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Saturday, 5 August 2017

SPECIAL: Modern Game Ports And Demakes!

This summer's series of special entries continues with a variation on a theme, which we have previously touched upon: games from more modern platforms for older systems. Simply put, "demade" games - devolved remakes. If you have not the faintest idea of what demakes characteristically are, the idea is to getting something of the essence of the games into a more restrictive platform, usually dropping some of the more consuming elements from the game and just get all the most characteristic elements included. Sometimes, though, they manage to be surprisingly close to the original, and fortunately, many of the more current demakes are as impressive as they are improbable. Some of the games on this list are still, or have been left unfinished, in a promising development stage, but most of the games featured here are finished demakes for our favourite 8-bit and 16-bit systems. Due to unexpected PC power supply blowing up -related circumstances, I couldn't quite get this finished before the end of July, so perhaps this will make August have more entries.

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AN ARMY OF CLONES


We're going to start with the most numerously demade games, and move on gradually to games with the smallest amount of demakes. Of course, you can probably guess, what sorts of games are the easiest to convert from new to old platforms.

Screenshots from various 8-bit Flappy Bird clones.
Top row, left to right: Flapee Bird (Intellivision), Flip Flap (Sega Master System), Flappy Bird (MSX), Veccy Bird (Vectrex)
Bottom row: Flappo Bird (Atari 2600), Flapple Bird (Apple ][), Flappy Bird ZX (Spectrum), Flappy Rulez (Amstrad CPC)


Dong Nguyen's Flappy Bird, released in 2013, is basically just another link in a series of avoid'em-up games, the specific form of which was probably started by Leandro Barreto's Helicopter game from 2000, perhaps even something earlier. Flappy Bird's success had a lot to do with its graphics, most of which were very likely taken from Super Mario World, and the fact that it was released for touch-screen mobiles, which are very problematic to make good games for, so single-button games are easy to develop and to play. In Flappy Bird, you control the titular character flying in a side-scrolling environment, and your mission is to flap the bird's wings to that it can pass through gaps the formed by pipes. Simple as that.

Because of its popularity, Flappy Bird was an easy target for the homebrew communities to make conversions of, and because the game is so simple as a concept, you will rarely come across a version with any features left out. I'll leave it for you to make your own discoveries, but I found direct Flappy Bird ports (occasionally with slightly differing names) on the Atari 2600, TI-99/4A, Intellivision, Colecovision, Dragon 32/64, Vectrex, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, MSX, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo. There might be more, but frankly, I wouldn't give a toss if there were.

Screenshots from various 8-bit Canabalt ports/variants.
Top row, left to right: Canabalt (C64), C64anabalt (C64), Canabalt (ZX Spectrum)
Bottom left: Stray Cat (MSX), JumpVCS (Atari 2600)


Another single-button game that has a more intriguing setting, as well as a properly exciting combination of graphics and sounds, is Canabalt. Originally developed by Adam Saltsman as a flash game in 2009 for the Experimental Gameplay Project, Canabalt has been credited with popularising the endless runner subgenre. So, your job is just to run and jump over gaps between buildings, and adjust your running speed by bumping into chairs when felt necessary. The thing is, your success is as much about having a good luck as it is about skills, and you might get hit by a falling piece of space station debris at any moment. Then again, that's why Canabalt is such an addicting game.

In addition to the obvious mobiles and portable platforms, Paul Koller's C64anabalt was given the stamp of the official C64 port of Canabalt. However, another version was also finished and released for the C64 by Mr. SID and Encore - only three days prior to Paul Koller's version's release! Some people feel Mr. SID's version is the better one, some consider Koller's version better, but I can't decide one way or the other, and I can't really say, whether or not to call either version demakes, because they're so good. A proper demake can be found, too: Canabalt on the ZX Spectrum, but due to its super-choppy gameplay (after all, the version was programmed in BASIC), it's nearly impossible to play. There is also JumpVCS on the Atari 2600 and Stray Cat on the MSX, both of which are clearly inspired by Canabalt, but has enough of gameplay alterations to be their very own thing. Well worth a look, though.

Some versions of 2048. Top row, left to right: Commodore Plus/4, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 (C-2048).
Bottom row: Atari 8-bit (Twenty Forty-Eight), Sega Mega Drive, Atari 2600.


Now we move away from the single-button games, and on to puzzles. The most recent puzzle craze that I can remember was released in 2014. Gabriele Cirulli's 2048 is, much like all the other recent mobile hit games, a clone of something earlier, this time the source material being a very recent game as well: Threes! by Sirvo, also from 2014. So, in order to become a sure-fire viral hit, Cirulli decided against monetizing 2048, and what do you know - now we have a horde of 2048 clones, bearing its name even, on other platforms. For those of you blessedly unfamiliar with 2048, it is a slide-puzzler, in which the object is to increase the value of constantly appearing tiles by colliding them into each other, to eventually reach the value 2048.

I admit I haven't played any of these retro conversions, because I wasn't too interested in the original game in the first place, but so far, I have found ports of 2048 for the Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, Atari 8-bits, Commodore 64, Commodore Plus/4, Intellivision, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga and Sega Megadrive/Genesis.

Connect-three-or-more games.
Top left: Shariki (MS-DOS, 1994) Top middle: Zoo Mania (C64, 2006) Top right: BeGEMeD (Atari ST, 2015)
Bottom row - BeTiled! versions, left to right: ZX Spectrum (2007), MSX (2007) and Amstrad CPC (2009).


Before the time of Angry Birds and other mobile addictions, our go-to puzzle addicition was most likely Bejeweled (2001) from PopCap Games. This connect-three-or-more swapper-puzzler is, of course, just another link in a series of other clones leading all the way to Candy Crush Saga and, most recently, Pokémon Shuffle. However, it all began with a Russian MS-DOS game from 1994 called Shariki. Funnily enough, its first reincarnation Panel de Pon from 1995 (and its alteration Tetris Attack) on the Super Nintendo is probably one of my most played SNES games ever. iWin's Jewel Quest from 2004 brought the game to the mobiles, where the genre has been one of the most popular ones since 2012's Candy Crush Saga.

Of course, we're far more interested in the 8-bits and 16-bits. If handled with care, a Shariki clone could be done nicely on at least the 8-bits. Most of the known clones are obviously based on Bejeweled, but at least one version is based on another game: Zoo Mania on the C64 is based on a japanese game called Zoo Keeper, which was originally released on the internet and soon afterwards, on Game Boy Advance and other handhelds. I haven't managed to find any other non-Bejeweled clones as of yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if there were more. CEZ Games made a very recommendable job with their BeTiled for the other three main 8-bits - Amstrad, Spectrum and MSX. The most recent versions that I have come across are BeGEMed for the Atari ST, BeerJeweled for the GBA and Bejeweled for the ColecoVision. The good thing about this genre is, you can rarely go wrong with it, so I can only recommend any of the versions most heartily.

One of the most interesting developments to follow on all the retro machine scenes is the often ludicrous attempts at creating properly working Doom-demakes for various machines. Doom doesn't need an introduction, and if it does, do yourselves a favour and play the damn thing - and preferably complete it. Even if Wolfenstein 3D and its kin at the time were the pioneers of the genre, id Software's Doom (on MS-DOS!) is really what made the genre properly popular and is what we have to be thankful for every first-person shooter since. And yet, I'd rather play the original Doom than the new one or any other FPS that came between.

Naturally, we're going to skip the official Doom conversions for the SNES, N64 and PS1, etc., because they're official, and not really countable as demakes. The closest we can get to the real Doom experience on technically lower machines were made for the 680x0-processors-based Amigas: ADoom (developed between 1998-2003), DoomAttack (1998-2004) and ZDoom (1998-), and a couple of other abandoned Amiga-Doom projects. But all of these were basically just attempts at getting the source code to run on both the basic Amigas and the Power PC-type Amigas, not what I'd call proper demakes - which is why I haven't included any screenshots of them here. Still, they're all valiant attempts at getting a game working on a machine that certainly wasn't built to run them. The thing is, though, the Amigas had other, great exclusive first-person shooters, which should be given a fair chance, such as Gloom, Genetic Species, the Alien Breed 3D games and Fears. Of course, you will require at least an AGA Amiga for most of them, but you have good emulation possibilities to get started on it.

To me, any proper Doom demake should be nothing more than a presentation that a first-person 3D'ish engine can be achieved on the said machine, with some Doom-like graphics in it, so the 8-bits are more interesting to me in that sense. However, I also couldn't find a proper Doom port attempt for the Atari ST, so that's a bit more interesting as well. The best attempt so far that I've seen is an STOS-made FPS called Hellgate, which looks something like a mashup between Doom and anything made in Incentive's 3D Construction Kit; fun, but horribly clunky. The ST's elder brother, Falcon030 does have a proper Doom port attempt called BadMooD, which has the same idea as any of Amiga's Doom ports.

Non-Doom FPS's on Amiga and ST: Gloom (Amiga; Guildhall, 1995) and Hellgate (ST; Smartsoft, 1997)
If there's anyone who has been following either the Spectrum or the C64 scene (or both) from the late 90's, you might remember a few early valiant attempts at creating Doom-a-likes for both machines. In as early as 1995, both machines had their first attempts at Doom, although neither of them reached more than a preview stage. Cobra Soft's Doom preview on the ZX Spectrum and an unknown Doom preview for the Commodore 64 from 1995 share the responsibility of being the first releases of Doom attempts on any pre-16-bit machine, although I can't be sure, which one was the earlier one. Only that the Spectrum attempt was closer to the original game. Digital Reality's Doom demo from 1996 on the ZX Spectrum was the first one I came across, and even has a Spectrumized version of the original Doom title screen. The gameplay is still rather preliminary, but showcases a relatively smooth first-person 3D scroller. On the C64, Klaus Andersen's M.O.O.D. preview represented a fuller Doom experience, with a colourful full-screen first-person view with smooth scrolling, with some enemies to shoot at and doors to interact with, but it looks horribly blocky and you can't really tell properly what's happening on the screen. Also on the C64, a first-person bugfest called Nether by Cameron Kaiser was another attempt at making a Doom-equivalent, but it never seemed to reach a properly playable state.

8-bit Doom-likes or demakes. Top left: ZXOOM (ZX Spectrum, 2011) Bottom left: The Dark (ZX Spectrum, 1997)
Top middle: Nether (C64, 1996) Bottom middle: M.O.O.D. (C64, 1996-2006)
Top right: Planet Doom (Atari 2600, 2015) Bottom right: Doom (Vic-20, 2013)


The most impressive Doom attempts on the Spectrum have been Oleg Origin's The Dark (actually loosely based Quake) from 1997, and a Russian co-production from 2011 called ZXOOM, and the v1.5 pre-release of the previously mentioned Digital Reality's Doom from 1997. The C64 community didn't really bother to get Doom ported until very recently, using the original source code and the rare SuperCPU add-in to make the game possible to run at all. Only Tomi Malinen's odd SEUCK effort called The Hand of Doom is clearly based on Doom, but cannot with all honesty be called a real demake. Another early attempt at a Doom-like game was Nether by Computer Workshops in 1996, but only a preview version of it exists.

Now, things get even more interesting. Unless you're a proper Doom-fanatic and keep a look out on any Doom-related news, you might have missed a few really special Doom demakes. For one, Atari 2600 has a really preliminary sort of a first-person shooter called Planet Doom from 2015, if you can view it as such. Yes, this one really exists, unlike the famous April Fools joke Doom 2600 from 1997 or so. The vector-based Vectrex also has a Doom-demake called Voom, which, from what I've seen on YouTube, only features the first map, but no enemies, no shooting, and no real exit. So basically, it's a vector-based map viewer, but even then, it apparently needs some additional hardware to be able to run and play with it. One of the most impressive Doom demakes that I've seen in many years was the VIC-20 version by Kweepa from 2013, and features full interaction with enemies, doors and such, but cuts in level design, and only a few levels. Still, for 38.5k or RAM, it's a proper achievement, if not particularly playable. Finally, you can find Doom demakes even for Texas Instruments' graphing calculators and even a Canon printer with full-colour display, as you can see from these YouTube links. Cor, blimey!

The last game for this section is a modern classic from Activision called ... *drum roll* ... Guitar Hero. Yeah, everyone's favourite party game with a necessary plastic guitar-like accessory was demade for at least three machines. That's how many I've found so far, but I do recall having seen some other demakes being either planned or made mock-ups of. Who knows, maybe they'll show up some day.

Guitar Hero demakes/remakes, left to right:
Tracker Hero (Amiga, 2010), Shredz64 (C64, 2008), D-Pad Hero (NES, 2009), Frets on Fire (Windows, 2006)

Guitar Hero itself, the first game in the series, was released in 2005, which is quite a bit later than the first music games like the countless karaoke games made since 2000 (check date!) and Aerosmith's rocking adventure game Quest For Fame from 1999, featuring the ridiculous, but unforgettable V-Pick. When it was established, that the virtual plastic guitar pad thing actually worked nicely as a gimmick to sell a few games with, a series of Guitar Hero games followed, along with extensions for the series, such as Rock Band and DJ Hero. It didn't take too long, before a PC version appeared in 2006 in the form of Frets on Fire by a Finnish dev team Unreal Voodoo. The point of Frets on Fire is, that the game can be played on a keyboard as well as an optional guitar controller, and you can easily add your own songs onto the playlist as well. Of course, having raised the idea of using some other controller instead of a proper Guitar Hero controller, demakes were bound to happen at some point, so it was a gleeful surprise for retro fans all around, that the first of its kind was made for the Commodore 64 in 2008. Shredz64 by Synthetic Dreams was, however, originally made to be played with the original guitar controller, using an adapter to connect PSX controllers to the C64.

Perhaps a bit obviously, the next step was to make D-Pad Hero for the NES in 2009, followed by a sequel the next year. At least this time, the makers of the NES demake figured out it would be much nicer for the NES gamers just to use their readily available controllers. Next, Gus Entertainment got their Tracker Hero finished for the Commodore Amiga in 2010. Needless to say, all these demakes get their idea across the best when using good old tunes from the machines' own respective game music libraries. Finally, although the Keyboard Hero idea was perfected with Frets on Fire, there are demakes of the said variant, even for such a rare machine as Vtech VZ200. I also recall there having been some talk about getting a Guitar Hero demake for the ZX Spectrum, but so far, I have seen nothing but good looking mock-up screens. Oh well.

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LESS ATTEMPTED PORTS AND DEMAKES


And here's the interesting part of today's special. Not just because we get to see more unexpected and interesting conversions/demakes, but because there's also a surprisingly great number of rather difficult concepts to tackle on lower spec machines, starting with a few rather under-and-over-the-top ports of Valve's modern classic first-person puzzler, Portal.

Portal demakes, left to right: Shotgate (C64), Portal (Apple ][), Super 3D Portals 6 (Atari 2600)


Although the basic idea of using two shootable portals as a means to travel between specific places in the reachable area doesn't sound like much of a problem to transfer to 8-bit machines, most the accompanying gameplay elements in the original Portal might prove more difficult, if not entirely impossible. So, how on earth did someone get this thing onto an Atari 2600? Well, Super 3D Portals 6 is decidedly not 3D, and is a cursor-driven game to be played simultaneously on two joysticks. Sounds a bit difficult, but once you get used to the intentional quirky cheapness of it, it's a piece of proverbial cake. The Apple ][ version, simply named Portal, is also cursor-driven and two-dimensional, and even features some more puzzle elements, but judging by all the videos of it online, it's barely playable due to slowness. The C64 version is the same Shotgate by Simon Quernhorst that I mentioned in my previous entry, and it's the only one I've actually played a lot before - perhaps even more than the original game. Unlike the other two demakes, this one focuses on using the protagonist in every possible way instead of moving cursors, so instead of pointing at walls and floors, you rotate and point your hand in the wanted direction and shoot gates. Feels more arcadey that way, but it works.

Other first-person games demade into something very different that I've noticed having been done within the last 15 years or so, in addition to the above mentioned Doom, are surprisingly numerous, and have appeared mostly on very unexpected platforms. For one, the fearsome appearances of the Slenderman have been translated on to the MSX as Slender: the Camping, which plays more or less like a Zelda variant without all of the actiony and rpg-like bits. While it's initially funny to see the game in such an old-school representation, it still manages to grab you in a similar enough manner as the original game, and that's exactly how demakes should be.

Some random demakes: Halo (Atari 2600), Wipe-Out (Atari 2600), Souls (ZX Spectrum), Slender: the Camping (MSX)


The more improbable, the better, and the Atari 2600 has its fair share of improbable demakes, as if Portal wasn't enough. From modern 3D games, the A2600 has demakes of Wipeout and, rather famously, Halo. In case anyone has forgotten, the reason why Halo 2600 is such as famous demake, is not just because it's frickin' Halo for the Atari 2600, but also because it was developed by Ed Fries - the former vice president of game publishing at Microsoft, who was involved in Microsoft's acquisition of Bungie Studios, who originally developed Halo for the Xbox. RetroLord's Wipeout 2600 might not be quite so famous, nor quite so interesting, but it is a rare occasion of a 3D game demade for the A2600. We'll get back to the A2600 when necessary. Before moving on to the next batch, I still have a game to mention from the list of unexpected 3D game demakes, and that is Dark Souls demade into Souls for the ZX Spectrum by RetroBytes, which has gone from an epic medieval first-person hack-and-slash romp to a highly amusing flip-screen platforming hack-and-slash adventure, which, considering the hardware, is rather good on its own right. If you're into Dark Souls, you might also be amused by this attempt made with RPG Maker on PS1.

Screenshots of Legend of Zelda demakes and previews. Top row, Commodore 64 stuff, left to right: Mythos - Battle for Aivanor (2007), Wizard Saga (2015) and Wonderland (2012). Bottom row: Cat Quest for the Atari 2600, and three ZX Spectrum versions: an untitled AGD-Zelda demake preview (2017), Zelda ZX teaser (2017) and the Order of Mazes (2015).

I spoke earlier of Zelda variants, and I should mention, that there have been various Zelda demakes in the making for both ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 over the last 10 years or so. The most recent Speccy version is tentatively titled Zelda ZX, and is directly based on the original Legend of Zelda, and should be out next year, and there's another Zelda demake being made with Arcade Game Designer. The most recently worked on C64 version has a look more reminiscent of A Link To The Past from SNES, and its last reported work was done in February, with 4 charsets done for different areas. Looks promising, as anything by Smila does, but who knows if we'll ever see either finished product, since as far as we know, only graphics exist so far. Other Zelda-like prototypes for the C64 worth looking into are Mythos - Battle for Aivanor from 2007 (which was worked on for 10 years up to that point) and Wizard Saga from 2015. Perhaps you won't be quite as surprised anymore, if I say that the Atari 2600 also has its own Zelda demake-in-progress in the form of Cat Quest by Alp, although it seems Cat Quest has been put on hold until he has finished his A2600 demake/parody of Hydlide.

Aside from the works in progress, there are a few slightly less obvious Zelda pastiches made for various platforms, which you might be interested in. On the C64, the closest you can find to a Zelda clone is a small title called Wonderland, which was originally made for the 2012 RGCD 16kb cartridge game development competition by Georg Rottensteiner of Joe Gunn fame, with other familiar names on graphics and sounds - Trevor Storey and Sean Connolly. There was supposed to be a 64kb version in the works, too, but it was postponed to be worked on after they had finished working on another little delayed project called Hyperion. On the ZX Spectrum, the best Zelda-like attempt that I've seen so far is not very Zelda-like, but the Order of Mazes by Tom Dalby from 2015 certainly has enough Zelda-like elements to consider it as a distant relative.

More random demakes and ports, left to right:
Amusement Park and The Well II (ZX Spectrum) / Prince of Persia and Penultimate Fantasy (Commodore 64)


In the above picture, you can see a few other demakes of big titles more connected to the 16-bit machines that I could think of. Modern Speccy hero Jonathan Cauldwell made a rather feature-limited demake of Bullfrog's 1994 classic simulation game, Theme Park, as a participant for the 2003 minigame competition, and named it Amusement Park 4000. In 2004, an upgraded version called Fun Park was published by Cronosoft, so is unavailable for download at WoS. If you're happy about how the minigame works, though, then by all means, do yourself a favour and give a holler to Cronosoft, and see if they can produce new copies of the game. The only other bigger title that I could find as a demake on the ZX Spectrum was one of my favourite action-puzzlers ever, Namco's Mr. Driller. Sergio Montes' The Well and its sequel from 2006 might not be direct demakes, but rather games heavily inspired by Mr. Driller, but they're close enough to be mentioned here.

On the C64 front, the most obvious mentionable is the game that made EasyFlash a no-brainer to purchase: the previously unconvertable Prince of Persia. One could argue the requirement of an EasyFlash cartridge as unconventional, which it is, but even impossible to play on a bulk C64, but that's just pure nonsense, because with that logic, you could say that Yoshi's Island is not a real SNES game. Anyway, the C64 Prince of Persia is a very near-perfect conversion, and cannot be recommended enough to anyone still harking back to the days of old, when they were forced to move on to their Amigas and PC's when Prince of Persia became the most wanted game. Unlike the above Theme Park demakes, I cannot honestly call the C64 Prince of Persia a demake, because it just isn't. But it's a conversion long time in coming. As for a good demake to go with the current theme, Georg Rottensteiner's demakes (a BASIC version in 2010 and a machine code upgrade in 2014) of Final Fantasy - aptly titled Penultimate Fantasy - might fit the bill nicely. It's a short but sweet take on the Final Fantasy style RPG'ing, which proves that it could well be done on the C64, but it's just not very characteristic of the machine.

Left: Dead Flesh Boy (ZX Spectrum demake of Super Meat Boy)
Middle: Super 48k Box (ZX Spectrum demake of Super Crate Box)
Right: Super Bread Box (Commodore 64 demake of Super Crate Box)
This might get a little random as we proceed, because it's mostly just mindflow. Now, modern indie games might occasionally offer more inspiration for conversions or demakes, where appropriate. Team Meat's Super Meat Boy from 2010 is a ridiculously addicting, yet harshly difficult platformer on the XBox360 and Windows, and is also so far the only sequel to the 2008 Flash game, Meat Boy. Much of the game's popularity might be attributed to it being featured as one of the games featured in Indie Game: The Movie. So far, the only retro machines the red little jumping block of meat has found its way onto are ZX Spectrum in "Dead Flesh Boy" and apparently even Atari 2600 in "Meat Boy" (of which I have only seen some video footage for proof), from which the Speccy version gets impressively close to the original. More recently, a strangely familiar single-screen platformer called Hair Boy was released for the Amstrad CPC, but it's more inspired by Meat Boy than a direct demake.

Vlambeer's indie hit Super Crate Box from 2010 got its first official retro port in 2013, when Paul Koller (familiar from C64anabalt) finished his port for the C64, and was given the official thumbs-up from Vlambeer to publish it, and so, Super Bread Box was published through RGCD in October 2013. It was not until 2015, that the ZX Spectrum saw a version of Super Crate Box, titled Super 48k Box. Needless to say, it was even further limited from the C64 demake, but it's still a fun, nicely rolling demake of the original, and well worth a look.

Bloxorz variants: W*H*B and X=Y=Z for the ZX Spectrum and an unfinished Bloxorz port for Vectrex.
Rightmost: l'Abbaye des Morts (ZX Spectrum, 2014).


Probably the most impressive PC to Spectrum ports of the recent years have been rather Spectrum-like to begin with. Damien Clarke's Flash game Bloxorz from 2007 is an isometric block-rolling puzzler, in which you need to get a two blocks high black block down a designated single-block hole within a target amount of moves. The game became a viral hit soon after its release, and can be found from various different Flash gaming websites. The Spectrum version was programmed by Bob Smith in 2009, renamed W*H*B. Bob Smith also produced a sequel for the game in 2014, titled X=Y=Z, which gave the game more puzzle elements by giving you a bunch of floor switch buttons to make your block do different things. The only other Bloxorz demake that I'm aware of is an unfinished Vectrex version from 2013 by Frank Buss.

Then there's the obvious Spectrum tribute game by Darkhorace, l'Abbaye des Morts, which was eventually ported to the Spectrum as accurately as you can imagine. While the Spectrum port is undoubtedly impressive, there was also an Amiga OS4 remake made of it, if anyone is interested in moderately upgraded graphics and such. Whichever version you prefer, l'Abbaye des Morts is a great, dark little puzzle-platformer with little chance for a happy ending.

C64 demakes/ports, left to right: Bruce Lee II, Devil Ronin, You Have To Win The Game


On the C64 camp, there are a greater number of impressive ports, that surpass the notion of being demakes. Jonas Hultén's superb conversion of Bruno R. Marcos' 8-bit styled tribute game Bruce Lee II brought the C64 layout option to the real machine, only leaving the Amstrad CPC visuals yet to be converted. What makes the faithful porting of Bruce Lee II such an achievement is having kept all the new things in tact, that were built on top of the old concept, such as Bruce being able to swim, new enemies and such.

Howard Kistler of Dream Codex created an original game in C64-style called Devil Ronin for the 2008 Retro Remakes competition, which won the second place in the retro-styled original games category. Although it was often talked of becoming ported to the C64, it took about 5 years until it finally reached the platform it paid tribute to, written by none other than Georg Rottensteiner for the 2013 RGCD 16kb cartridge game development competition.

What was originally a perfect 80's CGA-DOS-style flip-screen platforming game called You Have To Win The Game (2012) by Pirate Hearts, was not only mutated into an "old screen modes"-fest later on, but rather perversely, also into a C64 port... which still retained the original CGA palette, just to be as true to the original as humanly possible. Unnecessary, but very nice, and plays just like the original.

From left to right:
The World's Hardest Game (ZX Spectrum, 2014), The Infeasible Game (ZX Spectrum port of "the Impossible Game", 2015) and The Impossible Game (Commodore 64, 2014)


I always get the World's Hardest Game and the Impossible Game mixed up, so I'll just leave this here as a reminder, since both games have been ported to the ZX Spectrum, and the Impossible Game can also be found on the C64 and Atari ST. It doesn't help the mix-up much, that there's also a website called ImpossibleGame.org, which features both Flash games. So, the World's Hardest Game is practically a maze game, and the Impossible Game is an endless runner/platformer of sorts. In any case, your best bet on the retro machines is to go with the Speccy versions.

Assembloids / 8-bit versions of Quartet, left to right:
Commodore 64 original and BASIC demake, Atari 8-bit and Atari 2600.

Photon Storm's face-constructing puzzle Quartet from 2010 was first ported to the C64 in 2012 by enthusi and Conrad of Onslaught and iLKke of Funkentstört for the said year's RGCD 16kb Cartridge Game Development Competition, in which it came second, and was eventually published through RGCD and Psytronik on cartridge and tape. Onslaught also made an Atari 2600 version, and released it in the Silly Venture party in November 2013. Just before that, the Atari 8-bit version called Assembloids XE by Agenda was released in October. So far, the last finished version is a C64 demake in BASIC - admittedly strange, but a fun, cheap version of its big brother. There's also a ZX Spectrum port in the making by Onslaught, which was started back in 2014, but is on hold due to Caren and the Tangled Tentacles, and the last we heard of Assembloids ZX was in February 2016. Let's hope it gets finished some day. Whichever platform you're considering to play the game on, I can highly recommend all of them.

Top left & middle: Wiwo Dido 1 & 2 (ZX Spectrum, 2011) / Top right: Ridiculous Reality (Atari 8-bit, 2012)
Bottom row: Lumberjack (left: C64, right: Amiga)


Some of the most intriguing platform-puzzle concepts of the last 10 years or so are, of course, originally made for browsers or mobiles, either in Flash or Java. Bafflingly basic renditions of Continuity and Chronotron were demade as part of the Wiwo Dido trilogy for the ZX Spectrum in 2011 by Dr BEEP, the third of which was a door-related puzzle maze game which also feels very familiar, but I haven't been able to find a point of origin for it. Despite their unashamed minimalism, the Wiwo Dido games are well worth playing, as are their original versions. Continuity was also ported for the Atari 8-bit computers in 2012 as Ridiculous Reality, which is more of a proper 8-bit port than a deliberate demake - also highly recommended. The only thing we've seen of Ridiculous Reality so far on the C64 is an April Fools joke a from few years ago.

And so we get back to the mobile hits. Timberman/Lumberman by Digital Melody from 2014 has been called the Flappy Bird killer, which it might as well be. The idea is to chop a neverending tree as fast as you can by tapping on the side of the tree which doesn't have a branch coming down and knocking on your head, thus ending the game. While it wasn't quite as major a hit as Flappy Bird (probably because you need to pay for it on some platforms), it did receive enough attention to raise the interest of retro machine game developers. So far, Commodore 64 and Amiga have gotten their own Lumberjack games, and you can't really call either of them a demake, since even the original was stylistically old-school.

More random demakes & ports, left to right:
Micro Hexagon (C64, 2013), HexaGBA preview (GBA, 2017), VVVVVV (C64, 2017), Mighty Jill Off (Atari 8-bit, 2011)


For our final titles to be featured here, I wanted to include a couple of genuine surprises. At least they were for me, when I found out someone had actually made these two games for the platforms they were made for. From Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV, Experiment 12, Xoldiers, Tiny Heist, etc.) one of the most irresistible reaction games, Super Hexagon, was demade for the Commodore 64 by Paul Koller in 2013 as Micro Hexagon. True to demake rules, it doesn't really feature all the madness or the difficulty levels as the original does, but for the C64, it's still an admirable achievement. More lately, a demo version has also appeared for the Game Boy Advance, this time called HexaGBA.

Paul Koller also made the first preview version of VVVVVV for the C64 in 2010, but due to several more pressing matters (C64anabalt, Super Bread Box, Micro Hexagon...), VVVVVV remained unfinished until it was too late. The game was, however, ported by unctiover earlier this year, which made Paul Koller drop his conversion entirely, and release the final preview version as it was at the time. Too bad, because the finished version isn't quite up to scratch, and doesn't feature all the elements from the original game. It's good for what it is, but it's a shame that it could've been even better. But I guess you could now call the finished C64 version a demake, if you like.

Finally, we have an unofficial sequel/spin-off/tribute of the Bomb Jack series, featuring Bomb Jack's fictional lesbian counterpart Mighty Jill Off, who is apparently very much into BDSM, and has a boot fetish. Anna Anthropy, who designed and wrote the game in 2008, has been reported to have been a BDSM practitioner, hence the subject matter. In perhaps an attempt to make the game feel more fitting to the theme, Anthropy specifically attempted to make it more difficult. You just couldn't have made something like this - and even more specifically, of such quality - in the 80's. So, imagine my surprise, when in 2011, a group called Morons of HAR released their Atari 8-bit conversion of Mighty Jill Off! While I'm utterly baffled and happy to find such a gem find its way onto any of the 8-bits, I'd still like to see it on C64 and Spectrum, knowing that it could well be done.

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PENULTIMATE WORDS


There are still many games that could and should be mentioned in this context, but I have to try and keep things compact for a change, if only because there's still too many ports and demakes out there, that are bursting to get out in full, that it would take at least another such entry to tell you about the currently available previews. Of course, there are some previews that most likely will never reach a finished state, such as the C64 conversions of Pinball Dreams and Moonstone, or perhaps the ZX Spectrum resurrection of Megatree... but whatever happens on this front, I'll keep an eye out, and will eventually write part 2 for this special. I know there are already quite a few previews out there that could have been featured here, as well as a few more demakes and faithful ports of more modern games, but I wanted to leave more for later, just in case.

That's it for now; perhaps there will be more to follow. I hope this opened some eyes for more emerging retrogamers, because having good ports and demakes of modern games on the old systems is really what made me support the new retro game developers, and there's always room for more demakes and ports. And new retrogamers, of course.

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