Gaming Category

  • Super Stario Land Video

    I worked on a few commercial games on the Atari ST back in the mid 1990s, one of them was Super Stario Land by Top Byte Software. This was a shameless port of a Nintendo game a few of you may have come across. The developer (Adrian Keylock) literally copied as much as he could from the NES original onto the ST, and I did the graphics.

    Today I saw someone had uploaded a video of it to YouTube. It made me smile, even if the graphics do now make me cringe. It was actually really hard work to draw because the developer enforced a strict number of bitplanes per sprite, which mean I had at most 3 colours to paint with (plus black). The graphics were shamelessly stolen from the NES original. But there were no “Sprite Rip Archives” back then! They were copied by hand from a TV screen onto graph paper. Then redrawn on the ST.

    Quite frankly if the ST hadn’t been on its last legs when this title hit, Nintendo probably would have sued our asses off. As it happens they didn’t, the game got good reviews and sold well. It even spawned a sequel.

    Interesting factoid #1 – the main character is based on Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.

    Interesting factoid #2 – I was never sent a final copy of the game. The publisher was run by a guy called James Matthews. He was a nice enough chap, but the cheeky bastard never even saw fit to send me the game – let alone any payment for my work. I did finally get a boxed copy off ebay a few years ago.

  • Jack’s Beach Blitz

    Jack’s Beach Blitz is a new game from the fine folks at 8-bit Rocket. They have been posting about the  development process for a few weeks now (you can read it all on their blog). Originally starting life as a Pacman styled game, it’s now much more of Gauntlet meets Wizard of Wor. You play Jack, a slightly cycedelic coloured orange who has to traverse each level, blasting the baddies, teleporting, picking up bonuses and ultimately trying to collect your girl before pegging it to the exit.

    Monster spawning generators can be shot (but take a lot of your limited ammo supply), you can also pick-up power-ups such as freeze or instant kill. But without taking out at least a few of the generators they just keep on coming! They also move pretty speedily (as do you), so you don’t really have time to run away from them. Thankfully they are pretty dumb, so more often that not you can evade them quickly, but if you don’t do something about the number of them you’ll soon get overwhelmed.

    Graphically it’s obvious the 8-bit Rocket team could do with a talented artist onboard (sorry guys!). The graphics are far from terrible, but do get cluttered on later levels and have that “grid like” look to them, which a skilled pixeller can avoid easily. In-game the animations are cute, and things move along at a very nippy pace. The main menu is a bit of a jumble though, with mixed visual cues. Some careful spacing here would do wonders. It was also really quite hard to visually differentiate between something that would do you damage, or do you good, so that was more trial and error.

    As for the audio – it’s great :) Lots of big sounds and rolling effects. Glad to see you got to use that music too guys!

    Aesthetics aside it’s the gameplay that counts, and JBB has in this in spades. There’s a nice puzzle element (unlock things that block your girl), there’s the solid arcade element (shoot, and shoot fast + avoid) and there’s the whole time aspect too. Take too long and you’ll be swamped.

    It’s nice to see a real solid arcade blaster out there. Give it a play!

  • Video Games Live: Volume One

    My lovely wife bought me the Video Games Live: Volume One CD around a year ago from Amazon, and they only just received stock of it and shipped it! But it arrived today and was waiting for me when I got home from work.

    All I can say is WOW! It is incredible. I’ve never been to a Video Games Live concert, and there is one coming up soon in London at the end of October which I sadly can’t make, but I’ll be sure to get tickets to the next one as soon as they return! The CD is stunning. Think lots of game music as performed by a full-on orchestra, with wonderful vocals.

    The CD opens with the Kingdom Hearts music, which blends nicely into the Warcraft Suite, and it doesn’t let-up from there. The Civilization IV Medley by Christopher Tin is nothing short of beautiful, with an incredible African theme. The operatic God of War montage sends chills down your spine, and I’ve not even mentioned the music from Advent Rising, Tron, Halo or Castlevania.

    If you treat yourself to one CD this Christmas, consider this one! It’s truly stunning. Game music like you’ve never heard before (unless you’re lucky enough to have been to a VGL concert of course, in which case I’m extremely jealous of you :) )

    There are over 2000 videos from VGL on Youtube here. Just watch this and tell me that’s not a great concert to be at? :)

  • fMAME – It had to happen sooner or later :)

    Over on yvern.com they’ve released the first version of fMAME – a Flash port of MAME, the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. It doesn’t have any sound support yet, and in the debug Flash player is a little slow, but it’s still a damned fine piece of work! Several older games are supported (1943, Hyper Sports, Galaga, etc) but it’s great to see this classic emulator ported to AS3.

    Click the screenie to play.

    Press the 5 key to insert a coin, arrow keys = movement, A = fire button 1, S = fire button 2.

    fMAME

    fMAME

  • Behind the Square

    This is just a short post to say that the excellent new album “Behind the Square” has been released on C64 Audio.com. It’s a collection of remixed Mad Max (Jochen Hippel) tunes, put together by ACC:Xess. They are superb, spanning everything from the haunting Astaroth game over track, to some classic demo screen music. Superb value for £4.99 :) Click the album cover to visit the site and buy it!

    http://www.c64audio.com/productInfo.php?cat=STCD2