Lyonsden Blog

Category - Commodore 64

Planetfall by Infocom – Classic C64 Purchase

Planetfall Infocom

It’s been a while since I last came across an Infocom adventure that I don’t already own. Consequently when I spotted Planetfall a couple of weeks ago I snapped it up straight away. It’s in terrific condition for a 36 year old game and it looks like all the extra bits and bobs are present and correct.

 

Infocom Planetfall

Infocom Planetfall Back Cover

 

A place for everything and everything in its place!

 

This is yet another game I’ve never had the pleasure of playing through before. As a result it will be joining my ever growing list of retro titles that I’m looking forward to completing at some point in the (hopefully) not too distant future!

 

Infocom Planetfall

Infocom Planetfall running on my Commodore 64.

 

Planetfall’s Extra Goodies

An Infocom game just wouldn’t be complete without a bunch of extra physical content included in the box. Planetfall is no exception. Tucked away in the two top pockets there’s a small book, “Today’s Stellar Control”, some intergalactic post cards, an instruction booklet and a some hand-written journal entries. Then in the two slots lower down there’s a plastic Stellar Patrol ID badge and the most important item of all, a floppy disk containing the game.

 

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Here’s a look at some of the other Infocom games in my collection, well the ones I’ve posted about anyway.

Retrokomp Issue 2 (1) Out Now!

Issue two of the multi-format retro magazine has finally been released and I received my copy a few days ago. Just to confuse things slightly this magazine is actually named Retrokomp Issue 1. That’s because the first issue was in fact numbered ‘0’. This is a slightly odd numbering convention that can be found on their other magazines such as Amiga User too.

 

Retrokomp Issue 1

Retrokomp Issue 1 Cover

 

This issue is packed with even more Commodore content that the previous one and arrives with a hefty count of 76 thick glossy pages.

 

A welcome bias towards Commodore in this issues contents

 

As I mentioned in my look at the very first issue, this is definitely a magazine aimed at the more serious user. There’s a big emphasis on productivity and creative software rather than gaming. This is no bad thing though as there are plenty of magazines offering gaming news and reviews now. That’s not to say the Retrokomp doesn’t dabble with games though. This issue has the first part of really interesting series of articles delving into MicroProse F-19 Stealth Fighter, possibly their finest flight simulation ever in my opinion.

 

F-19 Stealth Fightrer

F-19 Stealth Fighter on the C64

 

Rocket Smash EX Review

Rocket Smash EX Review

 

Of course there’s no shortage of interesting articles to expand your retro computing knowledge either. I particularly enjoyed the LHArchie GUI guide that shows how to install a GUI for the previously shell only LHA archive utility.

 

LHArchie GUI

LHArchie GUI

 

Other stand-out articles for me were the Ray-tracing and Brilliance articles for the Amiga.

 

Amiga Ray-tracing

Amiga Ray-tracing

 

Brilliance

Everyone remembers Deluxe Paint on the Amiga but who remembers Brilliance?

 

A quick run-down of the Commodore-centric articles in Retrokomp Issue 1:

  • F-19 Stealth Fighter
  • Data compression methods on the PET
  • Truths and myths about the Commodore 64
  • Rocket Smash EX Review
  • Black Box cartridge: Assembler support
  • My personal games set for Plus/4
  • Raytracing on the Amia 500 with 1MB RAM
  • Amiga Vision
  • (True) Brilliance: 24-bit on Amiga chipset
  • Get to know AmigaOS: programs and processes
  • PowerPC software tips
  • LHArchie GUI

 

 

Plus/4 Gaming

Plus/4 Gaming

 

If you’ve never come across Retrokomp magazine before you might like to read through my preview of the first issue here.

Alternatively if you’d like to purchase a copy of Retrokomp Issue 1 for yourself then visit the publishers website here and show your support.

Freeze 64 Issue 30 Fanzine is out now

Freeze 64 Issue 30

Anyone who subscribes to Freeze 64 will know exactly what this envelope contains without even opening it… Of course it can only be the very latest Freeze 64 Issue 30!

 

Freeze 64 Issue 30 Envelope

Freeze 64 Issue 30 Envelope

 

Not only is this issue 30 but the fanzine has now been going for three whole years! To celebrate there’s a little retrospective article looking back at some of the stand-out moments from the previous 30 issues.

 

Freeze 64 Issue 29Freeze 64 Issue 30

Freeze 64 Issue 30 pictured with limited edition collectors trading card.

 

This issue’s featured game and interview is Comic Bakery and its’ programmer, Colin Gresty. There’s also some much needed cheats for the recent ‘Mancave’ game as well as ‘Doctster’s Digger’ and ‘Run Demon Run’. Naturally the regular features like the Mouldy Cupboard, Zzapback! and Secret Squirrel can be found inside too.

Badlands is still the featured game in part 5 of the ‘The Diary of…’ series. ‘Bruce Lee: Return of Fury’ is also under the spotlight for this issues ‘The Making of…’ article.

 

Freeze 64 Issue 29 Contents

Here’s a peek at the contents page of this issue.

 

If you fancy your own copy then head over to the Freeze64 website and show your support by purchasing this issue.

Here’s a link to my previews of several earlier editions of Freeze64 if you’d like to check out what you’ve been missing!

A look at K&A Plus #13 Magazine

K&A Plus #13

It’s been six months since the last edition of K&A Plus plopped through my letterbox. Consequently my excitement level was high when I received K&A Plus #13 last week. Doubly so as this is the first edition of the magazine to come with a coverdisk!

Here’s a look at the magazine cover and that snazzy coverdisk in more detail.

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The CoverCD

Coming in a ‘proper’ slim jewel case with glossy cover and inlay the quality of the CoverCD is superb. The CD itself is a standard printable CDR but it’s been laid out well and is also printed in colour. The CD is loaded with software, utilities, wallpapers, icons, games and more. There’s also PDF versions of every edition of K&A+ on there. This is a really great feature since issues #1 – #6 only exist digitally.  Other content includes several full PD games such as the rather splendid Barbarian+ and Trap Runner. Demos of brand new games such as Bridge Strike and Reshoot R are also ready and raring to go too. I’d definitely recommend getting the CoverCD – it’s only an extra €5 and totally worth it.

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Inside the magazine there’s tons of content for all Commodore machines from the VIC20 right through to MorphOS and emulators. One of my favourite game series, The Settlers, gets a terrific multi-page article devoted to the game. There’s also reviews of many new games such as Mancave, Farming Simulator, Bridge Strike, Trap Runner and loads more. On the more productive side there’s a review of a new PDF viewer for the Amiga and tutorials for WinUAE and the C64 Strike WiFi modem. Incidentally, RNOPDF, the PDF viewer reviewed in the magazine is also included on the CoverCD!

Magazine Preview

Here’s a little preview of some of the stuff in K&A Plus #13:

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If you’ve never come across this magazine before you might want to take a look at some of my previews of previous issues here.

If you want to find out more about K&A Plus #13 or order yourself a copy, head on over to the Komoda & Amiga Plus website. The magazine is produced in Poland but the English translation is great. Shipping to the UK only takes a few days.

 

Freeze 64 Issue 29 Fanzine is out now

Freeze 64 Issue 29

Just received my subscriber edition of Freeze 64 in the post, now up to issue 29!

 

Freeze 64 Issue 29Freeze 64 Issue 29

Freeze 64 Issue 29 – with Subscriber exclusive cover.

 

This issue’s featured game and interview is Doc Cosmos and its’ programmer, Simon Jameson. There’s also a nice little review of Run Demon Run, a new game published by Psytronik Software. Of course there’s the welcome return of several regular features like Zzapback! and Secret Squirrel too.

Badlands is once again the featured game in the ‘The Diary of…’ series. Doc Cosmos is also under the spotlight for this issues ‘The Making of…’ article.

 

Cover Comparisons

 

As you can see from the animated GIF above, this issue is a little different. Vinny has introduced a new feature whereby subscribers to the fanzine get different cover artwork from non-subscribers. Whether this is going to be a regular feature or not going forward remains to be seen. Those of you who absolutely must collect everything might like to avail yourselves of an additional copy of the mag so you have both covers!

 

Freeze 64 Issue 29

Here’s a peek at the contents page of this issue.

 

If you fancy your own copy head over to the Freeze64 website and show your support by purchasing this issue.

Here’s a link to previews of several earlier editions of Freeze64 if you’d like to check out what you’ve been missing!

Freeze 64 Issue 28 has just landed on my doormat

Freeze 64 Issue 28

Just received my subscriber edition of Freeze 64 in the post, now up to issue 28!

This issue’s featured game and interview is Mikie and its’ programmer, Tony Pomfret. There’s a third instalment of ‘The Talkies’ focusing on C64 games that feature speech alongside many of the regulars like Zzapback! and Secret Squirrel.

Badlands is once again the featured game in the ‘The Diary of…’ series whilst ‘Escape from the Waste Disposal Unit’ is under the spotlight for this issues ‘The Making of…’

 

Freeze 64 Issue 28

Here’s a peek at the contents page of Freeze 64 Issue 28.

 

If you fancy your own copy head over to the Freeze64 website and show your support by purchasing this issue.

Here’s a link to previews of several earlier editions of Freeze64 if you’d like to check out what you’ve been missing!

Trilogic 64 Doctor Diagnostic Cartridge Review

Trilogic 64 Doctor

I picked ‘Trilogic 64 Doctor’ up a little while ago as I thought it might come in handy one day. As it had been sat around on a shelf for some time I decided it was time to have a play around with it. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was new old stock given that Trilogic (as we know it) ceased to be a long time ago*. However this is actually a factory fresh product, made under licence by the prolific Tim Harris of SharewarePlus.

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

Here’s the contents of the box. From left to right. User port dongle, test cartridge and serial port dongle.

 

Inside the box you get an instruction booklet, some flyers for other Trilogic products, the Trilogic 64 Doctor diagnostic cart itself, a user port dongle and also a serial port dongle.

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor Instructions

Here’s the instruction booklet along with some very retro looking flyers for other Trilogic stuff.

 

What does it do?

So what does the Trilogic 64 Doctor actually do? Well there is a little clue in the ‘doctor’ part of the name itself. Basically you plug it in and it will then perform a barrage of tests on your Commodore 64, from RAM chips to joystick ports.

Here’s a list of the tests it can perform:

  • Keyboard
  • Serial Port
  • Cartridge Port
  • Kernal ROM
  • Video Chip & Video Banks
  • NVI & IRQ Interrupts
  • Cassette Data
  • Joystick Port
  • User Port
  • BASIC ROM
  • CIA Chips
  • Sound Chip
  • Cassette Key Press
  • Joystick(s)

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

Rear of the Commodore 64 with cartridge and both dongles inserted.

 

Keyboard Test

When you first turn your C64 on with the cartridge inserted you are presented with an on-screen keyboard. This is the keyboard test and allows you to quickly determine whether any of your keys are misbehaving. As you press each key in turn, their on-screen counterparts light up in yellow. If any don’t light up then you know there’s a problem. The restore key isn’t included in the test per se, but given it is needed to progress to the next test it will be obvious if it’s faulty!

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

The Keyboard test screen

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

Successfully passing the keyboard test

 

Joystick and Joystick Port Test

The next test is for the two joystick ports and of course whatever joystick you happen to have plugged in. Simply press up, down, left, right and fire with a joystick attached (in turn) to both ports. Like with the keyboard test, an on-screen visualisation of the presses should appear if all is working correctly.

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

The joystick test screen

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

Successfully passing the joystick test

 

Chip and Ports test

The final and probably most important test is that of the various chips and ports of the Commodore 64. This test includes both the User Port and Serial port so long as you have plugged in the supplied dongles. Video, SID, Kernel, CIA and several other chips are also tested too. If you need to test the cassette port then you must connect a datasette to it, after making sure you unplug the serial port dongle first.

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

Successful chip tests

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

Successful cassette deck/port test. Notice how the serial port lists a fault – this is because the serial port dongle has to be unplugged for this part of the test.

 

After the tests…

Once the tests have completed you will either be presented with a clean bill of health or a fault to fix. The included manual provides a wealth of useful information not just about faults but also how to fix them. It goes into great detail about common reasons for each fault, how to troubleshoot them and ultimately what you can do to fix them. It even goes as far as recommending other useful tools that you may need to diagnose faults or perform repairs.

 

Conclusion

With the inclusion of the two dongles this offers a very comprehensive phalanx of tests for your Commodore 64. Combined with the informative manual, whether you need to troubleshoot a faulty C64 or just want to have it ‘in reserve’ in your retro toolkit this is a recommended purchase.

If you fancy getting hold of one yourself, these are listed on the SharewarePlus eBay store for around £25 at the time of writing.

 

 

 

 

 


*Curiosity got the better of me so I did some googling. Although Trilogic Computers does still exist, it is now a PC repair business. It’s still in Bradford only located at a different address. A look through the records at Companies House indicate that they changed from their old address to their current one back in 1997. Maybe one day when I’m in the area I’ll pop in with my old Expert cart and ask them to fix it!

Commodore 64 Joyswitcher Review

Joyswitcher

If you have two joysticks permanently plugged into your Commodore 64 then you would probably have no use for the Joyswitcher. However, if you’re anything like me, you might find that this is something you’ve wanted for a long time without realising it. I don’t play 2-player games but do play a wide variety of 1-player games, including those that require paddles or a mouse. Not only that but I also dabble with GEOS from time to time too. This means I’m constantly having to switch my joystick between ports 1 and 2 and swap in my mouse or paddles for those games and programs that require them as well. Not only is this a little tedious but it’s also a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on my C64’s 35 year old joystick ports.

 

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Enter the Joyswitcher

I stumbled across this little device over on AmiBay recently. This is a neat little gizmo that plugs into both of your Commodore 64’s joystick ports simultaneously. It allows you to attach any combination of mouse, joysticks or paddles and freely switch between both devices and ports without ever having to unplug anything. The guy that makes these little devices is based in Hungary but it only took a week to arrive and was well packaged too.

The Joyswitcher itself is really well constructed and very sturdy. Those DB9 joystick ports are very securely attached and don’t move around at all when plugging stuff in. There are two female DB9’s that plug into your C64 on one side of the Joyswitcher and two male DB9’s on the opposite side for you to attach your gaming devices. On the underside is a little brass post that is just the right length to support the board so that no strain is placed on the joystick ports.

 

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How it works

On the top of the device is a chunky illuminated square button, helpfully labelled ‘swap ports’ on the board. Press this for a second and you can switch the ports around from their normal position to a ‘crossed over’ one. This button stays illuminated all the time making it very easy to find if you’re playing at night with the lights dimmed.

When you first attach the Joyswitcher the default port arrangement looks like this:

Port 1 > 1

Port 2 > 2

However after pressing the illuminated button the port mapping switches over like this:

Port 1 > 2

Port 2 > 1

 

Joyswitcher

Notice the little LED to the right of port 1. When illuminated you know the ports are operating in their normal way, (not switched).

 

You can tell at a glance which mode the Joyswitcher is in as a little LED lights up when the ports are are in the ‘normal’ position. The Joyswitcher also remembers it’s last switched ‘state’ even after being powered off which is very useful.

 

Joyswitcher

Joyswitcher operating in normal mode with a pair of paddles attached to port 1 and a zipstick in port 2.

 

I still occasionally have to swap my paddles for a mouse and vice versa but not very often. Certainly nowhere near as often as I was when having to juggle a zipstick, paddles and a mouse between the 2 ports.

If I could change a single thing about the Joyswitcher it would be to add a 3rd input port so I could leave everything plugged in permanently. However there’s probably very few other users like me and it would complicate the design of the board no end so I can accept that it will probably never happen!

Conclusion

This is a fantastic little device and well worth the €32.90 it cost me. Can’t really fault the device as it does exactly what it sets out to do, is well constructed and looks like it will last a long time. I really love the aesthetics of it and appreciate being able to see everything exposed in an ‘industrial’ kind of way. It certainly looks way cooler like this than it ever would hidden away in a bland plastic case in my opinion. No doubt if you don’t feel the same way you could probably find a 3D printed case for it online.

Freeze 64 Issue 27 – Out now!

Freeze 64 Issue 27

Just received my latest subscriber edition of Freeze 64 in the post, now up to issue 27! (Which reminds me – it’s time to order a new binder as each one only holds 13 issues!)

This issue’s featured game and interview is Nodes of Yesod and its’ programmer, Keith Robinson. The tongue-in-cheek look at toilets continues, as do regulars like The Mouldy Cupboard, Zzapback! and Secret Squirrel. Rollerboard is this issues ‘The making of’ whilst ‘The Diary of a Game’ continues the focus on Badlands from the previous issue.

 

Freeze 64 Issue 27

Freeze 64 Issue 27 pictured alongside Nodes of Yesod, this months featured game.

 

If you fancy your own copy head over to the Freeze64 website and show your support by purchasing this issue.

Fusion Magazine #5 just arrived

Fusion Magazine #5

Received the latest edition of Fusion Magazine, issue #5, at the weekend. Have to say I’m liking the contents of this edition very much as there’s plenty of retro stuff inside. Stuff like the ‘Top 5 Amiga Games’ article, a look at Space Invaders, Ghostbusters 2, OutRun on Switch and more. A personal favourite of mine is the Retro Man Cave feature looking at old Flight Sims. Simulation games are personal favourite of mine – a genre which used to be massive in the but sadly neglected now.

Here’s a little peak at some of the stuff in this new issue:

 

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If you’ve not come across Fusion magazine before then you might like to take a look at my overviews of the previous 4 issues here: Issue #1Issue #2Issue #3 & Issue #4.

I think I’ve sometimes been a little overly critical of the magazine in the past purely because it doesn’t always feature Commodore related content. However I think on retrospect this is a little unfair. The magazine caters for so many different systems and eras it’s unrealistic to expect coverage of favourites in every issue.

Anyhooo, if you want to purchase a copy of issue #5 of Fusion Magazine, head over to their website here. The mag is only £3.99 plus postage, a very reasonable amount for such a well produced magazine.

Infocom Wishbringer – Classic C64 Purchase

Wishbringer Infocom

I’m always looking to expand my text adventure collection so when I spotted this copy of Wishbringer by Infocom I had to snap it up. The spine is a little creased and there’s a small tear on the back but other than that it’s in excellent condition. It came with everything it should with the exception of the ‘magick stone’ which was basically just a glow in the dark plastic stone.

Most copies of Infocom games on sale now are missing one or more of these ‘feelies’ and those that aren’t are often being sold for silly amounts of money. For what I paid for this game I’m not bothered by this in the slightest, especially as the game loads up just fine off the floppy disk and everything is in such great condition.

 

Infocom Wishbringer

Wishbringer game box with opening screen of the game in the background

 

So what was included in the box? Well there’s the book, “The Legend of Wishbringer”, a 5.25″ Floppy disk containing the game, a sealed envelope (only to be opened when the game instructs you to do so!), a fold out map, instruction booklet and a catalogue of other Infocom games.

 

Infocom Wishbringer

This brings the number of Infocom games in my collection to 11 so there’s still an awful lot remaining for me to look out for!

 

I’ve never played this particular adventure before so I’m looking forward to giving it a go soon. Apparently Infocom classed this as ‘Introductory level’ so maybe it won’t be quite as punishing as some of their other games!

Here’s a few photos of the contents…

 

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Retro Gamer Magazine with Rob Hubbard CD!

Retro Gamer Magazine

It’s been a long time since I bought a copy of Retro Gamer magazine so kudos to the person who decided to offer a Rob Hubbard CD in a C2N wallet as a covermount this month. Your marketing ploy worked on me!  As I browsed through the magazine rack in my local WH Smiths the unmistakable image of the C2N immediately caught my eye and then when I looked closer and saw ‘Rob Hubbard’ it became an instant impulse purchase.

 

Retro Gamer Magazine

Retro Gamer Magazine with Rob Hubbard ‘Remixed’ covermount CD

 

My love of synthwave music can be traced right back to the chip music created using the C64’s SID chip and Rob Hubbard was one of my favourite composers back in the day.

 

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The music on the CD is terrific, a whole bunch of Rob’s tracks that have been given a little bit of a modern make-over. However the magazine is actually a pretty fine read too. Obviously with it covering pretty much every retro system on the planet it’s not wall to wall Commodore content but there is a good amount and lots of non machine specific articles that are still really interesting.

 

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Commodore Content

I thought I’d highlight the Commodore content here for the benefit of anyone wondering if they should get a copy

  • 4 page article about Rob Hubbard
  • 6 page look at the history of Ocean software
  • 4 page article looking at the making of Space Taxi
  • 4 page article looking at the making Road Runner
  • A brief look at Shadow of the Beast
  • 4 page spread dedicated to the CD32 covering the likes of Guardian, The Chaos Engine, Pirates! and several other games

To be honest there was a lot of great content, not just for the Commodore but Megadrive, PlayStation, original Xbox and so on. I think I’ll be checking this magazine out regularly from now on.