Wednesday, 30 April 2014

GameBase - an invaluable off-line database for retro gamers!

Being an avid retro gamer enthusiast for more years than I care to remember has meant that I have experienced the wonderful world of computer emulation since 1991. However it wasn't until 2004 that I found the fantastic database utility called GameBase on the excellent World Of Spectrum web-site.

GameBase is basically a graphical front-end for an Access Database. Once installed on your PC and configured with the correct paths it then displays all your games for a particular system in any catalogued way that you prefer. The screenshot below shows my GameBase for Spectrum games. This is a database that I downloaded years ago and have greatly modified and added to.

Each game is ran easily by highlighting and clicking 'Play Game'!

At the moment there are a total of 9,567 games and utilities all with relevant screenshots, cassette inlays, game instructions, help files like Maps and also RZX and Video walk-throughs. It also contains information on each game e.g. software house, programmer, genre, memory, price etc.

Each game is executed simply by double-clicking on each entry. GameBase then opens up your Spectrum emulator, loads and runs the game in a few seconds. You can also choose from different versions of the game e.g. full-price or budget re-release.

The classic Ultimate Play The Game's PSSST!

You can run searches or custom filters on any of the data. I'm quite into stats so here are some on my Spectrum GameBase which is being constantly updated.

Total entries: 9567
Music tracks: 538
Favourite Games: 898
Disk Games: 680
Tape Games: 7417
Rom Cartridges: 14
Utilities: 297
Compilation Games: 1017
Games I owned from 1983-1991: 1144
Adventure Games: 1610
Cassette Inlays: 6029
RZX Files: 1859
Videos: 625
Maps: 1419
Game Instructions: 2630
Screenshots: 9550

Strangeloop, another excellent Spectrum game - and you can even download my RZX Walk-through!

You can download GameBase and several pre-built databases from the creators web-site here. Some of the other system databases available are Amiga, Amstrad CPC, BBC, C64 and Atari ST.

There is a help guide here on GameBaseZX to get you started on your own. 

You're gonna need a bigger boat!

The iconic loading screen.
Title : Jaws
Year : 1989
Publisher : Screen 7
Developer : Intelligent Design
Format : ZX Spectrum 48k/128k

Price : £9.99
Audio (48k): None 

Audio (128k): Title music and sound effects
RetroIsland Rating : 7/10

I've just submitted a walk-through for Jaws to the RZX archive.  Jaws is a game which I purchased back in 1990 on the budget label Alternative. Based on the big budget Steven Spielberg film of the same name, the objective of Jaws is to manoeuvre your submersible around the depths of the ocean around Amity Island where the large shark is terrorising the helpless citizens. 

The cassette inlay for Jaws on the ZX Spectrum.
Using your sub you have to find 4 parts of a gun which were lost in a previous encounter with Jaws and also pick up special bullets along the way to help destroy the nasty fish once and for all.

The sea life is very dangerous around Amity and you can shoot everything except the
Yet another tricky cavern.
flashing creatures - if you do then you lose a life. They can be destroyed however using the special bullets but you need some of these to kill Jaws also.

The undersea caverns cover a large area and it is easy to become lost and also run out of precious air. However to help you soon realise that shooting certain creatures sometimes releases a bonus item such as extra air or a treasure chest. Usually a gun part is found in the most difficult dead-end caverns that contain lots of weird sea creatures determined to destroy your sub. 

Amity Island
A nice touch about this Jaws game is an enhanced version for 128k machines. Not only does the enhanced version feature the creepy music from the movie on the title screen plus nice sound effects during play but it also adds another dimension to the game play.

Pressing the space bar during the undersea action takes you back to your boat and if you then push down on the joystick this takes you to an overhead view of Amity Island. From here you can check whether any sightings have been made of Jaws and you can then close the nearest beach. It is important to keep checking this screen as if not then beach-goers will be eaten and the mainland authorities will close the island, ending the game.

Jaws is a game which offers plenty of playing time - it's not an easy task that presents itself and is another fine example of programmers squeezing as much as possible into a small amount of memory available.
Smile you son of a bitch!

Once you find the 4 parts of the gun then you are transported back to the boat where you can dive again to find Jaws. You also find that your lives are now down to 1 and also your air time is 80 seconds! Once you discover the fish then you realise that it is swimming faster than your bullets so you have to navigate in front of Jaws facing it's gaping mouth! With only 4 bullets at your disposal and 3 hits to kill Jaws your task is tricky but 3 good shots soon result in a satisfying explosion. Game Over!

 Time to float to the surface and then find your way back to the mainland using some handy barrels. Wait! That was from the end of the movie not this game. Overall an enjoyable game, not a classic by any means but then that's why I waited to buy it at a budget price....

Time to head for the coast to see if I can spot any fins sticking out of the water.....

View the video of my walkthrough here.

Spectrum RZX Archive

If you haven't come across the Spectrum RZX Archive yet then now is the time to check it out! RZX files can be loaded into most popular ZX Spectrum emulators such as Spectaculator or SpecEmu and contain a recording of a Spectrum game being completed. The file sizes are very small as they mostly only contain the game snapshot plus any keyboard or joystick inputs.

You can record your own game RZX by running a Spectrum emulator (I have used Spectaculator as an example below. Load in your favourite game and then once loading is complete, from the menu bar select Control/Action Replay(RZX):

Type a name for your new RZX creation and select a location where it will be saved, then click on OK and then click OK again to select Record from current position.

Now any keypress or joystick move that you make will be saved to the RZX file. When recording a game you have the extremely useful 'rollback' function. If you press the Ins key when recording this will create a save position so that if you make a mistake in your recording then you can easily press Delete and it takes you instantly back to the last save position. The more times you press Delete the more it takes you back through your past save positions. Really handy for those precise platform games!

Once you have completed your game then from the top menu select Control/Action Replay(RZX)/Stop and Finalise. This will finalise your RZX snapshot meaning that you can't edit it in future and it is ready for submission to the RZX archive. If you want to carry on editing your RZX then just select Stop instead of Stop and Finalise.

TIPS: When recording a game make sure that there is no loading from tape (e.g. a multi-load game). If there is then just stop the recording and create a new RZX once the loading is complete. Also do not enter any pokes or change any hardware options when recording an RZX as this can also corrupt it.

You can download RZX files at which is maintained by Daren Pearcy who is always friendly and posts any new games up very quickly. Look out for the RZX games posted by me, Malcolm. I've been happily posting files to the RZX Archive since April 2005 and don't have any plans to stop yet!