STEPPING STONES

Puzzle games never get boring until you remember all levels that you’re able to complete with covered eyes. The newest one for the Spectrum is called Stepping Stones and it’s made by guys around the SinDiKat club from Slovakia. Though, the original game idea and level design had been created by Emiel de Graaf.

The task is simple. You must reach the target rectangle by selecting and expanding stones with numbers to paths which lead to the destination stone. If a stone has number 1 on it, you can click it and expand it to left, right, up or down. If there’s 2, you get 2 extra stones, 3 for three, etc. If there’s another stone in the direction you expanded your numbered stone, an extra stone is added. But one can expect that if it’s a numbered stone, extra stones corresponding the number are added, but this doesn’t happen. So if you click on a stone numbered 3 and expand it to the right, and there’s another stone two positions next, doesn’t matter if with or without a number, you get four instead of three stones. It’s simple but the level difficulty’s increasing rapidly.

Fortunately, each level has its unique code you can write it down and continue from that point. You can also restart the level by pressing the R key in case you have no more possible moves. The C key is for entering the code, L shows a level grid where you can select an already reached level again, I’s for credits information and S stops or starts the music. If you make a mistake, you can always press U to make an undo step. The game controls are usual QAOPM or QAOP-Space. There’s no score counter, everything you need is to finish each level.

When I got the game, I’d absolutelly fallen in love with it. The graphics are very stylish, the whole game area is in light colors and the music, oh, the music is just excellent! I’m recommending this game to all Speccy enthusiasts and not only. It’s really a good game. It works on a 48K Spectrum and it’s good to have an AY sound interface to enjoy the fantastic music piece in the game. As an exception we provide a temporary exclusive download link until the game will appear at usual place like World of Spectrum. Here.

RECENT GAME PORTS FOR ATARI 8-BIT

Recent Atari 8-Bit Ports

In the early 1980s, Atari’s 8-bit computers were an extremely popular gaming platform. Every important game of that time (as well as most of the unimportant ones) had its Atari 400/800 version. However, that changed dramatically sometime around the middle of the decade. Suddenly the 8-bit Atari lost its appeal for the nascent gaming industry.

There were several reasons: the success of the Commodore 64, shift of Atari’s focus to the 16-bit ST line, and the popularity of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum in the United Kingdom, Europe’s biggest gaming market at the time. Because of this all, even though the 8-bit market still had some 5-8 successful years to live, some of the biggest 8-bit hits never made it to the 8-bit Atari.

It’s because BBC Micro and Atari have the same processor and the Micro version uses a graphics mode that is very similar to an Atari one.

But times they are a changin’! About twenty years later (i.e., recently), many classics are getting ported, faithfully and enthusiastically, by the community. Now even Atari users can enjoy games that the industry didn’t bother converting back then because the 8-bit Atari was considered a dead horse. Today we’ll have a look at five of them.

LUNAR JETMAN

Lunar Jetman Screenshot

Lunar Jetman is a shooter originally released by the legendary Ultimate Play the Game for the Spectrum and BBC Micro. It’s a sequel to Jetpac, Ultimate’s previous game in which Jetman has to rebuild his rocket. This time, his mission is to find and destroy evil ETs’ bases on the Moon, and apart from his trusty jet pack, he has a moon buggy – called Hyperglide Moon Rover in the game’s manual – on which he can transport equipment for bridging craters and additional weapons.

Fandal, who ported the game, chose the BBC Micro version as the source for the port. It’s because BBC Micro and Atari have the same processor and the Micro version uses a graphics mode that is very similar to an Atari one. The Atari version of the game was then included in the disk magazine Flop in 2014.

PENTAGRAM

Pentagram Screenshot

Pentagram is another game originally published by Ultimate Play the Game for the Speccy, in 1986. It’s a part of the legendary Sabreman action adventure game series. The game is based on Ultimate’s revolutionary Filmation isometric engine. Sabreman’s goal is to recover the fabled Pentagram, a potent magical artifact. He’s trying to do that in a maze full of enemies and objects with which he can interact.

The Atari 8-bit version was coded by Mariuszw in 2016. To port the game, Mariuszw created a special recompiler that takes the original code for the Z80 processor and translates it to its equivalent for the 6502, which is the heart of the Atari machine. The 320×200 resolution used in the the game is only monochromatic, but more colors can be added through a clever use of hardware sprites, called PMG (Player-Missile Graphics) on the Atari. José Pereira took care of this part of the graphics, and Miker did the music.

E-TYPE

E-Type Screenshot

E-Type is a car racing game in the vein of Out Run, originally released in 1989 for the British computers BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, and Acorn Archimedes, written by Gordon J. Key. You try to go as far as possible in your Jaguar E-Type, avoiding such obstacles as mail boxes, roadworks, or oil on the road. When you hit something, you and your gorgeous blonde passenger (because all your passengers in all car racing games seem to be blonde bombshells) are knocked off your seats. If you give a ride to the policemen on the road (or run over them, depending on how you interpret the necessity to hit them with the car), you receive a time bonus.

The Atari port was realized by Fandal, with Irgendwer doing the graphics. As an extra, the Atari version received an additional first-person mode in which you are put into the car’s cockpit instead of just watching the vehicle on the screen.

E-Type stands out for two reasons. It’s one of the few road games on the Atari 8-bit in which the landscape isn’t strictly flat, so you drive also up- and downhill. And because of the game coming out only for the Micro and the Acorns, it’s one of a few good games that never made it to either of the Atari 8-bit’s biggest competitors – the Speccy and the C=64.

BOBBY BEARING

Bobby Bearing Screenshot

Bobby and his brothers are bearing balls living in the future land of Technofear, where everything is made of steel. They have been warned many times to stay clear of the Metaplanes outside their home, but one day their rogue cousin came and led Bobby’s brothers right there. There the evil Bearings stunned poor Bobby’s four brothers, and now it’s up to him to find them and roll them back home.

According to the authors, Robert and Trevor Figgins, they hadn’t heard of similar games like Marble Madness or Spindizzy until well into the development when their publisher pointed out the similarities, and cited Ultimate’s Knight Lore (perhaps for its isometric graphics and puzzles) as their inspiration.

The game was released in 1986 for the Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, and C=64 – and in 2016 for the Atari 8-bit, ported by Mariuszw with additional graphics by José Pereira and music by Poison, supporting stereo.

ADVENTURE

Adventure Screenshot

Adventure is a bit older and different from the other games in this list. It was originally published in 1978 for the Atari 2600 console (VCS). The player controls his avatar, a simple square. Next to not getting lost in the maze, the player must find a magic cup and bring it to the golden castle, avoiding the deadly dragons (who, as the author Warren Robinett noted later, look more like ducks). The game, inspired by Colossal Cave Adventure (that ran on mainframe computers), is also recognized as one of the first game containing an Easter egg, a secret room containing the text “CREATED BY WARREN ROBINETT.”

The game was ported to the Atari 8-bit by Avery Lee, the author of the widely spread video processing software VirtualDub … and the Atari emulator Altirra.

Hey, stop reading, start playing!

(This article was guest-written by Krupkaj, the maintainer of the Czech and Slovak Atari Portal. Thanks, mate!)

GALENCIA: BIG INSECT MUST DIE!

A brand new game for the Commodore 64 in 2017? YES! Protovision, todays’ only software house producing exclusive C64 games has, among others, released a new shoot’em-up game based on the aged Galaga: Galencia by Jason Aldred. But why the hell did he do a Galaga clone in 2017? Because he could. And because Galaga is cool. And because it’s not just a copy of the former game; it adds a lot of cool stuff. WE PLAYED IT!

Posters! You’ll get them if you purchase this game on a tape or disk.

FIRST IMPRESSION

Is amazing. You load the game, it automatically recognizes whether you’re using a PAL or NTSC machine, shows a very nice intro with a story about a person named Amy (who surely has to be gender neutral, because he or she looks so in the game graphics, but let’s suppose it’s a woman because Amy is a female name) and her dog who has to fight against the big bad insect population that mankind has lost control of, and then the main game loads up and a title screen appears. Pressing the F1 key will take you to options. There you can alter things like background starfield color and score and time font colors, turn in-game music on or off, load, save or reset the high score, and a tournament mode which gives you just one life.

Galaga (1982) had two versions on the C64: a monochrome one (for saving the screen of your high-radiation 1981 CRT monitor) and an upgraded color version, which didn’t contribute to its beauty, to be honest.

Galencia is one of the best Galaga clones ever made for a home computer; no doubt.

The game starts by pressing fire on your joystick, and you can watch a pretty animation of the hero with her dog at a rocket base entering their “1981 Galencia Fighter” space ship. Then a classic playfield appears with your fighter ship on the bottom, the starfield in the background, and all the insect baddies attacking you from left and right. The insects are actually big wasps. They might seem quite peaceful at the first sight, but then, when you start shooting them, they retaliate soon by attacking your ship with bombs.

The picture and scroll text introducing the plot.

GAMEPLAY

You’ll have to find a certain strategy of what to shoot and when to shoot it. The number of lives is important here, because you can be kidnapped by one of the aliens, named Siren. It’ll take one of your lives away, but just until you shoot the kidnapper and your kidnapped ship returns to you as a second fighting module, so you’re able to shoot double bullets since then. However, the game respects the old Galaga style. Your ship(s) can be controlled to the left and right directions only while you can shoot bullets. Unfortunately, the bullets never get any extra power, at least to the point where we’ve got to. After every three standard rounds there is an extra hard stage with different, tougher enemies, and then comes a bonus level, in which you have to shoot anything that moves.

Top: The Siren is going to kidnap the player’s fighter ship | Bottom left: Preparing to destroy the kidnapper | Bottom right: Double fighter ship in the first bonus level

If you miss a single object, you don’t get a bonus. The bonus can be an extra life or extra rocket in the tandem (double). Another type of bonus levels come later in the game. There you have to avoid asteroids and collect stars for points and extra lives or to kill the big boss and get the same for that. As the stage counter comes up, the enemies are tougher and survival is getting harder and harder. They are the basic “Formations” (150 points), nastier “Attacking” (250 points) and the insidious “Sirens” (500 points when shot).

The big-bee-boss bonus with lasers is hard to pass even with the double fighter ship.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

The graphics are just cute. All of them are well drawn, detailed, and very well animated. You’ll love the intro screen and the intro animation of the hero and her dog entering their space fighter ship.

Cute animation of Amy and her dog entering the fighter ship.

The in-game screen mode uses extended upper and lower border areas to display score counters, your ranks, and messages. Some aliens change colours to indicate how many hits remain to kill them. In addition to the title screen music, there are also in-game music and bonus level music, which strike as a bit repetitive, but they use just one or two SID channels, so you never miss any of the all-important sound effects. Anyway, if the music gets annoying to you, you can turn it off in the settings, as mentioned above.

Top left: Extra life for shooting all the aliens in the bonus level | Top right: In the 2nd bonus level you must avoid the big asteroids and collect stars for good | Bottom left: The Game Over screen | Bottom right: Entering Hi-Score initials

OVERALL

Galencia is one of the best Galaga clones ever made for a home computer; no doubt. It brings some new ideas and offers very addictive gameplay with nice extras, and you won’t get bored after the first couple of minutes. You’ll be wanting to beat your record again and again, which is exactly what a game relying on simple mechanics should achieve. If you have a C64 game party evening with friends, you can turn on the tournament mode and fun is guaranteed, at least for a while. The game can be bought as a digital download at itch.io, and eventually you can get a physical copy on a floppy disk, cassette tape or even a cartridge from Protovision, which is about to be a gem for collectors’ show-cases with all the merch like posters, manual, and original cassette tape, floppy or the cart. We played it. Now it’s your turn!

COOKIE

Wait… Cookie? I’ve heard this before. Oh yeah, I remember! I played it as one of the very first games on my Spectrum. One of the Ultimate Play The Game’s early 16K games. Excellent game on the Speccy. Cool graphics, very good sound, and superb playability. I spent long hours with Cookie; also because it didn’t always load correctly and I got Tape loading errors.

I love the graphics. They’re just wonderful.

So, what’s the point of this article? To review such an old game? Well, actually, yes [*a gale of hearty laughter]! Because the good old Cookie came out for the Commodore 64. After 34 years! Bang!!!

The title picture is drawn in the multicolor mode. It looks very attractive.

The author of the conversion is the well known Andy Noble. The same Andy Noble who created the super excellent conversion Jet Set Willy PC in 1999. The C64 version of Cookie seems cool and has additional title music by Paul Tankard, which is not present in the original version. But first let’s talk about the setting.

You are a little Cookie who has to bake a cake. All you have to do is put all the ingredients coming from the Pantry cabinet into a bowl by firing flour bags. But nothing is as simple as it seems. There are also bad items like fish bones, old cans and nails and tacks coming from trashcans positioned on both sides of your bowl. They’re trying to kill you, unsurprisingly. You can shoot them with the flour bags, but you also have to shoot them down to the trashcans. If you accidentaly get them down to your bowl, the amount of required ingredients will increase. Once you fill the bowl with the needed amount of food, the level is completed and you’re about to go to the next one and next kind of ingredient. The game ends after completing the fifth level and you go from the beginning on a higher difficulty.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

The title screen is excellently converted from Speccy to the C64 multicolor mode. It looks very great. The game character set (font) is a bold Speccy font, and the game is controlled with a joystick in port two or a spectacular combination of Q-A-O-P-Space keys. The C64 sprites are used, of course, so you can see a nice logo animation on the title screen and also all in-game moving objects are very smooth. I love the graphics. They’re just wonderful. It isn’t just a straight conversion — all the graphics are hand-drawn from scratch, to be as close to the Speccy original as possible and to be as colourful as possible on the Commodore 64.

Menu screen (top left), credits and greetings (top right), ready message (bottom left), level 1 (bottom right).

THE GAMEPLAY

This is a very questionable thing. I love the original Cookie for its very good playability. I can return to this game anytime, and it never gets boring. But the C64 version is hard. It is just [*censored]ing hard, even from the very first level. On the Speccy, you get the irritating nails and tacks at a later stage, but here it’s almost the first object that flies out of the Pantry cabinet. And it goes after you and wants to take you down immediately. Even the known tricks to position the Cookie next to the Pantry and shoot in the upper directions doesn’t work well here. I must say this is the worst aspect of the otherwise excellently converted game. The game, like the original, has 1 player and 2 player modes; the second one based on alternating players.

The second level.

Cookie on the Commodore 64 surprised me by its quality, it’s very close to the A.C.G. quality quality level we’ve seen in 1983 on the Spectrum. Nobody did such good games on Speccy back then. The mysterious Ashby Computer Graphics made the breakthrough and all the girls and boys adored them for that. With the new 2017 conversion it’s similar. Andy Noble is a quarantee of quality and the game is so well done that it casts a kind of nobility on it.

We compared the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64 versions. ZX title screen (top left), C64 title screen (top right), game level 2 on the ZX (bottom left), game level 2 on the C64 (bottom right).