Too Much Free Time

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

Archive for the ‘Bad’ Category

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 »

Pyramidon

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 »

Blocktower

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 »

Blocks

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 31, 2012

Blocks is a 1986 Tower of Hanoi game for the Commodore 64, released (according to GB64) by Robtek Ltd.


This one seems very much like a recolored version of Glen Fisher’s Hanoi. I’d be surprised if it weren’t based on it or one of its successors. As a result, my opinion of this one is the same as with those–it’s functional, but not worth a second look.

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

Towers of Hanoi (1985)

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 31, 2012

Towers of Hanoi by Daniel Miller is a 1985 Tower of Hanoi game for the Commodore 64.

This is just your standard Tower of Hanoi game, with a couple of differences: first, it doesn’t seem to be able to tell when you’ve won, instead requiring the player to press F1 to quit; second, pressing F1 during play will offer the option of having the computer solve the puzzle.

The animation of the discs moving is quite slow, making it rather boring to solve–it takes fully seven seconds to move a disc from the bottom of the left stack to the bottom of the right stack.

This would just be a rather poor Tower of Hanoi game, worthy of no particular notice, if it weren’t for one thing. Towers of Hanoi was published in the June 1985 issue of Ahoy!, a magazine for Commodore users–in fact, it was mentioned on the cover–and the writeup for the game is really great. It gives Lucas’s story about the priests in the temple moving discs about, counting down to the end of the world; it discusses the number of moves required to solve the puzzle; and it also describes some programming tricks the game uses quite lucidly. It’s a lovely little article, the sort that I really enjoy reading. It’s just a pity it wasn’t attached to a better game.

Posted in 1985, Bad, Commodore 64, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Stack

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 31, 2012

Stack by Glenn W. Zuch is a 1985 Tower of Hanoi game for the Commodore 64 with stunningly bad design.


I’ve opened this on a rather strong assertion, but it’s really deserved. For all the games I’ve reviewed so far, the worst thing you could really say about them was that they were unoriginal, boring, and ugly. Certainly flaws, but totally common ones and not entirely the fault of the authors.

Stack takes badness one step further–or a dozen. Behold:


Both the bars and the stacks are numbered, and rather than, as with every previous Tower of Hanoi game, selecting the source and destination stacks, you first select the bar you want to move, and then the stack you want to move it to. So solving the two-bar game, involves moving bar 9 to stack 2, bar 11 to stack 3, and then bar 9 to stack 3. Why weren’t the bars numbered 1 to 5 instead of 3, 5, 7, 9, 11? Who knows. But that’s not even the worst of it. Observe the game when a few moves have been made:


Each time you make a move, Stack redraws the stacks below the old ones, but it doesn’t tell you what the numbers are. So, you’ve got to keep in mind that in this case the medium sized bar is number 9, when you want to move it. How much worse it would be with five bars.

This is a horrible design choice with really no excuse. It’s a poor decision even if you’ve never seen a Tower of Hanoi game before, but by 1985 there were plenty of better examples.

This was a type-in game in the December 1985 issue of RUN (Issue #24), and the description there is priceless. It was written, I presume, by the author of the game, and repeats how easy the game is to play, while the underlying puzzle is difficult–not quite. Best of all is the one-sentence blurb introducing Stack: “Moving a few bars from one pile to another sounds easy, until you try this game.”

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Posted in 1985, Bad, Commodore 64, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hanoin Tornit

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 30, 2012

Hanoin Tornit is a variation on the Tower of Hanoi puzzle, published as a type-in game in the March 1984 issue of the Finnish magazine MikroBitti.


Hanoin Tornit is a little different from the usual Tower of Hanoi puzzle. It’s got an additional restriction: the discs may only be moved to adjacent stacks. This makes the solution much more drawn out; thankfully, the game only has four discs.

As usual with these early games, there’s no sound nor animation. Unusually, it is possible to ask the game to show you the correct solution, a good addition. There is only one solution, though, up to reversible mistakes, so there’s not much else to do, once you’ve seen it.

Since this review is working out to be quite short, let’s see how many steps it takes to solve this variation. To solve the puzzle with n discs:

  1. Solve the (n-1)-disc puzzle with all but the largest disc.
  2. Move the largest disc to the center.
  3. Solve the (n-1)-disc puzzle in reverse.
  4. Move the largest disc to the right.
  5. Finally, solve the (n-1)-disc puzzle again.

Adding these moves up, that means that if Hanoin(n) is the number of moves required to solve the n disc puzzle in this variation, then Hanoin(n) = 3*Hanoin(n-1) + 2. Clearly, it takes 2 moves to solve the 1-disc puzzle. So, applying a little math, we find H(4) = 80, quite a few more moves than the 15 required by the traditional Tower of Hanoi puzzle. In general, Hanoin(n) = 3^n – 1, while Hanoi(n) = 2^n – 1–quite a huge difference. In fact, solving Hanoin Tornit requires you to move the discs through every possible position–it couldn’t possibly take any longer to solve.

Since the math was more fun than the game, I’d recommend against playing this one.

Posted in 1984, Bad, Commodore 64, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Tower of Hanoi (1983)

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 30, 2012

Tower of Hanoi by D. Buckeye is, as the name suggests, a Tower of Hanoi game for the Commodore 64 and PET 64 computers, released in 1983.


This one is less featureful than even Glen Fisher’s version from five years prior: the number of discs is fixed at five, and the movements are not animated. The graphics are also less impressive–it’s harder to tell at a glance how many discs are on a stack, since they merge together onscreen.


This version is essentially inferior to the several Tower of Hanoi games which preceded and followed it. I do not recommend it.

Posted in 1983, Bad, Commodore 64, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Towers of Hanoi (1980)

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 29, 2012

In 1980, according to GB64, Brookfield Software released an updated version of Glen Fisher’s Hanoi, including limited color.


This newer version is substantially similar to the first release, including the same animation and interface, and very limited color.


As before, there’s nothing in particular to recommend this version, so let this brief review stand as testament to the insignificant nature of the differences between the 1978 and 1980 versions of the game.

Posted in 1980, Bad, Commodore PET, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »