Hypercircuit (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

I've been a bit stuck for things to write about lately.  Not that I haven't got lots of possible subjects; it's just that it's been hard to gather my focus sufficiently to nail something down.  And I've been dipping in and out of a number of games, enjoying playing them but not really giving them enough time to justify writing about them.

Mmmm, look at all those lovely points to be had...

Lately, I've been mulling over the idea of writing a retro book.  I've had some good feedback about the idea, too.  That's added a bit of a spring to my step, and this write-up has really come about as a result of that.  While I was pulling together all my thoughts, ideas and plans and read a few old ZZAP! 64 magazines, I realised that I had never played Chris Butler's Hypercircuit.  And so, I decided to put that right.

Hypercircuit was Chris Butler's first Commodore 64 game.  A follow-up to a game he'd programmed on the BBC called Transistor's Revenge, it saw you miniaturised and placed inside a Commodore 64, using a tiny fighter craft to destroy marauding enemies that are intent on damaging the computer's circuit boards.  How dare they?

Am I awesome, or what?

You can't just go rampaging wherever you like in your quest, though... that would cause more harm than good.  Instead, you have to manoeuvre your way around using the wiring on the circuit board.  You have to be careful, though, as those dangerous enemies could lurk around any corner...

So, Hypercircuit is a shoot 'em up, then.  It's presented in classic arcade fashion, with your enemies and their points values set out on the title screen.  And although the gameplay is nothing like it, it's clearly inspired (at least in part) by Defender in the way its bad guys behave.  If you're going to borrow from something, borrow from the best.

Things that need to be shot.

It's not a bad little game, when all is said and done.  It has a few little problems; the screen size is too small, the music gets annoying, there are times when you'll be trundling around a seemingly empty level.  Oh, and it's a bit predictable.  But it's still quite enjoyable to play, in the chase for a high score.  That said, it was improved and refined immeasurably for Chris Butler's next game, Z.  Still, it was a nice introduction to the C64 for Chris Butler, who would go on to have a very interesting career on the machine...

Unsung Classics. Number 7: Z (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

It's time for another in that ever-popular series, Unsung Classics. Again, it's a Commodore 64 game... no surprise, because I've played loads more of them than any other system's games. I've got plenty lined up for the future, too... and another new feature I'm working on...

Z (or Z-Pilot in the US, apparently) is a top-down shooter, in the vein of Time Pilot, or more accurately, Time Pilot '84. It's set across four zones, or dimensions, and the object is to get to the fourth dimension and destroy the control ship.

Normally, I like a game of darts...

Each zone is filled with alien ship that are trying to stop you. Unlike the Time Pilot games, you're not constantly on the move here... you can stop and take stock of what's going on around you, which is quite welcome.

After a while, you'll see a bomb floating around. You have to shoot the yellow bomb container, then swoop in and collect the bomb. Bombs are used, in the first three dimensions, to blast holes in the portal that takes you to the next dimension. The more holes you make, the easier it is to fly through the moving barrier and into the portal.

You're sitting by the portal as a bomb floats by. Grab it!

Make it to the fourth dimension, and you'll have the chance to destroy the control ship. You'll need to collect at least five bombs for this... I say "at least", because the control ship is evil, and it's fast, and it will chase you around the level mercilessly. There's a fair chance that you'll miss with at least one bomb, so you'll need a decent supply to be sure you can finish the job... if you survive long enough. This level is more like Time Pilot meets Sinistar.

Z is a heck of a lot of fun. It's fast, smooth and quite a rush, particularly as you progress through the levels and the enemies get more and more vicious. Having to use the space bar for the bombs is a pain, but just adds to the nervous tension, particularly when that control ship is chasing you around. I don't think many people got to play Z in its day... I really enjoyed it then, and it's still a good shooter even now.