinct.

OS2 4.52-2014-06-23-10-38-03

Finally (and still pending approval, just now), Tic Tac Toe. This one is more interesting, because in addition to the regular 3×3 game board you see above, you can play on 3x3x3 or 4x4x4 boards.

OS2 4.52-2014-06-23-10-22-46

Pretty cool! Not exactly a new idea, of course. In 1978 alone, MobyGames lists two different games called “3-D Tic-Tac-Toe” and one called “Qubic”, which is a translation of the board game of the same name–a 4x4x4 version of Tic Tac Toe. Even if it’s not novel, it’s still more fun than playing the 3×3 game to a draw a hundred times.

All three of these were released in a compilation of games made OS/2 2.0 and above, Entertainment Pack for OS/2, and some of them (including these three) seem to have had separate releases of updated versions.

There’s one big flaw with these games: they’re single player only! I can’t understand why Wansch didn’t just let you turn off the AI and play with a friend. I mean, I realize that Master Mind is really better off as a single player game, but the other two are perfect for multiplayer games.

Wansch may have contributed a couple of dozen parlour games to OS/2 by himself, but there are many more. I haven’t really explored the available games in depth, but it looks to me like OS/2 has a much higher proportion of parlour games than, for example, Windows 3.1. I wonder why.

It’s not all checkers and Parcheesi, though. I’ll get some reviews of the more interesting games up, once I’ve added them to MobyGames. It’ll be a nice break–it’s surprisingly exhausting writing descriptions for simple games. I dread writing yet another explanation of how Tetris or Conway’s Game of Life works.

These games can be downloaded from this page, if you’re interested. Of course, you’d probably spend more time getting OS/2 installed than playing the games, so caveat ludor.

Posted in 1993, 1994, Connect Four, First Impressions, Freeware, Mastermind, OS/2, Tic Tac Toe | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »


Posted by Tracy Poff on March 30, 2013

Kangaroo is a platformer by Sun Electronics, released in June 1982.

The player controls a kangaroo whose child has been kidnapped by mischievous monkeys. Gameplay is pretty standard for arcade platformers: walk on platforms, climb ladders, avoid pitfalls and enemies while collecting bonus items; pretty much the same as Donkey Kong.

The kangaroo, of course, can jump, and is also equipped with a boxing glove, so that she can punch the monkeys that harass her on her way to rescue her child. The monkeys throw apples at her, which can be punched to return to sender.

Rescuing the child ends the level and begins the next. There are four variations before the levels replay at higher difficulty.

Kangaroo has simple graphics, music, and sound effects, on about the level one expects from a game from 1982. Its quality is comparable to Donkey Kong: decent for an old game, but nothing special these days.

Posted in 1982, Arcade, Decent, First Impressions, Platformer | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »


Posted by Tracy Poff on March 29, 2013

Ponpoko is a platformer by Sigma Enterprises, Inc., released in 1982.


Ponpoko is a very standard ladder-and-platform collect-em-up, in which you play the titular Ponpoko, a tanuki.


It is required on each level to collect the food while avoiding the pins (bizarrely called ‘apple cores’ in a flyer for the Venture Line release) and enemies (which look rather like mice but are apparently hairy caterpillars). The pots with question marks on them may contain bonus points (good!) or snakes (bad!). When you complete a level, you gain a bonus depending on how much time you used, and move on to the next level, with a different layout and a different kind of food to collect.

Ponpoko features fairly nice animation, but uninspired sound effects and no background music. It’s a decent game for its time, but it doesn’t stand out from the crowd.

I’ve recorded a sample of the gameplay:

Posted in 1982, Arcade, Collect 'em Up, Decent, First Impressions, Platformer | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

First Impressions: Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 8, 2012

I played an hour or so of the demo for Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. I think it’s a fairly good conversion of the game, but severely lacking in customizability.

Without the ability to build unique decks from the available cards, mixing and matching as desired, it’s just not the same–half the game, at least, is building a deck, but DotP 2013 just lets you swap cards between a deck and its sideboard, AFAICT, which is very limiting.

There’s also a fairly small number of cards available–a sixty card deck and a 30 card sideboard, but a third of the deck is land and there are many cards that appear three or four times in the decks. I guess each of the ten decks has perhaps 30 distinct cards, counting the sideboard, so there are only about 300 cards total, assuming each deck has entirely unique cards, and since you can’t swap cards between decks (I think), you can’t be too creative.

Other than that, it was pretty good–it took a little getting used to the game before I was sure when I needed to stop the timer to play instants–the game shows which phase you’re on, but not which step, so I missed playing an instant after blockers were declared once. It’s not too confusing, though. The animations are a little slow, and I think that I may have toggled an option which made the game stop during damage resolution during combat, which was a pain, but probably my fault.

One thing I didn’t care for was the Planechase mode. It’s a multiplayer (up to four players) mode, which is fine, but the use of the plane cards just made the game confusing–I saw a card that made players mill seven cards at the end of each turn, then draw one of them randomly back out of the graveyard, and another that made non-werewolf creatures deal no damage, plus some ability that sometimes made creatures into werewolves, and yet another that had some other odd combat ability which benefited one player dramatically more than the others. Honestly, I’m not totally sure how the plane cards work–they seem to act like global enchantments, and there’s some die rolling mechanic that goes with them. They just seemed to complicate and slow down the game. I gave up after many minutes and only three turns of play in that mode. I’ll stick to the more traditional game, thanks.

Well, DotP 2013 won’t replace the real game, but I think it’s not a bad buy at $10, and if I can get it for half off some time, I might pick it up.

Posted in 2012, Card Game, Decent, First Impressions, Strategy, Windows | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: Super Scribblenauts

Posted by Tracy Poff on April 9, 2011

Super Scribblenauts is a puzzle game for the Nintendo DS, developed by 5th Cell Media and released on 2010-10-12.

The gameplay is fairly simple: write words in Maxwell’s notebook to create objects, and use those objects to solve the puzzles. Sometimes the puzzles are simply of the ‘think of a word that fits’ variety, and sometimes they require a little more effort. I should say here that I’m not very far through the game, yet, so I suspect the later puzzles will generally be more challenging and less ‘name a part of car’.

You enter each puzzle from the constellation map screen. Having selected a constellation, you’re presented with a list of puzzles contained in that constellation; later puzzles are unlocked by completing earlier ones.

The stars with crowns are intended to be replayed: if you solve the puzzle three times in a row, each time with a different solution, the crown turns from silver to gold, as you see above. This is a pretty great feature, because a lot of the fun is in thinking of outlandish ways to solve puzzles, and the developers clearly knew this. I only wish I could see a list of my previous solutions, but that’s unfortunately unavailable. Probably, it would have been too difficult to make it meaningful–not only the selection of objects but also their placement and what you do with Maxwell can be important.

The puzzles are often amusing, even when they’re not difficult: you can kill the dinosaurs in the above screenshot in any number of ways–I particularly enjoyed using a black hole.

A surprisingly large number of objects are implemented, so feel free to let your imagination go wild. Super Scribblenauts keeps track of how many distinct objects you’ve created, and how many distinct adjectives you’ve used, too, so you can measure just how creative you are, if you’re so inclined. Personally, I’m keeping a list of my solutions for each level, just to see how many ways I can solve them.

Not all of the puzzles are particularly inspired, and some seem a bit obtuse to me, but in general, the game seems to be great fun. I definitely plan on finishing this one.

Posted in 2010, First Impressions, Good, Nintendo DS, Puzzle | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

First Impressions: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: DragonStrike

Posted by Tracy Poff on October 13, 2008

DragonStrike is a fantasy shoot-em-up set in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Universe, developed by Westwood Associates and published in July 1992 by Pony Canyon.

When the game opens, you select the type of dragon to play (Bronze, Silver, or Gold), each of which has different attributes (speed and armor) and attacks (each dragon has two). Having selected the type of dragon to play, you are presented with a map, with icons for each mission you undertake.

As far as I can tell, the missions must be completed in order, so the map only serves as a progress indicator. Despite there being only twelve icons, the description on MobyGames indicates that there are more than twelve missions, though I didn’t advance far enough to see if this was true.

On to the main event, then. For the first mission, we are instructed:

You first mission is to engage three white dragon scouts.

May your ambition propel you to victory.

The first thing to note about this game is that the controls are rather different from shooters like Abadox or 1943; it rather reminds me of Zone 66, a later freeform shooter for DOS. Rather than the d-pad moving your dragon, left and right turn you, and you always fly forward and a constant rate. Up and down cause you to rise or lower in the air, which is necessary for attacking some enemies. Note, though, that when you are low in the air, obstacles on the ground (like the trees in the above screencap) will harm you, while you can fly right over them when you’re higher up.

The white dragon scouts shown above are not the only enemies, although in the first level the other enemies (catapults and archers) are land-based. Once you defeat the enemy dragons, the mission is complete, and you are free to fly off the top of the map to continue to the next mission.

The next mission is to destroy a fleet of ships and a kraken. The first part proceeds basically the same way the first mission did: destroy the boats and either destroy the other enemies or avoid their attacks. After this first part is complete, though, we see the first boss, the kraken.

It is only vulnerable from below, but a few well-placed attacks will take care of it. I found that it was possible to get into the right position, then just hold left to fly in circles, which was enough to avoid its attacks, and fire off a shot every time I came around.

The next level is a swamp, and we’re instructed to slay the black dragon which lies therein. I didn’t bother to go beyond this point, since the game seems to be pretty much the same thing with different graphics for each mission.

I have only one major issue with this game. My dragon initially fires two attacks, side by side, which will miss smaller enemies if you’re attacking straight on. Since the dragon moves constantly and you must avoid enemy fire, that can make it a little difficult to aim–it can be necessary to come around several times before you get the aiming right, though that might be mitigated by a bit of practice.

Despite the issue with aiming, I think the game is fairly well done. It might get boring after a while, but for the few minutes I played, it seemed pretty enjoyable. The fantasy setting was a nice change from the usual sci-fi settings of shooters. The graphics weren’t too bad for an NES game, though the music leaves much to be desired.

Overall, I’d say the game is worth a shot. There are some better shooters, but if you’re looking for a change, DragonStrike won’t disappoint you.

Posted in Decent, First Impressions, Freeform Shooter, NES | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: Novatron

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 24, 2008

Novatron is a DOS lightcycles (tron) game released by VeriSoft Works in 1982.

First Impressions: Novatron

There have been quite a lot of lightcycle games through the years–MobyGames lists 10, though I suspect it’s missing quite a few. The most recent that MobyGames lists is for the Xbox 360 (Tron, 2008), and the oldest is for the Intellivision (Snafu, 1981). Novatron is a fairly old example of this type of game, and it shows.


Though the graphics are fairly nice, and the controls responsive, Novatron is quite difficult to play. The keys used to control your lightcycle are F9, F10, Insert, and Delete, which are poorly placed. It’s been a while since I’ve seen an original IBM PC keyboard, but I don’t recall that they would have been in ideal positions on that keyboard either. Positioning aside, I kept confusing which of Ins and Del turned which direction, so I lost quite badly. Too, I found it difficult to tell just how much space I had left before running into a wall, probably due to the viewing angle.

In short, the game isn’t terrible, but isn’t really worth playing when there are so many better examples of the type. Personally, I’d recommend Armagetron Advanced.

Posted in 1982, Arcade, Bad, DOS, First Impressions | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: The Adventures of Rad Gravity

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 22, 2008

The Adventures of Rad Gravity is a platform shooter by Activision.

The game begins by giving us our mission: to discover teleport locations by infiltrating the computers on the planet below.

With this goal in mind, we are sent down to begin. The enemies are rather odd, and the level designs leave a great deal to be desired.

It isn’t obvious from these pictures, but certain of the blocks which make up the scene can be walked through, and others must be jumped over. There’s no particular indication which is which, although I think that they are color coded.

After passing through a few screens, we encounter these robots, which are initially very difficult to kill. The weapon we have at the beginning is some sort of energy knife or something, and its range is about the width of Rad’s body. The robots move fairly quickly, so you have to tap the button pretty quickly as well in order to kill them.

As you move through the level you pick up powerups, including additional life bars and a gun, which seems to be slightly less powerful than the knife, but has the enormous advantage of being a ranged weapon.

Not all the levels are identical, as you can see in the above screencap. The thing with the up/down arrows on it is a sort of elevator (which I got stuck on and had to jump to disembark), and the thing center-right is a teleporter.

Here we see an example of extremely stupid level design. Every horizontal line is a surface, so you can–if you release buttons at the right moments–move yourself to whichever height you desire. Of course, it’s much easier to dodge the electricity (which is bouncing between the ceiling and floor) when you’re at the bottom of the screen, since it gives you more time to run past it, so there’s no particular reason you want to be anywhere except on the the ground.

If it weren’t for the rather painful graphics and horrible level design, Rad Gravity might be a pretty good game. If you can stomach those faults, give it a try.

Posted in 1990, Decent, First Impressions, NES, Platformer | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: Zombie Nation

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 24, 2008

This time a shoot-em-up, Zombie Nation, known in Japan as Abarenbou Tengu.

The plot of Zombie Nation is odd, and I doubt that it matters. You’re a flying samurai head, and you are apparently charged with rescuing America, the population of which has been turned into zombies. Maybe.

There were lasers scattered liberally throughout the level which reduced me to one life unit, so I died quite often at first. You have only one life, and limited continues, each of which returns you to the beginning of the level. Therefore I relied on save states to explore.

It seems that you are meant to rescue people who will occasionally fly out of buildings and things as you destroy them. Collecting four such people allows you to have more shots on the screen at a time, and eventually allows you to use a special attack which targets the whole screen. The first level culminates in a battle against the Statue of Liberty, which seems to have become a medusa at some point.

Abarenbou Tengu is rather different. In a stunning display of needless changes in localisation, the samurai head you play as in Zombie Nation is not present in the Japanese version. Instead, you play as a tengu head. The Statue of Liberty, too, was changed in localisation: in the Japanese version, it was not a medusa, and was red besides.

I played further on Abarenbou Tengu than Zombie Nation, so I do not know how things changed after the first boss, but I do have to wonder how they might have changed the second boss:

Perhaps it’s better not to know. Still, despite the odd localisation and initial difficulty, Zombie Nation is a pretty good game. Certainly worth wasting a few minutes on.

Posted in 1990, First Impressions, Good, Horizontal Scrolling Shooter, NES | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »