Saturday, 20 June 2015

Unique Games! - Part 8

It never ceases to amaze me, how many exclusive games are there on not only our favourite machines, but other consoles and computers as well. This blog has been worth doing just for digging up this sort of stuff, if not for anything else, and all the helpful comments to find new games you've never heard of more easily have made it even more worthwhile than I anticipated. As this series is already on its eighth outing (in the main series at least), it's high time I give some more attention to some of the machines that I have left for less attention after their initial visits in the series, but I will also give space for another first-timer as well.



Let's start with four games for the old Apple computers, which is a first one for the series. I have long avoided doing one of these, because I have never considered any of the old Apple computers as gaming devices - largely because they weren't really designed as such. Games they did get, however, and some of them were even exclusives. Unique games are a bit more difficult to find, but here's an attempt.

1. GATE (1991, Toolbox; A2GS/Mac)

We shall start off with a Gauntlet variant from 1991. It's not unique, but it does have some features that Gauntlet doesn't have, such as a possibility to purchase items in shops hidden somewhere in the middle of levels. Also, GATE appears to be only made for a single player experience, so that part of the deal is off. According to some descriptions of the game on the internet, it has some puzzle elements as well, so it's not necessarily such a big Gauntlet rip-off after all.

While the game appears to be fairly promising, the only playable A2GS version I was able to find for my setup was at the Virtual Apple website, which crashed at the beginning of level 2. Happily, the game is also available for Macintosh, so if you're able to get either version working properly, you might be in for a nice optional semi-Gauntlet-like treat. And of course, it's only available on Apple computers.

2. The Tower of Myraglen (1987, PBI Software; A2GS)

Here's a roguelike of sorts, which was only ever released for the Apple ][ Game System - reason enough to include it here. Now, the genre makes the game pretty obvious to describe, and offers very little in terms of uniqueness, but there are some interesting and unexpected surprises lurking further in the game. You just need to keep on going.

The game starts normally enough. You enter the titular tower, find your way around the castle's corridors and rooms as far as you can, killing random monsters and collecting loot from treasure chests. The plotline starts to ravel open when you find a mirror at the end of a corridor and look into it - and suddenly, the game starts to become more interesting. The basic idea is to retrieve the King's Medallion of Soul Stealing from the top of the tower, but the gameplay is sadly a bit too traditionally roguelike, and if you don't have a manual, you're going to be doing plenty of guesswork to get things going smoothly. For the moment, my road with the game has ended in front of a locked door, which I don't know how to open, although I think I might have a key for it.

From what I have seen of the game on the internet, further on you will be faced with plenty of puzzles, timed sections and who knows what. So, it seems it's rather like a light version of Ultima and the likes, than a simple roguelike. But if you're into these sorts of games, it seems like a truly interesting, and often even a bit funny take on the genre.

3. Airheart (1986, Broderbund; Apple ][e)

"Objective: Destroy all enemies." These are the words the game starts with, which isn't a particuarly unique idea, but since this is a game from Broderbund, we should be expecting something more unexpected. Designed by Dan Gorlin, who also made Choplifter, the game took three years to develop due to a good amount of grandeour in his plans. Although it never got as far in development as he would have preferred, it is still one of the rare titles that require an Apple ][e or better, because it uses double hi-res graphics.

Yes, it looks fantastic compared to all the other Apple ][ games I have ever played, and that alone makes this one worth taking a look at, but the game itself is rather special as well. It's an early attempt at making a free-roaming 3rd person 3D airborne shooter, and it sort of succeeds in most criteria. It looks brilliant, sounds less horrible than most Apple ][ games, and for a game from 1986, the speed and animation of all the 3D stuff is fantastic. I just wish the playability was anywhere near as good as everything else in the game. Airheart offers a fairly similar gameplay experience as Paul Woakes' Encounter, but without the first person aspect and the excitement that knowing that you're making progress brings you. So, it's a failure in one way, but not a completely horrible one, and deserves to be taken a look for what it is: an attempt at making a playable game that also looks great on the early Apple computers.

UPDATE! 21st of December, 2020: After five long years, I finally stumbled upon something glaringly obvious, yet very much unexpected, if you have no idea where to look - Airheart was also released for the Atari ST in 1988 as "Typhoon Thompson in Search for the Sea Child", and the ST version was ported to the Amiga a year later, which was finally released in 1990. I suppose this deserves some further examining at a later date, now that I actually know about it.

4. The Bilestoad (1982, Datamost; A2)

Not necessarily my idea of a good time, but The Bilestoad offers an interesting idea. The game takes place in a future of sorts, and you participate in a virtual reality game designed to reduce real violence. A commendable idea, but seeing as wars are still fought all over the world, virtual reality doesn't really offer much of a choice. But that is the setting in the game.

From a top-down perspective, you fight against computer or a human opponent with huge robots within a small random island, and the weapon of choice is axe. The name of the game is itself derived from the German words "Beil" (axe) and "Tod" (death), so it's basically just "Death by Axe" - a choice of words which certainly explains the inspiration for the 1998 game, Die By The Sword. Anyway, the controls are ten keys for each player on the keyboard (something which couldn't be done these days), which control your shield, swing your axe, walk forward and turn clockwise or counter-clockwise.

For a game from 1982, this is a huge one, and it shows in the game speed, which is mostly sluggish. But the speed offers a chance for being more strategic, and with a bit of practice, the Bilestoad can actually be a rather fun game. I could recommend this as well, but only with caution, since there are plenty of more playable one-on-one fighting games on the 8-bits. The Bilestoad just happens to be an Apple ][ exclusive, and worth seeing just to bring an addition to your personal games knowledge database.



1. Dunjunz (1987, Bug-Byte)

It's practically impossible to find anything properly unique for the Acorn computers, but there are plenty of interesting variants of familiar genres to check out. We shall start with a Gauntlet clone of sorts, which can boast of being one of the rare examples of the genre, where four players can play simultaneously - each in their own little screens!

The gameplay is fairly similar to that of Gauntlet. Each of the players can choose a character from four classes, all of which have their own characteristics and specialities. The objective is to reach the exit of each level, but there are only 25 levels in the game as opposed to Gauntlet's hundreds, and this game ends by picking up a chalice. You make progress by collecting keys, food and upgrades and killing plenty of enemies. The only notable difference to Gauntlet, in addition to the already mentioned screen division, is that only one of the players needs to reach an exit, and all the other players will be transfered automatically to the next level.

Left and middle: BBC Micro. Right: Electron.
Due to the small hardware differences, the Electron and BBC Micro versions look a bit different, but play basically the same. Also, the BBC disk version has a nice little bonus: a level editor. For those Acorn fans, who enjoy a game of Gauntlet every now and then, Dunjunz is one of the best options around, and well worth having a go for all you others who are not so familiar with the Acorn.

2. Hyperball (1990, Superior Software)

Here's something of a surprise - a breakout game on the Unique Games list! But there are a couple of good reasons for including this particular breakout game here.

You know how most Arkanoid variants have enemies in them, which you can usually kill by hitting them with a ball? Well, Hyperball doesn't seem to have those. There are plenty of things to collect, though, most of which increase your score, while some of them give you extra abilities, such as you would expect in a breakout game. The interesting point about all of this is the score itself: it is used as a currency between levels to buy new extra features for your bat, which are completely separate from those you can collect during play - another rather curious element in a breakout game.

If you like breakout games, particularly exceptional ones, this one should raise your interest. Of course, it is only available for the 8-bit Acorn computers, otherwise it wouldn't be mentioned here. But it's one to consider having in your collection, if you happen to be an Acorn gamer.

3. Ravenskull (1986, Superior Software)

After a rather impressive loading screen, Ravenskull, like so many other Acorn games, shows a screen of the game's controls, of which in this case there are plenty. After that, you are given a choice from one of four different types of characters, which already points heavily towards this game being another Gauntlet-clone. How wrong was I?

The rightmost screenshot is from the Electron version. All the others are from BBC Micro.
The game certainly looks the part of a Gauntlet variant, but like Dunjunz above, it features some more puzzle elements, and can only be played by one player. The other differences this time are, as far as I was able to find: you have three lives instead of one, but no energy bar; instead of any weapons, you are given items you can apparently use only once and then drop, and you have space for three items in your inventory. In Ravenskull, magic is also a usable force, but you can only activate any magic by reading a scroll, which might have a positive or a negative effect, but reading scrolls is pivotal for making progress in the game. The castle of Ravenskull consists of four levels, all of which are quite large - exactly 64 times the size of the screen. The idea is to collect all the treasure from each level, after which you can collect a part of crucifix to make it possible to proceed onto the next level. So yet again, it's a slightly different take on a similar type of a game, and it's another fairly good one - perhaps more so than Dunjunz, if you're into puzzles and timing-based problems than straight-forward action.

4. Stryker's Run (1986/1987, Superior Software)

I found this game the last time I was doing a bit for the Acorn computers, but since it's not a particularly unique game, or in my case, not even an interesting one, I still had a hard time deciding whether or not I should include it here this time. Due to a severe lack of perseverance, I decided not to search for a better choice and include it here.

What Stryker's Run is, at most, is an action-platformer in a vaguely similar way to the first section of Contra. As you can probably tell from the name, the idea is to run from left to right and kill everything you possibly can as you go. Happily, you can also mount small planes along the way and wreak havoc on your enemies more easily, but the planes have different abilities, so while in some plane you can shoot missiles, another one can only drop bombs.

I have often seen said that Stryker's Run is an acquired taste, meaning that it has its own little quirks, but it can grow on you. I've had a few goes of it, and it still hasn't grown on me, but then, I'm not a fan of simple arcadey shooters as a rule. Stryker's Run does have its good points, but I suppose you would have to be an Acorn fanatic to appreciate them better.



1. Ultima Zone (1983, Tansoft)

I have to admit, the Tangerine computers have become one of my favourite research subjects lately due to their rather large library of exclusive games. And some of those games also happen to be rather special as well. The first game for this set is an interesting shoot'em-up by Andy Green called Ultima Zone, which has nothing to do with Lord British's Ultima series.

At first glance, Ultima Zone looks to be something of a Galaga clone, but proves to be something very much different, or at least much more than that. You do shoot a bunch of aliens that move around above you, but below you are three containers that will eventually open up due to the falling alien remnants opening the containers. The containers contain a bunch of diagonally moving small dots that move fast and are difficult to hit, but you do need to kill them as well as the big aliens above you in order to complete a level. Once you have completed a level, you are taken to a Frogger-like bonus stage, where you will need to control your space ship into an opening that looks a bit questionable - but I suppose it's supposed to represent a wormhole leading to the next level.

This combination I haven't really seen before, nor the container thing, so it's actually a pretty unique shoot'em-up. It's almost too bad it's only available for the Tangerine, but were it not, it wouldn't have made this list.

2. 3D Fongus (1985, Loriciels)

This one's title might appear a bit strange to the portion of the world that doesn't speak French, but seeing as the word "fongus" translates to mushroom (or indeed, fungus), the title is as strange as you initially thought. But does it have an actual purpose in the game?

Why yes, yes it does, but I shall describe the idea of the game to you first. You fly your plane across a number of areas with a mission to collect cacti, hedgehogs, mushrooms and crystals. There are also corrosive fungi, which you need to watch out for, as well as rocks and rhinoceros and deadly spiders. There's not all that much to the game, but considering it was released in early 1985, the wireframe 3D modeling and scrolling, as well as the amount of graphics simultaneously shown on the screen is rather amazing for its time. Another Tangerine exclusive, and worth checking out.

3. the Xenon trilogy (1983-1985, IJK Software)

Since I'm ending this section with a trilogy of games, I suppose I can be excused for not giving more than 3 entries for the Oric-1 this time. The decision to include all three games might be considered a slightly unorthodox idea, since many Oric fans do not seem to consider the third game even a true part of the series. And also note that this is not the same Xenon series as the one later developed by the more globally famous Bitmap Brothers. Not even nearly.

John S. Sinclair's Xenon 1 (or Xenon1), an unusually diverse shoot'em-up, was released in 1983. It combined elements from Moon Cresta and Phoenix, and perhaps even some Paratrooper, but probably the most impressive thing about the game was the intro sequence. I cannot in all honesty say that the gameplay impresses me in any way - in fact, it's a bit awkward since you can shoot only one slow bullet at a time, and you cannot move and fire simultaneously. But for 1983, the amount of different bits of gameplay this game presented was huge.

Zorgon's Revenge has been often mentioned as the single most important game in the Oric-1 games library, and currently it is the most highly regarded old game at the top games list at the Oric International website. Contrary to the first game in the series, this one is mostly a single-screen platformer in style of Donkey Kong and its sequels, but features more puzzle elements, as well as an obligatory shoot'em-up section. Certainly, it's more interesting than the first game, but it's almost a completely different sort of an experience as well.

For shooter fans, the third game in the series might offer some more comfort than the second one. The Genesis Probe was not written by John S. Sinclair, which is probably the main reason why it isn't considered as much of a part of the Xenon series, but to a newcomer like myself, this feels more like a sequel to the original Xenon game than Zorgon's Revenge. This time, you are travelling through space, capturing animals of various species in various different ways. Actually, I thought this game was the most instantly likeable and playable of the threesome, and feels more like a game of timing and thought than just firepower or luck. But I guess I'm in the minority here, so I'll just have to recommend all three games just as much. As a trilogy, it is one of the most obscure and interesting ones, and will offer a good bit of challenge even today. Of course, all three games are only available for the Tangerine computers.



1. Fire Chief (1985, English Software)

I like games with plenty of variety, so I have chosen three games with varied forms of action, and one not so much for the 8-bit Atari section this time. Fire fighting has never been an often used theme in video and computer games, which makes finding a game for this field usually very interesting.

One of English Software's Atari exclusives is Fire Chief, which gets you doing two things: behind the wheel of a really fast car in a frantic side-scrolling avoid'em-up, in which you need to reach the building on fire within a certain amount of time, and after that, you need to get through a maze-like apartment to save a floppy disk from the flames, because apparently, games are more important than people for this fire fighter. For both sections, you are equipped with something to help your way. Your sports car is equipped with an afterburner or something, which can help you jump over other cars, but you only have a limited amount of "burn" to use. Mind you, the "burn" will be resetted if you die. And of course, as a fire fighter, you have a fireman's suit and a water sprayer to help you get through the more solid sections of fire.

It's an entertaining little title, and always a nice concept to play with, but might get repetitive easily. In any case, it's an Atari exclusive, and well worth having in your collection if you're an Atari gamer.

2. Cat-Nap (1982, ZiMAG)

Here's the game that has no variety, but it does have a good deal of uniqueness. In Cat-Nap, I guess you play as a... well, perhaps not as an actual stray cat catcher, or whatever you'd call one, but as a hand of a person trying to throw stuff at stray cats in order to make them drop from the fence and hopefully get caught by the cat-napper.

Yeah, I know, it's a heartless job, but somebody's got to do it. The gameplay in Cat-Nap is rather strange: first, you have to choose an item to throw, then you sort of walk inside the building and aim at the cats through the three windows, and then just throw. The aiming happens by placing the hand at either side of the window - if it's on the left side, you will throw the item to the right, and vice versa, and the angle depends on how far to each side the hand is placed at. To be honest, I don't really know if there's anything more to this game than just throwing stuff at stray cats, but it's enough to earn this game a place in Unique Games.

3. Stargate Courier (1983, Cosmi)

Cosmi's games have never really been anything short of intriguing, so I thought this Atari exclusive might be a good fit for the list. I wasn't exactly wrong, but it could have been more interesting, or at least playable.

Stargate Courier is a surprisingly straight-forward space shooter, at least in Cosmi standards. Then again, this was made in 1983, so you have to keep that in mind. There are some games that are very reminiscent of this one, but which were made much later, such as Last Mission, Firefly and Netherworld. There are no instructions available for this game at Atarimania or elsewhere, so I have no exact idea what to do, but I noticed at least two different sections in the game. In the main mode, you just fly around in any of your eight directions in a two-dimensional space, shooting things and avoiding others. You can access another kind of a mode by flying into Earth, or an Earth-like planet, where you can collect fuel and shoot some other stuff. I also noticed that you can activate a stargate somehow, which I suppose is a gateway to the next level or something, but so far, I haven't managed to find one. In any case, it can be a mildly interesting game, if you take some time to get to know it, but as it's a ridiculously rare one, don't expect to find it into your collection.

4. The Lone Raider (1983, Atari)

We end the Atari section with a rare Atari-published game. This one is a curious mixture of shoot'em-up and Pac-Man-like arcade gaming, but I'm not entirely sure how to start elaborating on this, so I'll just throw in a picture.

You, the Lone Raider, are beamed down on the surface of an unnamed planet, and your mission is to destroy the nuclear power source. The game is played in three parts, all of which are different from each other. First, you need to defend yourself against guarding robots attacking you from both sides of the screen - shoot them before they shoot you. If they do shoot at you, you can duck by pulling down. The level ends with a large indestructable terminator coming at you, which you must run away from and inside the power plant. The next two levels are similar to each other, and are similar in idea to Pac-Man: you must collect all the neutrons in each corridor, but beware the mutant guards, who can kill you by one touch. The moving blue protons act as sort of power pellets, which allow you to kill the mutants as long as its effect lasts, which isn't very long. After having completed these corridors, you must run to the transmitter in the transmitter room, summon your spacecraft and head back to base to get a promotion and start the game over on a higher level.

All this sounds fine and dandy, and it plays pretty well, too. For some reason, I couldn't get past the corridors - the game would loop the same bit for so long that I eventually died in the corridors. So perhaps I'm missing something here, or the file I downloaded from Atarimania is faulty. So the screenshot for the last bit is taken from the website. Anyway, seemed like a very nice game, hope it works better for others, because I do recommend you to try it. One of the better 8-bit Atari exclusives that I have come across, and has some uniqueness to it as well.



One of the blog's readers was so insistent on getting more Amstrad games on display in the Unique Games series, that I had no option but to fulfill these wishes. Happily, this anonymous reader who signed as paperinik was kind enough to supply with a good deal of suggestions. As most of them were only available in a language I cannot understand, nor have the inclination to learn just to be able to play some old games, I had to do some more research to get even these four games for today's list.

1. Fluff (1994, Radical Software; CPC+)

Since Fluff is said to have been Amstrad's answer to Sonic the Hedgehog according to the Amstrad Action magazine, it deserves taking a look. It is one of the less numerous CPC+ exclusives, so it already fits onto the list well enough, but does it have any actual unique qualities?

From what I could tell by attempting to play the game for about 15 minutes, no. It's a 2D platformer, and while the game has very nice graphics (superb scrolling for an Amstrad game) and a cool little tune, the playability does not rival Sonic in any way. What I mean is, the speed doesn't match Sonic's even nearly, and instead of collecting coins to keep you safe for a hit, you have an energy bar, which is depleted from contact with any enemy, some of the terrain based hazards or the bottom of the screen. Also, the collision detection is a bit weird - the focus is on your feet, which makes hitting some bumpers a bit difficult, since Fluff is quite a large character.

The idea is pretty similar to Sonic: you just need to go through the maze-like levels and rescue your children. And oh yeah, Fluff is a female character, which isn't exactly unique either, but it is less usual. Fluff uses lifts and teleports to get from one place to another easier, but the teleports can make the game more confusing in the later levels, where there are more teleports per level. According to the manual, Fluff is also supposed to be able to curl up into a ball and move quickly like Sonic, but I haven't been able to make her perform any such act, and the manual doesn't tell you how is it done.

Anyway, Fluff was one of the last commercially released games for the Amstrad machines, and apparently, enjoys a somewhat similar status in the Amstrad community as Mayhem In Monsterland does in the C64 community. As such, it probably deserves a look or two, but I have no trouble sticking with Mayhem after playing this. Still, it's a CPC exclusive, and as such, deserves a mention here.

2. Manhattan 95 (1986, UBI Soft)

Originally released only in French, this game found its way through my language filter because someone had made an English translation of it. From what I can tell, Manhattan 95 is loosely based on the John Carpenter movie "Escape From New York", which in itself isn't a particularly unique concept - there are two games based on the movie on the C64 alone. UBI Soft's take on the theme is more interesting, though.

Your mission is to save the president from the clutches of the evil Duke, and to do this, you must find out clues from the people on the streets... most of which you will probably need to dispose of by any means necessary. But the possibility of communicating with Manhattan's occupants (prisoners) adds a nice depth to the game. You can also drive around in cars, trying to navigate through the city in order to find anything. I have had little luck in the game so far, but it does seem like an interesting game, and well worth checking out. Of course, being here on this list is a clear mark of it being an Amstrad exclusive.

3. Gutter (1985, ERE Informatique)

Here's a nice little 3D'ish ball-rolling game, which, as you might have guessed, takes place in a gutter. The whole thing is just controlling a steadily rolling ball from left to right while collecting points from hitting certain types of items, but you must also avoid others. Compared to other 3D ball-rolling games, like Trailblazer or Roadwars, it is more light-weight, so it might easily become boring due to its repetitiveness, but at least it's not completely similar to all the other 3D ball-rollers.

Gutter is one of the rare home computer based games that actually require you to put in a virtual coin or some to start the game. Speaking of coins, you can also choose to play against a friend, although in a traditional arcade fashion, the two players take turns. So anyway, the idea is to make progress by collecting points from hitting kings, queens, jesters and chalices, but hitting an axeman will take your life, and hitting a monk will return you to the start of the game, although it does give you the most score as well. While the game itself is mostly harmless fun, it does have a fairly low point to it: the controls. You can only play on the keyboard, and the starting sequence is a bit complex - exit the title screen by pressing the Space bar, then press P as many times as you want to insert coins, then press T once or twice, depending on whether you are playing by yourself or against a friend, and finally press Enter to start the game. The ball is controlled with two keys, which are... well, I'm not exactly sure what the other one is, but on WinAPE, the keys are § and Z. Apart from the controls, Gutter is a very nice exclusive time-waster for the Amstrad, and well worth checking out.

4. Qabbalah (1986, Gem Software/Amsoft)

The last one for now in the Amstrad section is a truly strange item. The name comes from the Hebrew word meaning either "reception" or "accounting", neither of which really shed the light on this game, but apparently, the idea is to travel through the paths of the Tree of Life as an aspiring acolyte, to achieve true enlightenment. Whatever that is. And the way you achieve this is to collect ten spheres from wherever they are, and picking up some other objects while at it.

Since no-one has ever reported to learn how to play this game, the instructions manual says the following: "All objects are hidden from view, behind pieces of scenery or within buildings. To pass through the door of a building, you first have to collect the right key, which must then be selected for use (with Up/Down cursor keys). You get an object merely by touching it. To prove you are worthy, you must collect two keys and a snorkel, before reaching the first sphere of Mualkuth." Yeah, so to clear this up a bit, this is an isometric 3D platformer in a similar manner to games like Fungus and Realm of Impossibility, and you need to do a LOT of walking and exploring behind all the trees and whatnot, because every bloody thing is hidden. It's tedious, but I can't say Qabbalah is not a unique concept in a game, and it might become even an interesting game, once you get to the rhythm of it. Due to its bad reception, it's no wonder it was only ever released for the Amstrad. But there is something good about it, which certainly warrants a quick look: the weird title music.



1. Dork's Dilemma (1985, Gremlin Graphics)

For the last section of this set, I chose to check out some Commodore 16 games, although I would have picked some Plus/4 games to go with them, had I come upon any at the moment. The first game for the C16 lot is a rather un-Gremlin-like game from Gremlin - an action-based maze game with nods to Bomberman, Shamus and perhaps even Pac-Man. It's a curious little obscurity, which was only ever released for the C16 and it's one of the rare titles with a question mark at the end, while the name itself offers no question... although the question mark only appears in the cover art.

In Dork's Dilemma, your mission is to compile a puzzle from pieces scattered around a maze of 25 rooms. The pieces are locked inside a box in the middle of each room, guarded by an endless source of spawning enemies, ten of which you must kill with your bombs. You can only use one bomb at a time, and after using one, the next needs to be built up in about five seconds or so. The bombs have a rather large blast radius, so you need to run well away from the bombs as you lay them down. It's a tough and arduous job, but it's also a pretty addicting one. Very recommended.

2. Robo Knight (1986, US Gold/Americana)

The rest of the C16 games on this list are each platformers of a different kind. Robo Knight puts you in the suit of armour of an apparently robotic knight (although he seems perfectly human in the cover art), whose job it is to explore an unnamed castle and collect 15 magical shields to unlock the castle exit.

Similarly to games like Joe Blade and Black Lamp, for example, you can go through doors shown as door-shaped holes in the background walls or green lines below you. There are also ladders you can climb, and gaps you need to jump over, as well as various traps you must avoid. The gameplay isn't particularly inspiring nor does it have much feel to it, so I can't really recommend it as such, but the game is exclusive for the C16, and knowing some of its average quality games, this isn't nearly the worst of them.

3. The Magician's Curse (1986, Gremlin Graphics)

Another Gremlin game gets mentioned in the C16 lot, and it's another interesting one. The Magician's Curse is a flip-screen side-viewed Rogue-like platforming RPG of sorts - something that's become a big recurring theme for indie game developers lately. I'm not sure if this is the earliest example of such, but it is an early one, and a surprisingly good one at that.

The object of the game is to collect seven talismans scattered throughout the game's map consisting of 48 screens, which then give you access to the game's final screen and the ultimate goal: finding a golden statue. There are various things you need to avoid, such as water, vampire bats and poison, but you can also replenish your health by collecting goblets and health potions. Certain areas in the game require a candle in order to see where you are going and what you are doing, and other areas require keys to gain passage. There are no weapons, however, so you are only left with your skills at controlling your man out of danger. Again, Gremlin has come up with an impressive C16 exclusive, that is addictive as well.

4. Autozone (1987, Players)

Simple in concept but advanced in execution is what Autozone could be described being. It's a side-scrolling platformer in as simple a form as you could imagine - you just drive your car from right to left and jump over various gaps and try not to crash into anything.

There are two tricks you need to focus on when playing Autozone: the collision detection is a bit off, forcing you to drive well past the edge of each ledge before you jump in order to make across the longer gaps; and the second one is that you can drive slow or fast by keeping the controller pushed forwards or backwards, but jumping without keeping the speed at slow (right) makes the car automatically accelerate to full speed as it jumps. I admit, it's not a very unique concept, but at least it's exclusive, and for a C16, it's almost an impressive one as well with all its parallax scrolling effects and everything. Too bad it's tedious for the most part.


That's it for now, hope there was something of interest for everyone. My next article will be a properly big one, and the last one before my summer break, although you might also want to keep an eye out for the upcoming issue of RESET magazine, which will be published during my holiday. While you're waiting for those, comments are still welcome, but I'm not very likely to read or reply them any time soon, since I'm still working very hard to get the last big one out in time. Hope it'll be worth it. But for now, thanks for reading, and see you next time!


  1. Very interesting!

  2. The Lone Raider actually had loading music in the cassette version. Here's a video verifying it: The version found in the web does not have the loading music due to that it has only the data track. I, however, made a .wav file of it which includes the loading music. It has to be loaded in Altirra, though.

    1. Holy cow! Never heard that sort of a thing on Atari. Is that multi-layered sound on the tape itself, or does that come played from the TV, like, say, C64 tape games have loading music? Thanks for the input!

    2. Oh, never mind - I was too busy typing an answer before leaving to do some undelayable real life related stuff to read the video description properly =D Very interesting indeed!

  3. Hey there, interesting hypothesis on The Bilestoad being inspiration for the naming of Die By The Sword, but FYI, Die By The Sword is also the name of a track by Slayer on their first album, which might also have been the point of reference for the game of the same name :)