Too Much Free Time

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

Archive for the ‘1986’ Category

History Mystery

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 12, 2015

In the early eighties, the sudden popularity (and, indeed, the recent existence) of home computers gave rise to a new kind of publication: the disk magazine. These periodicals were published not on paper but on computer disks (and sometimes cassettes), and although the content varied, they generally featured computer programs (including games) in addition to, or even in place of, articles. The most famous of these are perhaps Softdisk for the Apple II (launched in 1981) and Loadstar for the Commodore 64 (launched in 1984). The medium flourished1 alongside more traditional magazines which might offer (inconvenient!) type-in programs. There was a price to be paid for this convenience: a single ‘issue’ of Softdisk cost about the same as an annual subscription to a paper magazine.

Among the many disk mags was Scholastic’s Microzine for Apple II. Featuring (as you might expect) primarily educational content, Microzine began publication in 1983,2 continuing for about a decade. It also inspired a spin-off series, Microzine Jr., which was launched in 1988. Each issue of Microzine included four programs, one of which was a game.

Microzine18.Sid_000000004

Which all brings me to the subject of this article: History Mystery by David A. Bowman and Mark A. Malamud, which was included in Microzine #18 in November 1986. According to the ‘Letter from the Editor‘ in that issue:

You’ll have fun reading The History Mystery Twistaplot™ adventure. A priceless hourglass has been stolen from the Microville History Museum. Some of the ghosts in the museum will help you find it. (Yes, the museum is haunted!)

You play the part of “the ace reporter of your school newspaper, The Chronicle” (incidentally, of selectable gender), out to get a story about a stolen Babylonian hourglass. After chatting with the ghost of Mark Twain about the situation, you find yourself in the lobby of the museum.

Microzine18.Sid_000000014

The museum consists of 29 rooms3 which you must navigate, gathering items and clues to solve the mystery of the stolen hourglass, which the museum’s ghosts believe is actually located within the museum. Each room has a description, seen on entering the room, and an entry in the self-guided tape-recorded tour, accessed by pressing T. The tour often contained educational information4 which might be used to solve the game’s puzzles.

Microzine18.Sid_000000019

Some rooms have items to be collected, while others have ghosts to talk to or other objects to interact with. The game is in two parts (purely for practical reasons, I presume). Selecting the second part from the menu requires the player to input the password given at the end of the first part (“The Sands of Time”) and begins the second part, in which the player must collect the hourglass and escape the museum while being chased by Winsome Slugg, the criminal who had stolen it.

Tracy's Gift Shop

Upon completing the game, the player gets a rather neat reward: the museum’s gift shop, called “Amy Minkley’s Gift Shop”,5 will be renamed after the player. Not only in the ending text, either: in future playthroughs, the in-game name is changed. Which, I suppose, might make this the first game with a New Game+ feature.

History Mystery took me about an hour to complete, though I suppose it took me quite a bit longer when I was a child. I remember having a lot of fun with it, back then, and it’s still neat as a bit of nostalgia, today.

My copy of the game is this 1987 compilation, Tales of Suspense.

My copy of the game is this 1987 compilation, Tales of Suspense.

I’ll try to look at some more games from Microzine and other disk mags in the future. There’s a lot to be said about them, and the resources on the internet are scarce at best. This post has been several years in the making, during which time I’ve been contacted a number of times by people who, like me, had fond memories of a game which might have been History Mystery, but who couldn’t be sure. My thanks to them for providing me the impetus to do my civic duty and get this out there. Fans of old educational games, you are appreciated!


  1. Wikipedia has a substantial list
  2. According to this article: “The first issue of Microzine was first displayed at the January 1983 Consumer Electronics Show, and was available in stores by March 1983.”) 
  3. I mapped them out here 
  4. “…Welcome to the Telephone Exhibit. The first telephone call was made by Alexander Graham Bell. As he was calling, he accidently spilled acid on himself and yelled for his assistant: ‘Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!’….” 
  5. According to the game, “named after one of the great school reporters” (probably the editor of your school newspaper, Amy Minkly), but likely actually named after Amy E. McKinley, the editor of Microzine–though perhaps she was a school reporter, once. 
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Posted in 1986, Adventure, Apple II, Educational, Full Review, Good | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 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 »

First Impressions: Bump’n’Jump

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 25, 2006

It’s a driving game, of sorts.

bump-n-jump_01

The Japanese version was called Buggy Popper:

buggy-popper_01

We start with a car driving away, with someone crying “Help me!” inside. Being the heroic gamers that we are, this is sufficient motivation for us to follow.

bump-n-jump_08

The premise of the game seems to be that we have a car which can jump at will, and we like to land on other cars and destroy them for no reason. Well, except that it gets us points.

bump-n-jump_09

Whoever designed these roads needs to be shot. Apparently in the bizarro-world that this game take place in, cars normally have the ability to jump (but only yours does, as far as I saw), so in order to save some of the cost of roads, they just left out some sections. Yeah, that’s logical.

bump-n-jump_13

But, we can forgive some strangeness if it’s a good game, right? Of course we can. Unfortunately, the designers decided to take all of my good will and stomp on it, by putting in a ludicrously long repair sequence when you drive over one of the bonuses on the road:

bump-n-jump_15

You sit at this screen for upwards of fifteen seconds while text flashes on screen assuring you that they are repairing your car and have not, in fact, run off with your money and girlfriend to Tijuana.

When you finally finish the first level, you are treated to the second level, in which the brilliant road designer decided that if there wasn’t any water to break up the monotony, then we’d just have to build some raised roads to block the lower ones instead.

bump-n-jump_21

Of course, there are helpful black areas that look like tunnels to pass through. They aren’t. They are just there because the designer was sadistic. The problem is that if you jump any time when the little jump warning box is on the screen, you’ll end up hitting the wall anyway, and it’s much harder to figure out when to jump when you have to make it over a wall instead of just some water. You can’t really tell how tall the thing is, since, as we all know, you should never do 3D on an NES.

So, we crash and die, and the game ends. I don’t know what happened to that car we were chasing earlier. Probably some girl was kidnapped, and since we couldn’t catch her she was raped and killed. And it’s all the road designer’s fault.

Verdict: There are worse games. This is like a mix of Spy Hunter and Roger Rabbit, and it doesn’t do well at emulating either. Play Spy Hunter instead, since it had the good sense to give you guns for killing people with, and was a better game anyway.

Posted in 1986, 1988, Driving, First Impressions, NES | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: 1942

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 24, 2006

The famous vertical scrolling shooter:

1942 (U) [!]_01

It’s not too bad. You control the plane, which moves pretty smoothly, and shoot the enemies. A rather basic idea, but workable:

1942 (U) [!]_04

Unfortunately, this one just doesn’t measure up to its sequel, 1943. I can’t show it in a screenshot, but the sound was annoying–there was a beeping sort of sound going on while playing. The graphics, too, aren’t as good as in 1943.

Verdict: Play 1943 instead.

Posted in 1986, Decent, First Impressions, NES, Vertical Scrolling Shooter | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »