Sunday, November 27, 2022

Ports of Entry: Titus Interactive

Unknown lead platform:


Crazy Cars

Released for Amiga, PC, & Thomston TO in 1987

Released for Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Macintosh, MSX, & ZX Spectrum in 1988

Credits and color depth of the platforms lead me to believe that the Amiga version is creator Eric Caen's original design, though I can't rule out the possibility of it being Amstrad CPC.


Crazy Cars II

First released for Amstrad CPC in 1988

Released for PC in August 1989 as F40 Pursuit Simulator

Released for Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, & ZX Spectrum in 1989

If Amiga is the original platform for Crazy Cars 1, then it would seem strange for Amstrad CPC to be the original platform for the sequel, even if that was the first release of it.


Fire and Forget

Released for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, PC, & ZX Spectrum in 1988

Released for Atari ST in 1989

Fire & Forget II

Released for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, PC & Sega Master System in 1990

Released for Atari ST in 1991


The Blues Brothers

Released for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, & PC in 1991

Ported to Commodore 64 in 1991

Released for Game Boy in June 1992

Released for NES in September 1992



Released for Amstrad CPC and Atari ST in 1991

Ported to Amiga, CDTV, & PC in 1991


Amstrad CPC version credits Charles Goodwin, while the 16-bit conversions credit "Cybele" as the original designer.

Lagaf': Les Aventures de Moktar

Released for Amiga, Atari ST, & PC in 1991

Released for Amstrad CPC in 1992


Amstrad CPC version once again credits Charles Goodwin. The Amiga version has a higher color depth than Atari ST/PC (PC has enhanced colors in loading screens but only 16 in gameplay), and the PC version credits Éric Zmiro as an "IBM engineer" suggesting original Amiga design, though that version does have a version-specific credit for Carlo Perconti, rather than game designer Florent Moreau.


Titus the Fox: To Marrakech and Back

Released for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, & PC in 1992

Released for Gameboy in June 1993


This is a sprite-swapped version of Lagaf', and my notes regarding its credits and colors still apply.

Crazy Cars III

Released for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, & Atari ST in 1992

Ported to Commodore 64 & PC in in 1992

Released for SNES in 1993 as Lamborghini: American Challenge



First released for PC in April 2003

Released for Xbox in September 2003

Released for PS2 in 2003

Released for Gamecube in March 2004

This game had a very weird development and release schedule, but the Wikipedia description makes it sound like it was mainly developed on PC, with Xbox portability made a major priority and PS2 compatibility less of one.


Select chronology:   

Title Lead platform Date Contemporary ports
Al*berthe Alice 32/90 1985
Crazy Cars ??? 1987 Too many to fit here
Crazy Cars II
(aka F40 Pursuit Simulator)
??? 1988 Too many to fit here
Fire & Forget ??? 1988 Same-year releases on Amiga, Amstrad CPC, PC, & ZX Spectrum
1989 release on Atari ST
Fire & Forget II ??? 1990 Too many to fit here
The Blues Brothers ??? 1991 Same-year releases on Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, & PC
Same-year port to C64
1992 releases on Gameboy & NES
Prehistorik ??? 1991 Same-year releases on Amstrad CPC & Atari ST
Same-year port to Amiga, CDTV, & PC
Lagaf': Les Aventures de Moktar
??? 1991 Same-year releases on Amiga, Atari ST, & PC
1992 release on Amstrad CPC
Titus the Fox: To Marrakech and
??? 1992 Same-year releases on Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, & PC
1993 release on Gameboy
Crazy Cars III (aka Lamborghini:
American Challenge)
??? 1992 Same-year releases on Amiga, Amstrad CPC, & Atari ST
Same-year ports to C64 & PC
1993 release on SNES
Prehistorik 2 DOS 1993 Same-year port to Amstrad CPC
Superman Nintendo 64 5/29/1999
RoboCop ??? 2003 Same-year releases on PC, Xbox, & PS2
2004 release on Gamecube

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Ports of Entry: Dynamix

Unknown lead platform:


EarthSiege 2

Windows 3.x/Windows 95 release in March 1996



First released for DOS/Windows 95 in October 1996

Released for Macintosh in 1997

Rama is made with SCI 3.0, an engine which I assume targets Windows 95 as the primary software platform.


Select chronology: 

8-bit era
Title Lead platform Date Contemporary ports
Sword of Kadash Apple II 1985 Same-year port to C64
1986 ports to Atari ST & Macintosh
Skyfox Amiga 1986-2 Initially an Apple II game by Electronic Arts
1985 port to C64 by Electronic Arts
1986 ports to Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum by Ariolasoft
1986 ports to Atari ST & Macintosh by Dynamix
Arcticfox Amiga 1986-2 Same-year ports to Apple II & C64
1987 ports to Atari ST & PC
Skyfox II: The Cygnus Conflict Commodore 64 1987-12 1988 ports to Amiga & PC
Caveman Ugh-Lympics Commodore 64 1988-11 1989 port to PC
DOS era
Title Date Contemporary ports
Ghostbusters II 1989-10
Deathtrack 1989-12
MechWarrior 1989-12
A-10 Tank Killer 1989-12
Rise of the Dragon 1990 1991 ports to Amiga & Macintosh
Stellar 7 1990 1991 port to Amiga
Red Baron 12/19/1990
The Adventures of Willy Beamish 9/25/1991 1992 ports to Amiga & Macintosh
Heart of China 1991 Same-year port to Amiga
1992 port to Macintosh
Aces of the Pacific 9/10/1992
Betrayal at Krondor 1993
The Incredible Machine 1993 1994 ports FM Towns & PC-98
The Even More Incredible Machine 1993 Same-year ports to Mac & Windows
1994 port to 3DO
Space Quest V: The Next Mutation 1993
Aces Over Europe 1993
Aces of the Deep 1994-9
MetalTech: Earthsiege 1994-10
The Incredible Machine 2 1994 Same-year port to Macintosh
1995 port to Windows
Windows era
Title Lead platform Date Contemporary ports
EarthSiege 2 ??? 3/19/1996 Simultaneous Windows 3.x/Win95 releases
Rama ??? 1996-10 Simultaneous DOS/Win95 releases
1997 release for Macintosh
Hunter Hunted Windows 1996-11
MissionForce: CyberStorm Windows 1996
Outpost 2: Divided Destiny Windows 10/14/1997
Starsiege: Tribes Windows 12/23/1998
Tribes 2 Windows 3/29/2001 Same-quarter port to Linux by Loki Entertainment

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Game 346: Spy vs Spy

I remember way back in 1990 renting a manualless copy of Spy vs. Spy for the NES and wondering just how you were supposed to play this weird split-screen game. I'd make my spy walk around a bunch of rooms, pushing stuff like paintings and bookcases. Sometimes he'd find a briefcase, sometimes his face would turn blue and then he'd explode, and sometimes the black spy would enter and we'd beat each other with canes. But I had no idea how to win.

Nearly a decade later, I played an expanded port on Gameboy Color, and thanks to the ingame tutorials, everything made perfect sense in retrospect - the titular spies are searching a maze-like embassy for a bunch of hidden items - the secret plans, a passport, a wad of cash, a key, and most importantly of all, a briefcase to hold them in. Since you need all of the items to win, and your rival is likely to acquire at least one thing before you do, you'll need to kill him to get it back, and this may be accomplished by strategically placing booby traps, or by simply bashing his head in. Your rival, meanwhile, will try to do the same to you.

Now, in 2022, I'm trying the original Commodore 64 version of the game, armed with knowledge of how things work. And I'm wondering just how you're supposed to play this weird split-screen game.

Typical gameplay. Icons to the right represent items located, but not necessarily items possessed, as I'm about to unpleasantly discover.


A lot of the confusion comes down to some interface quirks, most irritating of all that doing just about anything - placing traps, checking the map, searching an empty container, just pressing a button when you aren't standing on the exact pixel necessary to interact with a thing, fighting, etc. - causes whatever object(s) you are holding to be dropped and become hidden somewhere in the room. If you aren't yet used to this, you might not even realize that you dropped your briefcase some rooms back. I played a few rounds with "R," and while we eventually came to grips with the interface, we never really got a sense of how to play with strategy.


What becomes clear very quickly is that goals revolve around who has the briefcase, as this is the only player who can hold more than one item. Have the briefcase? Then your goal is to find everything else, likely having to kill the other player for the last item. Don't have the briefcase? Then your goal is to kill the other player for it, perhaps by booby trapping an item they need.

Your arsenal of traps include bombs and springs, which are hidden inside furniture and sprung on the victim searching them, buckets of water placed on doors which fall on and electrocute (?) the spy who opens them, gun traps which are placed in furniture before being wired to a door but for all intents and purposes function as a door trap, and time bombs, which just explode and kill anyone in the room after a brief interval. Tools to bypass all of these traps except the time bomb can be found throughout the embassy, but taking one causes you to discard your inventory. Watching your opponent's screen is necessary in order to strategize, and the manual encourages this, rather than denounce it as cheating.

Black spy wiring up a gun trap

In practice, these traps didn't get used very much. The "trapulator" interface is slow and cumbersome, costing you time instead of buying it for you, and it's not made completely clear when a booby trap is set correctly, which would lead to to backfiring traps when we assumed it failed and set it again, only to discover it was set right the first time as it blew up in our faces. And if you plant a trap to create a problem for your opponent, and he doesn't spring or disarm it, then it becomes a problem for you later on, since both of you have the same goals. Victory generally came down to button mashy stick fights, initiated whenever both spies enter the same room, and I usually won, transferring ownership of the items to me.

The black spy futilely blocks my escape with a stick.

If the better stick fighter isn't you, then I'm not really sure how big brain play will help you either. Even if you manage to trick your rival into springing a trap, and manage to snatch up the items dropped during the few seconds he's out cold (itself no sure thing as dead spies respawn quickly and he might still spawn closer than you to the bounty), you're bound to cross paths again and just lose them back to him.

But let's say you are the better stick fighter, your rival knows it, and has ran away like the coward he is, turning the rooms in his wake into a funhouse of traps. You could force a win by simply waiting out the timer with the briefcase (or any other item) in hand, engaging in fights when possible to make his tick down that much faster.

I didn't get a chance to play enough two-player mode to really test this theory, but it held up in singleplayer. The AI at IQ level 4/5 is easily beaten by brute force on the most difficult maze. At IQ 5/5, it is an invincible fight master who magically knows the location of the briefcase and every item and the final exit and will take the most efficient path to hit them all without fault. He might run into your traps, or even his own, but it doesn't matter because he'll just get up a few seconds later to hunt you down and take his stuff right back from your battered corpse before fleeing the embassy.

GAB rating: Average. This is yet another good idea with a poor execution. I'm a fan of Prohías' comic, as well as his body of satire, and the game aspires to embody the spirit of his slapstick "joke and dagger" antics and even his politics to the extent that the 8-bit 64KB format allows. First Star's designer Mike Riedel could have simply gotten away with copying a tried-and-true formula, say, Donkey Kong, and inserted the Spy vs Spy characters into it, but instead he came up with an original design that aims to capture the essence of the comic and its absurdist take on cold war espionage, with all of its plotting and scheming and doublecrossing, and undercurrents of the pointlessness of it all. I wanted to like it better, and I did enjoy the GBC version, but the C64 original lacks balance and polish.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Games 344-345: Boxing & Urban Champion

Mom, can we play Street Fighter?

No, we have Street Fighter at home.

Urban Champion is among the most maligned of Nintendo's early-era Famicon games. Designed by Wild Gunman author Makoto Kano and released in the U.S. in 1986, it was, like Wild Gunman, already outdated and quickly forgotten as so many others in Nintendo's first wave of stateside launches had. I myself hadn't heard of it until it arrived on Virtual Console in 2007 and enjoyed little revived attention. Nevertheless, even a forgotten Nintendo game is still better recognized than most obscure works, and this one's infamous enough to make the 1984 whaling log.

As Urban Champion is meant to be played two-player, I had a test session with "B," but before playing it, we tried out the earlier Game & Watch: Boxing, which Wikipedia claims is an inspiration.

Game 344: Game & Watch: Boxing

One of the few Game & Watches to support two-players simultaneously, Boxing, while hardly complicated, nevertheless shows more complexity than what would be possible on the finite state machines that I once incorrectly described the Game & Watch machines as. As it turns out (revealed apparently thanks to the reverse-engineering efforts of Soviet computer scientists), these toys were running software under the hood, albeit just a few hundred bytes of embedded program ROM, and on a 32khz 4-bit Sharp CPU. You've got multi-conditional branching logic and integer accumulation governing this bout of punching, blocking, weaving, stamina, and footwork.

Of course the rules are only sophisticated in comparison to other G&W titles, and dead simplistic by any other standard. Getting punched costs you a hit block and a point of stamina. You can defend against a punch by blocking, which requires guarding the correct zone, by dodging, which requires precise timing, or by punching first. Get hit too much and you get pushed into your corner or even knocked down, costing you even more stamina. When a round ends, the fight pauses for a few seconds and then resumes in the center of the ring, giving you a bit of leeway if you found yourself in a corner prior. Run out of stamina, and your next knockdown is a K.O.

GAB rating: Below average. The Game & Watch format is meant to be a simple time waster, but it doesn't translate well to a competitive game. Simple goals with binary failstates, as in most Game & Watch titles, can be entertaining for a few minutes at a time, but when the goal is to outperform another player, you need more complexity for competition to be satisfying. Boxing doesn't succeed at this, nor does its 4-bit CPU make for an engaging opponent. "B" was a little kinder in his assessment, but I'm sure he'll be just as content as I am to never pick it up again for a rematch.

Game 345: Urban Champion


In the above video, I play the J.D. on the left, "B" on the right.

Wikipedia wasn't wrong in suggesting Boxing as an ancestor to Urban Champion. It's practically a beat for beat remake, but with an inner city theme. There are a few rule changes that improve the flow and help make the fight feel more like a contest of skill than of button mashing, but nothing so significant as to change the fact that this is a very simplistic fighting game without much substance or replay value.

We both enjoyed the sense of character and humor, such as peevish citizens that drop flower pots on you from overhead windows, the manhole knockouts, and how the cops sometimes drive by, causing both fighters to stop fighting and retreat into their corners to act suspiciously nonchalant, and will eventually arrest the more poorly performing player, serving the exact same functions as Boxing's referee.

Like in Boxing, you still advance toward victory by punching high when your opponent blocks low, and low when he blocks high, but two tweaks discourage you from just constantly flailing without regard for defense - punching now drains your own stamina, and after getting blocked, your next punch will come out just a bit slower, giving your opponent an edge if they counter-punch with the right timing. Stamina plays a different role too - rather than winning by depleting the opponent's, now the winner becomes the first player to knock down the other three times, and stamina for both players refills after each knockdown, instead of depleting for the victim. Running out is uncommon, but the consequence is that the exhausted player becomes fatigued and fights ineffectively.

GAB rating: Below average. Urban Champion is an improvement over Boxing, reasonably well polished and balanced, and we even had fun playing it. Nevertheless, this is a game that Nintendo once thought was worth paying $30 to own, and I feel I have to judge it by that standard. I don't hate it, but this is a dumb, one-note game whose novelty would wear off before the afternoon was over. Had I been evaluating as an arcade game, and indeed, it had been converted to Nintendo's "Vs." coin-op format as its first stateside release, I'd be more lenient, but couldn't rate it higher than average.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Ports of Entry: Tynesoft

Unknown lead platform:


Auf Wiedersehen Pet

Released for Commodore 64 & ZX Spectrum in 1984

Super Gran

First released for ZX Spectrum in June 1985

Released for Amstrad CPC, Commodore 16, & Commodore 64 in 1985

Mouse Trap

Released for Amiga, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, & Commodore 64 in 1987

Winter Challenge: World Class Competition

First released for Commodore 64 in March 1988

Released for Amiga, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Electron, PC, & ZX Spectrum in 1988

Circus Games

First released for Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Electron, & ZX Spectrum in 1988

Released for Amiga & Atari ST in 1989

Superman: The Man of Steel

Released for Amiga, Apple II, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Electron, MSX, & PC in 1989

Ported to Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum in 1989

Beverly Hills Cop

Released for Amiga, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, & PC in 1990

Ported to Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum in 1990

Select chronology: 

Title Lead platform Date Contemporary ports
Auf Wiedersehen Pet ??? 1984 Same-year releases for C64 & ZX Spectrum
Rig Attack Commodore 16 1984 1985 ports to Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, & Electron
Super Gran ??? 1985-6 Same-year releases for Amstrad CPC, C16, C64, & ZX Spectrum
Mouse Trap ??? 1987 Same-year releases for Amiga, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, & C64
Winter Challenge: World Class
??? 1988-3 Same-year releases for various computers
Circus Games ??? 1988 Same-year releases for various 8-bit computers
1989 releases for Amiga & Atari ST
Superman: The Man of Steel ??? 1989 Same-year releases for various computers
Same-year ports to Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum
Beverly Hills Cop ??? 1990 Same-year releases for Amiga, Atari ST, BBC Micro, C64, & PC
Same-year ports to Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum

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