Sunday 6 December 2020

FRGR #12: Zamzara (Hewson/Rack-It, 1988)

Designed by Jukka Tapanimäki for the Commodore 64.
Programming and graphics by Jukka Tapanimäki.
Music by Charles Deenen for the Maniacs of Noise.
Loading screen by Martin Godbeer.



For the first time in a long while, I'm getting back to the "computer of the state" on my traditional Finnish Independence Day entry, and this is also the first time since 2016 that I'm writing about a game by Jukka Tapanimäki, one of the original heroes in the history books of Finnish C64 game development. Mind you, it will probably also be the last, too.

Friday 30 October 2020

Cauldron (Palace Software, 1985)

Design and graphics by Steve Brown
Programming by Richard Leinfellner
Music and sounds by Keith Miller
Published originally for the Commodore 64 by Palace Software in April 1985.
Published in North America by Broderbund in 1986.

Conversion for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum:
Programming by Simon Dunstan and Tony Barber as "The RamJam Corporation"
Graphics by Steve Brown
Published by Palace Software in June 1985.

Conversion for the Amstrad CPC:
Programming by Richard Leinfellner
Graphics by Steve Brown
Music and sounds by Richard Joseph
Published by Palace Software in November 1985.

Also released as "Hexenküche" in Germany.

Unofficial version for Commodore 16/+4 written by Thomas Sasvári and released as "Hexenküche" by TCFS in 1990. (NOTE: This was brought to my attention after the original post by a reader, and the entry has been updated accordingly.)



The sudden appearance of yet another Halloween in the calendar prompted me to dig out this beast of a game from my to-do list. Cauldron was never one of my particular favourites in its genre, due to reasons you will likely understand shortly by reading this article, but for its history of conception, it deserves to be featured on the blog. Besides, it's b-side (Evil Dead) has already been compared many years ago, and of course, what would Halloween be without a properly thematic entry?

Thursday 22 October 2020

FRGCB YouTube channel update

This year, I have been concentrating more on creating video content for FRGCB's YouTube channel than last year, which has made things a bit slower here on the actual blog. Well, that will not be changing for at least another year or so, but I will be attempting a change of pace in some manner. But for now, the FRGCB YouTube channel's exclusive content will be taking a break of at least a few months, and you can expect My Nostalgia Trip Games and Let's Play series continuing sometime before the second quarter of 2021. Until then, comparison accompaniment videos will proceed when necessary. All the videos released so far can be found in the Videos section. Thanks for watching. 👍

Thursday 1 October 2020

TWOFER #21: Mr. Do's Wild Ride! (Universal Co., Ltd., 1984) + Kong Strikes Back! (Ocean Software, 1984)

Originally developed and released by Universal Co., Ltd. for the arcades in 1984.

Ported for the MSX computers by Masamitsu Kobayashi, and published by Colpax in 1985.

Re-branded, developed and published by Ocean Software as "Kong Strikes Back!" for Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum in 1984, and Amstrad CPC in 1985, with cover art by Bob Wakelin.

Spectrum version written by Nigel Alderton and Jonathan Smith.
Amstrad version written by Michael Webb.
C64 version's programmer currently unknown.
Music for Amstrad and C64 by Martin Galway.
Loading screen by Frederick David Thorpe.



An odd choice this time. Mr. Do is one of those arcade characters that don't necessarily connect to all that many retrogamers, particularly those who grew up with the NES or Sega's equivalent. Somewhat perversely, the original Mr. Do game did find its way to Super NES and even Game Boy in the 1990's, and it's also one of those games that had its fair share of direct clones for various machines, which is why I chose not to write about the original game - at least, not yet. Instead, I chose the third game in the series (which features five games all in all) - Mr. Do's Wild Ride, which I got to know first as Kong Strikes Back! on the ZX Spectrum as a wee lad. It took me a good while to find out the origins of this game, well into the 2000's, because Mr. Do was never as interesting to me personally, as anything based on Donkey Kong was. Only when I found out a couple of months ago, that the game was actually ported for the MSX computers with its original title, I began considering writing a comparison of it, and here we are.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Jet-Boot Jack (English Software, 1983)

Written by Jon Williams for the Atari 400/800.
Converted for the Commodore 64 by Mark Taylor.
Converted for the Amstrad CPC by Colin Hughes.
Converted for the Acorn BBC Micro and Electron by Dave Woodhouse.

Originally published by English Software in 1983.
Published in North America by Datamost in 1984.
Amstrad version published by Amsoft in 1984.
Acorn versions published by English Software in 1984.



Jet-Boot Jack has got to be one of the best known, or at least the most circulated games on the 8-bit Atari computers, because English Software pushed the game on the first three Atari Smash Hits compilations after the original release. Of course, this doesn't mean it was in every Atari gamer's collection, but it certainly will have helped the exposure. On other platforms, the game's status is not necessarily quite as notable. My personal introduction to Jet-Boot Jack was rather unnotable, since I can't actually remember when it happened and on what platform, or if it was through emulation or on a real C64, for example, but it has grown on me over the years, which is why I decided to compare this game right now.

Monday 24 August 2020

Exolon (Hewson Consultants, 1987)

Designed and written by Rafaele Cecco for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Spectrum sounds by Nick Jones. Loading screen by Nigel Brownjohn. Both SPE and CPC versions also available on Enterprise 128.

Converted for the Commodore 64 by Nick Jones, with loading screen for the Rack-It re-release by Stephen "Sir'88" Robertson.

Remade for the Atari ST by Martin J. Bysh, with graphics by Gary P. Helix and music and sound effects by J. Dave Rogers. Released by Hewson in 1988.

Converted from the Atari ST version for the Commodore Amiga by Guido Henkel for Linel/Dragonware. Released by Hewson in 1989.

Two (unofficial?) conversions for the Sharp MZ-800 written by Midos and Datelsoft in 1989.



Rafaele Cecco's games all have a certain kind of a quality, that make them all feel most at home on the Spectrum and Amstrad for some reason, but I've always thought Exolon to be one of the games that was almost equally good on every 8-bit. The 16-bit versions I never even knew of until I started doing the research for this entry, so it'll be something new to look forward to, at least for me. Exolon also has a certain amount of randomness about it, that makes it impossible to feel completely comfortable about it at any given time, and perhaps for that reason, it has never been one of my favourites, but that hasn't stopped everyone else from liking it.

Thursday 30 July 2020

Loco (Alligata Software, 1984)

Based on the 1982 Sega arcade game "Super Locomotive", originally designed and programmed by Fukumura Mizunaga.

Commodore 64 version by Antony Crowther, with music by Ben Daglish. Published by Alligata Software in 1984.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum version written by Richard Stevenson and David Wright, with loading screen by Nigel Speight.

Atari 8-bit version written by Anthony J. Wilson and Russell Knight. Graphics by Russell Knight and sounds by Antony Crowther.

Spectrum and Atari versions published by Alligata Software in 1986.



When I was called on to write yet another Format Wars article for the Reset64 magazine many, MANY months ago, there was a thematic twist to this request. It took a while to realize that the only thematic game that's possible to write a comparison about that would fit the magazine is Loco from Alligata. Even that was a bit questionable, because, after all, the game is based on an arcade game with a different title, and there are a few other variants based on the same original that it would be impossible to fit all that into a magazine format comparison. Therefore, it was decided and agreed that the article should be focused and limited to precisely the three versions of Alligata's Loco. Obviously, this blog edition features a bit more. However, as the current Reset issue in-the-making is still in such a state for an undeterminable time, I was given permission from mr. Tilley, the chief editor, to post this entry before the magazine gets out, so for the first time ever, you'll get to read the long version before the short version. The magazine pdf and purchase links will be eventually added here when it's finally available. Now then...

Friday 17 July 2020

It's a Knockout! (Ocean Software, 1986)

Amstrad CPC version programmed by D.J. Burt and A.J., with loading screen by Simon Butler.

Commodore 64 version programmed by Keith Purkiss, R.P.P. and D.A.W., with loading screen by Simon Butler and music by Fred Gray.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum programmed by Keith Purkiss, with sound by D.J. Burt and loading screen by Dawn Drake.

Cover artwork by Bob Wakelin.

Published by Ocean Software in 1986.



I promised you some more Ocean awfulness after Knight Rider, didn't I? Don't get me wrong - I love old Ocean games, particularly the 1985-1989 period, but even they had their fair share of trash in their catalogue. Well, here's an old BBC gameshow made into a relatively unknown computer game, and it fits in well with Ocean's other miserable TV-licence games, although it's definitely a very different beast compared to Knight Rider, Miami Vice and Street Hawk. See, this is a multi-event sports game, if you can call it a sports game as such. If nothing else, it's good enough to add an entry under the letter 'I' in the archive, but I know some of you love badness just as much as I do, when you can laugh at it, so It's A Knockout! might just fit your bill.

Thursday 18 June 2020

Nero 2000 (Bio-Syntax Method Oy, 1987)

Designed by Taisto Orre and David Cumberworth
Programming by David Cumberworth and Timo Kokkonen
Graphics by Timo Kokkonen
Questions and music selection by Taisto Orre
Published originally for the Commodore 64 in 1987.

IBM-PC version written by Timo Kokkonen
MSX version written by David Cumberworth
Both published in 1988.



Some pieces of Finnish gaming history have been rather harshly scattered around with little hope of ever having the chance to get known to people, but lately, great amounts of archaeological findings have come up in the Finnish MSX scene. One of perhaps the most important findings has been the long-lost MSX version of the most famous computerized Finnish quiz game of all time, Nero 2000. Also, not much more than two years ago, Skrolli magazine found out the people behind the game and the company Bio-Syntax Method, on which they wrote an article for their first issue in 2018. So, before I continue into the actual article, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made this comparison possible: Kasettilamerit, MP83, Tokamoka and NYYRIKKI , and whoever uploaded the DOS and MSX versions on the internet. It has been a long time in coming.

Saturday 6 June 2020

2,000,000 visits! / UPDATES strikes back!

That's right, you read it right - the not quite as magical line as the previous one of 1,000,000 visits line, has been broken at last, although I never anticipated it coming to this after my year's near-constant absence. Having crossed that line in the year 2020 (less than a week before June, apparently) seems even more of an odd coincidence, because last month's comparison entries pushed the number of actual content articles over 200 (not including updates, achievements and other news), so I guess that's cause for more celebration! Anyway, I didn't post this blog entry just for these celebrations - that was merely coincidental to a dust-gathered post of UPDATES to old comparisons and perhaps even some other entries on the blog, with new surfacings of information and new versions of games having been released, etcetera.

Friday 29 May 2020

Agent X II: The Mad Prof's Back! (Mastertronic, 1987)

Developed by Software Creations.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC versions:
Programming by Steven Tatlock
Graphics by John Tatlock
Music by Tim Follin
Additional programming and graphics for the Amstrad CPC version by Mark Wilson.

Commodore 64 version:
Programming by Jonathan French
Graphics by Andrew Threlfall
Music by Tim Follin

Published by Mastertronic in 1987.



The unexpectedly formed Mastertronic trilogy for May ends with a game I used to love as a young gamer, and made me not only acknowledge the existence of a game music composer by the name of Timothy Follin, but also made me into a big fan of his work. But I grew up with the C64 version, and I have never actually even as much as tried out the other two versions of the game, so this shall be yet another learning experience. What I have learned already, is that the makers of the Spectrum-exclusive original Agent X game, the Tatlock brothers, are also largely responsible for the other two versions, so I'm expecting great differences here.

Thursday 21 May 2020

SPECIAL VIDEO: a n00b's look at Philips Videopac G7000 / Magnavox Odyssey²

Here's a little special presentation for you that I managed to build during the last three days. Before this week, I had never actually tried out an Odyssey² or its European version for real - only on emulators, and very limitedly so. Thanks to a friend of mine, who borrowed his composite-modified G7000 to me, and who is credited in the video, I finally got to experience this machine for real.

Apart from that, I would also like to remind you, to keep yourselves updated on my other videos, click on the Videos link at the top menu. New videos get dropped there about two or three times a month, but you can also subscribe to the FRGCB YouTube channel to keep yourselves up to date. Thanks for watching.

Friday 15 May 2020

Pinball Power (Mastertronic, 1989)

Written by Stephen Walters for the Commodore 64.

Converted for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Magdic Davor for Active Magic.

Converted for the Amstrad CPC by Bernardin Katic for Active Magic.

Published by Mastertronic through their Mastertronic Plus label in 1989.



This month seems to have leaned towards Mastertronic games rather unexpectedly, even though the idea was just to write about two or three genres that haven't had much exposure at FRGCB. This time, I managed to dig up a suitable pinball game I hadn't really had much of experience with: Pinball Power, also known as 3-D Pinball, due to its title in the cover art.

Friday 1 May 2020

180! (Mastertronic, 1986)

Developed by Binary Design (1001 Ltd.)
Atari XE/XL programming by David Forward
Commodore 64 programming by Andrew Routledge
ZX Spectrum and MSX programming by Garry Hughes
Graphics by Steve Pickford and Jeremy Nelson
Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum sounds by David Whittaker
Amstrad CPC and Atari XE/XL sounds by Jason C. Brooke

Amstrad CPC programmer hasn't been documented.
Neither has the sound programmer for the MSX version.

Published by Mastertronic Added Dimension in 1986, except the MSX version published in 1987.



To my recent shocking discovery and horror, I noticed an utter lack of comparisons of games in the numeric part of the alphabet, so I decided to pick one that I knew well at least on one machine. To my surprise and delight, I found that this game, One Hundred and Eighty from Mastertronic, was released on all the 8-bit platforms that ever really mattered in these 8-bit wars. Not that I recall this particular game ever being a huge part of that battle, but it's interesting to find 180! is one of the few that was released on C64, Spectrum, MSX, Amstrad and the Atari computers.

Monday 13 April 2020

Jungle Hunt (Taito, 1982)

Originally developed and released for the arcades as "Jungle King" by Taito Corporation in 1982, but later re-released as "Jungle Hunt" and re-worked as "Pirate Pete".

Converted for the Atari 2600 by John Allred and Michael Feinstein. Converted for the Atari 5200 and 400/800 by Allen Merrell with graphics by Jerome Domurat. Converted for the Commodore 64 by Bill Bogenreif.
All the above published by Atarisoft in 1983.

Converted for the ColecoVision by David Cartt. Converted for the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A by Jim Dramis, Garth Dollahite and Paul Urbanus.

Both versions published by Atarisoft in 1984.

Also converted for the Apple II, Commodore VIC-20 and IBM-PC compatibles by Atarisoft in 1984. Further details unknown.

Unofficial conversion "Jungle Queen" for the Tandy TRS-80 CoCo written by David Shipka, and published by ZoSo Software in 1984.

Unofficial conversion "Jungle King" for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum written by Luca Bordoni, and published through Load 'n' Run magazine in 1985.

Unofficial port of Jungle Hunt from ColecoVision to MSX written by Muffie, and published by ICON Games in 2008; re-released by Repro Factory in 2014 as part of "Muffie's Tutankham & Conversions" compilation cartridge.



Once again, we're heading into classic arcade territory, which means plenty of different versions, but due to the relative simplicity, I'm expecting this to be relatively easy to get through. Mind you, digging up through all the different platform-specific archives online, I didn't expect to find quite as many unofficial conversions for all the machines as I ended up finding. I guess it only goes to show,
just how big of a classic we're talking about here.

Tuesday 31 March 2020

Knight Rider (Ocean Software, 1986)

Amstrad CPC version written by Anthony Heartley and Gary Knight.

Commodore 64 version written by Grant Harrison and Kevin Grieve.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum version written by Antony R. Lill and Gary Knight, with loading screen by Frederick David Thorpe.

All versions published by Ocean Software in 1986.



Disastrous games based on TV shows were a vogue thing in the 80's, and FRGCB has already touched the subject with Elite's Dukes of Hazzard and the Fall Guy some time ago. Since I apparently didn't learn from that mistake, I decided to attempt tackling at least one of Ocean Software's offerings in the same vein. Out of a few good candidates, such as Miami Vice, It's A Knockout and Roland's Rat Race, I decided to go for the fantastically horrendous Knight Rider, because firstly, it epitomizes everything that was wrong with the idea of trying to turn an exciting TV-show into a computer game, and secondly, it's the only one of the lot, which actually offended me even as a young kid, since I was a fan of the show, as well as most of Ocean's offerings that I knew of. Thirdly, it allows me to speak of two other Knight Rider games in the same context.

Sunday 15 March 2020

TWOFER #20: Bank Panic (Sega, 1984) + West Bank (Dinamic, 1985)

Bank Panic developed by Sanritsu Denki Co., Ltd. in 1984. Originally published as an arcade game by SEGA Enterprises Ltd. for the Japanese market. Manufactured for the American market by Bally/Midway.

Converted for the MSX computers, Sega SG-1000 and Sega Master System by Sanritsu Denki Co., Ltd. // Sega SG-1000 conversion published by SEGA Enterprises in 1985. // Sega Master System conversion published by SEGA of America in 1986. // MSX conversion published by Pony Canyon, Inc. in 1986. // Sega SG-1000 version unofficially converted for the ColecoVision by Eduardo Mello; published by Team Pixelboy in 2011.

Cloned as "West Bank" for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, MSX and Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Dinamic Software. // Sinclair ZX Spectrum version programmed by Álvaro Mateos Herrera. Original Spanish version published by Dinamic Software in 1985. English translation published by Gremlin Graphics Ltd. in 1986. // Amstrad CPC version published by Gremlin Graphics Ltd. and Dinamic Software in 1986; details unknown. // Commodore 64 version programmed by Richard J. Gibbs, with music by Fred Gray. Published by Gremlin Graphics Ltd. in 1986. Spanish version published by Dinamic Software in 1987. // MSX version written by Animagic, and published by Dinamic Software in 1989.

Unofficial conversion "Gold Bank" for the Acorn BBC Micro published by Fast Access magazine in 1989. Unofficial conversion "Bang! Bank!" for the Atari 400/800 developed by OUR 5oft, and published by Mirage Software in 1992.



After a relatively quiet month and a half - apart from the three My Nostalgia Trip Games episodes, that is - it's time for another actual comparison. Just for the heck of starting on the right foot, this entry will be listed as both Bank Panic and West Bank in the archive, because although it's roughly the same game, some people might not be aware of either the game by its original title or the unlicenced Dinamic rewrite and its conversions. Personally, I was introduced to this game as the Gremlin translation of West Bank on the C64, and only found out sometime after emulation started becoming a thing, that it was originally an arcade game called Bank Panic, all the way from 1984. This entry is dedicated to those of you, who ever were as much in the dark as I once was.

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Unique Games: Afterlife, Part 3

Continuing the celebrations of a new decade, and because it's been 4 years since I did my last UG: Afterlife entry, I thought this would be a good time to revisit this particular series. Considering the amount of time passing since the previous one, there should be plenty of interesting, exclusive and perhaps even unique games to browse through, so let's get straight on it!

Thursday 9 January 2020

My Nostalgia Trip Games continues!

Just a quick update this time. In case you haven't noticed, I've been sporadically making content for my YouTube channel, the prominent series being My Nostalgia Trip Games, for which I made 16 episodes last year, featuring mostly unemulated gameplay footage. There's also a few unemulated Let's Play videos, as well as the most recently started series of comparison accompaniment videos, which are all compiled of emulated footage, just for the sake of convenience. Links to all the videos can be found under the VIDEOS menu item here.

As the header implies, the second "season" of My Nostalgia Trip Games has started with the first entry for MS-DOS games. This time, the footage is practically emulated due to DOSbox+Fraps being the only method I have of getting footage recorded. But next time, it's back to unemulated business as usual.

Thursday 2 January 2020

Dragonfire (Imagic, 1982)

Originally designed and programmed by Bob Smith, and published by Imagic for the Atari 2600 in 1982.

Converted in 1983:
Mattel Intellivision version by Alan Smith, with graphics by Dave Durran. Commodore VIC-20 version by Tim Yu. Both versions published by Imagic.

Converted in 1983 for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Jim Rothrock; published in 1984 by Cheetahsoft.

Converted in 1984: Apple II version by Imagic; details unknown. ColecoVision version by David Ross, with graphics by Matthew Sarconi and Wilfredo Aguilar. Commodore 64 version by Bob Smith and David Ross (to be confirmed); published by Imagic.

Also converted in 1984 for the Tandy TRS-80 CoCo by Frank Ellis, with graphics by Matthew Sarconi; published by Tandy Corporation.

Unofficial conversions: Commodore 64 remake written with Garry Kitchen's Gamemaker by Fabian Del Priore in 1990; Atari 400/800 version written by Kemal Ezcan in Turbo Basic for a Zong magazine release in 1993; Sinclair ZX Spectrum version called "Dragonfire ZX" was made by Luca Bordoni with AGDx in 2018.



With no real time to make plans for an actual Christmas/New Year's entry for 2019, here's something at least perhaps a bit unexpected, so... Happy New Year, everybody, and welcome to 2020! While starting to write this entry, I was having a difficult time thinking of any other game in the history of my blog, that started its life as an Atari 2600 game. There is a perfectly good reason for that, however: apart from some random gaming through emulation, I had not been properly initiated to the Atari 2600 gaming lore until a few months ago, when I finally bought my very own Atari 2600jr, along with about a dozen games to start with - Dragonfire being one of them. Thus began a new obsession.

Dragonfire was one of Imagic's bigger successes, along with classics such as Atlantis, Cosmic Ark and Demon Attack. Sadly, the company did not recover from the North American video game crash of 1983, so their legend is forevermore tied firmly to the Atari 2600. As are their games, to be honest, since most of the positive reviews and nostalgia are directed towards the Atari versions of the games, not their conversions. So, we are here to find out, whether that's at all sensible or not.