Budget Day - Train Robbers (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

I'm heading back in time again for this latest game, but whereas I played a good guy in Kane, this time I'm playing a positively bad guy in the form of Cactus Pete, in Firebird's Train Robbers.

Cactus Pete is fairly prolific as robbers go... he's currently worth $4,000, which is no small amount of cash.  That doesn't concern Pete, though... he's constantly on the lookout for more trains to rob, and more lovely lolly.  And you're going to help him.

It's a dangerous business, train robbing.  First of all, you have to actually get on the train.  When you're a robber, you can't just buy a ticket.  Pete's method of entry is a little less straightforward.  He leaps onto his trusty steed and waits by the railway line.  When the train comes buy, he leaps from his horse, climbs the train's ladder, and runs along the rooftop to the cargo carriage at the back of the train.

That sounds like a piece of cake, but you try jumping a gap on a train at 80 miles per hour.  It's tricky.  It's even trickier when you consider that the railway cuts through a number of hills, meaning there are tunnels aplenty.  If Pete doesn't duck in time... well, it doesn't bear thinking about.

Sneak!  Sneak!  Sneak!
When (if) Pete makes it to the loot car, he can fill his boots.  All he has to do is climb down the ladder inside the car, pick up the two keys, unlock the safe and make off with his stash.  Oh, and avoid the two vicious dogs that patrol the carriage...

Should Pete manage to empty the safe without being bitten, he'll find himself back on top of the train.  Now he needs to get back to the front of the train where his horse will be waiting for him.  It's another tricky journey, with mailboxes to jump over or duck under.  Still, with all that adrenalin running from having completed another successful heist, that should pose no problem at all!

Is it dark in here, or is it just me?
Train Robbers is a funny little game.  It's funny as in odd, and funny as in amusing.  It has some great touches... the way the screen goes black and you can only see Pete's eyes when you go through a tunnel is particularly funny.  It's pretty tricky, too... I can say in all honesty that I've never managed to get back on my horse after a robbery, not in 1988 and not in 2013.  But I played it quite a bit, and it remains an entertaining little budget game.

Budget Day - Booty (ZX Spectrum)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

Arrrr, Jim Lad (fer that be yer name)... yer on a ship that be occupied by naught but ghost pirates. But this ship is laden wi' booty... and it's yours fer the takin', if ye can outwit those scurvy knaves and scabbards, and empty the hold o' its goodies.

Arrrr... enough of that, Talk Like A Pirate Day is months away! Booty is a platform game where you play the put-upon cabin boy who, sick of his lot in life, decides to gather up as much of the pirates' loot as he can and, to use modern parlance for once, "do one".

No, Jim lad! Don't do it!
Naturally, they're not about to give up their ill-gotten gains as easily as all that, and they walk the decks, cutlasses in hand, all ready to hand out a damn good thrashing to anyone wi' sticky fingers. Whoops, sorry.

It's a clever little game, is Booty. For all the pirates and their parrots deal instant death, the biggest obstacle is the layout of the ship. Some of the rooms are really tricky to negotiate, with keys having to be picked up in the right order to allow you access to certain rooms at the right times. Oh, and some of the treasure is booby-trapped...

Do you think J-Lo or Beyonce would like this game?
I first played Booty on a mate's Spectrum, and I liked it so much that it was one of the first games I bought when I got my Commodore 64. Pity, then, that the 64 version was wretched and a huge disappointment (and waste of pocket money!). There's no such problem with the Spectrum version... it was a cracking release from Firebird, and gave me a taxing but enjoyable hour or so when playing it again. Arrrr, that it did. Oh, bugger.

Budget Day - Raging Beast (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

The matador.

Noble.  Proud.  Cruel.  Foolish.  All adjectives that can and have been used to describe the bullfighter in years gone by.  In today's "civilised" society, the matador is often considered barbaric.  However, the sport and tradition is an ancient one... it's tough to know, in this day and age, when something like bullfighting should be abandoned and when it can justifiably continue.

Or if you don't want to enter that debate, you can play Raging Beast.

A timeless battle is about to begin...
Proving that truly nothing was impossible, Firebird brought us a computer game based on the sport of bullfighting.  It seemed inconceivable that it could be any good, or even that it could be done, and yet here it was.  How could they get away with the slaughtering of bulls for computer entertainment?

They didn't even try.

In fact, the bull is the true star of Raging Beast.  As soon as the two protagonists enter the ring and stare each other down, you know that it's probably not going to end well for you.  When your only form of defence is a little red hankie, you need to be really good... because this bull knows what he's doing.

It appears as though the bull has the upper hand in this bout.
It's quite amazing just how much character has been packed into the few pixels that make up Alfonso the bull.  As soon as you start waving your red rag at him, he'll snort, he'll paw the ground, and then he'll start to approach you.

It's at this point that I make like the weedy guy up against the mighty gladiator in Monty Python's Life of Brian... I turn and run.

Doing this will not win you the game, but it's funny.  You will genuinely laugh as you're haring around the bullring with a hefty bull chasing after you.  But it doesn't get anything done, so at some point you have to grab the bull by the horns (not literally) and attempt to confront Alfonso.

Now... who exactly is in charge of this situation?
I used to be half-decent at this back in the day, and could "Olé" with the best of them.  But I don't mind admitting that I struggled to get to grips with it this time around.  I don't mind admitting it because, again, it was funny.  Getting stomped into the dirt, thrown into the air or flung onto the bull's back for an impromptu ride around the ring is good entertainment.

It can only last so long though, and eventually you get a little bored and want to move on to something else.  But for a unique, amusing and entertaining experience, Raging Beast hits the nail on the head.  And there's not even the slightest risk of injury!


by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

When I were a lad, one of the main disappointments, if you can call it that, of owning a Commodore 64 was its lack of isometric 3D adventures.  The Spectrum had them in abundance, with Ultimate's offerings being particularly impressive.  I was a bit jealous of my Speccy-owning friends, and could often be found in their houses, pottering around Knight Lore castle in an attempt to rid myself of a lycanthropic curse.

I was delighted, then, when Firebird released, with surprisingly little fanfare, an isometric 3D adventure on the C64 called Chimera.  Set in the future, the game saw the people of Earth thrown into panic when an undoubtedly hostile alien craft was found to be orbiting the planet.  It had to be stopped, and the only way to do that was by beaming you onboard in a robotic space suit, with the aim of finding a way to destroy the ship from within.

This is how it started.
It wasn't a big game, but it was quite tricky and, crucially, it was fast and played pretty well.  It certainly scratched that isometric itch nicely for a good while.  It was also notable for some excellent Rob Hubbard music, and some quite frightening synthesised speech, with the game bellowing its name at you at the start and offering up a blood-curdling scream upon your death.  It was well-received on all formats, and rightly so.

Author Shahid Ahmad was responsible for a number of other games, including the C64 port of Jet Set Willy... which would be very interesting to discuss.  He also wrote the Spectrum and Amstrad versions of Chimera... the latter of those being done in just a week, with no prior experience of the machine!  Remarkable stuff.  There were versions on other platforms, too.

And this is how it looks now!  Which do you prefer?
I was very interested when I read last year that Shahid was attempting a remake of Chimera on the PC.  In fact, the project began in 2010, as his blog shows.  Have a read of it, there's some good stuff there.  There's no real reason for the remake, other than it was something he fancied doing.  Who needs a better reason than that, anyway?

Two years later, and it's finished.  Or, at least, the first playable version has been released.  You can download it on Shahid's blog page for either PC or Mac.  It's pretty faithful to the original, and quite basic as games go these days, but it's fun to potter around in that world again.  It has an appropriately spooky opening, with some random atmospheric sounds playing, and the famous speech makes a return.  Other than that, not much has changed... yet.  You still eat bread and drink tea and die because of radiators and try and make missiles to blow up the ship.

Hurray, I've created a missile! Hang on... where the hell am I?
And that's great, for version 1.0.  But it's just a stepping stone to more, promises Shahid.  There will be some updates to this, but it all appears to be leading toward a Chimera 2.0.  It should have lots more features and ideas, and be a much better game all round.  That makes me happy... it's great to have that to look forward to.  For now, though, have a go at Chimera 2010. It's a nice little piece of unashamedly retro gaming.  I hope to talk to Shahid about it, and of course his 8-bit games, for this book.

Tell you what, the first one of my readers to finish Chimera 2010 gets a free Steam game from me, from my stockpile of gifts.  How can you refuse?