Saturday, 3 July 2021

A Day In The Life Of UPDATES

Yes, it certainly is time for yet another UPDATES entry, as the one from almost exactly a year ago was written in a relative absence of mind. No such celebratory occasions as last time will be coming in a while yet; 3 million visits is still looming in the distance of just below half a million. Since the Updates entry a year ago, many new remakes and demakes have appeared, and I also had the time to dig through a few game archives of machines that rarely get mentioned anywhere. Additionally, some of my old comparison articles have been updated with new (or new-found) videos by some of the YouTube channels that have given permission to link their stuff. So, let's get to it!


One of the first comparisons I ever did was of Geoff Crammond's STUNT CAR RACER, which hadn't been updated last year, even though it was long overdue. Not only was it ported to the Atari 130XE by Fandal and Irgendwer in 2018, but also to Acorn's BBC Master by Kieran Connell and Bitshifters in 2019.

New Stunt Car Racer ports for Atari 130XE (above) and Acorn BBC Master (below).

So, neither of these conversions work on the most common 8-bit computer model by either company, but if you do have access to either or both, they're certainly worth having a look at. The BBC Master version in particular is very interesting due to its amazing speed, but both versions offer music for the title screen and menu, as well as somewhat upgraded menu graphics. The Atari XE version has my vote for the better title music, though, since it's a very nice arrangement of Yello's classic hit song, "The Race", while the BBC Master version has a track from Outrun Europa instead. Also, the Atari version has different colours for all tracks, while the BBC Master version goes with a constant yellow, although the 3D scrolling speed definitely makes up for the lack of colour.

In-progress screenshots of Stunt Car Mania.

While on the topic of Stunt Car Racer, there is also a hugely impressive remake titled Stunt Car Mania in the works by Dangerous Derk Interactive, who has so far only gained his following through fishing simulator games. You can follow the remake's progress on the project's Facebook page.


Another game with more than one previously unnoticed version available is JETPAC, but at least one of them is more recent than the previous Updates entry. The only excuse I can offer for having missed these other versions of JetPac is, that it's very difficult to locate unofficial conversions with very different names.

Videoton TVC: Turbo Jack.
There's a computer called Videoton TVC (or TV Computer), basically a clone of Enterprise 64, which itself is very reminiscent of Sinclair's computers. The Videoton TVC was pretty much strictly located to Hungary, so most of its distributed software was in Hungarian. A very straight, if a tad slower conversion of JetPac was written by Vindics Isván in 1991, and released with the title Turbo Jack, even though the loading screen clearly shows the original title as well. More Videoton TVC titles will follow later on.

The French computer manufacturer Thomson's presence on this blog is also sadly minimal, because of its fairly strict locality and relative lack of information. Thomson's TO8 machine was released in 1986, so it's a 16-bit machine with over 4000 colours, a few different screen modes, 4 channel sounds, 256kb RAM and whatnot.

Thomson TO8: Mission Liftoff.

Mission: Liftoff is a version of JetPac for the TO8, made by Datascud in 2018. Not only does it upgrade the original JetPac with lovely 16-bit graphics and sounds, but it also features a save game function and a full-motion video intro. It plays very nicely too, even if it doesn't feel exactly like the original. Still, highly recommended!

Sinclair ZX Spectrum: JetPac RX and RX-81 (mods)

I'm not sure if this should be considered unexpected or not, but there have been two new notable modifications of JetPac released for the good old ZX Spectrum in this past year by Highrise, both of which are worth mentioning here, even though they're not exactly the sort of stuff we deal with here at FRGCB on a regular basis.

JetPac RX brought in alternating level designs, upgraded graphics and sounds, as well as a brilliant title tune! Jetpac RX-81 was made earlier this year, to celebrate the ZX-81's birthday. This version only uses the original JetPac sounds, and downgrades the graphics to resemble ZX-81's basic characters. Despite the super simplistic look, it works amazingly well! Although they both require some skills at dabbling with emulators, as well as the original tape image of JetPac, both modifications by Highrise are very much recommendable!


One of the more modern games for retro machines that just keeps on getting new ports made is the already classic platformer from the Mojon Twins: UWOL - QUEST FOR MONEY. Since my previous update on this game, UWOL has gained SIX (!!) more versions, and if I understood correctly, some more are still on the way. The completed ones are for the Sega SG-1000 and Master System, NES, MSX1, MSX2, Commodore Amiga 500 and one for basically all the usual PC-like systems. So, if there ever was a game comparison that needed a complete rehaul since its original posting, it would be this. But let's just deal with these ones for now.

Screenshots from UWOL's PC/Linux/Mac/Pi version.

The Sega, NES, MSX1 and PC versions were made by the Mojon Twins themselves. The PC version is a fairly straight port from the original UWOL, and is available for Windows, Linux, Macintosh and Raspberry Pi. The differences to the original are the upgraded graphics and sounds, and the gameplay is a bit slower as well - perhaps all for the better. At least the speed adjustment gives the game a bit more longevity, and makes it easier to get through certain busy passages. Unfortunately for some reason, I wasn't able to take screenshots of the PC version, so I had to take the ones shown at the Mojon Twins' website.

Screenshots of Super UWOL!
Above: NES / Below: Sega SG-1000

As for the other two newer Mojon Twins versions, they are actually remakes of the original UWOL, now titled Super UWOL, which features a two-player mode and a VS mode, but that's not all that's different. Most of the levels have been redesigned and given new platforms you can jump through, as well as spike traps and enemies that can move in various directions. It really feels like almost a completely different game - one could even call it a sequel. Super UWOL was originally made for the Sega SG-1000 in 2015, which, with correct hardware, is compatible with the Master System, and the MSX1 port of the SG-1000 is pretty much the same exact thing. The NES version was made during 2015 and 2016, and it looks a bit nicer than the Sega version.

Screenshots from UWOL's MSX2 version.


A port of the original UWOL for the MSX2 was made by Imanok in 2016. It looks and sounds slightly different from all the other versions, but the biggest difference is how the main character controls. It's a bit quicker than the other versions, and there's less of friction in UWOL's movement. Because of that, I think I actually prefer this over the original.

Screenshots from UWOL's Amiga version.

The Amiga version looks and plays pretty much exactly like the Sega Megadrive version, which isn't a bad thing at all. After all, it shared the top spot with the SNES version in my original comparison.

So, counting these now along with the ones in the original comparison and the Coleco version which was mentioned in an earlier Updates article, there are now a total of 13 (THIRTEEN!!) versions of UWOL - Quest For Money. That's getting close to the likes of Bubble Bobble! I wonder what's next... BBC Micro, Intellivision, Amstrad CPC and VIC-20, perhaps?


Something not quite as obvious for updating, but perhaps worth mentioning are these two oddities based on BC'S QUEST FOR TIRES.

BBC Micro: Caveman Capers

The first one isn't really even an actual conversion of Quest For Tires, but it certainly uses a lot of its graphics. Caveman Capers from Icon Software, released for the Acorn BBC Micro in 1985, is more of a clone of Moon Buggy instead, but not 100% that, either. Odd one, this, and not strictly speaking something that should even be mentioned in this context, but it's such a curious thing that I thought, what the heck.

Videoton TVC: Quest For Tires


Quest For Tires was also released for the Videoton TVC, with that name, but it doesn't exactly look that much like the original game. Well, it kind of does, but I'm not exactly sure how much of it is there, since I've only been able to reach level 3 - the one you see as the rightmost picture above. You can control BC back and forth on the screen for about 1/3 of the screen's width, and the difference in speed at the "front" is only marginal to being at the "back". You can only jump on the spot, and your jumps are very short, and you can't do a ducking maneouvre. It's all very bare bones, but I don't really know what else would you expect here.


Now that we've got the more topically bundled Videoton games out of the way, let's take a look at some more Hungarian Videoton TVC conversions. Most of these are pretty straightforward Spectrum conversions, but then there's a couple of odd surprises thrown into the mix.

Videoton TVC ports, left to right: The Sacred Armour of Antiriad (Antiriad),
Jumping Jack (Keljfeljancsi), Formula One Simulator (Race Ace) and Xeno.

Going through the only major Videoton TVC archive site, I found a surprisingly wide range of games that were very well-known from the more prominent computers of the era, from the midst of a humongous pile of more basic, traditional games. The clearest conversions of classic games from other machines were Spectrum conversion, and as shown in the picture above, there were also a few around, which had been done into a comparison on this blog, including the Sacred Armour of Antiriad (just titled Antiriad here), Jumping Jack (here titled Keljfeljancsi), 3-D Deathchase (not in picture, but here titled Ördögmotor), Formula One Simulator (here titled Race Ace), Turbo Esprit (not in picture) and Xeno.

Race Ace should come with an epilepsy warning, because it flashes some of the main colours constantly during race, but it's fine to play. Otherwise, all the conversions feel similar, but much slower and jerkier, than their Spectrum equivalents. And they look horrible.

More Videoton TVC ports, left to right:
Ghostbusters (Ghosbusters), Nebulus and Kikstart (MotoRodeo).

The three most unexpected versions were these: a fairly straight port of the Commodore 16 version of Kikstart (here titled MotoRodeo), a surprisingly good 2021 conversion of Nebulus, and a basic interpretation of the classic Activision movie game, Ghostbusters with a spelling mistake in the title. And when I say basic, I do mean BASIC. It's clearly modeled after the Activision game, but it only has a really awkward version of the map screen, and a really awkward version of the ghost hunting screen in front of a building. There is a really low time limit to everything, and unlike in the original game, you can get a Game Over in less than a minute here. Funny, but not really recommended.

Because I probably won't be saying much about other Videoton TVC games in the future, I'll just say this much. There are some pretty good Spectrum conversions around of other games, such as Alien 8, Lode Runner (Ladderman), Manic Miner (Vili a bányász), Deflektor, and some more excellent modern conversions of classic games like IK+, Ikari Warriors and even that Game & Watch classic, Donkey Kong Jr. The most compatible TVC emulator seems to be only available for DOS, so you will need at least DOSbox to run these games.


Lastly, we've got a bunch of random updates, and they're all such a mixed bag of things that it would be easier just to make a list and be done with it.

Thomson MO5: Westbank

But, let's start with yet another version of WEST BANK, this time for Thomson's earlier computer, the MO5. This version of the game was made by Inconnu in 1986, and it's just about as basic and barebones version of West Bank as you can get - actually fairly similar to "School Panic", which was featured in the previous Updates entry a year ago.

C64: Super Trucker

Not long after the comparison of LOCO was released here, the guy from the Polaventris channel pointed out a couple of possible Loco variants for the C64, one of which was actually pretty close to one. This game here, that you see in the above picture, is Super Trucker, and was published by CP Verlag in 1991. Obviously, instead of an actual rail-based vehicle, you control a truck on a multi-laned highway with similar forks in the road as you see in Loco. Dodging on-coming traffic is still simple, because you just change lanes by tapping the joystick up and down, and you can jump the truck instead of puffing up smoke. As such, it's more of a derivant than an actual clone. A nice one at that, though.

ColecoVision: The way of the exploding foot.

From 2011, here's THE WAY OF THE EXPLODING FOOT for the Colecovision and MSX, published by Collectorvision Games. As you can plainly see, this is a blatant copy of Exploding Fist, but the backdrop comes from IK+ and the music comes from International Karate. Too bad the gameplay is really dodgy, as the animations make your fighters jump around to odd places, so there's no natural logic to the player movements. This is all deductable from the footage of the game that can be found on YouTube, but you can't find the game for download - only a physical cartridge for purchase here. I'd recommend to just stick to the originals.

Commodore Plus/4: Paratroopers Fall Again!

Now we come as near to the present day as 2020, which brought us three more entries for this Updates article. Firstly, PARATROOPERS gained a new, rather well made Commodore Plus/4 conversion of the C64 version, written by KiCHY. There's nothing particularly notable between the original and the conversion, apart from the title and the title screen, which features music, so in a very small way, it's actually an upgrade over the C64 version.

Atari Falcon: l'Abbaye des Morts

One of the most famous retro-inspired platformers of recent times, L'ABBAYE DES MORTS, gained two new conversions in 2020, one of which was for the MSX, which I already updated the original comparison article with; and another for Atari Falcon, which was finished a few months after the MSX version.

The Atari version was made by a relatively large group of people: Jo Even Skarstein, Geir Vaelidalo, Skuggemannen and some others, and thanks to the group effort, it is one of the best looking versions out there, with graphics based on the Megadrive version, but it's definitely a bit different. Somehow, the jumping doesn't seem exactly like in the original, which makes this version feel a bit weird, but not alarmingly so. This version requires an Atari Falcon030 (something like an Atari ST, but more advanced), with a minimum of 2Mb free RAM and at least a 030 CPU with FPU, so it's surprisingly heavy for a game that was originally supposed to be modeled after games on the ZX Spectrum.

Atari 2600: Street Rod (work-in-progress)

Here's a couple of work-in-progress things for the Atari 2600, which caught my eye a little while ago. Of the two, STREET ROD was the more surprising one, and it's being made by a bloke who uses the handle "TwentySixHundred" on the AtariAge forums. Obviously, it would have to be a demake, whenever it gets finished, but the most current binary (released on the 28th of May, 2020) looks and feels surprisingly promising. Too bad the creator hasn't updated the development thread since then; let's hope he hasn't dropped the project altogether.

Atari 2600: Congo Bongo (new version work-in-progress)

And then there's a new version of CONGO BONGO, by the user "splendidnut" at AtariAge. It has more recent updates on its thread, as the last we heard from that one was in April this year. Of course, Congo Bongo already has an official A2600 port, but this new one attempts to follow the arcade original more closely than the woeful official product. If everything goes as planned, you should be getting all the original levels in this new version, and in their proper isometric style. But, as the creator said in his last post there, it's "a slow simmer." There is no playable version for us regular retrogamers, but you can see how it's progressing from the photos above, which were taken from the AtariAge forum thread of the port.

Amiga 500: Henry's House

The last addition to this list of updates is the Amiga 500 port of the 8-bit Atari version of my favourite English Software game, HENRY'S HOUSE. It looks and sounds pretty much like the Atari version does, so you don't really get any kind of kick out of seeing improvements. But then, that was probably the point. On surface, you do get a pretty close representation of the source game. However, there are some collision detection problems that make the experience less than optimal, as well as an annoying nudge every time you pick up an item, and since the game needs to load each level and intermission screen from disk, the flow is ruined. At least you get a code for all your scores, which you then can register to the creator's website - there's actually a high score contest, which lasts until the end of August, so there's at least some incentive to keep playing. Without that contest, though, I'd stick with the Atari version.


Because there have been so many additions and updates to some of the games that I've written about in my early blogging days, I have decided to make new versions of some of the comparisons that most desperately need a rewrite. But as I'll be too busy with my real life and work until the end of this year, the earliest I could, and would bother with any of that would be early next year.

Until then, regular service will ensue, and next time, it'll be another actual comparison. Thanks for reading, keep safe and keep on retrogaming!

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