Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Ports of Entry: Activision

Unknown lead platform:

Return to Zork

Released for PC and Mac in 1993.

Released for FM-Towns and PC-98 in 1994.


I would guess that PC is the original version because it is the most content-complete version. The Mac version has full FMV when characters speak, whereas the PC version has a mixture of FMV and basic lip-flapping animations. However, the Mac version also has cut-down dialog, and all of the music is in MIDI format. I'm curious about the development process - it seems to me that the FMV produced by the initial shoot went mostly unused as it wouldn't fit onto a disc, and for whatever reason they decided to include the full FMV for the Mac port at the cost of removed content.

There are also MPEG versions for both Mac and PC, with higher quality video than the standard Mac version. These versions require MPEG-decoding hardware, which is not emulated. I do not know if the content of these versions differ from the standard Mac version, or from each other.

Spycraft: The Great Game

Released for DOS, Windows, and Mac in 1996.


MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries

Released for DOS and Windows in September 1996.


It's always tricky to tell whether a DOS/Windows game was coded for DOS or Windows first, especially when both versions came on the same disc. For what it's worth, MechWarrior 2: 21st Century Combat and Ghost Bear's Legacy seem to have been DOS first, with Windows versions coming out later, but Mercenaries also runs on a later and more advanced engine. But then, Interstate '76, also based on this engine, was Windows-only.

Select chronology: 


Atari 2600 era:

Title Date Contemporary ports
Boxing 1980
Dragster 1980
Fishing Derby 1980
Laser Blast 1981
Freeway 1981
Stampede 1981 1982 port to Intellivision
Kaboom! 1981
Barnstorming 1982
Chopper Command 1982-6
Megamania 1982-9 1983 port to Atari 5200
Pitfall! 1982-9 1982 port to Intellivision
1983 port to MSX
River Raid 1982-12 1983 ports to Atari 8-bit, Atari 5200, and Intellivision
Enduro 1983-5 1984 port to ZX Spectrum by James Software
Keystone Kapers 1983-5 1984 ports to various computers and consoles
The Activision Decathlon 1983-8 1984 ports to various computers and consoles
Frostbite 1983-10
Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space 1983-11 1984 ports to Atari 5200 and various computers
Pitfall II: Lost Caverns 1984-3 1984 ports to various computers and consoles
1985 ports to MSX and TRS-80 CoCo
H.E.R.O. 1984-3 1984 ports to various computers and consoles
1985 port to SG-1000 by Sega

8-bit era:

Title Lead platform Date Contemporary ports
Zenji Atari 800
1984-10 1984 ports to various computers and consoles
Ghostbusters Commodore 64 1984-10 1984 port to Apple II
1985 ports to Atari 2600 and various computers
Hacker Commodore 64 1985-8 1985 ports to various computers
1986 ports to Amstrad CPC and PC
Little Computer People Commodore 64 1985-10 1985 port to Apple II
1986 ports to Amiga and Atari ST
Alter Ego Commodore 64 1986-2 1986 ports to Apple II and PC
Shanghai Macintosh 1986-7 1986-1987 ports to various consoles and computers
Hacker II: The Doomsday Papers Commodore 64 1986-8 1986 ports to various computers
1987 ports to Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum
Aliens: The Computer Game Commodore 64 1986-12 1987 ports to Amstrad CPC, Apple II, and ZX Spectrum

16-bit era:

Title Lead platform Date Contemporary ports
Shanghai II: Dragon's Eye DOS 1990 1991 ports to various computers
Return to Zork ??? 1993 Same-year releases on PC and Mac
1994 ports to FM Towns and PC-98
Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure Genesis 1994 1994 ports to Sega CD and SNES
MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat DOS 7/24/1995 1995 port to Windows
1996 port to Mac
MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bear's Legacy DOS 1995-11 1996 port to Windows
Spycraft: The Great Game ??? 1996 Simultaneous releases on DOS, Windows, and Mac
MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries ??? 1996-9 Simultaneous releases on DOS and Windows

Windows era:

Title Date Contemporary ports
Interstate '76 1997-3
Zork: Grand Inquisitor 1997-10
Battlezone 2/28/1998
Civilization: Call to Power 1999-4 1999 port to Linux by Loki Entertainment
2000 ports to BeOS and Mac
Heavy Gear II 6/23/1999 1999 port to Linux by Loki Entertainment
Call to Power II 10/20/2000


  1. Hi, you're right, the first versions of Shanghai were developed for the PLATO platform and then for the Mac. The history of how Brodie Lockard created the game and ported it from PLATO is well described in the book "The Friendly Orange Glow" by Brian Dear.

  2. The Youtube channel "Atari Archive" can help with release dates of Atari 2600 games.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I would very much like to see the MPEG versions of Return to Zork surface someday. I have been looking for them for years and there is so little information available I was beginning to believe they were a myth.

    1. I have an ISO dump of the DOS version, and though I have no way of playing it, the videos are plain MPEG files and can be viewed with VLC. Even the backgrounds are just short MPEG videos. Something for ScummVM to add someday, perhaps?

  5. Interesting. I also have that version (via Gog.com). It would be neat to see a "Director's Cut" version that combined the higher quality MPEG videos with the expanded Mac version FMV scenes and the CD quality audio. The best all worlds so to speak.

    1. Clarification - I meant that I have an ISO dump of the DOS MPEG version, which is not available on GOG (I have that too), but it can be found on Archive.org.

      As far as I know, the Mac version doesn't contain any FMVs not found in the higher quality DOS MPEG version, but I could be quite wrong. A hypothetical "ultimate" version would be DOS non-MPEG as a baseline, but with FMVs from the MPEG version played wherever applicable. A good amount of dialog would keep the two-frame lip-flapping animation, as it was never included in any other version.


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