Archive for the ‘Playing’ Category

Playing: Mission Monday (C64)

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

Ashley Routledge and David Saunders’ public domain release Mission Monday is a small action game starring Willy Warmstart who previously appeared in a previous free Ash and Dave game called Snowball Sunday, a cute little Christmas card of a program with a festive message in the upper half of the screen and three little men having a snowball fight in the lower. There were no win or lose conditions, but lobbing snowballs at the other sprites to knock them on their bums was entertaining.

Willy’s next outing was far less whimsical however, he was given a jeep and tasked with driving through the scrolling enemy territory, either leaping over or in some cases destroying obstacles coming towards him whilst listening to the music from Battle Valley on the in-jeep cassette player. The action resembles the Irem coin-op classic Moon Patrol, but there aren’t any airborne nasties or holes in the ground to worry about and willy’s vehicle appears to have been kitted out with a mortar so, rather than merely firing ahead and upwards, bombs arc through the air and timing shots to detonate in front of enemies takes some getting used to.

Despite that twist the gameplay is simple, no-nonsense dodging and blasting which, apart from a few spikes in the difficulty curve, isn’t too hard to complete. The intro says that “this is a demo and not a game, so don’t take it as a bad game” but I feel that they were underselling Mission Monday quite a bit there. It might be simple stuff but it has an addictive quality and, after first challenge of completing the mission, it becomes more about playing for score and figuring out how to utilise the “feature” in the way the bombs work. And then there’s being able to run over enemy soldiers or indeed drop the jeep on their heads, that always proves endlessly amusing and quite cathartic too…

There’s even a “clone” out there in the form of Konrad Wieclawski’s Jungle Patrol (again for the C64) but the poor handling and addition of airborne nasties make it a chore to play. Ash and Dave’s effort is far more entertaining and probably wouldn’t have required much expansion to make it into a solid Mastertronic release.

Margate is cold in February

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

On Saturday the 21st of February we held the Cosine (UK division) annual general meeting… in other words Sean, Frank and myself made our way to Margate for GEEK (or Games Expo East Kent to its parents) for a mixture of video games, “bracing” sea air and a chance to sit down face to face and chat about projects. My Beloved came along too in order to take the minutes try not to look bored as we talked shop!

We did actually find some time to wander around the venue, soak in some atmosphere, chat with friends and occasionally even play a game or two; I had a quick go on the pretty horizontal Neo Geo blaster Last Resort since the old favourite Ghost Pilots wasn’t present this year and found an Atari 7800 running the wonderfully weird Ninja Golf where a ninja plays a round of golf whilst fighting off opponents and the local wildlife.

But there was far less in the way of retro gaming than at previous iterations; we did see some Atari 8-bit consoles and couple of Sega Master Systems, but there was no sign of any Commodore, Sinclair, Amstrad, Acorn or Atari computers. We weren’t alone in feeling there could have been more from “the olde days” either, most of the people we talked to felt the same and the sticker board put out by the organisers for feedback looked like this:

The word “landslide” springs to mind. And yes, I know the event wasn’t started as a purely retro gaming do but the previous iterations all covered that ground well so people were expecting a continuation this time around. I’ve heard that GEEK is going to be moving into Margate’s Dreamland amusement park next year which should equate to more floor space, so hopefully the organisers will listen to their visitors when planning for 2016 and bring back the retro goodness. In the meantime, here’s some photos taken on that Saturday.

GEEK 2015

Pictures taken during Games Expo East Kent (GEEK) 2015 in Margate on the 21st of February.

Accosting cosplayers in Manchester

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

So last Friday saw Spencer and I piling worrying quantities of computer equipment into his surprisingly spacious Mazda and wandering over to Event City in Manchester for the Play Expo. Once there we unloaded and I started making things up planning the layout for the weekend and setting up the Oldschool Gaming computers.

Things didn’t go entirely to “plan” of course, the telly taken along for the VIC 20 decided to start ignoring its own controls and wouldn’t flip over to the composite input (so a CRT portable was blagged from the organisers), the monitor cables on the Amstrad CPC464 are becoming temperamental in their old age so it would occasionally drop green from the picture and the Spectrum’s VGA upscaler had sync problems so the picture would jitter and roll occasionally. Only that last one was an issue that couldn’t eventually be “fudged” on the spot.

The event was, as is always the case with Play, a huge amount of fun and our kit was set up in pretty much the right area, not too far from the “beaten track” but away from the louder areas to the point where Frank Gasking, Mark Ball and I could actually have conversations with people about the games and hardware on show without having to pretty much yell ourselves hoarse!

The machines themselves saw quite a bit of use over the weekend as well, with Commando Arcade on the C64 (which takes Chris Butler’s original 1980s code and yanks it apart to add the missing levels, stop the sprites flickering and generally improve things) seeming to be the most popular on display, even attracting some of the security staff… or at least I think he was?

I’d like to thank the people behind Play (and there are far too many for my still dessicated brain to remember even twenty four hours later so I won’t list names for fear of forgetting someone) for putting on such a great event and inviting me along to fill a very small corner of it, all of the people who stopped by for a chat, Mark and Frank for coming along with their own hardware and helping on the stall so I had a chance to wander around and Spencer for giving me a bed for the two nights and driving us around once again.

There’s a photo album to go with this post which is, for some completely unexplainable reason, just a teensy bit “cosplay heavy”.

Play 2014

Pictures taken in the run up and during Play 2014 in Manchester on the 11th and 12th of October.