On the cyber world of Thraxx, an evil baddie called Havok somehow returned after 10,000 years and started wreaking himselv. Or something. Plus he’s got his “nightmare creations” to help him, while everyone on the good side has died… I mean, everyone but you, the last survivor of the ancient Bladeknights. Normally, the Bladeknights would have probably kicked Thraxx’s bottom, but he somehow managed to destroy the Fireblade, the source of the Bladeknights’ power. So it’s up to you to find the 16 fragments of the Fireblade in the Undercity and then get medieval on Havok. And by the way, if the bad guy’s name is Havok, yours can’t be any other than Hiro.

Switchblade is a wonderful game. Do yourself a favor and play it. But, for the sake of your sanity, only on the CPC. Because there’s no other decent 8-bit version.

This introduction from the manual of Switchblade (a 1989 game developed by Core Design and released by Gremlin Graphics) competes with the epic emptiness of stories for Manfred Trenz’s games. But we’re not here to write literary reviews. We’re here to see the undeniable truth: that the CPC has always been the best 8-bitter of them all. Switchblade is just one random example out of the countless proofs.

I’ll put aside the title screen, which looks quite similar on all the three machines. Yes, three, because as usual, the game made it to the Spectrum, the C=64, and the CPC. It doesn’t exist for the 8-bit Atari, but it might actually be good for the platform, as it saves it from humiliation by the Amstrad version.


The intro tells the story you already know from the manual. It also tells us that the authors of the C=64 and the ZX version were, uhhh, not very smart.

Let’s say you’ve got a source picture from a machine with a better resolution or more colors. The picture is very small, and it’s the only piece of graphics on the screen. In the corner of a bloody eye, it features three colors, which might be a problem. The rest of the screen is just a very short text. What do you do?

On the ZX, do you try to shift the picture in the bitmap so that you don’t get a color clash? Or, perhaps, do you redraw the picture so that it’s slightly bigger and you always have only 2 colors in one character square? No, you don’t! You just convert it and get the clash!

And on the C=64? Do you overlay the critical area with a sprite (you could have up to ten different colors in the critical attribute square this way, if I’m not mistaken)? No, you don’t. You just obviously leave your brain switched off, too, and convert the picture from the Spectrum, including the bloody (pun intended) color clash!

Intro - ZX and C=64

The colors are different, the hardware is different, the unnecessary color clash is the same (left: ZX, right: C=64).

And now look at the CPC version.

Intro on the CPC

See? It is doable (CPC)!


Well, now you do. Now you’ll understand.

On the Spectrum, the game was bound to look ugly from the start. They just had to choose between ugly looks because of the attribute clashes or because of being monochromatic. And, congratulations, having gone monochrome, they managed to take the wrong decision again! As the background is more or less dithered (lots of dense dots), you can hardly see any objects or monsters if they’re not moving.

The first screen on the ZX and the 64

Left: blobs of dots on blabs of dots (ZX). Right: Ugly multicolor (C=64).

Knowing the game, I thought at least monsters would look decent on the C=64 with its fabled hardware sprites. But … this? Either they just, again, converted the ZX version (might as well be it, as the game get suspiciously slow as soon as you get more enemies on the screen, so it might be animated bitmap instead of the sprites, which would cost the C=64 next to no processor time), or I’d rename the sprites to ha-ha-ha-hardware sprites. Yes, the monsters are that laughable!

And now look at the CPC version.

The first screen on the CPC

So much of a difference (CPC)!!!


As you’re exploring first the surface of the planet and then the Undercity, you’re looking for the 16 pieces of the Fireblade. There are many bonus items that increase your score or attack abilities, but if you’re skillful, you can do without them. But without the Fireblade, you can’t do, because only when you collect all the bits, you can wreak havoc on Havok. And to get to those bits, you’ll first have to discover that not all the walls are alike in the game. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Well, you might call the wall part a puzzle, but do you think the C=64 and ZX help you find the parts of the sword? Of course not! In some cases, especially on the Spectrum, you can’t even distinguish them from the backdrops.

Where is the sword on the ZX and the 64?

Where on Tarxx would you look for the first part of the sword (left: ZX, right: C=64)?

And now look at the CPC version.

See the sword now on the CPC?

Just a bit of an extra color, and you know where it is (CPC)!


The area where I couldn’t see why the ZX and the C=64 couldn’t be on par with the CPC version was the sound department. I’ve never minded about the AY, and some say the C=64’s SID isn’t that bad either. Well, the C=64 sound was a shock… and not a positive one. The Commodore versions of the tunes sound like they’re coming from a beeper. Even though I thought that was what the Speccy originally had. The Spectrum sounds better, but still like in the early ’80s when the musicians where just happy that the machine made any sound. The CPC tune then renders the same melody in a much fuller and more atmospheric sound.


Surprisingly, the game behaves almost identical on all the three platforms. The layout of the rooms is the same, the speed movement is the same, the jump lenght is the same, you get more or less the same bonuses in the same places. However, this is one of the cases when the graphics and the music make or break your experience. If the music is crap, there’s no real immersion, and if you can’t make out what’s what on the screen, it significantly hampers your experience.

Some not-so-nice monsters on the ZX and C=64

Can you find the monsters? And if so, can you enjoy them (Left: ZX, right: C=64)?

A screen with monsters on the CPC

Now that‘s what I call monsters (CPC)!


Switchblade is a wonderful game. It’s full of secrets. It’s full of surprises. It’s huge. Do yourself a favor and play it. But, for the sake of your sanity, only on the CPC. Because there’s no other decent 8-bit version.


There is no point in beating about the bush. Oil’s Well is best on the 8-bit Atari… Wait, you don’t Oil’s Well? Okay. Let’s explain it, you dumb Commodore and Zed Ex Ex Ex freax!

Oil’s Well is an early ’80s game by Sierra On-Line released in 1983. That was around the time when the C64 and the Speccy appeared but the 8-bit Atari was a strong player on the home computer market playground already – I mean the best machine, I’m telling ya! With a dedicated hardware for gaming, it was the ideal and natural choice for both developers and gamers. And that’s when Sierra came with their new game. The game is about an underground oil rig harvester that has to collect all oil from the underground deposit under the oil well. It looks like a Pac-Man on a stick and has a similar principle – to eat dots. The harvester is connected with the well by a telescopic tube, so it can get to the deepest places in the underground. But the underground corridors are full of horrible insect, and if they hit the harvester or its tube, one loses a life.

Title screen. Top left: Atari, top right: C64. Bottom left: MSX, bottom right: Colecovision

The telescopic tube is controlled by you, the player, by standard joystick movement and the fire button, which works like the telescope’s remote, so when you press it, the telescope starts to wind up. Thus you can avoid the nasty baddies. Sometimes, there are also bonuses going in random rows from random directions. Collecting them brings points or extra lives. But sometimes, a bomb that can kill your harvester unit comes, but it leaves your tube intact so you can avoid this danger easily.

The game came out for the Atari, C64, MSX, Coleco Vision, and the IBM PC compatibles. Let’s focus on the 8-bit ones, just mentioning that the 1983 PC version is very ugly and slow.

The Atari version is the best one. It has nice and colorful graphics, great sounds and excellent playability. The C64 version isn’t that good: the sounds are worse, and so is the use of colors. Some effects are missing altogether. Colecovision is, surprisingly, in the third place with high resolution graphics and sounds very close to the Atari version, but the color amount is limited. The last place belongs to the MSX, which has identical graphics as Colecovision version but a bit weaker AY chip sounds with no background kind-a-melody that’s present in other versions highlighting the game’s atmosphere nicely.

The first level. The Atari and C64 versions might seem identical, but if you take a closer look, you’ll find out differences. The MSX and Colecovision versions are almost the  same; you’d hardly find a difference. Top left: Atari, top right: C64. Bottom left: MSX, bottom right: Colecovision.

What is bad in the C64 version? One could say there’s nothing wrong with it. If you’ve played the Atari version before, you’ll see a lot of difference. First, the sounds are a bit simple. I’d be awaiting some more drama from the SID chip. It seems to me like a little boy was trying to make fancy sounds in V2 BASIC. Second, the graphics are really very similar to the Atari, the color palette is… erm… steady brown and pink, but, that’s just Commodore. Rather than this, I miss that the baddies aren’t appearing on the sides of the screen like on Atari, but they’re coming out of the C64’s border. But, that’s understandable for the hardware. Some elements like flashing bombs and bonuses are made in hires and that’s making a weird impression to me, namely flashing in random colors seems ugly. The C64’s color order in the memory is weird and it seems that nobody took care about smooth flashing effects.

Level two on the 8-bit Atari.

On the MSX and the Colecovision, things are substantially worse. Everything is in higher resolution than on Atari and C64, but there’s a lack of colors. All baddies are just white and they’re small like one text character or so, which looks and feels ugly. The only colored things are static graphics and the miner’s tube. Both versions seem like they’re running on a ZX Spectrum, although a ZX version doesn’t exist at all, actually. There’s nothing much more to say about these two versions, except the sound. On the Coleco, sounds are closer to the Atari version, while we hear just MSX’s AY chip simple bleeps on the other side. All in all, none of these two conversions are good enough to stand on the Atari’s step.

The verdict was clear since the beginning. Atari rulez! If you own a Commodore, you can feel quite a similar experience, but not on the other platforms. This is an Atari game, and you must play it now!


For a long time, I was living in the conviction that Atari games were ugly, boring, and lame. Then I got to know a local Atari community, and they showed me games that are absolutely fantastic. No matter that their release year is quite low. The playability of those games is brilliant, and one even doesn’t mind the squareness of the graphics. One such game is Millipede by Atari Inc., a sequel to the extremely popular Centipede. It was originally released for an arcade cabinet in 1982 but got home computer and console conversions for Atari VCS and Atari 8-bit, as well as (later) for the Atari ST (1986) and, finally a non-Atari, 8-bit NES console in 1988.

Let’s focus on the Atari 8-bit version, which is my favorite.


Millipede is based on the very same idea like its predecessor, Centipede. You are controlling a little shooting spaceship that moves on the bottom of the screen, and you try to shoot everything that moves and also that doesn’t move on the screen. There are flowers (growth) that don’t move and centipedes- Oops! Sorry – the millipedes running from top to bottom in horizontal rows. When they reach a flower, they change their direction and go one row down. When you shoot them, they divide themselves into smaller, shorter millipedes and so on. But that’s not enough; sometimes an inchworm or an earwig appears on the screen going from the left to the right or in the opposite direction, and you must shoot it. If you do, you get extra points. Every 10,000 points you get an extra life. Having enough lives is important in this game, as you never know what will kill you next.

Almost every action has its dedicated sound effect, so you’ll feel like you’re playing the real arcade or that you’re chased by a police car!

The game consists of multiple subsections. In the first one, you fight a normal millipede, flowers, and nasties like jumping spiders and bugs. When you kill the millipede completely, the level changes a little bit and there’s an attack of evil dragonflies going directly from the top to bottom. But that’s still not enough. There are DDT bombs with powder placed randomly on the screen. When they’re hit and the millipede or any other baddie is near, the powder kills them immediately. After disposing of enough insects you finally get to the toughest part. There you have to shoot mosquitos that go down in non-orthogonal directions, so it’s difficult to attack and/or avoid them. I mentioned jumping spiders. They’re very creepy, and they move more and more randomly as the game progresses, so it’s dangerous to stay in their neighborhood. Finally, bugs come from the left or right at the playfield’s bottom, and therefore you should move your ship up to avoid them.


It’s a very hard game, almost every millisecond you have to be on alert. It’s fast, and the beasts are treacherous. You need a really good joystick that fits in your hand. Thanks God you don’t need to press the fire button all the time. If you keep it pressed, a kind of autofire effect is applied, but you can’t be sure that’s enough in critical situations. The farther you get in the game, the tougher the beasts are and everything’s getting worse. You might collect many extra lives during the game, but then a lethal part comes and you can easily loose them all in one level. I think the game doesn’t have any goal set except reaching as high a score as possible. At the start, you choose a starting score from 0 to 60,000 points, which effectively chooses the start difficulty (you skip the easier part connected with the lower score). You’re getting bonuses at every 10,000 points. Information about each next bonus is on the bottom of the screen.


The graphics are pretty basic, there’s nothing outstanding about them. You recognize beetles, spiders, millipedes, flowers easily. But there’s no remarkable art in the game. The sounds are crazy. Almost every action has its dedicated sound effect, so you’ll feel like you’re playing the real arcade — or that you’re chased by a police car!


Millipede is one of my most favorite games on the Atari because of its incredible simplicity. I’m playing the game again and again from time to time, and it’s still the same fun like it used to be when I saw it for the first time. If you feel like shooting someone or something, don’t do it in reality — go and play this game instead!


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 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 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 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 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 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!)