Issue #70 - June 2003
Most people who are into classic game
collecting seem to have a classic system of choice. It seems for many
that the Atari VCS is that system of choice. While I certainly love my
Atari and my ever growing collection of games, my own personal system of
choice is the Commodore Vic 20.
The Vic 20 is one of the forgotten gems of the classic era of video
games. It seems that most people fit into one of two categories. They
either know nothing at all about the Vic 20 or they believe that the Vic
20 was an underpowered failure. But to the few enlightened people, the
Vic 20 is a fantastic machine with many excellent original games and
translations of arcade classics. What I hope to do with this series of
articles is to highlight the Vic 20 and some of the great games that
were released for it.
The Vic 20 was made by Commodore. It was released in 1981. As with all
classic systems, the specs seem ridiculously basic by today's standards,
but for 1981 the Vic 20 was at least equal and in some ways more
advanced than the rest of the competition. In fact the Vic 20 was the
first colour computer made available for under $500.
Here are some basic specs for the machine, straight out of the box.
CPU - 6502 running at 1.01MHz
MEMORY - 5k of which 3.5k was usable
GRAPHICS - 22 x 23 characters, 176 x 184 pixels, 8 text colours,
16 background colours.
SOUND - 3 voices plus a white noise generator, programmable
KEYBOARD - Full qwerty typewriter style keyboard plus 8
programmable function keys
BASIC - The Vic 20 came with BASIC built into the ROM
The Vic 20 was quite successful. From what I have been able to discover,
over one million were sold in the USA. It was also successful in Great
Britain and other parts of Europe.
Many programs were released for the Vic 20. These came on one of three
media, cassette tapes, ROM cartridges or floppy disk. However, only the
most advanced business software came on disk. The majority of the games
came on tape, with most of the better games released on ROM carts. Due
to the fact that anyone could freely release games for the Vic 20,
literally hundreds and hundreds of games were released on tape. These
ranged from very good to totally abysmal.
These really bad games, usually programmed in BASIC is what I believe
gives the Vic 20 a bad name as a games machine. But little do many
people realise that over 200 games were released on ROM cart. These
games represent mainly the cream of the crop when it comes to Vic 20
game software, and are at the very least comparable with the Atari VCS.
These are the games I will mainly stick to in my reviews.
Unfortunately for the Vic 20, but perhaps great for video gaming
overall, two years after its release Commodore introduced to the world
the Commodore 64, a machine that would go on to sell in the millions
world wide. In 1983 the C64 was the X-box or the PS2 of the day. With
its fantastic graphics, brilliant sound and a whopping 64k memory, game
manufacturers quickly jumped aboard this new platform. Software for the
Vic 20 ground to a halt and before too long the Vic 20 was relegated to
the distant memories of the few and just plain forgotten by the
SOME OF THE GAMES
A fast and furious shoot-em-up from Jeff Minter. The aim in
abductor is to protect the human race from being abducted by alien
invaders. You have eight men at the bottom of the screen. Aliens swoop
around the screen. Occasionally an alien dives down and abducts one of
the men. You then have just seconds to shoot that alien before it
disappears at the top of the screen with the abducted man. Shooting the
alien saves the abducted man. You must destroy all the aliens and
continue to save at least one man or else it is game over. Game play
starts off good but quickly becomes just a test on how fast you can push
the fire button. But despite the repetitiveness and simple game play, it
is the graphics you want to check this game out for. The way the aliens
swoop around the screen has to be seen to be believed. With each level
the amount of aliens on screen gets larger and larger. You can have
literally dozens of aliens swooping about all over the place and the
action suffers from very little slowdown. A great programming effort I
My Score - 7/10
This is a fantastic shoot-em-up. It takes the basic Space
Invaders game play and enhances it with some wonderful game play
touches. Aliens swoop in from the side and continue to swoop around and
dive as they drop their bombs on you. Shooting your own missiles back is
very different. When you press the fire button a missile is launched,
letting go detonates the missile. The longer you hold down the fire
button the higher the missile will shoot. When the missile detonates it
makes a small explosion. A well placed shot can destroy a whole wave of
aliens. It is a little like the effect in Missile Command. The graphics
in this game are simply brilliant. There is some great detail in the
back drops, giving them a 3D effect. The back drops are of various
things including a city, a space station, a moon base and outer-space.
This is certainly one of the best shoot-em-ups on the Vic 20. It is a
hard cart to find, buy well worth your effort.
My Score - 9/10
Alien sees you stuck in a Pacman type maze being chased
around by red aliens. To defend yourself you can dig holes around the
maze. When an alien falls into one of the holes you can then fill it in,
killing the alien. The aim of the game is to simply capture and kill all
the aliens on the screen. The number of aliens and their speed increases
with each level. Graphics are very simple. The aliens are average, but
you man is very poor. Sound is also just average. But it is the game
play that shines. I find the game a lot of fun and tension really builds
as you race around trying catch the aliens. When an alien falls into a
hole you have only a short time before he breaks free. This adds some
minor strategy to the game when an alien is captured and you are a
distance from it. Do you go and try to kill it, or do you keep away
because of the risk it might break free and get you?
My Score - 7.5/10
This is actually the first game I ever bought for my Vic 20
back when I was just a lad. I saved up my pocket money for ages to buy
the game. Until then I had to be happy with games I typed up from
magazine listings. So I suppose there is some sentimental attraction.
Alien Attack is a variation of the classic Space Invaders style
shoot-em-up. There are three levels in all. The first level has wave
after wave of aliens scrolling down the screen at you. You must either
shoot them or dodge them to stay alive. The second level is a bit like
the mother-ship level in Phoenix. There are eight aliens inside the
mother ship that you must destroy to clear the level. This is made
difficult by the relentless attack of more diving aliens. The third
level sees you flying your ship through an asteroid belt, doing all you
can to avoid the asteroids until you come out safely on the other side.
The game then goes back to level one and continues, just a lot faster.
While the sentimentality makes me love this game, in all honesty it is
pretty average. Graphics are simple and sound is limited to just your
ship's firing (though it is a good sound effect) and nothing else.
Simple but repetitive fun.
My Score - 7/10
Alien Blitz is a Space Invaders clone, and not a bad one it
is too. Game play is very similar to the arcade original. The tension
really builds as the aliens get faster and faster as shoot them down.
The graphics are well defined, but everything is in monochrome, blue
background and white ships and shields. While this makes it fairly
faithful, I would like to see more colour added. The graphics are a
reasonable size too, not like the over sized sprites in the offical
Atari 2600 version of Space Invaders. The sound isn't much, just some
wimpy sounds when you shoot. One annoying glitch in the game is that
often when you make some very minute moves to the left or right to
escape an alien missile, you tend to flick back, sometimes right back
under the missile you are trying to escape. Overall, this is a pretty
good Space Invaders Clone, but it is not quite as good as Commodore's
My Score - 7/10
This is a fairly strange and very basic little shoot-em-up.
Alien Sidestep is one of the many variants on the Space Invaders theme.
It gets its title from the fact that when you shoot at the aliens above
you they sidestep, meaning that they dodge back a space to avoid your
fire. Game play quickly becomes very boring as there just isn't enough
variation. The graphics are simple but nice and brightly coloured.
My Score - 5/10
If you are a fan of Bezerk then you will you might really
like Amok! Amok! is a Bezerk clone, and a reasonably good one it is too.
The graphics are simple but do the job well enough. The only real let
down in the graphics is your weedy little man. A slightly bigger sprite
would have made a big difference. There is also some minor flicker, but
nothing that really distracts. Game play is just like Bezerk. Clear the
room of alien robots and exit as soon as you can. But there is no Evil
Otto like character. This takes away a lot of the extra tension, meaning
you can just take your time killing the robots. I believe this makes the
game a bit too easy. This is a fun game, but it was greatly improved
upon with the sequel, Super Amok.
My Score - 6/10
Here is the game that almost challenges Omega Race as the
best Vic 20 game. Choplifter was a very popular and successful game on
the C64. All the elements that made the C64 version so good are all here
on the Vic. The graphics are very good. There are a number of terrific
little touches in the graphics such as the flapping flag on your base,
the little POWs waving to be rescued and some very good parallax
scrolling in the stars and as you cross your boundary line. The object
of the game is to rescue your POWs from the enemy. As you fly your
helicopter into enemy territory you are attacked from the ground by
tanks and the air by jet fighters. There is some good sound,
particularly the whooshing of your rotor blades. Choplifter was
programmed by Tom Griner, one of the leading game programmers for the
Vic 20, who made quite a number of excellent games for the Vic, arguably
pushing it further than any other programmer.
My Score - 10/10
This was the game that really convinced me that the VIC 20
was a great games machine. It was created by the legendary Jeff Minter.
Gridrunner is an intense shoot-em-up. While it has some similarity with
Centipede, it has enough original ideas to stand on its own right as a
brilliant original game. A centipede like creature snakes its way down
the screen towards you. When you shoot one of the segments it splits
into two and both segments continue down the screen in opposite
directions. Each level sees the centipede creature get bigger and
faster, then two appear and then three. Within no time there are
segments flying all over the place. Every segment that you shoot leaves
behind a mine that slowly grows until it shoots out a missile straight
down the screen. Bad luck if you happen to be sitting right under the
mine when it releases its missile. The other things you have to watch
out for are the two laser-guns that move up and down the left hand side
of the screen and back and forth along the bottom. The two laser-guns
periodically shoot out a long laser, laying more mines wherever their
two lasers intersect. This sure is one hectic shoot-em-up, just what
Jeff Minter has always excelled in. The Vic 20 is quite limited with its
sound, yet Minter has created some very good and gutsy sounds. This is
certainly one of the best Vic 20 games. It was released on cart and
My Score - 9.5/10
Not many classic gamers haven't played Lode Runner on at
least one of the multitude of machines it was converted to. Therefore I
won't waste too much time describing the game except to say Lode Runner
is one of the earliest, and best, platform games. The Vic 20 version is
just as good as any other I have played, and I have played most. The
graphics are great and clearly defined and control is precise. One way
this version differs from the others is that it is a little slower.
While this does make some of the movement a bit jerky, I believe it
makes the game a little easier and more playable.
My Score - 9/10
Alan Hewson covered this game in one of his excellent "Many
faces of…" articles where he rightly gave credit where credit is due.
Perhaps some may have been surprised to see a Vic 20 game win a silver
medal, but one play of the Vic version of Omega Race and you very
quickly realize why it won. To put it simply,
this game is absolutely brilliant. The graphics, sound and most
importantly, the playability arguably make this the best game to appear
on the Vic 20. Omega Race is a shoot-em-up, not a racing game as the
name may suggest. You are in a rectangular arena where you have to
eliminate a number of enemy drones and mines before moving on to the
next level. Your ship (which looks like the ship from Asteroids) can
thrust about the arena, rebounding off the walls. There is a lot of
inertia, so you must be careful and keep your ship under control. If you
are not quick to destroy all the enemy drones, one of the drones begins
to rocket around the arena, firing its missiles everywhere. There are
loads of options in the game. You can play with keys, joystick or
paddle. You can change the amount of ships you start with. And you can
change the background colours and the colours of the ships. Overall,
this is a game that really shows what the Vic 20 is capable of.
My Score - 10/10
I love this game. It is a fairly simple painting game where
you must paint the whole screen with your paint. You fill up your brush
with paint from your "home base". As you move your man around the screen
he leaves a trail of paint behind him. But watch out! When you paint
over a monster, he begins to chase you around the screen. Monsters are
invisible until they are painted over. You then have to continue
painting while avoiding the monsters. (two per screen). Monsters can
only travel on painted areas, which allows you to paint creatively to
try and trap the monsters for a little while. As you paint a gauge
slowly runs down until you are out of paint. You must then return to
your "home base" to fill up again. The graphics in the game are pretty
good. I particularly like the monsters. Lots of colour is used well.
Sound is great. When you paint there is a good slopping noise. It is a
very addictive game, but it does get a bit repetitive. A bit more
variation and it would have scored a point higher. Slap Dab comes only
on tape, and it is an unexpanded game. It is amazing what programmers
could do in 3k.
My Score - 8/10
(Tonks is a
reader of Retrogaming Times since issue 6. He is married and has
two young sons who also love spending a lazy Sunday afternoon playing
with Dad's ever expanding videogame collection. Tonks can be reached at
Pac-Man (Atari 1982) A-
Pac-Man not only passes the test of time, it actually
improves with age! I swear I have more fun playing this now than I did
twenty years ago. Boy, I can’t wait for another 20 years to pass – then
it will really be awesome! Seriously though, this cartridge must have
been a slice of heaven back in 1982. The maze, sound effects and
gameplay are nearly identical to the original arcade game – down to the
intermissions! The gameplay is FAST, noticeably faster than the arcade,
which makes it more fun and challenging in my opinion. Blinky is
particularly aggressive. The wobbly 5200 controllers might cause you to
miss a few turns at first, but they actually work well once you get a
feel for them. The only fault I could find with the graphics is the
single-colored ghosts which look like they belong in the 2600 version.
But with eight difficulty levels, Pac-Man is always a good time.
Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 1983) A
Little. Yellow. Different. Better. Not only is this a better
port of the arcade game that 5200 Pac-Man, but the changing mazes and
bouncing fruit make it a better game in general. It may run a little
slower than 5200 Pac-Man, but the graphics are much higher in
resolution, and the mazes and heart-warming intermissions are identical
those found in the original game. The ghosts now have white eyes and the
fruits are easy to distinguish. Unlike the ultra-fast 5200 Pac-Man, this
game plays at about the same speed at its arcade counterpart. You get
five lives to start with, but this is offset by smarter ghosts that tend
to change directions unexpectedly. With solid control and a variety of
skill levels, Ms. Pac-Man is practically flawless.
Jr. Pac-Man (Atari 1984) A
Jr. Pac-Man is remarkably good but often lost in the shadow
of his parents. This new edition added something quite innovative –
mazes so big that they don’t even fit on the screen! That’s right, as
you move Jr. around, the screen scrolls sideways to display the part of
the maze you are working on. You’d think it might slow down the action,
but in fact Jr. Pac-Man is faster and wilder than its parents. The
screen scrolls relatively smoothly, and our little hero zips around with
unabashed youthful exuberance. The graphic quality of the maze and
ghosts are about the same as Ms. Pac-Man, but these huge mazes are much
more satisfying to clear! Instead of fruit bouncing around, there are
little toys, although it's often hard to tell what they are. The control
is excellent. The only thing missing is intermissions! Jr. Pac-Man is
only available from www.atariage.com,
so I recommend you head on over and buy a copy.
Super Pac-Man (Atari 1984) D
How can you screw up a Pac-Man game? By tinkering with the
formula too much and creating an ugly-looking game with confusing
gameplay. This is one Pac-Man incarnation that no one loved, and few
even liked. The gameplay is unnecessarily complicated. Instead of eating
dots, there are objects like fruit and hamburgers housed in areas of the
screen enclosed by gates. By touching scattered keys, you can open these
gates and access the items. In addition to the standard power-pills,
there are also “super” pills that transform you into Super Pac-Man, who
is twice the size of the normal Pac-Man. Super Pac-Man can eat right
through gates and is not harmed by the ghosts (they get “skinny” to show
their fear). Unfortunately, Super Pac-Man isn’t a good fit for the
narrow maze corridors, and controlling him is like driving a car around
your kitchen. Another problem is that when you eat a power-pill the
ghosts flash blue and yellow. Not only does this look awful, but it’s
hard to distinguish from the normal ghost colors which include blue and
purple. There are some timed bonus stages thrown in where you can run
free in a ghost-less maze, but it’s not particularly fun. And every
level is the same boring maze layout. To be fair, this is a very close
port of the arcade game, so if you’re one of the five people who liked
that, you won’t be disappointed. Otherwise, I’d only recommend this to
people who don’t want to have fun with their video games – namely
collectors. Super Pac-Man for the 5200 is only available at
Want to read more? I have over 1850 reviews on my site! Check it out
It is always fun to
show a young gamer some of your old games and check out that look on
their face. You know the one, where they wonder how someone can enjoy a
game with such primitive graphics and most being made up of a single
level. In an age where you have games that let you explore entire
cities as well as jump from planet to planet, it can be a bit strange to
play a simple game like Space Invaders or Asteroids. But there is a
draw to these games that many new games cannot offer. This draw is
quick gameplay that is simple and addicting. That is it in a nutshell.
While a game like
Grand Theft Auto or Final Fantasy may offer a ton more than Pitfall or
Missile Command, they require something that many gamers do not have,
lots of time. You need to put aside hours to sit down and play these
games, while you can play a quick game of Keystone Kapers or Jungle Hunt
in less than 15 minutes before work or while you are waiting for a pot
of water to boil. Try doing that with most modern games and you end up
being late to work or burning a pot.
So while the new
games do offer a different and very enjoyable experience, the classic
games also offer a great video game experience in a easy to fit in your
schedule size. So when you do not have time for a full course video
game meal, pull out some classic games and enjoy a quick snack. And
like potato chips, you may find that you cannot play just one!
For this month's helping of the Vault, I have two commercials for a pair
of Atari arcade ports: Ms. Pac-Man and Vanguard. I also have some more
info on the upcoming CD.
Both commercials can be downloaded from The Old Computer Dot Com
This commercial features three game players in some white room, trying
out Atari's latest shooter, Vanguard. We watch them as they go through
the games levels, each claiming to be an expert on that part of the
game. Then along comes the stereotypical big dumb jock, who takes the
joystick and attacks the game's boss, the Gond.
"Watch all of us play one game together."
"Say, you think we should turn around and see what's behind us?"
"My turn, little men."
This commercial featuring the first lady of the arcades
features several scenes that may not go together on paper. First we find
a trio of kids in a locker room. One of them asks another, "Hey Joey,
what's she really like?" Joey answers excitedly," She's the most
exciting woman I ever met," making the others go, "Yeah?"
Suddenly we cut to some gameplay footage with the announcer saying,
"Atari introduces the woman of the year, Ms. Pac-Man! Just like the
arcade classic, four different screens, floating fruit, even pretzels!"
Next the Ms. herself bursts in and does a short dance number, singing,
"Honey, dont'cha know, I'm more than Pac-Man with a bow!"
And the finish: "Reach for Ms. Pac-Man. REACH FOR ATARI!!"
"You do know she's only a game sprite, right?"
The Ms. herself, in all her 2600 glory.
Not only can she chomp ghosts, she can dance and sing too.
Don't forget, she's more than Pac-Man with a bow.
Now I want to talk about the CD I'm working on, so you don't get the
wrong idea. First off, I'm not going to just cobble together all the
videos I downloaded off the Internet and burn them to a CD. I want to
put some real effort into this. Here's the facts thus far:
1. The Commercial Vault CD is just that: a CD. It's not a Video CD or
DVD or anything like that. This does require a CD-Rom to work. You'll
also need Internet Explorer, but not the Internet. This is because the
interface for the CD is basically a bunch of HTML files.
2. All the clips will be in MPEG format. This way you can enjoy the
clips on almost any computer, without the need for special players or
codes. Besides, MPEGs have much better quality than RealPlayer and
Quicktime, so that's a bonus.
3. So I'm not accused of stealing other people's work, I'm recording all
the video clips myself. However I will still accept help where I can get
it. If any of you wish to donate some clips, I'll be sure to give you
4. It's just going to be video game commercials. No computer ads, like
Apple or Commodore. The Atari computers may still get in; I haven't
5. The CD will have more than just commercials already on the Internet
in some form. You'll find a few rare and exclusive ones as well.
That's all I got so far. I still don't know when the CD Will be
released, or how many clips will be on the disc. If you have any
questions, comments, or whatever, beep me at
That's all for now.
By the way, Stardate 7800 will return next month, so don't worry.
Here’s another 20th Anniv. Many Faces
of, as we salute the 1983 home computer game
"Jumpman" and its sequel "Jumpman Junior", also released in
1983. All the same contestants return from last month, and again
all were made by Epyx. Funny thing is that
"Pitstop" was made on cart and its
sequel only on disk. "Jumpman" is the other way around - on disk and
its sequel "Jumpman Junior" is on a
cartridge. Was this to deter piracy? Epyx
knew we liked the original - so we’d buy the cart but could not copy
it. If so, hopefully the sequel secured more royalties or profit
"Jumpman" is one of those really good games that I unfortunately put
aside, for too long - with hopes of coming
back again to complete the job of learning and
mastering each level – ultimately to complete each mission.
Both the original and sequel are a type of game usually referred
to as a
Collect‘em Ups. As this name implies, you collect objects on the
screen to complete each level, and typically,
one or more of the following change from level
to level: the level’s layout, theme or design; the number and
location of the objects to collect; varying enemies, but usually
some common to most levels; unique hazards or
changes to the layout as you collect objects;
traps and surprises; limited extra skills, abilities or
magic for our hero. Most Collect’em Ups are of the platform
each level is exactly one full screen. I may be in the minority, but I
also consider that there is a second type, being similar to
adventure games, where the level is bigger
than one screen, but the main object is still
to collect all or a certain number of prizes to complete each level.
In either case, the faster you collect the objects, the more
points you earn, and in some cases the bonus
timer also represents your current life, which
you lose if it expires. If you enjoy games like "Lode Runner",
"Wizard", "Boulderdash", "Miner 2049er" & "Space Taxi", then you’ll
surely like "Jumpman" & "Jumpman Junior" as
well. Another common denominator to these
games (which is second nature now days) is the naming of each level
or round – really cool stuff back then - and adding a little
re-playability factor, as you want to know what every level is called.
Some Collect’em Ups (Miner 2049er) force you to collect all the
prizes on each level in the same life, and if
not, start collecting them all over again -
very frustrating. "Jumpman" counts every prize only once and even
if you fall to your death, you’ll still get credit. Not to
mention that while falling if you are lucky
you’ll fall onto more prizes and collect them,
with the possibility of completing the level - and if so, that
"Jumpman" is not lost. It’s not over until those stars dance around
Jupiter "Jumpman" must defend the Jupiter headquarters from invading
Alienators & defuse the bombs they’ve laid in each of the 30
levels of its skyscrapers. Without spilling
the beans, I’ll just give away the names of
the first 8 levels: "Easy Does it"; "Robots I"; "Bombs Away"; "Jumping
Blocks"; "Vampire"; "Invasion"; "Grand Puzzle I"; and " Builder".
[From the manual] You’ll see a skyscraper
made up of girders, ladders, bombs, and
sometimes floating elevators, up-ropes, and down-ropes. During play
you’ll encounter many hazards, such as
speeding bullets, floating blocks, pesky
robots and other unpleasant visual shocks.
Home Version Similarities: Except those in <>: all home versions have:
A demo of sorts <AP2>; 5 game variations, Easy
(levels 1-8), Intermediate (levels 9-18)
<AP2>, Advanced (levels 19-30), the Grand Loop (all 30
levels), and Random (levels 9-30 random order), a great option;
names (theme) to each level; choice of 1 to 4
players; 8 choices for on-screen game speed
(changeable before each new life or level); saves high scores to
disk; congratulatory screen for when you finish - "Mission
Completed". The addition of a multi-player
(4) option is usually not significant
enhancement, but it is here - and I recommend trying it for two reasons.
1) While learning the levels, it is best to practice over and
over again the same level, so why not just
make it 4 times in succession; and 2) because
"Jumpman" is a diskette based game, by practicing or playing this
way, you’ll save wear and tear on the disk & drive, as the
players each play one after another until they
complete the level or end their game, and then
the next level loads from disk. Obviously a better option would have
been to allow practicing any level, any time, but hey it’s only
1983. One significant problem that I hated,
back then and now, is referred to as a double
death. The Bombs Away (level 3) and maybe others the enemies are
not reset, so be careful as you can get killed twice for only 1
miscue (seen on the C64 & 8 Bit so far).
Home versions: All by Epyx & Automated Simulations
unless noted, design, program & music by Randy Glover in ‘83
Commodore 64, Atari 8 bit, Apple II
Sequel: Jumpman Junior
Bronze Medal: Apple II
My first reaction was getting bored
watching the screen slowly scroll down to
begin each level. Since this was a common graphics technique back in
the late 1970s’ and early 80’s, there’s no penalty here.
Gameplay is impressive (9) with incredible
variety and options. It may seem to be a
simple game, but there are a huge number of game elements and many
surprises hidden here, just not all used at once. The puzzle
levels are especially unique. Missing from
the AP2 version is the choice of the
Intermediate level. The Addictiveness is enjoyable (8), but loses a
little for the added difficulty of the
controls and glitch(es) in getting stuck on
ladders – not seen on other versions. [This is not the same glitch (or
feature) that allows one to climb too far up a ladder and then
fall off it.] Here, you get stuck on ladders
with the only escape being to Jump off -
clearly a bug – apparently unique to the AP2 version. The Random game
is great for giving you a chance to see and
practice any level above 8, albeit not when
you want, but makes it addictive. The Graphics are (7) very good,
but could be better. On a screen by screen basis, every level on
every version is perhaps a 6, but factor in
the huge variety of enemies, hazards and other
tricks, traps, changes in layout, changes in enemy movement . . .
and there is an awful lot more going on graphically that most
people give this game credit for, or when
taken at a glance. The Sound is mediocre
(5), missing a lot of effects and not much music, not to mention the
usual penalty of having crummy internal audio
only. Controls are effective (7), but
degraded by poor programming. This game is called "Jumpman" and the
actual JUMPING and moving are split. Jumpman moves only via the
joystick but the Jump is accomplished by the
<Apple key>, not the joystick fire button.
Poor choice. Even if they were combined, it still seems that
there is some slop in the code that makes it harder (unforgiving)
to maneuver here than the other version.
You’ll die early and often.
Silver Medal: Atari 8 bit
My first reaction was the only
drawback may be that this game never made it
to cart format – so that more players today will discover it. This game
is quite a gem, on all versions, and you may
find it to be very addicting and deserving of
much more accolades that I can offer. Gameplay is outstanding
(9) and extremely creative. Addictiveness is super (9) and you’ll want
to complete all the levels and keep coming
back to improve your time and bonuses. The
only negative is that there is no pause, nor did Randy Glover
program a stop/pause in the action between player turns or
levels. Major Bummer! There is a slight
delay/warning for player # 1, 2, 3, 4 to swap
the joystick. Graphics are simple yet (7) very good and creative and
combine many elements when you look at the overall game. Better
color, more multi-color objects and more
animation and enemies at the same time would
have appeased the critics. Sound is (8) enjoyable, with nice music
between levels, as you die and sufficient effects to enhance the
game. The most dramatic effect is combined
with graphics for the crumbling downward
scrolling when your last life is lost. This cool, but otherwise
unimportant effect only made it to this (possibly the first)
version out of the 6 combined Jumpman games
reviewed here. Controls are perfect (10). A
bit rare to find the original disk now days.
Commodore 64 (44)
My first reaction was - no
surprises here. Use the same scores and
comments from the Atari 8 bit version again – plus . . . the ladders
bug has been fixed so that you cannot climb
too far and fall off. Graphics are the best
here (8), sharp and more detail and color, plus multi-colored
objects. It is likely that this version is the most common on
diskette as well.
The Alienators have previously attacked the Command Station in
"Jumpman". In "Jumpman Junior", they are now
invading the Substation on the far side of
Jupiter. Jupiter’s super secret agent, Jumpman, tries desperately to
restore communications, he sends an emergency request to you, his
promising apprentice, to drive back the
Alienators by defusing all the bombs
throughout the substation.
Other Similarities: Except those in <>: all home versions have: The
same format as "Jumpman", with
additional hazards – moving walls and electrocution traps. Still 1 to 4
players, but there are no game variations – just 12 levels, which
become random, only after you complete the
first 12 in sequence.
Each player’s speed is now set at the beginning of the game only, but
displayed on screen.
Home versions: All by Epyx & Automated Simulations
unless noted, design, program & music by Randy Glover in ‘83
Commodore 64, Atari 8 bit, Colecovision (‘84 programmed
by Chris Capener)
Rumor Mill (Epyx had several TI-99 titles in the works, including this
Bronze Medal: Atari
8 Bit (42)
My first reaction was there are only 12 levels. Did Epyx have an
in-house "Jumpman" construction set/kit or
design competition for this sequel? Perhaps
their entire staff contributed to these additional unique & killer
levels to further challenge us. Although there are cosmetic
changes, the Gameplay for the sequel remains
outstanding (9) on all versions. Addictiveness
is enjoyable (8), with even more creative levels, but you’ll
probably not have quite as much fun as the original. The
difficulty and lack of any options or randomizer make it much harder to
play all the levels. So . . . you’ll have to earn it. But a
quick intro provides a screen shot of each of
the 12 levels - not seen on any other
version. The Graphics remain very good (7), but are still a little dull
compared to the other versions. The Sound is pleasant (8) on all
versions, but once again, only the Atari has
the crumbling screen effect when you lose your
final life. Controls are perfect (10) on all versions. These
carts are rare, the hardest to find, but you may find a bootleg
Colecovision & Commodore 64 (43)
My first reaction was how cool to see this game make it to a console.
The same scores comments as the Atari version
apply here – except . . . again the ladder
bug has been fixed so that you cannot climb too far and fall
off. The Addictiveness is superb, (9), gaining a point over the
others with the added pause ["0"] and un pause
["8"], but only if using the CV controllers.
Controls, are not quite perfect (9) when using a CV
controller for such a precise timing, high-speed moving and
jumping game. The graphics are sharp (8) and
more detailed, a step up from the Atari. This
version is a bit rare.
My first reaction was once again - no surprises here. Gets the same
scores and comments as the Atari version . .
. but the graphics on the 64 are much sharper
(8), and have more multi-colors. The carts are just slightly
uncommon, making it the best choice for you to seek out. Note
that the C64
& CV share the same set of levels, but these differ from the Atari. Any
"Jumpman" fan would want the Atari version as well.
Thanks: To Jeff Golas at the Philly Classic 4 who gave me a good price
for the complete C64 version of "Jumpman"
Final words: OK, so where is that "Jumpman"
Construction Set? & Why didn’t it come out on the Lynx (made by
Epyx)? It’s overdue, so maybe the current platforms will revive
and expand on this classic. Well, we know that
"Jumpman" is still popular today - voted as
your 14th favorite VG from 1983. Download some music for the SID
Come back next time for yet another 20th Anniversary tribute in The Many
Faces of "Frogger II: Threeedeep" on the C64, CV, 2600, 5200, 8
Bit and Apple II. Alan Hewston is can be
Hewston95@stratos.net or see his website
Currently, entry badges for MAGFest are $25 via paypal or $30 at the
door. If you can get something of a
money-order sort postmarked and in the mail
with a June date, I'll take $20 in the mail.
If you want to be a dealer at MAGFest, the tables are $90. I can't go
lower than that as we're already taking a
loss on dealer tables (I promised they'd be
less, so they are), but on the bright side, it IS lower than last year,
and it still includes one complimentary dealer's entry badge.
One thing I should point out is that we are currently advertising that
we will have a 24 hour dealer room. This does not mean that you NEED to
be at your table at the entire con, but rather
that you are able to be at your table the
entire con. MAGFest security staff will be available to watch your stuff
while you're not at your table.
We will have artist tables available *hopefully* free of charge if you
don't intend to bring your business. We won't be able to watch those
tables as closely, but roving staff will still
check on them.
The dates are set for Halloween weekend, Fri Oct 31 - Sun Nov 2, at the
Clarion Inn in Williamsburg, VA. I put a small blurb on the website's
information page about staying at the con hotel if possible,
because it really helps me. Please read it, even if you don't heed it.
It is amazing how
much difference one little button can do. Growing up in the age of
classic games where such a thing did not exist, I can say how much I
would have loved a pause button during the classic age. Imagine that
you are putting up a huge score on Pacman and nature calls. In the
past, you had to either cross your legs or end your game. But with a
pause button, you could go do your business and come back and pick up
where you left off.
While this may seem
like something trivial now, it was a big deal back then. You really had
to gut it out and keep playing. Kids have no idea how good they have
it. And don't even get me started on game saves. I could go on and on
about game saves.
What will they
ask? What will we bother to answer? Hint, it will not be where you can
download a game.
is it that all the classic games get lumped into one era, while you have
an 8-Bit, 16 Bit and so on with the newer games?
This is just my
opinion, so take it for what its worth, but I feel that is because of
the "Great Crash". Most people tend to view the video game industry as
"before the crash" and "after the crash". In actuality, there are three
distinctly different eras in the classic game age. Each one has its own
systems and battles. But with the huge success of the Atari 2600, it
helps to blur this as one could argue that the Atari 2600 was the big
winner in two of the three eras. But to give you a better idea, here is
a breakdown of the three different eras.
Era 1 - The
This era is made up of pong and pong related systems. With the a few
exceptions, this era did not offer the ability to play games on your
system that were not already programmed on it (the original Odyssey
would be one of the exceptions). This era ran from 1972 to about 1976,
when the Channel F debuted.
Era 2 - Early
This is the era when the cartridge based systems first appeared. It
started with the Channel F, but soon the Atari 2600, Odyssey 2, Bally
Astrocade, Emerson Arcadia and the Intellivision also appeared on the
market. This era also brought about the first portable cartridge based
game system (Microvision), the start of third party software, licensed
games and a whole lot more. Most of the foundation for the video game
industry began here.
Era 3 - Second
Generation Cartridge Era
After the industry had been created, the evolution began. Improvements
in graphics, sound and the size of the games were prominent in this
era. The new systems which were competing with the last generation of
systems were the Colecovision, Atari 5200 and the Vectrex. Arcade
translations became big business and there was a rush to sign as many
different arcade games to port over as possible. The level of
complexity of the games also increased as we saw more and more
multi-level games and strategy games.
Hope this helps out
a bit. As you can see, the classic age of video games was more than
just one era. Each one improved upon the previous one and new systems
came and went.
Issue is done.
Took a long time, but unlike the Rolling Stones, time was not on my
side. Been putting in major overtime at work (gotta grab it while it is
there) and there just did not seem to be any time. Hopefully it will be
fixed by next month. Well, get out to those flea markets and garage
sales and get some deals (I know they have been bone dry for me so far).
(This issue was
done while listening to No Doubt, John Mayer and Neil Young).