Wroom, wroom! Get on, start the engine, gear up, ready for the green light, release the brake, start! That’s what a good motorcycle race should look like at the beginning. In Super Cycle by Epyx it’s almost exact. Let’s talk about it more.

What It Is About

The game has been made by the American developer Epyx in 1986 for the Commodore 64 computer, and this version is the best of all the 8-bit versions. The game was released for the 16-bit Atari ST as well, but we’ll focus on the 8-bit stuff here.

The game itself is… well, a regular racing game. With motorbikes. Your aim is to win the race against other bikes, reach the best score and not to run out of time. The main race starts immediately, no qualifying. After every three ordinary racing circuits – every single one in different environment – there’s a bonus round where you pick little flags that someone had put on the road.

The Gameplay

Especially on the C64, the gameplay is very smooth and fast. You can clearly see that a turn is coming, and the opponents are kinda intelligent. They tend to block your way when you’re trying to overtake them. The centrifugal force throws your bike to the side, and you have to stabilize the optimal position. The bike has three gears, and they have to be changed optimally. Therefore there’s a tachometer and the handle should never get to the red area. If everything goes clear and you get the finish line, you get extra points depending on the time you reached or amount of flags you picked up in the bonus round. In the main menu you can choose from one of three difficulties. The highest one is really tough and you really have to study the turn order to drive through. The time limit is tighter as well.

What makes the game good is the fast, yet smooth gameplay. Driving a bike running 140 MPH is really enjoyable. This applies to the original version on the C64. The other 8-bit versions have their, let’s say, disadvantages. Some of them are pretty worrying.

Conversion Differences

I’ll give you an example: on the Amstrad CPC, oppenent bikes can scoot you down from rear, so when you crash and try to speed the bike up again, you must take care of your back not to be kicked down. The game looks good, though. The only superficial difference is in sounds. The game physics is different, too, so if you’ve just switched from the C64 version to test the CPC game, you’ll probably notice huge differences in the gameplay. However, this doesn’t affect the CPC version in its complexity much. The game is just a little different, not in a bad sense, and it’s still an excellent conversion made by U.S. Gold.

The Spectrum

The British U.S. Gold has converted this game to the Spectrum as well. The result is satisfying, but not perfect. It was done in a hurry, as far as I know, the authors had just one day to finish the conversion. But having this in mind, the result is pretty astounding. The gameplay is not as catchy as on the C64 or CPC, though. First, everything is way too slow. Second, there are traffic signs telling the turn is near, but the player doesn’t see the beginning of the turn at all! Simply, you just ride and suddenly there’s a left or right turn. Third, the flags in the bonus round don’t make any sensible path, so you must a) remember their positions or b) be quick and try to pick all of them, which isn’t that easy. But the most unpleasant feature of the Spectrum conversion is that the game never ends. You just play round and round till 99999 points and then the score counter displays random characters and you’re still going on. No victory here.


Super Cycle is a catchy, fast, pacey motorbike racing game that is worth a try mainly on the Commodore 64, but the CPC version also plays well. The Spectrum loses big time here, although it contains quite nicely drawn graphics. To get the most of it, grab the C64 version. Then try comparing. At the end, I think you’ll get back to the Commodore.


There are games that have cute graphics. There are games that have great playability. There are games that have a long playtime. And then there are games that have all of that. Mega games. And mega games deserve mega reviews. In terms of pictures (exactly 100 screenshots!), not text–so relax and read on. In case you’re really extremely text-shy, just scroll down to the mega gallery at the end of the article.


Hot Rod was originally a 1988 SEGA top-down racing arcade game. A very different racing game.

Hot Rod is one of the best racing games to ever hit the 8-bit market.


It starts with that it’s one of just very few overhead games where you don’t race on circuits. Instead, you’re driving across an unspecified country. Every three stages take place in roughly the same kind of landscape. The landscapes range from mountains to deserts to sea shores and from wilderness to cities. You’ll drive not only on good old tarmac, but also on dirt, sand, snow, and ice. So what you’re getting are 30 levels of scrolling awesomeness in ten different environments.

Hot Rod title screens

Title screens from the Spectrum (left) and Commodore 64 (right) version. The CPC one has no title picture.

Another huge difference is that unlike in other car games, Hot Rod isn’t about lightning-quick reactions. The pace of the game is quite relaxed, so it’s all about precision driving, not jerking the wheel in this or that direction as fast as possible. That is supported by a game mechanics that’s only possible in a game world: there are no collisions with other players. Your car can be in the very same place as your opponent’s, so everyone can take the racing line they deem the optimal one. This eliminates the most frequent problem of multiplayer car games, where you often get rid of the other humans as soon as possible through crashing into them and/or driving them off the track and then just cruise to victory. It practically asks for cooperative playing instead: sharing the available bonuses and trying to get both humans through all the levels.

Anytime you have a scrolling multiplayer racer, you have to solve the same problem: what to do with a player who’s lagging behind so much that they’d fall off the screen? Hot Rod bases its logic on one all-important variable: gas. You get extra gas depending on your place in each stage, and you can collect some on the road in the form of extras. You burn it with each second the road, and it’s a currency in which you pay for your blunders. If one of the three cars (up to two human players, the rest is played by the machine), for example, falls into the ocean or gets buried by an avalanche or a landslide, they’re resurrected at the cost of 20 gas units. Same goes for the time when they fall behind–the game puts them back among the competitors, but they lose 20 gas. If their gas tank gets empty–game over.

Perhaps the only traditional element of Hot Rod are the upgrades, which you exchange for the second most important indicator in the game: money. You receive money for your performane in the races, and in the CPC and ZX version also for collecting bonuses. Between the races, you can visit a parts shop and buy one of the 20 possible thingies that change the behavior of your car. These are engines, wings, bumpers, and tires for different surfaces. Yet even here, Hot Rod inserts its own little twist. Every shop has only select upgrades and you can always buy only one; therefore, you have to plan your upgrade strategy very carefully.

CPC Parts Shop

In Parts Shops, you can buy upgrades for your car. This one is from the CPC version.

In most stages, the roads and/or streets are closed for the race, but occasionally, Hot Rod gets a Gumballish touch, and you have to navigate among other cars, dozers, and rollers, and avoid being caught by the police or hit by a train. And sometimes you can take a shortcut that, in turn, is more difficult navigate – so if you’re good, you gain, if you make a mistake, you lose time (and possibly gas).


All of the above says how much creativity and effort went into the game, but what I’ve always loved about Hot Rod the most is how it all clicks together. You get a polished, immensely entertaining, variable, highly replayable eye candy monster of a game. Hot Rod is simply one of the best racing games to ever hit the 8-bit market (and my No. 1 personally). And its versions are a perfect example of that each 8-bit platform has its strengths.

Hot Rod found its way to the C=64, CPC, and ZX.

Podium ceremony

Top right: ZX Spectrum. Bottom left: C=64. Bottom right: CPC. This layout will be the same for all the pictures in the mega gallery below.

The best-presented version is the C=64 one. It has a neat intro, great music by Jeroen Tel, and makes the most of the Commodore’s hardware sprites and hardware scrolling. Everything is smooth and sleek. However, typically for C=64 versions of arcade games, there’s one big dent in all that beauty: the game lacks nine out of the original 30 levels (19-24, 28-30). Sadly, they are some of the best levels. As they are all from the final parts of the game, it looks as if there was a hard deadline and the publisher said, “We’ll just put out whatever we’ll have by then.” Back on the positive side, the C=64 is the only 8-bit version that has an end sequence – on the CPC and the ZX, the game just wraps (which I have always hated–I play games to win them, not to play them until I lose).

The C=64 version is also the best balanced of them all. It’s got to do with the brave, but ultimately bad, decision of the CPC and ZX converters to be fair to the human players and implement actual AI. On the C=64, you have your typical computer droids. They follow a predetermined path no matter what. It’s a little dull, very predictable–but it works. On the Z80-based machines, the computer tries to find the best way through the level on the fly, reacting to what’s currently happening on the screen. The problem is that the AI is too weak. Once you throw it off balance, it usually fails to get back on track and your victory in that level is guaranteed. Yet, when the AI works well, the racing is more fun than on the C=64, as the computer also upgrades its cars, and if you let it grow, it becomes a tough opponent. When a computer car gets a game over, a new car is pitted against you, starting from scratch without any upgrades.

The Z80 versions have somewhat broken economy

Another bit of balancing that the C=64 version got right is the economy. On the Speccy, and esp. on the CPC, near the end, you have a lot of money and not much to buy for it (with most upgrades priced between $600 and $5000, the $48000 from the picture above is ridiculously much). While on the C=64, an engine will last you only 6 races, so you have to make sure to win enough money to keep replacing it–and remember the right levels in which the Parts Shops have the engines you want.

The CPC version of the game has all of the glorious 30 levels but pays the price for the hardware it runs on. Compared to the C=64 and ZX version, it feels kind of sluggish. There’s a delay between the time you change the steering and the time the car actually reacts. Which means that especially on snow and ice, where your car is already difficult to control by default, you have to do a lot of very anticipative driving. Apart from the jerky scrolling, there’s also a smaller game window, into which the creators tried to put all the necessary graphics, resulting in not much detail. On the other hand, compared to Speccy, the graphics are much more colorful. And the slower pace of the game can be an advantage for weaker gamers.

The ZX version has the least colors, but that’s the nature of the platform. The only serious problem with the graphics is that while on the C=64 and the CPC, there’s a red, green, and blue car, on the Spectrum, all the cars are black. And as they can all be in one place at one time, sometimes it happens that you’re happy with how brilliantly you’ve steered through a curve, to notice only five seconds later that your car actually is the one that ended in the barrier and that you’re mistaking it for one of your computer opponents. On the other hand, the hires graphics allow for a solid level of detail, and the game is as fast as it needs to be and very playable.


Having had a Commodore 64 for almost 30 years now, I’ve completed Hot Rod on the C=64 countless times already, but I loved playing through it on the CPC as well as on the Spectrum. And I heartily recommend you to do the same, because each of the versions has nice bits that the others lack. You can see it in the mega gallery that follows. And then? Stop reading, start playing!


In this gallery, you’ll find a screenshot from every level on each platform. What we’re not showing you is the end sequence. After all, this is a teaser. Enjoy it, drool, and then play through the game on your own. Have fun!

Level 01

Level 02

Level 03

Level 04

Level 05

Level 06

Level 07

Level 08

Level 09

Level 10

Level 11

Level 12

Level 13

Level 14

Level 15

Level 16

Level 17

Level 18

Level 19

Level 20

Level 21

Level 22

Level 23

Level 24

Level 25

Level 26

Level 27

Level 28

Level 29

Level 30

Parts Shops

I like big, epic games. Turricans, Nobby the Aardvark, Dragon Wars – that kind of stuff. But every now and then I just don’t feel like immersing in a game for hours or even days. And then it’s time for some of the great game miniatures that replace size and complexity with perfectly polished mechanisms and sheer playability. Like Traffic.

Immense fun! And immensely addictive.



Traffic is a logical game from 1984, a time long before the genre’s reputation got ruined by the tsunami of 2nd and 3rd rate half-baked quick-cash junk in the mid 1990s. It was originally released by Argus Press Software (APS)/Quicksilva for the C=64 and ported to CPC a year later by Amsoft/Andromeda Software.

Let the CPC version tell us what the game’s about:

Traffic - Game Description

Well, thank you very much for such a reward!

The graphics are simplistic but cute. All the vehicles are just rectangles of various sizes, but you’ll have no trouble seeing motorbikes, regular cars, vans, and trucks in them. Their blinking indicators, made of a minimum amount of pixels, are lovely.

The sound could probably be called simplistic too (but not cute). On the title screen, there’s the typical Big Ben jingle, followed by a forgettable tune with instruments typical of the early ’80s (“we’re happy that it makes a sound!”). There are also a few in-game sound effects, the most important one being the alarm that sounds anytime a queue length is nearing a terminal value.

Where the game excels is the behavior of the cars. They don’t just decelerate and accelerate. They properly slow down when they need to turn. Trucks are slower. But the winner is the situation when the red light comes on and the drivers know they won’t be able to stop in time: in that case they simply step on the gas to go through the crossroad faster. It’s so lifelike that I have to smile whenever I see it.


Playing the game is easy. On the screen, you have a top-down view of the area, with only two actions available: you move between the junctions with your joystick and switch the lights from red to green and vice versa with the fire button. Cars come from outside the screen, go through the area (adhering to the lights), and then leave. You get a point for each car that leaves your area. You complete the first level if you dispatch 200 cars, the second level is over after 300 cars, the third level takes 400 cars, and so on.

Level 2. C=64 on the left, CPC on the right. Note that even though the roads are put pixel-exact in the CPC version, the graphics aren’t converted but re-drawn (see placing of the buildings, the perspective, and the number of their floors) from scratch.

As long as incoming cars fit onto the screen, everything’s fine. When a queue starts to form outside the screen, you’re in trouble. If the number of cars in any one street waiting to enter the screen reaches 5 in the first two levels and 9 in the higher levels, you’re game over. In the higher levels, there’s also a limit for the total of all the queues.


Sounds as sexy as a decaying zombie teeming with maggots? Sure, but it’s immense fun! And immensely addictive. Seeing the cars traverse the screen fluently gives you a feeling of satisfaction, and then there are countless little dramas when you are this close to a queue reaching critical length and get the traffic going again in the last moment possible. Plus the game has the “just one more try” magic. You’re sure next time you’ll do better because you think you know what just went wrong. And then again. And again. And again.

In the beginning you go all operative. Get used to that it’s the UK, i.e., cars on the left. Just turn the green light on wherever cars are waiting. Then you realize there’s a tactical layer to it: you don’t want cars to go through one crossroad only to stop at the next traffic light because if the cars have to accelerate and brake, they spend more time on the screen. So you need to create a flow. And after you fail a level several times, the strategic element comes in. You see that no matter which queue finally gameovered you one particular time, there always seem to be one or two streets that are absolutely jammed at that moment and are probably the bottleneck. Therefore you try to create a flow with special attention paid to those critical places. Well, yeah, you still haven’t negotiated the level – but your high score just went 15 points up. You’re on a good track. Next time (or the one after that) you’ll sure make it!

C=64 VS. CPC

The two versions are almost identical.

The C=64 version boasts an achievement for the time: when you complete a level, a sampled voice says, “Next map.” But the CPC has a unique element as well: it offers a special color scheme for playing on a monochromatic monitor (having white color for red and blue for green if you choose it on a normal device feels kinda surreal).

Traffic - screenshot from the monochrome version

Would you stop or go if you saw a white traffic light? And what about a blue one?

The rest is just details. On the Commodore, the active junction is indicated by a crosshair, on the CPC, its outlines change color. The high score table (which is not saved) has 3-char names on the 64 and 4-char names on the CPC.

So the only important difference is that the CPC version seems to be one tiny little bit easier than the C=64 version. Which might be an important factor because the game’s not only great; it’s also fairly difficult.

But whichever platform you prefer, give traffic a try. It’s totally worth it.

Stop reading, start playing!

Formula 1 3D: F.1 Manager II

Let’s start with a very scientific-looking chart that explains the difference between writing about contemporary games and retrogaming journalism. On the vertical axis, we’ll have game quality. On the horizontal axis, we’ll have advertising.

At any given time, there’s more games than any paper magazine in the past or online magazine today could review. So the role of contemporary mags usually is to give the players guidance whether to buy big titles or not. They work as guardians of gamers’ wallets.

With retrogaming it’s different. The wheat was separated from the chaff long ago. We already know how much the licensed Superman and Knight Rider games sucked. But there are still thousands of games that have never made it into the limelight – sometimes because of a bad marketing strategy, sometimes because they were made by great creators who, unfortunately, had no idea about that a good game won’t sell by itself, and sometimes just because of a chain of unfortunate events. Finding such games and giving them some belated justice is one of the major tasks of retrogaming mags. Or of ours at least.

We want to cover great games that didn't get advertised enough to gain fame.

Discovering cool games that never got famous is one of our goals.

So this article introduces Cool Stuff—our tips for games that you might have never heard of because they never got the recognition they deserved.


… there was an Italian company called Simulmondo. They made games for the Commodore 64, Amiga, and DOS. The games had two good things in common: they always looked good, and they were always at least solid. I don’t remember playing a single one bad Simulmondo game. I liked some of them more, some of them less, but I always liked them. And one of them I simply loved: Formula 1 3D: F.1 Manager II.

It’s a pity that Simulmondo did games only for the C=64 on the 8-bitters, because the game would have definitely been doable on the other platforms.
The graphics look pretty, but the game’s not really color-demanding, so the usual color downgrade for the Spectrum and Atari 8-bit wouldn’t have mattered. I guess a hires Spectrum version would have had a certain charm.

Sounds are limited to the engine noises, which all of the 8-bitters are capable of, and just one, very special, tune. Its specialty consists in that even though I normally hate short repetitive tunes with bad instruments, there’s some strange magic to this one: even though it’s horrible, I’m very fond of it and sometimes just can’t help myself humming it even when I do something totally computer-unrelated.

As the company’s name suggests, they did a lot of (although by far not exclusively) sims. As the game’s name suggests, it’s a Formula 1 simulator/manager game. And it’s symbolic that such a good game of this kind comes from Italy, the home of the company that’s almost synonymous with F1: Ferrari.


Formula 1 3D: F.1 Manager II (I’ll call it just F1 3D from here on), published in 1991, is not really a sequel to the original F.1 Manager from 1989. It’s a crossbred between a translation and a remake. The original was in Italian only, while in F1 3D, you can choose between Italian and English. Other than that, just a few pictures got changed, a few details were added on the managerial side, and the difficulty got tweaked a bit. Nothing 3D was actually added: the first game had been in 3D already, but in the early 90s, the 3D madness took over, plus Simulmondo published I Play – 3D Soccer, I Play – 3D Tennis, and even 3D Scacchi Simulator (3D chess, even though 3D views had been common in chess games since the early 80s, therefore there was no rational reason to point that out) around that time as well, so it might have been their naming strategy for sports games.

Sexy language selection screen

That’s what I’d call a pressFkeybait.


The game is a typical manager in that you have to work with limited resources. You can play alone or with a friend. You start with a budget of $6 million, and you have to divide it between your pilot, engine, chassis, and staff. Are you going to put a lousy driver into the seat of a great car, or will you make compromises on the car design side, hoping that a good driver will still be able to overtake with it? And where exactly are you going to save? Pilots have three stats: courage, ability, and tactics. Gonna go for an incapable kamikaze or a boring tactician? The engine parameters are cylinders, valves x cyl., max. RPM, HP. The chassis are characterized by aerodynamics, grip, cooling, safety, and resistance. If you neglect the aero, your car will be slow, with low cooling you’ll risk that your car will overheat, and so on. And if you don’t have enough engineers and mechanics, will you be able to extract the maximum from the car?

Building your team

Create your driver, pick your engine and chassis, get some staff, and you’re good to go!

It will take you a while to find a combination that works best for your managerial and driving style. And that’s what’s so great about the game!


On the 8-bitters, most sports simulations are heavily imbalanced. Either they are a tiring, endless series of menus that will put you to sleep after a while, or they are badly covered action games where most of your choices won’t really matter. F1 3D serves a yummy blend for both your brains and hands.

Before every race, you take part in quali. In qualifying, you drive the car yourself. You have three laps, and the best one of them counts. What I especially like about the qualifying is that, like in the so-called real world, you actually have to know the circuit to perform well at it, and you can’t just go through every corner at full throttle. I hadn’t really been successful at the game until I started writing down the layout of the circuits. Right then the game really got me hooked many years ago. Driving the car was fun, and seeing the difference my performance made motivated me to improve. Often I found myself with my whole body tilted in the corners, trying to take the optimum line, murmuring, “Getitrightgetitrightgetitright!”

Set up your car and go for the quali!

Set up your car and go for it. Hitting those apexes really matters!

After the qualifying, you move into the role of the team boss, sitting on the pit wall, watching the race on TV, following the car data via telemetry, and instructing your pilot how to drive according to all of that.

You control the speed of the pilot and the driving style (defensive or aggressive), and you also decide when to make pit stops. You make these decisions based on your position, the state of the car’s front and rear tires and the gearbox, the temperature of the engine, and the remaining fuel. In the meantime, the TV feed serves you the overtaking maneuvers and other highlights, like pilots’ excursions off the track or their technical problems.

Race screenshots

A lot can happen during the race.

And your decisions matter! If your tires are in a bad shape and you want your driver to drive too fast and too aggressively, you usually end up in a wall. You’ll be as nervous and foot-tapping as any real team boss, watching the feed and waiting what’s going to happen next. Will the increased aggression get your pilot ahead, or will he overdo it? Will the tires last till the end, because you want to avoid another pit stop? Is the driver behind, who has been getting closer lap by lap, able to overtake your driver? Should you turn the engine down because it’s getting very hot? These questions will nag at you and your heart will skip a beat anytime you’ll see the name of your driver on the screen.

If you pick your strategy well (and your driver isn’t too shabby), you can make progress through the field. Yet the game is so well balanced that if you qualify plumb last, usually you can’t make it to the points, let alone victory. So you can gain and lose in both the action and the managerial part of the game.

As a pilot you want to win, but as a team boss you have to secure your team’s future in the first place, so in the end everything translates to money. You get prize money for qualifying and your end result in the race, you lose money if you wreck your car and have to fix it, and before every race you can select a sponsor, who will reward your end result. Each sponsor has a different financial strength, so it pays off to select the best ones for the races where you know you usually perform well.


Therefore you have two goals every season: become the world champion and have enough money to run the team for one more year, possibly with a better car and/or pilot.


Time to celebrate! A race victory in-game and a great game on our side of the monitor.

But, actually, there’s a third goal with which I always start this game: just play it. Because it’s nice, because it’s very playable and addictive (just one more race!), and because it’s fun. It’s Cool Stuff!