Pastfinder: A Long Lost C64 Gem

Why has it taken me almost 30 years to discover and play Pastfinder? I mean, I love shoot’em ups, so this game should have been on my radar back in the 1980s. Anyway, it is never too late to enjoy a great game, and let me say from the outset, Pastfinder is a beauty.

What’s there not to like, you are thrown thousands of years into the future on a baron planet with high radiation, you have an awesomely powerful spacecraft (called a Leeper) that is able to walk the landscape (the articulating legs look great!) and fly high to blast enemies and also drop-off supplies to the bases that desperately need them.

Pastfinder is a classic vertical shmup with a twist (think of Zaxxon, but in a vertical attribution instead of isometric) – the clever gameplay of flying and walking the landscape to avoid obstacles, together with tight controls, makes this an absolute blast! Yep, that pun was fully intended! Play this now on your C64, you won’t regret it!

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pastfinder_screen2image source: Lemon64

 

C64 Game Review: Rocket Smash Ex

Rocket_HDRGET READY Commander 64! Fly up, down, and all around, avoid the aliens or pew pew pew them with your screen penetrating laser! Scramble around the stage to collect rocket pieces to reassemble your rocket to freedom. But wait, there is more! Once the rocket is assembled, it will need to be fully fuelled (via dropped fuel cells) so you can make your escape and land on the next challenging stage!

To keep things interesting and to get the adrenaline pumping, you will need to get the objectives completed before your oxygen runs out. Alas, oxygen cells do fall from the top of the screen, so grab them to ensure you keep going, otherwise, it is curtains for Commander 64! Oh yeh, if you collide with an alien, it is instant death! Sounds all easy aye? With three difficulty levels, you will probably find yourself playing Rocket Smash Ex in either easy or normal mode. For those sadists among you, try the hard mode!

Enter the Charlie-Bravo-Mike system if you dare. Rocket Smash Ex is a frantic shoot’em-up come semi-puzzle-assembler where your twitch reflexes will be tested to the max. The control is sublime and feels second nature. The single screen gameplay is complimented by satisfying music (you’re feet will be tapping in no time) with awesome meaty sound effects. Rocket Smash Ex is exactly what your C64 is craving for – it is simply brilliant!

For more information on Rocket Smash Ex or to download the game, visit RGCD.

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image source: RGCD

Old Games Revisited: World Games

WorldGamesGame: World Games
Genre: Sports / Events
Format: Commodore 64
Media: Tape or Disk
Year: 1986
Developer: Epyx
Publisher: Epyx

As the years roll on, there are video games that have aged well and others that have not. It is no secret that Epyx had the sporting events genre video games down pat. They had all the main seasons of the year covered in their sports games, from performing breathtaking Hot Dog Aerial manoeuvres in Winter Games, to throwing a Javelin across the field in Summer Games II. They didn’t just stop with Olympic events type games. Epyx branched out to street / sub-culture sporting events style games like California Games, which was yet another exemplary title to show off the Epyx sports games pedigree.

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From all the great Epyx sports video games, one that has the most obscure and diverse events, is World Games. Don’t get me wrong, obscure does not mean it is terrible, it’s quite the opposite. The eight (8) sporting events take place across the world in their country of origin: Weightlifting – Snatch and Clean & Jerk (Russia), Slalom Skiing (France), Log Rolling (Canada), Cliff Diving (Mexico), Caber Toss (Scotland), Bull Riding (USA), Barrel Jumping (Germany) and Sumo Wrestling (Japan). Just like in previous games, World Games allows the player to compete in all events (sequentially), choosing some events or just one event. If you aren’t sure of your form, then the game does provide a practice facility. The playing mechanics may take some getting used to (pushing forward, pulling back), but persist and you will be richly rewarded.

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The level of detail in Word Games is second to none, from the inhaling and exhaling weightlifter that grips the weight bar, to the brave cliff diver that waves at you after he nails his dive. The humorous touches when you stuff your event, like the caber hammering you into the ground, are a stroke of genius. Each event feels distinct and Epyx left no stone unturned on any of them – they are all visually impressive with well-developed play mechanics. You will experience frustration in playing some events (like the Caber Toss in Scotland and Bull Riding in the US), but as mentioned previously, persistence and timing are key to your success in obtaining a gold medal.

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When it comes to crowning a gold medal winner, the developers at Epyx deserve the gong for creating sports games with great graphics, awesome sound and most importantly, loads of fun and playability. World Games is another title deserving of its entry in the sports games winner’s circle. Just like a fine wine, World Games has aged very well. Play on your own, or better still, grab a few mates and go for gold!

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WG_Sumoimage source: C64-Wiki

Video Gaming Film Of The Year: From Bedrooms To Billions

From Bedrooms to Billions_TITLEDuring the pioneering days of video gaming and home computing, our industry may have been small when compared to Japan, the US and UK, but we were (and still are) proud of our gaming heritage – we will always be proud of John De Margheriti’s Micro Forté and Alfred Milgrom’s Melbourne House and Beam Software amongst the initial big industry players.

JEFF MINTERAs Australian gaming enthusiasts, we always paid attention to what was happening around the world, like we still do till this day. In the early 80s, when home computing took off in Australia, we were on a parallel with our gaming brethren in Europe and the United Kingdom, more so than Japan and the US.

IAN LIVINGSTONEWith our nascent video gaming magazine industry barely keeping up with our veracious appetite for gaming information, we turned our attention to the British media to satisfy our craving. Our newsstands were filled with brilliantly  written British magazines, from Crash and Zzap!64, to Zero, ST/Amiga Format and Computer & Video Games (to name a few!). These magazines were our only channel to what was going on in the home computing and gaming industry. The magazines introduced us to household British developers, bedroom coders, musicians, publishers and journalists, so it is satisfying to finally watch a film based on this history.

JULIAN RIGNALL 2From Bedrooms To Billions, the successful crowd-funded production, shows how the early UK games business began and evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry. The story is fused with interviews with key contributors that helped shape the video gaming industry – the enthusiasts, hobbyists, schools kids, bedroom coders, music maestros, journalists and entrepreneurs. Through these interviews, the film reveals the remarkable stories, struggles and successes of the people involved in the invention, creation and evolution of the UK video gaming business.

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ROB HUBBARD 2From Bedroom To Billions connects us over here in Australia (or anywhere around the world for that matter) with the pioneers of the gaming industry, from the bedroom coders, developers and music maestros, to the journalists and publishers we grew up with in the late 70s, 80s and 90s. This documentary is essential viewing, either to reminisce, curate or just to learn how the UK video gaming industry went from nothing to a force to be reckoned with. If there was a category for a “Video Gaming Film Of The Year”, this film would win it hands down. We applaud you Anthony and Nicola Caulfield for a job well done.

 

The Definitive Sega Mega Drive Book

Sega_TitleThere have been a swag of quality books published recently based on our rich history of video gaming. This illustrates the importance of the impact and value that video gaming has played in our recent past. The cultural importance of video games has gained enough momentum that it has become our favourite form of entertainment. What these publications do for the history of video gaming is to document eras, games, systems of our wonderful industry for us to indulge in the nostalgic memories and  also act as a reference for future generations.

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Sega_8One book that caught our attention was Read-Only Memory’sSega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works‘. The book aimed to become the definitive retrospective of Sega’s 16 -bit beast, featuring development and concept illustrations of Sega’s best-loved game franchises, original developer interviews and previously unseen hardware production plans.The crowd-funding campaign of a year ago was so successful that Read-Only Memory added additional content to sweeten the already quite tasty book. The finished product not only surpassed what it promised to deliver, but it provides loads more – from exclusive interviews with legendary US developers, Greg Johnson and Mark Voorsanger (ToeJam & Earl), Naoto Ohshima (Sonic The Hedgehog) and Yu Suzuki (Space Harrier et al), to concept art and level visualisations for Vectorman 2 and detailed pencil-drawn level maps for Comix Zone.

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Sega_9For those that only know Sega as a software publisher, this book is a reminder of its former glory – making awesome gaming hardware. The Sega pedigree carried from its arcade systems to its home systems reached a pinnacle with its 16-bit world beater, the Mega Drive (Genesis for our North American gaming friends). With an estimated 40 millions consoles sold world-wide, the 16-bit beauty assured itself a place in the pantheon of great systems. This ‘Collected Works‘ book not only celebrates the Mega Drive hardware, but it also showcases the wealth of Sega’s 16-bit software titles; from blockbuster games such as Bare Knuckle/Streets of Rage, Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star, Gunstar Heroes, Super Shinobi/Revenge of Shinobi and Golden Axe, through to cult gems such as Rent-a-Hero, Vectorman and DecapAttack. This book has it all!

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Sega_15If you are after the definitive book on all things Sega Mega Drive / Genesis, then look no further – this book oozes quality and makes you want to come back to it again and again to feast your eyes on each page – from it’s well written foreword, to the never before seen Sega production blueprints, and to the great collective artwork. Even if you are not a Sega fan, this book’s historical value and page-turning ability is simply irresistible. For those not into gaming at all, we guarantee this book will get lots of attention if placed on your coffee table. This is the only Sega Mega Drive / Genesis book you will ever need. Highly recommended.

Vital Stats:
Title: Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works
Price: £35.00 (plus shipping)
Size: 216mm x 267mm
Binding: Hardback
Pages: 352pp
Specials: 8 x Gatefold Pages

Sega_12image source: Read-Only Memory 

Joystick Battles: Konix Speedking vs Commodore C-1342

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Does size really matter? What exactly are we referring to here? Get your mind out of the gutter – we are talking about joysticks! When it comes to controlling your favourite video games, everything matters – the size, feel, stability, precision, ergonomics and durability of the joystick.

Not all joysticks are made equal, some feel great when playing shoot’em ups, only to let you down when it comes to those waggle-the-stick 100m sprint games. Others are durable during those wrist breaking manoeuvres, only to leave you feeling as if you sustained major trauma to your wrist and fingers. So how does one judge a joystick objectively? It is hard, but we are willing to give it a crack.

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Let’s dispel the ‘one joystick fits all’ myth – there isn’t one. There, it has been said. In this regular Joystick Battles feature, we will pit two joysticks against each other, with the winner progressing to the last round, JoystickMania 1. The judgement criteria will be based on: ergonomic feel, precision/stability and durability. To ensure we remain objective, we will use the joysticks on a variety of gaming genres; shoot’em ups, platformers and wrist-breaking wagglers. This should sort out the wheat from the chaff.

The first joystick battle is between the Commodore C-1342 joystick and the Konix Speedking. I know what you are thinking, we shouldn’t pit a pack-in joystick with an aftermarket one. Hey, it is a free world and we can do whatever the hell we like.

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So how did the C-1342 fare against the Speedking? Lay your peepers on the below table:

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After getting all hot and bothered on the C64, there could only be one winner in this joystick battle.

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Verdict: Konix Speeding
Being an aftermarket joystick, you would have expected the Konix to breeze through this battle. The C-1342 put up a great fight, but the durability of the stick lets it down big time. The Speedking does seem gimmicky in style, but it does the job admirably and it feels great in the hand – if you are a right handed player!

 

Happy Snaps: The PowerUp Retro 8-Bit Camera

If you are a nostalgic gamer and would like to inject some retro feeling to your photos, then you may want to take note.

Available for iOS devices, sushiGrass has created the PowerUp camera app. PowerUp filters your camera in real-time so that you can take snaps using the same resolution as your favourite retro gaming systems.

When you purchase PowerUp, you get two retro gaming system filters (Genesis and NES) with the option to buy (in-app) six more – Master System, SNES, Game Gear, Atari 2600, Game Boy and TurboGrafx-16. Once you take your retro photos, PowerUp allows you to share your happy snaps on social media! Get those 16-bit selfies propagating across your social network.

So, is this camera app worth the AUD$1.29c outlay? That is a good question. If you are an old school 8-bit and/or 16-bit gamer, then you will get a kick out of shooting photos using your favourite system’s filter. The novelty may wear off, but hey, it costs less than a cup of coffee. Now you’re playing with PowerUp!

Very easy to use interface
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Before the PowerUp snap
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PowerUp snap with the Genesis filter
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PowerUp snap with the NES filter
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TAC-2 PowerUp snap with Genesis filter
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TAC-2 PowerUp snap with NES filter
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Happy Families – NES and Mega Drive (Genesis filter)
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Happy Families – NES and Mega Drive (NES filter)
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image source: ausretrogamer