Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Elite: Dangerous Alpha Phase One!

Great to see that the new follow-up to the old Elite game is looking fantastic, can't wait for it to be released!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Retro Gamer magazine issue 129

Retro Gamer issue 129 out soon!
The latest edition of Retro Gamer magazine is out in the shops on May 22nd. This month's edition features:

The Bluffers Guide To Maze Games
The Making Of: Heartland
Atari Lynx 25th Anniversary
From The Archives: MC Lothlorien
ET Uncovered?
The Ultimate Guide: Midnight Resistance
In The Chair: RJ Mical
The Hardest Games Of All Time
The Making Of: Escape From The Planet Of The Robot Monsters
Classic Moment: Robocop
The History Of: Driver
A Moment With: Ian Malcolm
Minority Report: Japanese Warriors

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Pearl & Dean the champions of old cinema adverts

Brings back many cinema memories this video!

Now to find Butterkist butterkist rah rah rah......

Kevin Toms: the return of Britain's longest serving Football Manager

Who can forget the bearded picture of Kevin Toms?
Kevin Toms, the original author of Football Manager one of the most famous games released back in 1982 is currently putting the finishing touches to a new football management game for the iPhone.

While it won't be a replica of the original games, the author still promises it will have a retro feel to it. 
Simple graphics, addictive game-play!

The game will still have match highlights but hopefully they will be improved over the 1982 version.

Look out for the game available on the App Store hopefully in time for this year's World Cup!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

While you wait for a better Indiana Jones film, check out the Fate of Atlantis!

The opening titles to the game showing the attic.
When Indiana Jones and the Fate Of Atlantis burst upon the home computer scene back in 1992 fans like me were ecstatic. The third movie had been released three years before and by this time we were desperate for another Indy film. But in the meantime we would settle for this utterly brilliant graphic adventure!

You mean it wasn't Harrison Ford's voice?! 
I bought this game for £34.95 in Boots back in 1992 for my Amiga and played this non-stop for years to come - who can forget the 12 disks that the game came on and endlessly swapping disks in that single Amiga disk drive!

Set in 1939 on the eve of World War II you had to control Indiana Jones in a point-and-click graphical adventure game and help him seek out the lost city of Atlantis and get there first before the Nazi agents.

Working your way down to the library. Ouch! 
The game used the SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) engine that featured in Monkey Island 2: Le Chuck's Revenge. This game engine enabled you to use the mouse pointer to click on the screen where you wanted Indy to walk to, talk to a character or even pick up/use an object.

Just let me in, you ape!
So, starting out in Barnett College you first had to guide Indy in the task of finding a lost statue within the archives of the college library. Form the library attic you made your way painfully down to the cellar where behold, the statue was revealed in an old locker. Unfortunately the statue is soon taken from you by Klaus Kerner, a nasty secret agent of the Third Reich and using some clues from Klaus's jacket you begin your travels around the world meeting various characters that can assist in your search for Atlantis.

Cold, unforgiving Iceland. 
First up is a trip to New York and a theatre where Sophia Hapgood is lecturing about Atlantis. At this early point in the game you can follow three different paths in the game. The Team path is where you team up with Sophia to solve the puzzles together. The Fists path is more traditional Indy fare where you mostly fight your way through many of the puzzles. Lastly you can follow the Wits path which includes more tricky puzzles to solve than the other two paths. How you choose to get into the theatre here decides which path you take e.g. if you decide to fight the bouncer then further into the game Sophia will recommend that you take the Fists path.

The impressive Mayan temple. 
Thanks to Nur-Ab-Sal, Sophia's useful 'spirit guide', Indy and Sophia then end up in Iceland looking for Dr Heimdall who is leading a dig there. He isn't the most friendly of people but after asking him about the Lost Dialogue of Plato he advises that you seek out Charles Sternhart in Tikal and Felipe Costa in the Azores.

So on to Tikal and once you have navigated your way through the jungle you come across a huge Mayan temple ran by the very man you are looking for, Charles Sternhart. Once you convince him that you are not just silly tourists and with the help of a very knowledgeable parrot then Charles allows you to enter the temple and it is here that you find your first link to Atlantis. 

Your first Atlantean find!
Using kerosene from a lamp you find a spiral design that just happens to fit into a nearby elephant statue. A quick pull of this newly created elephants nose and the tomb of an Atlantean king is revealed! You also find a Worldstone (further on it is revealed that this stone is one of three keys that the Atlanteans used to unlock doors). 

Unfortunately Charles runs off with the Worldstone but you find a bead of orichalcum lying in the tomb. This bead is made of the fabled element that the Atlanteans used to power their amazing technology and it comes in useful when you head back to Iceland where you find a frozen Dr Heimdall and a half-uncovered eel statue.
Not the Azores that I remember.
Using the bead of orichalcum in the eel statue frees it from the ice and you can now head to the Azores!

Felipe Costa is an old man who deals in rare antiques and he shows great interest in your eel statue from Iceland. He agrees to trade the statue with information on where the Lost Dialogue of Plato book could be located. Amazingly it turns out that it is held in a collection back in Barnett College where Indy teaches. 
Some interesting information about Atlantis.
So back to the college to find the book! This now takes you back to the scenes from the beginning of the game but this time you can interact more with the background objects. Searching through each of the floors you should soon find the fabled Lost Dialogue of Plato and it contains some useful clues about how to reach Atlantis. 

This is now where Sophia reveals which path is more suited to your style of play. I will continue on the Team path for now but if you are interested in the Fists or Wits paths then you can watch my walk-through videos at the end of this article.

Time to scare someone out of their wits!
Now you are off to Algiers and Monte Carlo to follow up leads on two people that Sophia knows. Algiers first to pick up an old mask from an antiques shop you then go to Monte Carlo to meet Trottier and to convince him to attend a seance in the hotel.

Using the mask and a handy bed-sheet you manage to scare Trottier from leaving the room and leaving behind his Sunstone key behind. Now you have your first key!
It's a dangerous game being a knife-thrower's assistant.
Stunning views of Algiers from the balloon.

Back to Algiers and it's time to scour the desert in order to meet Omar who helps you locate at Atlantean dig out in the desert. But first you need to make some trades with a local stall-keeper, a beggar and also to convince Sophia to assist the knife-thrower in his act! Having done all that you should then be in possession of an all day pass for the balloon sight-seeing on the roof of a local house.

Handing your pass over to the balloon owner allows you to enjoy a superb view from the top of the balloon. And once you cut the balloon cord with the knife from the knife-thrower then you are free to float away and over the desert to find the dig site. Here is one of many in-games where you must pilot the balloon over the desert, referring to the map to locate the exact 'X marks the spot'!
Some tricky puzzles at the dig site.

Once you locate the dig-site you soon lose Sophia and have to work out a series of puzzles in order to rescue her, the first being to start up the generator underground so you can locate several useful objects (that ship rib really comes in handy). Then you find that using the Sunstone on the mural opens a door to enable Sophia to escape and once you work out how to start the truck then it's off to Crete.

A lot of bull in Crete.
Aaah, Crete. Probably my favourite part of the game. I remember spending hours at the Crete dig site when I first bought this game wondering what on earth you were supposed to do here with the surveyor's transit and I searched round every single ruined room looking for the slightest clue. Eventually I worked out that you had to locate the bulls head and tail statues and use the transit on them until you located another 'X marks the spot'. 
Another clue but what does it mean I wondered?

The Crete section of this game even encouraged me to visit the fabulous Minoan ruins at Crete a few years ago where there is indeed evidence of a bull's horn statue just like the game. Unfortunately I forgot my surveyors transit though.

Poor old Charles Sternhart didn't get very far.

Once you have all the Atlantean keys the Sunstone, Moonstone and Worldstone then you can at last gain entry to the labyrinths of Crete. Here there are many devious puzzles to solve and you will find yourself wandering the underground caves for a good long while. A useful item to have here is the amber fish on a string which will locate any orichalcum beads located nearby.

Who knew that piloting a submarine was so easy.

Unfortunately once you escape from the labyrinths then the Nazis turn up and kidnap Sophia and take all your stone keys, forcing Indy to secretly follow them onto their submarine. Once safely aboard you have to work out how to get your stone keys back, rescue Sophia from her captors then take over the submarine and pilot it to the correct location of Atlantis! Just another day for Indiana Jones.
It isn't exactly the fabled city you were hoping for.

And so you reach the legendary lost city of Atlantis. Frustratingly it's pitch dark when you leave the submarine and you first task is to make some light and also to open the first door into the main Atlantean concentric circle.

Atlantis is laid out in concentric circles just like Plato foretold!

And what do you find in Atlantis but a city that has long been abandoned by it's creators. The only residents now are Nazis and crabs and a few ruined robots. First thing Indy needs
An orichalcum machine!
to do is create some more orichalcum beads and for this you need some lava. 

Find the missing parts to the huge orichalcum machine, pour some lava into it and hey presto some more beads! Now you can get past the second door into the inner circle. 

But what's this? Sophia trapped in a jail cell and no way of getting out? And how do you deal with the giant octopus in the canals so that you can obtain the raft?

Help, tentacles!

Catching a crab is the way to deal with the octopus, then you can start the raft and float further up the canal. What you really need now is something to level Sophia's cell door open so that she can escape. A hinge pin would be ideal.....

Didn't Derek Acorah also have a 'spirit guide'?!

At last you have reached the centre of the rings. And this is where you find that Sophia is taken over by her 'spirit guide' Nur-Ab-Sal. Which turns out not to be a spirit guide but in fact a long lost evil resident from Atlantis which quickly possesses Sophia and refuses to leave Atlantis. The necklace is the key to dealing with this nasty spirit and once you destroy that then Sophia is free.

Nice lava effects.

Activating the machinery enables you to go even further into the centre of Atlantis and you soon find yourself in a huge cavern complete with a maze of entrances and exits. You also need to navigate a tricky lava field.

Help me!
Finally you reach the 'god room' which features ancient Atlantean technology to turn normal people into spirits and literally become 'gods'. Unfortunately the technology didn't quite work as planned, much to your amusement as you watch the Nazis turn themselves into evil beings that soon fade into nothingness. Be careful on the options that you choose for Indy here or you may find out that it's him that's turned into one of these spirits!

Atlantis slowly disappears.

And there we have a fitting end to a wonderful game. With Atlantis destroying itself and sinking back into the sea from whence it came then Indy and Sophia escape and the credits roll.

Who knew how useful a Fez could be?

You can watch me complete all 3 paths to this PC game below - Team, Fists and Wits paths. Each path has similarities and also differences e.g. in the Wits path you have to navigate the streets of Algiers trying to follow the servant to his masters' house. It only works if the servant is wearing a bright red fez though, otherwise you lose him in the crowds.


Team Path

Wits Path

Fists Path

The PC version featured above has 256 colour graphics and also full speech throughout. The first version that I had however, the Amiga version has neither of these things but  I think features improved music over the PC version. A walk-through for the Amiga version can be viewed below.

You can purchase the original game now at Steam here.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Were you a member of the Home Computer Club?

The leaflet that was in most magazines.
If you were a home computer user back in the late 1980's then you may be familiar with the Home Computer Club. Whether you were a member of the club or not you may recall the attractive full-colour leaflets bundled in most home computer magazines back then, similar to the myriad of leaflets that fall out of magazines today.

'Choose 3 items from only 49p each' was emblazoned on the front of the leaflet - certainly an astoundingly attractive offer for any computer owner, especially if you couldn't afford many full price games.

Upon opening the leaflet you were greeted with amazing cut-price offers on relatively new full-price software. For example, Ultimate Play The Game - The Collected Works compilation offered for only £1.45! 

Amazing introductory offers to make you sign up to the Home Computer Club.
Maybe you would have been tempted by the Taito Coin-Op Hits compilation pack for only £2.45! Or how about the excellent Match day II game for a measly 49p! A choice of any 3 was your opening offer to join the club - all you had to do was complete the form attached with your 3 choices of software, supply your name and address and post in the 

Pick your 3 discounted choices, complete your name and address, then post away and that's it!
nearest post-box. You didn't even require a stamp! And did I mention also the free gift of another full-price software product?! And of course, there was never a better time to join (according to the leaflet) as this was a 'special' club introductory offer. But you can hazard a guess that all the leaflets stated this fact throughout the years that the club was active.

The Program Magazine
Several days later you would receive your 3 software choices through the post, together with the 'Program' magazine. 

One of the conditions of being a member of the Home Computer Club was that you had to purchase one item of slightly discounted software from the Program magazine which was sent out approximately every 8 weeks, and you had to do this for a minimum length of one year from the date you signed up.

I must admit that I came very close to signing up several times over the late 1980's but each time at the last minute I did not post away the coupon to join the club. The introductory offers were really tempting but I just preferred the freedom of going into any High Street shop and choosing the game that I wanted, whether

Pick your choice from several pages of discounted software every 8 weeks or so.
a budget or full-price game - or even not to buy any game that particular month if there was nothing that caught my eye. I didn't like the fact that you were tied into buying a full-price game every 8 weeks from the small selection offered in the Program magazine. 

But many people were tempted, and happily signed up to the Home Computer Club. Were you one of them? I'd be interested in hearing about any memories if so. In the meantime I will just continue to look at the introductory offers and wonder 'What if I had joined?'

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Horizons - the free software pack with every ZX Spectrum

1983, I remember it well. My parents bought me my first home computer the ZX Spectrum 48k. The Spectrum had been released the previous year in April 1982 and I was so excited to finally be able to own one of these super machines. And the first product I loaded up from tape was Horizons, the free introductory software starter pack that came bundled with every Spectrum computer.

The front inlay of the Horizons tape.
 The cassette cover of the Horizons tape is instantly recognisable as it shows a top-down picture of the ZX Spectrum.

Once you had figured out how to set all the Spectrum's leads up, especially the EAR and MIC connections (which usually got plugged into the wrong socket on the tape recorder) then the tape was ready to go. 

A simple instruction of LOAD "" on the Spectrum, press PLAY on the tape recorder and the loading commenced, assuming you had the correct volume setting. 

The first loading screen.
Then you could happily watch the colourful loading bars and listen to the high-pitched loading sounds with anticipation of what was to come.

The rear inlay of the Horizons tape.
The Horizons tape consisted of content on both sides - Side A was an introduction to the ZX Spectrum and took the user through 6 interactive programs on the hardware, keyboard commands and the various cursor modes. 

Side B featured slightly more entertaining content - the infamous Thro' the Wall breakout game, Bubblesort, Evolution, Life, Draw, Monte-Carlo, Character Generator and Waves. 

The familiar Psion screen.
Each item on the tape was programmed by Psion Computers who enjoyed great success in the early 1980's and was set up by Dr David Potter, a lecturer who decided to take a chance in the computer industry instead. Psion are now mostly remembered for such classic games like Hungry Horace, Horace Goes Skiing, Chequered Flag and Match Point. They also programmed ground-breaking utilities like VU-3D, a design and modelling program in 3D for the Spectrum!

So to Side A of the Horizons tape and the first program on the tape was an Introduction and hardware description program. Once loading was completed you were greeted by a screen showing a basic illustration of the Spectrum's main components.

The naked Spectrum.

An overview of ROM, RAM, the Z80 CPU and the ULA then followed, including a demonstration of the different tones for the simple BEEP command.

After the simple introduction you were then faced with loading up 4 similar lessons including short tests so that you became more familiar with the Spectrum's keyboard and BASIC commands.

Lesson 1 - Press the correct key.

Lesson 1 displayed a graphical representation of the Spectrum on your TV screen, showing the Sinclair logo on the top left and the keyboard layout below. The program then tested you on pressing a certain lower-case or upper-case key over and over again until you pressed the STOP command (symbol-shift A).

Lesson 2 - Press the correct command key.

Lesson 2 again displayed the same graphical Spectrum but this time the test wanted you to press the relevant keys to access the correct command function. The screen opposite shows that you are required to enter the command PAUSE which of course is the H key.

Lesson 3 - More challenging.

Lesson 3 again had the familiar graphical Spectrum but this time the test had you pressing the correct combination of keys to activate the relevant cursor mode. The Spectrum had different cursor modes to access different commands e.g. the G cursor enabled access to the graphics commands and the user defined graphics.

Lesson 4 - even trickier!

The final lesson asked you to press not only the correct cursor mode but also the correct key for the command displayed on the screen. So with the example shown here you had to press the key for the OUT command. Easy with the computer in front of you but difficult without!

A useful dictionary of commands.

Finally at the end of Side A of the tape was a handy dictionary program that when you pressed a relevant key displayed the command with a short description. Great for beginners to the Spectrum with it's unique single key-press command entry system.

So let's move on to Side B. First up on the tape was a simple program describing the contents of the Side B and also advertising other software products written by Psion. Next up on the tape was the now legendary breakout game Thro' the Wall. 

Break through the top of the wall!
Anyone that had the Horizons tape will remember their first play of this game clearly - that annoying sound effect when you missed the ball, the extra speed of the bat when you held down the CAPS SHIFT button, and those really annoying corner bricks that just couldn't be hit! 

Watch me completing the game below but taking ages to hit that final corner brick....

Bubblesort was next on the tape. A bit of a let down after the previous program to be honest. 
Watch the cards slowly order themselves.....
According to the inlay Bubblesort demonstrated how a computer can gradually order a sequence of bridge card hands according to their number and suit. And that is exactly what Bubblesort shows you, after a simple explanation it drew a 'green baize' and laid the cards out on the baize which then proceeded to order themselves as expected. Thrilling stuff.

Foxes and rabbits, oh my.
Evolution, or Foxes & Rabbits as it is also known was a program that showed you the power available at your fingertips from the ZX Spectrum and the ease of which it could solve mathematical equations. Using the example of an area of land populated by two species (Foxes & Rabbits) it showed how their population increased and decreased over the course of time e.g. Foxes eat rabbits, fox population increases, rabbit population decreases, the foxes population then decreases because there is less to eat, and so on etc. The cycle repeats every 6 years. If you really desired then you could enter your own values for the quantity of foxes and rabbits, and then watch the graph change accordingly.

Can you see what it is yet?

The next program on the tape, Life, described the growth and evolution of an imaginary colony of beings. With some input from the user it then proceeded to slowly draw out the colonies life cycle.

Or it could just be a random pretty pattern generator for you to look at.

Really entertaining stuff.....

Monte Carlo followed next and was a simulation of the fall of two dice to show off the random RND function of the ZX Spectrum, and then showed the resulting probability distribution as a bar chart or graph. Looks like lucky 7's win again.

Create your own characters easily.

Character generator was a simple but easy program to enable you to edit the Spectrum character set to create your own characters or symbols. You could then save this new character out to tape for use in your own programs.

If you like waves you will love this program.
"Demonstrates the phenomena of beating in music and elsewhere" stated the inlay. Your guess is as good as mine! 

The theory went that as two waves were added together then a third, more complex wave may be formed. This is due to the frequencies of the two waves being similar and causing a low frequency effect. A bit out of my depth here but it creates an interesting picture. 

And there we have both sides of the Horizons tape. Considering this was published back in 1982 for the release of the ZX Spectrum then it was not a bad introduction to the computer, featuring high resolution graphics and enough varied content to at least have you interested in one or two programs if not more, and also made a nice companion to the excellent Spectrum manual.

And the breakout game Thro' the Wall made it all the more memorable for anyone that was lucky enough to own a new Spectrum back in the early 1980's.