A Curate’s Egg

27 June, 2018

Here’s a little story. I picked up a games bundle super-cheap this week, because I’m a

WTSScga

Where Time Stood Still, in “glorious” CGA

sucker for super-cheap and also because it had lots of old DOS games in it, including some French Infogrames weirdness, and I’m even more of a sucker for that.

A nice plus was the old 8-bit isometric games The Great Escape and Where Time Stood Still, both well-regarded titles from Denton Designs, largely known in their ZX Spectrum incarnations. But these were being sold to PC owners, via Steam, which means we get the inferior DOS ports of both.

In the case of Where Time Stood Still, that’s even worse because not only is the DOS version poorer than the Speccy port, it’s arguably the poorest version available. Not only is there a Speccy version with more colours and a lot more in the way of sound, there’s also an Atari ST version with 16-colour graphics. Surely the latter is the best way to present the game to modern gamers, not a bleepy CGA knock off of a superior 8-bit version.

WTSS

How Where Time Stood Still could look, if you bought it on Steam as an emulated ST/Amiga version

Ah, but people usually have PCs, right, and so it needs to be PC versions for sale? Well, not really. They’re DOS games being emulated via DOSBox on modern platforms. And that’s the issue – if we get the DOS option, why not sort out easy emulation for the Spectrum and ST versions as well and let the player choose? Even better, why not see if it’s possible to license the excellent 2014 unofficial Amiga port which basically takes the Atari ST version and adds a bit of miggy polish, as well as a whole new introduction sequence?

It also doesn’t help that the license holder, in making these games available, seemingly hasn’t bothered obtaining or making available copies of the instruction manual. A particular problem with WTSS, which uses a slightly clunky and not very intuitive object manipulation system.

This is the thing – the use of DOSBox, an emulator, is already well-established through modern online marketplaces like Steam or GOG; so when making old software commercially available again, why not make an effort and arrange for emulation of more than just the DOS version, especially when it’s far from the best version available? Yeah, we could all just play the emulated versions, but for a lot of people dealing with emulation software and finding the “ROMs” (sic) is a barrier. It’s good that people are keeping old software alive, it’d be even better if it was people that gave more of a shit about curating it.

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Benefactor

17 June, 2018

A quick drop by this bloggo for those who still pay attention or come across it occasionally. I feel this urgent need to recommend largely-forgotten mid-90s Amiga platform puzzle game Benefactor

Benefactor

“Damn, we’re in a tight spot!”

which I’ve been meaning to play for ages (i.e. around two decades) and finally bothered getting around to recently. It’s a really lovely mixture of Lode Runner and Impossible Mission with a wee sprig of Lemmings chucked into the glass. Basically you control an athletic wee dude who has to rescue even wee-er and arguably even more athletic dudes across a variety of small-but-platformy levels whilst working out how to pull levers, open doors, swing across boiling tar etc. It’s lots of fun, has really really gorgeous graphics and the CD32 version has jolly music and can be played using an emulated CD32 pad which converts nicely to the buttons on most modern joypads rather than having to use the basic Miggy’s rubbish one-button set-up.
Amiga emulation, whilst very good these days, is a faff; but for those who can’t be arsed The Company have one-filed both the ECS and CD32 versions; just be aware a touch of faffing is still needed to get joypads working and sort the aspect ratio*. Of course, if you can find a version for the original hardware that’s even better, and you deserve the finest coconut in all the land.

*Because people who think it’s okay to play old games in the wrong aspect ratio are scum. Sorry to be blunt but the truth often is.

Airwolf

2 April, 2018
Airwolf

“GED TO DA CHOPPAH! ARRRGGHHGHG!”

Yes, I this bloggo is still “going”. No, I don’t update this blog nearly as much as I ought to because I’m procrastinatory (is that a word) and occasionally lazy.

Anyway, there’s a point to this mild bout of self-loathing mixed with apology.

Airwolf was an American TV show of the ’80s about some dick (called “Stringfellow Hawke”, which was surely a “cool” alias with his real name being Butterby Smallweed or something) with a helicopter that was better than most helicopters because “secret” or something, I can’t remember the details because it was all very silly* but it was popular with kids of a certain age. Naturally, that meant an 8-bit video game was licensed and produced, also called Airwolf. Unlike far too many ’80s licenses, it bore some relation to the TV series. It was also joystick-chuckingly, teeth-grindingly fucking difficult and involved having to penetrate some “base” defended by self-replicating blue walls and massive satellite dishes and other crazy nonsense of the type created by 80s programmers pressurised by their 80s bosses with chunky mobile phones, gelled hair and braces harassing them about “deadlines” and “Mr Udagawa”.

Anyway, many many years later when those kids have all grown up and got a bit fat and bald, someone’s gone and modded the original game. But not, as you might think, to make it easier. No, instead to make the helicopter actually look like the one from the TV show and to add some sweet AY music doing a close approximation of the series’ ace title music. If you want to beat the game you’ll still have to “git gud” “bro'” (something something “60fps HD”).

Linky and details here.

*I’m sure Ernest Borgnine featured in there as well, he always did back then

Break/Space – break it, but don’t pay for it

26 August, 2017
BreakSpace

“To baldly go where no-one has gone before!”

Coming out of my shell (I’m busy, I’ve a real-life job and everything plus … acht who am I trying to kid I’m a lazy fucker. Anyway…) to punt you in the direction of Break/Space, a likeably compact, sci-fi space-faring roguelike for the ZX Spectrum. Originally programmed in BASIC as part of a game jam, it was subsequently ported to machine code and has received a number of updates to iron out bugs and tweak gameplay (as of writing it’s on V1.8). Combat, trading and exploration are all crammed into likeably jolly 8×8-graphic-based grids full of planets, alien ships and anomalys. And it’s free.
More information and downloads here.

CKD – it’s what all the cool kids are calling it

28 April, 2017

You probably already know by now that Crystal Kingdom Dizzy has received a belated

CKDizzy

Is a Kingdom even the ideal governmental form for crystals?

port to the ZX Spectrum, one of the machines the egg-who-wears-boxing-gloves-for-some-fucking-reason made his name on. You might wonder what the point of that would be, considering that the game was already published on the ZX Spectrum back in 1992. Playing it for a few seconds makes you realise what the point was – this is CKD given a complete overhaul with a new, smooth, game engine, superbly reworked graphics and new music and sounds. It’s a huge improvement on the original commercial release (which wasn’t bad in the first place) and a perfect example of what love, care and enthusiasm can create over time. It’d be great to see the same talent lavished on a new game, Dizzy-related or not.

As I’m lead to understand 16th century London sex workers used to say “Get It Here”

Drink-a-penta-milk-a-day

1 April, 2017

Pentagorat is a new (well, a few months old) isometric platform game for the Commodore Vic-20. Yes, you read

Penta

Like someone with a weird accent saying “paint a goat”

that right. Taking the role of a wee dude who looks awfully like ZX Spectrum unofficial mascot Horace, the player finds themselves locked in a weird castle without explanation and has to find their way out. Despite the infamous “fat” pixels of the Vic, it all looks surprisingly good and, even better, moves at a fair old pace. The relatively small memory of the Vic also means that rather than the meandering corridors sometimes to be found in games of this type (yes, Bobby Bearing, I’m looking at you) puzzles and action come pretty thick and fast with most rooms providing some kind of challenge or conundrum to overcome.

Available as a digital file or in good old 1980s format. It tastes great, as part of this nutritious breakfast.

Happy happy joy joy gaming news

11 February, 2017
jng2

This

In what has become a dark world of depressing national and international developments and frequent disappointments, let us all rejoice at the news that Rake In Grass are working on a sequel to their brilliant side-scrolling shooter Jets ‘n’ Guns.

Read all about it.

If you’ve somehow neglected to play the original, it’s available on something called The Steams, and probably elsewhere.

What happens when you play this set of CDs?

6 December, 2016
redder

(not quite) All The Crystals

I’ve not been posting much here in recent months. Sorry, apart from my generally being rubbish and lazy I’ve also started a new job which tends to leave me knackered and therefore provides ample excuses for not doing anything.

Anyway, I thought rather than just leave this place to gather more cobwebs I’d do a post or two about games I’m enjoying at the moment which probably aren’t getting vast amounts of coverage everywhere (i.e. they’re not Battlefield 1 or Civilization VIIIIIIIII). First up is Redder. This game is around six years old now, having originally appeared as a free online game, but is far too good for that kind of nonsense and is now also available in delicious download-and-keep flavour in exchange for currency.

Essentially an 8-bit style exploration/metroidvania platform game about collecting crystals, what lifts this above the average are the often-brilliant, frequent puzzles largely built around activating and deactivating red and green blocks, as well as the atmosphere created by the subdued colour palette and brilliantly melancholy music. It’s a great example of gameplay and graphics/sound combining into a successful whole. Plus it feels like it could have run on a ZX Spectrum, and that always gets extra marks from me.

Redder is available from itch.io here.

I’m QUAKING in my boots (I don’t have any boots)

5 July, 2016
Quake

“Hi, do you have a moment? Don’t worry, I’m not selling anything!”

One of the great things about the current generation of videogames and videogaming is the way that older stuff has been re-embraced. Not just the aesthetics, where we’ve seen “8-bit” graphics and sound become fashionable with the explosion of independent titles; but also the games themselves. “Abandoned” commercial software of the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s has been dusted off, tweaked and fixed for modern platforms and put back on sale again, largely thanks to digital distributors like GOG and Steam who’ve managed to snap-up the rights to a lot of previously abandoned software which was designed for DOS-based 486 PCs and which previously needed a hat with a fucking propellor on the top at the very least to even think about getting it to work on your complex emulator of choice.

And with that has come something more unexpected – updates and expansions for software that’s over a decade old but which has a diehard as well as a growing, new, fanbase. Not just the HD “remixes” of old software (the success of which has been kind of mixed) but whole new content. Notable examples include new expansions for Age Of Empires II, Balder’s Gate (complete with neckbeard/GG-infuriating characters and dialogue, none of which would have actually bothered anyone when BG was originally released, ironically enough) and, now, a brand new official episode for Quake (from the people who brought us the new Wolfenstein game). Yes, that Quake. The one that came out in 1996. In fact it was actually released to mark the game’s (gulp weisold!) 20th anniversary.

Here’s a link to the RPS article about the new episode which contains a direct link to the download. Happy, erm, “quaking” (‘what?!’).

Kayvez

2 July, 2016
Caves

“Here in my cave, I feel unsafest of all…”

Caves is a great wee roguelike for Android that might have slipped under a few peoples radars. It’s fairly simple to play (and any complexities are learnt as you go rather than through a tedious tutorial, or at least that was the case in the version I originally played) but tough and unforgiving like all the best of its genre. It’s still in development and new versions are released on a regular basis, but as it’s freeware there’s no real excuse to wait until a finished version, if it ever rests on its laurels long enough for that to happen in any meaningful sense.

Caves can be downloaded for Android devices here.