Dune II, a real-time strategy game released in 1992, was as you may guess based on Frank Herbert’s second book in the Dune series. I didn’t play it at the time as I still owned a C64 at the time but I did play it before the decade was out.
In the game the player must harvest spice, return it to a refinery to convert to credits which are then used to build more harvesters or military units. Your military units are used to defend your harvesters and buildings and also attack your opponents. You control one of three opposing houses with the ultimate aim of conquering the other two.
Dune Legacy is a modern Dune engine that will allow you to play the original game with modern controls and higher resolution graphics. As well as Dune Legacy there’s also Dune Dynasty based on OpenDUNE.
They all require the original game to run but if you search carefully you’ll be able to find it online.
I haven’t played much of the game yet but it plays much the same way I remember in the past. Go get it if you’re a fan of RTS games. When you’re finished with that have a look at OpenRA, an open source implementation of Command and Conquer: Red Alert.
I figured out how to play Sam’s Journey on the Commodore 64 using two fire buttons! One as a normal fire button and another for jumping.
C64 joysticks only have one fire button so jumping up in platform games requires you press up on the joystick. Back in the day we knew no better and did our best using the directional movements. It’s not very precise as it’s easy to slip into left and right too. Pressing a second button to jump was a luxury NES owners had! C64GS owners had a joystick with 2 separate fire buttons but I think there was only ever one game that took advantage of that feature.
Unfortunately you’ll have to use the Vice C64 emulator, Virtual C64, or another C64 emulator that allows you to map keys to joystick actions.
First of all, open the joystick settings in Vice. Here’s the one from version 3.1.
Assign a keyset to joystick 2. I used the keys T, G, “,” and “.” and the right CTRL to fire. Sam’s Journey actually plays reasonably well using those keys if you don’t want to go any further.
However, if you want to use a controller you’ll need another program to map those keys to controller actions. On MacOS I found Enjoyable, a free application that allows you to map controller buttons and other inputs to keyboard keys or mouse movements.
I simply assigned left, right and down on the d-pad to the correct keys, and then two fire buttons to CTRL (fire) and T (up) respectively and it worked!
The game is definitely more enjoyable but it’s just as hard as before. I could have sworn I ran out of lives in the past to be thrown back to the start of the level. Now I kept getting put back at the last checkpoint, which is an improvement I have to admit as I died quite often. 🙂
The first Nintendo console I owned was the Gameboy Advance. The earlier Nintendo machines passed me by as I was busy coding on the C64, messing with the Amiga and PCs and college then kept me busy!
I never owned a SNES and Nintendo 64 and rarely even used the real hardware. The only game in the SNES Mini collection that I’m nostalgic about is F-Zero as I loved playing that on the Gameboy and it plays perfectly on this diminutive machine.
This is a lovely piece of kit though. I like the menu system and the two controllers are wonderful. Now I know why people go on about these and seek out their modern equivalents in 8bitdo equipment.
Apart from games I’m looking forward to tinkering with the machine, and maybe adding a C64 core although the lack of a proper keyboard can cause problems..
I was going to make a joke about how a clone of The Great Giana Sisters had been released on the C64 a few weeks ago, but I would hazard a guess that only a handful of my readers will have the faintest idea what I’m talking about. Instead, you’ll probably remember that most gaming sites were abuzz with the news that Super Mario Bros had been released for the C64. That excitement then turned to fear and anger as Nintendo issued a takedown notice to one blogger who had a download link on their site. They have to protect their IP but the game is still available in several places including the Internet Archive and should be easy enough to find in the future.
If you’re at all interested in Super Mario Bros then grab your copy as quick as you can, just in case a massive database of copyright works is unleashed on the Internet blocking everything no matter how old it is.
The conversion of the game to the C64 is more than just a direct port. Both machines use the same (or similar?) CPU, a modified 6502 in the case of the NES and 6510 in the C64. The developer ZeroPaige spent 7 years modifying the raw assembler from the NES so it would work on the C64. He had to modify the graphics system to use C64 sprites and the sound system had to be reworked to use the SID chip of the C64. The port also takes advantage of any extra hardware you might have plugged into the C64, or even uses the extra power of a Commodore 128 if you’re using that. Here are two videos showing the game off on a C128 and also on a Turbo Chameleon V2, an FPGA based C64 machine. The game suffers slowdowns on an original C64 so it’s best played when the machine has some help, or in an emulator. I have a C64 DTV. I wonder how hard it would be to get it running on that?
Rainbow Arts apparently did the same and were rebuffed but they reused their code and cheekily created The Great Giana Sisters. Nintendo promptly came after them at the time and the game was taken off the shelves within weeks. Pirated copies are simple to find but the original must be very rare. A version of the game with the main character changed to Mario did find it’s way online but it’s basically Giana Sisters. No bad thing since The Great Giana Sisters is a great game. It’s one of my favourite C64 games.
After that detour down Nintendo lane, let’s get back to reality. If you want your very own physical copy of The Great Giana Sisters then check out this Ebay auction. Priced at an eye watering £199.99+postage I don’t think it’ll be an impulse buy but some collector is sure to snap it up.
As a historical note, there are two conversions (Atari and Ocean) of the original Mario Bros for the C64 if you really want to play it. I haven’t played either of them. I didn’t even know they existed until a couple of years ago!
Ah Retrograde, a Commodore 64 game released by Thalamus in 1989. The Rowland Brothers, of Creatures, Creatures 2 and Mayhem in Monsterland fame created this game and it shows. Presentation is top notch. Some would say that this is a repetitive shoot ’em up but I love it. Nice mix of flying around shooting aliens and then a bit of a break with the underground bits. I love the graphics and the sound is a delight.
The gameplay is very simplistic, especially underground but the flying weapons are super! Just make sure you have an autofire on your controller. My thumb was sore from two levels when I remember Vice can do the hard work for me. I’m also glad Vice can save a snapshot of the computer state to save my progress as this game takes some time to complete.
What game? No, that’s the title of a free game on Steam and on the Commodore 64!
The C64 version can be found here on CSDb while the Steam version is here. The Steam version works on Windows, Mac and 32 bit Linux! A comment on the original announcement post links to what could be a port to something called FreeBASIC which is available here.
The game is a very hard platform game where you have to collect all the items in the game to complete it 100%. The CSDb page has some spoiler comments so beware of those if you want to avoid them. Then again, this game came out in 2012 so you probably know about it already.
The game is great, but the the stand out thing for me is the flawless C64 port. It looks very much like the modern Steam version, with the same sounds and graphics which isn’t surprising as they’re fairly basic. The game plays the same, at least as far as I’ve got to!
Many people love this game for the CGA colour palette but it’s a reminder that the PC had humble beginnings comparable to the Commodore 64. The Commodore Amiga released in the mid-eighties blew away anything produced on the PC for many years.
Look what the postman delivered last week! I entered a competition held by Freeze64 author/publisher Vinny for C64 game Maze of the Mummy and a rare misprint of the Freeze64 fanzine and I won! You should watch the live video of Vinny picking the winner, if only to wonder at everything he has plugged into his C64 and a preview of issue 18 of Freeze64. He pronounced my name wrong too, but that’s to be expected. 🙂
I have yet to play Maze of the Mummy as it’s been a hectic few days here but I’m going to get my 1541-II down out of the attic and make a backup d64 image to play in Vice this week.
I think the last boxed C64 game I ever bought was Creatures 2 which was a long time ago so handling a physical copy of a new game sets off a mix of nostalgia for the old and eagerness to try something new. I’m looking forward to trying this game!
Thalamus was a game developer based in the UK in the mid 80s to early 90s. They had a reputation for flashy games and and pounding soundtracks. Most of their games were highly rated and their first compilation, The Hits, had some amazing games.
Sanxion and Armalyte were among my favourite shoot ’em ups while Hawkeye had great looking parallax scrolling. I thought the Delta theme music was great but the game didn’t grab me like Armalyte did. I’m going to get that game out again later..
Still have the receipt from Turbosoft in the box too!
The other day I was reading through the very last issue of Ace Magazine when I came across an "In the Works" preview of a game called Bob. It was the temporary name given to a work-in-progress game by developers Bullfrog.
It meant nothing to me until I saw the screenshots.
That looks very familiar! It was the classic Bullfrog game, Syndicate!
Bob looked like a much more complex game than Syndicate turned out to be so I'm glad the game was tweaked and tuned before release. It's one of the few games I've actually finished, except for the American Revolt add-on. I never even managed to complete the first level in that! I haven't found much online that links the name Bob to Syndicate but this great RPS article does. That was published in 2008 and it's amusing to see the comments wishing for a remake of the game. We got them, they didn't make quite the same splash as the original.
Syndicate had the veneer of strategy. You could separate out your agents and send them off in different directions, but really, the most fun was to be had when all four were rocking gauss guns and causing all sorts of mayhem!
The very last level in Syndicate was really hard. You'd last all of about 10 seconds before succumbing to superior firepower until you figured out the right strategy to complete it. If you've already played it, or know you'll never do so, check out the video below:
Syndicate was followed by the American Revolt add-on. It comes packaged with the GOG release so you've no excuse not to try it, except that it's hard as nails. I don't feel bad saying that I had no idea how to complete the first level until I saw this ..
Syndicate Wars followed as a proper sequel some time later, but IMO it comes nowhere near being as immersive and addictive as the original Syndicate. I didn't like the graphics and it didn't sit right with me at all.
A modern remake of Syndicate came out in 2012, which I bought in 2014, but it only runs on Windows so I haven't played it much.
In 2015 a spiritual successor to the original Syndicate was released, Satellite Reign. It looks beautiful, and the screenshots have that Syndicate vibe but to play it is painful.
On a more positive note, there's also Free Synd, a GPLed implementation of the Syndicate game engine. The last release was in 2016 however.
The original 1993 version of Syndicate is available on GOG. I highly recommend it. Even if your computer isn't powerful it's bound to be better than even the most expensive home PC or Amiga of the time. GOG have packaged the game with Dosbox so it's a one click install and run. The game is cheap and well worth checking out if you're a gamer.
This is what happens when you have Humble Bundles and a backlog of games.
Speaking of backlogs, one game I really enjoyed that I bought got in a Humble Bundle ages ago but never played until recently was Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal. If we’re friends on Steam, chances are you don’t own this game but you probably should. Only one of my friends does. Hi Mark. 🙂
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