It's C64 month - Ancipital

by Paul Morrison


Whichever of the two "big" computers you favoured, you would find really individual programmers who made the most of that system using their own talented voices.  One of the Commodore 64's most individual and unique voices came from Jeff Minter.

It's fair to say that he's always been a polarising character and his games have similarly split opinions.  Some people just didn't get his usage of ungulates as games characters.  I don't know why, it's part of the British humour and individuality that makes our media stand out.  It's no odder than having an animated toilet as an enemy, or a dot eating pizza chasing ghosts, for that matter.

A subtle dig at piracy, perhaps?

A subtle dig at piracy, perhaps?

Jeff's Llamasoft released a huge number of games on the 8-bits, but my favourite, and one that I wrote about in my Top Tens on this very website, is Ancipital.  It's something of a curious beast. It's an arena shooter, which probably stemmed from Jeff Minter's love of Eugene Jarvis' arcade legend, Robotron 2084.  However, that's about as much as it takes from that game.  The rest of it is pure imagination and originality.

The game sees you infiltrating a 100-room complex in an attempt to defeat the evil Zzyaxians.  There's a lot more story to it than my simple sentence, of course, but all you really need to know is that there are 100 rooms to explore and conquer.  If you want to know the rest, RTFM.

Anybody fancy a rollie?

Anybody fancy a rollie?

Once you're in a room, you're trapped.  The only way out is to blast everything that attacks you and find ways to damage any vulnerable walls within the room.  Not all walls are vulnerable, so Cippy, as your main character has come to affectionately be known, must use a bit of trial-and-error to find out which ways lead out.

There is an actual goal to the game, rather than just clearing all the rooms.  Camel keys are scattered around the complex, and must be retrieved if you are to have any chance of escape.  There are also goats lying around, and if you can grab five of these then Cippy will be granted an extra, very useful power...

Have a coke and a smile.

Have a coke and a smile.

Ancipital is a genuinely classic blaster.  It plays tremendously well, with a fantastic feel to the control method.  It assaults your eyes in a good way, and the sound is suitably meaty, as befits a game where you're jumping onto walls from a great height.  Now that Jeff has moved on from mobile phones to Sony formats, I really want a new version of this on the Vita.  It could be something that would really stand out on that platform.  Until that time, should it ever come, I'll have to "make do" with this.  That's not exactly a hardship.