Toonstruck is the wonderous point & click game from Virgin Interactive starring (quite literally) Christopher Lloyd as the main protagonist Drew Blanc. Adrian is a big fan so he tracked down the game’s lead animator and retro gaming legend, Laura Janczewski for this quick Q&A to find out what really happened throughout the game’s troubled ... Read more

The post Laura Janczewski (Toonstruck supremo) – Q&A appeared first on Arcade Attack.

We actually missed the v6.0 release date by a few days, but it is never late to let you all know that the excellent Atari emulator for macOS has been updated (now version 6.0.1) adding native support for Apple’s ARM processors.

Features Added/Changed:

  • Added support for ARM based M1 Macs.
  • Update libSDL to version 2.0.14.
  • Removed 2k limit on the number of characters that can be pasted into the emulator

Bugs Fixed:

  • Fixed issue with not correctly restoring machine type when loading a configuration file.
  • Fixed issue with not being able to insert a piggyback cartridge to SDX.

Link: Github

Two classic Amiga demos have been ported to the Chloe.

Sponsors on Patreon got an early look at Chloe ports of two classic Amiga demos (Boing and Juggler) late last year, but they are now available to download from Source Solutions, Inc. Two years ago when we first reported on the Chloe, firmware updates were roughly quarterly, but last year there was only one update. Development had stalled, and efforts were focused elsewhere, such as on expanding localization support.

There have been some new technical demos released during that time, including another 6-channel sound demo (showcasing Arkos Tracker 2), an on-system version of the teaser video, and three demos streaming sound and video from disk using the DMA. The older demos have been updated to run at a smooth 30 FPS. But now there’s a new SE Basic IV release with lots of new features that lays the groundwork for more updates later this year.

The changes bring this version of BASIC much more in line with Microsoft BASIC. It now has the same mathematical order of precedence. Boolean operators have been replaced with 16-bit signed bitwise operators (true = -1, false =0). Support has been added for long variable names. Existing string slicing is retained, but LEFT$, MID$ and RIGHT$ are now available. FIX and STRING$ functions are added. Operators now include backslash (\) for truncated division, MOD and bitwise NOT, AND, OR and XOR (~, & and | are available as shorthand for the first three, along with ? for PRINT).

But SE Basic IV isn’t beyond borrowing from other BASIC dialects. This release adds DPOKE and DPEEK (16-bit versions of POKE and PEEK). The OLD command restores a program previously erased with NEW. The STR$ function is extended to support conversion from base 2 to 36 (encompassing BIN$, HEX$ and OCT$). String multiplication is now supported. This can be used to fill a string with a character or even mirror a string.

There are also bugfixes, speed ups and other enhancements. For example, a unified detokenizer now gives the same results in listings and in the editor. Now that all the available calculator functions are assigned, the calculator code is considered complete. The work remaining to complete the firmware includes advanced file handling, advanced sound, and graphics commands. But even without these, the system is already very usable.


I haven’t really introduced myself since I started writing for VITNO back in October 2021, but my name is Adam Dorough (loves retro games, vintage technology and short walks to the refrigerator). I have been running the Retro Gaming Bygones Podcast (https://anchor.fm/retrogamingbygones) just over a year now and just released a podcast titled The Commodore Chronicles Podcast about my favorite childhood computer, the Commodore 64.

I’m hoping community feedback becomes the most important part of the running of the podcast. Between Twitter (@c64chronicles) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/c64chronicles) over the last month, the feedback on this first episode titles has been stellar! On the first episode we covered Pooyan (Datasoft – 1983) and Space Taxi (Muse Software – 1984).

You can listen to this episode of the podcast at https://anchor.fm/commodorechronicles/episodes/Episode-One—Pooyan-and-Space-Taxi-e1d86v3 -or- on most major podcast platforms such as Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Pocket Casts and Radio Public.

On the next episode of the podcast, we’ll cover two ambitious titles, Raid On Bungeling Bay and Project Firestart. I’d love your feedback as well! Thanks!


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Is Batman Returns a good movie? Were the licensed games any good? Dyl and the gang attempt to answer these questions and many more. As well as the film, we tackle a thumping 16-bit beat ’em up, a limp 8-bit game that’s far too easy and a very purple 16-bit game might slightly better by ... Read more

The post Arcade Attack Podcast – January (3 of 4) 2022 – Batman Returns and its games appeared first on Arcade Attack.

Adrian’s persistence pays off in a big way as he finally got to chat to industry legend Ken Levine! The BioShock creator answers questions about its origins, influences, the truth behind the (BioShock) movie and much more. He also discusses his failed screenplay career, how everything at Irrational Games started with System Shock 2, how ... Read more

The post Arcade Attack Podcast – January (2 of 4) 2022 – Ken Levine (BioShock creator) appeared first on Arcade Attack.

The Atari legend was responsible for some of the 2600’s biggest hits including the Missile Command port and the addictive Demon Attack. Adrian also quizzes him on Night Trap and much, much more. Like what we do? Please consider supporting us on Patreon: www.patreon.com/arcadeattack Fancy discussing this podcast? Fancy suggesting a topic of conversation? Please tweet ... Read more

The post Arcade Attack Podcast – January (1 of 4) 2022 – Rob Fulop (Atari) appeared first on Arcade Attack.

When Nintendo’s Star Fox arrived in 1993 it heralded in a new age for Nintendo’s 16-bit console, the age of 3D. Powered by the Super FX chip, it delivered cutting edge graphics that made it stand proudly apart from other console games of the time. Here Jez San reveals how it all happened.

In these days of ultra-realistic graphical plenty it’s all too easy to forget that for console gamers, 3D visuals didn’t really become par for the course until the advent of the 32-bit technology in the mid-Nineties. However, developers had been successfully dabbling with the third dimension for some years previously, mainly on the powerful Western 16-bit home computers like the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga. One such company was UK-based Argonaut Software, brainchild of teenage programming genius Jez San. Founded in 1982, Argonaut impressed with early 3D hits such as the groundbreaking StarGlider titles and the ambitious air combat simulator Birds Of Prey, but it’s the company’s association with Nintendo’s popular StarFox brand that granted them worldwide fame.

08

You’ll get little snippets of text from your mates, making you
feel like part of a team.

As the Eighties came to a close Argonaut turned its attention to the rapidly emerging console market, and more specifically, what kind of 3D games could be successfully achieved on the current crop of Japanese systems. The most obvious options were the then-unstoppable Nintendo Entertainment System and the newly released portable Game Boy. After his team had familiarized themselves with the hardware (going as far as to reverse engineer a Game Boy, as you do), San approached Nintendo of Japan with the proposal of exploring the possibility of producing 3D titles for its machines. To say Nintendo was receptive to the idea would be something of an understatement, as San himself recalls: “They immediately flew me to Japan to meet with them. They hired us to do a few 3D games, starting with the Japan exclusive Eclipse on the Game Boy, which became Lunar Chase. Then we started doing StarGlider on the NES, which was codenamed NesGlider.” Argonaut’s craftsmanship in the third dimension immediately impressed Nintendo – it was rumoured that the Japanese giant had been trying to produce 3D visuals on the NES for a while (with largely unsatisfactory results) and was keen to ensure that it, and not emerging rivals Sega, was the first to fully exploit the possibilities of console-based 3D titles. Having distinguished themselves with flying colours, San and his team were then introduced to what would prove to be the next generation of Nintendo greatness: “During our work, Nintendo showed us its new console. We immediately started moving over to the Super NES and StarFox was born”.

The first challenge Argonaut faced was power, or rather the lack of it. Although it was the cutting edge of console technology, at its core the SNES (like its 16-bit rival the Sega Mega Drive) was primarily designed with 2D games in mind. Sensing this, San proposed a revolutionary concept:  “I suggested the idea that while developing 3D games for Nintendo we might be able to design a 3D chip that would make its game console the first one capable of doing proper 3D graphics”. This would ultimately lead to the birth of the Super FX chip. Nintendo was enthused by the notion of granting the SNES a little 3D muscle and wasted no time in putting the wheels in motion, as San remembers: “It jumped at the chance and financed the creation of the MARIO chip (Mathematical Argonaut Rotation I/O chip), which was designed by Rob Macaulay and Ben Cheese (who sadly succumbed to cancer in 2001), and was later renamed Super FX”. With the assistance of this chip the SNES was able to produce and manipulate complex (for the time at least) real-time 3D visuals and effects. Super FX was to be integrated into the cartridge itself. This meant that SNES owners would not be required to purchase an additional peripheral (as was the case with the ill-fated Sega Mega CD and 32X devices) in order to experience the game, but it did result in a slightly higher price point than other SNES releases. It was a smart move that meant every SNES owner had the opportunity to experience this technical marvel, even if it did mean having to extort a few extra quid out of long-suffering parents to do so.

10

Starfox still holds up today. It remains an exceptionally polished blaster.

Developing StarFox was a learning experience for San and his team and they quickly had to acclimatize themselves to the rather unusual working practices of their new mentor – the legendary creator of the bestselling Mario and Zelda franchises, Shigeru Miyamoto. “Working with Miyamoto presents a large learning curve, but can also be a very different proposition compared to others,” remarks San. “He doesn’t like to design games in advance. He subscribes to the ‘try something, then keep tuning, then try something else’ approach to game design. It means that he’s completely in the loop at all stages, which can become a bottleneck. He doesn’t like to do planning. He’s very much a ‘seat of the pants’ kind of guy.” Despite the unorthodox methods of game design witnessed by the Argonaut team whilst coding alongside Nintendo’s golden boy, the encounter was, as San is swift to point out, an extremely positive one: “I have enormous respect for his talents. He’s an amazing guy, and very humble. But the way he likes to work is very different than most people and it takes a lot of getting used to”.

Links between the two companies were forged and Argonaut was forced to ‘go native’ to ensure work with their new partner progressed as smoothly as possible. “We had a small office inside Nintendo,” says San.  “We put several of our London staff – Dylan Cuthbert, Krister Wombell, Giles Goddard and later Colin Reed – permanently into Nintendo’s offices in Kyoto, working directly for Miyamoto. I would regularly fly over to Japan to spend time with him. We did most of the technology back in England with a relatively large engineering/tech team, which comprised of Carl Graham and Pete Warnes on the software-based 3D technology and Ben Cheese, Rob Macaulay and James Hakewill working on the hardware side of things.  All the direct gameplay work was done inside Miyamoto’s offices in Kyoto. Therefore we had two teams working closely with each other in two different countries”.

03

Hit the yellow blocks to destroy this enemy.

Whilst Argonaut primarily handled the technical duties, Miyamoto and his team, led by director Katsuya Eguchi, performed the artistic magic Nintendo was famed for. “We did most of the programming and all of the technology, and Nintendo did most of the design. They also did all of the characters,” reveals San. Nintendo was responsible for level concepts, but Argonaut was on hand to provide valuable support thanks to its considerable experience in the field of 3D – an area in which Nintendo was still finding its feet, as San recalls: “It was largely Nintendo’s staff that designed the stages and levels, but with help from our programmers, who created the scripting system and showed them lots of examples as to what could be done”. With Argonaut’s talented programmers at their beck and call, Miyamoto and Eguchi were able to break boundaries and create an underpants-soiling experience the likes of which had never been witnessed before on a home console.

StarFox repaid all of Nintendo and Argonaut’s hard work by shifting over four million copies worldwide (although initially the SNES-owning public, raised on a diet of cute 2D titles, were slow to warm to the unusual visuals). Reviews at the time were unanimously positive. The game was marketed as a true next-generation title and was eventually granted ‘pack-in’ status in the UK – a sure sign that Nintendo regarded it as a ‘killer app’ that would shift hardware on its own.

Bitnamic, through its European branch, Teknamic, is releasing three new games for the ZX Spectrum in the very last day of the year.

The first one is a relaunch. Published as a “Cover Tape” in issue 88 of the Crash magazine, “Countdown to the Death” is the result of the efforts of two young Brazilians: Mario de Paula Leite Gouvea, programmer and creator, and Eduardo Avellar, the music composer.

The game consists of five interconnected mini-games: Hangman, Bonus Machine (slot machine), Bat and Ball (a Breakout clone), Memory, and Repeat It (repeating patterns in the “Simon” style). Variety in gameplay, neat graphics and music, diverse and imaginative sound effects… It’s no wonder that the English publisher put it on the pages of the magazine! The cassette version costs €7,90 plus taxes.

The second game is Depth Charge, a game inspired by two arcade games from the ’70s, Depthcharge by Gremlin and Destroyer by Atari, combining the mechanics of both. In the game, you control a destroyer fighting submarines that are passing by you under the sea, while of course, they try to destroy your vessel. As in real life, to hit the submarines the destroyer will drop the depth charges which will slowly find its way to the bottom of the ocean. To make the game more challenging, the player has to set at what depth they will explode using the up and down keys to move a crosshair before firing, instead of simply dropping charges aimlessly hoping to hit something on its way down.

Depth Charge is very polished and it managed to keep, if not make it better, the gameplay and entertainment value of the original arcade games. You can buy this game bundled with the classic Brazilian magazine, Micro Sistemas, or standalone for €6,90 plus taxes.

The third game will please the text adventure fans out there. In Saboteur: Deep Cover, you play a spy that has been working undercover at Viridis, an evil corporation that keeps all its secrets very safe. Your job is to find all the evidence of the company’s illegal activities and smuggle it out without being caught. The game is created by Clive Townsend and Andy Remic, with graphics by Clive.

Saboteur: Deep Cover will be sold by Teknamic, except in the UK, where it will be available and sold by Cronosoft. The price is €9,90 plus taxes.

The three games are already available at Teknamic Store.

Link: Teknamic

Released: 2011

Genre: Adventure

Publisher: Namco Bandai

Developer: From Software

The Background

From Software had been trucking along for years before Demon’s Souls. A workhorse studio, it pumped out mediocre to average games across all genres, from the mecha Armored Core series to the first-person, rock-hard RPG King’s Field games. It was this series that inspired Demon’s Souls, a PlayStation 3 exclusive that was released to little fanfare in 2009 – indeed, Sony decided against publishing the game outside of Japan, leaving it up to third parties. It was a misguided decision in hindsight, as Demon’s Souls was a success with critics and gamers, a blend of the hardcore trappings of King’s Field with a new style of action-RPG gameplay spearheaded by director Hidetaka Miyazaki.

Work soon began on a sequel, although not one directly connected to the story and world of the first game. Miyazaki returned as director and producer, refining the basic gameplay and ideas of Demon’s Souls and introducing them to a new audience on Xbox 360. Many UK PlayStation 3 owners had also missed out on Demon’s Souls due to the European release taking many months longer than the American, so for many Dark Souls was their first step into this strange new challenge.

DARK SOULS 4The Game
That’s the thing that everybody remembers about the Souls games, the first thing that gets brought up in conversation: the difficulty. Most readers of this magazine will agree that games today are too easy, holding your hand every step of the way and rarely testing the skills that you’ve built up over decades of sitting in front of a screen and pressing buttons. Dark Souls says to hell with that, and aside from an incredibly sparse few lines of tutorial text telling you what the buttons do, you are on your own. Dark Souls laughs at the concept of objective markers, and outside of some extremely vague and veiled hints from NPCs, you will have to explore and make your own way in this world. Add in the fact that there is no map, and you have to scour, learn and memorise every corner of Lordran like the good old days when we drew pen-and-paper maps of the original Metroid.

Lordran is a bleak, empty land, populated only by mindless undead and horrific demons all looking to kill you. Dark Souls is defined by its simple but wonderfully responsive combat, where each button press corresponds to a swing of your weapon and carefully observing your enemy and attacking when able is the only sure-fire route to success. Swinging wildly will quickly get you killed, even against the most basic of enemies. Every fight is a threat in Dark Souls, and you need to be attentive and focused at all times.

Of course, death is inevitable, and the game’s approach to it is another one of its elements of genius. Die and you’ll be sent back to the last bonfire you rested at, a checkpoint system of sorts. Resting at a fire refills your health and Estus Flasks (health potions, essentially) but also respawns every single enemy in the world, aside from defeated bosses. You can’t clear out an area and be done with it – every time you rest, the bad guys come back. Die and respawn, and your collected souls will be left at the spot you perished. Souls act as currency and experience, spent on items and to level up, and losing a huge batch is never fun. You have one chance to get back to your corpse and get your souls back, but die again before you do and they are gone forever. It’s a brilliant mixture of risk and reward that always leads to extremely tense moments.

But lots of games are hard, and a lot of games play well. Dark Souls is exceptional because of its artistic elements: the atmosphere, the lore and story hidden in the world, the stark beauty of a landscape housing a dead society. Few games have ever created a feeling of isolation and loneliness like Dark Souls (again, inviting comparisons to Metroid). The story of the world you venture through is left largely unexplained, but hinted at through various means, be it item descriptions or the mutterings of a deranged merchant. This minimalistic approach to storytelling adds to the mysterious nature of the game, and dedicated fans have managed to discern a huge amount of lore and backstory from the subtle hints given – just like the rest of the gameplay, if you want to know what’s going on, you have to work for it.

DARK SOULS 6Why It’s A Future Classic
This is the real reason why Dark Souls will live on, sure to be remembered in decades to come. Most games feel like entertainment, Dark Souls feels like a piece of art, fully conceptualised by Miyazaki and his team as a whole, designed to function both as a great game and a means of conveying emotion, bringing a player down through isolation and failure before building them back up as they learn, grow and get better. Some won’t have the patience for a game like Dark Souls, and that’s fine – it’s not for everyone. But for those with the patience and fortitude to persevere, those that see games as challenges to be explored, mastered and conquered, Dark Souls is a true modern classic in every sense of the word.