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Zapped to the Past podcast (C64)


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I find it really sad that Activision were generally one of the most innovative developers back then, and now... Well... 

 

Alter Ego is a genuine landmark game in my opinion. It showed that games could be something more than simple pew pew and still be compelling and compulsive and addictive. 

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On 04/08/2021 at 03:08, Camel said:

Alter Ego is amazing. Was it ignored? If so, maybe because it a was disk only game.

 

I think part of it was that it was disk only. No way around that. It was aimed at an older audience that was in limited supply back in the 80's which would explain why I only ever saw it once at a high end department store. And it took up three double sided discs which meant that it wasn't inviting to pirates as you'd be giving up access to at least six games (and many times more that with some single load games.)

 

On 04/08/2021 at 09:27, squirtle said:

I find it really sad that Activision were generally one of the most innovative developers back then, and now... Well... 

 

Alter Ego is a genuine landmark game in my opinion. It showed that games could be something more than simple pew pew and still be compelling and compulsive and addictive. 

 

It's heart breaking to see where Activision is now although really it was a new company 1990 onwards (when Bobby Kotick bought it) after the disaster that was the Mediagenic years where they tried and failed to pivot to business applications. 

 

I remember reading an article in Edge almost 20 years ago where the rep' from Activision was talking about moving away from multiple risky ventures and just consolidating around the most profitable titles. And it's something that's worked well for them until now with the current scandals. I think they'll keep their COD player base after this but then they're essentially a single title company which isn't great in terms of risk.

 

This period (around 1986) is the last of the golden age of Activision with a lot of talent already leaving and starting up elsewhere.

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For me the golden age of Activision is Pitfall!, David Crane, H.E.R.O etc. Fantastic memories of that period.

 

Alter Ego was inviting enough to this pirate :)

 

I don't think I've ever seen an original.

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I have never played Captain Kidd nor could I find a copy but it appears to be a clone of arcade game Check Man.

 

Compare

 

698916-capt-n-kidd-commodore-64-screensh

 

and contrast

 

875238-check-man-arcade-screenshot-start

 

I have played Check Man. It's not very inspiring and if the C64 game is as faithful worth skipping.

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Until this podcast I had forgotten all about Hocus Focus a weird and impenetrable arcade adventure that was on a cover mounted tape in 1992.

 

I had unlimited time and I couldn't get it then and I revisiting it for the first time in almost 30 years I still can't get into it. 

 

692247-hocus-focus-commodore-64-screensh

 

Not sure why Jaz loved this one so much. Check out the tiny screen area! (I really like the music though....it was the thing that kept me trying back in the day.)

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21 hours ago, Unofficial Who said:

Until this podcast I had forgotten all about Hocus Focus a weird and impenetrable arcade adventure that was on a cover mounted tape in 1992.

 

I had unlimited time and I couldn't get it then and I revisiting it for the first time in almost 30 years I still can't get into it. 

 

692247-hocus-focus-commodore-64-screensh

 

Not sure why Jaz loved this one so much. Check out the tiny screen area! (I really like the music though....it was the thing that kept me trying back in the day.)

 

Program and music by David Whittaker - it gets so frustrating when the ghosts wipe your photos.

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31 minutes ago, merman said:

 

Program and music by David Whittaker - it gets so frustrating when the ghosts wipe your photos.

I was unaware David Whittaker did the game as well. This was his last one before he just focused on music, I take it... 

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20 hours ago, squirtle said:

I was unaware David Whittaker did the game as well. This was his last one before he just focused on music, I take it... 

 

Also explains why the music has been stuck in my head for the past couple of days,

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Elektraglide

 

You're right about this one @squirtle. This looks and feels like an Amiga demo made playable. It's technically fantastic! I used to stare at the screen shots for this and seeing it in motion did not disappoint.

 

151469-elektraglide-commodore-64-screens

 

Playing it though? It might be just me but the controls felt muddy and I felt like it was hard to judge how wide I was. So dodging the objects coming down the road felt hit or miss. Mostly hit.

 

With the only nostalgia for me being old adverts there wasn't much to keep me interested sadly.

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1 minute ago, Unofficial Who said:

Elektraglide

 

You're right about this one @squirtle. This looks and feels like an Amiga demo made playable. It's technically fantastic! I used to stare at the screen shots for this and seeing it in motion did not disappoint.

 

151469-elektraglide-commodore-64-screens

 

Playing it though? It might be just me but the controls felt muddy and I felt like it was hard to judge how wide I was. So dodging the objects coming down the road felt hit or miss. Mostly hit.

 

With the only nostalgia for me being old adverts there wasn't much to keep me interested sadly.

Yeah. I played it loads for the chilled vibe, mainly because of the music. The music is great. Revisiting it, the shine soon wore off due to those stupid controls. It needs more responsiveness. Supposedly the Atari 800XL version is better, but still suffers from the same lack of content.

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2 hours ago, squirtle said:

Yeah. I played it loads for the chilled vibe, mainly because of the music. The music is great. Revisiting it, the shine soon wore off due to those stupid controls. It needs more responsiveness. Supposedly the Atari 800XL version is better, but still suffers from the same lack of content.

 

I could see a modern remake. A more responsive version. An endless runner driver.

 

There's something good here...it just needed fine tuning.

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8 hours ago, Unofficial Who said:

 

I could see a modern remake. A more responsive version. An endless runner driver.

 

There's something good here...it just needed fine tuning.

Someone has said it's a take on Star Rider, which I can see. 

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Thrust is one of the best games made for the C64. It's probably the biggest bargain of all time. And it has a pretty high learning curve.

 

Back in the day I skipped it because of it being keyboard only. I caught up with it in 1993 when it was on a covermounted tape (along with Steel , another budget title.)

By then I was more open to keyboard controls and despite having moved onto the Amiga I played a fair bit of this. In defence of the keyboard controls I think it was the right decision for a couple of reasons. There's too much travel on old school joysticks and there's no facility to input more than a couple of commands at once via a stick. Along with the physics there's a learning curve but it allows you to develop a certain style and it's a skillset that's helped me to this day (especially when playing The Outer Wilds recently!)

 

Let's have a quick look at the graphics.

 

Thrustingame2.gif

 

It's pretty unique in emulating vectors. If the main ship is a sprite it must have more animation frames than any other C64 sprite ever. It looks simple but it's so smooth despite the push scrolling (used I suspect to keep a near full screen display at a smooth frame rate.)

 

The aim is simple. Get in. Get the ball. Get out. But once you have the ball it acts as a counterweight and if you're not careful you can end up with swinging yourself or it into the wall. There's an extra temptation of taking out the reactor for bonus points. This starts a short countdown and if you don't make it out in time you're caught in the blast. I've never finished this game, the later levers are tough and then it repeats the levels with upside down gravity.

 

The only other game on the C64 that came close to the feel of this game was the excellent Exile, also created by Jeremy C Smith. Sadly he's someone who should had made it big in the industry but passed away in an accident shortly after Exile was released.

 

This game gets compared to Gravitar a lot, a game it's clearly inspired by. But having played Gravitar years later I feel Thrust is the far better game and it's sad it's only known about in Europe and Australia / New Zealand. An absolute classic that was sold at a bargain price.

 

There's instructions on how to play it here https://www.c64-wiki.com/wiki/Thrust

 

This along with Alter Ego are not only my two picks for the best of this episode but they both stand up today.

 

 

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Brilliant game. Off limits for me until I do something about my C64’s ropey keyboard. I had a weird issue with the sequel where I simply couldn’t get a working copy. I had two cassette decks but had to keep returning the game as I simply couldn’t get it to load and gave up in the end. No problems with any other game.

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2 minutes ago, Camel said:

Brilliant game. Off limits for me until I do something about my C64’s ropey keyboard. I had a weird issue with the sequel where I simply couldn’t get a working copy. I had two cassette decks but had to keep returning the game as I simply couldn’t get it to load and gave up in the end. No problems with any other game.

 

If you decide to play via emulation I can recommend the release by Remember, it comes with a high score save.

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I’ve just played it on my C64 actually and apart from a couple of missed inputs on the fire button (return) it was fine.
 

Yeah, I try and use decent cracks where I can unless I’m feeling nostalgic and want to load up an original. Remember version also retains the loading screen and has docs which is always nice.

 

The music is a classic and those physics are soooo good.

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6 hours ago, Camel said:

I’ve just played it on my C64 actually and apart from a couple of missed inputs on the fire button (return) it was fine.
 

Yeah, I try and use decent cracks where I can unless I’m feeling nostalgic and want to load up an original. Remember version also retains the loading screen and has docs which is always nice.

 

The music is a classic and those physics are soooo good.

 

ZZAP! marked Thrust’s music quite low - because the review copy was corrupted and the start of the tune didn’t work properly.

 

Check out the brilliant THRUST CONCERT demo by Stoat & Tim, which was spread via Compunet back then, ZZAP showed it off at a trade show and some people thought it was in the game...

 

 

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18 minutes ago, merman said:

 

ZZAP! marked Thrust’s music quite low - because the review copy was corrupted and the start of the tune didn’t work properly.

 

Check out the brilliant THRUST CONCERT demo by Stoat & Tim, which was spread via Compunet back then, ZZAP showed it off at a trade show and some people thought it was in the game...

 

 

I remember this. So good and such a great tune. 

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Playing Thrust again and I have a minor criticism of an otherwise perfect game. Getting shot always feels unfair as your ship isn’t manoeuvrable enough to do anything about it.

 

Edit: I’m chatting rubbish; totally forgot the tractor beam also gives you a shield. Classic status reinstated.

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2 hours ago, Unofficial Who said:

New episode is up! https://zappedtothepast.com/

 

-PSI 5 Trading Company

-Mugsy’s Revenge 

-Ark Pandora 

-Mr Mephisto 

-Dr Who and the Mines of Terror 

-Super Bowl XX

 

I've only played one of these in the past and it's one of my all time favourites.

I'm guessing it's not Mr Mephisto... 

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18 hours ago, Camel said:

I should have been more clear. My guess is Mugsy's Revenge.

 

17 hours ago, squirtle said:

Ah, I see. Ha! I hope it is.

 

Mugsy's Revenge as my favourite? You dirty rats! Why I oughta!!!

 

Oughta look at the first game covered in the pod.

 

300px-Psi5title.gif

 

This is one of the best games on the C64 and my favourite of the Accolade games. I played this on cassette back in the day! It was a budget release by a local distributor and there were two options to play. The longer version on one side had a load for the crew CVs and then a long wait for the mission and crew you selected. However if you wanted to get into the game more quickly on the other side of the tape you had missions 1-3 as their own self contained loads with a pre-selected crew for each.

 

I picked this up thinking that this was a space trading game but it's not. You don't get to pilot the ship and you don't get to do any trading. This is a crisis management simulator. You hire the crew for the run you plan to do taking into account various personality traits (some of the better crew don't do to well on longer trips.)

 

The challenge is understanding the systems, understanding your crew and understanding how your clunker of a ship operates.

 

Here's an example of looking through a CV.

 

Psi5crewselect.gif

 

Once you're in your ship it's tempting just to lay in the shortest course and get there asap. Doing that will get you shot into many pieces, lose you crew and cargo.

 

Going through the stations quickly.

 

Weapons is self explanatory, this station ranks threats and fires.

 

Psi5weapons.gif

 

Scanning ties in with this. Scanning checks ships and tags them as friend or foe and offers advice on the best weapons to use.

 

Psi5scan.GIF

 

Navigation handles engine speed and manoeuvres but more importantly also provides risk analysis. It's worth checking here and changing course when you need to. The shortest route is not always the best.

 

Psi5navigator.GIF

 

Engineering is the most overlooked and most important area of the ship. This post keeps track of the powerplants and the priority for power. There are some neat ways to rank the systems to make them more efficient.

 

Psi5engine.GIF

 

Repair keeps track of damaged systems and you can rank repair tasks and how many of the 7 repair droids are required to fix things.

 

Psi5repair.GIF

 

It's all too much at first and early runs are doomed to failure or limping with some cargo. But once you get to grips with the systems, the personalities and using keyboard (the joystick system is great but using hotkeys really gives you an edge) it becomes pretty compelling. My first run in many years went OK but was stymied by not remembering the exact order I used to rank systems in engineering, something I'll work on when I play next. (I used to have a great set up where I would be accelerating at warp 8 and at the first sign of trouble drop down to warp 4 evasive and the power drop from the engines would be diverted to shields, weapons and scanners.)

 

I'm surprised a modern version hasn't been made for touch screen devices, doubly surprised than someone hasn't taken this game and turned it into a Star Trek game, it's very much based around the system of the captain giving orders and the crew doing a good or bad job depending on their personalities. (The person I chose for scanning was brilliant as she'd start scanning even before I asked whereas the person I chose for repairs was hopeless, waiting for me to give direct orders 90% of the time. Would not hire again.)

 

This game still holds up. If you have this on any old 8bit machine and haven't given this a go (there were loads of 8 bit ports) dig it out again. There's a pretty good crack out there for the C64 with four missions (one being an extra short and easy one to allow you to get used to the game.)

 

There is a version on Steam but it looks like it's the old PC DOS version and that lacks the colour of the C64 version. I'm sure it's still perfectly playable. The colour palette isn't quite to my taste but some might prefer it.

 

723629-psi-5-trading-co-screenshot.jpg

 

As for a modern alternative, as mentioned on the podcast FTL is a fine alternative and is worth playing for those who want something like PSI 5 with more systems, story and rogue like elements.

 

Everything about this game is perfect in my eyes. Easy to use interface, great looking and a challenge every run. And it's got loads of personality. Where else would you have a game where your weapons post reports back saying the guns are jammed because they've dropped chocolate in the controls?

 

Also the only game I know that features a Cravenlator.

 

Psi5craven3.JPG

 

If you're interested in playing there's an excellent guide here (where I grabbed most of the shots from.) https://www.c64-wiki.com/wiki/Psi_5_Trading_Company

 

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As for Mugsy's Revenge, I'd never played it before but I'd seen one screen in almost every preview. More on that in a moment.

 

It's a trading game. But an incredibly slow trading game. The screens take forever to draw. The text takes forever to display. So most of your time is spent waiting. 

 

It's so dull. The only bit of interest? This is the part almost every reviewer praised and to be fair it's pretty impressive, a full screen animated cutscene. It looked great in the screen shots and I bet it was this screen that sold the most units.

 

 

Watch the video above rather than trying to find this. Was the Spectrum original this slow?

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