#80 - Page Three - April 2004
Remember these from past issues?
I had a lot of fun and should have done more, but I figured that I was
eating up too much bandwidth.
Here's just a few, not too hard and they are all the same theme.
Hint: Once you figure one out, you pretty much will get all the others.
Look for the answers at the end of the issue.
Hmmmn. I wonder if I should do some really hard ones and not give the
Tom would get flooded with email complaints.
This time (for a change), the answers will be a picture without any
Alan can be reached at Hewston95ATNOSPAMstratos.net. He edited these
while listening to "Can't take my eyes off of you". If you want the "Retrogaming
Times" to continue, please drop him a line of encouragement, as Adam,
Tonks and Alan may try to keep the magazine going . .. with Tom's
blessing of course.
I thought about
putting in some of the nice letters that people sent thanking me for all
the issues and wishing me luck, but whats the fun in that? Instead, I
will give you more of the strange and goofy letters that I have
received. Consider it one last helping of the bizarre.
Pacman and Ms. Pacman are just well...heads. How did they create Jr.
Let's just say that
those power pellets are more powerful than you ever imagined.
My friend told me that the name Coleco was the name of the person who
found the company. Is this true as it would be a strange last name.
You think that is a
strange last name, check out mine. Actually Coleco is short for the
Connecticut Leather Company. And before someone asks, Sega is short for
What did you think of the new Pitfall game? You used to review all the
remakes but I have not seen that one.
I tried a demo disk
of it and to be honest, I was not impressed. Played like a clone of
Crash Bandicoot and I was not a big fan of that game.
When listing the songs that you listened to when writing the newsletter,
why are you not listening to Pacman Fever or another video game song?
I did listen to it
in the early days and still pull it out from time to time. But even a
video game fanatic can only listen to it so many times before you want
to hear something else.
You have kids but are they video game fans or do they think their dad is
You cannot live in
our house and not like video games. Like the Wagaman residence, video
games are a staple of life. My oldest son, Alex has autism so he does
not play too many video games. About the only one that he really liked
is Mario 64. He is more into playing music on the computer very loudly
and watching his large collection of Disney DVDs and VHS tapes. My wife
is big into RPGs and puzzle games. I have twin boys that are 8 years
old and one of them, Joshua is a video game fanatic. He loves just
about any Gamecube game and right now is creating a ton of pinball
tables with Visual Pinball. His twin brother, Justin is big into roller
coaster games like Roller Coaster Tycoon and Coaster Works. And we all
enjoy a good game of Bomberman or Ooga Booga on the Dreamcast. Myself,
I mostly play MAME, Activision Anthology, Atari 80, Intellivision Lives
and Visual Pinball with a dose of Morrowind to add flavoring.
First off, I’d like to thank Peter McDuff from
the Star Trek fan club (“TrekPulse.com”) for giving me feedback on the
Many Faces of “Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator”. Peter
confirmed that there was indeed an Apple ][ version, and that its
programmer has his own web site. This of course led me to Robert.
Despite having just completed an interview for
that very same Star Trek fan club, Robert was gracious enough to do an
interview for us Retrogamers. Robert was confident that he’d have much
to tell us and he did. Only bad news is that there was too much to
include here in the Retrogaming Times. So we’ve cut it down and focus on
Robert’s stories about the Apple //, Sega, Activision and his Apple //
programming of “Ghostbusters” & “Star Trek: SOS”. The director’s cut
(full interview) will still be available at Robert’s web site. Read
about his early computer experiences, visits to TV studios for
“Tic-Tac-Dough” and “Buck Rogers” and much more at:
RT: Tell us about your earliest computer and video
game experiences, where you grew up, what was
the first computer that you used at home, school, work etc.
I was born in Hollywood, CA in 1965, and at age
8 my family moved to Granada Hills, in the San Fernando Valley (of
"Valley Girl" fame). I think my first contact with a computer came in
1976 when I was in 7th grade. My school had a mysterious room with an
old minicomputer in it (I don't remember the make or model, only that it
was about the size of a refrigerator.) I never took the class, but
managed to spend a little time in the room watching older kids load
programs from paper tape and laboriously enter programs on the teletype.
I was fascinated, but my interest never took root, because as I said, I
hated school, and math was my most-hated subject. Only older kids who
were good at math got to study on that machine.
Then one day in 1977 I had made a slight detour
on my usual route home from school, and discovered Rainbow Computing.
The front of the tiny computer store featured a rack of computer mags
like "Creative Computing" & "ROM Magazine". On a table at the back of
the store sat a stylish plastic case with an integrated keyboard hooked
up to a color television and a cassette player-- The Apple ][. And it
played games! I basically became a tolerated daily nuisance to the store
entrepreneurs Gene Sprouse and Glenn Dollar. My parents, who couldn't
afford to purchase a computer at that time, stopped expecting me home
before the store closed. I made myself useful in the store by copying
the cassette tapes on which Apple ][ programs were distributed, and Gene
and Glenn paid me in computer magazines that I took home and absorbed.
Eventually my parents scraped together enough money to buy an Apple //+
(which had an amazing 48K of RAM instead of the original 4K, and by that
time floppy drives were even available!
While hanging out at Rainbow Computing, I met
Gary J. Shannon, who is the brother of Sargon author Kathe Spracklen,
and he became something of a mentor to me. Through little programs he
wrote that did amazingly cool things in assembly language, Gary showed
me why I should be interested in going deeper into the machine. Gary
later moved to San Diego to work for arcade game manufacturer Gremlin,
which was later bought by Sega. He was my introduction to Sega where I
was hired as a programmer.
RT: So when did you first want to be a computer
programmer, or video game designer?
Pretty much from the time I played my first
RT: Were you mostly self-taught, or via magazines
and books, and did you learn much from classes?
Mostly self-taught. Most of my early experience
was acquired by reading programming guides, studying others' code, and
tons of experimentation. As time has gone on I've read many more
academic books on the subject. The primary skill that got me started was
6502 assembly programming on the Apple ][.
RT: After becoming proficient at using an Apple
][, what other computers did you use?
The 8-bit computers and game systems that I
have programmed primarily include the Apple // and its descendants, the
Atari 400/800, the Atari 2600, and the Commodore 64.
RT: What age were you when you first
wrote/published a computer/video game for any income and for whom?
I was around 14 when “Camera Obscura,” was
published by Programma International. They were the original "cassette
in a bag" software publishing company. But I don’t recall whether I
actually made any money on it.
RT: Gary Shannon helped get you a programming job
at Sega. What was your first task?
I was hired for my ability to program 6502
assembly. Mostly I studied techniques for programming the 2600, and I
started designing a stunt-car game. But I was moved to the Apple //
before that game was very far along.
RT: Tell us about getting the opportunity to
program the Apple // version of “Star Trek: SOS” and did anyone else
The move actually came as a relief to me, as I
found the Atari 2600 environment terribly restrictive when compared to
the relatively roomy Apple //. I did all the programming. One of Sega's
artists did the shapes that appear in the lower viewer. I especially
like how he drew the star base so it appears to be rotating as it comes
closer -- in the coin-op the angle is static. I did all the other art
and sound, including the front page Star Trek logo.
RT: Are you a Star Trek fan, and did you play the
arcade game “Star Trek: SOS” while making the Apple // version?
Moderately. I enjoyed watching Star Trek as a
kid, played the Star Fleet Battles board game of years ago, and watched
the first few seasons of ST:TNG. I've seen most of the Star Trek movies.
I played the arcade version tons. I essentially
didn't "convert" the game code so much as I "replicated" the coin-op
play as much as possible on the Apple //.
Screen shots of Apple ][ “Star Trek: SOS” courtesy of Robert
RT: Tell us about the Star Trek: SOS arcade
When I was hired at Sega/Gremlin, the youngest
engineer working there was Sam Palahnuk, who had designed and
co-developed the original coin-op “Star Trek: SOS” in his early 20s. Sam
was the youngest programmer Sega had hired to date until I was hired at
age 17. I received quite a bit of good-natured ribbing for it. Sam and I
subsequently became long-time friends.
RT: I tested your memory about Nomad. What can you
tell us about this enemy in “Star Trek: SOS”?
Nomad has what appears at first to be a very
evasive behavior, but actually it simply flies the same direction as the
Enterprise but at twice the speed. The wrap-around nature of the board
means that it’s always on the board somewhere, though. The trick is to
fly directly away from Nomad, and it will fly right up to you. Stop
before it touches you (or it will drain your shields,) and turn around
and shoot it. Its behavior is actually quite stupid.
RT: Thanks. Now I’m sure to improve my score a
little bit. Do you have any of the original materials from the game, any
prototype versions, earlier versions, potentially better versions? The
final production box, artwork, manual, or floppy disk?
I have the front panel of a box, which I cut
out and had displayed in a picture frame for a number of years. I have a
manual, which is a single sheet that measures 19" wide by 10" high
unfolded, printed on both sides in two colors (red and dark blue). Alas,
I currently have no scans of these materials, and do not have a scanner
RT: What can you tell us about the Apple ][
version and the speech from the arcade game?
As I recall the coin-op version had a voice
that introduced each level with "Entering Sector 3" or some sort, and
also warned of low resources. But it didn't add much to the gameplay and
there was no expectation that the Apple // version would talk, so I
didn't try to add that in.
RT: How long did it take to write the code and
what machine(s) did you use at SEGA?
It took seven or eight months, I believe. I
wrote Star Trek on an Apple // (I think it was a //e) that Sega provided
in their offices.
RT: OK, as I’m typing - it is Easter weekend, so
tell us about your Easter egg?
Sega was owned by Paramount Pictures at that
time, and there was a big push to do games based on Paramount
properties, including Star Trek. Near the completion of SOS I felt
rightfully proud of how it had turned out. While not as attractive as
the arcade version, it faithfully reproduced the gameplay and I was
pretty happy with it overall. To celebrate, I decided to put in an
easter egg that would provide me with credit (which was against Sega
policy). I programmed it such that if, during gameplay, the user blindly
typed "Who programmed this game?" It would display "ROBERT MCNALLY" at
the bottom of the screen for 30 seconds. Sadly, I made the mistake of
showing the easter egg to a couple of colleagues who I thought I could
trust, and one of them reported my escapade to my supervisor, who made
me disable the code. The release version does NOT have this code, and
contains no other easter eggs.
RT: Did you feel cheated by Management’s action?
How do you feel now that giving full credit is standard practice?
Well, I understood that not giving credit was
company policy, so I suppose I didn't feel cheated. If anything, I was
trying to cheat them by flouting their policy and putting in an easter
egg. At the same time, I felt that they had good reasons to give
programmers credit, and were not doing so to their own detriment. I felt
vindicated that giving credit became the norm.
RT: I must admit that we (I) could not confirm the
existence of an Apple // version of “Star Trek: SOS”. We knew there were
the generic Trek games, but not the arcade game SOS until we heard about
your site. Thanks for sharing with us.
I wonder if the low-key nature of the Apple
retro gaming community is basically because although the Apple // was
the first of its generation, it didn't turn out to be one of the better
overall game machines. Lack of sprite hardware, limited color palette,
lack of character-mapped graphics, lack of scrolling hardware, and lack
of multi-voice audio hardware really hampered the Apple // play
experience. I loved my Apple // days, but when I started working on the
Atari 400/800, I realized how much better those machines were for
RT: Tell us about Activision and “Ghostbusters”,
your next 8 bit programming task on the Apple ][?
I don't recall who my introduction to
Activision was, but I worked under a producer named Brad Fregger. I did
not work on anything else for Activision.
Brad Fregger at:
I vividly recall being asked by Brad to bid on
the Ghostbusters project, and after agonizing about it for a couple
days, calling him back. “So, how much do you want for the Ghostbusters
project?" Brad asked.
Well, I've thought about it a lot and I'd like
to ask for seven thousand," I said cautiously.
Immediately Brad shot back, "That's not
"What?" I choked.
"I said that's not enough. I'll give you
Of course I accepted. And while looking back on
the exchange I realize that even back then $15K was probably at the low
end of the price range for such work, I felt quite motivated to get the
job done well and on time. Essentially we both ended up feeling like we
got a good deal, so I have no regrets.
Screen shots of Apple ][ “Ghostbusters” courtesy
RT: Were you the only programmer for the Apple //
version of Ghostbusters?
I was the only programmer, and I did the
graphics and sound, including the speech.
RT: Did you play the original version much or look
at the code?
CODE: I almost never looked at the original
code. I re-wrote the program from scratch to function as much as
possible like the original, and only queried the original programmer a
couple times when I wasn't quite clear how it should act under certain
circumstances. I found a two-voice music synthesis package for the Apple
// and reverse-engineered it to figure out how it worked. My own version
included some improvements, including the ability to sync the lyrics.
The speech was not as good as I wanted it to be, but the algorithms to
encode and decode it were my own. The voice in the game is my own.
GRAPHICS: I did all the art based on the C-64
version, drawing it on graph paper and then entering tables by mentally
converting the dots on the paper into hex. The Apple // had a non-square
aspect ratio, so re-doing the art was the only way to get things to look
right, and also to line up on byte boundaries.
SOUND: I arranged the musical score myself and
typed the music and lyrics in as hex tables.
RT: Why is there only speech at the opening
credits in "Ghostbusters", and what about the music?
There is no other speech as I didn't have the
RAM to include that in the Apple // version, so I just had a "squish"
sound instead of “He slimed me!” speech sequence the C-64 had. Because
the C-64 version had independent voice synthesis and timed interrupts,
it could play music during the entire gameplay. The Apple // just didn’t
have that capability.
RT: The Apple ][ version of Ghostbusters has disk
access throughout the game. Was there any way to avoid this? Do you
recall how close you were to not having repeated disk loads?
I don't recall exactly, but I do remember that
having separate overlays for each scene made things a lot simpler.
Frankly, I never worried about those factors. But I'm sure I would have
avoided burning the disk if I felt I had a good approach to it. I
believe minimum RAM requirements were just too constricting, but I also
had a lot of time pressure to work under, so I don't recall having a lot
of time to work out a better way.
RT: Did you meet the game designer for
Ghostbusters, David Crane? Have you ever met or worked with him later or
I visited Activision when David was there, I
think, but I don't recall meeting him, and although Ghostbusters bore
his credit, I really don't recall him having anything to do directly
with the Apple
version. I have never met him since.
RT: What was your favorite system to program for
between the Apple ][, Atari 400/800 & Commodore 64?
Well, you always have fond memories of your
first. I recall my Apple // days as some of the best. But the Atari
400/800 was a very exciting platform, as its graphics and sound
capabilities were far beyond the Apple's. The Commodore programming I
did was mostly graphics utilities for in-house artists at Sega, and the
platform never really grew on me.
RT: Tell us about your gaming interests - types of
games that you like?
This is easier answered by listing the genres I
don't particularly care for: Fighting games (other than “Karate Champ”,
which was cool), Driving games (Unless they are really off-the-wall,
like “Spy Hunter” or “Stun Runner”), Sports games (I have never been a
fan of team sports. My grandfather was a golf fan, so for that reason I
kind of enjoyed working on “PGA Tour Golf”.)
RT: Give us your top 10 favorite computer and
video games from the 80’s?
Like many, I spent endless hours at my local
arcades playing the best games the 80s had to offer. Cutting my original
list to 10 was tough, but here goes... (alphabetical order)
Beneath Apple Manor - First Apple game I saw
hooked up to a coin slot!
Castle Wolfenstein - The 2-D forerunner of
today's 3-D FPS
Crazy Climber - Blisters on the knuckles of
Lemmings - Brilliant concept, perfectly
Marble Madness - Loved the attention to detail
Mario Bros. - Deceptively friendly- play it
2-player competitively and it rocks!
Populous - The first "god game"
Star Raiders - Flawless
Tempest - The best color vector game ever
Tetris - Addiction reduced to its simplest
RT: No doubt you played games throughout this era
as your resume suggests. Did it just become a job at some point, or did
you make an effort to remain working in the games industry?
Oh, games are in my blood alright. It was never
"just a job" for me, it has always been a labor of love. I've always
loved being able to write computer programs that average people can
understand and enjoy, and games are at the pinnacle of that concept.
RT: Tell us about your family, wife, any children
and your brothers.
I have been married to my wife Rebecca for
almost 10 years and have a 3-year old son, Bevan. I also have two
younger brothers, both of whom are involved in the computer games
industry. Steven is a video and computer game designer and Michael, who
has worked for the past 3 years on developing artificial intelligence
technology for games. He has just accepted an offer to work at Google!
[ Insert picture showing Robert: TBD ]
TBD photo courtesy of Robert
RT: Do you hope to share your games, and those
from your generation with your son?
Definitely. They're part of my history. In
particular my friend and collaborator Joe Pearce has revived Inherit the
Earth for Windows and Mac (http://www.wyrmkeep.com),
and I'm looking forward to sharing it with my 3 year old when he's just
a little older.
RT: Were you aware of the Retrogaming Scene and
how much gamers are still enjoying these games and systems 20 years
Although I'm not into the scene much, I'm well
aware of it, and am very happy to see the old systems and games being
RT: Do you currently have any emulators or old
systems from back then?
I'm a MAME fan, and still visit some of my
favorite coin-op ROMs from time to time. I used an Apple // emulator to
get screen shots of some of my old projects for my web site. Sadly, I no
longer have any of my old hardware. It just never seemed like a priority
to preserve it. I actually did preserve the case from my family's
original Apple ][ for many years, intending to make an herb planter out
of it. When I moved out of my last place I forgot to take it with me and
landlord threw it out thinking I had abandoned
RT: After working on titles like, “Star Trek”,
“Ghostbusters”, ”Mr. Robot & His Robot Factory”, “Quintette”,
“Ebonstar”, “The Jetsons”, “PGA Tour Golf” and a few others, did you get
pulled away from programming games, and wished you could have done more?
My interests have grown to include areas
outside of games as such, but I would still like to create more games
(or game-like projects) at some point.
RT: Your resume shows that you continued to work
on some game projects, but not just games. Is it just the way the cards
fell, or because you did not stay at one company long, or with one
I think that a big part of it is that my
interests are all over the place, and that I grow restless when I feel
like I'm doing the same thing over and over again. I never want to live
the same day twice.
RT: This seems to have made you very well rounded
(programming skills in multiple languages, multiple systems and
operating systems, controllers, graphics, production, edutainment,
productivity etc.). Looks like you’re a ‘jack of all trades’. Has this
helped you to continue to write your own ticket in terms of what
companies, or what projects you’d like to work on?
Of course the flip-side to the "Jack of all
trades..." saying is "...and a master of none." But I think in all the
time and experience I've had, I have mastered one fundamental and fairly
rare skill: communicating successfully with, and facilitating
communication between, creative, technical, and business interests. I
speak all three "languages" fluently, and enjoy being the bridge between
parties that often must work together, but have intrinsically
conflicting ideals and goals. The thing that keeps this skill lively and
honed for me is that I don't set myself in a category apart from
artists, programmers or business people -- I actually practice all three
disciplines on an ongoing basis -- I am an artist, an engineer, and a
businessperson. My work in games really got me moving in this direction,
as game development is a quintessentially interdisciplinary process.
RT: Tell us about your game playing and work
experience in the next generation of computers – the MAC, Amiga, Atari
ST, PC and today?
Rainbow Computing was one of the first stores
to offer the Apple Lisa, the forerunner of the Macintosh. Of course I
played with it extensively (I still have a Lisa paperweight on my desk.)
I admired its ground-breaking approach to user interface, but at $10K I
would never buy one. When the Macintosh appeared in 1984 I knew this was
the wave of the future, and bought my first Mac, the 512K model, in
1985. The only viable development language for the Mac at that time was
68000 assembly, so that was what I mastered first, and my first
commercial Macintosh product was a port of the C-64 planetarium package
“Sky Travel”. Later I moved to programming in C.
In retrospect I think that my progression
through languages made a lot of sense-- Basic to get my feet wet, 6502
assembly to learn how to get performance out of a system, then 68000
assembly to understand the next-generation processor architecture, and
then C as a sort of compact shorthand for assembly. Eventually of course
I learned C++, Java, and a host of other languages as well.
The Macintosh became my "home" system. I use it
for everything I can, and I also run Mac and Linux servers in my office.
I have a PC laptop I use when I must. Even though the PC gaming world
has always been much more robust than the Mac gaming world, I just can't
stomach using Windows as my every day operating system. Elegance and
aesthetics mean a lot to me, and the Mac has it all over Windows in
those areas. The Mac took a homogenous approach to its media hardware
(you pretty much used whatever Apple provided, and it "just worked"
trouble free, and programmers had to change very little as the Mac
hardware advanced) and the PC took a rather heterogeneous approach (you
picked from the plethora of video and sound cards available and had
endless compatibility issues, but when it worked, it worked well,
especially for games). The Amiga was a great games and multimedia
machine in its day, but it's architecture was closely tied to its
generation of hardware, and the state of the art just ended up passing
RT: What are you currently working on and where do
you see your career going in the future?
For the past couple years my big project has
not been a game, but a toy. PixelBlocks were invented by Jay Simmons
over 15 years ago. In 2001, Jay offered me the opportunity to bring
PixelBlocks to market. I accepted and brought together four other
talented partners to start PixelBlocks LLC. I also developed the company
web site. PixelBlocks launched in October 2003, and have received a
The best way to stay current on what I'm
involved with is to check out my personal web site. I've had a web
presence since 1995, and I always add links to ventures I'm closely
involved with to the link bars featured on every page.
I'm very happy that retrogaming will always be
there when I feel like walking down memory lane. It always startles me
how much I remember when I browse web sites about, and play games from,
that brief but golden age.
RT: Again, many thanks for your time.
Thanks for the opportunity to "unpack" a lot of
my personal/professional history-- I've really enjoyed it. Thanks to the
following sites for helping jog my memory:
The Killer List of Video Games:
The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers:
[I'm listed in the Giant List as McNally, Bob,
even though I always go by Robert.]
Robert C McNally can be reached at:
Alan Hewston can be reached at
and his lovely family)
Sometimes you stumble across
something that you did not even think existed. While at a retail store,
I came across a collection of games from a company called Cosmi. One of
them was Forbidden Forest. I read the back and sound like the
original. But it also came with a $20.00 price tag and I was not going
to pay that for the chance it was a remake of the beloved Commodore 64
game. Well, I went online and found out it was remake of the original.
And I also found that I could get half the collection for a much lower
price on ebay. The one at the retail store was 20 programs with half
being arcade games and half being puzzle games. I only really wanted
Forbidden Forest. The one on ebay only had the 10 arcade games with
Forbidden Forest and I picked it up for $3.00 plus shipping. Much
better than the $20.00 retail price. Now onto a review of the game.
This version of Forbidden
Forest keeps the spirit of the original alive. The basic game is the
same with you going through the Forbidden Forest trying to kill all the
unfriendly creatures that populate the woods. But this time you are
actually moving through the forest. You are still armed with a bow and
arrow and have to load the bow like before. The creatures still come
after you and many of your favorites are back like the spider and
dragon. But this time there are more creatures and they are alot harder
to kill. Some take multiple hits and this time they can move around
you. The game is very similar to a Tomb Raider as it is the same view.
You do switch to a first person angle when you are shooting at the
The game offers alot of
stuff the original did not. There are over 100 levels, items you can
pick up and different weather patterns. The game is pretty involved for
a remake of a game that most people have never heard of. While the
graphics are quite nice, they are not exactly amazing. But I found the
game to be quite addictive, much like the original. But enough of
talking about this game, for the low price it is a no brainer. If you
like the original, you should like this one as it is better than the
Forbidden Forest sequel aptly titled Forbidden Forest II. It also has
the original game included, so you can enjoy the new or the classic for
one very low price (shop around, you should find it pretty cheap, I
did). Here are some links for you to read more about it and see some
The official Cosmi website.
The website of the
programmers with some nice screenshots.
Here is the unofficial
website for the original game. The memories!
Billy the Block, as Tom calls our beloved hero
from the Atari 2600 game "Adventure" is still part of the Retrogaming
scene. Billy will return to action in the upcoming Atariage.com homebrew
"Adventure ] [", by Ron "Cafeman" Lloyd. Besides this new Atari 5200
game, Billy has not landed many good paying jobs, and he's had some hard
times over the years. The picture above is Billy finding ways to pay the
bills - using himself as a 3-D billboard to advertise for classic games.
Alan came up with “Billy in 3-D” idea and Tim
Roach brought it to fruition. First pulling in some classic game
system/computer logos, then modifying them to work with the 3-D CAD
graphics packages. A final touch using yet another graphics tool to give
Billy some aging (texture). Tom thinks that the 3-D Billy might make a
good mascot for the possible continuation of the newsletter. That is,
staff Writers Adam King & Alan Hewston will try to keep the “Retrogaming
Times” going, and Tom has given us his blessing, but we have not settled
on the revised name as yet. The frontrunner is the "Retrogaming
Monthly". We'll plan to continue regular features, like the "Many Faces
of", the "Commercial Vault", "Vic 20 Reviews by Tonks", 8 Bit Face Off”
Stay tuned for more about a possible
continuation of this newsletter, but probably with a 1 month delay. If
you have any feedback on keeping this newsletter/magazine alive, and/or
would like to see “Billy the Block” above be the new mascot, contact
it's the last issue of Retrogaming Times. Time for one last article
about the wonder computer C64 me thinks. Question is, what subject to
write about? Well collecting is always in, so we can focus on that. And
cartridges are always cool, and in the C64's case, an oft-overlooked
part of the games inventory. So what better way to promote the two by
writing something about must-have cartridges? So for all the folks out
there reading this, here's the guide to 10 carts you should consider
picking up. Fortunately there are very few compatibility problems
between regions, so any of these should work fine on NTSC or PAL
machines. So in no particular order here...
Wizard of Wor (Commodore)
Admittedly whilst Commodore released more cartridges by far than any
other manufacturer, most of them were not that great. This was
especially noticeable when it came to the arcade conversions, where all
of them suffered from being early releases and not capturing the essence
and feel of the original. Except this one. It looks and sounds like the
arcade for starters, even more so once a Magic Voice Speech module is
attached to the computer. Commodore programmed some support within a few
games for the device, and this happens to be one of them. All the
features are present, including 2-player mode and the ability to shoot
the other participant. Even better, because it is a Commodore cart, it
isn't that hard to track down either.
Rating: 9/10 Rarity: 3/10
Wizard of Wor isn't the only Commodore produced cartridge worthy of
purchase. Andy Finkel wrote the conversion of Lazarian for the machine,
and whilst competent, it wasn't that good overall. DragonsDen is a much
better game that strangely takes a lot of inspiration from said arcade
title. The parallels between corresponding stages of each game can't be
a coincidence, indeed Commodore probably got Finkel to write this clone
before they got the license to do the real conversion. It looks a lot
nicer, and plays a hell of a lot better however. Take your knight and
flying horse and defeat the dragons invading the land. A solid
difficulty and limited opportunities to continue make this game quite
Rating: 8/10 Rarity: 3/10
Gyruss (Parker Brothers)
Most of the arcade conversions available on cartridge aren't actually
that bad. Not poor, but also not of the high standard required and set
to be considered great or classic. Thankfully one of my favourite
coin-ops also has a top-notch conversion available on the C64. Bringing
all the goodness of the 360 degree action to the small screen is no
small feat, especially considering the programming limitations at the
time and the number of enemies flying about at once. Even the bonus
stages are faithful in their formation and AI. True, it is somewhat
easier than the arcade parent, but this just means you get to enjoy it
longer. The cartridge comes at a slight premium however and you may have
to pay a bit more than expected to get it than the rarity suggests.
Rating: 9/10 Rarity: 3/10
Last Ninja Remix (System 3)
What do you get when you take the best entry in the series (Last Ninja
2), improve the graphics a bit more over the existing brilliance, add an
intro sequence, remix the music and release it on cart primarily for the
new C64GS owners? This entry in the top 10 list, that's what. Set in New
York, your task once again is to track down and defeat your enemy
Kunitoki. Isometric full coloured 3D graphics combined with a thumping
soundtrack (though not quite as good as the original score) and some
tricky puzzles to solve (including building your own weapons) make for a
classic release. System 3 also improved the scoring and time functions
so you can track how well and how quickly you can complete the game.
Rating: 9/10 Rarity: 5/10
Myth (System 3)
Arguably the best cartridge available for the C64. Originally released
on tape/disk, it was repackaged with extra presentation and the instant
loading of the cartridge format. Not every kid gets to be a hero, now
you have the chance to battle through time against demons and gods to
stop the end of the universe. Four massive loads, plenty of puzzles and
tricks, and enough arcade action to satisfy any gamer. Add on top some
trademark System 3 quality graphics and sound and there is not a single
weak point about the program. Unless you happen to be a gaming wimp and
can't take the fairly sizeable difficulty curve present. Due to demand
and the fairly low sales, expect this to set you back a little bit on
eBay etc when purchasing.
Rating: 9/10 Rarity: 6/10
Diamond Mine (Roklan)
And now for a game and a company many people probably have never heard
about. Despite their relative obscurity in the minds of most games
players (though Atari computer owners may well have heard of them more
than most), Roklan actually released some decent games for the C64. Best
of the lot is probably this little gem (hah hah). You have to dig
through the soil, collect diamonds for processing and avoid or shoot the
nasties roaming about. You get more points for delivering and collecting
larger numbers of gems at the same time, but as they trail behind you in
formation, make it more likely for the nasties to "steal" them as you
explore. Balance and risk, a classic gaming trait. If anything, try it
out in emulation first as it's hard to find, even on eBay.
Rating: 8/10 Rarity: 6/10
Battle Command (Ocean)
Originally released on the Amiga, the game was then successfully and
impressively converted to the C64. A criticism of the cartridge format
was that games often didn't actually take advantage of it properly; this
happens to be one case where it does. Command your battle tank in eight
challenging missions, taking out enemy facilities and generally causing
trouble in a Battlezone like way. People used to point that the C64 has
a weak point doing vector graphics, either line or filled-in. This game
happens to show that filled in work can move smoothly and quickly (at
least a hell of a lot faster than Freescape!) when needed. Backing this
up is a complex, but very arcade orientated mission structure and
control scheme, making it easy to get into but very hard to complete.
Rating: 8/10 Rarity: 4/10
Navy SEALS (Ocean)
Or a demonstration in not only making a great game from a film license,
but making one from a crappy film license at that. The game structure
follows the film somewhat; first part has you disarming the Stinger
missiles stolen by the terrorists, and then there is the escape to the
waiting sub. What sets this apart is that the game is highly tactical
for an arcade platform shooter, requiring some pinpoint accuracy and
on-the-fly decision making. Oh and did I mention the one-hit kills?
Whilst your men can survive some falls, one bullet puts them out of
action and with only 5 men in the team, you can quickly find yourself in
trouble. It isn't impossible to complete, but it is highly rewarding,
superb to look at and listen to, with some impeccable presentation to
Rating: 8/10 Rarity: 3/10
Moon Patrol (Atarisoft)
Well there had to be one game from the Atari stables in the list
somewhere. For whatever reason, this conversion over the 11 others
available for the C64 seems to stand out. Sure it's a little rough and
ready around the edges, with some slightly blocky graphics and dismal
sound effects, but there are two issues massively in its favour. Firstly
it is pretty much spot on accuracy wise when it comes to the arcade
machine. All stages are present and seemingly correct in their hair
pulling frustration. Secondly it is just fun to play. Always a rather
important part of the games playing experience, and one sadly many
producers seem to overlook nowadays. It is also probably the easiest to
find of the ten carts here, so no worries about missing out there.
Rating: 7/10 Rarity: 2/10
Powerplay (Disc Company)
It's actually a compilation of 3 Microprose (at the time) owned games.
The newer technology allowed cartridges to go over and above the old 16k
limit and most took advantage of this. The fact this cart contains three
classic games in Rick Dangerous, Microprose Soccer and Stunt Car Racer
might have something to do with its desirability and value. Rick
Dangerous is Core pre-Tomb Raider, and a great pastiche of Indiana Jones
and puzzle solving. Microprose Soccer is Sensible Software personified
with a brilliant overhead perspective football game. And Stunt Car Racer
is a definitive early 3D racer with plenty of bite, challenge and
breath-taking jumps. If you haven't got any of these already, then what
are you waiting for?!
Rating: 9/10 Rarity: 5/10
One last time
we will sit in on a session of Video Game Therapy with Dr. I. N. Sane.
Listen in as he talks to Mappy about some moral dilemmas.
Dr. Sane -
Tell me Mappy, what is bothering you?
Mappy - Well
Doc, I have been a police mouse and I have been busting these cats who
steal goods. And this was fine as I kept finding these houses full of
stolen merchandise. But then something happened that changed my whole
perspective of my job.
Dr. Sane -
What happened that changed your perspective?
Mappy - Some
kids were playing Mappy and one of the kids said to the other "I don't
think that Mappy is really the good guy. I think he is the crook and
the cats are trying to stop him from stealing all the stuff."
Dr. Sane -
And this disturbed you?
Mappy - Yeah
Doc. I always thought I was the good guy, but when I sat and thought
about it that night, he had a point. I am the one breaking into their
house and taking their stuff. I never actually arrest anyone, instead I
am chased by the so called crooks.
Dr. Sane -
That is interesting. How does it make you feel?
Mappy - I am
not sure Doc. I am wearing a police uniform and I am the star of the
game, but maybe it is a setup. Maybe I have been tricked into thinking
I am breaking up a crime ring, only to be the criminal. It is enough to
make me question my existence.
Dr. Sane -
Have you ever talked to your boss or supervisor?
Mappy - I
have never met him or her for that matter. I just keep going to these
houses and taking all the possessions. I never questioned what I did
before, but now I do not know. I need help Doc.
Dr. Sane - We
will schedule some tests for you and try to have a group session with
the cats. We will see if we can get to the root of this problem.
This is not in place of the Many Faces of, as I
will review “Pac-Man” this month – see below. I’ve wanted to fill in a
few of the Many Faces – the “Lost Faces” but never seem to make the
time. These Lost Faces were versions that I did not have or overlooked
somehow. In fact, when I reviewed Q*bert WAY back in RT #33, it was my
very first review (very meager compared to my reviews today) so, I
decided that my original scores were no longer valid. Each version had
to be re-played, each category re-scored and then check one versus the
other, and versus all other games/categories/scores. Hopefully this
makes amends, especially for the Intellivision, O2 and Atari 8 bit
ports. Since you all know Q*bert . . .
Lost Face of the Q*bert -
courtesy of TI-99 gamer/historian Bryan Roppolo.
Arcade: 1982 Warren Davis (Gottlieb/Mylstar).
All home versions by Parker Brothers in 1983
Atari 2600 Dave Hampton. Atari 8 bit & Atari
5200 Daniel Small
Unknown: Colecovision, C-64, Vic 20,
Intellivision, Odyssey 2 & TI-99.
MSX (Konami 1986)
Classic Sequels: “Faster Harder More
Challenging Q*bert” 1983, never went to arcade production.
& “Q*bert’s Qubes” in 1983 at the arcade, and
at home on the 2600 & CV.
Home Version Similarities:
Except those in <>: all home versions have: a full, arcade sized
playfield <Vic20>; Red balls (deadly), Green ball (least common item
which momentarily freezes the action), Slick & Sam (Green but turn
blocks back to their original color), purple ball (becomes Coily at the
bottom), Wrong Way & Ugg <2600> (who jump along the sides of the
blocks), the floating, swirling, multi-colored flying disks <2600 & O2
have a platform with 1 color> which take you to the top of the pyramid &
if Coily jumps overboard, this gives you bonus points & clears the
playfield; display on-screen info such as the target color, your score
<2600 partially blocked>, lives remaining, level & round <2600>; Q*bert
visually curses ("@!#?@!") when he is hit (O2); individual sound effects
include bouncing/moving sounds by everything, Q*bert, Coily, Slick & Sam
<2600, O2, Vic>, Wrong Way & Ugg (talk jibberish) <O2>, swirling disk,
Q*bert cursing or getting squished, Q*bert over the edge, Coily over the
edge, hear your extra lives earned <O2>, special music during the green
ball freeze, end of round music, end of /beginning of level music
different than the end of round <Vic, O2, 2600>; intermission/tutorial
between levels <Vic, 2600, TI, Inty, Atari 8 bit, 5200>; and bonus
points & sound for unused flying discs <most have it, but I didn’t track
everything>, and probably a few more . . . whew!
Disqualified only because I do not have this
version or system to review.
Have Nots: Odyssey 2 (29)
My first reaction was there are a lot of “Have Nots”, but this one has
the most “Nots”. One redeeming quality - like most O2 games where you
actually have more than one life, it is one of the best games on
the O2. Gameplay is all there & respectable (6), but limited colors and
graphics hurt – like the Green ball & Sam/Slick are identical.
Addictiveness is better than most O2 games and very good (7). Graphics
are passable (4) as you can tell what almost everything is but not much
more. Sound is weak (4) with almost no music, poor sounds, duplicate
sounds etc. Controls are nice (8) better that what I gave them credit
for in RT#33. Tedious to re-center stick each move. Overall, clearly not
in the league, but will be among your most played O2 titles. A bit rare
and will cost you more than it’s play value - but COOL cart with a
Have Nots: 2600 (34)
My first reaction was you’ll enjoy playing this no matter how weak, but
you must set the difficulty to “A”. Gameplay is decent (6) most
noticeably missing Ugg & Wrong Way and a limited # of sprites. The “B”
setting would be good for children as there are no Red balls & you can
toggle A/B any time. Addictiveness is worth while (7) & Controls are
perfect (10). Graphics are mediocre (5) with more clarity than the Vic
20, but less color and detail & a partially blocked score. Sound is fine
(6), but again, missing some effects and weak music.
Have Nots: Vic 20 (34)
My first reaction was its blockiness - too large, forcing the pyramid
one level shorter. Gameplay is very good (7) increased due to 9
difficulty options, but reduced due to the pyramid size. Addictiveness
is fun to play (7) & Graphics are fair (5), lacking color, detail &
animation. Sound is decent (6), but missing some effects and not great
music. Controls are for the most part great (9), but a little sluggish.
Have Nots: 5200 (37)
My first reaction was the joysticks really kill this one. The code is
ported from the 8 bit computer version, but they somehow made the
controls worse than ever. Even with a Masterplay Interface I hate this
version and have had no luck. You must fire the button and move
simultaneously. Changing directions is the problem. I’m guessing you
must re-center the joystick or something before changing directions, but
I had no luck, so Controls are mediocre (5) at best. Hard to tell, but
the Gameplay looks to be all there (8) with a choice to select a varying
number of start lives & also 1 or 2 players. Addictiveness is pleasant
(8), with the rare PB bonus - a pause. Use standard 5200 “pause” button.
Graphics are sharp (8), but the color and detail could be better. Sound
effects are all in place (8) & impressive. The 5200 cart, OK pretty much
all PB 5200 carts, look really cool, even if you don’t play this one –
Have Nots: Intellivision (37)
My first reaction was to apologize for my poor initial review in RT #33.
The controls are odd, and back then, I did not learn them well enough to
properly evaluate the entire game. Gameplay is really all there (8) &
the Addictiveness is very fun (8) with the standard Inty diagonal pause.
Graphics are pretty good (7), but just a little less color & detail than
the medal winners. Sound is effective (7), a little different than most,
but still all there. Controls are effective (7), once I learned to hold
the controller straight, and then move diagonally. Despite using a
stickler, the 16-directional controller and moving diagonally is still a
real pain here and causes all my grief. Slightly off from diagonal => no
movement – boo! hiss!
Bronze Medal : Atari 8 bit & TI 99 (42)
Atari 8 bit
My first reaction was not recalling having reviewed this one before and
my old scores were much too low. All the 5200 scores and comments apply
here except for Controls, which are perfect (10). I must also mention
the awesome pause here, the “fire” button – couldn’t be any better.
Available on disk & cart.
My first reaction was that since RT #33, I’ve finally found some great
TI-99 games. It was about my fifth TI system in the wild before I
actually found “real” TI games, and thus bought the system for the first
time. TI-99 fans assured me that this port was very good & that my
journey would not be complete without reviewing it here. Gameplay is all
there (8) and Addictiveness is fun to play (7). Graphics are super (9),
as good as the C-64 with lots of detail, color, animation and 3-D look
to them. Sound is all there (8) and Controls are flawless (10). But
Controls took some time, before I gave them a 10. You see, instead of
holding the joystick rotated 45 degrees clockwise (with the fire button
on top), you rotate it 45 deg CCW. Makes it awkward to hold and I would
surely have lowered the score if you needed to use the fire button for
anything. Dumb programming – almost cost them a medal here. Keyboard
option might be available.
Gold Medal: Commodore 64 & Colecovision (43)
My first reaction was that I was previously too harsh on the controls.
After trying all the controllers, I found that the Amiga stick might
take some getting used to, but will yield a perfect Controls score (10).
Gameplay is well-done (9) all elements are in place, plus 3 skill levels
of play – not found on any other version. Addictiveness is pleasant (8)
helped by the intermissions and music between levels. Graphics are
beautiful (8) with lots of color and multicolor, but quite as animated
or 3-D like the 64. Sound is crisp (8) and all there.
My first reaction was the 3-D look to the graphics usually makes the
difference and so you’ll probably like this one a little better. The CV
has the 3 skill choices, but it doesn’t take long to become hard, so I’d
rather have it look better and take a little while longer to become
hard. Gameplay is all there (8) and as hinted before, Graphics are
wonderful (9), the best with nice 3-D animation. Addictiveness is
pleasant (8) matching the CV with the intermissions as well. Who’d
figure that the O2 would be the only other version with the
Intermission? Controls are perfect (10) & Sound is sharp (8) - all
there. Found on both a cart & disk.
Overall a tough battle from these top 4. They
all are good, and yet no one version has it all. If one version had a
pause, intermission & skill choices then that would have been the
Look for more “Lost Faces” in the future – the
next one should be the outstanding C-64 port of “Demon Attack” which I
now have thanks to the X1541 cable. Alan Hewston can be contacted at:
Hewston95@NOTTSPAMstratos.net and visit his
Many Faces site at:
In a change in theme this month, issue #80 will
be an arcade hit from “80”. 1980, that is, in “Pac-Man”, one of the all
time greats. Also voted in as your number one game choice for 1980. This
game was specifically made to be a non-violent game, geared towards
attracting woman, and children to try video games. In Japan, a slang
word “paku paku” describes the opening and closing motion of the mouth
while one eats. The name “Pac-Man” came from that slang, but it was
initially translated to PuckMan. This was quickly modified by Midway
when they distributed the game in the US market. You all know the game,
the mania, and you probably know how many keys there are and even have
your own theory what happened to the Atari 2600 version. Was the 2600
port the end of the beginning? One of the earliest failures/problems
that helped to bring about the VG crash. Will the 7800 version win the
gold medal? Keep on reading to find out ;-) See also RT issue #9, where
Tom first reviewed this game for the 3 consoles.
Arcade: 1980 Namco/Midway, by Toru Iwatani with
help from four others.
Home versions all programmed by Atarisoft
Apple ][ ’83 Brian Fitzgerald
Atari 2600 ’82 Todd Frye
Unknown from ‘83 (Atari 5200, Colecovision,
Atari 8 bit ’83 Joe Helleson
Commodore Vic-20 ’83 TBD + Jimmy Huey
Intellivision ’83 Mike Winans (Graphics/Eric
Wels, Sound/Russ Haft)
TI-99 ’83 Howard E. Scheer
Sinclair Spectrum 1984 Atarisoft.
MSX Namcot 1984
Rumor Mill: Atari 7800 in works
Classic Sequels: Several, with countless clones
and many spin offs as well.
Home Version Similarities:
Except those in <>: all home versions have: 1 maze pattern which
includes a tunnel, ghost hide-out in the middle, 4 ghosts, who can pack
and hide each other, power pills in the corners, and a similar number of
dots (compared to the 240 at the arcade) <Vic 20 (132), 2600 (126), Inty
(105)>; entire maze is shown on-screen at the same time; on-screen
display of the scores, cumulative prizes <Inty>, and lives remaining;
pretty close to the arcade sequence of the prizes per each screen
<2600>; sound effects that include background sounds <Apple ][, 2600>,
eating, death, new life, eating ghost, ghosts eyes returning <Vic 20>,
eating prize, bonus life <C-64, Atari 8 bit, Vic 20>, power pill &
music; start level options at screens 1,2,3,5,7,9,11,13 <Inty, 2600, AP2
& CV (none), Vic 20 (only 7)>; Pac-Man 20% slower when eating <TI99>;
“Blinky”, fastest ghost, has max speed equal to yours; other ghosts max
~15% slower; bonus life at 10K; ghosts equal to 200, 400, 800, 1600,
shown on-screen; max difficulty at ninth key; ghosts occasionally
reverse directions; approximately at final 20 and then 10 dots ghosts go
into chase and then faster chase mode <2600, Vic 20>; a pause <2600>;
intermissions <2600, C-64, TI-99, Vic 20>.
Original Arcade sequence
Level / Prize
21/Ninth Key - I’ve got all the patterns down, up until the ninth key .
Home versions substitute the Atari logo as well
as other slight variations.
Disqualified: Sinclair Spectrum & MSX
DQ is only because I do not have these
Have Nots: Atari 2600 (31)
My first reaction was just like everyone else – disappointed. Screen was
even 90 degrees rotated. This may have been the first game where
pre-orders were taken (a standard practice for blockbuster wannabees
today), which was all the more reason to absolutely despise it, when it
clearly did not live up to anyone’s expectations. Sure, you didn’t need
to pre-order it, perhaps played a friend’s copy and when the price came
down, you still bought it - I did. It was not what we wanted, but it
captured the essence and was still the best version of Pac-Man you could
buy on your 2600. No doubt this disappointment and lack of quality
inspired many players to become home programmers to prove that they
could do better. I heard this often in the 1980’s, which helps to
explain why there are countless home computer clones out there. I’d even
suggest this port encouraged even more 3rd party 2600 companies to
spring up or chuck out inferior products. ‘If Atari can sell millions on
this crap – why not us? Yes . . . we all realize that Atari rushed this
out the door to take advantage of the market ASAP, and then eventually
follow up with better versions for the home computers. Atari cut corners
on this cart – fully aware that with just a couple more weeks and a
little bit more memory, and time spent programming would yield a
non-flickering, well programmed, fun game. But management was adamant
about keeping this as a simple 2 K cart – perhaps a 2K wart would save
them even more money – since they were about to finally start paying
incentive royalties to the programmers for sales. That is, after the 2nd
wave of Atari programmers left to form “Imagic”, Atari was forced to
offer better incentives, like a 10? cent per cart sold bonus to
designers or programmers. They knew what they were forced to do – stop
losing more programmers – but yet not risk too much of that immediate
profit. Maybe this helped to do them in – in the long run. Regardless of
the complexity of the issues, Atari did release the first official
licensed home version of Pac-Man in the US.
Gameplay is passable at best (4) with a
recognizable maze & most elements represented. With only one prize there
was no reason to provide start options rounds/levels. Instead, adding a
child’s version and two player games with 2 different skill “A/B
difficulty” settings. “A” provides less time eat the Vitamin Wafer, and
shortens the duration of the power pill’s effect. This handicap /
difficulty option was clearly something worth while to include in all
other versions and other games as well but was not. Addictiveness is
exciting (7) and although instantly repetitious, still kept early
players playing it for quite a while. Graphics were blah (5), with weak
colors, mono colored & flickering ghosts, and a non-arcade maze with
only 126 dots. Sound may have been worse, but was acceptable (5). To
paraphrase my friend Tim Roach – ‘If everyone hated this version, why is
it that in movies and TV shows, the definitive background sound effect
of a video game is usually from 2600 Pac-Man. The death sequence (4
blurbs in a row) and the next man/coming to life sequence (also 4
sounds) are heard all the time – regardless of what game or system is
shown. Weird homage? Controls are perfect (10).
At Atari “Why Todd Frye.” Or why not. Not
having a college degree in programming, the lesser paid Todd Frye put in
his time and did not leave Atari, and then cashed in the most royalties
to date on 2600 “Pac-Man”. Why not? It wasn’t his fault it disappointed
Have Nots: Vic 20 (34)
My first reaction was that this game was started, then shelved, then
released really late – why? Was finished by expert Vic 20 programmer
Jimmy Huey. Gameplay is average (5) with such a small playfield (132
dots), awkward maze and sprites right on top of each other all game, the
playability is just not there. Addictiveness is fun to play (7) but
still hampered by the size. The pause is the <space bar>. One ghost is
white, making it quite painful to die eating him thinking he is still
eatable. Graphics are good enough (6) with everything there but the size
– making it but ugly or childish. The Sound is effective (7) but could
be better if not for some missed effects. The Controls are superb (9),
but sluggish, and then tarnished by the tight turning maze layout which
is impossible to make the quick turns as necessary.
Have Nots: Apple ][ (38)
My first reaction was this is the only version with a true to scale
(ratio) arcade maze. But since the TV/monitor is essentially landscape
and the arcade screen is portrait, every other version went with a
squished landscape appearance. Going with the arcade portrait ratio
makes the screen so very, very small, and space becomes wasted. But
then, Gameplay is impressive (8), and despite no options, this version
looks the most like the arcade. It has a demo perfect layout and the
information screen. Addictiveness is impressive (8), with a pause <Esc>,
intermission and demo. But there is the same white ghost problem as the
Vic 20, keeping this from being the most addictive version. Graphics are
all there (8) with 244 dots, good detail but limited color (white
ghost). Sound is decent (6), most noticeable is the missing background
noise and then factor in the odd sounding internal speaker effects.
Controls are sharp (8) if you enjoy playing via keyboard. I don’t and
the analog stick is too accident prone for me – would only score a (7).
Available only on disk.
Have Nots: TI-99 (39)
My first reaction was it is too ssslooowww. Gameplay is (7) effective,
and most elements are there, but Pac-Man should be slower when eating,
compared with not eating. The fruits remain on-screen too long.
Addictiveness is exciting (7) with pause <space bar>, then move your
stick to continue playing. The collision detection seems a bit too harsh
on this version, and did I mention it was too slowwww? Graphics are
well-done (9) among the best, with detail, color and animation. 202 dots
is satisfactory. Sound is OK (6), but drops a point since nearly all
sound effects can only occur if there is no chomping of dots. Controls
are flawless (10).
Have Nots: Intellivision (39)
My first reaction was impressed at the controls. What did they do,
because using a stickler, I can do pretty well here. Controls are
outstanding (9) among the best Intv games I’ve played. Why couldn’t
Q*bert do this? Gameplay is pretty decent (6), hindered by the small
playfield (105 dots) and no start level options to see/practice higher
screens. Addictiveness is very fun (8) with the intermissions and the
standard Inty pause (diagonals). Graphics are all there (8), but could
be better if a little smaller & more detailed. Sound is pleasant (8).
All effects & music are good.
Have Nots: Commodore 64 (43)
My first reaction was bummed out that there are no intermissions and 3
ghosts look. Red, Pink and Orange ghosts look alike. The Gameplay is all
there (8) with the 8 start level options, but the difference in the Gold
medal is omitted intermissions. Addictiveness is enjoyable (8) with the
“fire” button as the pause. There is a bit of a demo, but then that is
not enough to cover up the missed intermissions. Graphics are
outstanding (9) only the 3 similar colored ghost problem. Full, 256 dot
playfield. Sound is all there (8) with good music and effects. Controls
are perfect (10). Available on cart & disk.
Gold Medal: Atari 8 bit, 5200 &
A close 3 (4) way tie. I may have been too harsh on the C64 scoring.
Atari 8 bit
My first reaction was the really cool centerfold to the manual. Gameplay
is all there (8) including all start level options & 256 dot playfield.
Addictiveness is fantastic (9) with a pause <space>, and the
intermissions. Graphics are among the best, superb (9), with color,
animation, and all details. Sound is pleasant (8), all there and as good
as any version. Only thing missing is the not needed, but obviously
missing 10 K bonus life chime. Controls are perfect (10). Available on
cart & disk.
My first reaction was this is the same game as the 8 bit computer. It
probably was ported exactly to or from the 8 bit. All the scores and
notes are the same, except that this version does have the 10K bonus
life chime. Surprisingly, the controls are excellent, but I bet you’ll
need a Masterplay Interface (or equivalent) to really get these perfect
My first reaction was that we got ripped off, as this cart was never
officially released. The recent release of this cart through the CGE is
fantastic. I think the ROM is out there and thus we can all play it or
buy the cart and enjoy it today. Clearly among best. Gameplay is
impressive (8) - almost the same as the others, but instead of 8
starting levels, we get 3 skill variations. I tend to favor the start
levels/rounds myself, but there is no need to penalize it. Has 214 dot
playfield. Addictiveness is wonderful (9) with the pause <#> and
intermissions. Graphics are great (9), all there, and probably the best,
with added special effects from a cool title screen that sparkles in, to
the awesome re-materialization of every ghost inside the ghost chamber.
Sound is all there (8) matching the best of the rest. Controls are
perfect (10) using the CV controller. Cart is a bit rare, but this is
the most collectible/desired version to have.
I owe much to Tom Zjaba, his Tomorrow’s Heroes store, online site, and
finally to this online magazine / newsletter. I’ve really appreciated
the opportunity to write for the Retrogaming Times on a monthly basis,
and particularly to have been able to assume control of a prominent
feature, the Many Faces of reviews. Writing for the RT has become the
priority of nearly all of my gaming and spare time activities. It has
affected what I play, what I look for, and buy, what I do historical
research on, and how I write my reviews. I feel that I am helping to
give a lot back to the retrogaming community – more than I could in any
other way. The Many Faces of has also focusing my own interest in
classic gaming better, by being a jack of all
trades – playing every version is unique. Writing for the RT has led me
to meet and interact with many fellow gamers, and I thank you for your
continued support. I’ve even been able to expand my collection and get
rid of my duplicates due to my articles. ‘What will I do without the
Retrogaming Times?’ asks my wife. The “RT” has surely been the highlight
and most cherished of my gaming experiences and I will never forget
these past 6 years. With any luck we will find a way to continue the
magazine, and if not, I’ll still keep on writing these Many Faces of
reviews. Until next time . . .
Yes, plan to come back next time. Always the
optimist that we’ll push on towards issue #100. I hope to review one of
the biggest selling games from 1981, in RT issue #81, and just a bit
late for Mother’s Day, the Many Faces of “Ms. Pac-Man” on the Apple //,
Atari 2600, 8 bit, 5200, 7800, C64 (2 versions?), TI-99 and Vic 20.
Contact Alan Hewston at: Hewston95@NOSPAMstratos.net or visit the Many
Faces of site:
With game shows
popping up all the time, I thought I would do one last list of the shows
that I know about. Check out their sites and attend which shows you
can. I may even stop off at one in the future.
Classic (coming up in May)
Classic Gaming Expo
(the show to attend)
East Coast's answer to CGE)
East Coast Gaming
Expo (Free tables, admission and more!)
Ohio's show that may be back on this year)
MagFest (It's a
classic game show and a concert!)
Jagfest (It is for
the Jag and all things Atari)
Austin Gaming Expo
(Because a state as great as Texas deserves a great show)
Video Game Summit
Out of all the
stuff I was asked to write for the newsletter, I had someone ask for me
to tell one more story from the classic age of video games. So here is
one last story of when I was young and so was the video game industry.
My best friend when
I was young was Ed. He also was one of the first people that I knew who
figured out the patterns on Pac-man. We were going to send in the
patterns to magazines and dreamed of being famous, but someone beat us
to it. But that is not the subject of this story. This story is about
Pac-man and about not seeing the obvious.
While we played
Pac-man, we noticed all the different bonuses that appeared each level.
Cherries, strawberries and others. It was our mission to see what all
the prizes were. When we came to one, we were stumped to what it was.
Every prize had been a type of food and we figured it was also a type of
food. My friend Ed said it was a crepe. I had never heard of a crepe
so I could not argue it, but I thought it was an Ice Cream Sundae. It
looked like one to me, a very strange looking one, but I did not think
it was a crepe. As we were arguing over it one time while playing, a
kid came up and laughed at us. He said it was a ship from Galaxian.
Then like someone opened our eyes, we could see it really was a Galaxian
ship and not some crazy food concoction that we came up with. We both
felt embarrassed and had a good laugh.
It has been close
to seven years since I started doing this newsletter. I have seen a
small hobby grow into a big hobby. When I started there was no Classic
Gaming Expo, there was no Phillyclassic. The only classic show that I
knew of and attended was the Electronicon. That show was a direct
reason for this newsletter. I went to that show as a dealer and a
collector. I was only viewed as a dealer. I met people there who
created their own Atari games and others who worked on rarity lists or
other stuff. I met Fred Wagaman who became a good friend of mine. But
I came away from the show with a sense of awe for the close knit
community and its passion for classic games. I also came away with a
feeling of alienation as I was more viewed as someone who did not care
about games but only sold them for a profit. It was at this show that I
decided that I wanted to give something back to the community. I wanted
to be more than just a dealer. At that time I had a large collection of
video games in my own collection (at one time I was 4 games away from
having a full Intellivision collection and 5 games away from having a
complete Colecovision collection). So I came home and thought about
what I could do to be part of the community. After much thought and
searching on the internet, I decided to go with what I was good at. I
would create an online newsletter and post it on my site. I would talk
about the joy of collecting and playing classic games. I would open it
up for anyone who wanted to write for it and express their opinion on
It took about 10
issues for it to really take off. It was about that time when Fred
Wagaman and Doug Saxon came aboard as writers. Suddenly the one man
newsletter became a collaborative effort. Soon others joined. Alan
Hewston has become a cornerstone of the newsletter. with the longest
running feature as well as the most popular. Adam King has added
consistency and created his own place in the newsletter with his
articles. Dave Mrozek, the video game critic gave us a ton of great
reviews and went on to do his own site. Jim Krych showed us the joys of
the TI computer and later went on to create the Devastator arcade
controller (I learned to call it an arcade controller and not joystick
as people look at you weird when you ask them if they want to come back
to your house to see your really big joystick). Geoff Voigt gave us a
very unique slant on video games as well as was our reporter for the
Classic Gaming Expo. Others have joined for a short time. Matt Allen,
William Cassidy, Rayth Orlea, Paul Smith, Ryan Harrison, Ben Valdes,
Reinhard Traunmueller, Sarah Szefer, Daran Michael Blackwell,
Robsterman, Tom Crugnale and anyone who I missed. I have been blessed
to have so many great writers on this newsletter over the year and it is
one of the reasons for the longevity of the newsletter.
I was also gifted
to get many sites post about the release of a new issue. This helped
let people know about the newsletter and really boosted readership.
Sites like Atari Age, Dave's Video Game Classics (now known as the
Vintage Gaming Network), Classic Gaming and Digital Press, we received
alot of coverage. There were also other sites that either went out of
business, quit posting or changed formats that quit posting, but they
did help us get going in the early days. I thank every site that helped
us and know that I would not have nowhere near as many readers as I did
without your coverage.
But now the time
has come to put the newsletter out to pasture. I have written more
articles than I ever anticipated. It went longer than I ever imagined.
But times have changed and I have changed. While I still play classic
games, most of my game playing comes from commercial releases like
Intellivision Lives or Activision Anthology than the actual machines. I
sold off my actual game collection years ago when I needed money for my
son to get a (who by the way is doing well at a private school for
children with autism). I think I lost some of the drive then when I
slowly sold off all my systems and later my handhelds and much of my
memorabilia (especially my very large magazine collection). But I kept
on writing about classic games.
Now it is time to
let others write about classic games. With so many great websites
offering newsletters and quite a few paper versions, there is plenty for
gamers to read. And there are more sites coming every day. Even Alan,
Adam and others have talked about doing their own version of a
newsletter in the spirit of Retrogaming Times. I may do an article here
or there for some other newsletter, but not immediately. I plan on
taking some time off and just playing games.
Hope you enjoyed
this last issue. I started working on it right after I finished the
last issue so that it would be the biggest and best issue ever. I
figured if I was going to go out, I would go out with a bang. Read it,
enjoy it and thanks for coming by every month. In closing, don't be
upset that the newsletter is ending, but be glad it lasted as long as it
did. There are 80 issues worth of reading for you to enjoy and it
doesn't cost you a dime to enjoy it all! And that is something worth
Goodbye and Good
(This issue was
done while listening to ending themed songs like "Is That All There Is?"
by Peggy Lee, "The Long and Winding Road" by the Beatles, "Those Were
the Days" by Mary Hopkins and "That Was Yesterday" by Chad and Jeremy.)