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. 🙂
Creeper World 3 is a sort of a tower defence game but it’s more a real time strategy (RTS) game. You move your pieces to combat the relentless Creeper as it flows over everything to consume the map. It’s a mostly easy-going game as you can pause and consider your next move and once you’ve set up your initial defences you can take as long as you want.
Usually it’s easy going and fun.
Not so In Farbor where you’re under a strict time limit as a ship is under construction and you must stop it before it launches. It’s so difficult for an early level that there’s a pinned discussion thread on the Steam Forums explaining how to skip it.. It took me many attempts to beat this level, and I had the help of the video above. If everything isn’t just right you’ll be found lacking near the end game. It was a hell of a feeling beating this level. Yes, even though I copied what someone else did. I managed to beat that level in just over 16 frantic minutes. As well as employing the strategy in that video I also used snipers to take down two of the incoming ships to slow down construction, and built a forge to make energy and ore more efficient. I think I wouldn’t have beaten the map without those two additions.
The game was in a recent Humble Bundle, and apparently I bought it a long time ago but only got around to playing it recently. It’s on Steam at a cheap price. Go get it, it’s a fabulous game!
Here’s rather impressive remix of the Xenon 2 Megablast main title tune created by a talented banjo player!
Long time readers may remember I used the original music in a video for a short but fun game of Bad Company 2. We joined a game with nobody on the other side so we had fun with the crates, grenades, bullets and smoke. Looking at the date on the video I can’t believe that was almost six years ago!
Many years ago I mentioned the first computer system that came into my family home. I couldn’t remember what it was called and it had been thrown out years before. I had searched retro console sites, looking through “history of computing” Youtube videos, and more but I couldn’t find it anywhere.
That was until Saturday afternoon while out on a photowalk in Cork City! In the window of the retro gaming shop on North Main Street was a sight I had last seen more than thirty years previously. I couldn’t believe it!
Now that I have a name, the Telesport SD 050C I could look it up and I found out that it was one of a number of Pong clone machines released in the late 1970’s. The 050C family aren’t very rare and aren’t worth much but it was a strange nostalgic feeling looking at it there after all this time.
It’s a Pong clone. The screenshots above are basic but in the early 80s it was a lot of fun. I don’t remember the model we had having that many colours. Must have been an earlier model I guess. Here’s a brief history lesson:
The world was undergoing “PONG Madness”. It seemed only natural that developers would create advancements to the original AY-3-8500 chip to incorporate color and even more games. This explains the amount of PONG systems since each machine contained a different chip. However things were handled different in some areas particularly in Europe.
Europe did not see the release of the Intellivision and Atari 2600 till the early 1980s. This allowed Pong to have a longer success. Rather then creating a new machine for each new chip, developers took the General Instruments popular line of chips and slapped them into cartridges. These carts were not like ROM carts used in later systems. They simply housed a specific General Instruments processor chip with pin outs to interface with a console. These were the PC-50X line of cartridges (see the Games section for specifics).
With the PC-50X cartridges available, console manufacturers were able to produce a machine that could play several games and market them at a low cost. The units were made in various countries and were marketed by Creatronic, Hanimex, ITMC, Rollet, GrandStand, Soundic and lord knows how many other manufacturers. There are literally over two hundred console variations that utilized this technology.
The initial model SD-050 varied in terms of outward appearance (colors, etc), manufacturers names and slight modifications. However each unit had the same overall design with two detachable controllers with 10 buttons located on the top of the machine. These 10 buttons, which clearly identify a PC-50X based console, were used to select the different games available on each cart. The SD-050 model only produced black and white video.
New models such as the SD-070 and SD-090 appeared and sold well into the 80s since the units were far cheaper then the newer consoles making waves in the US and Japan. These newer models played the same carts, but added additional settings, sound and SECAM color (4 colors).
There were far too many PC-50X cart accepting consoles and it is difficult to list them all.
More links to read up on the PC-50X cartridge and related machines:
I found one video on Youtube featuring this machine!
I resisted the urge to buy that machine last weekend. I may have a CRT TV in the attic but the games are so simplistic it’s best to leave them in the past where they belong. The machine architecture isn’t emulated but the games could be remade easily by anyone interested. Hmm, maybe..
Anyway, I recently discovered ComputerCraftEdu which is a mod for Minecraft that has both a drag and drop and text mode code editor to program turtles that do anything the player can do. It’s a different beast to ScriptCraft and necessarily more limited but I think it’ll make it easier to teach the basics of programming to my eight year old son. Loops, conditions and functions are all possible here and will hopefully give him a taste for what’s possible. He’s already hooked on command blocks but that single line interface is awful!
Installing ComputerCraftEdu is fairly easy, but we experienced some odd problems:
Minecraft would crash as soon as we started a map saying it was “shutting down internal server”. The problem was the draw distance. Set that to 16 blocks and it fixes it.
One of our machines had weird graphical glitches. Blocks were see through, or corrupted, the icons of the drag and drop editor disappeared but showed the text hint when the mouse hovered over them. Setting Mip Mapping to 2 (from 4) fixed that.
I’m not a huge fan of football or spectator sports but there’s a certain charm about Kick Off World or “The Player Manager 2016” (I can’t decide what it’s called). It’s a remake of the Kickoff/Player Manager games of the 90’s on the Amiga. Graphics are simplified of course. The view of the playing field is overhead like in Kickoff or Microprose Soccer but still manages to be interesting, at least for the first few matches. You can also skip the game and go straight to the results if all you’re interested in is the managerial side of the game.
There’s loads to see in the game, lots of players and teams as well as options to set tactics. Go get it on Windows, Mac, Linux or even Android. They’re all linked from their homepage including a (slightly out of date) Flash version you can play in your browser! Watch out for updates on their Facebook page.
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