Friday 18 November 2011

Fortress of Narzod Cartridge Available! (C64)

With the deadline of our cartridge development competition only a few weeks away, Peiselulli and I decided that we'd release the cartridge version of Fortress of Narzod prior to the slew of new games that'll be available soon after the results are announced - so here it is!

Originally released at Breakpoint 2009, TRSI's C64 conversion of this Vectrex exclusive title remains one of the highest scoring games on the Commodore Scene Database - and for good reason too. Fortress of Narzod is an amazing little vector-based shmup that is quite unlike anything else on the C64, with it's bizarre array of enemies, bullet-ricochetting blast 'em up action and unique visual style.

Fortress of Narzod utilises the border areas of the screen to maximise the play area and the excellent 8580 soundtrack by Linus really takes this production to the next level. The game requires no keyboard input (even the high score table is controlled via the joystick) so it will work on the C64GS, but unfortunately the full-screen action comes at a cost of not running on NTSC machines (sorry!).

The cartridge is packaged in a box designed by Kay Failla of BitFellas, complete with a printed manual. The game is freely available to download (from it's CSDB page) and the cartridge version is available from our shop now for the usual price (£19 within the EU or £20 elsewhere, shipping included).

Monday 14 November 2011

Retro News Update

Wow. The retro and indie gaming scenes have exploded over the past fortnight, with a ton of releases more than worthy of your attention yet sadly not enough hours in the day for us at RGCD to cover them all in detail. So starting with the modern indie scene, here's what we've been playing for the past few days.

Nitronic Rush (PC)

Mmmmmm, this looks just a bit like Tron, doesn't it?

Despite the 'classic' film and remake/sequel/whatever both being complete pants in regard to actual story quality and science, no one can argue the fact that Tron looks bloody gorgeous. And as you can see, the same applies to Nitronic Rush - an AAA quality Tron-meets-Wipeout futuristic stunt racer developed by a group of students at the DigiPen Institute of Technology.

When I first saw a video of Nitronic Rush in action I initially dismissed the game as being yet another title that wouldn't run on my aged desktop, but surprisingly it runs at full speed with all the settings maxed out, so don't pay too much attention to those recommended system specs. The game itself is without a doubt the best indie racer I've played for years, and I actually feel guilty playing it for free. If it had multiplayer support (or at least other AI controlled cars to race against other than 'ghosts') then it would be perfect, but as it stands it's still a contender for freeware game of the year. Avoiding giant neon buzzsaws in a flying car has never been so much fun.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Stealth Bastard (PC)

Sometimes writing about video games is a weird business. You pick, or are assigned, a game to review, then play it and then smack a keyboard until words come out, and sometimes they're even in the right order. That's how it's supposed to work. Then sometimes you sign up to review a game and spend the whole week playing it without putting a single word on paper because it's that gripping.

Every night of the last week I've been toughing out what I think might be the beginnings of carpal tunnel in my right hand to play Stealth Bastard: Tactical Espionage Arsehole. It's a bit good.

Friday 11 November 2011

Dingo (ZX Spectrum)

Not being a regular follower (until now!) of the retro games scene I was most pleasantly surprised to see this new Spectrum release at the Replay Expo in Blackpool. The Speccy lives!

Based on the 1983 coin-op produced by Ashby Computer Graphics (perhaps better known as Ultimate Play the Game), in Dingo you take the role of Big Ted, a bear who is extremely fond of fruit – so much so that he has cultivated an enormous melon patch in the jungle. Alas, Big Ted's patch has been invaded by a pack of dingoes who love nothing better than destruction and will stomp poor Ted's fruit patch for kicks. So, Ted is set for his quickest harvest ever as he tries to gather up all the fruit before the dingoes can get to it.

Seaweed Assault (Atari 2600)

One of my first ever articles for RGCD, back when the magazine still came out on a compact disc, was a review of a homebrew game for the venerable Atari 2600. Some of my favourite gaming experiences ever have been on my trusty Atari 7800, ploughing through the back catalogue of 2600 games it was happily backwards compatible with. So it's a good feeling to finally review a game for the VCS once more.

Seaweed Assault is a submarine game with (brace for terrible pun that is also true) hidden depths. Like any game on the humble but legendary Woody, gameplay has to shine through unavoidably plain graphics and Seaweed Assault throws enough subtle kinks into the arena shooter format to make for a replayable gaming experience.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Replay Expo 2011

Wow, what a hang over. It's taken me the best part of a week to fully recover from a alcohol-fuelled weekend at Replay Expo 2011 in Blackpool, the first retro event I've attended as a regular visitor and not a stall holder (with my good friend and fellow games enthusiast John Dennis). This year's Replay was held in Norbreck Castle, a venue which sadly was not as grand as it sounds, and I believe hosted something in the region of 2500 visitors on each of the two days it was open - all under one roof. It was a massive event with loads of systems available to play on - and as you can probably imagine, there was a fair bit of retro homebrew on display as well (although sadly the modern indie scene was completely ignored - RGCD may have to bear that torch ourselves next year).

In fear of boring you with trivial details (not that I can actually remember many), I'll just share a few photos and discuss some of the highlights of the show.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Escape Goat (XBLIG)

The number of games in which one plays a goat is disappointingly small, whereas other animals (fish, dogs, cats, monkeys etc.) seem to have no problem landing a starring role. Thankfully Ian Stocker a.k.a. MagicalTimeBean has added to the small pool of goat-em-ups with a game that is outstanding for more than just its hero's taxonomy.

Essentially, Escape Goat is an arcade platform puzzler with 50+ single-screen levels to be tackled. Each level's goal is simple – get the keys and get to the exit. Switches need to be pressed, and baddies avoided – straight forward enough, although the actions of switches can dramatically change the layout of blocks upon a screen – so trial and error are the order of the day here. The virtually instant restarts after death or by pressing 'back', encourage this approach.

Whilst your goat-hero is a nimble fellow – possessing tight controls, double jumps and a block-moving charge – he would not be able to complete his quest without the assistance of his mouse familiar. This rodent friend can be sent scurrying in a direction, up walls, over ceilings and through tiny gaps to press buttons that would be otherwise inaccessible. Also some levels feature a magic hat pick-up which enable your goat and mouse to exchange places. As we all know, magic hats improve any game ten-fold.

Coracle (ZX Spectrum)

Awkward introductions are normally the reserve of weddings and dinner parties as the 'plus one' of a proper guest. The virtual world of videogames is where we retreat to avoid these kind of interactions. Thus initial meetings with a new videogame are usually refreshingly straightforward – often following the tried and tested format of... "this is game X: it's a bit like game Y". Or possibly "It is like game Y with elements of game Z". Not so with Jonathan Cauldwell's latest offering Coracle for the ZX Spectrum. From somewhere within his mind yet another new game that is rather difficult to describe has sprung forth.

La Mulana (PC)

[Originally reviewed by T. Fahs in RGCD Issue #02, May 2007]

La-Mulana isn't just a celebration of a moment in gaming history, it's a distillation of rose-tinted memories and savvy design that manages to completely transcend the very games it hopes to imitate. A thoughtful love-letter to the MSX home computer, it's a childhood's worth of memories brought to life, somehow better than the real experience ever was.

The MSX was something of an underdog as a gaming platform. Despite the 4 million units sold, the dated video hardware – the very same used by the ColecoVision and SG-1000 – couldn't compete with Nintendo's Famicom, and it didn't get great third party support, except from Konami. But Konami loved the MSX, and legendary classics like Castlevania, Metal Gear, and Snatcher all called the platform home. So it is fitting, then, that La-Mulana draws most heavily from these games. The most obvious influence is the open-ended platform-adventure Maze of Gallious, but you'll see winks to a lot of Konami's greats littered throughout.

Dragonwing (VIC20)

[Originally reviewed by SirClive in RGCD Issue #01, February 2007]

The VIC-20 is something of an unsung hero in the home computer world. Launched in 1981, it was Commodore's answer to the Atari VCS and Intellivision consoles. But with the addition of a real keyboard it offered a colour computer at an amazing price (under $300 in the US). It was the first home computer to sell one million units and at the height of its popularity they were churning out over 9,000 units a day. So why is it now treated like your embarrassing uncle with the ill-fitting wig? Well mostly it's because of it was overshadowed by it's flashy little brother the Commodore 64, but it really is criminal to miss out on some classic games from the dawn of home computing.

If we fast-forward 20 years to Finland, we find a near legendary coder/musician from the Amiga Demo scene going through some form of electronic regression back to the (8-bit) womb. Moving backwards through the Commodore hardware catalogue, Aleksi Eeben creates a game on the humble unexpanded VIC-20 and it is quite simply hard to believe that it could all be done in just 3.5k!

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Voxatron (PC/Mac/Linux)

The Voxatron experience begins with a polygonal Minotaur smashing the crap out of the production team’s logo. With this in mind, Voxatron really did have me at "hello".

This bout of battery sets the scenes for a game heavy on destruction and ruination, but it’s not hard to predict that. What was a tougher call for me was that this game would be the first indie game I’ve played to send me flashing back through the years, like a low budget Highlander, to the first time I stayed up all night playing a video game.

Retroinvaders (ZX Spectrum)

I've always loved the timeless character and aesthetics of Taito's classic Space Invaders, but if I'm completely honest I just don't think that the game itself has aged particularly well over the past 30 or so years. With their considerably more dynamic attack waves, Namco's Galaxian and Galaga are much more fun, but when it comes to classic coin-op alien-shooters, Konami's Gyruss has always been my personal favourite. With it's innovative rotary shoot 'em up game-play and enemy waves that weave and dive in and out of the screen, Gyruss seems light years ahead of it's heritage - yet despite being hugely enjoyable to play it lacks a distinct visual identity. Space Invaders, Galaxian and Galaga all have immediately recognisable enemies, whereas Gyruss features rather generic looking spacecraft and nondescript spinning alien blobs.

Now if only someone was to marry the future-proof Gyruss design with the classic visuals of those earlier shooters... Oh, hang on a sec - Retroinvaders, you say? What have we here then?