Monday, 3 May 2021

Ninja (Mastertronic, 1986)

Developed by Sculptured Software.

Designed and programmed by Steve Coleman, with music by Rob Hubbard. C64 loading screen by Jim Wilson. Originally released for the Atari 8-bit computers and Commodore 64 in 1986 by Mastertronic.

Converted for the IBM-PC compatibles by Bryan Brandenburg and Soft Arts in 1986.

Converted for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Icon Design Ltd. in 1987.

Converted for the Amstrad CPC by Brian Beuken of Icon Design Ltd. in 1987.

Atari ST conversion: Programming by Steve Coleman, Graphics by Tanya Platt, Loading screen by Jez Nelson, Music by David Whittaker.

Commodore Amiga conversion: Programming by Rick Nooner and Bruce Milner, Graphics by Tanya Platt and Joe Hitchens, Loading screen by Jez Nelson, Music by Brad Dahl.

Arcadia conversion by Sculptured Software (further details unknown).

Released as "Ninja Mission" for the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga in 1987, and for the Arcadia in 1988 by Mastertronic.



Welcome to the second Mastertronic May at FRGCB! With any luck and time on my side, there should be three games to be dealt with this month, much like last year, and we shall start with a relatively big one: Ninja from Sculptured Software, designed by none other than Steve Coleman, who is also responsible for such classics as The Pharaoh's Curse and Rainbow Walker, as well as the 8-bit Atari conversion of Raid Over Moscow.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

FRGCB on YouTube: My Nostalgia Trip Games continues

As if the title for this post isn't clear enough, let's just elaborate a little on that. The video series My Nostalgia Trip Games is back with a new "season", if you like to divide all the episodes into such. With the third season, you get more of the same old, with some enhanced features, such as new intro and outro jingles and graphics, and possibilities of more interesting backgrounds for my introductory hosting bits. There will also be some previously left-out platforms featured sometime along this season, once I get the equipment to record better quality videos, but for now, the new season of MNTG will start with a few regulars, with the MS-DOS compatible PC's being the first episode.

Friday, 12 March 2021

TWOFER #22: Horace Classics (Sinclair Research Ltd, 1982)

Hungry Horace and Horace Goes Skiing:

Developed and written by William Tang (Psion/Melbourne House) for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 16k.
Published by Sinclair Research, Ltd. in 1982.

Commodore 64 conversions by Gregg Barnett. Published by Melbourne House in 1983.

Dragon 32/64 conversions:
Programmed by D. Jansen (a.k.a. Denver Jeans; to be confirmed). Graphics for Horace Goes Skiing by Russell Comte and Greg Holland. Published by Melbourne House in 1984.



The little blue ghostly armless character, well-known particularly in the Spectrum community by the name Horace, was one of the first home computer mascots, and deserves to be honoured with his very own entry here at FRGCB. To be honest, I never really considered the Horace games interesting enough to even consider they might be worth doing a proper comparison of, but on further thought, the character's historical value is enough to give it the full works. So, although I have listed this as a two-fer - mostly because the first two games are all that I'm actually able to compare versions of - this entry will feature chapters for the other available official Horace games, and some of the best fan sequels out there. So, despite its origins, this is going to be a (relatively) big one.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Retrogame Talkshow makes a comeback!

After a largely unplanned sabbatical year, Retrogame Talkshow is back with a new episode! As was planned in late 2019, episode #7 is a tribute to the late, great Ben Daglish, a master game music composer most of us retrogamers know and love from his work on all the major 8-bit and 16-bit computers. Mr. Daglish passed away on the 1st of October in 2018, so the episode is a bit overdue, but as they say, better late than never, and his music is always worth listening to.

There you have the YouTube video version of the episode, and as a more traditional audio podcast format, it's available on iTunes, Spotify, Spreaker and practically every other podcasting platform available. You can also find Retrogame Talkshow on Instagram (@retrogame_talkshow), Facebook and Twitter, but Instagram is where we mostly operate outside of the actual podcasting. Thanks for listening!

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Split Personalities (Domark, 1986)

Developed for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Ernieware:
Programming by Ruud Peske
Graphics by Ernest Peske
Music by David Whittaker
Other credit by Mark Strachan

Commodore 64:
Programming by Mark Greenshields
Graphics by Richard Naylor
Music by David Whittaker

Amstrad CPC:
Programming by Darren Pegg
Graphics by Jason Pegg
Music by John Brozovsky

The Spectrum, C64 and Amstrad versions all published by Domark in 1986.

Commodore Plus/4:
Programming by Mark Greenshields
Graphics and music by Richard Naylor
Published by Domark in 1987.

Rewritten for the Nintendo Game Boy as "Splitz" by Richard Naylor for Enigma Variations Ltd.,
and published by Imagineer Co., Ltd. in 1993.



One of my favourite puzzle games of all time has always been Split Personalities, and it's also one of the rare games I managed to play on the three main contestant platforms in their own time. The Plus/4 version was unknown to me until I decided upon making a comparison of this game. Learning about its origins was a long time coming, though - the latest bits of information have, indeed, only surfaced last year, which makes this a particularly interesting game to talk about right now, particularly as the animation show it was originally based on has made a bit of a comeback lately, after an absence of almost 24 years.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

4x4 Off-Road Racing (Epyx, 1988)

Designed by Ogdon Micro Design Inc.

Commodore 64:
Programming by Paul Nickels, Joe Simko, Ed Schoenberg, Steve Thomas and K-Byte
Graphics by Paul Vernon
Music by Jennell "Paul" Jaquays

Sinclair ZX Spectrum version written by Steve Marsden and David Cooke.

Commodore Amiga:
Music by Chris Grigg
Miscellaneous stuff by Mark Riley

IBM-PC compatibles:
Programming by Ed Schoenberg
Artwork by Matthew Sarconi
Music by Jennell "Paul" Jaquays

All other credits are currently unknown.

Published for Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, IBM-PC compatibles, MSX and Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Epyx for the North American market, and U.S. Gold for the European market in 1988.



Since restarting the comparison blog in late 2019, I've been trying to avoid writing about games that are bound to be heavy work for a comparison. But now that the comparison of Exploding Fist is done, the next logical step (if such logic exists) would be an Epyx game, but I didn't want to write about any of the other sport games quite yet, nor about Impossible Mission, because I've never really understood it, and there are just too many versions to bother with it. So, this presented a puzzle for a long while, until the answer was presented to me by a reader called Zaltys on the 5th of June 2020 - thanks again for the suggestion, and sorry for the delay! Not only does this bring another game into the numerals in the comparisons archive, but it also gives me a chance to really dive into a game I've long meant to, but have always postponed it due to lack of inspiration and time. Besides, it's about time an Epyx game, that is not part of their multi-event sports series, is featured on the blog.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

The Way of the Exploding Fist (Melbourne House, 1985)

Originally designed by Gregg Barnett and written for the Commodore 64 by Beam Software:
Programming by Gregg Barnett and David Johnston, Graphics by Greg Holland, Music by Neil Brennan. Published by Melbourne House in 1985. Also published as "Kung-Fu: the Way of the Exploding Fist" in North America by Spinnaker Software (UXB).

Conversion for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum: Programming by Gregg Barnett, William Tang and Stephen Taylor, Graphics by Stephen Taylor and Greg Holland. Published by Melbourne House in 1985.

Converted for the Amstrad CPC by Gregg Barnett, Cameron Duffy and Dam, and published by Melbourne House in 1985. An upgraded version called "The Way of the Exploding Fist +" was released for the Amstrad CPC in 1986.

Converted for the Acorn BBC Micro and Electron by Michael Simpson, and published by Melbourne House in 1985.

Converted for the Commodore 16 by Richard Costello, and published by Melbourne House in 1986.

Unofficial (?) Sharp MZ-800 port written by Michal Kreidl, and published by MikrSoft in 1987.

Unofficial Commodore Plus/4 port "The Way of the Exploding Fist +4" written by Thomas Sasvari in 1993.

Unofficial port of the C16 version for the Atari 400/800 written by Fandal and Miker in 2017.

NES version was originally developed by Beam Software, with the last prototype being from 1990. The prototype was modified to be finishable, and the final release was made in 2019 by Piko Interactive. The Piko version has also been released for the Evercade handheld console in 2021.



If you have been following this blog for longer, you might remember I did a comparison of the much more adventure-oriented sequel to Exploding Fist for the Reset64 magazine many years ago. My excuse for putting off writing about the original game must be the lack of confidence in giving this classic game the high quality comparison it deserves, but since this comparison was also requested many moons ago, I have since started to make video accompaniments, which enables me to finally take the plunge and just get on with it. And while it's not particularly seasonal, I figured this would be a good way to begin 2021 with properly, so... Happy New Year!