Monday, 8 December 2014

RGCD C64 Cartridge Development Competition 2014

Ok, so there was a bit of a delay due to real life issues, but I'm super proud to announce that the fourth RGCD C64 Cartridge Development Competition concluded at midnight on the 7th of December with a whopping 17 new games for the C64!

Featuring the usual mix of conversions, original concepts and genre favourites, the beginning of December saw a frenzy of activity in the C64 scene thanks to the hard work the entrants put into coding their competition games over the past few months. I've put together a brief introduction to each submitted competition entry below, listed alphabetically with links to their original database pages. Fire up your C64 or emulator and enjoy!

Announced and submitted just days prior to the competition deadline, Mark Hindsbo's 16KB, three-stage retro shmup more than makes up for the epic load time and over-familiar game design with pure fun and smooth gameplay. Running at a super-smooth 60FPS and featuring gorgeous artwork from André 'Redcrab' Högbom, Avaiator Arcade's deadly aiming enemies and ambush/boss battles are both challenging and satisfying to beat. There's even an option to turn on autofire and remap the smart-bomb to the fire button (which is automatically selected for GS users!) In all, a fantastic scene debut!

It's been a while since we saw a game release from Software of Sweden, and this little unfinished entry was in fact originally supposed to have been submitted to last year's competition. Despite the bugs, Brick Buster is an enjoyable little Arkanoid/Breakout clone and a game that I'd love to see completed one day - preferably with the addition of paddle support.

Geir Straume and Sean 'Odie' Connolly's collect-em-up Brilliant Maze is pretty much a perfect little 16KB game. The concept is simple, with the player guiding a little face around a maze, collecting diamonds, avoiding monsters and using power-ups, but the gameplay is kept feeling fresh thanks to some devious level design and some cool environmental features such as trampolines and teleports. The intro sequence with its sparkly titles and smooth four-way scrolling was quite a surprise, and when compared to some of Geir's earlier games you can really see how his work has evolved. Thumbs up from me (and GS users) for incorporating full joystick control, even on the high score entry!

Well, I guess we all know what this is, yes? :) stole the judges hearts with Space Lords back in 2011, then lost them again a little with their technically impressive yet super complicated 2012 entry SpaceChem Nano - but I'm pretty sure that despite it's simplicity C-2048 will be a hit! Helped no doubt due to the amazing soundtrack by Taxim and a captivating attract mode, C-2048's smooth movements, high resolution artwork and challenging yet addictive gameplay make it one of the best 2048 variants available. Oh, and check out what happens when you rename the .CRT file as a .ZIP(!) Great work guys, and welcome back!

Probably the hardest game I've played all year, an average round for me in Falling lasts about 5 seconds despite my repeated attempts to work out the bouncing mechanics! The presentation is superb (as you'd expect from Saul) and it's clear that there's some smart design here for a one-button game, with the player trying to maintain their position between the top and bottom of the screen, but perhaps it's just a little too unforgiving? Or maybe I'm just being rubbish? Anyway, give it a go and see how you fare.

Awww Fickle. You are probably the most endearing game I've ever played on the C64. With your plinky-plonky melody, single button gameplay, ultra adorable high resolution graphics and cute little tail, it's hard not to be won over by your charm. However, despite your child-friendly and cuddly appearance some of your puzzles are super annoying and frustrating, so no thanks for that! :D Another new game from another new scener, Fickle is perfectly presented, incredibly easy to pick up, and later puzzles will keep you scratching your head for quite some time. Thumbs up again for including difficulty options and even colour-blindness support!

Richard returns to this year's competition with Honey Bee Redux, a pleasant little arcade game where you have to fly around each screen visiting flowers and taking the pollen back to your hive. It's not immediately clear what you can and cannot collide with, so there's some (unintended) challenge here, but in all Honey Bee is an unashamedly retro, solid little game.

Wow. This is the first time I have ever had to read instructions for an LCD game, emulated or otherwise! Mini Arcade: Climax is a tribute to developer Bamse's first experience of videogaming - the awful abomination that was the 1980's LCD handheld. Despite my hatred of the devices (apart from the original Mario Bros twin-screen watch and play, which was tops), I spent quite a lot of time with Climax, trying and failing to unlock the achievements to see what they were. The player's goal in Climax is simple (yet not self explanatory!) - as a boiler repair man you must avoid the boiling water passing through the pipes and steaming out of the release valves, grab the occasionally appearing spanner on the far left of the screen and return it to the boiler on the right without dying. Sounds easy, right? Well, it isn't. However, there's a lot of fun to be had in trying at least!

My jaw dropped when I heard the sampled speech intro in this game. And then it dropped again when I realised there was more during play. I mean, come on guys - 16KB isn't limited enough already without filling it with samples? Not only that, but p0 Snake is a top quality game. It might be single button, but the concept is superb and it even has a GS-friendly directional password system! In the words of several CSDB users, "make this an app if nobody did yet and make some money".

Paper Plane is an incredibly elegant little game, and I'm really happy that Roy decided to join the competition. There's not a huge amount to it, but what's there is incredibly polished and fun to play. A random mode and highscore table would have been nice additions, but other than that there's little room for improvement. Fixed for NTSC as well. Welcome back Roy!

It might take forever and a day to load, but man, this is a real evolution compared to the already excellent Wonderland from 2012. Penultimate Fantasy is to Ultimate Fantasy what Wonderland was to Zelda, amazingly squashed down to a tiny 16KB. With beautiful artwork by David 'fx' Eriksson, an epic sounding score by Mikael 'Twoflower' Backlund and super-fun classic RPG-ing gameplay, this is one game I'd love to see worked on more now that the competition is over.

There's been a fair few single button entries this year, and in the case of Pixel City Skater that's no bad thing. Originally a popular flash game of the same name (by A Small Game), Luigi's port even includes a special Canabalt style endless mode. Without a doubt, one of my favourites from this year's line up, and a game I'd love to see receive an official cartridge release.

OK, confession time! I ripped that screenshot above from CSDB, as I currently lack both the hardware and local friends to get an eight player battle up and running. Yup, you read that right - Race is a 1-8 player game, unsurprisingly in the form of a competitive multiplayer top-down horizontal-scrolling 16KB racer. Paddle support would have been nice, but otherwise impressive stuff!

Compo veterans Matthias and Saul return to this year's round with Tiger Claw, a Nintendo-hard kung-fu-em-up featuring super-tiny sprites and loads of player-swearing-at-screen action. Find today's games too easy? Have no fear, because Tiger Claw will kick your ass. See that shot above? That's only the fourth screen in the game, and it took me about 30 minutes of slippy-slidey intertia chaos and face-kicking to get there. And I was too scared to leave the safety of the ladder to take the screen capture. I did in fact manage to grab the roast chicken, but it all went south from that point on and I died about three screens later. Much fun was had though, despite the gratuitous profanity. NTSC fixed too!

Playing like a cross between Puzznic and Sokoban, Toyz is a superb little puzzle game that sees our protagonist 'tidying up' the titular toys by kicking them around the garden - which is pretty much the same technique used by my kids, as most of them end up over the garden fence and in the school field below. Anyway, considering that this was all done by a one person team, Toyz is an ace little entry and one I've been playing a lot. Recommended!

Submitted as an unfinished 'v0.1' build, this last minute competition entry is in fact a port of a popular C16 game developed by Shaun Southern. Despite its work in progress state, this ace little Mr. Do clone (of sorts) is really promising and I really hope to see a final version released in the near future.

Ok, so I know that this is an RGCD release and I shouldn't be biased, but damn this game is fun. Achim actually started working on Voivod Attack with Mikael for last year's competition, and I for one am incredibly glad that they persevered. With animated cutscenes, steam-punk inspired graphics, original game design and another ace bassbin ripping glitch-hop soundtrack by collaborator Taxim, there's little here not to like. Hopefully out on cartridge soon!

Well, that's it! The vote sheets are in the mail if all goes to plan we'll have the final results ready to announce in a few weeks time. Join us in having a beer (or seasonal mulled wine) and raise our glasses to all the entrants who managed to beat the deadline! Sterling effort chaps!

All the above games can be downloaded via the CSDB links above or via a single zip archive here. We recommend VICE if you are looking for an emulator to run the cartridge images on.