Friday, 24 January 2014

Heaps of updates!

It is one of those times again when I have to admit to have been a bit remiss in some of my comparisons. There are currently several games that require an update, namely BUMP 'N' JUMP, SABOTEUR!, SABOTEUR II - AVENGING ANGEL, JETPAC, WINTER GAMES, and even BRUCE LEE requires another update, but currently, I am only able to update the first four mentioned. Let's get on with this one, so we can finally bring at least some of these to a conclusion.


"Krazy Kar" was another unofficial port of BUMP 'N' JUMP for the Commodore 64, which should have been included in the original comparison, but at the time, I just did not know it existed. Some time since, I came across this game at, and noticed that it actually had a game profile at Lemon64 as well - I only had overlooked it for some reason. Well, here we go then.

Kim & Paul Mcherry made this little piece of software to be published by IJK Software Ltd., a relatively unknown software publisher, whose only other two games (at least for the C64) were Jouste and Rocket Ball. As far as I know, Krazy Kar is the only game the Mcherry's ever got published. It's not exactly a bad game, only a bit useless conversion of a game that already had two quite acceptable conversions on the C64. For its defence, I could mention that the level layouts are again different enough from the two to make this version worth trying at least a couple of times. Too bad there's not much to mention in terms of playability, since the majority of the gametime can be spent in air. Your car jumps for a few miles at a time, so you will not be spending all that much time on the ground. Otherwise, the car handles as well as in the other games. Your acceleration starts at 30 mph (or which format it ever is), and goes up to 250, and your jump ability kicks in at 150. When you land from a jump, you're taken off 40 of your speed.

Commodore 64: Krazy Kar (IJK Software, 1984)

As you can see, the graphics are not only bigger than in the other two C64 conversions, but blockier and uglier. Also, Krazy Kar also uses a similar style for the background graphics as Burnin' Rubber, although it is arguable which one of them has the worse patterns. At least the warning light flashes in a place more noticeable place, so there's something done right. Krazy Kar's soundtrack is none other than the theme from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in the usual muffled sound that is recognizable from many early C64 games. So there are some unique aspects to this game, but considering the game is very difficult to find as an original tape, none but the hardcore collectors will gain any real enjoyment out of it. The tape loads up in 2 minutes 27 seconds, so it's not too bad, but still slower than the Alternative re-release of Bumping Buggies. Still, if you do think this version will suit you the best, there are a lot worse ways to waste disk space. Doesn't hurt to try.

ZX Spectrum: Jumpin' Jag (Micronet 800, 1985)
I have also tried to look for other top-down racers that would have something in common with Bump 'n' Jump, but so far the only game that has had any closer resemblance to it has been JUMPIN' JAG on the ZX Spectrum, written by Simon Fletcher in 1985 and released by  Micronet 800. Even that one has only a very few similarities, which I will not get into too much here. Apart from being able to adjust your speed, controlling your car and being able to jump, Jumpin' Jag really has very little in common with Bump 'n' Jump. If any of you readers have any knowledge of other unknown Bump 'n' Jump clones, please do tell.


For the first SABOTEUR game, I need to correct a serious mistake I did in my original post: the Commodore 16 version is a completely different beast after all, compared to the Plus/4 version. You see, before I started writing this blog, I had no previous experience in C16 and Plus/4 gaming, so I assumed the Plus/4 version was the exact same thing as the C16 one. Then, almost by an accident, I saw a completely different looking screenshot on some website that I already forgot about, and my jaw fell to the floor when I saw what the C16 version actually looks like. This here game that you see below, is the Commodore 16 version.

Commodore 16: Saboteur! (Durell Software, 1985)

Unlike what you would expect from the C16/+4 tape inlay description, it most certainly is almost an entirely different game, so immense is the difference here. Not only are the guard dogs impossible to kill, and using a joystick is out of the question, as the manual says, but the action screen is MUCH smaller than in the other versions, making all the graphics very small and simplistic. Other things missing are all the sounds, the security cameras, the helicopter at the end (you see the two lower screenshots with the stairs leading to the roof - that's the ending screen), the trains and most of the furnishing graphics to make navigating through the complex building less troublesome. However, considering the C16's limitations that have now become apparent to me, it is surprisingly playable, and certainly completable. Once you start comparing it to the other versions, though, you will have a few laughs and never come back to it again.


IBM-PC cover art of Saboteur II
If you got the impression from my original Saboteur entry that the Spectrum and Amstrad versions of SABOTEUR II were horribly slow and uncomfortable to play, get a load of this one. I had no idea that an IBM-PC (DOS) version existed of the sequel, since none of my regular haunts, nor Wikipedia, told that there was a conversion - it's that unknown. And I'd say it's for a good reason. Although apparently released by Durell themselves, and from what I could tell, the DOS version was also coded by none other than Clive Townsend himself (it was that close to the Spectrum and Amstrad versions), it seems like a hushed-up job, because it's not even as playable as the two mentioned are. Sure, now with DOSbox, you can get the game to play as fast as you'd ever want it to, but the speed is not all that's wrong with it. Oh-ho-ho, no.

Since I made myself wait for enough updates to be made, I waited three months before I tried this game out on my other PC with a pure MS-DOS, to see if it worked at all differently to the DOSbox on my relatively new Windows 7 PC with a quadcore processor and plenty enough RAM and graphics capabilities to work on some retro games. It didn't, except for having no need to adjust the DOS emulator speed to make the game as playable as it can get.

One of the smallest problems you will experience is the way you have to perform your jumps. You will have to be walking in some direction, before going for the jump diagonals, otherwise you will just perform some sort of kick or other move that you were clearly not intending to do. Then, once you encounter your first enemy, you know you are in an uncommonly large pool of feces. If you ever tried to play this version, you might have noticed before this point, that your movement isn't all too fluent - your ninja girl stops for a second after having taken her first step, every single time you try to do anything. This lag effect is more painful, when you try to fight any enemy, because you are unable to move after you have made a jump, unless you restart your movement by first taking a neutral position on your controller (even though keyboard is your only choice). This same problem naturally occurs after you have performed a jump-kick. Even more annoyingly, when you try to perform something as simple as fist-fighting, tapping the action button too quickly will only cause your ninja girl to freeze with her fist straight forward without any sort of effect going for it. So, not only are you unable to move as quickly and gracefully as a ninja should, you are pretty much useless at fighting as well. With a bit of luck and practice on the bad controls, you might be able to clear the first few difficulty levels, but the probability of getting insanely frustrated at the DOS version of Saboteur 2 is too damn high.

IBM-PC (DOS): Saboteur II - Avenging Angel (Durell Software, 1987)

Regarding the graphics and sounds, then: basically, the graphics are similar to the Spectrum and Amstrad versions in terms of animation and detail, but are horribly mutated in terms of colours. Considering it's from the EGA time, it really had no option but to look bad, but didn't they have any other colours to consider? Now the colouring reminds me of a really bad 80's b-class ninja movie. Naturally, the DOS version has the title music, due to the customizable amount of memory, but the pitching and speed are proportional to the power of your computer, thus making the tune unlistenable on any higher setup than a 286. There are no sound effects to speak of, just some bips and bops that you are barely able to hear, but that is not too much different from how massive the sound set is on all the other versions. The only good thing about the DOS version I can think of to say is that it's not a boot-loader, and so you don't have to reset the computer when you want to quit. REALLY not a very
recommended version, this one.


JETPAC has finally gotten a properly good conversion for the Commodore 64, from the hands of John Christian Lonningdal and Saul Cross. In late 2013, a new unofficial conversion was released for the RGCD 16kb Cartridge Game Development Competition, with the title "Rocket Smash", and landed rather nicely on the 5th place from the 15 competitors. This conversion was long awaited, not only since it's announcement sometime in 2012, but since the original Jetpac, really, so it was 30 years in the making.

Commodore 64: Rocket Smash (RGCD, 2013)

Currently, the game is in its 16k Competition state, and is expected to be upgraded into a proper release sometime this year, hopefully. The 16k limitations are not that noticable, though, because the backdrop changes on every screen, and you get some nice music and sound effects in the game. The only relatively new thing that has only been in one other version before is the oxygen meter, which you need to fill up occasionally. (The other version that I'm talking of, is the 2007 release called Jetboy on the Atari 800.) I'm still unsure about two things, what to think about them. One: graphics, because they suffer from a slight overblockiness. They are very colourful, though - even more so than in the original, which is saying quite a lot, considering the space theme. Maybe I just have gotten so attached to the crisp and clear single-colour sprites on the Spectrum original, that I have adjustment to be done. The second thing I'm unsure about is the gravity. In the original, you fall much quicker than the "heavenly" drops, but here, you fall the same speed, which is frankly a bit too slow. Enemy movements are fine, though, at least considering the new layouts. All in all, it is a very good modified conversion, but I was hoping it to be a bit closer to the original. Still, easily the best C64 version so far.

UPDATE! - 30th of January, 2015.
The enhanced edition of Rocket Smash has now been released through RGCD, and will be shortly available at Psytronik's webstore as a tape and a disk. A bit over a year has passed since the release of the 16k version, so the enhanced version is certainly a much awaited release. So, what has been updated, then? Well, there's more of everything, really. A story mode, for starters, including new animations and nicely segue'd cutscenes, which introduce a good amount of much-needed humour into the game. Regarding sounds, there are at least some digitised speech samples added into the game, which is a nice modern sort of a touch, but I'm not entirely sure on anything else. Frankly, I was too immersed in playing the game than concentrating on picking out the differences. And that's just how good it is. The fall speed thing has been dealt with in a way I didn't expect to, but I do think it's better now. Still, takes a bit of time getting used to when you compare it to the original Jetpac.

Commodore 64: Rocket Smash EX (RGCD/Psytronik, 2015)
However, for me at least, the most interesting thing about the Rocket Smash EX - and this I forgot to mention earlier - is the possibility to choose a difficulty from one of three levels. And for the EX version, they have rebalanced the difficulty settings notably, and clearly for the better. For example, the amount of oxygen tank drops is clearly lower on the medium level now than it was before. All in all, with all the adjustments and additions made to the game, now it actually is a better game than the original Jetpac, because you can get more easily immersed in it, and the continuously varied level design makes the game less prone to becoming boring. Highly recommended. Now, back to the old update entry.
UPDATE concluded.

Commodore 64: Jetpac64 preview (Pulse Productions, 1986)
Also, a curious looking animated demo has resurfaced recently through Games That Weren't, featuring a slightly rearranged view of the original JetPac level layout, with Jetman flying on the screen for a while, dodging round aliens before going for the preassembled rocket. The demo also featured a conversion of the Spectrum loading screen, all looking rather fantastic. However, apparently this version never got any further than this demo stage, so it seems the best chance for the C64'ers to play JetPac is Rocket Smash. The only thing I'm expecting of it in the future upgrade is focus on the gravity issue.

Elsewhere, another unofficial conversion of JetPac lifted its head from a pile of other unofficial releases. This particular version can be found on the Atari ST, and amazingly enough, the game is titled JetPac. This 1992 conversion was written by Pete Whitby, with music from Jochen Hippel, and released through Budgie UK in 1992. The available version is numbered 1.3, so it seems to have gone through some updates before it was deemed good enough for public domain release.

Atari ST: JetPac v1.3 (Budgie UK, 1992)

The title screen looks somewhat like the original loading screen, so that's certainly a nice bonus already. The graphics are overall on a clearly different level than the 16k Spectrum graphics, with all the backgrounds and details in everything, with a good amount of colour - not too much, but just fine. Some new enemies have been implemented, and more levels, new layouts, and even some new hazards have been created to eat up at least some of the ST's memory. Something questionable has been also added, which probably was then thought of as an enhancement - you get these information screens between levels, with a picture of a man in a space suit, probably digitized from a moon landing broadcast. I think it just takes away from the flow of the game. The sounds aren't much to brag about - seems like there are only three different sound effect, of which you will be hearing the enemy explosion effect the most, particularly in the first level. There is a theme tune, though, and it is even a good one, but whether it fits into this game or not is a matter of opinion.

Having played these two versions now, I might as well show my order of preference for all the JetPac games available, official or not. The original comparison for the official versions you can find here.

1. JetPac (ZX Spectrum)
2. JetPac (Atari ST)
3. Jetboy, Return to Earth! (Atari 800)
4. Rocket Smash (C64)
5. JetPac (VIC-20)
6. Bac-Pac (C64)
7. Jet-Pac (C64, by Thomas Goesmann)
8. JetPac (BBC Micro)


A quick mention regarding WINTER GAMES should probably be made here, before I finish off. I knew there was a Macintosh Classic version released, but by the time of posting the two blog entries, I had not found any emulator images yet. On the 6th day of 2014, a Lemon64 user by the name of "rhod" gave me a link to Macintosh Garden, which has the game image and some instructions how to make the game work, but so far, I haven't been able to get it working with either Gemulator 2000, Mini vMac or Basilisk II. At Macintosh Garden, the game has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 with 7 votes, so apparently it should be rather nice. The game is missing the other figure skating event, though, but it shouldn't be much of a bother to anyone, I suspect. Here are the same screenshots that are on view at the MG, clearly showing that the game is only available on the Classic Mac as a monochrome black-
and-white version.

Macintosh Classic: Winter Games (Epyx, 1985)

Let's hope this matter will be dealt with for the next time I have to do some updates. Otherwise, I only know of the Sharp X-1 version of BRUCE LEE, which I haven't been able to spot yet, so if anyone has any ideas as to where to get an image file of it, I'd be happy to take a look. Also, if any other conversions, be it official or unofficial, exist that I haven't had included in my blog entries yet, throw me a comment about it!

Thanks for reading, see you next time!
Any instructions on how to get the Classic Macintosh version of Winter Games working, are more than welcome! :-P


  1. Hi, I am John Christian, the programmer of Rocket Smash. Thanks for reviewing the game, and for the 64kb version I will take a look into the fall speed which you have made a comment on. It might be that we haven't quite pinned down the controls.

    Just to comment the "blockiness" we really wanted to use the full graphics possibilities for the C64 where the multicolour mode has these wide pixels (actual screen resolution is 160x200). We could have done a highres version but then the graphics would be very bland and franky "spectrum like" which we really wanted to avoid.

    Also its important to know that Jetpac is a copyright owned by Rare which again is owned by Microsoft, so we really couldn't convert the game 1:1 which might have given us problems with the copyright owners. So Rocket Smash is really an "ode" to the original game with some additional stuff we added to make it a tad different, it was never really meant to be a direct port even though Saul Cross who did the graphics had a lot of graphics that looked like the original (even loading screen) at first.

    1. Hi! Thanks for the comment. I kind of thought that might be the case with the graphics, and I can certainly understand your decisions regarding graphics, and appreciate your concern regarding the copyright issue. However, one cannot but compare it to the original, and it might take some time to adjust to the changes. I am eagerly awaiting for the 64k version, though, and once you get the controls just right, I'm pretty sure Rocket Smash will make it to be at least #2 on my top Jetpacs list. =)

  2. Hi Finnish guy! Thanks for the review(s) of Saboteur!
    It was actually Mike Richardson who wrote the DOS version of Sab2 - although it was based on my Speccy/CPC version. The graphics were CGA (cutting-edge back then!) so the only other set of colours available would have been Black, Cyan, Magenta & White, which would have been horrible! You're right about the keyboard though. Even asking an old PC to tell you which key (singular) had been pressed was a slow process. Fortunately PC's are a bit more game-friendly these days :-)

    1. Oh, cool! Thanks for the info, I'll update all that stuff the next time I'm posting something! =)