It’s a busy time of year for the folks at Blaze, as we’ve had yet another cartridge announcement for the Evercade retro gaming platform. This time, the new cart kicks off a whole new range: the blue-label home computer-themed collections, beginning with the much-requested The C64 Collection 1.
You’ll notice that the word “Commodore” isn’t mentioned anywhere, despite the retro system in question being originally known as the Commodore 64. The reason for this is that the current rights holders of things like the Commodore 64’s operating system ROMs and suchlike do not have the rights to use the Commodore name; those belong to a completely separate company who are still going by the old-school name of Commodore Business Machines.
Anyway, for the unfamiliar or the young ‘uns, the C64 (as we shall refer to it hereafter) was an 8-bit home computer that was first released in 1982. Throughout its lifetime, it was a direct competitor to other home computers such as the Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum and Atari 8-bit range, and it was especially popular in North America; here in the UK, we tended to favour the cheap-as-chips Spectrum, but the somewhat more pricey C64 still had a decent following.
The C64 was well-loved for a few aspects that made it eminently suitable for gaming: it was capable of good quality multi-coloured graphics, it was capable of scrolling smoothly, it had built-in sprite capabilities, and it had an amazing sound chip known as SID. The latter has enjoyed such enduring popularity that modern electronic and chiptune artists still make use of it in both real and simulated form to this day.
The upcoming Evercade cart features 14 games from the C64’s heyday to enjoy — and for those who already own a C64 Mini or Maxi, you’ll be pleased to note that many of them are not found on those systems. So let’s run through everything and take a quick look!
One of several multi-sports games originally put out by Epyx, Summer Games sees you competing in a variety of disciplines you’d typically find in summer track and field athletics competitions.
In an era where most athletics games favoured joystick-destroying waggling motions, Summer Games instead focused on skilful events such as diving, gymnastics, pole vault and skeet shooting — though the 100 metre dash event is an all-out waggler!
Summer Games is fun solo but it really shines with friends — you can play it with up to 8 people in total, even with just a single controller. If you have two controllers, several events allow simultaneous competition — but regardless of how you play, there’s plenty of fun to be had here.
Winter Games is, as you might expect, the snowy counterpart to Summer Games. Once again, the game focuses more on skilful events rather than waggle-fests — even the physically demanding speed skating and biathlon events rely more on rhythmic joystick movements than rapid hammering of buttons.
Like Summer Games, Winter Games is designed to shine when played with friends — and once again, you can enjoy it multiplayer with a single controller, though some events support simultaneous competition.
A well-regarded and enormously influential game, Impossible Mission is a platform game where you’re sent to infiltrate the secret lair of an evil scientist. Your job is to search all his furniture in the hope of finding pieces of keycards, then fitting all those keycards together to make a password. Only then can you prevent the madman from blowing up the world!
Impossible Mission combines precision platforming with puzzle solving and strategy. It’s a tough game, to be sure, but an immensely rewarding one — plus its digitised “stay a while, stay forever!” speech is burned into the memories of an entire generation of gamers.
While the single-screen platformer shot to prominence with Nintendo’s Donkey Kong, there were plenty of great alternatives around at the time, particularly on home computers. Epyx’s Jumpman is a particularly solid example, challenging you to leap across perilous platforms in order to collect and defuse bombs — all while avoiding the unwanted attentions of numerous hazards.
Jumpman’s unique selling point is that each of its levels introduces a new type of thing that is trying to kill you — and learning to deal with all these things is key to success. Not only that, but the environments are dynamic; don’t count on the platforms you use to get to a particular place always being there for the journey back!
’80s gamers will recognise this as DataSoft’s licensed Bruce Lee game, but in order to prevent copyright shenanigans, the new rights holders of the game have renamed it and removed any direct references to the martial arts master. The game itself is unchanged, however, casting you in the role of “Lee” as he fights his way through a wizard’s lair in an attempt to discover the secret of immortality.
Lee combines precision platforming with beat ’em up action, and is a particularly solid example of a C64 game that still holds up very well today. There’s even a great simultaneous two-player mode, where whoever isn’t in control of Lee at the time is able to control one of the two antagonist characters for maximum trolling.
Gateway to Apshai
Epyx’s Dunjonquest series, best known for its first installment The Temple of Apshai, helped to define the computer role-playing game back in its early days, and spinoff Gateway to Apshai helped set the template for action role-playing games. Cast in the role of a lone warrior, you’ll explore a series of dungeons, battling monsters in real time, gathering treasures and avoiding traps.
There’s no real end goal to Gateway to Apshai; instead, it has the arcade-style structure of simply challenging you to score as many treasure points as possible before you’re inevitably defeated. It still features lightweight RPG-style elements, though, such as varied equipment, magic spells and skills; you’ll also level up with each new floor of the dungeon you explore, with bigger bonuses being attained if you found more treasure!
The Movie Monster Game
Another Epyx title, The Movie Monster Game casts you in the role of one of several different giant beasties as they wreak havoc in various cities around the world. Several different ways to play task you with causing as much destruction as possible, eliminating a specific landmark, finding your lost children or simply escaping from the attacking armed forces.
The Movie Monster Game takes an interesting approach in that it’s by no means a fast-action arcade-style game; rather, you’re in control of a hulking, huge monster, and it really feels that way — you’ll need to strategically use your beastie’s abilities in order to stay safe, score points and complete your objective.
One of several scrolling shoot ’em ups in The C64 Collection 1, Marauder was originally released by the well-regarded Hewson label, known for its high-quality, technically accomplished games for home computers. Here, you’ll drive the Marauder vehicle as you explore the remnants of a lost civilisation in an attempt to retrieve ancient artifacts. But, as these things tend to go, there are, of course, ancient defence systems in place.
This is a challenging blaster, but one of numerous examples of how the C64 was more than capable of keeping up with the consoles of the day in terms of arcade-style action.
This well-loved platform adventure was notorious back in the day for featuring naked fairies — indeed, some releases of the game on other platforms even edited them out with varying degrees of clumsiness. The original C64 version is fully intact, however, and combines platform action with object-based puzzle solving.
Your aim is to rescue the aforementioned naked fairies from a life of sitting around doing nothing in various inconvenient locations — but in order to reach them you’ll need to figure out what the various objects littering the landscape are for, then make good use of them to reach your goal. All while fighting off enemies, of course.
Another scrolling shoot ’em up, this time unfolding from a horizontal perspective. In Subterranea, as the name suggests, you’ll fly through a series of caverns and battle some early examples of end-level bosses — though here they’re treated more as a bonus round for you to earn an extra life rather than a challenge you have to overcome.
Subterranea’s unique selling point is the intricate environments you need to progress through — and the necessity of taking advantage of power-ups to stay save. You’ll frequently find yourself having to make good use of shield power-ups to safely crash through seeming dead ends — so keep one eye on what’s coming up ahead!
A relatively obscure game from the pen of the widely beloved game creator Jeff Minter, Iridis Alpha is, at heart, a Defender-style shoot ’em up in which you blast enemies as you defend a planet. The twist is that, after a certain point in the game, you take control of not one but two “Gilby” droids, and must ensure that neither succumbs to the dread forces of entropy while you’re happily blasting away with the other.
It’s an exceedingly odd game that takes a bit of getting used to — but once you get a feel for its distinct mechanics, there’s nothing quite like it out there.
This strategic shoot ’em up tasks you with capturing a series of enemy bases across a horizontally scrolling map. In order to achieve this, you are able to fly helicopters or drive tanks, with both having their own distinctive capabilities to help you complete your mission. Tanks are needed to actually capture the base, for example, while helicopters are needed to reconstruct broken bridges on the road.
The somewhat freeform strategic elements of this game make it really stand out among other games from the period. It’s another title that will likely take a bit of getting used to due to its distinctive mechanics and structure, but it’s a rewarding one to get to grips with.
No relation to Alley Cat, the game about being a cat and causing mischief, Alleykat is instead a peculiar hybrid of vertically scrolling shoot ’em up and racing game, in which you compete in a series of events in an attempt to earn money and cover yourself in glory. Along the way, you’ll have various objectives to complete for bonus points — sometimes you’ll need to slalom through gates, at others you’ll need to destroy as much scenery as possible.
Alleykat is a tricky game that puts up a real fight when you first start playing it — but once you figure out what it’s expecting of you and the best way to keep yourself safe in the various events, there’s a lot of fun to be had.
Street Sports Baseball
Wrapping up the collection is a final title from Epyx, this time providing a simple, straightforward but enjoyable baseball game set on the streets. Build your team from a range of available characters, then take them into battle against their equally urbanised friends.
Street Sports Baseball is designed to be easy to understand, and its casual street-based nature means that you can enjoy the fun bits of baseball without worrying too much about the game’s more obscure rules. Definitely one worth enjoying with a friend if you have the opportunity.
And there you have it! 14 great games from the golden age of classic home computers, on the way to Evercade. Preorders for the new cart begin at the end of July alongside the recently announced Alwa’s Awakening and Cathedral cart, and the cartridge itself will be with us in October. Find out more on the official Evercade website!
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