Sunday 16 October 2016

2015 C64 16KB Cartridge Game Development Competition Results

Holy hell! Here we are at the end of 2016, and I'm only just posting the results for LAST year's compo... Well, I'll write a bit about the last four months of inactivity in a bit, but first of all let's get this out of the way ;)

(Those of you whom follow the C64 scene closely will propbably be aware that the results were actually announced in the recent edition of Vandalism News (#65), and the article is reproduced here in full).

As already explained over on the official page, the scores were calculated using mean averages with the highest achievable score being 66 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 judges' comments.

As is traditional, I'd like to say a massive 'thank you' to everyone involved - yet again, through your hard work and dedication, the modern day C64 game development scene has continued to improve and impress, surpassing expectations again and again. Congratulations to everyone who submitted a final game :)

Icicle Race (John Christian Lønningdal & Saul Cross)
1st Place (59.22 Points)

"Icicle Race is a brilliantly executed puzzle game with gorgeous graphics, cute animations and very nice music to match. It's closest relatives are Solomon's Key, Spherical and Sokoban. It has a large number of levels, which seem to be very challenging. That's also the only complaint I have: This game is quite hard. But if hard puzzle games are your thing, then Icicle Race will keep you entertained for many hours." (Andreas Varga/Mr. SID)

"Wonderful port of Solomon's Key 2. Very addictive. I love everything about it - music, gfx, execution! Top notch!" (hedning)

"Fun little port of Solomon's Key 2 from the NES with cute graphics, had me tearing my hair out on some of the levels. Strong playability and puzzle element." (David Simmonds/Jazzcat)

"This game crushed me. First, it has a very unique icy music style. Second, the gfx are really good and detailed. Third, it is really huge. And fourth, the game has quite some cunning game design ideas in it - those come, however, from the NES original. IMHO the best game in the compo. All thumbs up!" (Jacob Voos/Jak T Rip)

"John and Saul do it again. An amazing port of a little known game, given its own special C64 flair. Superb stuff with loads of content crammed into 16KB, and in my opinion, leagues ahead of anything else released this year." (James Monkman/Heavy Stylus)

"This is a great game - really enjoyed the concept - lots of variety and depth. It's a real gem well done guys, couldn't fault it." (Jamie Howard/Physcopanda)

"Icicle Race is a bit of a fiendish puzzler with some slightly odd play mechanics that make it feel quite unique. Each puzzle is one screen and your Romancing the Stone-type adventurer must utilise blocks of ice to put out all the flames that happen to be roaring away in the ice caverns he is exploring. It reminds me a tiny bit of Puzznic in the way the rooms are set up and that gravity is an important factor, but it otherwise plays quite differently. You may climb up a block but you can't jump. You can create ice blocks with your wand, put only in the space directly in front of you and below your feet. This feels restrictive but puzzle games surely need these strict parameters to create a brain-mangling challenge. It works brilliantly. There's a huge variety in the puzzles, the challenge they represent, and the manner in which you solve them. Icicle Race has depth, too. There are one hundred levels, split into blocks of ten, and thankfully you can tackle them in any order, with the one proviso that you must have completed the previous nine levels in a set before you can attempt the tenth level. The first twenty to thirty levels are fairly achievable, but then the going gets tough - you could sink plenty of hours into this one! The presentation is excellent as well. Your adventurer has a lot of character and he reflects my state of mind perfectly when he fails a level and sits on the floor shaking his head! But he does do a weird dance when he wins (which I don't). The graphics are well above average and different pieces of in-game and menu music and very nicely composed and perfect for the game. Wonderful, absorbing stuff." (John Dennis)

"This was bugging me for a while why it looked familiar, and then I recalled "Fire 'n Ice" on the NES! And lo and behold, it's just as good, with tight controls and mind bending puzzles once you progress past World 1. The graphics are really nice hi-res works that evoke a lot of character, even the flames, and the sound is inoffensive and fits the theme. Thankfully if you get stuck, the levels are also the SAME, meaning you can look up a level guide and progress without too much frustration! Although I do rather miss the funny cut scenes from the original." (Mat Allen/Mayhem)

"This looks to be the biggest game in this years compo, with 100 levels! I didn't know the original until a few months ago when it was mentioned in Return magazine. Sporting great graphics and sounds and some tough puzzle action, this is the clear winner of this years compo for me!" (Paul Koller/Paulko64)

Qwak (Daniel Hotop & Saul Cross)
2nd Place (42.89 Points)

"In Qwak, you play as a little duck that has to progress through a castle of sorts, avoiding enemies, collecting flowers and keys to open blocked areas and progress to the next screen. This is another feast for the eyes (and ears) courtesy of Saul Cross. The gameplay is competently executed and surprisingly hard, mostly due to the mercilessly re-spawning enemies. I assume that there are many levels here, but I suck at playing this, so I only managed to see the first 10 or so. I’ll keep coming back to this and practice some more. Great stuff!" (Andreas Varga/Mr. SID)

"Some bugs left in the game, but if you ignore these flaws this is a neat port. Good work all over!" (hedning)

"Fantastic little 'Bubble Bobble' cross duck jump and run that hails from the BBC Micro back in 1989. The C64 version lights up the 1084S brightly with great graphics and good music and challenging 2D jump and run puzzle solving. Cudos for the improved 1.2 version that eliminates some little gremlins. Grab this one for a good night with your C64. Tell your wife and kids that you have a business meeting or something." (David Simmonds/Jazzcat)

"Half jumping and half flying, I try to collect what I can. Unusual steering and shooting system. It's a nice touch how the end boss teddy bear looks in your direction. Also cute animation in between the levels. However, it is highly frustrating that you have to start all over if you are hit, and I'm not a fan of re-spawning enemies. Minus points for that, even though it probably has to be this way as it is a conversion." (Jacob Voos/Jak T Rip)

"A great port of the BBC original, and hugely ambitious for a 16KB compo! Great work on this guys, I loved the variation and the fantastic presentation. Felt a bit clunky in places, and there were still a few minor bugs in the compo build, but otherwise an amazing debut entry from Daniel." (James Monkman/Heavy Stylus)

"This is a great game with some original ideas and nice graphics. The execution feels a little laggy on some of the sprites but the gameplay more than makes up for it. Atmospheric presentation - love the duck walk interlude!" (Jamie Howard/Physcopanda)

"Qwak is an old school 8-bit single-screen platformer of the 'collect all the keys and go to the exit' format, but this version somehow makes it feel more up to date than its 1980s pedigree. I reached level five or six after a bit of perseverance but I get the feeling I won't get much further. It gets really hard and some serious practice would be required for me to progress. I like it though: there is enough fluidity in the level design to throw up some surprises in how baddies behave and it keeps you on your toes. You could complete a level in ten seconds, or it could trip you up and make you lose a few lives. You can get impatient or cocky and make mistakes. You aren't defenceless and this gives the action some variety as you can choose to avoid or destroy a baddie. The levels include disintegrating platforms, bubbles to ride, and even boss monsters - there's certainly enough to keep things interesting. I'm not a fan of the floaty jump mechanic, which leaves you hanging in the air and takes some adjusting to, but otherwise the game plays really well. It has polished music and sound effects and the graphics are well done, particularly Qwak himself. The game could definitely be a touch more forgiving - I got a bit frustrated - but overall this is a solid remake of the original BBC Micro platformer." (John Dennis)

"I never played the BBC or Amiga originals, I was first introduced to the game via the GameBoy Advance port of all things. Quite outstanding just how much has been fitted into 16k for the competition, and with a full 64k, I'm sure the entire game could be easily contained. It's a simple game in concept, but full of tricks, traps and subtle design once you start getting into things. Not easy either once you get past the first couple of levels, it might benefit from a password system. Definitely a game to keep coming back to and try to do better each time." (Mat Allen/Mayhem)

"Hmmm, not too sure what to think of this game. It's all nicely put together, but there are things that frustrated me. For example, putting all collectables back after dying. Also, I've found numerous places where I couldn't get out anymore except by killing myself. Also the ball weapon can behave quite erratically and can get stuck in the background..." (Paul Koller/Paulko64)

Platman (Andrea Schincaglia & Saul Cross)
3rd Place (42.67 Points)

"Finally Pacman, sorry, Platman, has found the warehouse where the ghosts are keeping all the fruits and candies. Of course he immediately goes there, and to his excitement it's a big maze. Thankfully he knows how to navigate mazes. Your job is to guide Platman safely through the screens and collect as many delicious things as possible. This is a simple but nicely made platformer with detailed hires graphics and joyful music. Good job!" (Andreas Varga/Mr. SID)

"Another favourite! Excellent execution, great gameplay, gfx and music. Top!" (hedning)

"Bloody difficulty level is hard as hell, straight from the get go! Could have eased the player into it and then turned up the heat after a bit, good fun." (David Simmonds/Jazzcat)

"Fast paced, straight and simple, that's Platman's world. Quite a few screens and musics for 16k. Colourful. And the title music!" (Jacob Voos/Jak T Rip)

"One of the real surprises of the compo for me, and my personal second favourite. I was a big fan of the original Amiga shareware game, and for some reason it seems to be a much better fit on the C64. Amazing size for 16KB, and super fun and challenging to play. Andrea's games just get better and better!" (James Monkman/Heavy Stylus)

"Solid platformer - interesting concept - maybe a bit heavy on the fruit as it's literally everywhere! Quirky music and overall a good effort." (Jamie Howard/Physcopanda)

"This is a remake of a 1995 Amiga shareware game that James and I used to both play, and really a excellent one at that. It's a proper old-fashioned platformer with a flick screen maze format. Yes, it is Pac-man, and it does feature ghosts and power pills, but the platform action is smooth and fast-paced, and there's none of that nonsense about munching yellow dots. It relies on skill and timing too succeed and the difficulty gradient is gradual enough for the player to make significant progress after a few goes. It is still a stern challenge, with some of the later screens being particularly tricky to negotiate, and it has that certain 'one more go' quality that signifies a well-designed game. It features excellent music throughout, as well as a few sound effects. Graphically and presentationally the game is generally strong, the only criticism being that the sprites could feel a little more solid, especially when Pac-man jumps through a platform." (John Dennis)

"Pac-Man. Without legs. In a platformer. Still, if he can bounce around in Pac-Mania, then it isn't a stretch he can bounce around here. The overall design of the levels is very calculated and clever, as they all link up together even if it doesn't quite seem like it. And it seems very faithful to the Amiga original having compared to two side by side, albeit with a swap to some excellent hi-res graphics in the process. Music is excellent as well, pumping along and urging you to continue. A very addictive game, with a one-more-go feeling to try and progress further into it." (Mat Allen/Mayhem)

"Nice clean graphics. The platform action is also nice, although to be honest, nothing that I haven't seen before. It took me some time to figure out that trying to not get ALL the candy is probably the best strategy to get further into the game..." (Paul Koller/Paulko64)

Bug Hunt (Eric Hilaire)
4th Place (42.11 Points)

"In Bug Hunt you play as a frog that apparently can slide on the ground really quickly and decides to catch flies and other tasty insects by shooting its tongue straight up. But touching a bee is not a desirable experience, so make sure to avoid them. At any time you can retract your tongue and swallow everything that sticks to it. This game is a ton of fun. A simple but original idea that becomes really addictive. Instinctively you'll try to grab as many insects in one go by frantically moving your joystick and only move the tongue down to avoid a bee. After a while the game becomes very fast and quite challenging. Thankfully there's a level select option, so you can immediately practice the higher difficulty levels without having to go through the slow initial ones. The graphics and presentation are cutesy, with a hint of Bubble Bobble thrown in, and the technical details are masterfully handled without any visible glitches. The music is very catchy and only gets annoying after quite a while. My only wish would be to add more variation in the background graphics, instead of just switching colours. But that's a minor gripe." (Andreas Varga/Mr. SID)

"Nice attraction screen, and really nice cute in-game gfx; simple but really fun game, unfortunately with some gameplay flaws still left that makes it easy to "cheat" by not taking any risks." (hedning)

"Huge inward smile as soon as I turned this one on. Mega sprite action that leads to a totally addicted experience. Make the sequel an 8-directional jump and run!" (David Simmonds/Jazzcat)

"The game is very simple, but also easy to play. The design/appearance of the game is brilliant: extremely cute monster, wonderful clouds and very nice palm trees with a fitting musical score." (Jacob Voos/Jak T Rip)

"To begin with I was completely won-over with this game. However, it soon occurred to me that it is too easy to get huuuuge scores by simply taking your time and avoiding risks (just catching the lowest level bugs). If this issue could be somehow fixed, then you'd have a modern day C64 classic in your hands :)" (James Monkman/Heavy Stylus)

"Love this cute game! Really novel idea great fun and well presented with really colourful graphics and atmospheric music. Nice eye catching title screen. Not a bad word to say about this game." (Jamie Howard/Physcopanda)

"In Bug Hunt, you are a froggy with a voracious appetite who must use his super-long tongue to catch dragonflies without encountering any nasty hornets. This is a single screen catch-'em-up, and is well presented with ridiculously cute, cartoony graphics and very catchy music. It is fun and extremely slick to play, and the control system works really well, but it is over too soon and never really builds up into a proper challenge. It is easy to progress to the final level, where the game simply leaves you playing until you die. Unfortunately this robs the game of any longevity, but it is good to play for the first fifteen minutes! I think Bug Hunt could certainly be improved by the addition of different hazards and enemies to avoid; as it is the only variation in the levels is the pattern of hornets to avoid." (John Dennis)

"An old fashioned type panic game here, in that the mechanics are identical throughout, but the game just gets harder and faster the longer you play. I somewhat miss those. Props to getting so many sprites on screen at the same time with no flicker, and the very twee tune that plays throughout. There are a couple of missed opportunities here though; you score no more points for snagging a risky bug at the top of the screen compared to the easy bottom, and there's no combo bonus for bringing in multiple bugs at the same time. Something to consider for a revised version?" (Mat Allen/Mayhem)

"What a nice surprise! The concept seems very simplistic, but it's very playable. Even my wife liked this game, which is saying something ;) It does suffer from the problem that you can just pick off the bugs from the lower row without much risk though. Additional bonus points are awarded because of using the "ovide and his friends" tv-theme from my childhood ;)" (Paul Koller/Paulko64)

Slime Deluxe (Mike Johnson)
5th Place (40 Points)

"Is getting overrun by endlessly expanding alien slime something you're looking forward too? Would you like to be part of the brigade that has to get rid of all the slime? Then Slime Deluxe is for you. You'll basically feel like Sisyphus all the time. A never-ending horde of aliens spreads slime on the screen and you have to shoot it away. It's fast and fun and only mildly frustrating. Presentation is basic, but does its job well." (Andreas Varga/Mr. SID)

"'Minteresque' is the word, minted by Saul Cross. Great word, and fits perfectly. Good execution. I will come back to this one." (hedning)

"Cool centipede kind of slimey action shooter with hints of Acid Runner, Greenrunner/Redrunner." (David Simmonds/Jazzcat)

"Slimeypede! This game kinda grows on you.. :) Organic slime is of course ideal in a game, I like especially how the slime changes behaviour when bigger (inner cells hunt you down). Nicely presented game as well." (Jacob Voos/Jak T Rip)

"I'm really glad that Mike submitted this reworded version of the game into the compo, as it's simple arcade style gameplay is a perfect fit. Loads of fun to play, with some neat 'mutation' mechanics thrown into the mix." (James Monkman/Heavy Stylus)

"Very nice jaunty single screen arena shooter - reminds me of red/green runner. Pretty quick to pick up - although it took me a while to realise you could rotate. Nice two player mode too. Good effort guys!" (Jamie Howard/Physcopanda)

"Based on the original Commodore PET game, Slime Deluxe is a frantic grid shooter that tasks you with controlling spores of the titular slime that will otherwise multiply and quickly surround and overwhelm your ship. It starts off simply, and it is, assuming you don't give the spores a chance to start growing. Which of course, inevitably, you will! There is a lovely balance in this game where you reach a point where the slime has taken hold, and you are fighting to keep it in check. This can go on for tens of seconds and you are never sure if you will gain the upper hand or slowly get swamped - and that's when the action feels frantic. The graphics and design are pleasingly retro-arcade style and and the in-game tune is appropriately high octane. The sound effects can start to grate, though, as you will no doubt be holding down the fire button ninety percent of the time! It would be good if the controls were noted in-game as it took me several games to realise that I could rotate my ship! (I know...) It is a very high tempo game, which is great, but there is an issue with overly-delicate controls as it is very difficult to have the finesse to successfully move your ship just one space. One of the best of this year's entries IMO." (John Dennis)

"When I first saw the game, I made me think of a combination of the old Mastertronic game Spore and a Jeff Minter shooter. First couple of levels are easy and then it starts to ramp the difficulty up! Excellent panic shooter with some thought needed. It can be a little tricky to line up your shots correctly due to the "thin" 40 column display, and a bit fiddly on the rotate controls. It's the same reason really why Gridrunner/Matrix works better on the Vic-20 for me. Actually, I'd love to see this as a Vic-20 version, because the fatter graphics and meaty VIC sound would do it justice." (Mat Allen/Mayhem)

"Fast arcade action! Just the way I like it. Nice clean graphics. Although it could be made more clear what the "level-clear" criteria is. It seems that once you miss clearing the first few 'seeds' it's almost impossible to clear the screen (and end the level?) anymore. Also, the fact that you can only rotate the craft with the keyboard doesn't really work for me..." (Paul Koller/Paulko64)

Ring On A String (P-a Bäckström)
6th Place (36.67 Points)

"Is this a mobile game that I haven't heard of before? If not, the author should really port this onto iOS and Android pronto, slap some ads on it and reap in the millions. This is the kind of single-button Flappy Bird clone that could destroy the productivity of house wives and office workers everywhere. So much potential! I especially like the minimalist presentation with double-size CBM font. It feels like 1983 meets 2016. Awesome!" (Andreas Varga/Mr. SID)

"Great idea and well executed! I's so simple, one must come back to it again, and again. Slick!" (hedning)

"Unusual. Simple. But did not last long for me. I did love the minimalistic factor to it. Will have to revisit again." (David Simmonds/Jazzcat)

"Fresh take on an old game concept. Extremely great and very fitting music. Minimalistic presentation." (Jacob Voos/Jak T Rip)

"For me RoaS was the most demo-sceney entry this year, and I'm really glad that P-a Bäckström managed to submit it in time! Really fluid to play, with some great music and simple controls. An alternative mode with a random line each play would be appreciated." (James Monkman/Heavy Stylus)

"Love the music!! Interesting take on the endless runner - I would come back to this for the occasional blast. Well done guys!" (Jamie Howard/Physcopanda)

"One button games need to be simple, fast, and addictive and Ring on a String succeeds in being all three. You have to tap space to nudge the titular ring upwards as it flies along an undulating wire, repeating the action as gravity starts to re-assert its hold. It's certainly tricky, but persevere and you will push your score higher than you initially expected. Success is measured by the number of times you manage to press space before your energy bar is fully depleted from crashing into the wire. Presentation and music are basic but pleasing and very effective. The graphics are chunky and zip along smoothly, and the music is relentless, pacey and a bit too catchy. Could it be improved? Perhaps the addition of a high score table would be appreciated. An additional game mode with a randomised wire pattern would also be welcome, as it would represent a quite different and more varied challenge - although admittedly a random mode would make it more difficult to compare high scores." (John Dennis)

"This year's one button game, and it's quite a tricky one to comprehend. Not the play mechanics here mind you, more that fine line between frustration and "have another go" that all great games finely tread. The first few games will end quickly, but gradually, slowly, you begin to understand the timing and the gravity of the ring compared to the line. At least you are also not punished for only a couple of mistakes by game over. Definitely also this year's "zone game", for once you're there, you can become one with the code." (Mat Allen/Mayhem)

"Interesting "flappy bird" game. Nice clean layout. Not much to comment on, except for the fact that I would have liked to see a random track instead of always the same layout." (Paul Koller/Paulko64)

Vortex Crystals (Richard Bayliss)
7th Place (31.89 Points)

"Vortex Crystals is a nice little shooter, where you have to battle various enemies on platforms and conveyor belts until you can collect the key that opens the door to the next screen. Nothing too spectacular here, but also no serious flaws. The game is quite nice to look at and seems to get hard quite quickly. A good effort!" (Andreas Varga/Mr. SID)

"Lot to do in this game - I like it! I will get back to this one." (hedning)

"Not a bad little platformer crammed into 16K. Has got a nice clean feel to the gameplayer. Hoping the full version will have more accurate sprite detection (e.g. shooting enemies)." (David Simmonds/Jazzcat)

"I like the game concept and the individually designed screens, but the steering and collision detection spoil it for me, it is just not precise enough and there is too few feedback when you hit something or when you are hit." (Jacob Voos/Jak T Rip)

"I have a real soft spot for budget-style spacey platformers, and this one by Richard is without a doubt one of the best games he has coded in years. Could be improved with non-linear gravity and some sort of notification before enemies spawn in, but otherwise both thumbs up from me. One of my personal favourites!" (James Monkman/Heavy Stylus)

"This game has all the makings of a classic. Richard you have produced a real gem here! It's not perfect but it has some real qualities. Good pumping music for a space station robot grind em up! I enjoyed the level progression. Nice graphics - the use of colours gives a nice varied feel to the design. I did find the droid spawning a little unfair at first - until I realised there is a time interval before they reappear. Perhaps a little warning from the spawning points would have felt fairer but that's pretty minor considering how playable this is. Well done guys an excellent effort." (Jamie Howard/Physcopanda)

"Futuristic shooter cum platforming collect-em-up Vortex Crystals is stylish, absorbing and fun. It is let down a tiny bit by enemies respawning without warning after you have shot them (although once you realise you can mostly play to avoid getting caught). The graphics are strong and the largely monochrome backgrounds lend the game a grim industrial vibe, but do mean that the lethal spikes don't stand out too well, even when a thoughtful skull sign is placed above to signify their deadliness! Your saboteur-like hero certainly looks the part, as do the various robot walkers and probes you are up against. Once again, the music and sound effects deliver, with several well composed tunes for different sections of the game. Most importantly, the game provides an enjoyable challenge with a large number of screens to negotiate, and despite one or two minor flaws it does not frustrate or disappoint." (John Dennis)

"This reminds me a bit of a mid 80's classic budget game. The graphics are decent, they serve their purpose and you won't get confused about what is a platform or not. I liked the music, it's typical Richard Bayliss material but it hooks me here. The gameplay is nothing original but it's engaging, and the difficulty progression is good. The collision detection is a bit loose, but thankfully that's in your favour at least, although it's partly countered by the peculiar and floaty jump mechanics. So if this had been released for £1.99 back in the day, I probably would have bought it." (Mat Allen/Mayhem)

"Although I tried to enjoy this game, I'm still waiting for a game by Richard that really impresses me. This game is just too 'average' for me. Some tips for improvements: gravity should not be linear, don't spawn enemies directly onto the player, and the bullet collision detection could use some more work." (Paul Koller/Paulko64)

Alienator (Georg Rottensteiner)
8th Place (31.11 Points)

"If Alienator would actually be a Space Invaders sequel, I'm sure people would complain about it in many ways. It takes the original concept and slightly misses the point. Gone are the barriers to hide behind. New aliens have been added that visually don't quite suit the old ones. You can collect extras, but it's hard to tell what they really do. I'm just not sure why this was made in the first place, it just feels weird. Technically the game is flawlessly executed, but I'm sorry to say that there's just not enough to keep anyone interested for very long. A bit of a shame really, as Georg can do much better." (Andreas Varga/Mr. SID)

"Nice take on Space Invaders. Simple presentation and gameplay. Easy to get into, but nothing I will play again very soon. Suitable music." (hedning)

"Space Invaders is reincarnated in this new hash up by Georg. I wanted the bosses to be more frequent! Maybe in a DX version for 64KB? Nice music and frantic action building upon an old classic." (David Simmonds/Jazzcat)

"Who didn't think of making his own space invaders clone? This clone feels solid and ready to please, but the best thing is the excellent music and the wonderful game plot. What I think feels a bit rushed is the power up system. In 99% of the cases, I did not notice any change from collecting a power up, which I felt was frustrating." (Jacob Voos/Jak T Rip)

"At first glance I have to say that I wasn't overly impressed, with it being a Space Invaders style game. But, then I played it, and couldn't put it down for an hour. Very well executed, although really the power up system should give you some clues as to their purpose! Would love to see this given a bit more work and thought in a future build." (James Monkman/Heavy Stylus)

"Really solid space invaders clone from Georg with plenty of replay value to see how many waves you can get through. Love the driving music too. I did think the power-ups were a little obscure however - it would have been fun to maybe randomise what the different colours do each game but reveal an explanation when you collect them. With some of them it was hard to tell what they did. The boss levels are funny - a nice interlude to the waves. Good use of different sprites and colours between the waves and nice hi-res sprites." (Jamie Howard/Physcopanda)

"This Space Invaders-type single screen shooter doesn't really do anything interesting enough to make it stand out, whilst still playing reasonably well. I found the collision detection very unconvincing and the sprites and general presentation somewhat muted, although I did enjoy the in-game music. There are numerous power-ups to collect but even after a number of games I am unclear as to what they do, except that one changes the appearance of your ship. The game does move at a decent pace and additional challenge is added by the fact that the aliens shoot back at you, and indeed their missiles sneakily attempt to track you as you move left and right. Ultimately Alienator lacks the classic tension-building element which made Space Invaders great. The aliens in the original started slowly and crept inexorably down the screen, getting faster and spraying more bullets as they did so. Here, on most levels, they fill the screen and move at full tilt from the off. It's different, but I don't think the fun and tension of the classic game have been replicated." (John Dennis)

"It proudly describes itself as a Space Invaders clone, and it definitely does what it says on the tin. At its heart, it is nothing more than a basic shooter, and the attack patterns don't vary too much, nor get that hard to progress through. In fact you could probably beat the first twenty levels with your eyes closed, and even after a few games I still haven't really worked out what all the power-ups do! I'll give them some credit though for a good laugh gained from the indeed rather crap boss fights, and the nice music that accompanies the action." (Mat Allen/Mayhem)

"Ok, I think I liked the music of this game best of all the games this year. It looks like a simple space invaders clone, but it's executed quite well. I'm not sure yet what all the powerups do, but this is a game which I will come back to. I would like to have the waiting time between stages and after losing a life reduced though..." (Paul Koller/Paulko64)

Blap N Bash Revisisted (Richard Bayliss)
9th Place (26.67 Points)

"Here's another classic arcade concept, slightly reinvented. The basic idea of Breakout, but with two paddles and a forcefield that acts as a shield to prevent the ball from getting lost too quickly. But if all of that sounds a bit like Krakout or TRAZ, that's because it is. Little to no innovation if you’ve played the various breakout clones from the 80s. But unlike these other games, Blap N Bash Revisited doesn't allow the typical control over the balls reflection angle. The game insists on angle of incidence equals angle of reflection. This means that the end of each level is just a bit too hard, when you only have a few blocks left to hit. Otherwise the technical quality is good, with suitable graphics and music." (Andreas Varga/Mr. SID)

"Smaller version of an already released game; OK presentation and gamplay. Very stressful for an old fart like me, but Richard know what he is doing. It all checks out." (hedning)

"Lovely rendition of an old favourite that may make your brain melt. Such games sometimes benefit from paddle support." (David Simmonds/Jazzcat)

"An absolute mind twister with the two sides of the game. Nice musics all over the place. I'd wish for a two player mode (or even better a 4 player mode)." (Jacob Voos/Jak T Rip)

"Another good effort by Richard, but for me the physics of the ball's reflection angle feel a bit off." (James Monkman/Heavy Stylus)

"Breakout clone with a twist. The reverse steering of the second bat makes for a challenging and fun game. Enjoyed finding out what the power-ups did, however, sometimes the ball seems to bounce behind the bat and a little more feedback when lives are lost would have been helpful." (Jamie Howard/Physcopanda)

"Perhaps it is my advancing years, but when it came to the crunch I just couldn't train myself to switch perspectives at the speed required to match Blap N Bash when it really gets going. This is Breakout where your paddle is inversely mirrored at the top of the screen. It is a really intriguing innovation and it works well, allowing for a greater variety of level design and frantic gameplay. My problem was adjusting at speed from controlling the top paddle and the bottom paddle; press left and the bottom paddle goes left... and the top paddle goes right! It looks cool, but it is a challenge to master. This game has a lot going for it: smooth gameplay, a fantastic title tune, satisfying sound effects, and a solid game design including power ups and critters to bounce your ball off. The slow-down power up is much appreciated! Its only limitation is that the physics are fairly basic - the ball bounces off your bat or the bricks - and even aliens - without great variation of angle. There is also a very helpful feature where you can miss the ball five or six times and it will bounce off a forcefield behind your bat. Along with the frequent availability of extra lives, this balances the difficulty level of the game really effectively and stops frustration creeping in." (John Dennis)

"Breakout with a bit of a difference at least, although Traz is still the king of block busting games on the C64 in my opinion. The two bats moving in opposite directions on the controls is a nice touch, along with having the energy barrier mechanic to prevent frustration from accidentally getting your directions mixed up and missing the ball. And that will happen every so often, more frequently than you'd like! The trance effect is pretty cool as well. Fairly clean graphics, a chirpy tune, and a reasonable challenge means I might come back to this." (Mat Allen/Mayhem)

"I'm sorry, but a breakout clone in 2016 has to do something really special to impress me. This however, isn't it. Although the two paddle concept seems interesting at first, it hardly adds anything to the ancient concept. Also, it took me a few plays till I understood why the barriers are not always lethal..." (Paul Koller/Paulko64)

Pickle's Pod Patrol (Steve Ody & Saul Cross)
10th Place (25.67 Points)

"On first glance Pickle's Pod Patrol looks like a cute little platformer with great graphics by Saul. But once you start to play, you'll quickly be disappointed. While the game idea itself is fine, the execution here lacks severely on multiple fronts. Controls are clunky, collision detection is basic and it's very easy to get stuck at the top of the screen by jumping at the wrong spot. Because of this you'll probably have a hard time even getting past the first two screens, and if you do I'm sure you won't call it an enjoyable experience. Most of the issues here can be fixed with a few tweaks here and there, but in its present form this game is not doing enough to keep me entertained." (Andreas Varga/Mr. SID)

"Great gfx, ok game play. I don't like the controls - especially jump, but yeah - ok execution!" (hedning)

"Nice little game but just did not keep me interested for very long." (David Simmonds/Jazzcat)

"Unusual little game with strikingly cute sprites. Screen gets boring after first rescue, so why repeat 5 times? Minus points for re-spawning enemies and uninteresting enemy behaviour. Title music gets some unexpectedly beautiful touches if you wait a while." (Jacob Voos/Jak T Rip)

"Plays a lot better in NTSC mode (for which it was designed, and I did enjoy solving the first few levels before promptly getting stuck. Super music and presentation, but lacking a hook to keep me playing. Some work on the controls and a few bug fixes would help improve things, but overall a solid effort. Well done!" (James Monkman/Heavy Stylus)

"Cute platformer. I like the sprites, but the gameplay felt a little repetitive for my liking. Has some great music - especially liked the high score table!" (Jamie Howard/Physcopanda)

"This game has impressive polish, but could be improved by some tweaks to the difficulty level. Pickle's Pod Patrol is a simple one-screen platformer where you must collect Pickle's podlets and roll them back home. The screen wraps around, so if you exit left, you re-enter from the right - an important feature for solving some of the levels. Each screen is a mini platforming puzzle where you need to rescue four podlets. This means negotiating the same screen four times, which can feel somewhat repetitive. If the screen features water you can suck it up and use it to spit at enemies - a nice feature - but otherwise you must jump or avoid enemies. Jumping over them is tricky to say the least and could be made easier. You also don't appear to be able to jump over podlets and push them from the other side, which feels like a flaw (or at least contrary to expectations)! The super-cute graphics and sprite animation are top-notch, so is the brilliant theme tune, and the overall slick presentation. Currently, it is on the frustrating side, but could be very good with some fiddling with the jumping mechanic and the difficulty level." (John Dennis)

"In a bit of a pickle trying to decide whether I like or hate this game. On one hand, it's a simple platformer with particularly cute overtones. The graphics and soundtrack remind me of Summer Camp, which is quite neat. On the other hand, it can be quite frustrating, and it doesn't start off that easy either. Neither are all the mechanics obvious, so it took a couple of games to realise the screen wraps around for example! And then there's that annoying jumping bug on starting a new game, but I believe that's been fixed now." (Mat Allen/Mayhem)

"The audiovisual presentation of this game is great. However, the action feels too slow for me. Also, there is a nasty bug that causes you to keep jumping after gameover, rendering it quite unplayable. I had to resort to a crack to play on... If it was a bit more speedy, this could have been much better." (Paul Koller/Paulko64)

"Simon wrote a game for his daughter, with little unicorns, flowers, smiley faces, bow ties and no blood. It's the only game in this competition that I've actually finished completely. Also it doesn't belong here. I'm sure she liked it, but the only positive thing I can think of is that I won't have to do write this myself. When my daughter asks for a game with unicorns in a few years. I'll just hand her a copy of T.H.E.A and feel like the best dad in the world. Thanks, Simon!" (Andreas Varga/Mr. SID)

"Very unique. A kids game. I got scared. That horse is staring at me. But that is probably just me. Not my cup of tea." (hedning)

"Ponies! As we get older, fire this one up for the kids." (David Simmonds/Jazzcat)

"Hmm. So this is what you get when you're a daughter. Hmm, OK, it does feature unicorns. But other than that it's pretty bad. The screen gfx are nice, but the small unicorn sprite is plain ugly and without animation. Good and fitting music." (Jacob Voos/Jak T Rip)

"A not-to-be-taken-serious entry that does exactly what it says on the tin. Kept my youngest kids amused long enough for them to complete the first round of screens. Thanks Simon ;)" (James Monkman/Heavy Stylus)

"Reminds me of Kwik Snax for some reason - I think it's the colourful levels! Really pretty and cute game that would appeal to younger players - not quite enough variety for longer term appeal but a very solid effort. Great music and simple game style makes it instantly playable." (Jamie Howard/Physcopanda)

"As this game was designed to specifications from the author's young daughter, I thought it only right to draft in my own three-year-old playtester. I am pleased to report it received a hearty thumbs up. It is nice to play a game that is simple enough to be played by a young child that isn't just a one-button game. It's a simple maze game and a great way to introduce four-directional controls in a non-stressful, non-threatening environment. I mean there are no baddies to avoid! The graphic are cute and the visual rewards for completing each maze are a lovely touch. Yes, it is an uncomplicated game that does not have the scope to technically impress, but it does what it does well and is a fun game for its intended audience." (John Dennis)

"Ah, like the one-button game, there seemingly has to be one not-so serious game each competition, and once again it is provided by Simon Quernhorst. I wonder just how much of the 16k was taken up by that giant bitmap unicorn?! Still, as a game to be played by kids, it isn't bad really, and you can't really "lose" either, just endlessly repeat the same mazes if you are cackhanded enough to not be able to navigate them without being reset to the start!" (Mat Allen/Mayhem)

"Although this is arguably the most simple game in this years compo, I must say I quite enjoyed it! Although the main sprite could be improved (why not use a nice overlaid sprite?). The two rounds can be quickly completed though, severely limiting the lasting appeal..." (Paul Koller/Paulko64)

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