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


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.


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.


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.


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.

IMG_20160127_172219 IMG_20160127_172139

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.

Brainteaser Boulevard

I’ve looked at the early games of several famous Origin employees but have never got around to any of Chuck Bueche (aka Chuckles) early titles of which there are several. Bueche was one of the four co-founders of Origin in 1983 and the only non Garriott in that group. Prior to that he put out several titles on Atari and Apple platforms and I’ll be giving each of them a play over coming weeks.

One of those early games was Brainteaser Boulevard which was published by California Pacific in 1982. I gather that Beuche never saw any money for the game with California Pacific going bust shortly afterwards. I don’t own a copy myself so the pictures below come off a fairly recent Ebay auction where this sealed copy went for the not all that unreasonable sum of $30.


It’s an Apple II game but didn’t want to run on my IIGS so I’ll be resorting to an emulator. The title doesn’t suggest it but Brainteaser Boulevard is a Frogger clone pure and simple. Instead of a frog, the player takes the role of a scout helping old ladies dash across a lethal 4 lane highway.

bb2 bb3

The gameplay is considerably simpler than Frogger since there are no logs to jump onto or lily pads to aim for. It’s merely a case of getting to the top of the screen and returning to the bottom without hitting anything. The trip back is made harder with the old lady walking by your side making the player character twice the size in effect. If just the lady gets hit by a car you can go back and pick up another one without losing a life. If the player gets hit then they’ve both had it. Run out of old ladies one way or another and the next level starts, all exactly the same except the cars move more quickly and you score more per trip.

Brainteaser Boulevard doesn’t play badly but it’s clearly a step down from Frogger. There is little reason for the player ever to move left or right and it gets near impossible quickly no matter how good the player. I had an issue with the keyboard controls where the character stops moving when a key is held down until the character repeat kicks in. This may have been an emulation issue but it certainly didn’t make playing this any easier when my character would take one step into oncoming traffic and then hang around for a second.

Other than that it’s not a badly made game but is just one of many in a sea of uninspiring Frogger clones so I can’t say it’s worth anyone’s time these days.

Apple II Adaptive Firmware Card

This post will be something of a departure from the usual topics on this site but it’s an area on which there is precious little information available so I’m sharing this in case it will be useful for anyone else. To give the background first, I was contacted by Barrie Ellis from One Switch who is writing a book about the history of one switch gaming which he intends to sell in order to raise money for the charity Special Effect. One of the earliest gadgets aiding accessible gaming was the Adaptive Firmware card for the Apple II/IIGS but there is next to no information available about it these days. From somewhere or other Barrie had managed to get hold of one of these cards but the snag was he didn’t have the IIGS to try it out or any details about how it worked which is where I came in. I’m not going to go into any great depth in this post but we aren’t aware of there being any footage of one of these being used available anywhere else so I’d like to put this out there for anyone interested. If you want more details, no doubt Barrie’s book will be the place to look.

I can’t say I knew any more than your average person about one switch gaming going into this. I certainly knew about Special Effect largely through the GamerDads podcast and was keen enough to help. Besides which, it’s an excuse to play around with some old hardware which isn’t something I’d ever turn down as a rule. The principle of a disabled person being able to control a game with a single switch sounds simple enough but achieving it in real life another matter. The AFC wasn’t the absolute first device to do this but it was certainly one of the forerunners. As such it’s arguably not the most user-friendly of devices for an Apple II novice trying to figure it out without a manual.
AFC Card AFC Adaptor

The card goes into slot 5 on the IIGS with the adaptor box plugging into the pin connectors at one end of it. For some reason these are at the wrong end of the card to route the rather short cables out of the back of the machine. The upshot of this is that I can’t put the top on my case when using this. Not sure how this was handled back in the day but I can only imagine it would involve making some extra holes in the case.


The AFC could connect to quite some list of gadgets. For my purposes here, I’m just going to be using a single switch but it could also connect with various specialist keyboards and speech synthesis devices to make the IIGS usable for the blind/partially sighted.

Menu MsPacman Array

The card comes with a setup disc allowing the user to program the card with control templates. This is a complex tool especially without a manual but I managed to get far enough to create some basic templates. One switch gaming with the AFC is largely based on scanning arrays whereby the user can create a menu of options which will cycle on the screen. The player can select one of these by clicking at the appropriate time and then that option will be linked to a macro, a keypress or another menu. Thankfully, there are some predefined templates on the disk to guide me through some of this so the first thing I tried was a pre-built keyboard template with Infocom classic Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Ideally, I’d have the button in screen at the same time but it was all I could do to record a half decent picture off my TV. The clicks are audible enough anyway and it shows how it’s possible to enter text commands with just a button. It’s clearly a whole lot slower than typing but the scanning speed can be adjusted as appropriate for the person using it and it certainly makes the game playable. An alterative to scanning is the use of morse code which I briefly show at the end. If I actually knew more than SOS in morse code, this would a whole lot quicker for this sort of game. The morse code can also be done using two switches (one each for dots/dashes) which would be faster still.

The card will also slow games down which is potentially a useful feature for all gamers. I have to include something to do with Origin in here so I tried this out on Ultima 3 where the introduction seemed to run full speed but then the title screen was clearly being reduced to a crawl. The AFC is definitely not 100% compatible with everything I tried it with, this being a case in point as the game would subsequently run at full speed after the title.

My next effort involved creating my own template from scratch to control Ms Pacman. This was a very simple menu with just the four options each mapping to a key on the keyboard. This showed up a feature of the AFC in that the whole game pauses while selecting an option from the menu making this highly playable even at full speed. It’s quite a different experience becoming more tactical but still quite good fun.

The AFC also supports mouse/joystick commands and I had serious difficulty getting these to work. I eventually figured out that sending an command from a menu would switch the device into mouse mode. From here any menu option outputting a @ character would start up an inbuilt menu with a rotating arrow + C and X buttons to move, click or close the menu. Unlike the other menus this one doesn’t pause whatever program is running and the user clicks when the appropriate arrow is on the screen and either holds down the button or clicks again to stop it moving depending on the set up. This was all well and good except it still didn’t work in many games. For instance, I thought Battle Chess would be a good candidate for this control method but it hung the moment the mouse was clicked. I did manage to run Dungeon Master above but I can’t imagine it would be all that suitable in the long run without a much more complex template.

I also tried mouse control in Arkanoid with a reduced speed, also adjusting the rotating arrows to just have two directions. This was sort of playable thanks to the slowdown but I can’t say I’m entirely convinced. The mouse pointer accelerates through 3 speed levels all of which are adjustable so it can be tailored to each game/user in this way.

That’s about as much success as I’ve managed to get out of this and the above represents a good number of hours of trial and error. I’ve skipped over no end of games which didn’t work in this post. The AFC is quite an unusual gadget effectively turning the IIGS into a multi-tasking machine with the second switch input process being able to run on the card simultaneously to the regular program on the motherboard. I can’t say I’ve found this process always to work flawlessly with numerous titles crashing or input getting stuck. I have a strong suspicion that the AFC does not particularly like working in conjunction with a CFFA3000 card and that it would have been a much smoother process at the time. I wasn’t even able to run a lot of the software that had predefined templates which more or less confirms this. Either way, it’s still quite capable and I’m surprised to see something like this was available back in the mid 80’s. The software isn’t all that easy to use but appears to be extremely flexible – I expect most games could be made playable using the AFC but it would require a deal of programming skill and knowledge for much more than the basic examples here.

Paintworks Macros

I never did get joystick control working despite my best efforts, only being able to get the fire button to respond. I had a look through some of the predefined templates for some guidance but these are relatively complex to figure out from scratch with menu options having little BASIC like macros behind them as above. If anyone reading this happens to have any knowledge (or better still a manual) for one of these cards I’d very much appreciate it if you could get in touch with either myself or Barrie.