This will be one of
the few articles that will continue after Retrogaming Times ends. I
plan on doing some more reviews on the website from time to time. So
here are a few that will end up in my arcade section down the road!
don't think this is what they meant by too much exposure to the sun
could be hazardous to your health.)
One of the things that I do on
MAME is to scan through the games and look for gems. Since I went so
long between versions, there are a ton of games that I missed. Many are
fighting games, but there are gems that pop along. One of these games
is Rock Climber which is very similar to Crazy Climber. It has the same
controls as Crazy Climber as well as the same objective, get to the top
alive, but most of the similarities end there. The game actually plays
closer to a cross between Hyper Crazy Climber for the Playstation and
Alpiner for the TI computer. I know that these are not exactly well
known games, but it is the best that I can come up with.
that is not part of the picture missing, it is an obstacle. Just don't
ask what kind of obstacle it is.)
When I first
started playing this game, I found it very hard to do well. For some
reason the joysticks just did not respond very well. I had it set the
same way as Crazy Climber but moving up and down just did not work
well. I knew it wasn't my Devastator 2, but I loaded up Crazy Climber
just to be sure. Sure enough, Crazy Climber played perfect (For anyone
who is debating between a four way and eight way joystick, know that
Crazy Climber is among a handful of very popular games that need eight
way to play it like the arcade. And you can add Robotron, Space
Dungeon, Berzerk, Frenzy, Sinistar and quite a few others to that list.
Take my word for it and go with eight way, you can play four way with an
eight way controller, but not vice versa). So I tried something crazy,
I switched the up and down on each joystick. And know what, it worked!
Suddenly I went from getting stuck on every obstacle to being able to
blow through the first mountain with no problem. Sometimes the answer
is right under your nose.
The gameplay is
very similar to Crazy Climber. You need to get to the top of the
mountain and everything wants to stop you. There are birds, monkeys, a
creature that is best described as the purple people eater and more. As
you can see by the above photos, you have big white blocks that drop at
you and a creature that resembles the sun. You really do not know what
twisted thing is up the mountain.
a good look at that screen as it is as good as it gets)
Imagine the Intellivision
classic Shark! Shark! but you are the shark and instead of eating fish,
you are eating divers. Sounds pretty good right? In theory it is, but
the final product is repetitive. It is a good example of one good idea
and nothing more.
You start the game
off as a shark. You can move anywhere on the screen, which is pretty
much blank. It is actually blue, but there are no other fish or plants
or anything. On each screen are four divers. It is always four divers,
no matter how many screens you clear. They do change colors from level
to level and more a little quicker, but they are the same four divers.
It is your job to eat them before they kill you. That is the whole game
in a nutshell. Soon you realize that it gets very boring to just swim
around the same drab level and fight the same guys over and over. There
are a few nice touches. The divers do have some nice color combinations
on their diving suits and the animations are pretty humorous. From the
shark chewing up the divers to the shark slowly dying with the spear
sticking in his back, it has its moments. Also, once you complete a
level there is a skull that looks back and forth. Complete a bunch of
levels and you have a whole group full of skulls looking around.
is the big selling point of the game, eating divers and showing blood.)
There is a bit of
strategy to the game. First off, do not jump in the middle of the four
divers. You can only kill one at a time and the others will make a pin
cushion out of you. Instead try to move around and wait for them to
split up. Once they do, pick them off one at a time. Also, do not swim
directly at a diver or he will shoot you with his spear gun. Instead
try to get him from behind or from above or below. Your chances of
success will improve dramatically this way. It only took a few games
for me to be able and clear through five or more levels with no problem.
While some may say
that the game came out in 1980 and that is a big reason for its weak
gameplay, keep in mind that this is the same year that such great games
as Battlezone, Crazy Climber, Defender, Tempest, Pacman, Star Castle and
Wizard of Wor came out so that is a weak excuse. The game is an example
of a clever gimmick (being a shark and being able to kill divers) and
not adding much else to it. It is fun for a few minutes, but you will
soon tire of it and move onto a game with more substance.
the piggies, little piggies playing with the bombs)
I always like to choose one
bizarre game each month and this month it is Butasan. The game is a
cross between Bomberman and Food Fight but played with pigs. Once again
the Japanese show us how to make a unique game. But I must say that it
is a simple and very enjoyable game.
Like Bomberman, it
is your goal to blow up everyone else on the screen. You play the role
of a pig wearing a dress (at least it looks like a polka dotted dress to
me, I am not an expert on swine styles so I could be wrong) and you have
to pick up bombs that are laying around the screen and throw them at the
other pigs, who are not wearing dresses. Each bomb has a timer on it
and it counts down (once you throw it). But if you throw a bomb at
another pig or get hit by one, it will blow up and make any bombs nearby
go off. Also if a bomb counts down to zero, it will also go off. You
can also duck as a bomb is coming at you.
bombs, you can also pick up some different power-ups which give you
different abilities for a limited time. There are also some mini games,
one of which is very similar to whack-a-mole. These help make the game
more interesting. And the best part is the pigs! At the start of each
level, you will be greeted by what new pigs appear on the level. The
will come out and dance around or act silly. They look different and
act different, so there is a lot of character.
The name of the
game is translated to mean Mr. Pig and it was only available in Japan.
It came out in 1987, the same year as Bomberman so it is not known if
either game was an influence on the other (similar to the Mr. Do/Dig Dug
scenario). There are quite a few difference between the two as this
game takes place in a wide open field where Bomberman takes place in
mazes. Also, this one has mini games, the ability to duck and bombs
that count down. But both games feature throwing bombs and power-ups,
so there are some similarities. This game also allows up to two players
at once, making it one more fun two player game.
is the scene you see when the game is over. Not sure what it means, but
it is pretty disturbing.)
No matter if it was
influenced or did influence, it is still a very fun game and one I
recommend. We cannot have enough two player games and with a shortage
of games featuring pigs, there is always room for one more pig game!
I'm been running The
Video Game Critic for nearly five years now, but did you know that
Tomorrow's Heroes and Tom Zjaba were the early inspirations for my site?
That's right, I was on Tom's site all the time as I first started
getting into the classic gaming scene. I especially enjoyed his reviews,
and you may have noticed that I shamelessly pilfered his grading system
and writing style. I've been a loyal reader of Retrogaming Times for
many years, and it was an honor to have many of my reviews published in
this fine electronic periodical. It's sad that this is the last issue,
but thanks to the Internet, these issues will be enjoyed for hundreds of
years to come (if not thousands). Thanks Tom, for a job well done. Now
take a vacation for Pete's sake!
In order to commemorate this final issue, I'd like to take a look
at some relatively new Atari 2600 games. Some are newly programmed
titles that really push the limits of the system, and some are formerly
unreleased games that provide an interesting look back at the "golden
years" of video games. Enjoy.
Allia Quest (Ebivision 2001) B
Ebivision's last two games
(Merlin’s Walls and Pesco) were pretty bad, but I’m happy to report that
they're back on track with Allia Quest, so grab your favorite joystick
and get ready for some good old-fashioned shooting action! A simple
shooter at heart, Allia adds its own unique twist to the Megamania style
of gameplay. Your ship is situated at the middle and bottom of the
screen, and it never actually moves. Instead approaching targets shift
in response to pushing the joystick left or right. It works quite well.
The surprisingly large targets are a non-descript mix of colorful
shapes, and your rapid-fire shooting causes them to disintegrate nicely.
The action is simplistic but addictive and fun. I advanced a bit further
each time I played, and couldn’t wait to see what the next wave had in
store. Understated, deep tones provide some interesting background
noise. Allia Quest is a pleasant surprise, and a perfect fix for classic
gamers looking for something fresh.
Alligator People (Fox 1983)
This old Fox prototype was
recently dug up and is currently available at www.sunmark.com. While I’d
hardly call its gameplay addicting, Alligator People is an interesting
title nevertheless. The playing field consists of moving walls that
create an ever-changing maze. You control an orange syringe, and need to
keep moving to avoid getting crushed by the walls. Three infected humans
line both the top and bottom of the screen, and your goal is to cure
them by shooting them up with serums scattered around the screen. While
you’re collecting serums, the people gradually change from humanoid to
alligator form, and the transformation looks pretty wild by Atari 2600
standards. It looks even better when you transform them back with a
series of quick successive shots. Complicating matters are alligators
that slowly move across the screen, but these are easy to avoid.
Alligator People is quite innovative but comes up short in the fun
department, which may explain why it wasn’t originally released.
Recommended variation: 9AB.
Adventure Plus (Atari Age 2002) NA
This hack of Atari’s classic game
Adventure features redrawn graphics and a whole new maze layout. Objects
like the bridge and chalice certainly look better, but that sword looks
like a big boat anchor. The dragons are larger and better detailed than
those "ducks" in the original game, but they still don’t look quite
right to me. Doesn’t anybody know how to draw a freakin’ dragon?! At
least the new screen layout is refreshing, rekindling memories of the
first time I played the original game. I must admit that I enjoy the
thrill of discovery that Adventure Plus delivers. The classic gameplay
is timeless fun, and running from dragons is even more exciting when you
don’t know where the heck you’re going. The label art is also quite
Cat Trax (Atari Age 1983) B-
Released along with two other
long-lost Atari 2600 titles (Pleiades and Funky Fish), Cat Trax may be
the best of the bunch. Sure it’s a conventional maze game at heart, but
the graphics look sharp and the control is tight. You guide a cat around
the screen with three dogs in hot pursuit. To be honest, you're only
steering a cat head, and those dogs look more like mice. That's
okay - we can pretend. Anyway, like any reputable maze game, there are
tunnels on each side of the maze and bonuses (cat nip in this case) that
appear periodically in the center of the screen. Instead of power pills,
a green potion randomly appears in the upper area of the screen,
tranforming you into - you guessed it - a dogcatcher truck. While this
graphical transformation probably wouldn’t qualify as morphing in the
strictest sense of the term, it still looks pretty darned nifty. Cat
Trax is challenging enough thanks to the fairly intelligent dogs that
tend to change directions unexpectedly. The upper corners of the maze
are easy places to get trapped, so for the love of God, stay out of
there. There's nothing spectacular here, but the game serves its
purpose. Cat Trax is available from Atari Age.
Funky Fish (Atari Age 1983) D-
Yes, Funky Fish has finally made
his not-so-eagerly-awaited arrival on the 2600, much to the excitement
of his legion of three fans. I think I now know why he's called Funky
Fish - he stinks! Funky Fish resembles no other game from the past,
present, and hopefully the future. In it, you move a slow-ass fish
across an ugly, side-scrolling green ocean, while a Defender-like
scanner on the top of screen tracks your four stationary targets. These
four so-called "monsters" are evenly spaced out and apparently disguised
as square blocks. Once you approach one, it excretes several odd shapes
that move erratically. Touch one and your fish turns to bones and sinks
to the sea floor. Fear not however, for Funky Fish has the ability to
shoot those shapes, transforming them into - you guessed it - cherries
you can ingest for bonus points. Once you’ve eaten a certain number of
cherries, the monster becomes defenseless, allowing you to sit on him
until his energy completely drains. Slowly moving from one monster to
the next is almost unbearable. Adding insult to injury, you can’t simply
move off one end of the scanner and re-emerge on the other side, which
would have eased the pain dramatically. This game has some nice colors
and satisfying sound effects, but it’s a chore to play. Funky Fish is
available from Atari Age. Get your copy today!
Pleiades (Atari Age 1983) C+
Now available for the first time
thanks to the good people at Atari Age, Pleiades was one of those games
programmed "back in the day" but never released. According to the
instruction manual, Pleiades is the unofficial sequel to Phoenix, but
personally I’ve never even heard of it. I’m guessing it never caught on
because no one could pronounce its frickin' name. Anyway, this fun but
uneven shooter features three completely unique stages. In the first,
you control a cannon on a planet surface shooting aliens flying in
various formations. These aliens move fast and drop a ton of bombs, but
their movements are annoyingly choppy. Occasionally one will crawl
across the bottom, creating a wall that you can shoot holes in. There’s
some scenery on the planet surface, but nothing particularly impressive.
The off-key "music" that plays during this stage is simply awful. The
second screen resembles the mother ship stage in Phoenix. This
particular mother ship is large but chunky, with three trap doors that
randomly open and close on its underbelly. Timing your shots, you must
nail a little star that moves left to right across the center of the
ship. Meanwhile, large birds swoop down, drop bombs, and block your
shots. Like the first stage, it’s moderately fun but over too quickly.
The third screen is easily the most difficult and time-consuming. Your
job here is to guide a slowly moving, triangular ship up a pyramid while
avoiding scattered obstacles. This is where you’ll lose 90% of your
ships. Especially near the top of the pyramid, the airplane-shaped
obstacles are too close together to avoid, and it gets frustrating.
Pleiades is still worthwhile to play, thanks to its fast action and
variety. I also appreciate the fact that it keeps the high score
displayed on the screen at all times. Note: Despite what the manual
says, set the left difficulty switch to B for a normal game, and A to
Save The Whales (Games of the Century 2002) C-
Save The Whales was released for
the first time at the 2002 Classic Gaming Expo, but it’s actually an
old, unreleased Fox game from 1984. To be honest, it looks and plays
like a bargain bin title with its simple graphics and shallow gameplay.
You guide a sub around the middle of the screen, just above a school of
colored whales. A tanker on the ocean surface drops nets from above, and
you must protect the whales by blasting the nets. The graphics are
pretty standard, although the black puffs of smoke coming from the
tanker’s smokestack are eye-catching. There are four speed settings and
some two-player modes that let a friend control the tanker. Setting the
difficulty to ‘A’ changes the nets to harpoons, which are supposed to be
harder to shoot, but I did not find that to be the case. Save The Whales
is fast moving and difficult, and positioning your sub is key. The worst
part of the game has to be the periodic "radioactive flotsam" that comb
the screen between rounds. Although meant to add variety, these blobs
are easy to shoot and just plain annoying. Overall, Save the Whales is a
mildly amusing little game. I wouldn’t call it a lost treasure, but 2600
fans should appreciate this little piece of the past.
1 or 2 players
Sword Fight (Retrotopia 2000) C+
Atari 2600 games with large
characters are few and far between, but this two-player sword fighting
game features some tall, well-animated fighters. It's too bad the
developer couldn’t secure a Star Wars license for this, because it would
have made for a perfect light saber battle game. From the minute you see
those swords power up, the Star Wars influence is obvious, and even the
game description was written as if trying to avoid a lawsuit: "Two
knights face each other at the edge of the universe. Gripping their
‘laser swords’, they advance, prepared to fight to the death...".
Swordfight was programmed by one of Mattel’s famous Blue Sky Rangers,
Steve "Don’t Sue Me" Tatsumi in 1983. While it was never released by
Mattel, Retrotopia thankfully resurrected it in 2000. The joystick
allows for three types of attacks (overhead, right, left), and three
types of blocks. You can advance and retreat using the fire button. The
manual claims that "once players get familiar with the moves, long and
challenging battles are possible". I have to agree - the game gets
better with repeated play. Sword Fight is an innovative title unlike
anything else I’ve played on the 2600. Collectors should definitely try
to pick up a copy.
Thrust (Xype 2000) A
Thrust is a far cry from the
simplistic shooters so common on the 2600, and it's actually a
conversion of an old Commodore 64 game. Thrust not only provides great
arcade shooting action, but it also has surprising depth. Like Gravitar,
you guide a triangle-shaped ship through winding underground caverns,
destroying cannons and picking up fuel. Shooting nuclear reactors will
temporarily disable the cannons, but too much damage can cause a
meltdown. In later stages, there are switches on the walls that open new
areas. Controlling your ship takes skill, because you must constantly
thrust to counteract the effects of gravity. Pushing the joystick up
thrusts, and pulling back activates a protective shield. Your ultimate
goal is to pick up a pod at the bottom of each cavern and transport it
out safely. When you finally locate the pod, the real challenge begins!
It attaches to your ship via a cord, and swings precariously as you
attempt to transport it through the narrow caverns without smashing it
against a wall. It's a balancing act that requires excellent technique,
and completing each mission is very satisfying. The crude graphics are
large and blocky, but the animation is smooth and the control is
flawless. The 24-level challenge is immense but rarely frustrating.
There are even five levels of difficulty. Don't miss the best game to
come along for the 2600 in a long time!
Skeleton+ (Atari Age/Eric Ball 2003) B+
Skeleton Plus (+) is a
much-needed update to a game that held much potential but was somewhat
undercooked. I imagine programmer Eric Ball caught plenty of flack about
the lack of options and steep difficulty, and I’m happy to report he
addressed those issues sufficiently in this version. Like the original
game, you move through a first-person maze, trying to locate and zap one
wandering skeleton at a time. The mazes are well rendered and you can
navigate through them quickly and easily. The skeleton looks terrific,
and you can even follow him around when you locate him (although he will
turn on you). This "Plus" version displays the number of skeletons
you’ve zapped on the bottom of the screen, along with your life points,
which drain each time you get touched by a skeleton. Since some
skeletons require multiple "zaps" to kill, you sometimes have to play a
little game of cat and mouse with them. The game has four options:
skeletons per level (5 or 10), starting life meter (49 or 99), sound
on/off, and skeleton speed. Unfortunately, two options are assigned to
each difficulty switch, so there are only four combinations in total.
Personally, I would have preferred if all 16 variations were accessible
via the select switch. The "touch of death" mode is also accessible via
the black/white switch, in case you preferred the unforgiving gameplay
of the original game. I couldn’t really recommend the first Skeleton
game, but Skeleton+ is the real deal. You can purchase it from Atari
Missile Command Trak-Ball (Thomas Jentzsch 2002) NA
It’s somewhat ironic that the
Atari 2600 trak-ball controller didn’t support the ultimate trak-ball
game: Missile Command. Anybody who grew up playing this classic at the
local arcade knows that it was NOT designed with a joystick in mind.
Thankfully, Thomas Jentzsch has addressed this long-standing problem
with his new hack of the game, and you’ll be surprised how big a
difference it makes. You can whip that cursor clear across the screen in
a flash, yet position it with perfect precision. Not only is this
version faster and more arcade-like than the original, but you can look
forward to shattering your previous high scores with ease. It will be
very difficult to go back to using the joystick after playing this.
Missile Command Trak-Ball is available at the Atari Age store.
Recommended variation: 8B
1 or 2 players
Power Off! (Ebivision
The French company Ebivision has
a checkered past when it comes to making new video games for the 2600.
Their games tend to be either highly innovative (Marlin’s Walls), or
awfully derivative (Pesco). Power Off falls more into the latter
category. The game screen consists of eight red platforms connected by
ladders and patrolled by robots. You control a tiny man trying to gather
sixteen blue blocks spread among the platforms - just like every other
Atari 2600 game that came out in 1983! There’s really nothing inventive
about the Power Off. Heck, even the fire button doesn’t even do
anything! Once I started playing however, a funny thing happened - I
couldn’t stop. Just clearing the first screen required a heck of a lot
more technique and strategy than I initially gave this game credit for.
It’s hard for several reasons. The robots tend to move side-to-side over
the ladders, and your timing needs to be impeccable to scale one
untouched. It doesn’t help that it can be aggravatingly hard to get
lined up properly with the ladder (much like Ebivision’s Alfred
Challenge). Even more frustrating is the fact that no matter how many
blocks you’ve collected, once you die the board is completely
repopulated! I can’t tell you how many times I shouted the "F" word
playing this game, especially when getting killed with only one or two
blocks left. I do appreciate the innovative scoring system, which
rewards the player for picking up consecutive blocks (their values
increase by increments). Once you finally clear the screen (quite a
feat), you proceed to another level with a different ladder layout and a
new set of robots. The graphics are clean-looking, the robots are cool,
and I like how your little guy scampers around. The audio is lame, and
except for the musical title screen, there’s not much to hear. Speaking
of the title screen, I like how it scrolls instructions, but I think the
text may have lost a little in translation, like when it claims robots
are "haunting" the rooms.
Revenge of the Apes (Games of the Century 2003) C-
This recently-resurrected old Fox
prototype is technically impressive, but leaves something to be desired
in terms of gameplay. Obviously inspired by Planet of the Apes, you
control a man marooned on a planet crawling with apes. To escape, he’ll
need to make his way through numerous forest, river, village, desert,
and cave screens to reach safety. The scenery is fairly chunky but the
characters look good. In most screens, multiple apes approach from the
left or right, and you shoot them for points. There are three types of
apes: harmless chimps, fearsome orangutans, and gorillas that can shoot!
I really like how your guy wades through the river with water up to his
chest. Unfortunately, he can also get stuck in the scenery, which is
frustrating. The scoring system is worthless, since you can just stay on
one screen and shoot wave and wave of regenerating apes to pad your
score. A better challenge is to see how many times you can escape before
running out of life. While the gameplay is admittedly weak, several
newly-added features make this game respectable. When captured, you’re
treated to a full-screen graphic of a man behind bars, and it looks
terrific. There’s also a Statue of Liberty ending which is equally
impressive. You can also briefly glimpse the original ending, which
looks pretty pathetic by comparison. And I can’t forget to mention the
incredible soundtrack. While the unconventional music sounds terribly
rough and distorted at first, these unique, edgy tunes fit the game well
and really grow on you. Overall, Revenge of the Apes is a mediocre game,
but the notable enhancements make this a must-have for collectors. This
game can be ordered from Atari Age.
Pick Up (Games of the Century 2002) C
This unreleased 1983 Fox game was
made available for the first time at the 2002 Classic Gaming Expo.
Apparently its subject matter was considered somewhat risqué by
early-80s standards, but the storyline and gameplay are remarkably
original. You are a guy out to win over a girl by collecting the
following gifts for her: a car, a flower, money, perfume, a wine glass,
and a heart. These objects move side-to-side overhead, and by shooting
guided missiles you try to collect one of each. Shooting the same item
twice will cost you a life (or "chance", as this game calls it). The
objects you’ve collected are displayed on the bottom on the screen, so
you know what not to aim for. Collecting one of each item looks
deceptively easy, but you often have to "thread the needle" to reach
items at the very top of the screen. It’s an interesting concept but to
be honest it's not terribly fun. Once you’ve gathered all six items, you
grab your lady by the hand and take her to the next screen, which shows
a tiny hotel with two windows. This where you really score! After going
through the front door, you hear some footsteps and see the shades get
pulled down. Five seconds later your guy emerges, revitalized and ready
to take on the next level! What a stud! In case you didn’t notice, Pick
Up isn’t the most politically correct game. If not for the fact that you
can switch the roles of the man and woman, the National Organization for
Women would probably have already clamped down on this one.
Gunfight (Xype 2001)
The successor to Outlaw has
finally arrived 23 years later, and it's outstanding. Gunfight's musical
intro features a superb rendition of the great Johnny Cash tune "Ring of
Fire". As if that wasn't enough to earn Gunfight an instant "A", the
gameplay itself is fast and exciting. The cowboys are well drawn, and
can fire two bullets at a time. I can't emphasize how key this feature
is, because it allows you to catch your opponent in various crossfires.
Actually, you'll need to shoot him twice, since the first shot just
takes off his hat! There is an impressive array of obstacles that
separate the fighters, including cactus, stage coaches, rocks, arrows,
and even a saloon! Using the right difficulty switch, you can select
between a human opponent and a fairly skilled CPU outlaw. The left
switch adjusts the speed of the bullets, and the black/white switch
enables horizontal bouncing. On top of everything, there are FOUR
distinct gameplay variants. The first is your standard shoot-out, the
winner being the first player to take down the other one seven times.
The second variation, "six shooter", only gives you six shots before you
have to pick up some more ammo. The "escape" variation lets the left
player shoot at a defenseless right player, who tries to survive until
the counter expires. Finally, a "score" variation lets players earn
points by shooting obstacles. I can't say enough good things about
Gunfight. I can only hope to see more new quality games like this one
for the 2600.
1 or 2 players
Marble Craze (Xype
This new 2600 title offers some
refreshingly original gameplay and unique control. It’s based upon the
old board game where you tilt a board on two axis in order to guide a
marble through a maze. Marble Craze requires you to use two paddle
controllers at the same time, and that's a first. The controls feel
pretty comfortable once you get the hang of them, and bars on the edge
of the screen help keep you orientated. In each of the 18 stages, you
guide a large white ball around contiguous screens, trying to reach the
end of the maze before timer runs out. The first few mazes have walls,
but the advanced stages require a great deal of skill. Scattered "power
bars" provide bonuses such as extra time or bonus points. Marble Craze
delivers some fine split-screen competitive action, but what’s really
charming about Marble Craze is how it pays constant homage to classic
Atari games. Some mazes are taken from old Atari games (the blue maze in
Adventure for example), and you’ll even find mazes in the shape of
classic Atari characters (Pac-Man, Space Invader, ET). My only complaint
is that it can be hard to determine which direction you need to go. But
overall, this is some inspired stuff that’s both fun and addicting.
There's a nice title screen also. Xype continues its winning streak.
1 or 2 players
Dark Mage (Greg
Troutman 1997) C+
What's this - a text adventure on
the 2600?! Okay, now we’re talking some hardcore old-school gaming!!
It’s been quite a while since I’ve played one of these, and Dark Mage
brought back a lot of fond memories. Text adventures were originally
made famous by a little company called Infocom in the early 80s, with
their classic home computer titles like Zork, Enchanter, and Hitchhikers
Guides to the Galaxy. Dark Mage is primitive but definitely playable.
The text is large, minimal, and easy-to-read despite the ugly
yellow-on-red color scheme. Well-designed controls allow you to move in
four directions, talk, take, give, use items, and check your inventory.
Once you get a feel for it, you can quickly move from one area to
another. Like all text adventures, the main idea is to collect items and
use them to unlock new parts of the game. There’s a lot of trial and
error involved, so expect to see this message a lot: "You can’t do that
here". It doesn’t help that some of the puzzles don’t make a lot of
sense (use a small dog to subdue an ogre? huh?) You’ll also soon realize
that you need to map out your progress on paper to keep from getting
lost. Despite its flaws, I found myself drawn into this little
adventure. Just the fact that it runs on the 2600 has got to be worth
Want to read more? Check out
What better way to celebrate the last issue of
Retrogaming Times than with some really bad jokes. These were jokes
that I came up with while walking my dog. I just took names of popular
video games and came up with bad puns on them. I would say that I hope
you enjoy them, but I know better.
What is a slang name for security at a nude beach?
Answer - Moon Patrol
What comes after Map O?
Answer - Mappy
What do you call a part time mosquito?
Answer - A Tempest (get it Temp Pest as is
temporary pest, I know it is bad)
What did they call the magician who got drafted?
Answer- The Wizard of Wor
How would you get money out of a river bank?
Answer - With a River Raid
This is the last spotlight on deserving sites.
There are literally thousands of classic video game sites on the net, a
small cry from a hundred or so that were there when I first opened this
site back in February 1997. But like everything else on the internet,
there are more everyday with some specializing in one system or even one
game and others that cover everything. So let us look at a handful of
sites and enjoy them. After this, you are on your own to find the
sites. Google on!
Champ Games Fan Site
Back in 1996 and 1997 in the
early days of MAME, there was a company that did something great! They
recreated original arcade games and then did enhanced versions and put
them together on one disc and sold them online. For a few years, they
offered some truly great games from Champ Kong (Donkey Kong) to
Centipedem (you should be able to guess this one). They did eight games
in all and most featured both versions, original and enhanced. I
remember buying a few and still have the originals. But in 1998, they
went out of business right before they were to release enhanced versions
of Frogger and Burgertime (I was anxiously awaiting Burgertime). While
I do not know the reasons why they went out of business, lawsuits may
have been a factor. Nintendo is notorious for defending their
properties and Donkey Kong is one of their most cherished properties.
But now this site offers downloads of all the games and while they are
DOS games, I could get them to work on my Windows XP machine.
So head over and grab these games before they
disappear again. And if you want to read the first time I spoke of
these, go all the way back to issue #2 to read about my review of
ChampKong. Here is the link to the website:
If you go on my website you will
see that I have a section for arcade ports. I list all the home
versions of classic (and some not so classic) arcade games. While my
list is pretty extensive, someone pointed out what may be an even bigger
list. It would be the L.A.P.P. which stands for List of Arcade and
Pinball Ports. So if you want to see even more arcade games that had
home conversions, run over and check this site out:
This stuff means absolutely
nothing to me, but Jim Krych sent this link along, so I will pass it
on. It has something to do with putting games on chips and using them.
How? Where? Why? It is too technical for me, but if you like it
technical, this site should do the trick.
Atari 2600 on a Chip
This is an intriguing concept,
but as with the previous website, it gets pretty technical. Yes, it is
another link from Jim Krych, but when a guy can create his own arcade
joystick, you have to believe he understands all the stuff they are
talking about on this page. For me, I just want to play games. I leave
all the technical stuff to Jim. But if you want to keep abreast on the
development of the Atari 2600 on a chip, this site is for you.
I know that many of you are regular readers of
Retrogaming Times. And many of you want to know where to go now for
your fix of classic game reading? Well, I have some suggestions for
you. All of them have been mentioned in past issues, but with the end
here, it is a good time to point them out once again.
What once was a great print
magazine is now a great free downloadable magazine. It features all the
stuff you loved in the paper edition only this time it is free! So now
you can hop over and read it! I am sure that I will submit a few
articles down the road (I wrote for it during its original run).
The Atari Times
Another great online source for
Atari information. And at the end of the year, they release a
compendium which has received rave reviews. So check out the site and
enjoy some great articles.
Here is another great online
newsletter with the focus on Atari, hence the name. As of writing,
there has been 42 issues, so it is not some new magazine. This one does
also cover some of the Atari computer as well as the newer systems like
the Jaguar and Lynx.
Russ Perry's great newsletter
that is about the Atari 2600 (not sure why I keep pointing this stuff
out when you can easily figure it out from the title). It is actually a
print newsletter, but they also offer alot of articles online for you to
read. It is currently on issue #75.
While there is only a few issues
per year, they are all very good issues. This newsletter has been out
since 1999 and is on issue #16. Most of the back issues are available
Only on its second issue and it
is already impressive. This one covers all the systems and is very well
So as you can see, there is plenty of classic
game newsletters online for you to read. Things sure have changed since
Retrogaming Times first came out and there were no online newsletters
(only offline). I like to think that I helped in a small way to bring
about this major growth in online newsletters and feel comfortable
knowing that my readers will not be without options.
So, Retrogaming Times is ceasing its illustrious run. End of an
era. Game over, man; game over. And, in the parlance of the
newsletter's subject, "Congraturation, this story is happy end." This kind
of thing seems to have happened a lot in the classic
gaming hobby lately. Many fan publications are struggling or ceasing altogether, and I've noticed
several long-time collectors selling off their
collections in part or entirely, citing lack of time, money, or too much "maturity," whatever that is.
Ends always cause me to look back on beginnings, and
lately I've been reminiscing about the days when I
first started collecting classic video games, about nine years ago. Ahh, the heady days of the mid-1990s,
when the N64 was the Next Big Thing, when the melodius
sounds of Hootie and the Blowfish filled the air, when
moviegoers were treated to such cinematic classics as
Kevin Costner's Waterworld and Mighty
Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. Classic games could be found seemingly everywhere; I picked up good
stuff at least once a month, and eBay hadn't yet
jacked up demand for everybody's worthless crap. That's when men were men, dammit! Yep, I remember
that fabulous time fondly, when I first started
getting back into the games of my youth. And that's when it hit me: I have become nostalgic for a time
when I was nostalgic.
I panicked. Am I caught in a horrible cycle? Is my
life doomed to become a Möbius strip of recursive
nostalgia, where I'm so mired in the past I forget there's a present? Will it grow so bad that I won't
be able to finish this article because I'll be too
busy reminiscing about the first paragraph? And MAN, was that a good paragraph! I particularly liked the
"Congraturation" remark. I really stuck it to the
So, where was I? Oh, yeah... worry.
I was worried. I started wondering if my retrogaming
obsession was really a good thing. After nine years
of collecting, I have tons of classic games, but not very many modern ones. I started asking questions.
Have I been missing out? Have I started idolizing old
games simply because they're old? Did I leave the oven on? Which is a better investment -- high-yield
stocks or low-risk mutual funds? I had a lot on my
But then I realized that none of this mattered. OK,
I'm preoccupied with old games, but so what? I've
never been an "early adopter," so I wouldn't have many modern games in any case. And tons of games in my
collection were plenty modern (or not yet released)
when I started collecting. Most of my collection was "new to me" when I acquired it anyway, so I've enjoyed
far more than I may have missed out on. And with
games by Froggo in my collection, I'm not likely to start idolizing ALL old games any time soon. I hadn't
left the oven on. A well-balanced portfolio is the
surest way to financial security. My mind was at ease.
So nostalgia has its place. It can get out of hand,
but there's nothing wrong with remembering your past
fondly. After all, as you grow older, you'll only acquire more and more of it. Treat those memories
As the final issue of Retrogaming Times comes to a
close, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all
its readers the best possible future. Just think of it as a rosy past that hasn't happened yet.
In a couple of my articles I’ve mentioned a famous video game player
Todd “Mr. Activision” Rogers. Todd and I have exchanged emails/calls
several times and he has been willing to do an interview with me for a
while. Considering how many times he’s been interviewed by others, I
doubted that I could ask better questions, but Todd assured me that our
Retrogaming Times readers would enjoy my questions to the champ. IMHO,
he’s one of, if not the greatest video game player of all time, with
numerous world records, marathon games and even some high scores that
have led to debates by our current retrogaming community. You have
probably already heard of Todd and/or his records, but if not, then
check out this site dedicated to Todd & some of his records.
As the adage goes, no matter how good you are, there is always someone
better out there. Todd has been and still is that someone who is usually
better than the rest of us. So let’s “Ask the Champ” some questions
that may help all of us to score higher.
RT: We appreciate your efforts to keep track of and document your
scores, especially to dig up some from 20+ years ago. Even better, it is
great to see such a valuable resource like yourself giving back to the
community – ie your efforts as a referee at
Tell us about TG and what you do for them?
TR: Certainly, I would love to give back to the gaming community with
all my expertise to pass on my gaming knowledge to other inspired video
gamers. I think that is the least an accomplished gamer like myself
should be doing. As for my duties with Twin Galaxies I usually
participate as a referee in verifying scores at live events to_ make
sure that the players abide by all of the TG rules and settings. I also
am the chief referee for all the Atari platforms and also the Game Cube
for gaming submissions.
Todd promotes and is a referee for Twin Galaxies.
RT: Efforts like Twin Galaxies are great because no matter how old you
are, or from what era you began playing video games, you can see what is
a good or great score for a given game/setting, and then compete by
submitting your scores on their site. This is true even for
games/versions where there are no current high scores – as TG will
verify your score and add it to their site. Do you continue to take on
new challenges and play new games, different platforms, variations or
settings that you have never tried?
TR: Why yes this is a good way to broaden ones gaming skills by not
stagnating yourself to one specific game type. Yes there are gamers out
there that specialize in one field or type of video game but not me, I
love the challenge of something new.
RT: Even though we realize that we’ll never be the best, many retro
gamers still have that urge to compete. We know that we can get better
with practice. What do you suggest as some of the best tips on improving
1) Learn from one’s own mistakes – do not keep playing the same
way, or dying the same way.
2) Use a VCR to record your games, and go back and analyze
mistakes, learn the game’s nuances better.
3) Don’t play to long on any setting – keep fresh.
4) Don’t play a game too long where your score is not improving.
Try some another day with a fresh approach, or maybe even wait a long
5) Be focused, never try a serious game with possible
6) Get someone else watch you and tell you what else you may be
7) Play with someone else and work together to get better.
8) Practice games at harder settings.
9) Be very creative, original, out of the box, and try different
10) Read those tips and tricks and hints on the internet or in old
RT: Playing a game programmed with a pause or on a system with a
built-in pause can make a world of difference, and often makes playing
home versions much more fun, and more worth my time. In this case, no
one is cheating. But there are many home games, and of course, all
arcade games where there is no break in the action, no normal means to
pause. For recording high scores what do you feel about using an
alternative means to pause or suspend a game? Should it be allowed at
all? Considered, but given an asterisk?
TR: Hmmmm let me just say I’m a prodigy of the old school gaming, NO
pause's, NO freeze frames. I would gather to say that if you are trying
to better your game to see what next for the next time you play a
regular game sure why not. But for a recognized score or a submitted
score I wouldn’t even acknowledge it myself of you are going to pause a
game to enhance your score or time totals. We are talking about OLD
school games but for these new RPG's I guess to finish you probably
would have to have some kind of breaks or pause's in between but then
again you are talking to a gamer who’s marathoned over 60+ games and
one game in particular totaling over 80+hrs straight.
RT: Similar question that I have a strong opinion on. Do you feel that
records need to distinguish (or be split into 2 categories) between if a
real console/system were used or an emulator - especially since
emulators can more easily be tampered with, or the settings may not be
known by the player?
TR: MOST definitely there should be two separate categories. I’ve been
in some pretty heated debates with other prominent TG ref's over this
sort of venue even though the emulators are socially accepted in the
gaming community I DON’T readily recognize them just for the simple fact
that the chances of cheating are greatly enhanced by the EMU's
RT: You have excelled at the home gaming consoles from the classics to
the newer systems and many of the best gamers on these platforms are
well aware of who you are . Do you think that the online gaming
community will welcome a champion gamer like yourself the world of
online competition? Are there any gamers who you’ll look forward to
competing against, or competing with?
TR: Well I’m sure that the online gaming community is in a league
of their own but I would never say “No” to an open challenge from
players like John "Fatality" Wendel or any other online gamers for that
matter. It’s the challenge that keeps us players coming back to strive
for the best in ones self. I don’t think that they would care too much
about who I am unless they loose time after time to me, and then the
light bulb will go on. I am already participating in online games like
“Twisted Metal Black” and I enjoy the realism of how games have evolved
and to think how many people can play at the same time from around the
globe. It’s not just your living room with your neighbors anymore.
RT: You have obviously excelled at the shortest of games, like 2600
“Dragster” to the longest running marathon type games 2600 “Journey
Escape”. What tips can you give a game player for attempting a marathon
game? Consider these:
RT: Health - make sure that you are up to it and not harming your
TR: Very true if you have heart troubles you should never try a marathon
. . . It’s just simply not worth it.
Heart troubles. Here’s Todd with Barbie
Benton - she can really make one’s heart pound.
RT: Age – it is much easier when you are young and healthy especially
for a marathon game.
TR: Age definitely has its effects on your health, but as for marathon
games, I don’t see there being any troubles (for me) as of yet.
RT: Duration - know how long you want to play and have a good reason
to play for that long.
TR: Exactly what are your efforts going to be worth Personal or
RT: Functional system, controllers, power supply, recording system.
TR: YES! You must have good hardware and record your game if you want to
be recognized for its authenticity.
RT: Know your game – read the rulebook, is there a pause, know when
you can take a break in a game, and if there is no break then what will
you do about it.
TR: Well from personal experience I haven’t had to go to the potty even
with a 60hour game. But if the player is not so fortunate then they
should make sure they have accommodations that wouldn’t impede the game
at hand if there is no pause.
RT: That is amazing! How about location - Have you ever played marathon games while at a
location where you really could eat, drink and relieve your self and
thus do everything in a normal day, except of course to sleep while
TR: Yes I have been in situations like that but oddly enough the
longest I’ve played a MARATHON game away from home like in the Arcade
has been 40 hours. I would not suggest playing a marathon at a friend’s
house due to the lack of reliability.
RT: Having a good environment – such as good lighting, no noise, no
distractions, atmosphere, temperature, liquids to drink, fruit etc?
TR: That is the ideal environment but, a true Video Game Athlete should
be able to play under ANY kinds of situations. The catering of food,
liquids and temperature is always welcome to the gamer for making
his/her game better. But lets not get to cozy because the minute you
loose the ZONE is when you get tired and loose your game.
RT: Do you still enjoy playing games on the old platforms as much as
you used to, perhaps even more so, since you, like everyone else has a
job, and a life to live. With less free time, you probably really
welcome the VG as a means to unwind. Which system(s)/platform(s) are
TR: Well that is quite easy I still play the old Atari 2600. It’s my
favorite not only because that’s where I got my stardom from but the
games were more of an interest to me. Though the games of today are
great in graphics, and offer their own kind of enjoyment, I do not enjoy
them quite as much.
RT: How do you pick what game to play next? Do you typically play games
that you have not yet played - to establish your first high score. Play
non-marathon type games where you are still getting better? Games which
others are currently playing – ie submitting scores - and you join in
the challenge? Or just pretty much random?
TR: Well I try to pick games that interest me most at first. Then I see
which games I’m lacking so I can take up their volume too. You can NEVER
have too many high scores and you can never play enough systems. I think
I currently have high scores on 20+ platforms now so keep them systems
and games coming.
RT: Even if I were really good at a given game, I still wouldn’t have
enough time in my life to play many if any marathon games. But, I’d like
to know at what point in a given game that it hits the “marathon” point.
When does it reach its peak difficulty? It would seem to me that this
may be the final frontier of classic _video game history. To archive all
the classics, so that we can know if we’d need to play for 10 minutes, 1
hour, or 1 day to get there. I think that this may be a fairly
attainable goal, since today we can so easily hack or dissect the code
and read it, or modify it to play in various ways, or at various
settings. Maybe someone can start to document this – perhaps Twin
Galaxies. OK, I need to post a question . . . Do you think that this may
be an attainable goal or see something like this happening? Documenting
the round, level, duration in a game where it maxes out?
TR: Wow that’s a loaded question. Well I think that the average
player has goals of his/her own and at some point they want to make
their gaming goals a reality. The key to that is determination and never
give up. But some gamers however have an inherent ability to play better
then some other gamers no matter how hard they try. It’s like school.
Some students learn more rapidly than others at a specific course. I
tend to lean more toward the obsessive side to where if I set my mind to
something I NEVER give up till it’s achieved. The bulk of my gaming
passion comes from the challenge that I couldn't accept the idea of a
computer beating me. So inadvertently I played these games unaware that
I made scores so high that other players couldn't match and they would
get outraged at times or just plain have jealousy toward me. So some
times it can have adverse effects by being so determined at the game
that you want to master. On a lighter note I already have compiled a
video tape of my high scores and I call it "The BEST of Todd Rogers". It
will have 8 hours worth of classic games and high scores and how to
achieve them. This has been in the works since I’ve been back in the
gaming industry and maybe it will fill in some of those questions that
you just asked. Players of all sorts may find it to be the holy grail to
many of their questions once it is released.
RT: What is your preferred joystick (brand) or type of controller for
various systems (for those systems where you actually have a choice)?
TR: I am traditional I prefer the original Atari joystick for many of
the classic games. But I have tried others like the EPYX stick and i
like that one but I hated the WICO-SICKO sticks as I so call them.
RT: What are your maximum durations of games played for various systems
(arcade & home)?
TR: The longest duration on the home platform is 86 hours on “Journey
Escape” on the Atari 2600 and Arcade platform is_ just over 40 hours on
“Gyruss” Marathon settings. I have also compiled a list of how many
games that I’ve marathoned. It is hovering around 64 and this is for
about 15 different systems.
RT: Do you enjoy playing 2 player co-op/simultaneous games, or pretty
much solo only?
TR: Well pretty much solo games. Other than that, I typically only enjoy
2 player competitive games where you fight each other to test your
RT: What are some of your favorite 2 players co-op games (perhaps 2
player Asteroids, Mario Bros. or Gauntlet)? And what are your favorite
competitive, head-to-head games (perhaps Archon, Pitstop II, or more or
less Fighting Games) ?
TR: Since I usually don't favor the 2 player co-op games I will probably
just say Mario Bros. But as for fighting games - Street Fighter. There
was an instance in the Mall of America show of 2002 in which a player
beat 30+ players in a row at “Street Fighter” but since I was
representing Twin Galaxies as a ref. The sponsors of that contest didn't
really want me to challenge that good gamer so it never happened. I
would like to have thought that he would have challenged me after the
show just for giggles but he did not. On the other hand Billy Mitchell
and myself decided to play an enhanced version of “Pac-Man” in where we
put a piece of card board in front of the whole screen covering it. We
then played “Pac-Man” strictly by memory and we called it BLIND
“Pac-Man” our final scores needless to say were not what we would
normally get on “Pac-Man” what a classic showdown.
RT: Have you ever had a power surge or blackout wipe out a game or
entire system? Has a system or power supply ever died otherwise during
play? Did you lose any good scores then? Do you now employ any
prevention or backups today – such as an uninterruptable power supply?
TR: OH HELL YES I’ve blown out Four Atari 2600's, Two Atari
5200's, One Colecovision, and One Intellivision. There was a time in
particular that I was playing “Worm Whomper” on the Intellivision and
after many hours of game play I decided to take a photo of my score. It
was over 20 Million and just after I took the photo one of my gaming
buddies accidentally hit the power switch and bumped the intellivision
and the game was LOST. I had to replay the game to eventually max it out
at 99 million. It was the first game that I marathoned for 72+ hours and
the remainder of the 8 days to finally max the score at 99 million. Yes
now days I employ a Minute Man charger that enables me to play games
like Brien Kings "Frostbite Freddie" on a PC without the worry of a
loss of a game if there is a power failure and anyone knows living in
Florida, the lightning capital of the world, how energy surges can be
and with games that you can marathon or better yet games you just love
to play with out interruption.
Brien Kings "Frostbite Freddie" see:
RT: Similarly, how many joysticks or controllers have you broken in
your time? Were you able to quickly swap in fresh ones to save a long
running, or marathon games?
TR: I have broken over 100 joysticks / controllers since 1977
Atari’s Coleco’s, Intellivision’s . . . yeah I put them all to the test
like for instance I was promoting a joystick from a company called
SUNCOM and they boasted the unbreakable stick I think it was the Tac-2
well I played Decathlon using this joystick and as we all know Decathlon
is the joystick tester or killer none the less the joystick wasn’t
“Todd-proof” and I broke it. Have I ever broken a joystick while playing
a marathon game? I don’t remember so at least nothing really important
comes to mind.
RT: One final series of questions. A player needs to be good or
excellent in several different ways, or they can never be one of the
best at a game. On some games you may need to excel in just about every
skill, and certainly you have. Please comment on these skills, and tell
us how good you are at each of them?
TR: Shoot. I’ll give it a whirl.
RT: Memory – knowing which pattern or path when there is no pause or
chance to use a visual aid.
TR: Very good. This is how you hone your gaming prowess and for me it
was easy since pattern-like games are simple for me.
RT: Sensory / awareness – collecting and processing ear and eye
TR: Excellent. I’ve always excelled at reflexes. My father would
always tell me to stop that thumping as my legs would always bounce up
and down due to hyper-activity.
RT: Coordination – every move you make is correct and you execute
control exactly as you desired.
TR: Very good. This is where you incorporate the memory part. Memory
works hand in hand with the coordination of what’s next in some games.
RT: A 6th sense, guessing or luck – making a choice and it usually turns
out to the right one.
TR: GOOD yes I’ve always had an ability to pick up on the manner of
things and reactions so thus predictions and patterns are easy.
RT: Experience – use your experiences to help you avoid repeating exact
or similar mistakes, or employ tricks, patterns, maneuvers, or caution.
TR: VERY GOOD. ALWAYS and I repeat ALWAYS look at how you are playing a
game and if the strategy doesn’t work then why try to die again - over
and over. The same logic applies to real life so if you put your hand on
the stove when its hot and you get burnt you now know its hot and not to
do it again . The next attempt you should then try putting your hand on
the hot stove after you pour ice water on it . . . you won’t get burnt
as bad if any at all it’s just a simple over come method. It may not be
normal but it works.
RT: Intelligence / creativity – learning as you go and making sound
decisions or finding creative solutions based upon your intelligence.
TR: Good. This is where you again apply the concept of learning the
game which you are playing. The master gamers will always seek the best
possible way to execute a move with the least possibility of death. Self
preservation and the willingness to see to it that they won’t make hasty
decisions when any situation arises.
RT: Endurance – Need we ask you? – playing for a long time without
TR: VERY GOOD. Well since I’ve marathoned more games than most gamers I
would be confident to say you need to learn how far your body will go
and ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing and for what
cause? Some games are simply just not worth the headache (duration
required) to play a marathon and still only end up in second or third
RT: Todd. We really appreciate your patience and enthusiasm for this
interview. These were not your ordinary questions, but hopefully those
that our readers enjoyed hearing about. Thank you much for your time and
we are all looking forward to your video. Please let us know on your
site when "The BEST of Todd Rogers” becomes available.
TR: Well I thank you Alan and the RetroGaming Times Online
magazine for taking the time and to have me being an included part of
this, the possible final issue. I have done numerous interviews over the
past 22 years Live, Newsprint, Magazines, TV ,Cable and I found this
particular interview to be one of the best in my opinion. The questions
were well thought and covered a vast array of game play with strategy's
and I hope it will convey and pass on the very best of my video gaming
knowledge to upcoming and more experienced gamers.
Todd Mr. Activision Rogers
TwinGalaxies Atari, Intellivision & Game Cube World Wide Referee
If you have any more question to “Ask the Champ”. Todd can be
reached at: toddrogers64NOSSPAM@yahoo.com
Alan “Mr. Many Faces of” Hewston can be reached at:
Here are the results of your votes for the best video games having
their original version released in 1981. As usual, I got some help from
the RT staff to narrow the list down to 40 titles – which is always
difficult. I left off a few titles that folks wanted to see on the
list. And here are some that didn’t make our cut - Crush Crumble &
Chomp, Lazarian, Pleiads, Video Hustler & Funky Fish.
With little time to ask you to vote, I still posted to the newsgroup,
RGVC, and then emailed everyone who had voted in the past. We had 88
voters, a couple of the 1980 voters forgot to vote here I guess. Many
thanks for all of your votes.
1981 brought on another close race, exciting to me, the vote tabulator,
but not near the rush that 1980 had. “Donkey Kong” pulled it off with
an astounding 82% of the voters selecting it. This broke the previous
#1 percentage just earned by “Pac-Man” in 1980 (72%). And Galaga in 2nd
place had 80% of the votes . . . Wow!
OK, so on with the winners.
Top 10 from1981
(# of votes) & Title
(72) Donkey Kong
(61) Ms Pac-Man
(50) Wizard of Wor
(46) Qix & Qix II
(31) Castle Wolfenstein
The next 5:
(24) Omega Race
Here are the rest, since you did not get to see the ballot: (15)
Bosconian, (15) Turbo, (12) Lock ‘n Chase, (12) Super Cobra, (11) Mouse
Trap, (10) Space Fury, (10) Armor Attack, (9) Space Dungeon, (8) Quest
for the Rings, (8) Make Trax, (8) Solar Fox, (7) Kickman, (7) Temple
of/Upper Reaches of Apshai, (6) Cosmic Avenger, (5) Jawbreaker, (5)
Looping, (5) Pick Axe Pete, (4) Threshold, (4) Turtles, (3) Moon
Shuttle, (3) Crossfire, (2) Alpine Ski, (2) Super Heli, (1) Space
Fortress & (0) Armored Car. I voted for all ten of the 1980 winners!
But 7 of my choices were in the bottom of the barrel here.
Part way through the survey, I was informed that I forgot the most
popular original-concept Atari game ever - “Yar’s Revenge”. Rats! I
mean Ray! This baby probably would have cracked the top 15, or maybe
top 10. Now we’ll never know.
1981 was a good year, but overall, 1982 appears to have been our voters
favorite from 1980 through 1984. Voters had a hard time getting their
lists down to 10, and the voters picked more titles (per voter) 9.61
than any other year – way to go 1982.
Here’s how they ranked:
2) 1983 9.36
3) 1981 9.09
4) 1980 8.87
5) 1984 8.48
In place of a separate article, I’d like to pay a small tribute to
the “Castle Wolfenstein” creator, and co-founder of Muse Software, Silas
Warner, who passed away recently at the age of 54. Silas was a mentor
and friend to many who worked with or under him, including “Space Taxi”
creator John Kutcher. I was not able to do much research on short
notice, and considering my plethora of projects this month, but he was
credited with the first talking video game “Castle Wolfenstein. Here
are some links to check out.
Alan Hewston can be contacted at
This review written with “Do the Donkey Kong” playing over and over
again in my head. And click below to see the results from all the surveys from the years
RT is ending, and after some reflection and a few bulk buys of Mad Dog
20/20 I can say this: We won. In the end, we the cranky semi brain-addled nostalgic old farts of video
gaming, have come out victorious in our quest for Classic Gaming's recognition as a watershed moment in technology, in art, and in history;
in an attempt for it to be remembered. Think
about it. What are many of the symbols, the terms, and culture used
nowadays in popular culture? Where do they come from? A lot of them come
from our days in a darkened room wiggling a controller around in front
of a cathode-ray tube.
'Space Cadet', a term first used by a bouncing orange robot to talk
smack at us in an attempt to get our quarters, has entered the English
One who shows difficulty in grasping reality or in responding
appropriately to it; a spacy person: “the screwups and the space cadets
in other words, the fringe element” (Linda
(taken from dictionary.com)
Video games have become a major influence in the realm of contemporary
art. I'm in the thick of it my own damn self, kids, please believe
me. The now-finished art show 'Super-Flat!', dealing with current
Japanese artists had several artworks involving videogames. Earlier this
year there was the Art Exhibit, 'Bang the
Machine: Computer Gaming Art and Artifacts' at the Yerba Buena Center
for the Arts in Stanford University, showing nothing but video-game
JakksPacific has the top-selling toy in America right now: those damned
Atari and Namco TV joysticks that one can either flame for not getting
the sound right on Dig-Dug, or applaud because
they make Classic Games 'cool' again. The glass is half-full, kids, it's
Seeing as how this is the last chance I'll ever have to beat my chest on
this virtual soapbox: let's leave nothing unsaid. The forum RT is
leaving behind isn't empty: Classic Gamer
Magazine has returned, so the monthly (Monthly? Did I get that right
Cav?) fix of Classic ruminations is just
moving, and with a familiar helmsman. I see no better heir to the white
porclain throne Tom's levaing behind. take a seat, Cav.
RT is partially responsible for some of my favorite memories: CGE 2000
and 2001. Free Beer will go a long way towards currying favor. Remember
that Kids. I sure as hell will.
It's time to take a page from Tom Z. here and move on. Classic Gaming is
fully recognized as the start, the Big-Bang, of the cultural
contribution the post-Baby-Boomer generation
is making to the First-World dialogue. So as we all sit back tonight, in
our own private wakes for a webzine that let us
speak to our own, raise a glass in memory to the benefits of
being cranky and not giving up.
I recommend some Prestone with a Geritol chaser.
(Geoff Voigt is currently crying himself to sleep. The Pansy. He's also
graduating with a BA in Studio Art from CSU Los Angeles this June. All
Emails from email@example.com [addy intentionally munged] will
get a reply streaked with paint and coffee. This is his sollemn vow)
The X1541 Cable - is it worth buying one to play more games?
A 25th hour submission to RT #80, since Tom was not quite done. So
bless Tom if he added this article for you to read.
I’m a firm believer that one should play the games on the original
system. But you need the games on disk or cart. For quite a while the
emulation scene ruled the day, as there were not a lot of other choices.
Either you had the original system, controllers and the games, and all
were functional, or you were stuck with emulation. Today, most systems
and controllers are relatively cheap, and easier to acquire, but still
not always the games. Thus, the X1541 cable and other such tools/devices
will bring the games to you. There’s only a token investment of money,
and then of course your time – in proportion to how many games you want
to acquire. Once you have everything in place, you can truly recapture
those old memories, and also discover some new ones.
A few readers have asked me to cover the use of the X1541 cable,
and other such hardware. I’d also like to tell about my experiences with
the Atari 2600 Cuttle Cart, and the Atari 7800 Cuttle Cart II (coming
soon), and the SIO2PC cable (got mine from AtariAge.com this Christmas)
for the Atari 8 bit computer line. All of these products do have their
own web sites with help files, and much better explanations than I can
ever provide. I am just here to be that motivational voice telling you
to go and DO IT! Their web sites have great explanations on the workings
of their hardware and software (to work the file transfer) between your
classic system/computer or disk drive and your modern day PC. Their FAQs
will get you going, so start there. Then check out gaming sites that
support emulation, since most of the same game files will be used.
Finally, they may tell you how to make your own, or who to contact and
of course where to send payment to buy one. I’ll summarize a few links
at the end.
Let us first start by reminding you that acquiring these games for
free for emulation, or to play on your original system is probably NOT
legal. If, however, you do currently own the original game on a floppy
disk, cassette tape, cartridge or other original product, then you are
supposedly allowed to have an archival copy. This archival copy would be
especially useful to have if the old disks no longer work, or they cause
undesirable effects, like knocking and banging on your disk drive. But
you must own the original for this to be legal – otherwise you are a
software pirate. There may be some loophole that you can download the
games once and then play them for a trial basis, delete them right
afterwards etc. Idunno.
OK, now onto what to do.
There are 2 choices here. 1) Download games from the internet to
play on your own classic system. Or, 2) archive games that you have
originals for, and send them over to your PC for permanent storage or
safekeeping. Likewise, you can send them to the PC, then back again, and
in some cases you may ultimately be able to make a backup copy. But most
of these programs do not have copy protection or hacking capabilities,
so you probably need to hack or break the games first, before
transferring. Games being downloaded from the internet have already been
broken. I’ll only talk about the first choice, downloading them form the
You must first figure out what the game(s) you want to play and
locate them. Go ahead and start that process now, as you never know when
the files will be gone – like MAME files. Download those any time, or at
least make sure that you can find enough of the ones that you want
before purchasing the hardware cable. Know what the game is called, or
what version(s) you want. When in doubt, you might as well download
anything that seems like it is the right game and then proceed. I find
it best to make a file folder for each game that you are looking for and
use it to place the files you download there. You’ll also use this same
folder to store the unzipped files. That will keep everything organized,
otherwise you may end up mixing files up later. If you are only doing a
few games, no big deal, but if a lot, then keep up with it. The game
files are usually referred to as disk images, or ROM images. Some games
will require several files, or an entire diskette, or more full of data.
You must acquire the correct X1541 cable – specifically made to
work for your OS. There are only a few choices, but read up on it and
still double check and ask the author/seller which is the right cable
for you. They are more than happy to assist. I would recommend spending
the extra few dollars to buy the longer length cable. It is not needed,
but it will be too late later.
You also need to acquire and install the software to make the file
transfers possible. You can do this is advance as well, but you will
really only understand the process when you have the X1541 cable, a PC,
the transfer program, a 1541 or similar disk drive, and the disk/game
image. The default is the “Star Commander” which is what I used
successfully. One trouble that I had was that I tried to use a 1541 II
disk drive and had no luck. So plan to have a standard 1541 or be
prepared for more trouble shooting.
You’ll need to learn how to manipulate the file systems on both
your PC and the 1541 diskette via the Star Commander. Make sure that you
know how this works before you really attempt to transfer the files. I’d
suggest using a formatted disk with some files on it that are not needed
any longer, or you have backed up. Just play with the file management
system until you understand what things look like and how to rename, or
delete files, and now how many blocks you have left on the disk etc. Oh
yes, and also how to format disks. You really should just format them
back on your C-64 system with a 1541.
The files that you will download will be zipped. Unzip those and
store them in each game’s folder. Then you will use the .t64 or .d64
images to transfer to the 1541. The Star Commander will transfer them
from the PC format (.d64 or .t64) into the regular 1541 format, such as
Keep track of what is on each destination disk. You’ll also need
to learn about copying entire sets of files from the PC to the 1541 so
that they are all done at once and not one file at a time. Do your disk
management on the destination disk ahead of time. Try to keep only a few
games per disk and never bother putting too many games together,
certainly not mixing a couple games onto a very full diskette with a
large number of files or levels on it. You no longer need to ration your
diskettes – well maybe you do. I forgot to mention that you obviously
need to acquire some cheap 5.25” floppy disks. Make sure that they are
LOW density. A good place might be at work as people throw the old stuff
away, or thrift stores, and of course ebay. If you get IBM high density
disks they will never work on the 1541. Just toss them out.
After transferring the files to the 1541, you can then take them
back to the C-64 setup and check them out to make sure that they work.
Check them all one at a time, and probably keep a copy of all the zip
files and stuff from the PC later as well. Just group them together and
burn them on CD for safekeeping. I’m pretty sure that folks are still
illegally selling CD’s like this on the net as well. If you got no
errors along the way, but it does not work. Possibly start from scratch
and try the entire process again. Rule number 1 is to use a different
blank disk every time. And if you are into it, maybe just make two
copies while you have the setup going in the first place. Then you’ll
have an exact archival copy ready to go. Too bad I didn’t think of this
OK, now if you still have no luck with the final product, then the
most likely the disk/ROM image is bad or not compatible with your C64,
or 1541. I did not see this occur much, but it probably did once – and
I’ll never know why. Just give up and move on – there are plenty more
games out there. Also always use an external fan to keep your 1541 drive
cool. Even better, use a fan and then limit your transfer sessions to
one hour at a time. Most games will take 3 minutes tops.
Here’s some more information and links.
Joe Forster is the author of the Star Commander and you should
check out his site first.
And of course, where to buy the X1541 and which one.
I got mine from the guy in Hungary who helps distribute them. He
Oh yes, in most cases, you’ll fit the X1541 cable onto your LPT
parallel printer port, and then your usual serial port on the back of
the 1541 drive.
For C-64 game information try.
and for downloads Gamebase 64
An example of a file is for Demon Attack. DEMONATT.T64
It will come in a zip file.
X1541 for Dummies and more help at:
If you have any questions, I’d be happy to help, but I am not an
expert on the hardware or the transfer software. I would be happy to
help you jog your memory with what game is called what, or do you
remember that game called . . . that looks like . . . Alan Hewston can
be reached at
hewston95NNOO@SPPAMstratos.net If you are
looking for any games, see my stuff for trade sale at:
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