Fire Hawk – Thexder 2

PC gamers had to wait some years for the sequel to Thexder but it duly arrived in 1990, just 1 year after the Japanese original.

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The name Thexder was relegated to the subtitle not making it obvious at a glance that Fire Hawk was a sequel at all but all the core elements of the game remained largely unchanged. This time there is a proper manual with a cartoon backstory contained within. The Thexder robot was apparently designed for working in space rather than for combat. While the human race is busy expanding into the galaxy, there is an incident involving an asteroid called Nediam in which Lieutenant Arthur is left behind in his Thexder unit while his mothership escapes. The asteroid then starts slowly making its way towards Earth. 7 years later, the Thexder robot has been upgraded for combat and Arthur’s girlfriend steals the prototype to go stop Nediam and rescue her man.

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Whatever the story may be, the gameplay is so similar to Thexder 1 that I’ll keep this post down to a bare minimum. What has changed is the presentation with everything considerably more polished this time around. This means much more colour on the screen, an excellent MT-32 soundtrack with different music for every level/boss and a considerably faster framerate.

The difficulty level has also been stripped back considerably which should be a relief to most of us. You will still have to work to beat this game but it’s very forgiving in early levels. Each level (of which there are 9) is split into 4 sections with the last of those being a boss of some description. You can load from the beginning of any of the levels and get two attempts at each boss before you have to start back at the beginning again. I’d say it strikes a good balance between challenge and frustration.

There is a plotline as such about which bits of Nediam you are taking out at any given time on each level + you can talk to the battered shells of other fighters sent in ahead every now and then. None of this matters other than the occasional hint. It’s just about finding safe routes through every level and trying to pick up as many shield increase power ups as possible along the way.

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The bosses usually provide the greatest challenge and much of the game is still about learning the tricks and techniques to pass any more trying section. Once you have these down a previously difficult section can become trivially easy. This is especially true in the later levels.

There are a much greater array of powerups available this time around of which the player can carry 3 around at any time and select between them. The most interesting is a powerup to stop time for 20 seconds and clever use of this is essential later on to fly around otherwise tricky enemies or fly under boulders before they can fall blocking passages.

The player can also pick up powerful homing missiles to significantly boost firepower and shoot around corners which add a further tactical edge to gameplay. Another major change I should mention is that the shield can be used whenever you like in this version as the reward for not using it is no longer there. This turns the shield into a useful option rather than something to be shunned at all costs. It may as well not have been in the first game other than when exploring levels the first time around.

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The final boss starts out as a giant red spot which has to be shot until a monumentally large uber-Thexder erupts out of the ground. Beating this guy is trivial, you just keep shooting him in the back of the head. It’s a slight anticlimax in that sense but the thing must take up about 5 screens so that much would have been impressive in 1990. The real challenge was the level 8 boss which took me a couple of days to figure out. Level 9 is more of a victory lap really much like the final level of Thexder 1.

After beating the game, you discover that Nediam was heading for Earth because of Arthur (still alive somewhere on Nediam) and his desire to reunite with the heroine of the story. He gets rescued and they presumably live happily ever after while the scientists of Earth get to raid the new moon that now orbits the planet.

Fire Hawk was very much more of the same but ultimately a lot more playable than the original. The new powerups added variety and tactics, the level design was more varied, the faster gameplay gave an arcade edge and the MT-32 soundtrack leant atmosphere to the whole experience. I’ve had this game sat on my shelf for about 15 years unplayed and wish I’d got around to it sooner now. It’s easily one of my favourite PC shooters of this era (not that there is all that much competition) and definitely recommended.

That just leaves Zeliard from the Sierra Game Arts conversions but I’ll leave that for another time and will probably be having a look at some more old hardware next.

Silpheed

Silpheed was the second Game Arts release to be brought over to DOS by Sierra coming out in 1989. It’s a shoot em up consisting of 20 levels of 3D-ish arcade space shooting action. As with Thexder, it originally came out for the PC-8801 a few years earlier before Sierra got the rights to port it. It’s a game I already know well enough but I wanted to try it out on the Tandy anyway.

There is the usual quality Sierra box art even if the version of the game I have is the cheaper re-release. I do have some of the innards of the original release on the right with the more colourful disks and manual.

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The manual does actually tell you the story this time but it’s about as generic as they get. The evil bad guy, Xacalite, has stolen a super powerful spaceship called Gloire and will use it to destroy civilisation as we know it unless you fly a prototype spaceship to stop him. It’s a SHMUP, how much plot do you need anyway?

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The game starts will some utterly incomprehensible speech through the PC speaker as the villain of the piece presents himself as a giant disembodied head. This speech is not improved in the slightest on the Tandy. Later versions would add much-needed subtitles which I didn’t have here. It’s so bad I would imagine early players may well have not realised it was sampled speech in the first place.

The graphics at least are presented well enough in Tandy mode looking barely any different from what I’m used to playing in MCGA. Silpheed is a sort of vertically scrolling shooter but with the axis tilted to give a 3D effect, similar to Mode 7 on the SNES. It’s not especially smooth but the graphics were decent in their day and the sprites all scale as they move around.

Where Silpheed has always stood out for me, is the excellent music which translated brilliantly to all of the early PC soundcards. On the Tandy, it’s still not bad for what it is although it does lose much of the impact. The shooting is still PC speaker beeps but at least it’s more consistent with the music playing it this way.

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The gameplay is straightforward enough. There are a handful of powerups in the levels which can be used to speed up, auto fire, create a barrier to enemy fire or power up your weapons. Silpheed is equipped with a shield which ticks down one notch at a time when you get hit. Once it’s gone, the next two hits will damage one of your subsystems (weapon or engine) and after the third it’s game over. Thankfully, all versions allow the player to restart from the last level played making Silpheed far less hardcore a game than Thexder. In fact, it’s quite an easy shooter as these things go and I can easily play through most of it normally.

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Every 50,000 points gets you a new weapon to pick from before beginning the next level. The only ones I ever really use given the choice are the automatic aim particle guns and the forward firing lasers which are useful in the fortress levels and final level of the game.

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There are about 30 enemy types that come in a wave at a time in predefined patterns + several types of boss ship at the end of each of the levels. You really don’t need to memorise the patterns in this game as it’s quite forgiving and the patterns such as they are, get reused for the various enemy types. The Tandy version can be a little harder though, especially on the planet missions as the colour scheme goes an eyestraining red and blue making it difficult to pick anything out. I gather that they didn’t use the white as there are some graphical tricks going on to speed everything up.

I did a DOSBox longplay of this on YouTube years back (part one of which is above) for anyone wanting to see the whole game. Silpheed is still fun but I can’t say it’s anything too special. The main thing it has going for it over other shooters are it’s accessibility (ironic given how tough Thexder was), and the awesome soundtrack on the MT-32. This was one of the first games I remember playing on a SoundBlaster and after many years of nothing but beeping speakers it blew me away. When I eventually got an MT-32, it only got better still.

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The Tandy does it’s best but Silpheed doesn’t have quite the same appeal when the music is coming through a 3 channel PC speaker set up. It didn’t seem to run quite as well either and I actually struggled to finish the last level. I didn’t ever seem to have any chance to dodge the lasers on the last boss. Booting with the CPU at the slower speed solved this ultimately but kind of feels like cheating. I have no idea what the target CPU was.

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While I was at it, I had a quick blast through the IIGS port. This is considerably more colourful and has music nearly matching the MT-32 without the need for any extra hardware. Where it suffers is a complete lack of planet graphics and it’s really slow (much slower than the slowed down Tandy was). This port is also particularly easy due to a ridiculously high refire rate. You can blast through some levels just by sitting in the front middle of the screen holding down the fire button. It also lacked all the ending graphics when I beat it but the rest of the cutscenes were there.

I still like Silpheed but I can’t really recommend it as there are just so many better options available. The soundtrack is what keeps me coming back and the game is easy enough to not outstay its welcome without ever offering all that much challenge. The FMV packed Mega-CD version looks like it would be more up my street but I’ll leave that for another day.

A game that is offering me a challenge is Thexder 2, which I’m about halfway through. Should I ever finish it, that will probably be coming up next.

Thexder

The next game I’ve picked out from the pile is Thexder, a 1987 release from Sierra which originally came out in Japan on the PC-88 in 1985 via Game Arts.  Sierra would go on to publish ports of several more of their games in the 80’s but this was the one that started the ball rolling.

I seem to be playing more than my share of Sierra games but I’ve been looking for Tandy compatible titles and most of the good ones seem to come from Sierra. They more than any other company were flying the flag for PC gamers throughout the 80’s, long before it became a mainstream gaming platform. This was presumably much to the detriment of sales on systems like the Amiga where games like Space Quest II weren’t exactly stretching the hardware in the same way as Defender of the Crown, despite both being released in the same year. The Japanese PC gaming market on the other hand had the likes of the PC-88 with an actual sound chip and better graphics. Sierra’s port  may have been 2 years later than the original version but it was still a step down in hardware terms.

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The box is the typical Sierra affair and makes a big deal on the back of the merits of Japanese arcade games. The manual is actually a folded up poster with a map of the first level on one side and installation/play instructions on the other. I can only assume the plotline was lost in translation as it is barely hinted upon. You control the only Thexder in existence, a dual-armour robot-jet transformer armed with heat seeking lasers. The aim is to destroy the central computer on level 16 of the Forbidden Zone. Why you need to do this or where this Forbidden Zone is we will never know as that is as much plot as we get.

My original plan was to play the DOS version on my Tandy since it has a lot going for it on the Tandy with better graphics and music support. After trying a couple of ports out, I went for the IIGS instead which is a little more colourful, has better audio and most usefully allows you to load from the start of the last level completed. The PC version did appear to be slightly easier but it has you play through the whole game in one life. It’s difficult enough as it is without having to keep starting over.

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The IIGS version has a slightly nicer title screen than the Tandy, still lacking the animated sky from the PC-88 mind you. It also has some sampled Japanese speech which I don’t understand any of except the word Thexder.

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The audio reverts into English when starting the level with an unenthusiastic “Warning. Intruder.” and the action starts. The game is essentially a side scrolling action platformer in which you simply have to get to the end of each level. There are several things that make it unique, not least the transforming robot you control which can shape shift into a jet and fly around unconfined by gravity.

When in jet mode, firing your laser works as you might expect in any game with the laser coming straight out in the direction you are facing. When in robot form, it quickly cycles between any targets on screen in front of the player. This is both curse and blessing as you can automatically hit from very acute angles but have no control over which enemy is targeted first. If some enemies are behind a wall, your laser will try to hit them anyway wasting your energy and giving enemies you can see a chance to close in.

Another highly unusual feature is that none of the enemies move as soon as they go off screen. This may dampen the realism, such as it is, but you would be constantly swarmed otherwise. Enemies will continue draining your shields as long as you are touching them in this game and getting surrounded is a death sentence.

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Firing lasers or getting hit drains your energy. If it drops to zero, it’s game over and believe me this will happen a lot. You do have some shields which can be activated to make you invulnerable until they run out (at the cost of 10 energy) but this removes the 100 points energy bonus you receive at the end of every level prior to using it. You start each new level in the same shape as you finished the last otherwise and will need this bonus to stand much chance. In other words, you don’t ever want to use the shield except maybe when first learning a route around a level.

There are about 20 enemy types that usually try to move directly toward the player but they have certain patterns like only moving diagonally. All of them have a tendency to get stuck on walls and a staple tactic of Thexder is to lure hordes of these to a narrow entrance so they all get stuck together and then shoot them as a jet from the other side.

Some enemies raise your energy when destroyed, a handful even increasing the maximum percentage you can store (up to a max of 500) but there is never enough energy available. This has to be one of the harder games I’ve ever attempted to play and around level 3 and 4 I was wondering if it was really worth the effort. I resorted to looking a couple of playthroughs and the enemies in this IIGS version seem to be a whole lot less sticky than others, honing in more quickly on the player. However, I did discover that holding down space (at least on the IIGS) causes the player to stop wherever they are after a couple of seconds. Since the jet mode causes the player to constantly move forward otherwise this allows you to hover taking out advancing enemies. This made a massive difference although I do wonder if it was intentional or not since I’ve not seen it in other ports.

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Once I’d learned this trick, Thexder got a whole lot easier after level 4 until I got quite near the end. Some levels are even repeated with slightly harder enemies, meaning I already knew the best route before I started. The numbers of enemies seriously stacks up in later levels with the game able to handle 30-40 at once. The screen above has a whole tank of them that fall on top of unwary players destroying the one block holding them up. It’s the open areas that are the real killers though where it’s much tougher to control the enemy movement. I only got through levels 14 and 15 with use of the shield and really didn’t have much energy left by level 16.

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Just as well for me, the final level is a simple blow everything up affair with no real opposition. There is a tile graphic representation of the central computer to shoot, then the game loops back to level two. Not getting an actual ending is a big letdown after a couple of weeks of effort to beat this game but not all that unusual for the time.

It took a while to warm to but I really did enjoy Thexder in the end. It’s quite slow-paced on the IIGS and is far more of a strategy game than arcade. Beating Thexder is all about working out how to get through the level without getting hit and there are usually tricks to any situation. Since enemies only move while on-screen, they can be lured out of harms way, or you can approach just far enough to get one or two on-screen at once which can be killed off before they reach you. Many of these tricks require the player to be pixel perfect though. Expect to replay levels over and over early on.  Much of each level can be bypassed when you know your way around but they do need properly exploring to find sources of energy and any secret areas (revealed by blasting away the walls).

The graphics are reasonably nice, if a little blocky and the music that there is excellent. I just wish they had changed this music every level as a brief loop is not enough for a game that takes this much time to finish. The 16 levels are huge scrolling affairs and offer a real challenge to any player. Possibly too much challenge really. I could definitely give Thexder a guarded recommendation but don’t expect it to be easy. It could really do with a slightly more modern presentation in truth which may be where the sequel comes in. I’ll definitely be playing that in the near future but will have a quick look at the next Game Arts release Silpheed first.

King’s Quest 1 (AGI)

Now I finally have my house back again, I’m seriously overdue a little retro gaming to make up for the enforced 7 month hiatus. This should mean a load more posts in the near future. Above all else, I wanted to have a go on that relatively recently acquired Tandy 1000 EX.

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Since posting about that previously, I managed to find a memory expansion for it bringing the RAM up to the giddy heights of 640K. It also adds a DMA controller making it slightly more PC compatible and in theory speeding up load times off floppy. The Tandy has an interesting expansion system where a slot opens up in top of the machine and expansions have to be slotted in on top of each other. This means you have to unscrew the blank plates from all 3 before you can put a card in the bottom. Lining up the slots proved quite tricky since I had absolutely no way of telling where they are in relation to each other. This system is entirely unique to a couple of specific models in the Tandy line making these cards difficult to locate even if the demand isn’t exactly sky high.

Having got that working (and even though I don’t strictly need the extra memory to play it), the first game had to be Sierra’s King’s Quest.

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Sierra pioneered the graphical adventure game starting out with Mystery House on the Apple II all the way back in 1980 and continuing to release ever more ambitious titles throughout the early 80’s. When IBM wanted some software to show off the gaming capabilities of their forthcoming PC-Jr, Sierra were certainly one of the obvious choices to create it and the result of that deal was King’s Quest.

IBM’s attempt to enter the home PC market with the PC-Jr would prove to be a dismal failure, largely due to the price point and the famously horrific keyboard. King’s Quest on the other hand would become a staple of PC gaming, managing nearly as many games it’s in main canon as Ultima. Despite the nature of that IBM contract, Sierra were wise enough not to put all their eggs in one basket. They created a whole new engine (AGI) which ran the game on a virtual machine and allowed for easy porting to other platforms. The PC-Jr format would still see much success ultimately in the form of Tandy’s clone which fixed most things IBM had got wrong the first time around.

My copy of King’s Quest isn’t the original release which was a PC-Booter but it is the one I bought back in the late 80’s as a trilogy pack with the first 3 entries in the series. This later version used a more advanced AGI engine (requiring twice the memory), had quite different box art and most importantly for me at the time I played it came on both disk formats and not just 5.25’s.

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The box isn’t exactly stuffed full of goodies but does have quite a nice manual with an embossed King’s Quest logo and the story that sets up the game. All the King’s Quest games are based on fairy tales and the manual is very much written in this vein. In brief, King Edward (the ruler of Daventry), manages to give away the Kingdom’s greatest treasures which are a shield that makes his armies invincible, a chest with everlasting treasure, and a mirror that tells him the future. This is clearly why we shouldn’t have a hereditary system of rulership. It’s about what you should expect when you name someone after a potato I suppose. In the game, I’ll be playing Sir Graham, bravest of King Edward’s knights, who has to sort this mess out.

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The game starts with a rendition of Greensleeves (apparently not in the original booter version) and then I take over control of Sir Graham. This is a traditional text adventure game in one sense with a prompt at the bottom to type commands. The big innovation was being able to walk Graham around the world with the cursor keys. This added a minuscule amount of arcade gaming to the experience avoiding all the monsters roaming around the countryside. We hadn’t got as far as pointing and clicking yet, but this was the dawn of that style of adventure gaming.

Job #1 in this game is to go and see King Edward who despite the apparent poverty he has put Daventry into, still lives in a castle so large it won’t fit on one screen of the game. He’s kept safe from marauding peasants seeking social justice by a crocodile infested moat which probably explains the sparsely populated nature of his Kingdom.

Graphically, the game looked impressive back in 1984 despite only being in an unusual 160×200 resolution when the Tandy was capable of the full 320×200. I didn’t realize it when I first played these games but the backgrounds are entirely made up of filled polygons and on the booter version, you can actually see these being drawn to the screen. This saved on disk space and kept loading times to a minimum.

Speaking of which, I played this off the original 5.25 disks and the loading times really aren’t too bad considering the hardware. They would have seemed positively speedy at the time with 2-3 seconds to load each new room. What I didn’t like was having to swap disks to save my game.Many of the screens have random monsters that mean instant death if they catch you. They aren’t capable of chasing between screens at least so you soon learn to stay near the edges of screens in this game and save often.

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I’m getting ahead of myself though. Before I can explore the countryside, I have to go and get my quest from King Edward. I have to retrieve the 3 missing treasures and in return will get to be King.

Gameplay in King’s Quest is extremely non-linear and these treasures can be obtained in any order. There are usually several solutions to every puzzle with some solutions worth more points than others (non-violent solutions usually being the more valuable).The main world consists of roughly 20-30 screens in a grid that rolls back around to the opposite side at the edges, and there are further sub locations, inside houses, below ground, etc most of which are on the second of the two floppy disks.

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Apart from the 3 main treasures, various other valuable items are scattered about which can be gathered for points. These tend to be hidden in tree stumps or logs and the like. I don’t think I’ve ever managed full points in this game so there must be one somewhere I’ve never found.

The first main treasure I stumble into is the magic mirror, which is through a cave at the bottom of a well. It’s guarded by a dragon who I disable by throwing a bucket of water in its mouth.

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The world map is large enough that I never really did learn my way around. I do notice that some of the screens in the game appear to be a whole lot better drawn than others as I roam around Daventry. E.g. the bush on the right of the screen above looks like something I might come up with, were I to try to draw the outline of the UK with a ball mouse that hadn’t been cleaned out for 10 years. It’s a completely nondescript room with nothing whatsoever to do on it but you’d think they could have tried a little harder

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The most infamous puzzle in Kings Quest involves guessing the name of a dwarf who lives on a little island near the castle. You get three goes and the only clue is a note in an unrelated part of the map which says “Sometimes it is wise to think backwards”. I only solved this one when I got the Official Book of King’s Quest which didn’t give the answer but did have a crossword puzzle that gave me enough of a clue. I won’t give away the answer but suffice to say, not many people would have guessed it and the puzzle isn’t exactly fair.

The game can be completed without solving this to be fair and the only reward other than some points is an excruciating climb up a beanstalk with little guidance on exactly where is safe to tread. It took much disk swapping and reloading before I made it up to the clouds. Once there I’m set upon by a giant but thanks to the games limited pathfinding capabilities, it’s possible to position myself behind a tree and avoid him. Eventually, he gets fed up, falls asleep and I pinch the chest he was holding which is the 2nd missing treasure.

Curiously on the Tandy, there is a snoring sound effect when the giant falls asleep. It’s not exactly impressive by modern standards but the noise channel on the Tandy is definitely ahead of what I’d have got from the PC speaker in this game. The use of music and sound is very limited though with little more than a death theme and a couple of seconds of warning music when a monster shows up.

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The final treasure is under the ground. Reaching this place requires finding a passing eagle who only occasionally appears on one of the games screens, and then using the games “jump” key (which is entirely useless otherwise) at just the right time and location to catch onto the eagles claws. I knew what to do through bitter experience the first time around but how I guessed it as a kid, I have no idea. I expect trial, error and a whole lot of free time.

At any rate, this eagle flies me to a little island, I drop through a hole in the ground and thanks to a fiddle I took from the only two people left in Daventry I’m able to make all the leprechauns that live down here dance away and retrieve the final missing treasure.

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All that is left to do is head back to the castle (which took me at least 10 minutes to locate again). King Edward grants me the throne before keeling over dead. Showing all due respect to the ex-monarch, Graham heads straight for the throne to claim his prize while Edward’s body still lies on the ground. There is one final rendition of Greensleeves and some brief credits.

I was reminded a lot of Zork playing this again all these years later in some ways. King’s Quest is a very traditional treasure search as was so common in early interactive fiction. It doesn’t have the puzzles or complexity of Zork of course.

I usually ask myself if a game has held up when I finish it but I’m unconvinced that King’s Quest was all that much of a game in the first place. It’s extremely brief and without any particularly memorable puzzles or plot. Comparing it to contemporary offerings from Infocom such as Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, it’s ridiculously simplistic. Compared to most other publishers of the time, it holds up far better I suppose with the added attraction of the graphics.

Sierra’s more forward thinking approach would ultimately be proved correct a couple of years later as the traditional IF market died off and the graphical adventure game started to come into its own. In the meanwhile, King’s Quest wasn’t without its charms but Sierra would do far better with this engine in later efforts. The King’s Quest series is no doubt aimed at a young audience and as an introduction to adventure games this serves quite well with the open structure limiting dead ends and multiple solutions offering more chances to get past each puzzle. I’m still not sure it’s a title I could honestly recommend to a new player with so many better adventure games available. It did get a remake a few years later and then a fan remake some years after that, both of which I may well look at eventually.

That will have to wait as in the next post, I’ll be almost getting back on topic and looking at a curious entry in Warren Spector’s early career.

Creepy Corridors

I’m continuing to play through Chuckles’ early games and next on the list is Creepy Corridors. This was first released in 1982 by Sierra on the Apple II as part of a collection of 4 games called Laf Pak. All of the games were written by Bueche and came on a single disk. I don’t have a copy of this so the photo below is courtesy of vintage-sierra.net.

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On loading the game, the player got a little menu with some beeping music to select one of the four games. I’ll stick with just Creepy Corridors for this post and look at the other games another time.

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Creepy Corridors is a simple maze crawl where the player has to work their way around the screen collecting diamonds and shooting at monsters. You can only fire one shot at a time so don’t want to miss on a long corridor. The monsters all spawn gradually from the same location. Once all the monsters are dead or all 4 diamonds collected, it’s off to the next level via the door that appears. Collecting all the diamonds gives an extra life.

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The concept of the game is simple enough, and an obvious Pacman variant, but I found this strangely good fun to play on the Apple II. The levels start out extremely easy and the player can simply find a safe spot to shoot every monster if they wish. Later levels introduce white skulls which are invulnerable and these levels get extremely frantic. The monsters chase the player around the map once they have a line of sight and when one of these has locked onto you they are very difficult to shake.

There are hordes of monsters on later levels and everything (including the player) speeds up on each successive screen. The code handling the speed of the game could have stood some improvement. The speed is all over the place while monsters spawn at the start of a level. Think of the speed of that last space invader when there is just one left and you won’t be far off. Things slow down when there are a few monsters on the screen but it’s lethal at first. I’m surprised just how fast the Apple II can push these sprites around.

The main claim to fame of Creepy Corridors is that it was allegedly the third ever Apple II game to include sampled speech with Chuckles himself providing the dying scream should you blunder into one of the monsters. The rest of the sound is more mundane but functional.

I’ve got a theory that there are only 10 levels in the game but I only managed to get that far once and was far too busy to get a photo or finish the level. Level 10 was extremely open with very little maze allowing access to me for the monsters from all directions. If that is the last level, I’m sure I could beat this game with a little more practice and a lot of luck. It does run so fast at this point, I’d need a stack of lives left to make suicide runs to the diamonds.

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I can’t say that Creepy Corridors is anything particularly special but I still liked it and for one game on a four pack it’s not too bad at all. It grabbed my attention enough to make me have numerous attempts to complete level 10 at any rate. On its own it would have been a definite improvement on Brainteaser Boulevard and this came with 3 other games thrown in.

The story isn’t quite finished there as Creepy Corridors saw a 1983 release on the VIC-20 as an individual game. The port was done by Don McGlauflin and I thought I should give this a quick go. There was a slight hitch in playing it however. NTSC VIC-20 games will run on PAL machines but end up in the top left corner of the screen. Plenty of games allowed the player to simply move the screen to the middle with cursor keys at the main menu but if this option was present here I couldn’t find it so the left edge is slightly clipped. Other than that it all ran fine.

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The VIC-20 version is immediately familiar and plays largely identically. There is a title screen this time around but no screaming Chuckles when the player gets caught and the screen is monochrome. What really lets this version down is the horrible collision detection. As I understand it, the VIC-20 can’t do sprites in the conventional sense and instead uses character based graphics where the screen is effectively made up of a load of tiles that are swapped to create the illusion of bitmaps.

This is all well and good and the “sprites” in the game move smoothly meaning you wouldn’t know the difference. The snag here is that the collision detection appears to work purely on the basis of intersecting characters meaning you can be nowhere near and get hit. It absolutely ruins what would have been a decent port when you can get killed by monsters that aren’t even in the same corridor. If you really want to play Creepy Corridors, avoid this version and stick with the original.