Friday, 16 October 2009

Retro lookback # 8: Rescue On Fractalus - C64

It's about time I looked at a game on the trusty C64, as I've had it for just under a year, and I love it as much as the Speccy. One of the first games I bought for it, for a mere £2.90, was a gem from Lucasfilm. And it had bugger all to do with Star Wars. Thats right, a game that didn't have the words STAR and WARS in its title. Its name? Rescue on Fractalus.

This game is a graphical marvel. Using Fractals instead of polygons or vectors or such, it made it a much more exciting game, and made it look absolutely stunning. You play a pilot who has to go down to various planets being taken over by aliens, and rescue your mining buddies from oblivion (or from being dated by Katie Price.....thats replaced the whale in my nightmares!!!) by landing your cruiser and picking them up. The controls are easy to use, and hard to master, but once you have, it makes the game a joy to play. S enables and disables your shields and A actives the airlock. In the skies above the planets, you have to fight the aliens' spacecraft as well, and you also have the chance to take out the little buggers on the ground before they take out your guys on the ground, who fight back when they are shot at.

The game is filled with little touches that make the game even more enjoyable. One example, when you land your craft, you hear the footsteps of the miner get closer and closer to the airlock. If the airlock isn't open, he'll even knock until you let him in! Another example is, you can even pick up the aliens and they try and take over the craft. I don't let that happen, though, as I crash it into a mountain. If I'm going down, the little bleeders coming with me! They ain't taking me alive!!! There is the chance later on that the Jaggi (the alien race in the game), kill the miners before you get there, steal their suits and don their helmets so that when you land, they would run up to the ship, throw off their helmets and try to get in through the windshield, and thus begins a frantic scramble to bring the shields back up before you get killed. Its things like this that add to the game, and bring a sense of 'Oh, shit!' to the atmosphere to the game.

You get the chance to select what level to start at (up to 5, I believe), with levels 1-3 being training levels. If you fancy diving straight in and blasting ET back home, you can just go straight to level 4, where the game really begins. Its this freedom in choice that separates it from games of today, where, on some of them, you can't skip the training. Being released in 1984, I found it to be so brilliantly compelling and so far advanced, that I thought it came out in 1987. How wrong I was. To be honest, this is one of the best games I've ever had the pleasure of loading up. If you own, or even if you have to emulate, a Spectrum or C64, you must play this game.

5/5 - A JSW Man Of The Match.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Retro Lookback # 7: Street Hawk - Spectrum

Would you believe it? A bloke who has a motorbike accident and has lost the use of both his legs would be able to ride a suped up motorcycle with machine guns and can go aster than shit through a goose. No, I can't either. But it makes an exciting premise to the tv show Street Hawk which, unfortunately, only lasted one season. But the adventures of a detective using a 2-wheeled version of KITT was enough to warrant Ocean making a computer game, all the way back in 1985, which was a subscribers version....which was poor. So, being the good sports they are, this second version popped up. Shall we do an Evel Kineval and jump right in?

You start off playing a sort of Spy Hunter rip off, manouvering around cars and shooting the bad guys. The controls on this bit are a bit stiff, but once got used to, become second nature, as you race towards a crime scene. You nip along at a fair pace, once your speed has built up, so its quite realistic. Plus you can jump over cars, which I completely forgot about as I crashed into cars left right and centre!! The next bit is, I suppose you could call it, the grandfather of Silent Scope. You control a small reticule out side a bank where some villains are staging a robbery. You view the little gits through a scope and, with said reticule, shoot them as they emerge from the front entrance. This bit is quite good, but gets really frustrating, as when you fire, the reticule resets itself.

As with all of Ocean's tie-ins, there is a lack of sound. The only sounds come from when you fire your gun, when you pass another vehicle and when you hit another car. There's no rendition of the Street Hawk theme, and no music in the game either. It doesn't look bad, with colourful buildings, but why does Jesse and any other motorbiker for that matter, look like a funny face when viewed from above??

Its not a bad game, certainly one of Ocean's best tie-ins, but then it could have been better, mainly due to the controls and sound.


Thursday, 1 October 2009

Retro Hall of Shame # 1: Knight Rider - Spectrum

I used to love Knight Rider when I was a kid. Well, who wouldn't? A car that can talk, go faster than wind from Superman's arse and is virtually impervious to bullets, what's more to like? A computer game? Well lets ask Ocean about that. Oh, they've made a game about it. Well, whats it like?
Erm, well. Lets pop the hood and look at the engine, shall we?

Ocean were synonimous with Movie and TV tie-ins, ranging from the good (Robocop, Street Hawk), the bad (Robocop 2, Miami Vice) and the ugly (Highlander), as well as various home versions of well known arcade games. This, unfortunately, falls into the ugly camp. Why? Well, its not with the variety of gameplay on offer, oh no. There's driving, strategy and a gauntlet clone. The problem is the execution. It sucks. It sucks more than an oap with no teeth and an egg. The graphics on the map section are alright. You pick where you want to go by moving the joystick/pressing the right key and then you set off. Then it starts to go down hill. You can either drive and KITT shoot the what look like helicopters or vice-versa. To be honest, it doesn't make a blind bit of difference as doing either one is as boring as the other. When you drive, you end up fighting the controls and when you shoot, you end up fighting the controls. The controls are absolutely horrendous. The graphcis are just as bad. The helicopters don't even look like helicopters. They, I don't know what they look like, but they don't look like helicopters, I know that. And since when were roads yellow and fields blue? I got so bored playing this, I didn't want to find out how the gaunlet-style levels faired.
So, it plays like shit and looks like dog, but how does it sound? Oh, dear. The only music is on the map section, with an ok-ish rendition of the theme (which seems waaaaaay tooooooo sloooooooow) and the only sounds are 'pop', which is supposed to sound like a machine gun? Well, if machine guns sounded like that, no-one would have won WWI and WWII. They'd only be using pop guns.

It's another iffy conversion that came from a solid software house who, to give them their dues, they did release some crackers, but unfortnately, they released this stinker which, along with Miami Vice and Highlander, have gone down as 'what if's' instead of 'wows'.