Monday, December 26, 2022

Ports of Entry: Argonaut Games

Unknown lead platform:



First released for Atari ST in October 1986

Ported to Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Commodore 64, & ZX Spectrum in 1986

Released for Amiga in 1987

Ported to PC in March 1987

Ported to Amstrad PCW in 1987


Starglider II

Released for Amiga in October 1988

Released for Atari ST in 1988

Released for Macintosh, PC, & ZX Spectrum in 1989


Days of Thunder

Released for NES in 1990 by Beam Software

Released for Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum in 1990 by Tiertex

Released for PC in 1990 by Argonaut

Released for Amiga & Atari ST in 1990 by Creative Materials

To me it seems like C64 and ZX Spectrum are based on the NES version, which uses pre-rendered pseudo-3D graphics, while Amiga and Atari ST are based on the PC version, which uses polygonal 3D graphics. The Wikipedia description suggests to me that NES is the original design, having began internally at Mindscape before being outsourced to Beam to finish.



Released for PC, PS2, & XBox in October 2003

Ported to Gamecube in September 2003

Released for XBox in December 2003

Ported to Macintosh in December 2004

Interestingly, the Gamecube version has the earliest release date, but is listed as a port, credited to Coyote Developments.



First released for PC in September 2003

Released for PS2 in November 2003

Released for XBox in December 2003

Ported to Gamecube in 2003


Mobygames's original PC release is listed as Finland exclusive, which seems a little unlikely.



Released for Gamecube, PC, PS2, & XBox in September 2004


Select chronology:  

Title Lead platform Date Contemporary ports
Starglider ??? 1986-10 First released for Atari ST
Same-year ports to Amstrad CPC, Apple II, C64, & ZX Spectrum
1987 release on Amiga
1987 ports to Amstrad PCW & PC
Starglider II ??? 1988-10 Same-quarter releases on Amiga & Atari ST
1989 releases for Mac, PC, & ZX Spectrum
Days of Thunder ??? 1990 Same-year releases on Amiga, Atari ST, C64, NES, PC, & ZX Spectrum
Star Fox SNES 2/21/1993
Creature Shock DOS 1994
FX Fighter DOS 6/13/1995
Croc: Legend of the Gobbos PlayStation 9/29/1997 Same-year port to Saturn
1998 port to PC
Croc 2 PlayStation 7/28/1999 2000 port to PC
Alien: Resurrection PlayStation 10/11/2000
Independence War 2: Edge Of
Windows 6/28/2001
Bionicle ??? 9/1/2003 Same-quarter releases on PC, PS2, & Xbox
Same-quarter port to Gamecube, released before others
2004 port to Macintosh
I-Ninja ??? 9/9/2003 Same-quarter releases on PC, PS2, & Xbox
Same-year port to Gamecube
Catwoman ??? 7/20/2004 Simultaneous releases on Gamecube, PC, PS2, & Xbox

Friday, December 16, 2022

Ports of Entry: Audiogenic Software

Having little familiarity with this British software house beyond reading its Wikipedia page, it's not clear to me if I should treat this as a continuation of Supersoft, or of Audiogenic Limited, or as its own thing entirely. The early games by those entities are of zero interest to me unless they can be considered ancestors to the games on this list.

Unknown lead platform:



First released for Amiga & Atari ST in 1987

Ported to Commodore 64 in March 1988

Ported to PC in April 1988

Ported to Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, Electron, & ZX Spectrum in 1988


Helter Skelter

First released for Atari ST in 1989

Same-year port to PC

Released on Amiga in 1990

Ported to Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, C64, Electron, & ZX Spectrum in 1990


Krusty's Super Fun House

First released for Genesis, NES, & SNES in 1992

Released for Amiga, Game Gear, & Sega Master System in 1993

Ported to Game Boy & PC  in 1993

Krusty's Super Fun House was originally designed as Rat Trap on the Amiga. What's not clear to me is if Rat Trap ever saw a commercial release. If it did, then the question is, was it reworked as Krusty's Super Fun House on Amiga first, or was that done on other platforms first and then ported back to Amiga?

Select chronology: 

Title Lead platform Date Contemporary ports
Graham Gooch's Test Cricket Commodore 64 1985-6 Same-year ports to various 8-bit computers
Impact ??? 1987 Same-year releases on Amiga & Atari ST
1988 ports to various 8-bit computers
Emlyn Hughes International Soccer Commodore 64 1988 1989 ports to Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum
Helter Skelter ??? 1989 1989 release on Atari ST
Same-year port to PC
1990 release on Amiga
1990 ports to various 8-bit computers
Loopz Atari ST 1990 Same-year ports to Amiga, Amstrad CPC, NES, & PC
1991 ports to Game Boy and various computers
Krusty's Super Fun House ??? 1992 Same-year releases on Genesis, NES, & SNES
1993 releases on Amiga, Game Gear, & Sega Master System
1993 ports to Game Boy & PC

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Game 349: Excitebike


The last Nintendo game I played has been considered one of the worst of the system's early Famicom era. This one, closing out their 1984 output, is considered one of the best, having been developed by Shigeru Miyamoto (who to be fair also developed the unplayable Tennis released at the year's start).


This is one that passed me by completely even though I had an NES during its glory years. Excitebike is an arcade-style motocross racer with an unusual sidescrolling perspective - something the NES is quite good at - rather than an overhead one like we've seen on Atari, or a pseudo-3D one as was trending in arcades and computers - something the NES isn't particularly good at (though clever programmers managed in years to come).

Three play modes populate the main menu as was Nintendo's custom of the day, though only one of them, Selection B, is the true Excitebike experience. Selection A is good for practicing the five courses without interference from your opponents, but it's a bit boring. Selection B adds three competing bikers, though they don't so race you so much as they just get in your way - your placing (and whether you get to continue to the next course or not) is determined entirely by time. Design mode, which I didn't really mess around with, lets you create your own course, but you're limited to a handful of prefabricated obstacles from the official tracks to place around the track at predetermined points. The options to save and load custom tracks, intended to interface with a Famicom Data Recorder tape deck, don't work on a U.S. NES console, but are still available, which must have been very confusing to players who didn't read the manual.


Controls in this race are simple and intuitive while also allowing skill, strategy, and a sense of risk and reward, well befitting a console game with arcade-style sensibilities. Up and down change lanes, 'A' accelerates, and 'B' engages a turbo boost which provides a bit more oomph but can overheat your engine with prolonged use, making it more useful for catching extra air on the ramps than it is for general speed. Forward/backward leans, which is the most demanding test of your finesse as this orients the bike while airborne, and your wheels generally has to be more or less level with the ground when you land on or else you bail.

Below is my best attempt to clear the five courses in 'B' mode. I don't quite make it.

The first course is really easy, and you can easily recover from several accidents and still qualify for first place by several seconds. But there's a big difficulty spike by the third course, as the qualifying time is now shorter than the previous course's record time and the track is longer and more difficult to boot.

Luck feels like it plays a part too, especially in 'B' mode, where obstacles can funnel you and your opponents into the same lane, forcing someone to yield or crash. Crashes can be pretty capricious too; sometimes costing your biker less than a second as he just gets up again onto his bike, sometimes hurtling him and his bike down a good stretch of the track before launching him halfway to the bleachers.

You are not recovering from that.


I never quite got good enough at Course 4 to beat it reliably, failing a few times for each success, and never managed to beat Course 5 at all, except in practice mode 'A'. But each attempt was fun, even exciting.

GAB rating: Good. This is the first original NES game that I can praise and recommend without any reservations. The racing mechanics are novel, accessible, and surprisingly deep. Excitebike doesn't always play fair, but for a game by a studio still coming out of the school of arcade design, that's to be expected, and even at its most punishing, I felt compelled to keep trying and improve.


Worth mentioning is a 1988 Japanese-exclusive release of "Vs. Excitebike" for the Famicom Disk System. Three modes are once again included, and all of them offer something worthwhile.



There's the confusingly named "Original Excite," which isn't actually the original Excitebike, but rather a port of the arcade version "Vs. Excitebike" which despite the title does not feature any two-player vs. mode. Rather, it is a remixed and expanded version of the original game, with seven new courses to race on, and a more logically structured system of progression where, upon reaching a new course, you must complete a single lap trial and make a qualifying time before entering the race in earnest.

New features include a truck-jumping bonus round, and a powerup system where sabotaging enough of your opponents turns your bike black and gains you unlimited turbo juice until you yourself crash.

"VS Excite" mode, not to be confused with the identically named arcade game, introduces a two-player race.


Finally, "VS Edit" corresponds to the original's design mode, only this time you may save and load your custom tracks to the game's disk card.

All in all, this is a late but worthy upgrade to Excitebike, though I do prefer the original's colors and sound design; the music here is particularly horrible.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Games 347-348: Pitstop & Pitstop II

The next whale, Epyx's Pitstop II, is a sequel to the less famous non-whale Pitstop from 1983. So I played both.

The Pitstops are arcade-style racing games closely modeled after Pole Position (and to a lesser extent Turbo), with the gimmick that in extended races, you'll need to enter the pits and complete a minigame to quickly refuel and replace your worn tires, and you risk running out of fuel or a disqualifying blowout by putting this off.

These came out around the time that Epyx was transitioning their focus from Atari to Commodore, and so "B" and I played Pitstop's Atari version, and Pitstop II's C64 version, which I believe reflects their respective development priorities, though both were available on either computer.


Game 347: Pitstop

Pitstop's title screen offers a few options prior to gameplay:

  • Number of drivers (1-4). Drivers race sequentially, and are ranked by finishing time once all have completed their laps (or been disqualified).
  • Number of laps (3, 6, 9).
  • Difficulty (Rookie, Semi-Pro, Pro). Harder difficulties make it more difficult to pass your opponents (who drive slower than you in any difficulty), and also cause collisions to wear out your tires quicker.
  • Race type (Single, Mini-Circuit, Grand Circuit). Single lets you select one of the six circuits for one race, mini-circuit plays through three of them, and grand circuit tours all six of them in order, displaying the drivers' cumulative scores and overall standings between races.

"B" and I decided that six laps was best, as with three laps you don't need to enter the pits at all, circumventing the game's very namesake, and with nine the race just goes on far too long. We played a few single races at each of the difficulties, and the below video showcases a six-lap race in semi-pro, and a three-lap race in pro.


The racing model here is simplistic and not very satisfying. Taking turns is trivial - this is the Pole Position model where steering means lateral movement, turns simply push your vehicle toward the curb, and here you can easily counteract this no matter how fast your vehicle is going. Turns are so barely consequential that it hardly matters what track you race on! The challenge is passing other cars, who spawn at random and as in Turbo/Pole Position serve more as obstacles than actual opponents.

Collisions aren't disastrous - they just cost you speed and some wear, which is represented by the color of your tires. Pulling into the pit lane at the start of each lap lets you replace them and refuel through a straightforward point & click interface.

The sound of passing cars reminds you of precious time spent here.

GAB rating: Below average. Pitstop is inoffensive, but too simple to be worth spending much time on. I am not surprised that it has been virtually forgotten in favor of its sequel.

Pitstop was ported to ColecoVision, where it can be played with a steering wheel and throttle pedal.

Game 348: Pitstop II


Pitstop II's big new feature, which the box and manual remind you of no fewer than four times (auto racing is not a solo sport), is the simultaneous split-screen multiplayer option, providing active competition and not just slow-moving drones to get in your way. Racing solo? The computer will take the second screen.

"B" and I once again raced multiple times, trying each of the difficulty settings on a different track. The below video shows six laps in rookie, and three apiece in semi-pro and pro.

On paper, Pitstop II looks like a big improvement over the original. Not only is there two-player racing, but the graphics and physics have been overhauled, now better resembling Pole Position both from its smooth pseudo-3D projection and its simulation of centrifugal forces that wear out your tires while pushing you laterally. The other cars on the road, aside from player 2's, are still more obstacles to surpass than real opponents, but they come into view on the horizon as blips, giving you plenty of time to swerve and avoid slamming into them at 250mph, and generally behave just like your actual opponent, just slower and ephemeral. Turns are now a challenge to navigate, and on the harder settings you'll need to properly manage your throttle to get through them or else take excessive damage.


So why did I say on paper? Because despite the more advanced physics model, Pitstop II just doesn't feel good to play. "B" and I constantly oversteered, then understeered, then oversteered again, causing our cars to slide back and forth across the lanes, which is hardly ideal for passing the slow-moving traffic. On rookie mode, you can get away with riding the curb, but on semi-pro this will shred your tires, and on pro even a few bumps is devastating. The C64's lack of analog control options is lamentable here, and I can't imagine trying to play this on a stiff authentic joystick.

Taking the turns slowly makes controlling things a bit easier, but throttle control is janky too, with pushing up and down on the joystick directly raising or lowering your velocity like one adjusts a thermostat, and the sense of speed conveyed by the pseudo-3D view doesn't feel quite aligned with the speedometer display. The fire button activates a turbo boost, but would have been better served as a harder brake option. You don't see turns until you're already in them, you don't really know when you're about to come out of a turn either, and the minimap isn't precise enough to really show you when you're close enough to a turn to need to start decelerating. I'd often brake while already in the turn, grinding my wheels against the side until speed dropped just enough that I could instantly overcome all of the centrifugal forces and instantly zip over to the other side of the road and grind my other wheels against the other curb.

And then there's the pits. 


Your F1 team must have had a budget cut, because you've only got one tire guy now, and he controls like he's been hitting the bottle. Actions like walking around the vehicle and getting into the precise pixel needed to change a tire are just frustrating! And on a personal note, the color-coded damage stripes on the tires are less meaningful to my cone-deficient eyes than they were in the original.

"B" and I both enjoyed this less than the original Pitstop, despite the surface improvements. I did spend some time replaying alone, and I did improve a bit, but never to the point where I felt differently about its flaws on my initial impression.

GAB rating: Below average. Pitstop II is the more complete package, but it trades the flaws of the original for different flaws.

As a side-note, it's interesting to me that splitscreen multiplayer was more or less simultaneously implemented by both Spy vs. Spy and Pitstop II, and both on the C64. Is there an earlier example of this that both games might have followed?

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Ports of Entry: LucasArts

This list excludes the majority of games that LucasArts outsourced to third party studios (e.g. Star Wars: Battlefront, LEGO Star Wars, etc.). Other Ports of Entry posts will cover them later.

Unknown lead platform:


Star Wars: Rebel Assault

First released for PC & Macintosh in 1993

Released for 3DO and Sega CD in 1994


Star Wars: Rebel Assault II - The Hidden Empire

First released for DOS/Windows and Macintosh in 1995

Ported to PlayStation in 1996



Released for DOS/Windows and Macintosh in 1996



Released for Gamecube, PS2, & Xbox on October 2003


Star Wars: Republic Commando

Released for PC & Xbox on March 2005


The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

Released for PC, Xbox 360, & iPhone on July 2009


Monkey Island 2: Special Edition

Released for PC, PS3, Xbox 360, iPad, & iPhone on July 2010

Select chronology:  

Atari 8-bit era

Title Date Contemporary ports
Ballblazer 1985-4 Same-year ports to Apple II & C64
1986 ports to Amstrad CPC, Atari 5200, & ZX Spectrum
Rescue on Fractalus! 1985-4 Same-year ports to Apple II & C64
1986 ports to Amstrad CPC, Atari 5200, & ZX Spectrum
Koronis Rift 1985-10 Same-year ports to Apple II & C64
The Eidolon 1985-10 Same-quarter ports to Apple II & C64
1986 ports to Amstrad CPC, MSX, & ZX Spectrum

Commodore 64 era

Title Date Contemporary ports
Labyrinth 1986-11 Simultaneous port to Apple II
1987 ports to MSX & PC-88
Habitat 1987-1
PHM Pegasus 1987-2 Simultaneous port to Apple II
1988 ports to Amstrad CPC, PC, & ZX Spectrum
Maniac Mansion 1987-9 Simultaneous port to Apple II
1988 ports to Famicom & PC
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders 1988-8 Same-year ports to Amiga & PC
1989 port to Atari ST

Early DOS era

Title Date Contemporary ports
Battlehawks 1942 1988-10 1989 ports to Amiga & Atari ST
Their Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain 1989-10 1990 ports to Amiga & Atari ST
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure 1989-12 Simultaneous ports to Amiga & Atari ST
1990 ports to FM Towns & Macintosh
The Secret of Monkey Island 1990-9 Same-year port to Amiga
1991 port to Atari ST
Loom 1990 Same-year ports to Amiga, Atari ST, & Macintosh
1991 port to FM Towns
Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe 1991-8
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge 1991-12 1992 ports to Amiga & Macintosh
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis 1992 Same-year ports to Amiga & Macintosh
1993 port to FM Towns
Star Wars: X-Wing 2/15/1993
Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle 1993
Sam & Max: Hit the Road 1993

Multimedia era

Title Lead platform Date Contemporary ports
Zombies Ate My Neighbors SNES 1993 Same-year port to Genesis
Star Wars: Rebel Assault ??? 1993 Same-year releases on PC & Macintosh
1994 releases on 3DO & Sega CD
Star Wars: TIE Fighter DOS 1994-7
Star Wars: X-Wing - Collector's CD-ROM DOS 1994
Full Throttle DOS 5/2/1995 1996 port to Macintosh
Star Wars: Dark Forces DOS 1995-3 Same-year port to Macintosh
1996 port to PlayStation
The Dig DOS 1995-12 1996 port to Macintosh
Star Wars: TIE Fighter - Collector's CD-ROM DOS 1995
Star Wars: Rebel Assault II - The Hidden Empire ??? 1995 Same-year releases on DOS, Windows, & Macintosh
1996 port to PlayStation
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire Nintendo 64 1996-12 1997 port to PC
Afterlife ??? 1996 Same-year releases on DOS, Windows, & Macintosh
Indiana Jones and his Desktop Adventures Windows 3.x 1996 Same-year port to Macintosh

Windows era

Title Date Contemporary ports
Outlaws 3/31/1997
Star Wars: Jedi Knight - Dark Forces II 10/9/1997
The Curse of Monkey Island 11/1/1997
Star Wars: Yoda Stories 1997
Star Wars: Jedi Knight - Mysteries of the Sith 2/17/1998
Grim Fandango 1998-10
Star Wars: Rebellion 1998
Star Wars: Episode I - Racer 1999-5 Simultaneous port to N64
2000 ports to Dreamcast & Macintosh
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine 10/1/1999 2000 port to N64
The Curse of Monkey Island: LucasArts Archive Series 1999

Late era

Title Lead platform Date Contemporary ports
Star Wars: Episode I - Jedi Power Battles PlayStation 4/4/2000 Same-year port to Dreamcast
Escape from Monkey Island Windows 11/7/2000 2001 ports to PS2 & Macintosh
Star Wars: Starfighter PlayStation 2 2/21/2001 Same-year port to Xbox
2002 port to PC
Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds Windows 11/9/2001 2002 port to Macintosh
Gladius ??? 10/29/2003 Simultaneous releases on Gamecube, PS2, & Xbox
Star Wars: Republic Commando ??? 3/1/2005 Simultaneous releases on PC & Xbox
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Xbox 360 9/16/2008 Simultaneous port to PS3
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special
??? 7/15/2009 Same-month releases on PC, Xbox 360, & iPhone
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge -
Special Edition
??? 7/6/2010 Simultanous releases on PC, PS3, Xbox 360, iPad, & iPhone

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