Wednesday 15 November 2023

Impact! (Audiogenic, 1987)

Written for the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga by John Dale with graphics by Martin "Spiny Norman" Day. Originally released by Audiogenic in 1987. Also published as "Blockbuster" in North America by Mindscape.

Acorn BBC Micro/Electron conversion written by Gary Partis (in 1987). Amstrad CPC conversion programmed by Keith Prosser and Nigel Alderton; graphics by Dean Lester; sounds by Andy Williams. Commodore 64 conversion written by Steve Snake. IBM-PC compatibles conversion written by Brian Cotton. Sinclair ZX Spectrum conversion written by Steven Tucker.

All the conversions published by Audiogenic (EU) and Mindscape (US) in 1988.



I haven't made nearly enough comparisons of breakout-clones, perhaps because there aren't that many breakout games that have all that many versions of, apart from one. Obviously, I still haven't picked any of the Arkanoid games, because they still have too many versions to bother, but just so this wouldn't be too simple, I managed to pick a game that is available for IBM-PC compatibles, but doesn't work in DOSbox, so this should be interesting. Impact, with an exclamation mark, is a relatively unknown beast, that tends to generate wildly opposing opinions, but are the opinions more based on the played versions or is the game just an acquired taste in a more general sense?

Impact! was originally released simultaneously for the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST computers, which is perhaps of some interest in the light of the ratings at their respective websites for checking out ratings. At LemonAmiga, the rating is 7.0 from 33 votes, while the Atarimania rating is 6.0 from 55 votes. All the other versions were released in 1988, but the order of the ports is unknown, so we will go alphabetically - except the Acorn versions have no ratings to be found anywhere. The Amstrad versions have a 7/10 at CPC Game Reviews and a 15.25 out of 20.00 at CPC-Power; the C64 version has a 6.06 from 16 votes at Lemon64; the DOS version has a 7.4 from 10 votes at the Home of the Underdogs website and a 4.71 out of 5.0 from 7 votes at MyAbandonware; and finally, the Spectrum version has a 7.0 from 2 votes at Spectrum Computing, and the archived World of Spectrum had a 7.89 from 49 votes in its last archived version.



In the relatively constricting world of breakout games, Impact! seems at first glance to be as basic as a breakout clone can be. It does have a few neat tricks up its sleeve, though: one, a level editor; two, a password system; and three, you can combine abilities, which is a trick your basic Arkanoids and Krakouts could only dream about. The way this system is made to work is, that you collect golden tokens that fall out from random bricks that your ball has broken, and by each token collected, a highlighter moves ahead in the list of abilities. Naturally, some of them are temporary, such as the ball speed cooler and the multi-ball, but things like the grabber and the bat extension can be combined.

Despite its unassuming appearance, Impact! is one of the better breakout games made in the 1980's, regardless of what platform you happen to be playing it on. It took me long enough to notice this, having played it a few times while growing up, but not really analyzing the game properly until recently. Are they equally good, though? That's what we are here to find out.



Since Impact! was made first and foremost for the 16-bits, with the only storage media format of distribution being a floppy disk, it seems more silly than usual to do a loading times comparison, but it is for the sake of all the 8-bit war veterans who still have a tendency to rave on about how much faster their computer was at loading games from tape than the competitor. Well, here we go...

Acorn BBC Micro/Electron: 5 minutes 30 seconds
Amstrad CPC: 9 minutes 28 seconds
Commodore 64 Side 1 - Game: 2 minutes 19 seconds
Commodore 64 Side 2 - Editor: 1 minute 20 seconds
Sinclair ZX Spectrum: 4 minutes 42 seconds

Here we have an example of some cleverness in the C64 version's design, as the main game and the editor are separated, making the loading times much smaller for both items, and you don't have to bother waiting for that long, if all you want is to play for ten minutes. All the other versions have the editor built into the same bunch of code that the game occupies, and from those, the SPECTRUM version is clearly the quickest. The AMSTRAD version is slow enough to discourage anyone who wants to play the game for ten minutes. The ACORN tape versions use the exact same loader, so the loading time is the same, too. The BBC MICRO/MASTER version also had a disk release which operates a bit differently to the tape release - more on that a bit later on.

Loading screens.
Top row, left to right: Acorn BBC Micro/Electron, Acorn BBC+/Master, Amstrad CPC.
Bottom row, left to right: Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 PAL, Commodore 64 NTSC.

The loading screens are all fairly different from each other. The only two loading screen of the entire lot here, that use the same design as the game's cover art - to any extent - are in the AMSTRAD and C64 versions, and even between those two, the AMSTRAD version is the only one to utilise the entire screen to get the cover art fully represented; the C64 version has a smaller window/frame within the loading screen to view the cover art. The American disk-only C64 version, Blockbuster, uses a full-screen Mindscape logo as its loading screen, and the American DOS version features the same screen in glorious CGA and EGA graphics.

Just for the sake of what the heck, the AMIGA version loads up first to the CLI prompt to select the Game or Designer, and from boot to title screen, it takes less than a minute to load up. The ATARI ST version boots up to the green desktop, where you need to open up the disk contents and open the "loader.prg" file to boot the game up, which then loads up in about ten seconds. To launch the level designer, open the "designer.prg" from the same directory. The DOS version, of course, is entirely dependent on your PC's boot-up sequence's time, and the time it takes to type in the command(s) for going into the location of the game and then booting the game up. And for this, you need either a properly old DOS-based PC or an equivalent virtual PC setup in PCem. DOSbox is not compatible with this game.



The basic ingredients of Impact! are the usual breakout things: one - the bricks of various sorts, which only reveal their true variety after a couple of levels in. Two - aliens that don't kill you, but will interfere with your ball and bat, and some of them might even drop stun bombs later in the game. Three - the special skill system, which usually is either something you collect by hitting a block or collect an item falling from a destroyed block. In this case, the special skills system is very special indeed. The only thing the bricks will ever drop are golden tokens, that look almost like something between coins and staples. Collecting the tokens will move the highlighter in the special skill shop grid in the info panel one step at a time, and purchasing a skill will reset your token count. There is also a BONUS letter collecting mission, that doesn't appear until the second level, which gives you a bonus life, if you manage to hit all B-O-N-U-S lettered bricks in order.

If you have never been able, or bothered to read the manual, the skill menu can be a bit hard to read, as the skill icons don't always seem particularly logical. The nine skills go as follows: 1) Slowdown, reduces the ball speed to 75% of its current speed. 2) Magnet, allows you to catch a ball and hold it (and aim it if you want to). 3) Divide, splits the ball into three. 4) Wide, enlarges the bat slightly. 5) Torch, lights up any invisible bricks (hardly necessary). 6) Laser, a laser bolt shooting weapon. 7) Smart bomb, removes all aliens from the screen. 8) Missile, gives you three missiles to shoot. And finally, 9) Force field, enables the ball to smash through bricks.

Apart from the way the game and the designer are to be loaded into memory, the AMIGA and ST versions of Impact! are similar enough. They were both designed to be played with a mouse, and the mouse runs smooth as silk on both AMIGA and ST. Both mouse buttons also have their own purposes, firstly for the left button to launch the ball from the bat when it's being held, and the right button to slide the ball on the bat to choose where you will be launching the ball towards; and secondly, the right button is used to select the highlighted item, and the left button is used to fire weapons, whenever you have bought such an item with the tokens. Some say the ATARI ST version is more difficult than the AMIGA version, but I haven't really noticed any evidence to that. Also, regarding the password system, you merely type in the password in the title screen, or press the left mouse button to start the game normally - in both versions. Apparently, there are 80 pre-designed levels in total, and the custom design levels appear from level 81 onwards, if any such levels exist on the game disk.

The DOS version gives you the option to use keyboard or mouse controls. Using a mouse is considerably more difficult, though, and the reason is, that the mouse movement is not smooth, and it's also insanely sensitive, so if you're at the other end of the screen and decide to move the bat for about a centimeter, but do the movement too quickly, you will see the bat on the opposite side of the screen instead. It doesn't help, either, that the bat is a bit smaller than in the AMIGA and ST versions, and you will notice the size difference even more with the extended bat. Using the keyboard is, I would say, ultimately the preferred option. The pre-defined keys are the two Shift keys for moving left and right, Space bar for fire, and Enter for choosing the highlighted item. Another difference is, that you cannot adjust the ball's launching direction when you have the ball grabbed. Uniquely for the DOS version, you use the password system to enter the screen designer with the word "EDIT" (there is no separate executable file for the screen designer), and exit back to DOS with "QUIT". It's not a completely useless version, just a lot less comfortable one than the others so far.

Now we start the 8-bits with the two ACORN versions, which share much of the code between themselves. Here, the passwords appear every level upon completion. The ACORN versions use solely keyboard controls, which are mapped as Z and X for left and right (will accelerate when kept down), RETURN acts as the fire button, and for the highlighted item selection key, I'm not entirely sure, because the key map doesn't follow the same logic as a Scandinavian PC keyboard. At any rate, if you're playing Impact! on BeebEm, a BBC Micro emulator, the highlight selection key is the one just right from the letter 'P', and if you're playing it on ElectrEm, the key is the one directly below the previous one. As for the actual gameplay, the ACORN versions start the game much slower than all the other versions so far, but it does get quick enough after a while. The keyboard-only control works well enough, and it is definitely more comfortable than either the mouse or even the keyboard controls in the DOS version. When you start the game, it feels surprisingly good, but after a minute or two of playing, you will notice that there are only three angles that the ball is able to travel, and your bat can do almost nothing at all to change the angle, regardless of how you approach the ball. This is also shown in how the Magnet grabs the ball - it always seats the ball exactly into the middle of the bat, and you cannot adjust the launching position.

The C64 version starts off with an instructional screen, which mentions that you can use the joystick in port two, or if you prefer to use the keyboard, you will be prompted to use A and S for left and right, Shift or Space bar for firing, and Return or Run/Stop for selecting the highlighted item. There are also keys mentioned for entering the high scores table (Restore) and the password entry screen (F1). If you wish to use the joystick, pulling the joystick down will equip the highlighted item. The C64 version's default ball speed is a bit above the ACORN versions, and feels like it picks up speed a bit quicker also, and more importantly, the ball can travel in more angles than three, which also means that you can adjust the ball's launching direction from your bat. There is no bat acceleration, unfortunately, but the bat is two full bricks wide in its unextended form, which is the widest it appears in any version, so it doesn't need the acceleration as much. Also, from what I've been able to gather, the probability of having a destroyed brick drop a token is notably higher in the C64 version than in any other version so far. The level codes appear similarly to the original, which is after every ten levels.

Moving on to the ZX SPECTRUM version, you get a Kempston-compatible joystick and re-definable keyboard controls as your control options, and the title screen also gives you the option to enter the designer. Selecting the control method takes you to an optional password screen, which allows you to either type in a password or press the designated fire button to start the game from the beginning. If you choose to play with a joystick, pushing the joystick up sends off the ball, and later on will be also used for shooting; and the fire button is contrarily used for selecting the highlighted item - and as it only proper, you can also adjust the ball launching direction. There is a bit of bat acceleration again, similarly to the ACORN versions, which makes the SPECTRUM version so far the top of all the 8-bit versions. Also, similarly to the C64 version, your bat is exactly two blocks wide in its unexpanded form. Of course, if you take into account the in-built level designer, for which you don't need to restart your computer and load the designer separately, that's another enormous bonus. The only two minor complaints I have with the SPECTRUM version's playability are, that for one, there is a hit detection area just bordering the top line of where the bat is located, and the ball has a hit detection area, which collides with that border a little too early; and two, you cannot see the tokens falling down until they are past the brick layers. Nothing too drastic, but minor annoyances.

The AMSTRAD version plays much like the C64 and SPECTRUM versions, only with a slightly slower starting speed, which is closer to the ACORN versions, actually. Again, the bat is just about two blocks wide, with the ends rounded off in an Arkanoid-like manner, so it doesn't look quite as wide as it actually is. The joystick controls are similar to the C64 version, which in all honesty is a bit more logical. Similarly to the SPECTRUM version, you have the level designer included in the same bit of loading, although with the loading being almost 10 minutes, it's a bit harsh. The two minor complaints I have with the SPECTRUM version are gone from the AMSTRAD version, and apart from a slightly uncomfortable initial slowness, I would go so far as to say the AMSTRAD version beats the 8-bit league.

Because of the level editors (screen designers, as they are called here) are not exactly something you would play, but rather utilise to make more content, I decided to skip them this time. It should be said, though, that there are quite a lot of parameters to dabble with, and even with the surprisingly small amount of objects in the game, you need a surprisingly large percentage of your keyboard to be used in order to get things done. Thankfully, you do get a Help screen, which can be accessed by pressing the designated key, whatever it is in each version. Usually, it is told by the editor, if you are trying to look for it. Still, the editor is a bit too cumbersome for my taste, so I haven't bothered really using it more than just a quick run through the keys and elements, only to notice that the 16-bits' screen designer has a little bit more features than the rest, and the ACORN version has the least. But if you feel like using the editor, it is perhaps helpful to know that it exists on all versions of Impact!, even if some of the versions have it loaded separately.

It is rather peculiar, that one of the arguably more advanced versions would be less playable than practically any of the 8-bits, but then, the DOS environment wasn't exactly known for its prowess at imitating arcade-like gaming experiences at this point in time. It is only fair, that it's not even very possible to play the DOS version of Impact!, unless you are either willing to purchase a PC of the DOS-era, or to build a virtual PC of the requires specifics with PCem - it's just not really worth it. The ACORN versions are the next up, with their uncomfortable lack of ball handling possibilities, followed in order by the C64, SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions. Quite as you would expect, the original 16-bit versions win this round.




As basic as Impact! looks in its usual form, it's surprising, how different the game can actually look between all the different versions. We have already seen some indication towards that in the 8-bit loading screens, and now we move on to graphics, starting with the title screens.

Title screens. Top row, left to right: Amiga/Atari ST, IBM-PC, Acorn BBC Micro/Electron.
Bottom row, left to right: Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC.
Sure enough, the title screens continue in the same vein. As far as I know, the AMIGA and ATARI ST versions share the same look, at least as far as the game itself is concerned, so there will only be one representative screenshot for those two. The AMIGA/ST title screen displays a triple framing around the publisher logo (ASL), game logo, a funny hedgehog and a bit of text. The outermost frame is a solid green one, and the two inner frames are built of different kinds of bricks. The DOS title screen is the only one from the rest to even resemble the same design: all the logos and texts look different, there's two frames instead of three, and the hedgehog is missing.

From the 8-bit title screens, the ACORN versions retain the frame idea from the original, but other than that, it's fairly basic text stuff, and a fairly similar title logo as in the original. The SPECTRUM title screen has a completely unique style, with large dark blue arrowheads pointing to the center of the screen, which is occupied by the options menu box; and the game title logo is more cartoony in design - so much so, that the point in the exclamation mark is the ball, which is depicted to have been bounced off from the bat, after having destroyed an enemy for a hundred points. The C64 and AMSTRAD versions share a title logo design, at least in that they are both large and blue with some shading put to use, and it has no exclamation mark. The rest of the AMSTRAD title screen is occupied by similarly shaded blue texts and red numerics, and a starry background. The C64 title screen only features white text in addition to the title logo.

High score tables, where available.
Top row, left to right: Amiga/Atari ST, IBM-PC, Acorn BBC Micro/Electron.
Bottom left: Commodore 64. Bottom right: Amstrad CPC.
I figured this might as well be the point, where we take a look at the high score tables, since there is a slight connection of graphical design between the 16-bits' high score tables and the SPECTRUM title screen, as they all feature pictures of sharp angles in some form. Oddly, though, the SPECTRUM version is missing a high score table, and it doesn't even have an indicator for the highest score of the day. The AMSTRAD version doesn't have it much better, since the high score entrance screen is exactly the same as the title screen, apart from the missing starfield background.

The ACORN versions have a separate high score entry screen, which offers no new graphics, but it is very different from the rest. The AMIGA, ATARI ST and DOS versions have the high score table shown alternating with the title screen while you're deciding on whether to play or not, and the high score entry happens in the usual high score table screen. For the C64 version, they decided to have a joystick-operated typing mechanism for the high score entry, and when you view the high score table on its own, you will see some other text in the place of the letter selection bar and the green entry line.

In-game screenshots from the Commodore Amiga & Atari ST versions.
Here's the basic in-game layout, as presented by the COMMODORE AMIGA and ATARI ST versions. From all I have seen, the AMIGA and ATARI ST versions continue to look exactly the same, so there is no point in using any more screenshots than necessary on that account. From the occupied portion of the screen, roughly 3/4 of the screen's width is taken by the action area, and the rest of it is taken by the info panel and the special feature selector.

The overall presentation is clear and, if not exactly pretty, it's adequate for the genre. The animations are supremely smooth and the understated visual effects are neat. Somewhat unfortunately, the background graphics never change, and the border wall is always yellow, so the AMIGA/ST version can become somewhat boring to look at, if you are accustomed to the much more varying backgrounds in Arkanoid, Krakout and TRAZ, just to name a few. Your paddle is roughly the size of 1.5 tiles, which stretched to almost three tiles with the extension, and the ball is the size of half a tile. Lastly, the title logo in the info panel looks neither like the logo in the title screen or the logo in the cover art, but rather uses a more refined font with a capital 'I' and lower case letters for the rest of it.

In-game screenshots from the IBM-PC compatibles version in EGA mode.

Obviously, you cannot see the complete picture from the screenshots, but in action, the DOS version feels partly as if it was built of ASCII characters - at least the background star animation falls into that category. The rest of the animations are considerably different from the AMIGA and ST versions, as the enemies move around and are animated slower, and your paddle moves around as if constantly being teleported. Although it is fairly smooth, using a mouse to move around is infuriatingly sensitive, and making a too sudden movement of one centimeter can get you from one end of the screen to the other, so it looks unnatural. The paddle itself is too small to begin with - only about a single tile's width - and the extension feature doesn't really extend it more than a few pixels to each direction. While this is more of a playability issue, it also makes the bat and ball look oddly proportioned. Unlike in the original, the DOS version features multiple wall tile colours, which are selected by the game at random for each level, and the game title logo in the info panel uses capital letters and an exclamation mark.

In-game screenshots from the Acorn BBC Micro/Electron version.
Based on the screenshots alone, the ACORN version looks kind of awful as it progresses, with all those different colour schemes for each level, particularly the full background colours. In action, the ACORN version is much more pleasant to look at than the DOS version, as the animations are surprisingly smooth and the paddle and ball are nicely balanced. Unfortunately, none of the aliens are animated to do anything other than move around. The number of simultaneous colours on the screen is admittedly low, and the special feature selector cursor is barely visible, since you need to focus on the action screen more. Despite having awkward colours, though, I think it's a good thing to have some variety. The game logo is placed singularly at the top of the screen, instead of the top of the info panel, but that could hardly be called a graphical fault; however, at least the logo used here is the same as in the title screen.

In-game screenshots from the Amstrad CPC version.

The AMSTRAD version's graphic design takes after the 16-bit originals, with no variety in the background graphics and wall colours. There is a smoothness here, though, that rivals the ACORN version, and there are no awkward background colours. The info panel and the selector use slightly different design from the original, but you could argue that this might look even better. Even the title logo is completely different to any other rendition of it, with red letters instead of blue. Sure, the AMSTRAD version has blockier 8-bit graphics, but these sorts of small details might turn out important in a game like this with little room for design alterations.

In-game screenshots from the Commodore 64 version.
In the C64 version, the wall tiles change colour, and the background starfield is just as hectic as in the original. The game is smooth and fast in all its animations, but the graphician had a clear preference to monochrome sprites to get the blockiness out and fine features in. So, in certain ways, the C64 version looks oddly like a Spectrum game. However, the info panel and the special feature selection menu look perfectly slick, and there is no attribute clash to be seen between the alien sprites and the bricks, so it's very clean looking.

In-game screenshots from the Sinclair ZX Spectrum version.

And then, of course, the SPECTRUM version looks nothing like any of the other versions, at least concerning the info panel and the special feature selector. Thanks to the screen limitations, the selector is now completely vertically arranged on the right side of the action screen, and the info bits are laid out into two different areas: the score and level (frame) number at the top of the screen over the tiled ceiling, but in their own green slabs; and the lives counter and bonus letter display in the top right corner of the screen, right above the feature selector. Instead of being separated by a thin layer of air, as in all the other versions, the bricks here are completely conjoined. All the aliens and tokens and the paddle and the ball are monochrome as usual, and the animations are smooth enough, if not quite on the same level as most of the others. Certainly better than the DOS version.

Screen designer and help screen, left to right:
Amiga/Atari ST, Acorn BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, IBM-PC.
The screen designer and its help screen cannot be anything too much different from the actual game graphics, so in that sense, there is not much to say here. The ACORN version's editor has the least information, since it has the least features; the SPECTRUM version has the least colours, but the most compact way of spreading all the information on two pages; the C64 editor looks much like the 16-bit editor minus a couple of features, and the AMSTRAD editor is the most difficult to read, thanks to too many colours used in the font.

Screenshots from the IBM-PC version in CGA mode.

Now we get into the region of borderline unnecessary completeness, starting with a few screenshots of the DOS version in CGA graphics mode. The title screen and high score table look a bit funky with the blue background, but otherwise, there is no tragic differences, apart from the obvious lack of colours. All in all, it's fairly tolerable for a downgrade from EGA, but doesn't impact the overall graphical score.

Screenshots from the American Commodore 64 (left) and Commodore Amiga (right) versions.
Of even less importance is the Americanized version, which obviously alters the title logo, but not much else. The C64 version is the only one to also have a slightly altered paddle design, but that's about it. And, of course, the Mindscape loading screen where available.

Impact is certainly a no-nonsense kind of a breakout-clone, since it offers very little of eye candy, and all the graphical elements are not much more than preliminary. The real point of the visuals here is to be as clear as possible and perhaps also to be faithful to the spirit of the original Breakout, taking the style of the genre back to the days when the impact was made to launch an actual game genre. Naturally, the original 16-bit versions achieve this the best, while from the 8-bit versions, the C64 and AMSTRAD versions manage to follow the tradition to its fullest. The SPECTRUM version feels a bit off in its looks, but not quite as much as the ACORN version, although both have their own pros and cons, making them just about equal. The DOS version looks like an approximation of the AMIGA/ST version, and it just doesn't quite cut the mustard.




If you choose to take into consideration, that Impact might have been made as a tribute to the original Breakout in visuals, then it wouldn't be too far off to continue in that vein and consider that the relative simplicity of Impact's soundscape might be attributed to that idea as well.

In the AMIGA/ST original, Impact's only notably long stretch of music comes in the form of a short semi-funky jingle when you start the game. The sound effects, however, are mostly rather musical, since each of the ball's bouncing "donnngg" sounds are randomly chosen by the computer from a wide scale. Each of the special feature items have their own sound effects when activated, ranging from sliding notes through arpeggios to small jingles. Losing a life plays a strange wiggly-woggly sound effect with something that almost sounds like a sigh in the background; destroying aliens play explosions; finishing a level plays a flubbery sound that fits the visual warp effect; and Game Over comes with a weird descending synth brass fart. The AMIGA and ATARI ST sounds are exactly the same, except the sound quality is slightly lower on the ST - which makes me think this game was designed primarily for the former.

Technically, the other end of the scale is presented by two versions, one of them being ZX SPECTRUM, which should really not come as a surprise, particularly as it only uses the basic beeper as its sound output. There are no clean beeps in this game, however, and the bips, blurps, explosion noises and special feature pick-ups are just well-enough defined to make it a pleasantly varied set. You also get two jingles to mark the beginning of the game and completing a level, and Game Over plays an ascending sweep. There is no separate 128k soundtrack, so this is all you will have. It's not bad - actually it's fairly faithful to the original, and fits the idea of a slightly evolved Pong perhaps even better than the 16-bit soundtrack. But, of course, it's not exactly technically impressive.

As you might have guessed, the DOS version lacks even the technical prowess of the SPECTRUM beeper sounds, with only straight beeps available here. At least you get as good a bunch of variety in sound effects as you do on the former, and you even get a couple of jingles to go with the effects, even if they're rendered almost unrecognizable. Rather unlistenable, this one.

Considering the SID chip's capabilities, the C64 version is massively underwhelming in its set of sounds. You get no jingles whatsoever, and there are only three pitches of unassuming "bong"-sounds that the ball makes when it hits any wall or brick. At least all the special feature sound effects are different, as they should be, but compared to even the SPECTRUM version, this one's a bit of an underachiever, and the arguably more refined sound effects cannot save it from being ultimately boring. It's still somewhat more tolerable than the DOS beeping.

The AMSTRAD version isn't much different from the C64 version; the ball hitting pitches are now in three octaves rather than three pitches within one octave, and there are no jingles, either. Generally, though, the sound effects do have a bit more refined feel about them, with clear "ding"-sounds for hitting bricks and a much more extravagant sound when the ball collides with the paddle. The most notable difference to the usual set of sounds is the uniformity of sound effects connected to selecting the special features. Still, somehow the AMSTRAD version manages to sound more fresh and inspiring than the C64 version. It's all a matter of style, really.

From the 8-bits, the BBC MICRO version is the most different in its sound layout. The side walls and the ceiling have their own pitch for "bong"-sounds, as does the ball hitting the paddle. When the ball hits the bricks, though, you get a explosion-like noise, which is of a different pitch to the explosion noise for destroying an alien; except when you find a token from inside a brick, you hear a weird blurpy set of seemingly random sounds. Losing a life makes a noise reminiscent of deflating a balloon by tightening the hole to a slit, and Game Over basically does a more noisy version of that. Similarly to the AMSTRAD version, the special feature pick-ups only have one sound used for all. Making the SPECTRUM version unique amongst the 8-bits, the ACORN version has no jingles, either. In balance, I think the BBC MICRO version is more interesting to listen to than most of the other 8-bit versions, but it's not exactly a comfortable game to listen to for very long, so it shall have to share the spot with the AMSTRAD version.

If it weren't for the ACORN ELECTRON version, the DOS version might have taken the deepest dive here. The ELECTRON version has a similar unlistenable straight beeping set of sound effects, but with no jingles whatsoever, and the beeps in this version are so long and loud that the game has problems keeping up with all the action on the screen and trying to play all the necessary beeps to accompany the action. It's really an unholy mess, making the DOS version rather nice to listen to. Which makes this section's scoring a bit different.




Even though Impact seems like a game that belongs to a timeframe of 1982-1984 rather than 1987, if you don't take the screen designer into account, the undisputable truth is, that the game was designed for 16-bit computers, where it manages to outshine even the best of the 8-bits - and quite clearly, too. Having smooth mouse controls and carefully designed sounds makes all the difference, while the graphical side of the game takes a lesser role. Therefore, we come to a surprisingly agreeable Overall scoring, provided that you're not a masochist:

1. COMMODORE AMIGA / ATARI ST: Playability 6, Graphics 4, Sounds 6 = TOTAL 16
2. AMSTRAD CPC: Playability 5, Graphics 3, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 12
3. SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM: Playability 4, Graphics 2, Sounds 5 = TOTAL 11
4. COMMODORE 64: Playability 3, Graphics 3, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 9
5. ACORN BBC MICRO: Playability 2, Graphics 2, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 8
6. ACORN ELECTRON: Playability 2, Graphics 2, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 5
7. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES: Playability 1, Graphics 1, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 4

In the odd case you have any doubts as to the veracity of those scores, there is always the option of trying all the versions of Impact for yourselves, but the less inclined of you might want to take a look at the accompanying video below:

That will have to do for this month, as I will be focusing on a couple of special things for December, and there's still one video left for this month. Hope you enjoyed this one, as it was very likely the last actual comparison for 2023. The blog will return with something Finnish-themed, so see you then!

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