Reset64 Magazine 2018 Commodore 64 Game of the Year Award

By: Kevin Tilley – Reset64 Magazine Editor

Wow, every year I seem to say the same thing but it always rings true – I’m continually stunned at both the quality and quantity of games released on the Commodore 64. Not only do the developers continue to step up their game, but the publishers continue to increase the quality of their physical products. We’re seeing more cartridge releases, more premium boxed games, and harking back to the good old days of Commodore 64 commercial releases, beautifully printed and written instruction booklets (something that seems to be sorely lacking in modern titles). Overall, the packaging is arguably better than what we got back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and the best part is, the games are stunning!

Something else wonderful happened in 2018. The first C64 commercial game (probably in decades) was released that was available worldwide at normal gaming retail outlets. The PC version of Farming Simulator 19 (Giants Software) was made available in a limited collector’s edition, which included a specially commissioned version of Farming Simulator for the C64. This was in the form of an emulator image on its own CD-ROM, with the CD jacket dressed up as a floppy disk. I know, it’s not quite the same as a standalone release, but as Cameron mentioned, the fact that it even exists is amazing. Giants Software even teamed up with Protovision to release a standalone boxed C64 edition on cartridge. The game? It was OK. Nicely done, but more a gimmick than a commercial quality C64 game.

TheC64 Mini was released by Retro Games LTD and despite a rather disappointing joystick, was an otherwise impressive and well-made piece of kit that brought C64 gaming back on the radar, with more than a hint of nostalgia included. A later firmware update made it easy to play games (including modern/contemporary titles) via a USB stick, and an even later firmware release officially added our 2017 GOTY, Galencia, to the list.

Of course, the big three; Protovision, Psytronik and RGCD continued to release a strong line up of new games, as well as Poly.Play, The Future Was 8 Bit, Pond, Megastyle, CollectorVision and an assortment of other developers releasing a slew of quality titles. On behalf of Reset, we’d once again like to congratulate the developers and publishers who continue making and publishing these stunning games! Also, a quick shout out to Freeze64, Komoda & Amiga Plus, Kilobyte Magazine, Eight Bit Magazine, Zzap! 64 Annual and the other zines and publications that have cropped up over the past few years and continue promoting the C64 and giving these games, developers and publishers some more exposure, which they truly deserve.

Congratulations to the developers of the games that made this poll, which was voted upon by a selection of Reset staffers and contributors. We all picked our top three releases for the year, wrote a bit about each choice and it went from there. If you produced a game that didn’t make the list, congratulations must be extended to you also. Producing C64 games is a difficult, time intensive and challenging task and we acknowledge and appreciate your efforts. To the publishers who put the physical editions together, thank-you and we look forward to even more in 2019. Even though there can only be one GOTY, we take our hats off to all of you.

A massive congratulations to Stuart Collier, Trevor Storey, Saul Cross and Psytronik Software for Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis, which is an amazing game and deservedly awarded as the 2018 Reset64 Game of the Year on the Commodore 64!

We hope you enjoy the article. Afterwards, go out and play these wonderful games! Please remember to support the devs for their hard work, by paying for the games if required, or sending a nice message/email for games that are free downloads.

Kevin Tilley (Editor’s Pick)

#1 – Space Moguls (Carl-Henrik Skårstedt/Protovision)
https://www.protovision.games/shop/product_info.php?products_id=229

Protovision are becoming renowned for their quality releases and Space Moguls, by Carl-Henrik Skarstedt, does everything right. Paying homage to M.U.L.E., the game is impeccably presented with outstanding graphics and sound (with an amazing attract mode). The physical version is amazing with a lovely artwork, quality jam packed manual, glossy box and a few other bits and pieces. The game? It’s damned fun, with up to 4 players competing for wealth and resources from the alien lands. I really, really hope that we get more of this kind of thing on the Commodore 64. Great fun strategy that isn’t over-the-top difficult with super fun multiplayer. Yes!!

#2 – Hibernated 1: This Place is Death (Stefan Vogt/Pond)
https://www.polyplay.xyz/Commodore-64_1

Hibernated hit the C64 gaming scene like a breath of fresh air, with Stefan Vogt regularly posting updates on Social Media during development to whet our appetites for his upcoming sci-fi gem. Releasing a text-only adventure is a brave thing to do in 2018 (and there have been a few less than stellar releases in the past few years) but Stefan didn’t let anyone down with his accessible, clever and witty writing and compelling story. The difficulty was spot on, with the puzzles requiring logical thinking rather than luck. Add to that a lovely loading screen from Vanja Utne as well as an up-coming physical release from Pond Software/Poly.Play which will be an absolute must. Simply brilliant.

#3 – Aviator Arcade 2 (Arcane Productions/RGCD/Psytronik)
http://www.psytronik.net/newsite/index.php/c64/102-aviator
https://rgcd.bigcartel.com/product/aviator-arcade-ii-commodore-64

To be honest, my number three could have been one of several games, but I finally settled on Aviator Arcade 2 because I just couldn’t resist a darn shooter, and this one happens to be particularly good! In development for what seemed like an eternity, Aviator Arcade 2 was a well-cooked beast that was certainly worth the wait. Featuring stunning graphics and sound, it doesn’t necessarily offer anything new to the vertically scrolling shmup genre, but what it does it certainly does well. A highly enjoyable game with gorgeous graphics & sound and fun, hectic gameplay. Aviator Arcade 2 is currently available on cartridge at RGCD and as a digital download at the RGCD itch.io page. A disk edition from Psytronik is also available.

Honourable Mentions:

So many great games were released this year that it was hard to come up with a top 3. At different times of the year, other games such as Yoomp! 64, MAH2.0, Shadow Switcher, Exploding Fish, Portal, Hunter’s Moon, Rocky Memphis, Dustin’, Conga 4096, Counterweight Kate, Pains ‘n’ Aches, Steel Ranger (I could go on!) could easily have made my list! Ultimately though, I think my top 3 choices are the games I enjoyed the most, and for me, enjoyment is why I play games!


source: Rob Caporetto

Rob Caporetto

#1 – Pains ‘n’ Aches: A Knight ‘n’ Grail Adventure (Wide Pixel Games/Psytronik)

If it’s one thing about the C64 scene in 2018, was that we got some killer exploratory games alongside the arcade fare. Pains ‘n’ Aches is the follow-up to Knight ‘n’ Grail, and takes everything great from it making it more atmospheric and melancholic in the process. The platforming action is as tight as ever, the map as expansive and the results make for one great non-linear exploratory experience. It may have slipped under the radar being so early in the year, but it easily serves as a pinnacle to the Metroidvania genre on the humble C64!

#2 – Aviator Arcade II (Arcane Productions/RGCD/Psytronik)
http://www.psytronik.net/newsite/index.php/c64/102-aviator
https://rgcd.bigcartel.com/product/aviator-arcade-ii-commodore-64

In its post-commercial life, we’ve rarely seen any shmups push the bounds of what the C64 can do. Until Aviator Arcade II that is. The team at Arcane Productions have pushed the bounds of what is capable in 2018, with engaging action, a wide variety of power ups, and lots and lots of blasting joy. Aviator Arcade II really shows the C64 can more than hold its own against its 8-bit rivals in the realms of shmup action.

#3 – Yoomp! 64 (Zbigniew Ross/RGCD/Psytronik)
http://www.psytronik.net/newsite/index.php/c64/100-yoomp
https://rgcd.bigcartel.com/product/yoomp-64-commodore-64

There are plenty of games which push the bounds, then there’s Yoomp! 64. With it’s fluid action, and technical wizardry, it’s a game that no-one thought could actually be done on the C64, yet here it is. There may be some minor details lost in translation, Yoomp! 64 is challenging, tough… and unlike it’s distant, distant inspiration *cough*Bounder*cough* kind of fair. It truly makes for a great example of old arcade concepts being brought into the 21st Century!

image source: Psytronik

Anthony Stiller

#1 – Hibernated 1: This Place is Death (Stefan Vogt/Pond)
https://www.polyplay.xyz/Commodore-64_1

I’ve always loved adventure games and Stefan Vogt’s efforts have paid off in full. Hibernated strikes a wonderful balance between brevity, puzzles, and evocative locations, making it a highly enjoyable and rewarding experience. The age of text adventures returns (finally)!

#2 – Exploding Fish (Megastyle)

The surprise hit of 2018 for me! Chris Stanley’s Exploding Fish may seem like a slow paced collect’em up at first but it’s not long before you’re totally engrossed. A game that joyously reminds me of those quality early 80s releases for the C64. 

#3 – Portal (Jamie Fuller/Del Seymour/Roy Widding)

A fantastic example of how to create a demake: The core elements of the original PC game, perfectly condensed. Portal is all charm, with its cute graphics (by our own designer extraordinaire, Del Seymour) and humour. Plus it has mouse controls to boot! A much appreciated release from Jamie Fuller.

Honourable Mention:

Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis. I had to include this game because I was so blown away by its aesthetics and technical achievements. To be honest all of the games in my list were neck and neck. I’m just so happy we have so many great, new games to choose from! 

image source: Psytronik

Paul Morrison

#1 – Hunter’s Moon Remastered (Thalamus Digital Publishing)

It seems strange, in retrospect, that all my picks are remasters, conversions or ports.  After all, we’ve seen a wealth of quality original releases on the 64 this year. Still, for me, this one stood out above everything else.  If ever anyone was to lay down the perfect blueprint of how to remaster an old classic, Thalamus Digital did with Hunter’s Moon Remastered. They’ve done everything right, from expanding the game to adding loads of “quality of life” improvements to making this the best-presented C64 game ever.  A great game has become an essential game and for me, it was the best release of the year.

#2 – Knight Lore (Rod & Emu)

I have waited over 30 years for this, and now it’s finally arrived it’s exactly as I’d hoped.  I will concede that it’s a bit fiddly to play and other, newer games might have had more going for them, but this is the realisation of a teenage dream here!  Pottering about Ultimate’s 3D castle on the C64 at speeds that match the original made me unreasonably happy, and therefore an absolute gaming highlight of my 2018.

#3 – Portal (Jamie Fuller/Del Seymour/Roy Widding)

When I first heard that Portal was being converted to the C64, of all machines, I was pretty sceptical.  I didn’t see any way that it could be done. Fortunately, and as usual, I was wrong because this is a brilliant effort.  It does take a while to get used to, possibly because it’s wildly different to playing the version you’re used to. Get into it though, and it all makes sense.  Portal was a hugely ambitious project, so for it to have been pulled off this successfully is quite an achievement.

image source: Psytronik

Louie Dimovski

#1 – Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis (Icon64/Psytronik)

A perfect example of where game design comes together all so well. Clever and fair puzzles accompanied by beautifully drawn hi-res graphics blended with multi-colour and background tune that will have you whistling well after you stop playing the game. Just when you thought you’ve seen all of the game, you discover the moonlight mode which alters the way that the game is played. The inclusion of a good and not-so-good ending is a nice touch.

#2 – Steel Ranger (Lasse Öörni/Psytronik)

Persistence and continual refinement to the underlying game engine pays off for Lasse Öörni and his team as Steel Ranger provides a far more enjoyable experience than its inspiration predecessors (Hessian & Metal Warrior series). A great modern day 2D platform/shooter with some puzzle elements that features high production values, a vast game world, smooth scrolling and steady pacing. The game’s soundtrack is worth a special mention, it changes from one location to another and it does a great job of giving an epic vibe and further immerses you within the game. How does this game fit all on a single side floppy disk?

#3 – Shadow Switcher (Dr. Wuro Industries)

Shadow Switcher delivers the best quality old school arcade gaming experience with a clever character switching twist that will hook you in from the very start. 40 levels of single screen platform fun that is addictive right from the beginning thanks to its clever level designs and fluid and responsive controls. The Lazy Jones inspired electro-pop soundtrack is great and fits the game perfectly.

Cameron Jackson

#1 – Dustin’ (Graham Axten/Pond)

Submitted as part of Reset 64’s ‘Craptastic’ competition it is anything but crap. Dustin’ has a hook that balances frustration with that I can do better next time, one more go feeling. The music is excellent and suits it perfectly. Enjoyed this more than any other game this year.

#2 – Shadow Switcher (Dr. Wuro Industries)

Great concept and graphics that give an early days feeling. The game gets pretty hectic at times and love the strategy element in positioning your shadow. Excellent physical release.

#3 – Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis (Icon64/Psytronik)

The collector’s edition is truly a joy. Presentation is top notch with excellent graphics, sounds, puzzles and goodies. Recreates that Indy feeling.

Honourable Mention:

Exploding Fish. I enjoyed playing it. Good concept, some humour (the boat called Unsinkable II) and cover artwork I just love.

image source: Dr. Wuro Industries

Graham Axten

#1 – Shadow Switcher (Dr. Wuro Industries)

Shadow Switcher.  As soon as I saw the early 80’s inspired graphics for this game, I knew that I would like it.  And I did!  It’s one of those games that takes me back to simpler times, but the mechanics feel very modern and keep me coming back to it.  It’s perfect for short blasts, or extended sessions.  And it has a level editor!

#2 – Exploding Fish (Megastyle)

This game reminds me of Scuba Dive on the ZX Spectrum – which is a very good thing!  I have really enjoyed making my way through the levels and figuring out the most efficient routes to complete each screen.  The password system is very welcome, and together with the excellent music and graphics keep me playing again and again.

#3 – Hibernated 1: This Place is Death (Stefan Vogt/Pond)
https://www.polyplay.xyz/Commodore-64_1

Hibernated.  It has been a long time since I really got into an adventure game (or even attempted one, to be honest) but the combination of sci-fi and horror tempted me in and kept me gripped throughout.  The writing is superb and really conjures up images in your mind meaning there is no need for fancy graphics or sound.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story and can’t wait to hear more about the universe of Hibernated.

Jari Karjalainen

#1 – Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis (Icon64/Psytronik)

Probably my most often played new C64 game of the year. The Legend of Atlantis does what Joe Gunn did back 11 (!!) years ago, but with everything brought up to a completely new level. The graphics, sounds and gameplay are everything – and more – what everyone expected of an Indiana Jones game on a C64 back in 1989, which we never got back then, but better late than never, eh? Still waiting for the C64 conversion/demake of Temple of Ophuxoff, but as I have yet to complete this beast, no hurry…

#2 – MAH v2.0 (Retream/RGCD/Protovision)

Well, MAH isn’t really a new game as such, but the v2.0 was released this year, and with that, the game finally got its physical release. The only reason I can’t call MAH the game of the year is, because it was already a masterpiece two years prior, when the first versions got out. Saimo’s unique vision and knack of getting the most of the C64 out with his wonderfully weird concepts is mesmerizing, and MAH is one of the rare modern games I will be sure to come back to every now and then.

#3 – Shadow Switcher (Dr. Wuro Industries)

Perhaps the most unexpected gem of the year. This one got me excited like an 8-year old kid when it first came out, and a brief test of the free download made me order a physical copy of it. Shadow Switcher looks and plays like a game from 1984 – in the best possible way, but the ability to switch your controlled character is much closer to this millennium. Since it also features a level editor, there’s a good chance of Shadow Switcher becoming a cult classic, and had it been released 34 years ago, I’m absolutely certain it would be a proper classic.

image source: Poly.Play

Mat Allen

#1 – Hunter’s Moon Remastered (Thalamus Digital Publishing)

Yes, it may be a reissued version of a thirty-year-old title, but Hunter’s Moon never got the attention it deserved back in the day, and this is no ordinary remaster. Like a hobbit, it’s tricksy and devious and will keep hold of the precious, each system introducing new features and terrible surprises lurking within that must be solved if you’ve going to make it home. A much longer journey now as over fifty levels have been added to proceedings, some of which will test your skills and patience to the maximum. Add to this the level designer, built-in trainer, foreign languages, improved off-duty mode, new music, massive intro sequence… there’s an awful lot more for your money. In conclusion, if you didn’t take to the original then you may be persuaded to try again, but if you loved it like me, then this is everything you could wish for and more.

#2 – Steel Ranger (Lasse Öörni/Psytronik)

Comparisons to Metal Warrior and Hessian were inevitable, but Lasse Öörni once again delivered an epic exploratory tale of carnage and destruction, with a more action orientated bent to proceedings (hello Turrican!). The focus here was more on shooting than adventure, the player left to obtain key cards, upgrade weapons, and perform a lot of killing to work their way through the underground base and remove the rogue AI presence within. There are lot more secrets and less micromanagement of inventory than Hessian, which was good, but on the other hand, less puzzles and a bit less plot. It’s staggering how much can be compressed into one disk side, and Steel Ranger certainly hit the sweet spot in all areas, stairs be damned!

#3 – Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis (Icon64/Psytronik)

There have been a few Indiana Jones-inspired games over the years, but what I loved about Legend of Atlantis was the balanced gradient of welcoming the player into the game, and slowly introducing new puzzle types and features the further you delve. None of the puzzles are too infuriating, but you certainly benefit from making a map and notes as you progress, and the internal satisfaction from nailing a particular sticking point is immense. There are a couple of niggles, no save points and the large inventory to cycle through but overall, it’s a hugely satisfying game and I wish it could have gone on longer than it did.

image source: Thalamus Digital Publishing

Stefan Vogt

#1 – Space Moguls (Carl-Henrik Skårstedt/Protovision)
https://www.protovision.games/shop/product_info.php?products_id=229

Why is Space Moguls winning? Easy to answer. Space Moguls is a complex strategy game and fortunately NOT another platformer. I hate the genre monotony of recent releases so I’m glad I can now finally conquer the final frontier and the economy of strange alien planets turn by turn. Also the feelies in the box of the physical release are brilliant. The box generally is brilliant. 

#2 – Exploding Fish (Megastyle)

I do like the unique concept of the game. It’s rare you see some original ideas these days. It’s quite a hard one, but it’s fun to play, and I liked the physical release a lot. The tape looks amazing.

#3 – Portal (Jamie Fuller/Del Seymour/Roy Widding)

I was just one step away from giving Jamie Fuller’s Portal demake 2 points, because that is where it would belong in theory. The only thing that bothered me though is that I “playtested” shortly after the release and I “accidentally” played it through in roughly 30 minutes. It just has 20 linear levels and that’s it, leaving me more with a proof-of-concept impression in the end, rather than the feeling I played a full-featured game. 

Honourable Mentions:

  • I’d also need to give a shout-out to Dustin’ by Graham. It’s a brilliant game, so it was really tough for me not having that in the top 3 list. 
  • I see so many thumbs up for “Legend of Atlantis”, Vinny from Freeze64 even made it the game of the year. I appreciate the work the author put in there, it looks nice, but the concept of the game is not very original IMHO, which makes me like it but it’s not sufficient enough for me to include it in my list of top games at all. 

image source: Protovision

Roy Widding

#1 – Aviator Arcade 2 (Arcane Productions/RGCD/Psytronik)
http://www.psytronik.net/newsite/index.php/c64/102-aviator
https://rgcd.bigcartel.com/product/aviator-arcade-ii-commodore-64

First of all, people who knows me must think I’m crazy even mentioning this game in a game of the year ranking, as it is a Shoot’Em Up, and I don’t like Shoot’Em Ups! But I gave it a try and I was blown of my chair. I told my friends that they had to try this game, and I showed them some screenshots of this game. One of my friends replied: “Another SEUCK game??”

No this is so far from SEUCK you can get, as the game has a lot of “non-SEUCK features” like homing bullets, health bar, scrolling stops before boss fight and no sprite glitches. Music is just excellent. If there was a Game Soundtrack of the year, I would put this as my number one!! Graphics is excellent, game design is excellent and atmospheric. I just love this game, I love the arcade feeling it has. It is my most booted game so far in 2018, and that says a lot since the game was released only a few weeks before I wrote this…. three points to Mark Hindsbo, Saul Cross and Thomas Petersen.

#2 – Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis (Icon64/Psytronik)
http://www.psytronik.net/newsite/index.php/c64/97-atlantis

Trevor Storey is one of the best C64 game designers around, and probably the most productive one too. And with Stuart Collier and Saul Cross, they have once again shot bullseye with Rocky Memphis and the Legend Of Atlantis. Great atmosphere with good graphics and music. I love all the puzzle elements in this game, and the whole package is just tempting me back to play again and again. Two points to Trevor and his crew.

#3 – Scuttle Butt 64 (Eweguo)

This is my humour! Karl Hornell’s game has all the toilet humour, one liner jokes and the perfect nostalgic feel you can wish for. Graphics are cartoonish and nice, music is simple but it doesn’t make the game worse, it just fits everything. And gameplay is funny, my kids laughed and I laughed and Wifey thinks we have no sense of good humour….one point to Karl Hornell.

Honourable Mentions:

2018 had so many great titles, and games like Pains’n’Aches , Steel Ranger and Sydney Hunter are all beautiful games that deserve to be mentioned here. But I have also rated the games after how much I have played them, and then the top 3 choice was easy to do…   

PS: I would also like to give a little attention to the game Tower Of Rubble 64 too. Graphics are simple, but animation is great, music is catchy and the gameplay… Gameplay is just wow!! I love small games like this! 

Merman

#1 – Portal (Jamie Fuller/Del Seymour/Roy Widding)

Have your cake and eat it – a 2D version of the classic PC game, this retains the original’s sense of humour and is very well presented. The end sequence is spot on, with Jonathan Coulton’s Still Alive turned into a SID. The combination of mouse and keyboard controls may be unusual on the C64 but it works. It’s just a shame there are only 20 levels to beat – making the level designer accessible or a new set of levels would extend the longevity no end. 

#2 – Space Moguls (Carl-Henrik Skårstedt/Protovision)
https://www.protovision.games/shop/product_info.php?products_id=229

Reaching back into the past has been a theme this year, and the classic strategy game MULE received an amazing tribute in the form of this new game. Presentation is outstanding, the computer AI makes a strong opponent and the multiple planets adds to the depth. The boxed edition from Protovision is very nicely put together too.

#3 – Hunter’s Moon Remastered (Thalamus Digital Publishing)

Thalamus Digital sets off on a new mission in spectacular style. The fact that Martin Walker and Matt Gray have both been involved gives the project so much credibility, and the new Oli Frey artwork is beautiful. From the outstanding new intro (with the animation sequences looking so crisp) to the level editor, the whole package is worth every penny. And if the new stuff doesn’t appeal, the complete original 1987 version (a game I adored anyway) is in there too. Simply stunning.


 

Top 5 Placings:

#1 – Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis (Icon64/Psytronik)

#2 – Hunter’s Moon Remastered (Thalamus Digital Publishing)

#3 – Space Moguls (Carl-Henrik Skårstedt/Protovision)

#4 – Shadow Switcher (Dr. Wuro Industries)

#5 – Hibernated 1: This Place is Death (Stefan Vogt/Pond), Exploding Fish (Megastyle), Aviator Arcade 2 (Arcane Productions/RGCD/Psytronik)