Sunday 29 January 2012

Retro Blazer (Preview) (PC/Mac/Linux)

I love Quake. I've got a major soft spot for the game which might be in part because it was a game I played a hell of a lot of during my awkward teenage years and for a while was practically all me and a few of my friends talked about during school hours. I used to get up early on weekends to play direct-dial deathmatches against a mate with a faster modem, and got reamed every time.

Quake was a dingy, moody game and if it was a bathtub it would have really awful tidemarks all the time, and probably some dubious matter clogging the plughole. I loved how it was shot through with Lovecraftian themes and as a teenager I was pretty much contractually obliged to think Nine Inch Nails, and therefore the game's sinister and brooding soundtrack, were awesome. Also it had nailguns. So witnessing the Darkplaces engine, a souped-up version of the Quake engine, used to make a game that looked as bright and hi-res and just visually loud as Retro Blazer just had to be done.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Streets of Doom (ZX Spectrum)

In many a classic Spectrum game the ultimate goal was to rescue the girl, or to win her heart. But more often or not, when you got her, you realised it wasn't worth all the fuss.

I fought past motorcycle gangs and knife-wielding thugs in Renegade, then took one look at my date and decided I should have run off with one of Big Bertha's leather-clad minions. The cover artwork for Athena promised a heroine both buxom and scantily-clad, but when it loaded up we got a blobby dwarf rather than a statuesque goddess. As for Daisy, of Yolkfolk fame, well – she certainly had curves, but they weren't in the right places to make her appealing to the gentleman gamer!

Yes, you could argue that the lack of attractive ladies in Speccy games has something to do with the graphical limitations of the machine. However, Rafal Miazga has shown me with Streets of Doom that it is possible to have an in-game love interest that provides a little genuine motivation for the player. Much of this action adventure involves trying to win over prospective girlfriend Alice, your 'pretty neighbour' who you rescued from the flaming Skyscraper of Doom in the first game of the series.

Friday 27 January 2012

New Cartridge Packaging

Don't panic - we haven't gone and changed the packaging we use for our C64 cartridges again. In fact, this short post is just to let you know that we've finally got around to converting over the boxes of our C64 cartridge back-catalogue to the newer format used for the past three games (Blok Copy, Fortress of Narzod and C64anabalt).

Compare these two photos; the first being the mish-mash of old boxes, with the newer, uniform sized ones below. I know which I prefer on my shelf...

...and that's the point of this post. Those of you who've followed and supported RGCD's cartridge project since the start probably have an equally varied collection of boxes - and if like me you'd prefer a bit of standardisation now that we've settled on a readily available type of packaging that works (and doesn't need to be hand spray painted or imported from Austrailia as dead warehouse stock), you may be pleased to hear that you can purchase new replacement boxes for our older games at the low cost of £1 each.

To make an enquiry, drop us a line via the contact page stating what boxes you are after (and your location) and we'll reply as soon as possible with a quote including postage and details of how to pay. Replacement boxes requested together with a cartridge purchase will not incur an additional postage cost.

Retro News Update

Wow. Those orders for C64anabalt really kicked my ass. It's been ages since I've had a chance to post anything here, but as I've recently just about caught up with the 100+ orders placed for the game I figured that another Retro News Update was probably over due. (Oh, and for those of you still wanting to grab a copy of the game, please note that I will be removing it from the RGCD shop at the end of the month).

Anyway, let's have a quick look back at what we missed over the past couple of weeks :)

Phantomas Tales #4: Severin Sewers (ZX Spectrum)

First of a fistful of new ZX releases, The Mojon Twins' 128KB Severin Sewers is the long-awaited 4th installment of the Phantomas Tales series, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the original Phantomas 1 & 2 by Dinamic. It's a pretty challenging affair thanks to the addition of a very limited view-range in the lower dark areas, but despite it's initial difficulty there's no denying that Severin Sewers is a really decent game - and your quest to retrieve those elusive 15 gold coins on each of the four levels can be made considerably easier if you consult this complete game map :)

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Hydra Castle Labyrinth (PC)

RGCD briefly mentioned Hydra Castle Labyrinth in one our first news posts last year, a platform adventure game by indie gaming mogul E. Hashimoto (Buster). Now with the release of a patch translating almost all of the in-game text to English I bravely volunteered for the hard and painful job of playing and writing about this delightful little dungeon basher.

On firing the game up the first thing that seized my attention was the soundtrack, an insanely upbeat and incessantly enthusiastic score that makes me want to quit my job to run around dungeons stabbing things. I let it run for a good few minutes before I even left the first screen, and happily enough the gameplay fails to disappoint. There's an obvious touch of the Castlevania/Metroid series all over the game, but with the cutesy dial turned to maximum and then ripped off. The game sees our hero, a superdistorted knight with an enormous helmet (stop sniggering in the back) tackling various enemies while attempting to escape from the dungeon in which he has been imprisoned. There's a fair amount of leaping and falling, and a metric ton of backtracking, which is par for the course in this kind of game.

Sunday 8 January 2012

C64anabalt Cartridge Available! (C64)

Here's the news that many of you have been waiting for... C64anabalt is finally available to buy on cartridge from our shop!

C64anabalt is an official conversion of Adam Atomic & Danny B.'s award winning single-button 2009 indie game Canabalt for the 8-Bit, 64KB RAM, 1Mhz Commodore 64 home computer developed by Paul Koller (Paulko64). This particular version was designed to run from a 16KB cartridge (although there are also tape and disk versions available for free download as well).

The game was developed as an entry for the RGCD C64 16KB Cartridge Game Development Competition (2011) in which it achieved second place, and the name C64anabalt was suggested by Adam Atomic himself. The physics and procedural algorithms are based on those documented in the original game's open source code.

There are two versions of C64anabalt available; one with a SID chip conversion of Danny B.'s original score by Mikkel Hastrup (Encore), and an alternative build featuring music from the PC indie game ThrustBurst by Andreas Slotte (Ghormak). Unfortunately it wasn't possible to fit them both into a single 16KB ROM, so we've made two versions available to order or download.

Please note that C64anabalt is compatible with NTSC C64's, but lacks the static parallax background cityscape (the background scrolls instead) and it stutters slightly at high running speeds (due to the NTSC machine having less CPU time available). The game also plays fractionally faster than the PAL version. None of these issues severely affect the play of the game, but it should be noted that the game was coded specifically for PAL machines.

The dove-grey cartridge is packaged in a box designed by Adam Saltsman and comes complete with a printed manual. I will endeavour to ship out games within a week of purchase, but due to these being custom built with separate soundtracks it may take a bit of time (depending on how many orders come in).

Saturday 7 January 2012

Marbled (Atari XE/XL)

It's been a while since I was really gripped by a puzzle game. This might be because I'm not especially great at them. I'm not that good at Marbled, but it keeps me coming back for more through its sheer quality of production.

Marbled is a game for the Atari 8-bit XL/XE series of computers. It's something I had to keep reminding myself because it trumps a lot of games I've played on those platforms in style and presentation, to the point of occasional disbelief. The graphics are out of this world, the music is both up-to-date (drum and bass beats on an 8-bit micro always sound so cool) and rich, and clearly sounds like a tonne of work has been put into it. Marbled is descended from an Amiga game called Marbles released in 1991, and as a man who fought on both sides of the Amiga-Atari wars of the eighties and nineties I feel I can get away with saying that Marbled's audio-visual style is more like a Commodore 64 game than an Atari 8-bit job. It's brighter looking and better sounding than the Amiga game it calls grandfather, and all the razzle dazzle is backed up by quality gameplay- this isn’t some tarty tech demo that pushes its format to the limit at the expense of entertainment playability.

Friday 6 January 2012

Dig-N-Rig (PC)

I have to say that I was almost glad when this game crashed my prehistoric laptop a couple of hours into playing it. That's hardly a glowing testimonial is it? But it wasn't my first play-through of the game, and my relationship with Dig-N-Rig had become worryingly akin to that of an addict and their addiction. I was deriving no real pleasure from playing any more – but conversely I could not stop either. I've felt these levels of despair before (step forward Peggle), and I knew I was doomed, but the unreliability of my laptop has saved me. Without such an archaic computer I might never have been able to stop mining in order to type the words you now read.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Future Looter (ZX Spectrum)

When the World of Spectrum email notification popped up in my inbox announcing the release of Future Looter my interest was immediately piqued - could this be some sort of sci-fi rogue-like based on space piracy? Or perhaps some sort of futuristic interstellar salvage sim? Well, actually no. After checking the screenshots it was apparent that the game was in fact more akin to a cut down Cybernoid clone, but with it's well-balanced blend of dexterity-taxing fast action screens and enemy path-based puzzle elements I have to admit that I wasn't disappointed for long.

Monday 2 January 2012

2011 C64 16KB Cartridge Game Development Competition Results

Although the results of the our 16KB Cartridge Development Compo were announced over at the Commodore Scene Database some time before Christmas, until now I've not had a chance to update this website. So, here at last are the long-awaited full results including feedback from the judging panel.

As already explained over on the competition page, the scores were calculated using mean averages with the highest achievable score being 44 points (if all judges had scored a game 11 points in all categories). I won't bore you with lists and tables of who scored each game what, instead I have listed the games below in order of placing with the final scores and comments.

Before continuing I'd like to say a massive 'thank you' to everyone involved - 2011 was one of the best years for C64 gaming in decades because of your work and dedication. I can only hope that 2012's competition will be as good.

Fairy Well (Wide Pixel Games)
1st Place (35.5556 Points)

"Lovely downbeat presentation (with the music working particularly well) with functional in game sound effects and lovely graphics. Three playable characters classes (and thus play-styles), and procedurally generated maps too. All in all very nice rogue-like-lite/platformer/explore-em-up. Excellent work." (Andy Jenkinson)

"Surprisingly complex for a modern game. Graphics are cute. Unique design and story. Finding keys and opening stuff is not my cup of tea but Fairy Well manages to motivate me to try harder to see whats next. Congratulations on this one!" (Enthusi)

"Although it initially doesn't blow you away like C64anabalt, there is a heck of a lot under the hood here which is revealed more and more as you play. Firstly there are around 200 odd randomized flick screens to fly around and explore (creating some unexpected longetivity/replay value), a shop to purchase items, a map showing your progress and some solid graphics and sound. There is also a character selection screen with three characters offering different skills to give you three unique ways to play the game. Plenty of depth and longitivity overall with some nice touches throughout. Technically very impressive for a 16KB cartridge, and yet another I'd love to see more done to beyond the 16KB cart limitation. My favourite game overall from the entire competition as a result of all the above." (Frank Gasking)

"Despite not being as instantly gratifying as some of the other arcade-style releases in the competition, Fairy Well is my overall favourite. It's a hugely ambitious game for a 16KB competition, beautifully presented and very replayable. I love the fact that there are three different game modes and the cute boss fights. Classic old-school adventuring, and well worth persisting with to see the ending." (Heavy Stylus)

"Knowing what a genius Mikael Tillander is I knew I was in for a treat with his game - and oh boy, I was NOT disappointed! It's great fun exploring this amazingly vast game and the atmospheric music gives it a pleasant laid-back vibe. I will definitely be playing this one some more in the future. Excellent stuff!" (Kenz)

"The scope of what the game achieves in 16KB is quite staggering. Sadly it's marred by being a bit too easy and slow-paced, but if it was further developed allowing for more memory, it would become an even better game. To this reviewer at least." (Mayhem)

"A search and rescue mission to find three crystals and rescue four princesses. A flick screen afair similar to Knight 'n' Grail, only this time the main character has the ability to fly. The maze like levels will demand a lot of time and effort to negotiate and mapping may be necessary - just like the good old days. Dangers lurk around every screen so it's a patient and methodolic approach needed. Great visuals and music throughout." (Nreive)

"A lovely, haunting soundtrack makes for surprisingly atmospheric gameplay in this sedate but tense floaty fey platformer. Three different playable characters keeps the experience fresh, but the randomised level design here hinders the game a little; one run through I found the first of the three crystals needed to complete the game on the second next to my start point, although this is a minor gripe at best." (Ruari O'Toole)

"Remarkably large play area considering the size of the cartridge." (T.M.R)

C64anabalt (Paul Koller)
2nd Place (35.1111 Points)

"Well... it is Canabalt. It looks like it, and feels like it. A one button classic, and as such a worthy addition to the Commodore canon of games. The music throughout is pleasant, and the 'frustration/one-more-go' factor is all present and correct. In lesser hands this would have been embarrassing, here it is pretty much perfect." (Andy Jenkinson)

"Close port of an existing game. Quite stylish! A bit repetitive though - ironically I still wish it was less random, at least after game over. I dont know the original well and my judgement is not at all based on 'closeness to original'. It looks very advanced and gives much joy in short time but not very long-lasting (to me). Very well suited for 16KB! Feels very well polished and not trimmed to limited memory range at all." (Enthusi)

"I still can't believe that we've been treated to two superb conversions in the space of a week or so! A simply amazing conversion, matching a good chunk of the Flash original. As a game, there is not much of an aim apart from getting as far as possible - but there is still plenty of fun to keep beating your distance and levels are randomly generated. Controls are responsive and tight as with the original. I would like to see a larger version done afterwards to see what Paul could additionally squeeze into the game as it seems some features have not been included due to the cartridge restriction. Just about edges the unofficial conversion, though would love to see the best bits from both games combined with all memory used :)" (Frank Gasking)

"What is there not to love about this? With it's grey-scale colour scheme the original Canabalt looks as though it was designed for the C64, and Paulko64's version (based on the original source code) is very true to Adam Atomic's one-button smash. It won't win any prizes for originality (as a port), but technically the game is outstanding. And the best news yet is that Paulko64 plans for further enhancements in the retail cartridge version!" (Heavy Stylus)

"This is just awesome - a superb 'twitch' game with really stylish graphics, clever graphical effects and tons of replayability (must... get... further!) How is this 16K? HOW?!?! It's fast, it's smooth, it's fun, and it got a whole load of votes from me. Good work!" (Kenz)

"A conversion, and therefore suffers the slings and arrows of its origin. Occasionally unfair, sometimes too random, it however retains a definite one-more-go hook and its simple control scheme and premise make it an instant winner." (Mayhem)

"Superb run-'em-up with a continued pressure to perform more outstanding well timed jumps. The visuals are fantastic with some superb scrolling and animation. The graphics may be small but they are clear enough with a well detailed main sprite. A suitable upbeat soundtrack plays throughout." (Nreive)

"This game is so addictive it should come with a warning sticker. A simple concept combined with challenging gameplay and cool, crisp black and white graphics, backed up with a driving chiptune soundtrack makes for a game with huge replay value. The randomised levels make for a new experience with each run and the use of distance ran as a score means the player is constantly challenged to do better next time." (Ruari O'Toole)

"An excellent conversion of the original, exciting and frustrating in equal measure." (T.M.R)

Panic Analogue (Goin' Sideways)
3rd Place (30.2222 Points)

"A great update on the paddle style of 'bomber' game - these style of games have replayability a-plenty, feeling like updates of game and watch games, and this one - with it's nice title music and graphics is no exception. Simple, yet compelling fun." (Andy Jenkinson)

"Nice idea and design. A bit unlucky choice to support paddles only but does indeed play very well with them. Wonderful animations and graphical setup. Plays fast, easy to grasp and nicely rising difficulty." (Enthusi)

"A Kaboom clone set in a cave - could be simply labelled as that, but you would be wrong. Panic Analogue is a very good clone of the Atari classic, but with a slight twist where you must alternate your character between someone who can catch fire and who can catch water (sort of like Ikaruga's ship switch mechanism). The game must be played with paddles, which seems like a bit of a bind - but is well worth digging out on the real hardware. Controls with the paddles are very tight and responsive, which the game requires with its twitch reflexes required later on. The "Panic" does indeed start to set in around level 6 and gradually increases until you turn into a frenzied mess. Not only will you lose a life if you die, but you are punished further by being pushed back a level - nice idea :) Presentation is simple, but effective overall, with solid music/effects and graphically the game is sound, with nice animations on the main character." (Frank Gasking)

"Being paddle controlled only will be off-putting for many, but really this is a game that deserves to be played. Panic Analogue is an amazing debut game release from a new group, with AAA quality presentation and music throughout. I love the random element of this well structured game, although I think that hiding the character behind the forground of the cave is a bit cheap. One of my favourites in the competition, maddeningly addictive, well designed and perfect for a bit of casual old-school fun. Analogue control for life!" (Heavy Stylus)

"This game is GREAT! I just love the main character, he literally is oozing with 'character'! The idea is really simple - drink the water or deflect the fireballs, but it's the amazingly responsive controls that make this a winner. I wonder if this game could be modified to work with a NEOS mouse? I'd love to play it on a real C64 using a mouse!! Simple but brilliant stuff." (Kenz)

"A cross between Kaboom and Ikaruga essentially. It's another simple concept that's been repeated many times since, but this one is more than competant, controls well, and has a good difficulty curve. And those are important factors for any successful game." (Mayhem)

"After getting to grips with the paddle controles - how long has it been since I've used a paddle? - I really enjoyed this neat little puzzle/arcade game. Neat little gameplay, great visuals, sound and addictive gameplay. One of the better games." (Nreive)

"With a brilliantly spooky theme tune that echoed in my head after I put down the controller, Panic Analogue is an absorbing paddle game that kept dragging me back for replays. The graphics are wonderfully atmospheric, with the player peering into the cave inhabited by our hero Redhead and watching as he strives to not accidentally swallow fireballs." (Ruari O'Toole)

"A decent Kaboom! variant, although I feel it would've been better with more control options." (T.M.R)

Sunday 1 January 2012

Escape From The Holy Tower (ZX Spectrum)

Party like it's 1982! It takes an extreme degree of nostalgia to grow misty eyed over the days when games looked like Escape From The Holy Tower (by Jelvion games) does. With its obvious UDG screen design, and gawdy colour scheme, this aesthetically resembles only the very earliest Speccy releases (or possibly a magazine type-in game). Movement is strictly by character squares – you'll get no smooth scrolling here, or even custom font here m'lad – if you are looking for high-sheen presentation then move along.

But hardcore puzzle gamers are made of sterner stuff though, and won't let an ugly finish (or the fact that the backstory / instructions are in Spanish) get in the way of a game – so lets see what is under the hood here...

Bubble Bobble 4 CPC (Amstrad CPC)

Bubble Bobble is one of those games that are very difficult to dislike. It's relentlessly charming and pathologically upbeat, with lead characters that are so instantly loveable if you dropped pictures of them on a desert island whose inhabitants had no contact with society you would be guaranteed a dragon-centric Cargo Cult within seven days.

The original port of the game to the Amstrad CPC, however, was inarguably one of the poor relations of the franchise. It lacked the spirit that made the arcade version so great, and it is an unadulterated pleasure to play a new, shiny port of the game that shows what could have been done with more time and effort.

Bubble Bobble for the CPC, abbreviated concisely by the developer into BB4CPC, underlines the excellence that can be achieved by one person working alone on a labour of love, for absolutely ages, without the pressures of working in a commercial development environment with deadlines, managers and budget restraints. The bangs and whistles, the panache and the cuteness, the occasional fiendish difficulty and the pathologically infectious theme tune are all there in spades.