exodus Yeah, I’m pretty much in this boat too! Although for purposes of writing these posts I’ve played the games just to see what kinds of muscle memory remains from what, 35+ years ago, haha. Turns out to be more than I expected!
Okay, so this is probably my last post about specific games, not because I’m not still interested in talking about these games but because I’m running out of games that I actually played. I may at some point go back and play cleanup with games that I could never find at the time, like Zeppelin and Shadow World.
A note on that, and also something of a confession: some of these games I bought with my own money at the time, but most of them were given to me in pirated form by my childhood next door neighbour, who I believe downloaded a bunch of them from a BBS at the time. I’m not going to defend the behaviour on my part, but I will say that if not for this I would probably never have played a bunch of these games. Keep in mind that around 82-83, the only way to get a bunch of these games was to encounter a copy, by chance, at the mall computer store (I wish I could remember the name of the one I used to go to back then). So money aside, if I just never saw Shadow World at this one specific shop, at the very limited time I ended up at the shop, there was literally no other option for me. And money was of course a huge constraint (I was 10 in 1982). The final constraint was having some kind of idea whether or not a game was any good. It was easy to drop months worth of saved up allowance on a game that ended up being dogshit.
So, The Pharaoh’s Curse (1983)! It’s a multiscreen puzzle platformer where the goal is to loot all of the treasures while avoiding the tomb guardians. More than anything else it reminds me of Broderbund’s Jumpman series from around the same time, since it has the rigid physics and unalterable jumps that were super common then.
It holds up fairly well, although the frustration of things like the bat grabbing you and carting you back to the entrance screen is no more fun now than it was then. I also like the nice touch of the title screen being the entrance. The aesthetic is also pretty interesting and was a super jolt of nostalgia in a way that I wasn’t expecting. Those one-way ‘scrolling’ doorways between screens felt super familiar!
Blue Max (1983), on the other hand– wow, I can remember being frustrated with this one. I was a big fan of arcade Zaxxon, so this was a game I really looked forward to. In practice though… I’m still terrible at it, lol. I mean it’s super interesting to me, especially how well it conveys the player’s position in space, but it’s pretty irritating overall.
Speaking of Zaxxon, wiki says that Synapse ported Zaxxon to C64, which makes sense given this game and its sequel (Blue Max 2001, which I’ve never played). Blue Max also got C64 and ZX Spectrum ports, which I’d love to hear about from anyone who is familiar with them!
Lastly, Fort Apocalypse (1982) was Synapse’s take on Choplifter, a game that I’m fairly certain also got a port to Atari computers. The packaging art is as usual pretty great!
It tracks pretty closely to Choplifter, with the player needing to avoid enemies and rescue prisoners. It even has some very fiddly helicopter controls where it’s hard to position yourself perfectly to do what you need to do, which is frustrating when you also need to be avoiding enemies and their missiles. When your helicopter faces left or right, the attack button shoots bullets, but when you’re facing toward the screen, you drop bombs, which is important since you have to navigate below ground to find all the prisoners. Here’s where the frustration comes in: the the controls are touchy enough that a tiny tap can move you more than you expect, and as a result when you’re bombing the blocked up passageways between levels, you end up missing blocks. Oh, and the tiniest collision with anything destroys your helicopter. So get ready to sweat whether or not the gap you’ve bombed is wide enough to allow you to pass through successfully!
It’s one of those cases where for years I’ve wondered if the problem was with the super clunky Atari joystick that didn’t exactly allow for precision, or if it was the way the movement was coded. Turns out it’s both!
Like I’ve said in earlier posts, I’d love to talk more about this stuff if people are interested!