Too Much Free Time

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

Archive for the ‘Commodore 64’ Category

Ape Craze

Posted by Tracy Poff on February 16, 2016

I said in my review of Miner 2049er that clones were the order of the day in the early eighties. For proof, one need look no further than Ape Craze, a 1982 release for Commodore 64 by Mike Blackman, published by Comm*Data.

Ape Craze - title

What kind of game would you guess this to be? Does the name seem to hint at anything?

Ape Craze - 01

That’s not a trick question. It’s a Donkey Kong clone, though it does change things up a bit. In the first level, you begin at the bottom left, and must reach the exit at the top right. To hinder you, the ape constantly throws bombs across the top of the screen which drop and roll down to the bottom. If you’re feeling brave, you can collect the… barrels?… objects scattered around the level for extra points. I do not recommend that you do this, however, because the game is very hard. Let’s examine why.

First, there are a lot of bombs on the screen at once, leaving you with very limited options for reaching the top. Your best bet is to stand atop a raised section of girder, where the bombs can’t reach, wait for a gap between bombs, and then jump to another safe spot. If you just brush a bomb from the side as it falls, it’s game over. You can actually land on bombs safely (or stand atop the exit without the level ending) since it seems collisions are only checked from the side, but this is still quite difficult, because…

Second, the jump behaves very inconsistently. Sometimes, you’ll jump up a full level. Others, you’ll just make a short hop. Yet other times, you’ll seem to catch an edge on the way up, and sail right on up another level. This doesn’t seem to depend on how long you hold the button in (or, indeed, whether you hold it in at all or merely tap it). Considering that you’ve got to make precise jumps so as to dodge between waves of bombs, this is a pretty crippling flaw. And when you do jump, you’d better be very sure of your landing because…

Third, falling too far kills you. And the maximum safe height is only just greater than a single level, so if you jump, but miss and fall down a level, you die. Combine this with the unreliability of jumps and you’ll be doing a lot of dying. Oh, and…

Fourth, you only get one life, and when you restart, the level is randomized slightly. That’s actually a point in the game’s favor, but it does mean that you can’t plan out and perfect a route in advance–you’ve got to plan on the fly, every time.

Ape Craze - 02

If you do reach the exit on the first level, you’re presented with this obvious copy of the rivet stage of Donkey Kong. Walk over the… bananas?… objects to make the girders collapse and complete the level. Since you mostly climb rather than jump on this level, it’s actually much easier than the first (and a good thing it is, given the one-life-only situation).

Ape Craze - end

Beat the second stage as well, and you get… the first stage, again. Actually, the US version of Donkey Kong did this as well, adding the remaining stages as you looped the game, but I believe these two stages are all Ape Craze has to offer..

Ape Craze is not a shining example of C64 gaming. I’d say it’s a tolerable substitute for Donkey Kong, but the Atari 2600, ColecoVision, and Intellivision ports of DK were released the same year (and perhaps they were released before this game), so there were better options available.

The contemporary reactions to the game were entertainingly varied. From Steven Darnold:

The game itself is interesting, but poorly implemented. The graphics are relatively primitive, there are only two different game sets, and a player has only one life.

The Midnite Software Gazette #13 had four reviews of this game. Selections:

Very nice music. Particularly clever synchronization between music and screen while changing to second screen. Recommended.–LW

Very hard to jump and only one try per game. Catchy, but tedious tune. Frustrating; not recommended.–Roy Wagner

Favorite at our house [. . .] Music is catchy and enjoyable [. . .] Highly recommended.–NR

The excellent use of music in the background of play still would not entice me to purchase the game.–JO

Count my vote for Roy Wagner. This isn’t a game anyone is likely to want to revisit, unless they’ve viewing it through nostalgia-tinted lenses.

Mike Blackman programmed three other titles released by Comm*Data (Escape MCP, Pegasus Odyssey, and Sketch & Paint), but that seems to have been the extent of his contributions to gaming–if I read his LinkedIn profile correctly, his further programming endeavours were restricted to more ‘serious’ software.

This is far from the last Donkey Kong clone I’ll be looking at, I’m afraid. Perhaps the next one will be better.

Posted in 1982, Bad, Commodore 64, Full Review, Platformer | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Night Mission Pinball

Posted by Tracy Poff on December 22, 2012

Night Mission Pinball is a pinball game for the Commodore 64, published in 1982 by subLOGIC.

Night Mission Pinball 01
Night Mission Pinball supports up to four players, and can be controlled with either the keyboard or a joystick. The controls are responsive, and the movement of the ball is pretty decent, for an old game.

Night Mission Pinball 02
Old 2D pinball games often feel like the ball is just sliding around, influenced by the objects on the screen, but not really bouncing off them. There is a little of that feeling in Night Mission Pinball, but it’s not bad. If you think you could do better at balancing, you’re in luck, because this is one game that will let you tweak to your heart’s content.

Night Mission Pinball 03
You can adjust 38 variables here, to make the game play however you like. If you’re more artistically inclined, you can also adjust the colors, though your options there are a bit more limited.

Night Mission Pinball is a good game. For gameplay, it’s about on par with Pinball for the NES, which I reviewed previously, though its graphics aren’t as good. Pinball is a year or two newer, though, so that’s reasonable. The table layout is good, but it’s nothing special. If you’re a fan of old games, this one is competently done, but the state of the art in pinball games has advanced quite a bit, over the years, so a more modern game is likely to be more satisfying.

Edit: I’ve included a brief video to demonstrate the gameplay.

Posted in 1982, Commodore 64, Decent, Full Review, Pinball | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The Guns of Fort Defiance

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 6, 2012

The Guns of Fort Defiance is a 1981 game reminiscent of Artillery, published by Avalon Hill. I’m playing the 1982 Commodore 64 port.

Fort Defiance, according to the game, is an incomplete fort, and you must defend its unfinished eastern wall against an invading army, by ordering that your artillery be loaded with certain ammunition, raised to a certain elevation, and fired at a certain deflection, in order to strike at the enemy.

The enemy may attack with infantry, cavalry, or artillery, and you must choose the most appropriate way to defend against each attack. The game may be set to any handicap from 1 to 64, with 1 being the easiest game, and 64 the hardest. If you successfully repel the enemy, the game will suggest which handicap you ought to use on your next game–perhaps higher, or perhaps lower.

The Guns of Fort Defiance is pretty fun. Each game is fairly short, and the ability to finely adjust the difficulty is very welcome. Unfortunately, the controls are not perfectly responsive. The instructions mention that it can be difficult to set the deflection, since the gun is so heavy, but I wonder if they’re just covering for poor implementation. I guess it doesn’t matter too much which; either it’s poor implementation, and thus blameworthy, or a poor design choice, and thus blameworthy. You may decide which is worse for yourself.

The Apple II port of this game looks a little prettier–it’s got color, for one thing. I’ll put it on my list of games to review. Perhaps it’s got better controls. Though, as I recall, plenty of Apple II games had unresponsive controls, so perhaps not.

Incidentally, it looks like there was an actual Fort Defiance during the War of 1812, now called Fort Morris, which was never completed, so The Guns of Fort Defiance actually is ‘an historical adventure game’, as it claims.

Posted in 1982, Artillery, Commodore 64, Decent, Full Review, Strategy | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Space Lanes

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 6, 2012

Space Lanes is a Commodore 64 and VIC-20 collect ’em up by Robert Alonso.

In the future, Earth is in dire need of fuel, and it’s your job to pilot your spaceship through the space lanes, collecting fuel while avoiding laser fire from the invisible KOPEC robots.

Like Pac-Man, you move around a maze collecting dots for points while avoiding dangers. Unlike Pac-Man, the ‘maze’ is just a grid, and the dangers are lasers that randomly fire across a row of the grid, left to right.

You get five points for each dot you collect, and three lives to collect them in. If you are hit by lasers three times, the game ends.

I’m not sure what happens if you manage to collect all of the dots without losing. I assume that the game will reset, probably with your current score intact, and allow you to continue collecting points.

Unfortunately, I never managed this, because I had great difficulty with the controls. The game is controlled by joystick, and it seemed that occasionally it completely ignored me moving the stick, and other times it’d move the spaceship several times very quickly. This made it very difficult to navigate the maze, since it’s crucial that you not loiter too long in the rows without barriers, lest you be cooked by incoming laser fire.

Incidentally, Space Lanes was a type-in game, published in Ahoy! Issue #03 in March 1984. You may notice that there appears to be some misalignment of the columns at the top of my screenshots. I suspect that the copy of the game I downloaded may have been typed incorrectly. I began to type it in myself to see if this was the case, but when I realized that I’d typed in several lines of the VIC-20 version rather than the C64 version, I rather lost the motivation to find out. Sorry for that.

Space Lanes is fundamentally similar to Pac-Man and a hundred other collect ’em ups, but its poor controls make it far inferior. If you’re looking for a good diversion, I’m afraid Space Lanes just doesn’t measure up.

Posted in 1984, Bad, Collect 'em Up, Commodore 64, Full Review | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Tracy Poff on June 2, 2012

Patternia is a 1992 Tower of Hanoi game published in Game On in December 1992, with programming by Henrik Holmdahl, graphics by Simon Leijnse, and music by Kaspar Dahlqvist and Jakob Hellander.

Patternia really can’t be compared to any of the previous games in terms of graphics–it leaves them all far behind. The difference, I presume, is that all of the games I’ve reviewed up to this point, except Pyramidon, were written in BASIC, and were often type-in games, which severely limits how nice the graphics can be.

Patternia is controlled with the joystick, like Die Türme von Hanoi. In contrast to that one, though, Patternia does not animate the movement of the discs. And it’s a good thing! There’s a timer in Patternia, and if you don’t complete the puzzle within the time limit, you lose. Even for me, it was a close thing, on each level, and I’ve played dozens of Tower of Hanoi puzzles in sixteen different Tower of Hanoi games prior to this, so the optimum strategy is quite well fixed in my mind.

You’re given points at the end of each level depending on how much time you had left, and how many moves you used, including a bonus if you solved the puzzle optimally. I gave up on the 7-disc puzzle, but it was actually pretty fun, racing the clock.

Patternia beats the earlier Tower of Hanoi games in music as well: first, because it has music; and second, because the music is pretty good. I won’t be adding it to my playlist (which contains more than enough video game music as it is), but it’s not bad at all for background music.

If you’ve an urge to play a Tower of Hanoi game for the Commodore 64, Patternia is absolutely the best choice.

Posted in 1992, Commodore 64, Full Review, Good, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Die Türme von Hanoi

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 2, 2012

Die Türme von Hanoi is a 1989 Tower of Hanoi game by Nikolaus Heusler, published in 64’er Sonderheft #42.

This one is pretty good looking, and has quite a different style, with the dark coloration, than the others I’ve played. The animation is quick, and the pulsing from light to dark of the discs looked rather nice.

I did have one difficulty with it: GB64 lists it as controlled by keyboard, but it is really controlled by joystick in port 2. It took me some time to figure this out–I’d tried every key on the keyboard and used two different emulators before I realized that GB64’s metadata was wrong. Let the player beware.

I really prefer using the keyboard to play these games; it’s quicker to type the numbers than to select stacks with a joystick. The joystick controls in this one are much better than in Pyramidon, however, so it’s not too bad. Die Türme von Hanoi gets points for its unique visual style, too, and I note that it has an automatic solver that can be used at any time to complete the puzzle.

Die Türme von Hanoi ranks along with Pharao’s Super Nadeln as one of the best ‘pure’ (i.e. no plot or anything like that) implementations of the Tower of Hanoi puzzle. Still not something you’ll want to spend much time on, but a worthy piece of software, all the same.

Posted in 1989, Commodore 64, Decent, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Towers of Hanoi (1987)

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 2, 2012

Towers of Hanoi by Daniel Miller is a 1987 update of his 1985 Tower of Hanoi game of the same name.

While substantially the same, this game is much improved compared to its predecessor. The animation of the discs is much quicker, which cures the major problem with the previous game, and it also registers when you’ve won, rather than just going on forever. The game also beeps when moving discs, though that sound effect is quite primitive for 1987.

Towers of Hanoi was published in Loadstar #39, as well as Best of Loadstar #4. Hard to imagine a simple game like this being included in any kind of ‘best of’ compilation, but there it was.

Posted in 1987, Commodore 64, Decent, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Tracy Poff on June 1, 2012

Pyramidon is a 1987 Tower of Hanoi game by M. Kötter.

Wow, is this game different from the last dozen or so I’ve reviewed. Just look at that lovely title screen! It’s got sound, nice graphics, a plot, everything you could ask of a game. Well, almost everything. It’s not much fun, but nobody’s perfect, right?

As far as I can decipher (German is not my strong suit, I fear), you are an astronomer who has discovered that a comet is on its way, and will strike a pyramid. Naturally you decide to save the pyramid… with a flying saucer. I’m not too sure how you got your hands on one of those, but… well, maybe you’re an alien astronomer.

You may choose between three difficulty levels, the harder difficulty levels having you rescue larger pyramids. The easiest, Menkaure’s pyramid, has three levels  (corresponding to the three-disc Tower of Hanoi puzzle); the second, Khafra’s pyramid, has four; and the hardest, Cheops’s pyramid, has five.

Having selected the difficulty, you’re presented with the pyramid you chose in the center of the screen, and your task is to move it to one side by lifting the layers and solving the Tower of Hanoi puzzle.

While you’re doing this, a meter at the bottom of the screen shows how far away the comet is. Should you succeed in moving the entire pyramid before time runs out, you’re given a score based on how much time was left. You’re also treated to an animation of the comet smashing into the Earth where the pyramid used to be. Should you fail, you still get to see the same animation, but it destroys the pyramid and you get no score. Bad astronomer!

Unlike most of the other Tower of Hanoi games I’ve reviewed so far, which are more like computerized puzzles, Pyramidon is really game-like–it even gives you a score at the end. Unfortunately, the flying saucer moves very slowly; it took me ten minutes to beat the highest difficulty level, and I doubled the emulation speed after a while because it got too boring waiting on the movements to finish. I guess you have about fifteen minutes on the timer when you start, and it takes most of that time.

The game also has a slight problem with the controls. When the flying saucer is moving up or down, you can reverse direction, in case you started moving by accident, which is very convenient. When moving left or right, though, you can’t do this–you have to wait for the flying saucer to finish the movement before you can reverse it. Perhaps accidentally going the wrong way wouldn’t have been a problem on a real C64, with a real joystick, but the analog stick on my gamepad made it pretty easy to go the wrong way, so this missing feature made an already seemingly-interminable game take even longer.

I regret that the first really polished looking Tower of Hanoi game I’ve come to has such poor gameplay, but I’m afraid that’s how it is: I recommend against playing this one, unless you’re quite patient.

Posted in 1987, Bad, Commodore 64, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Tracy Poff on June 1, 2012

Blocktower is a 1987 Tower of Hanoi game for the Commodore 64, released by Wicked Software.

This seems to be exactly the same as Blocks from the previous year, with the title changed, and both seem to be copies of Glen Fisher’s Tower of Hanoi games. Blocktower was published in The Big 100, a collection of games. It seems they just copied a bunch of games from wherever–in fact, it appears that four of the hundred games in the collection are just copies of four others, with different filenames. That’s quality.

So bad was this collection that it inspired a competition to write terrible games. Oh, Internet, what would we do without you?

Posted in 1987, Bad, Commodore 64, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Discos en Torres

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 1, 2012

Discos en Torres is a 1986 Tower of Hanoi game for the Commodore 64, and apparently a translation of Glen Fisher’s Hanoi from 1984.

Besides the translation, this game differs only in very minor ways from Hanoi: the title screen is modified slightly and some text is recolored, but it seems to be otherwise the same.

Unless you prefer solving puzzles in Spanish, there’s no reason to play this one.

Posted in 1986, Bad, Commodore 64, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »