science-fiction, writing, technology
I mentioned last time that the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline has got me thinking about and wanting to play again some of games I used to love on our early family computers. The tiny Sinclair ZX81 with it’s 1k of memory was our first home computer, then a Commodore 64, then an Atari ST. As well as many happy hours with two friends trying to write our own text adventure game, these are the games I remember most fondly:
Crazy Kong (Commodore 64, Interceptor Software, 1981)
I think the only games we ever played on the ZX81 were typed from magazines. It seems scarcely believable now that we would type in the entire code for a game letter by letter from a printed page. Unsurprisingly they often didn’t work. So my first real computer game was on the Commodore 64, and was called Crazy Kong. I remember it well because I’d originally wanted Gridrunner but that needed a joystick to play. So the keyboard-operated Donkey Kong rip-off it was. I don’t think I every completed it, despite hours of trying.
Jetpac (ZX Spectrum, Ultimate Play the Game, 1983)
Ultimate Play the Game were pioneers in 3d gaming and produced a string of great titles. Their very first game though was Jetpac and I loved playing it whenever I visited a Spectrum-owning friend. C64 games were graphically superior but with this and Manic Minor, possibly my favourite platform game of all time, the Sinclair machine still had a lot going for it.
International Soccer (C64, Commodore, 1983)
Playing against the computer on International Soccer was good but it was the two player game, usually against my brother, that was great fun. It came on a cartridge too, so no loading times (I remember our record loading time from tape was 20 minutes for China Miner). Tip for scoring: get directly underneath the goal on the screen and shoot straight upwards.
Pitstop 2 (C64, Epyx, 1984)
Another great 2 player game, Pitstop 2 had copies of real circuits (sort of), fuel, tyre wear, pitstops (of course), a split screen and, critically, the ability to drive into your opponent.
Boulderdash (C64, First Star Software, 1984)
A simple puzzle concept (collect the diamonds by moving boulders and avoiding other creatures) with a few action elements, Boulderdash is still one of my favourite games of all time. Some of the puzzles were brilliantly devices so on occasion we’d have the whole family trying to work out how to get Rockford (the bug thing) to the last diamonds.
Little Computer People (C64, Activision, 1985)
Before Tamagotchi and long before Sims there was Little Computer People. I can’t even remember how we interacted with him but we I know we wasted many a good hour watching the antics of the little guy in his house on the screen.
Paradroid (C64, Hewson Consultants, 1985)
Zzap!64 was the best Commodore 64 games magazine, and they ran a column written by games developer Andrew Braybrook as he wrote his new game. Paradroid was the result and it was a stunning achievement. You started as the lowest powered droid, 001, with the aim of either shooting or taking control of ever more powerful droids as you made your way around a ship. A great concept that worked beautifully.
The Bard’s Tale (Atari ST, Electronic Arts, 1987)
I like an RPG to be open rather than too linear. I like the freedom to roam and develop your characters. The Bard’s Tale had an interesting map to explore with plenty of humour and surprises thrown in.
So that’s it, the games I remember enjoying most as a kid. There were many more of course. Entombed, Way of the Exploding Fist, Manic Miner, International Karate +, Summer Games 2, Decathlon, Leaderboard, Loadrunner, Speedball 2, Lemmings, Gauntlet…
There are many resources about playing retro games on modern machines but a couple I’ve come across recently are The Bard’s Tale on Android, which includes the original game as well as an updated version, and the classic the text adventure Zork by Infocom is free to play online here: http://thcnet.net/zork/