Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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

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?!’).

Strange, non-Euclidean

7 March, 2016

I got myself a cheap Android tablet last year and I’ve been using it to catch-up with all the

Screenshot_2016-03-07-15-52-46 [151798]

Dat ice diamond, tho’

touchscreeny “mobile” games yer actual young people have been playing. A few of them have stuck out as being both highly enjoyable and annoyingly obscure, hidden away under a tidal wave of pay-to-win tripe, Angry Birds rip-offs and in-app-purchase-saturated strategy games with “Clans” in the title.

Anyway, the first of these is HyperRogue. This brilliant little indie title is based on the classic roguelike set-up but at the same time manages to be unqiue and original. Basically, the player character is thrown into a strange world based around a hexagonal grid which appears to be viewed through a fisheye lens. Gameplay consists of hunting for treasure and killing monsters but, unlike most roguelikes, there’s a chess-like strategy element to the fighting based entirely around who can enter a hex first. For this reason, where you move is important and, because the more treasure you collect in any one world the more enemies start to appear, it gets more and more important to avoid being cornered or surrounded.

The gameplay changes subtly as the player progresses, so collecting ten treasures in any one world will unlock the appearance of orbs which provide special powers; and the player can escape an overly-dangerous world into a new, safer, one with new treasures, monsters and dangers.

Presentation is simple: the graphics are deliberately generic with desert, ice and jungle worlds displayed using the same basic graphics with a few palette changes. This is surprisingly effective, however, and gives the game a similar feel to the early roguelikes it takes as its inspiration. There’s also some atmospheric tunes to accompany the whole thing.

I’ve only sketched the basic outline of all the things you can find in this game and, as with all great games, it’s better you discover them yourself. HyperRogue is available on Android, Linux, OSX and Windows.

Making Willy Harder

27 January, 2016
JSWNightmareEd

Fuck your “walk through both kitchen rooms without any of the monsters hitting you”

Everyone who has ever played Matthew Smith’s classic 1984 platform game Jet Set Willy has surely had the same thought –

“What this game really needs is to be less easy. In fact it could really do with being much, much more difficult.”

Well, 32 years after the game was originally published it looks like someone has taken heed because a new ZX Spectrum remix of the original game has been released called Jet Set Willy: The Nightmare Edition.

The goal and map is much the same as the original game but pretty-much every room has been subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, altered to make an already challenging game carpet-chewingly frustrating. In addition to this, there are some other tweaks such as a new “nightmarish” in-game font, extra tunes and a few wee new touches here and there.

Hopefully, these will make up for your pulling all your fucking hair out.

More details and download links at this page here.

Umlauts

29 December, 2015
Motorhead2

“After I enjoy this *root beer*, I’ll have some *talcum powder*”

Like everyone with a tiny bit of rock and roll in their soul (and in my case that is a bit tiny, unfortunately), I was sad to hear about the death of Lemmy out of Hawkwind and Motörhead who I think most of us had assumed was, like Keith Richards, indestructable.

Keeping things on-topic for this blog, the Facebook post that announced his death said that he died playing his favourite videogame and someone noted that Lemmy appeared in “at least one game” – Brütal Legend. But there was another…

Incredibly, in 1992, Virgin Games published a licensed Motörhead videogame for the Amiga. The player controls Lemmy himself who has to beat the shit out of rave and country music fans whilst drinking neat whisky and gaining powers. I am not making this up. Seek it out, dig UAE out and play it, the man himself would approve.

Sab95 – important update

15 December, 2015

It’s a bit mince.

Sab95

2 December, 2015

There’s been a bit of a buzz around the fact that Clive Townsend is

Sab95

Ninja kicks the shit out of, erm, some kind of troll thing (it’s the ’90s!)

working on an update to his classic 1980s platform-and-stealth ninja games Saboteur and Saboteur 2 (the latter featuring a female protagonist long before it made neckbeards and that Tory blogger with ice-cream coloured hair all angry on Twitter). Doing a spot of online googling about this lead to me discover that there was an unofficial Saboteur game released for DOS-based PCs in the 1990s. No really, it has a site and everything.

I’m intrigued, I’m going to play it and then, in a few days, I’m going to report back. It’ll probably be shite. The knocked-off Mortal Kombat stuff is already making me roll my eyes. But it also might be brilliant because, hey, you never know.

Meanwhile, information on Townsend’s official update can be found a his website here.

 

“Yer PAW!”

4 August, 2015
One of many instances where Rigel's Revenge uses graphics instead of text to

One of many instances where Rigel’s Revenge uses graphics instead of text to “describe” something to the player

I’ve recently been working on a whole load of writing which has just about come to fruition so it’s got me thinkin about another creative project to get my “teeth” “into”. And I’ve decided it’s going to be an IF (Interactive Fiction, a wanky new name for what we used to call “text adventures”) game, one for the Spectrum to be specific, one written with PAW  to be even more specific.

The route that took me here basically started with me sitting on a train from England playing with Spectaculator on my tablet. One of the games that comes with the full version is Zenobi’s Jekyll and Hyde game. Playing it again (IF games work brilliantly on tablets, btw) reminded me not just that I like IF, but that I like ZX Spectrum IF in particular. There’s something about the chunky display, the likeable “click” noises so many Spectrum IF games have when you type and the weirdly attractive pixel art that appeals to me. The 8-bit era has an interesting history of IF, including the first game I can recall having been given a certificate by the BBFC (CRL’s Dracula, in what felt more like a publicity stunt than anything else, was given a 15 certificate; they later released Jack The Ripper, a game which was given an 18 certificate) and a huge and very active homebrew scene, much of it focused around the aforementioned Zenobi software.

I think my affection for ZX Spectrum IF goes beyond nostalgia, though: one of the main reasons I love Spectrum IF is a game that I got round to playing years after I sold my Spectrum – Rigel’s Revenge.

I’m not sure what it was about this game that grabbed me back when I played it via emulation (on an Amiga 1200!) back in 1996. It might have been the atmospheric setting, might have been the likeably pulpy sci-fi storyline, might have been the excellent use of graphics as description as well as illustration. Whatever it was, I played it for absolutely ages, got past lots of puzzles, reached the second load (in the ’80s, a lot of 8-bit IF needed to be loaded in separate parts to get all of the adventure in there) and promptly got stuck. Maybe I should go back to it and try and do it all again, and complete the bugger this time.

Anyway, the Matty PAWed IF game will probably be in development for months but I’ve a few ideas to build on and it’ll be interesting to see the results, especially if I actually get the damn thing finished unlike far too many of my projects…