Posted on April 27, 2018
I was an adult before Amazon destroyed bookstores, and as a kid the only place you could get books was in… Bookstores. Back then bookstores were more than bookstores, you could also buy software and even, my favorite, GAMES!
Most of the games I purchased (I got my mom or dad to purchase for me) were procured at Toy’s ‘R’ Us (RIP), Software Etc, or, * drumroll * … Bookstores. One bookstore that had a decent selection of C64 games was Waldenbooks. And it was at my local Waldenbooks (in 1987) that I convinced my mother to buy me Deceptor. I recall how excited I was when I saw this game on the shelf, mostly because the graphics depicted on the back made it look pretty awesome. Full color “3D”, or as 3D as things got on a C64. And it is pretty awesome. It’s super freaking hard, but it’s awesome. How hard? As a kid I don’t think I ever got past the second level. Today of corse I’ve played it on a C64 emulator with full cheats enabled and seen the game to the end; however, as a kid I never got too far with this game. That was actually the case with almost all of my games, not because I didn’t want to finish them but because I had other interests besides games. Skateboarding, biking, running around the neighborhood, and so on were all things I did in addition to playing video games. I grew up in a time when kids went outside to play and a lot of phones still had dials. I don’t think I ever finished any of my C64 games, but back to Deceptor…
I won’t mince words, Deceptor is a weird game. It’s a maze game with shooting at the end of each level. I think whoever created this game was hopped up on goofballs or something because it’s totally bizarre as far as the artwork goes. Even the gameplay is a little wonky. It’s got some fresh music and a cool intro too. It’s not hard to try it out on your favorite C64 emulator, so I definitely recommend giving it a go.
Posted on April 26, 2018
Do you make top five lists? I do. Today I made my computer game top five list:
- Rags to Riches (C64) (Free)
- Ultima IV (C64) (Free)
- Sim City 2000 (MAC/PC)($5.99)
- Sam & Max Hit the Road (MAC/LINUX/PC) ($5.99)
- Fallout 3 (PC) ($19.99)
I realize this list spans the ages, it’s a top five computer games of all time list. These are my favorites. I want you to note #1… Rags to Riches.
I bought Rags to Riches in I’d say about 1987 for 99 cents at Software Etc in the Santa Monica Place. It was part of a collection of games from a company called Value Ware. The other two games were Algebra Dragons and some Egypt tomb thing I think. I played the other two games like maybe once each, I payed Rags to Riches for hours and hours and hours and hours. When I discovered emulation in the late 90’s, I played Rags to Riches for hours and hours and hours and hours again. Thanks to the magic of emulation I was able to “finish” the game (it dosn’t really have a finish).
Why do I love this game so much, I mean it made #1 in my top five. Well it’s because it’s so f-ing original. You play a hobo who needs to get a haircut, find a job and move up in the world. The goal of the game is to make a million dollars, but nothing really happens when you finally do that in the game. How’s that for real? The graphics give the game a feel all it’s own, This was obviously a single person project that simply did not receive the sort of press it deserved back in the 80’s. The guy who made it is named Bob Keener who I can’t find any info on. If he’s still alive, I’d like to shake his hand and tell him how much his game meant to me over the years. I mean, I’v been through thirty-one years relationships, jobs, careers, training, schools, births, deaths, happiness, sadness… life stuff, and through it all I’ve always had a copy of Rags to Riches to remind me that it’s all about getting enough to eat, a place to sleep and a haircut if you want a job. I think a lot of my reasons for taking a more Taoist outlook may be a result of the Rags to Riches influence. Geez, that’s a lot for one little game eh?
Anyhow, I love this game so much that I created a tribute game with the Pico-8 Fantasy Console that is my version of Rags to Riches that I called Skid Row Joe, and is available on this very site in the Retropute Games Section. Pico-8 deserves its own post, and I will do that in the future for sure, but for now go ahead and play some Rags to Riches or Skid Row Joe because you can.
Posted on April 25, 2018
When I was pretty little, I think seven or eight years old, Coleco came out with some tabletop (handheld) video games that resembled their arcade countertop in form if not in gameplay. These were hot stuff in 82, when some of the best portable games were yo-yos.
As most small children did (and still do), I watched Saturday morning cartoons. Mine were way better than the swill they heap on the poor kids today, and so were the commercials. One of my favorite commercials was the one by Coleco (You can watch below) for their tabletop arcade games. In this commercial a character, who I don’t think ever showed up again in the pop lexicon, Mr. Arcade uses magic power to shrink arcade games to tabletop size… Even Donkey Kong!
Today micro technology is way better than it was than it was in 82 and the dream of Mr. Arcade it REAL…
May I present to you the Tiny Arcade, Ms. Pac Man from Super Impulse (SI)
This thing is one word… RAD. I got the Ms. Pac Man on Amazon for $15, but they make Galaxian, Pac Man, Dig Dug, Frogger, Space Invaders, and Galaga as well.
Ms. Pac Man is essentially a perfect tiny replica of the arcade cabinet that you might still find at your local taco or pizza place. The marquee even lights up to add to the authenticity. Beyond the form, the gameplay is EXACT. It’s probably an emulation of the original arcade hardware on a one inch screen.
And that’s the caveat, this is literally a ONE inch screen. It’s hard to see and at first I thought I wouldn’t actually be able to play this thing. I was wrong. I’ve been playing Ms. Pac Man on a ONE INCH SCREEN every day and liking it. Yes, it’s hard to see, yes, the joystick is less than perfect so I sometimes die when I don’t want to, but honestly even arcade versions in arcades have little problems that we all overlook (like some are set way too fast) in order to play this all time classic.
I’ll probably loose my 20/20 vision from eye strain, but I love playing this thing. I seriously think any of these is a perfect gift for the retro gamer in your family or friend circle. There is one weird thing, SI put a keychain ring on this thing… Why? Why does everyone put a keychain on everything that’s small? Do keychains add validity to small products? I dunno, I think it’s weird to put a keychain option on an otherwise perfect product.
Don’t forget to watch Mr. Arcade below!
Posted on April 24, 2018
My very first video game console as a kid was the Atari 2600 (aka. Atari VCS). I was a little late to the game since I got mine about the time of the famous 1983 video game crash. That bubble burst was what allowed me to get an Atari in the first place. Up until that time the systems were a little rich for the decision makers’ (my parents) blood. However, when the price of a C64 hit $50 at Thrifty Drug–everyone sold Atari systems by that point in the game (a big reason for the crash)–my mom was willing to entertain my desire for a video game system.
I had a lot of games for the 2600 because the 83 crash made them cheap. Toys ‘R’ Us (RIP) was giving some of them away for $5 with a $5 rebate. Among my collection was Adventure, a game that I will say I did not actually understand, and still have questions about. I think you need to suspend your expectations when playing Adventure. Dragons look like weird vertical duck things, and you are literally a large square pixel. All that and some of the aspects of gameplay are a little nebulous.
I have to be honest, I didn’t play this game too much, I liked Pitfall, Atlantis, and even Haunted House a lot better. Adventure is supposed to be… well, an adventure. Theres a castle and sort of puzzle like stuff and the weird vertical duck dragons and keys and stuff. It didn’t come off as that to me when I was eight years old and so the game experience was more frustrating than fun–probably the reason I gravitated toward easy games like Atlantis. What I didn’t know when I was a kid was that Adventure had a secret, the first known Easter egg in a video game.
Warren Robinett, the programer of Adventure, knowing that he would get no credit for his programing prowess (Atari was scared to name their talent because programer poaching was real), decided to put his own credit into the game without any sort of authorization from whoever he answered to at work. Warren put a secret room into the game with his name on it… literally.
And so the tradition of the video game Easter egg was born. Good story eh? Was this really the very first video game Easter egg? Most video game historians think so. I like to believe it was, either way Adventure is actually a pretty cool game even if eight year old me didn’t realize it in 83. Today I will play Adventure on an emulator now and then, but I’ve never actually tried to find the secret room, maybe I should do that.
Posted on April 23, 2018
I’ve owned a computer since I was nine years old. That means that I’ve owned computers for… a lot a years. Anyhow, the first computer that I cajoled my lower middle class income parents to buy me at an enormous expense to them was the Coleco Adam. This computer was by far one of the least successful home computers of the early 80’s era.
The Adam was a souped up Colecovision. Since home computers of the 80’s were basically the same hardware as video game consoles with more memory and writable storage media, companies like Coleco and Atari went full balls into the expanding PC marketplace without any hesitation. As we are well aware today, this didn’t work out so well, but while it was going on kids like me got to play with souped up video game systems that you could program.
I remember the day that I got my Adam. I was in the third grade, I came home from school, walked into my room and there on the floor was a huge box with all the awesome Coleco styling that said “ADAM COMPUTER.” I was so freaking excited, this thing came with a CPU that had a tape drive and could play Colecovision carts, a giant printer that was actually a computerized typewriter, a keyboard, and two of the weird Coleco joysticks that had keypads on them.
If you wanted to write any programs you had to boot the basic interpreter with the basic tape that came with the system. This was one of three software titles that I had for my Adam, the other two were Buck Rogers and the planet of Zoom, and Dragons Lair. Not a lot of software, lucky for me the typewriter style printer was as loud as a machine gun to make up for the lack of software.
In addition to all the other features, the Adam computer was humongous and required a desk all its own. My parents sprung for this desk and I used it all the way through high school, so I guess they got their money’s worth. I super wish I had a photo to share of this Adam setup, you kids would not believe the scale of this thing.
While it wasn’t the best or the brightest computer ever, it was MY computer and so I loved it. I learned my first programming concepts on it, I played awesome games, I imagined the future with that Adam. I feel like we (me included), take the miracles of the information age for granted at this point. I mean I say and think things like: “This high definition video is taking way too long to download/play on my phone.” At times when I have these twenty-first century problems that at one point I used to wait for like five minutes while basic booted up so I could write a program that asked me for my name and then output the text string: How are you today Gabe?
Posted on April 22, 2018
Moria, it’s not pretty, but depth… it has depth. You know how you’re mommy told you that you don’t have to be the best looking kid at prom because you’re special? My mom didn’t say that either, but if I was Moria she would have. Moria is special.
Moria is special because it’s deep, way deep, not deep like graphics simulations that simulate the physics of leaves blowing in the wind, but it’s deep like a good book… No, scratch that, a GREAT book.
Moria is an RPG, to be exact it’s a dungeon crawler. I consider dungeon crawlers to be RPG games because you play a character that has stats and fight things and collect treasure and need to eat… Moria has a lot of options, and because it was created in the early 80’s for Unix systems it’s for text game nerds like me.
See, I like a good text game or a game where you and everything else is represented by primitive squares, because this creates the best graphics of all… The graphics of the imagination. And my imagination has way better graphics than any NVIDIA chipset can simulate because, well, it’s my imagination. And I bet your imagination is pretty good too.
That’s why I picked Moria as the Sunday game of the week, because it sparks the imagination and so has the best graphics available that use the same chipset you use when you read a book, your brain.
Maybe this game isn’t for everyone, to be honest the first time I played this game was back in the early 90’s when the Internet was fresh and new and mine was a command line through a service called Netcom. This is one of the first games I ever downloaded on the Internet. The description said it was an adventure RPG with endless dungeons. I was imagining some sort of Doomlike game with 90’s graphics and 3D stuff and all that. I should have realized that the limited bandwidth that allowed for game downloads would not accommodate anything with graphics (my computer had a 117 Mb (Megabyte) hard drive and I was using a 14.4 modem.
I was a touch disappointed when I booted Moria up and all I got was some lines of text. But as I read the lines of text I realized that this was basically D&D in a text based world, and being a huge fan of the Ultima series, I gave this ugly duckling a go. Needless to say I love the game to this day and you probably will too if you give it a chance. Do I sound like your mom on prom night talking about the date you didn’t want to go with, but were forced to because he/she was the son/daughter of your dad’s boss? I have a wild imagination and that’s why Moria has the best graphics ever.
Posted on April 17, 2018
The Oregon Trail was as much of a pioneer in computer game history as the American pioneers that it seeks to simulate. Back in 1986 when I convinced my parents to go into debt to buy me a Commodore 64, one of the selling points I used was that the computer came with an educational game. That game was MECC Expeditions, and in that collection of educational games was Oregon Trail. I played the crap out of it as a kid, but since I’m a Gen X’er and not a late Millennial, I never played the more full featured version that has recently been released as a relatively low cost handheld and is exclusively available at Target Stores.
That for sure didn’t stop me from buying one the very moment I discovered it in the Target toy section on a routine mission to buy deodorant–Target has cheap deodorant. As soon as I saw this thing there on the shelf I grabbed it without a thought as to how much it might cost, and as I was hurtling toward the self checkout I calculated that as long as it was priced below say $50, I would purchase it.
Turns out it was a downright affordable $25! and I don’t regret the purchase at all, not one bit, it was worth every penny. Now I realize I must sound like a shill for Target with all this gushing moisture I’m dripping about this little toy, but I’ve honestly been waiting for someone to make something like this for years and I actually check the toy shelves at places like Target to see what the handheld situation is a few times a year. This year was a jackpot!
Like I said, I have been waiting for someone to make something like this for a while. A single game handheld that’s payable, color, adventure or rpg oriented, and easy for me to buy. Oregon Trail handheld fits the bill finally!
It’s a good little game. It plays well, you can save, you can turn down or off the sound, and it’s in full color. I’m getting a little older (Gen X), so the type is just a little too small for me but let’s be honest, that is a very “small” problem… get it? I crack myself up.
I’m sure the hardware hacking community is going to have a field day with this thing and hack the @#$% out of it. In fact I’ve already watched a Youtube video where a guy named Ben Heck takes it apart and puts it into a smaller box–he also hacks it by reading and writing to the eeprom. Personally I like the slightly bulky retro inspired box they put it in (the on switch is supposed to look like a floppy disk).
In conclusion, this Oregon Trail handheld is totally awesome. If you like crap like this you should go and buy it. Perhaps if this thing is a hit it will encourage more devices like it–I’d love to see an Ultima IV handheld (C64 version) … Did you hear that Target?