Monday, 18 April 2022

TWOFER #23: Reset Run'n'Guns!

1. Bazooka Bill (Melbourne House, 1985)

Programming by Brian Post
Graphics by David O'Callaghan and Russel Comte
Music by Neil Brennan
Originally released for the Commodore 64 by Melbourne House/Arcade in 1985.
Also published by Spinnaker Software in North America, and as "Colorado Bill" by Micropool in Germany.
Converted for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum by Brian Post and Craig Smith, with graphics by Greg Holland, and published by Melbourne House/Arcade in 1986.

2. Foxx Fights Back (ImageWorks, 1988)
Developed for the Commodore 64 by Denton Designs
Programming by Dave Colclough
Music by Fred Gray
Converted for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum by John Heap.
Both versions released by ImageWorks (Mirrorsoft) in 1988.



Issue #14 of the lately re-energized Reset64 magazine was to be themed around run'n'gun games, meaning the likes of Contra, Green Beret and such. To my surprise, there didn't seem to be all that many games on the C64 that would go with the relative compactness required from a magazine article, so I made two optional comparisons of Bazooka Bill and Foxx Fights Back to have the comparison chosen for Reset #14 from. As it turned out, I couldn't exactly get the comparison of Bazooka Bill finished before the intended deadline, perhaps all for the better,  for reasons I shall mention later. The intention, of course, was to eventually posting both of them on the blog as a traditional two-for-one entry.

My first option for a run'n'gun game comparison with as small amount as possible of versions to focus on, I picked out Bazooka Bill from Melbourne House, because it was the most traditional choice available with the criteria. If you have read the magazine, you will know already, that this ended up not being the chosen comparison for the issue.

If you're a bad game aficionado like myself, Bazooka Bill might offer you entertainment value for many sessions, but gamers with a keen sense of quality might be offended with a shocking lack of it. Reviewers at the time of the game's release were certainly less than impressed, and the scores at our favourite haunts aren't that much better. At Lemon64, the current score is a solid 5 from 73 votes, while the archived World of Spectrum site has a score of 4.67 from 20 votes on display, and the current equivalent at Spectrum Computing is 5.8 from 4 votes. Either way, you're in for a bumpy ride.
The comparison that ended up into Reset #14 is Fox (or Foxx, if you prefer) Fights Back from Denton Designs, because it gives a nice twist to the genre. Perhaps it's not the best known game of its kind, but it did receive well above average reviews in its day. Now, the scores at our favourite haunts are 7.1 from 55 Lemon64 users, and 7.71 from 23 World of Spectrum users - at least according to the original archived WOS. The more recent rating can be found at the Spectrum Computing website, which has a score of 7.2 from 5 users, so it's not too far from the original WOS score.



Bazooka Bill has often been called something like a Lego version of Green Beret, which isn't too far off from the truth, really. The way the game works is, that you walk to the right, switching levels through ladders and punching enemies while at it until you find better weapons to throw or fire. This continues until you reach the end of the level and move to the next, until who knows where. Well, okay, the ladders pose a puzzle of sorts, which you need to use to find the correct pathway to complete each level, which is annoying for this type of a game. There are also parts, where you get to fly a fighter jet, which makes this game slightly less traditional than Green Beret.

There are certain differences between the two versions, that make the entire experience almost completely different on both C64 and Spectrum, even though the basic idea is very much the same. I will get into that later on, but despite their differences, Bazooka Bill is not a very playable game on the long run, nor is it particularly fun, unless you've got an acquired taste like myself. If you're looking for an easier Green Beret clone, just go with Green Beret. Really!



Woe to those young gamers of old, who bought Bazooka Bill because the cover art looked awesome, only to wait for a small eternity before they find out their new game is not exactly what they had in mind. I found out that the Spectrum users were slightly less bothered with their loading times, as you can see here.

C64 original: 6 min 45 sec
C64 Ricochet: 3 min 26 sec
SPE original: 4 min 37 sec
SPE Erbe: 3 min 29 sec
SPE Erbe SL: 2 min 51 sec

Well, the Ricochet re-release isn't nearly as bad as the original, which was dangerously close to 7 minutes, but the clear winner here is the Erbe Serie Leyenda re-release for the ZX  Spectrum. Mind you, in the C64 Ricochet version, you get no loading screen, nor even the usual Mastertronic loader game, so you're better off sticking with the original. That is, if you really want to stick with loading Bazooka Bill in the first place.

Loading screens: Commodore 64 (left) and ZX Spectrum (right).

The loading screens are unusually interesting here. The SPECTRUM version has a rendition of the cover art, which looks absolutely fine, while the C64 loader is more of a rendition of the game's world map included elsewhere in the cover leaflet, which looks a bit wonky. Still, loading screen is better than no loading screen, even if it takes more than 3 minutes longer.



Once the game has loaded up, the C64 version greets you with an animated title screen with no instructions whatsoever, so your only option is to press the fire button on your joystick in port #2 to get going. The SPECTRUM version, at least, gives you control options, before you actually get to the title screen. Be warned, though: once you select your preferred controls, you cannot change them unless you reboot the Spectrum and load the game again. In addition to two joystick options (Kempston and Sinclair), you get a keyboard option, which uses Q and Z for up and down, I and P for left and right, and M acts as the fire button.

Like many other run'n'gun games of that age, you can pick up weapons whenever you see one floating above the ground just by walking through them. To cycle through additional weapons, use the Space Bar in the SPECTRUM version, and in the C64 version, you need to push the fire button and simultaneously pull the joystick down. Everything else is pretty self-explanatory: you run left and right, climb ladders and jump in any possible direction with the controls you have. As usual, your designated fire button attacks, but in this game, holding the fire button down makes you automatically run into the current chosen direction and attack while at it, even if you're not pulling the joystick (or keyboard) into any direction.

There are curious differences in handling Bill between the two versions, though, which really doesn't help the playability in either case. If you're playing the SPECTRUM version, when you keep the fire button down and change direction, Bill kicks forward instead of changes direction, like he does in the C64 version, and he can only jump in certain clearly designated places. If you're playing the C64 version, Bill is able to jump freely anywhere, and as a special move, you can jump a little bit backwards by first pushing the joystick up and then pushing the fire button down. As I said, none of these actions actually add anything of value to gameplay; in fact, these moves are more likely to be a hindrance to your progression.

As I explained earlier, the way you make any progress in Bazooka Bill is by selecting to go up and down certain ladders as you move to the right. Failing to choose the correct ladder results in re-playing a brief segment. This holds true for both C64 and Spectrum versions, but because the C64 version scrolls smoothly, and the SPECTRUM version uses a flip-screen method instead, the latter might feel a bit easier to perceive. The problem is, you will often be required to pass multiple ladders, which can be walked up and down in any particular order before the game acknowledges your efforts as being correct or false. Oddly enough, the SPECTRUM version is more complicated than the C64 version, possibly because the flip-screen method allows it to be so: there are passages there, that you don't really even need to visit, which you can go to by mistake, if you don't know what you're doing, and the only way to get out of these unnecessary sequences is still to choose the correct order of ladders. To be frank, the best way to deal with these ladders is just to see a walkthrough video on YouTube or, if you want to go closer to the classic way, search for a pdf of your favourite Spectrum-related magazine with Bazooka Bill's maps.

The Spectrum game is also less responsive and Bill seems to take damage with more enthusiasm than delivering it. As is often the case with old Spectrum games, Bazooka Bill also suffers from severe slowdown when the screen is occupied by other moving entities; the more there are, the slower it gets. Happily, though, the SPECTRUM version doesn't get nearly as occupied by enemies on screen as the C64 version, but here, the enemies are able to use ladders as well; which in the C64 version was probably considered unnecessary because of the number of enemies attacking you at once. Also, because of the addition of kicking in the SPECTRUM version, you need to be a little bit more careful with your actions. Also, when throwing a knife, the knife flies notably slower in the Spectrum version than it does on C64, which makes it more sensible to just punch everybody as long as possible, because when you throw a knife, you won't be able to move until it's almost out of the screen. At least you have no trouble moving and shooting at the same time. Be warned, though, that when punching and moving, you cannot enter a ladder on the move, and you will always move something like 3 or 4 steps while delivering a set of punches, which can become supremely annoying because you're always in a hurry.

After a maze of ladders, you enter an airfield, where you are spared the trouble of figuring out the way to the fighter jet you're about to board, and these segments are also thankfully short. The jet fighter shoot'em-up section is the usual thing: you go towards the right and shoot and dodge everything in your way until you reach the next level. Amazingly, the two versions differ quite drastically here as well. In the C64 version, you get jet planes and helicopters approaching you from the front and behind, but they're always at the same vertical levels, so you can easily dodge them by keeping yourself vertically between the enemies' flight paths before you perform your attacks. The SPECTRUM version takes a more traditional route by throwing enemy jets at you in diagonal lanes, and they only attack you from the front; however, you still need to move towards the right and off the screen to make progress in these levels, which practically ruins the flight-based shoot'em-up section, because even in the genre's infancy, they used to be automatically scrolling.

Very likely because the game's developers knew that they had a real dog of a game on their hands, with an impossible difficulty level, they implemented an endless possibility to continue the game where you lost your last life, provided you were quick enough to push the required button to continue, when the counter appeared on the screen. For the C64 version, you need to use the F5 key, and for the SPECTRUM version, you need to use the letter C. In both cases, you really need lightning reflexes - or better yet, a friend keeping an eye out for the inevitable Game Over timer and finger on key, to be able to continue, because the 10-second counter goes to zero in exactly one second.

Here's the fun part: the SPECTRUM version can be completed by entering an area in level 2, which doesn't appear until as level 5 in the C64 version. Level 2 and level 5 both take place in Leyte Island, only in the C64 version, level 5 is the one which has tanks as enemies, which will kill you instantly upon the merest contact. This area can be accessed from level 2 in the SPECTRUM version. Once you have entered that area and eventually beaten that level, you get the ending, followed by Game Over, so you can effectively skip a couple of levels in the Spectrum version. Sorry to spoil it, but the game is bad enough to benefit from having an official shortcut like that.

In the end, being successful in Bazooka Bill has 5% to do with your skills, 20% to do with your ability to memorize, and 75% to do with your ability to hit the designated continue key in time. With that in mind, the C64 version is just slightly more preferable due to its more linear approach, although each version has enough faults and differences to make both of them a surprisingly different experience altogether. But I suppose, in cases like these, choosing a winner has more to do with personal preferences than the game's actual quality, because they're both more or less equally dreadful.

1. COMMODORE 64 / ZX SPECTRUM  (no winner)



Considering Bazooka Bill is in both cases a side-viewed run'n'gun sort of a deal, the two versions couldn't look much more different from each other, and as such, I'm not sure how to throw judgment upon these two. Of course, the title screen is as good place to start as ever.

Title screens/options. Left: Commodore 64. Middle and right: ZX Spectrum.

Well, you can clearly see from here that the SPECTRUM version doesn't have much of a title screen, but you do get a dedicated screen for control options, which offer nothing of  graphical interest. Once you have selected your controller of choice, the game switches to show you the first in-game screen with the scrolling message "Press any key to start" at the top of the screen in the default system font. By contrast, the C64 version has a very animated title screen, which is basically a demonstration of all the in-game weapons that our hero has the possibility of using during his heroic adventures, along with the enemies from the first level appearing in waves. All of this happens in a single-screen area that is actually cut from the third level, so in that sense, the title screen doesn't actually show you anything particularly singular in the C64 version, either. It is more fun to watch, though, than a bunch of text.

Screenshots from level 1. Top row: Commodore 64. Bottom row: ZX Spectrum.
Once we get into the action, it's difficult not to notice, that Bazooka Bill's two versions look pretty much exactly the opposite of each other. The C64 version is blocky, relatively lacking in detail and difficult to focus on, but it has fast animations, horizontal scrolling and a sense of humour in its cheapness.

The SPECTRUM version is more detailed with better pixelation of the monochromatic sprites, and the areas are much easier to memorize due to the flip-screen method. There's also slightly more background graphics in the Spectrum version of the first level, most of which you don't actually need to see, if you know what you're doing, but they're there. However, the animations are slower, even though they're just about as clunky as those in the C64 version, and when you get mixed up with a bunch of enemy sprites, it's a bit more disorienting to look at than the C64 version. Also, because the Spectrum version uses higher resolution monochrome graphics for the player and enemy characters, the graphical conversion took a less humoristic approach.

Airfield screens. Left: Commodore 64. Right: ZX Spectrum.

After you've beaten the main part of any level, you get to an airfield, which consists of largely similar graphics as those in level 1, apart from the addition of half-visible jet fighters inside hangars. For me, the Speccy's use of different greys in the context of an airplane looks better, but my bias is related to having mostly ever seen white airplanes because of the Finnish airline company Finnair. I suppose the jet fighters can appear in any colour they like, but really, the hi-res monochrome graphics are what makes the SPECTRUM version look better in this regard.

Flight sequence screens. Left: Commodore 64. Right: ZX Spectrum.

Without a doubt, the single most ridiculous thing about the SPECTRUM version is the lack of scrolling in the jet fighter segment. But there is also no background graphics, probably because they couldn't think of how to get a non-scrolling background feel natural in this instance. Mind you, the C64 background graphics aren't too much to mention, either, but at least there is some, and you also get the automatic scrolling that really makes the segment what it is. The C64 version also gives you two enemies per designated line, maxing them out at 6 on screen at a time, while the SPECTRUM version only features 3 enemies on the screen. However, in the SPECTRUM version, they move around on the screen in a much freer manner, while the C64 version makes them just go their designated straight line.

Considering the style of graphics, the SPECTRUM version is more consistent in the size and quality of sprites, whereas the C64 version tends to disregard the sizes and styles of aircraft and their pilots. That said, neither version shows any regard for realism, so I'm not really sure if one should concentrate on the quality of the graphics or their effectiveness.

Level 2 screens. Top row: Commodore 64. Bottom row: ZX Spectrum.

Upon your arrival to Leyte Island, you will notice a vast difference between the two versions in addition to all the usual graphical details. The single most important difference is the type of enemies inhabiting the island: whereas the C64 version throws some wild island people at you, along with some rolling boulders, helicopters and soldiers, the SPECTRUM version allows you to enter an area similar to level 5 in the C64 version, with only tanks as your enemies, which eventually will effectively end the game.

The colouring remains much the same as before on the SPECTRUM, but the C64 version changes from red brick walls, yellow bridges, turquoise buildings, dark blue ladders and doors and a grey forest background to more earthy browns, blues and greens of nature, yet still throwing in a dash of white, yellow and turquoise wherever possible.

Countdown for continue. Left: Commodore 64. Right: ZX Spectrum.

When you eventually lose your last life, which you most certainly will, the game offers you a chance to continue from where you left off. The time frame for pressing the designated key from the keyboard for continuing is ridiculously brief, and while you're in that time frame, the game screen displays a large number counting down from 9 to 0. Both versions have the numbers drawn in basic coloured blocks, the differences being the vertical size of the numbers and the background colour. The C64 version uses a neutral light blue as the background filling, while the SPECTRUM version has a slab of whiteness surrounding the black number. Most helpfully, the C64 version also gives you a hint at the top of the screen to press F5 to continue, but the SPECTRUM version doesn't, and if you don't know the key, you're out of time.




When you're comparing a game with only a C64 and a Spectrum version, this section is almost unnecessary, because the harsh reality is, that a 48k Spectrum's beeper simply cannot out-do the SID-chip on a C64 for 99,9% of time. But for the sake of completion, let's do it anyway.

First, and most obviously, the C64 version has music, and the SPECTRUM version doesn't. It could be argued, that the music in the C64 version doesn't fit the game's style particularly well, but that would be beside the point. What I mean by that is, that there's an oddly oriental feel to one of the two tunes that plays alternately throughout the game, while Bazooka Bill would have benefited from music closer to that of Commando or Ikari Warriors than that of Exploding Fist or Ninja, but the music does enhance the game's strange character in a way that the Spectrum version doesn't by having none.

There are a few distinctly different sound effects in the SPECTRUM version, which works well enough in the context. Although the knife sounds exactly the same as your fist when it hits an enemy, at least the machine gun and the flame thrower both have more impressive sound effects. The C64 version has clearly different sound effects for punching and throwing knives: punching with no collision makes no sound, while throwing a knife makes an almost helicopter-like flopping noise. The other two weapons also make their own specific sorts of noises, and killing an enemy always makes a similar swishy explosion noise, regardless of the weapon used. Because the sound effects are played over the constantly playing music, the C64 version's soundscape tends to get a bit messy. I suppose it could be considered part of the game's charm, and the music really is one of the higher points of Bazooka Bill.


Now, let's move on to Fox(x) Fights Back. If you have read the comparison already on the most recent Reset64 magazine, or if you just want to skip to the overall results of both games, scroll to the bottom.



Foxx Fights Back, as it says in the cover art, is not exactly a conventional run'n'gun game, although you certainly do plenty of both in it. You take the role of an alpha male fox, whose job it is to feed his family. These foxes like all sorts of foods, so you need to pick them from anywhere you can find food from your surrounding area and bring them to your home. While you're at it, hunting dogs are roaming in the forest, riding their bicycles and wielding pistols, trying to hunt you down. Of course, our protagonist is no ordinary fox, and he knows how to operate various kinds of firearms, so it certainly fits the genre.

Although it certainly has a fun and unconventional premise, Foxx Fights Back doesn't really have all that much of content to keep you entertained for more than perhaps 10-15 minutes at a time. Most of your first attempts will be spent on getting to grips with the controls, but there is a fair amount of fun to be had after that. It is a singular game, and highly recommendable for anyone wanting to play something a bit different but familiar. Hardly a classic, though.



For both C64 and Spectrum, there seem to be two cassette releases floating around, with rather notable differences in loading times for both machines. In both cases, the difference is around 1 and a half minute, but whereas the original C64 release by ImageWorks was slower than the Zzap!64 "Mammoth Megatape" release...

C64 ImageWorks: 4 min 41 sec
C64 Mammoth M: 3 min 6 sec's the other way round on the Spectrum - the original ImageWorks release is almost the exact same time faster than the MCM Software re-release.

SPE ImageWorks: 3 min 29 sec
SPE MCM: 4 min 56 sec

That said, the quicker C64 tape version is 25 seconds quicker than the quicker Spectrum version. Also, there is a disk version available for the C64, which just barely beats the quicker Speccy tape's loading time at 3 minutes and 26 seconds, so you're still better off with the Mammoth Megatape version.

Loading screens. Left: Commodore 64. Right: ZX Spectrum.

As for the loading screens, you get a similar view of the protagonist and his machine gun - something modeled after a Thompson sub-machine gun - in both loaders, only the C64 version has a circular frame with the fox's other elbow just breaking through the boundaries, and the SPECTRUM version has the fox standing inside the grey rectangle containing the game title. The C64 picture details the background graphics, while the SPECTRUM picture details the fox himself, and also features the publisher logo at the bottom right corner. Neither is, to be perfectly honest, particularly nice to look at, but the nature background included in the C64 loader gives it more character and feel of the game's own graphics.



As is only customary, the SPECTRUM version starts off by giving the player a number of different control options. If you choose to play on the keyboard, you are taken straight to the screen where you change your keys, and the game starts straight away after you confirm your chosen controller and/or keys. The C64 version can only be played with a joystick.

That's only the beginning of a long list of various gameplay differences, though. Both versions do let you go both left and right, jump and shoot around, pick up and deliver food and go up and down foxholes, but the comparison is all in the details.

Mr. Fox's basic stance in the C64 version is an alert state, ready for action, with his front down and rear high, which basically is the crouch mode in the SPECTRUM version, which the C64 version doesn't have. The SPECTRUM Fox's basic stance has a more general standing around, relaxed manner. This already shows a key difference in the balance of controls. Running around in both versions is pretty much equally quick, but there is a turning animation in the C64 version, which perhaps makes it look more professional, but it also takes away from the immediacy of the action, which might or might not be a good thing - let's just say the feel of the controls becomes very different from this simple element.

As I mentioned, the crouching mode is the basic stance in the C64 version, the SPECTRUM version has this as a unique move, but you can't do anything else while crouching. Pulling the joystick down in the C64 version lets you drop down a foxhole, while in the SPECTRUM version, you drop down these holes by merely walking over them. In order to avoid getting sucked into these holes, you have to jump over them instead.

The SPECTRUM version has one rather interesting advantage in it: you can walk more slowly while having the fire button pressed down, which keeps Mr. Fox more alert for any trigger-pulling action. You can only fire your guns while standing still, which goes for both versions, but it's not instantaneous.

There are also marked differences between the guns. In the C64 version, firing a pistol can only kill one enemy at once, while the SPECTRUM pistol bullet can go through several enemies. You need a rifle for that to happen on the C64, but in the SPECTRUM version, the upgrade isn't exactly necessary. You do get weapon upgrades up to a bazooka, but frankly, the weapons aren't even very useful in the SPECTRUM version, because you can avoid most hits by constantly jumping around. The only thing you really need to avoid are traps, which I haven't come across in the C64 version. The C64 version does make it necessary for you to upgrade your weapons, because some of the later enemies require more powerful and long-reaching bullets to kill them, and a pistol just isn't good enough at that point any longer.

Dying is another thing to consider. When you lose a life in the C64, you still keep all the food items you collected into your inventory, but losing a life in the SPECTRUM version drops all these items. Not that it really matters on the long run, since the game has no ending.

As if all that weren't enough, the maps are very different in both versions – much larger on the C64; as is the variety of enemies, as well as enemy behaviour. The SPECTRUM version has a tendency to throw more enemies on the screen than the processor can handle, so dying from overexposure to bombs and bullets happens quite often. The C64 version is usually more lenient in this regard, although due to the differences in controls affected by the animations makes moving around a bit more challenging. It's all about the circumstances, really, which can alter drastically in a matter of seconds. In the SPECTRUM version, this alteration can happen regardless of your location, while the C64 version has been more clearly sectioned into areas, which are occupied by different kinds of enemies.

Considering the arcade-like never-ending style of the game, it doesn't really make all that much of a difference, which version's gameplay details suit the game better. For myself, I'm leaning more towards the more sophisticated C64 version, even though the SPECTRUM version offers a very good alternative with its creative, if cheaper gameplay approaches.




We could just oversimplify this, but fair play requires some close examination, and as usual, we'll start with the title screens.

Title screens / options and high score tables. Top row: Commodore 64. Bottom row: ZX Spectrum.

Fox Fights Back happens to be one of those games that doesn't have a separated high scores table from the title screen. When the title screen first appears, the C64 version's only differing details to the later alterations is your last score shown in the score section of the info panel at the bottom, as well as the last held weapon. The SPECTRUM version starts off with the control selection screen, and if you choose to go with keyboard controls, you are automatically taken to the key redefining screen, after which the game starts. Only after a game has ended for the first time, the default title screen with the high scores table is shown. As it's all just some text along with the info panel at the bottom, there's not much to say. Even the font is very similar in both versions.

The info panel itself is rather interesting, though. You get a great big "FOX" logo at the left end of the panel, from which the fox's head is protruding from the middle letter. When in game, the fox's tongue acts as an energy meter – the further down the tongue is hanging, the closer to death you are. The grassy area makes a little room for the held weapon in the C64 version, above which you can see the score counter, and to the right of which the three given lives are shown as very small icons. To the left of the score counter, there are four invisible slots for your food item inventory.

The SPECTRUM version shows your remaining lives in much bigger icons in a horizontal manner above the "FOX" logo, and all the other icons are notably smaller than on the C64. The score counter has no specific graphics, but is shown roughly in the same place as on the C64.

Commodore 64 screenshots from above the ground.

As you will be spending most of the time above ground, most of the graphical variety happens above ground. In the C64 version, you get a fair variety of bushes and trees, and if you'd ask a Spectrum user, a surprisingly small amount of browns. Unless you count the fox's orange as brown, of course. The brown stuff does come along eventually, in the form of brick buildings and cows, as well as other collectable items aside from apples. Indeed, the above ground graphics are intensely green for the most part. The backgrounds aren't particularly pretty, but they represent the intended things clearly enough. It's the animation department where the C64 version excels, with plenty of detailed drawings in the titular fox's animations, as well as all the enemies' animations.

ZX Spectrum screenshots from above the ground.

Due to the techniques used back in the late 80's, the SPECTRUM version looks not a small amount colourless by comparison. All sprites are monochrome white against a largely black background, but the hi-res graphics do look nice. The animations, unfortunately, are not quite on par with the C64 version, which makes for 2/3 of the difference. The rest of it is more about the lack of variety in background graphics, as there is not enough variety in buildings, natural-looking slopes and bumps or even trees. If for some unfathomable reason, brown is something to be avoided, that has been accomplished here. At least the SPECTRUM version scrolls rather neatly, and doesn't suffer too much from slowdown due to overpopulation on the screen.

Under the ground screenshots. Left: Commodore 64. Right: ZX Spectrum.

For my eyes, though, there's definitely way too much of magenta, which certainly feels odd compared to brown as the colour for ground, dirt, mud or whatever the foxholes and tunnels have been built into. Also, one of the funniest graphical details in the game was completely dropped from the SPECTRUM version, and that is the fox's home decor. Of course you would want a couple of lamps hanging from the ceiling, a couple of couches and tables; why wouldn't you?

Despite the fair attempt, the SPECTRUM hardware just isn't very good at portraying nature with its graphical abilities. It's easy enough to see, why the C64 version wins this round again, only this time with a clear advantage.




Fred Gray's soundtrack for the C64 version is interesting and hilarious... at first. The title screen has an original tune, which is a simple but frantic tune that's somewhat reminiscent of that old warhorse "A-hunting We Will Go", a song which has the lyric "we'll catch a fox and put him in a box", but of course, the theme tune from Foxx Fights Back feels like the roles are supposedly reversed. The in-game tracks feature all sorts of classics from Mozart, Bizet, Brahms and Grieg put through a treadmill and bunched them all up together in a weird medley.

The soundtrack only utilizes melodic sounds here, and very little of lower frequencies, which gives the game a chirpy, almost teasing feel. Unfortunately, that means that the soundtrack can get a bit annoying to listen to for more than a few minutes. Happily, you can turn off the music and get an acceptable array of sound effects instead. The game features some very nice shooting and exploding sounds, as it should, but also some very specific sounds for this game, such as the weird bleary sound of picking up food items, and the "nagging wife" sound effect, which will play regardless of whether you bring food home or not. However, even if you choose to have in-game music, you can still hear your guns shooting.

Since the game came out as late as 1988, it is no wonder, that the SPECTRUM version gives a different soundtrack for the 128k machine than the 48k machine. Obviously, the 48k mode plays sound effects through the single-channel beeper, but most of the music you get in the 128k mode has been kept in - only in fairly different arrangements. It all sounds surprisingly good, however, at least for beeper tunes, and the sound effects aren't that far away from the 128k mode, either.

You don't get constant music even as an option for either of the SPECTRUM versions, which might be just as well, since as we learned from the C64 version, it can get a bit bothersome. But still, an option would have been nice to have. The soundtrack consists in both beeper and AY-modes only 3 different tunes, as opposed to the C64's 10 tunes, but they're joyful enough to listen to, and they appear only when they're supposed to - during the title screen, a successful food deliverance, losing a life and Game Over. The sound effects are not quite as refined as on the C64, nor is the music, but if it weren't for the options in the C64 version, I would actually prefer the SPECTRUM soundtrack over the C64 one.





I have to say, comparing Bazooka Bill has been one of the least inspiring and troublesome endeavours in the entire history of FRGCB, and I shudder to think, how would it have been with more than two official versions in existence. As it is, I don't really think there really is a winner between these two, but technically, the C64 version is well ahead of the Spectrum version, considering the amount of mobs plunging at you simultaneously at any given time, the scrolling and the music and sound effects and blah blah blah.


In case you thought the C64 and Spectrum versions weren't bad enough, you might want to take a quick look at the unofficial conversion (perhaps "demake" would be a more suitable word for it) for the Commodore Plus/4 by Roby YU from 1988. It's as bare bones a version of this sort of a game as I ever saw, and I wouldn't even go so far as to call it "Bazooka" Bill, unless you call his enormous fist a bazooka. I have included a brief clip of it into the video comparison (just scroll a bit further down) just for the heck of it, but in case you're not a fan of videos, here's a screenshot. One is enough, since it doesn't really progress from this graphically.

[C16+4 screens]

Because I've done alternative, more traditional scores for Foxx Fights Back, I shall attempt to do such a thing for Bazooka Bill as well, even though the game more or less defies any logic of actually scoring it traditionally.


Playability    4
Graphics       5
Sounds         6
Replay value   2
OVERALL       4.0


Playability    4
Graphics       4
Sounds         4
Replay value   1
OVERALL       3.0


Despite the clear scores here, I ended up being fairly intrigued by both versions of the game. Much like Bazooka Bill, Fox Fights Back is a surprisingly different sort of a beast on both C64 and SPECTRUM, and both offer their own special kinds of experiences, but in a much better way compared to Bazooka Bill. On the whole, the C64 version of Foxx is a bit more refined, has more content and feels more natural, but the SPECTRUM version is well worth looking into, as well.

ZX SPECTRUM - 0 I said, the winner is quite clear here, but I might as well do one of those more traditional review scoring tables for this.


Playability     7
Graphics        8
Sounds          7
Replay value    4
OVERALL        6.5


Playability     6
Graphics        7
Sounds          7
Replay value    4
OVERALL         6

One more thing: the SPECTRUM version has a bug, which freezes the game once you have picked up all the food items. You can find a bugfixed version by Einar Saukas at the game's World of Spectrum page, if you feel like having a go.

Finally, here's the accompaniment video, as promised, and it features footage not only from the C64 and Spectrum versions of both games, but also a clip of the Commodore 16/+4 version of Bazooka Bill... supposedly.

See you next month with hopefully something of a bit higher quality! Have fun, keep safe and keep retrogaming!

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