Lyonsden Blog

Tag - Commodore 64

Freeze 64 Issue #37 Fanzine is out now

Freeze 64 Issue #37

Looks like the post is finally getting back to normal after all the disruption brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic. How do I know this? Because I’ve just received the latest issue of Freeze 64, Issue #37 within a week of it being posted out!

 

Freeze 64 Issue #37

Here’s a look at the front cover of issue 37.

 

Here’s a rundown of the contents of this issue taken straight from the magazines’ directory listing! As always there’s no shortage of interesting Commodore 64 articles to get stuck into.

 

Freeze 64 Issue #37

Freeze64 Issue 37 Contents Page.

 

If you fancy getting hold of your own copy of Freeze 64, Issue #37 then head over to the Freeze64 website and show your support by purchasing this issue.

Physical copies (it isn’t available digitally) are priced at £3.99 plus postage. There are also subscriptions available which offer the opportunity to save a little money.

Finally, here’s a link to my previews of several earlier editions of Freeze64. If you’re new to Freeze64 and would like to check out what you’ve been missing all this time then this is a great place to find out!

Latest Retrokomp Issue 2 is now out

Retrokomp Issue 2

Just received my copy of Retrokomp Issue 2, the multi-format retro magazine.

 

Retrokomp Issue 2

Retrokomp Issue 2 Cover

 

Once again there is plenty of content with a hefty count of 72 thick glossy pages and over a third of them devoted to Commodore machines. If you are interested in other machines besides Commodore then there’s even more on offer with the like of ZX Spectrum, Atari, Amstrad, Apple 2 and even old IBM PC’s covered.

 

Retrokomp Issue 2

Contents of this issue

 

Here’s a few highlights of this issues contents.

 

C64 Restoration project.

 

Retrokomp Issue 2

A look at Simon’s BASIC on the C64.

 

How to clear the Hi-Res screen on a C64.

 

A look at the Pi1541 disk drive emulator.

 

Retrokomp Issue 2

Part two of the Project Stealth Fighter article.

 

Comparison between Atari and CBM BASIC.

 

A look at file backup on the Amiga.

 

24-bit datatypes on the Amiga.

 

A look at archiving software for PowerPC equipped Amiga’s.

 

Card readers on the Amiga.

 

Amiga Modula-2 Programming.

 

A quick run-down of the Commodore-centric articles in Retrokomp Issue 2:

  • Sysres
  • Commodore 1541 Drive – Typical Problems
  • Simon’s BASIC – Sprites mean strange objects on the screen
  • Raspberry Pi 1541
  • Commodore PET vs Atari BASIC
  • Using the USR statement
  • Clearing the high resolution screen
  • Commodore 64 Restoration
  • Modula-2 Programming
  • 24-Bit datatypes for Workbench
  • Simple file backup
  • Memory card readers

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

Alternatively if you’d like to purchase a copy of Retrokomp Issue 2 for yourself then visit the publishers website here and show your support.

Freeze 64 Issue #36 Fanzine is out now

Freeze64 #36

I’ve finally just received the latest issue of Freeze 64, Issue #36 – hurrah! Sadly this has been another victim of the Coronavirus situation with the postal services. I remember Vinny informing subscribers that this had been posted weeks ago. Still, better late than never!

 

Freeze 64 #36

Freeze 64 pictured alongside the featured game on the cover. (The game is from my collection).

 

Here’s a rundown of the contents of this issue taken straight from the magazine. I’m looking forward to reading this over the upcoming weekend.

 

Here’s a quick peek at the contents of this issue – image take straight from the magzaine.

 

If you fancy getting hold of your own copy of Freeze 64, Issue #36 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!

K&A Plus #15 Magazine has arrived!

K&A Plus #15

Received my copy of K&A Plus #15 today. This was another magazine heavily impacted by the current Coronavirus situation but it was definitely worth the wait. As with the previous issue I paid an extra €5 for the cover disk. This issue came with a second compilation of 11 super C64 games; ‘Good Old 8-Bit Games #2’.

 

K&A Plus #15 Front Cover

K&A Plus #15 Front Cover.

 

I have to say I really love the fantasy artwork on cover of this issue. The  illustrated colour disk jacket is pretty awesome too, a really nice touch.

 

The CoverDisk

 

Good Old 8-Bit Games #2

Good Old 8-Bit Games #2.

Even better, an extra matching jacket was included for the previous ‘Good Old 8-Bit Games #1’ disk!

 

Good Old 8-Bit Games #1

Good Old 8-Bit Games #1 wearing it’s snazzy new jacket!

 

There’s some superb games on the cover disk. Highlights for me are PowerGlove, Bruce Lee – Return of Fury and PO Snake. Amazing value for money for just €5!

Here’s a full rundown of what’s included…

 

K&A Plus #15 disk contents.

Good Old 8-Bit Games #2 – Disk Contents.

 

Magazine Preview

 

There’s a big emphasis on gaming in this issue with game reviews galore. There’s reviews for every major Commodore system from the VIC 20, the C64 through to the Amiga and CD32. The reviews cover a mixture of old and modern games.

Of course there’s some other non-gaming stuff featured too. There’s a look at how to get a C64 emulator running on the Nintendo Wii, RayCasting on the VIC20 complete with (partial) program listings, news and lots more.

Here’s a quick look at the contents page of K&A Plus #15.

 

K&A Plus #15 Contents.

K&A Plus #15 Contents.

And here’s a little preview of some of the stuff in this issue:

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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 #15 or order yourself a copy, head on over to the Komoda & Amiga Plus website. The magazine is produced in Poland but they produce an English language version too. Shipping to the UK (before COVID-19 at least) only takes a few days.

 

Replacement C64/TheC64 Maxi badge

Even though I have a real C64 I also own a TheC64 Maxi computer. Cosmetically this machine is indistinguishable from a real breadbin 64 bar one thing… the badge. For whatever reason (probably copyright) the TheC64 Maxi doesn’t have a proper Commodore badge which has always irked me.

 

This is the standard label that comes on the ‘TheC64’ machine.

 

Thankfully I will be irked no longer thanks to an eBay seller in Australia who manufactures replica badges. Mine came supplied well packaged with a stiff piece of hardboard inside the envelope to make it impossible for the postman to bend it.

 

A close-up of the badge.

 

The badge itself is beautifully made with proper chrome lettering and features the authentic Commodore ‘chicken head’ and rainbow colours.

 

A close-up of the badge.

 

The badge is 0.8mm thick so it’s quite obvious that this isn’t some cheap vinyl print. It’s the same quality as the one found on the 1501 Power Monitor I have previously reviewed from the same seller.

 

Fitting the Replacement C64 badge

This has to be one of the easiest projects I’ve ever done. The first task is to peel off the old badge – it’s quite thick and the new badge won’t sit flush unless you remove it. I used a hobby knife to carefully lift the edge at one end and then gently peeled it off. I took my time and managed to get it off in one piece leaving virtually no residue behind.

 

Peeling the old label off.

 

I performed a quick clean up with some Isopropyl alcohol and then peeled off the protective film from the back of the new badge. It fitted the oval recess perfectly which made aligning it a simple task.

 

Replacement C64 badge

New badge fitted in all its glory.

 

Once fitted I think it looks fantastic, almost indistinguishable from the real thing. The only slight difference for aficionados is that the original had raised lettering but regardless it’s a massive improvement over the rubbish badge that it came supplied with.

 

Replacement C64 badge

The finished result. Very satisfied with it myself.

 

I’d definitely recommend this to anyone that wants to make their TheC64 Maxi a little bit more authentic. So if you fancy one then for the very reasonable sum of £7.50 plus postage you can purchase one these replica badges off his eBay store yourself.

 

Looks just like a real C64 now!

Hedaka Multi-Function HED-1 Joystick

Hedaka Joystick

While I was looking for a new gamepad for my Commodore 64 a while back I stumbled across this bad boy. It’s called the ‘Hedaka Multi-Function HED-1’ joystick and I spotted it on the German eBay site and imported it to the UK. All in with postage I think it cost me around £40.

Using the interactive 3D display immediately below you can take a look at the box it came in. Just click inside the box and then when the hand icon appears drag to rotate and zoom in and out.

I honestly don’t know too much about the origins of this device – I simply bought it because it looked interesting. From the German language used on the box it appears to have been made for the German market. However all the text on the device itself is in English which seems a little odd. It’s worked out great for me though as I know instantly what everything should do!

 

Hedaka Multi-Function HED-1 Joystick Specs

Using my amazing multi-lingual abilities Google translate I was able to glean the following information from the specifications listed on the box:

  • Control knob for computer games, suitable for many computers, Atari all types, Commodore VIC20, C64, 128 and C16 & Plus/4 with adaptor.
  • Additionally 2 integrated paddles
  • Particularly sensitive control by micro-switch
  • Auto-fire infinitely adjustable
  • Extra large fire-buttons
  • Stable metal housing
  • Practical suction feet for safe stand
  • Extra long connection cable

Basically this device looked to have been aiming to be the only controller you would ever need to use with your computer!

 

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Construction

This thing is built like a tank with the entire case being constructed from 1mm thick powder coated steel. The base measures 20cm x 12cm and the height to the top of the joystick is 10cm. A very generous 3m long cable is provided which means you can use this device from pretty much anywhere in the room.

 

Hedaka Joystick

Closer view of the joystick controls.

 

The stick itself is very comfortable in use and the micro-switches ensure you get a nice tactile ‘click’ as you move it around. The oversized fire buttons provide similarly satisfying feedback when pressed. The joystick requires only light pressure to operate and about 5mm deflection from centre to register a click.

 

View of the base showing the four sucker feet.

 

On the underside of the joystick are 4 large rubber suckers that allow you to stick the base to a desk or table. These work really well and on a completely smooth surface possibly a little too well. When I placed the joystick down on a glass coffee table I really struggled to get it off!

When firmly affixed to a surface it gives a great arcade-like experience. I tried using it on my knee but it quickly became uncomfortable. However sticking it onto a place mat first and then on my knee offered a comfortable compromise.

 

Hedaka Joystick

In this view you can see the red LED just to the right of the auto-fire speed control knob. This visually displays the rate of fire.

 

 

Auto-Fire

For shoot-em-ups you can opt to turn on auto-fire mode using the toggle switch. Once this is engaged there is a speed selector knob which can be rotated to fine tune the rate of fire. This is completely analogue and the knob rotates through 270′ so you really can set it to anything you desire. There is a red LED above the speed control knob that lights each time the fire button is activated providing instant visual feedback of the rate of fire. The auto-fire only engages whilst the fire button is held down too which makes perfect sense.

 

Hedaka Joystick

Close-up of the joystick itself.

 

Paddles

The real ace up its sleeve for me though is the inclusion of paddle controls. This means if I fancy a quick game of Panic Analogue (easily my favourite paddle game) I no longer need to dig out my Atari Paddles.

 

Hedaka Joystick

Close-up of the paddle controls.

 

Both paddles are implemented and of course each has its own fire button. The button for paddle 2 is activated by selecting another toggle switch. The paddle knobs do take a little getting used to as they are much smaller than a typical paddle wheel (1cm diameter v 6cm). However they work effectively and allow very smooth and precise movement.

 

A Look inside

Just out of curiosity I decided to open up the case and have a peek inside. There are four philips screws along the lower edge of the base keeping the cover firmly attached. These screws fit into four little slots cut into the sides of the cover so they only need to be loosened a few turns and the cover will slide up and off.

 

View of the inside with all the electronics attached to the top cover.

 

Close-up of the joystick micro-switches.

 

This is a close-up of the two micro-switch fire buttons (left) and the Paddle potentiometers (right).

 

Verdict

This is a terrific joystick and I’m so glad I took a chance and bought it. The auto-fire feature is superb, probably the best implementation I have seen. Furthermore, the design of the joystick with its large base, oversized fire buttons and limpet-like suckers means it offers a very arcade like experience. Playing the classic Gorf or the much more recent Galencia with this joystick is a real pleasure. When I want to play the odd paddle game, not having to swap controllers to do so is incredibly convenient. Definitely a recommended pickup if you see one up for sale.

Ballyhoo by Infocom – Classic C64 Purchase

Infocom Ballyhoo

I recently managed to pick up another adventure to further expand my Infocom collection – this time it was Ballyhoo from 1986. It arrived in a lovely condition throughout with just a few worn edges and corners to bear witness to its 34 year lifespan. I was really impressed that the ‘The Travelling Circus That Time Forgot’ balloon was not only still in the box but also in once piece.

 

Infocom Ballyhoo – back cover

 

This particular adventure takes place in a circus setting, beyond which ‘lies a seedy world of deception and crime’ according to the description on the box. A young girl has been kidnapped and it falls upon you to investigate her disappearance. The description continues; ‘…watch your step. As the night progresses, you realise you’re in as much danger as the little girl… the kidnapper is lurking right on the lot, trying to set you up for a permanent slot in the freak show!’

 

Infocom Ballyhoo

The Ballyhoo opening screen on my Commodore 64

 

Ballyhoo’s difficulty level is rated by Infocom themselves as ‘Standard’ which means it is supposed to be playable by normal mortals. I’ve never played this particular adventure before so that remains to be seen. However they do have two higher difficulty levels of Advanced and Expert so that does encourage me somewhat. The easiest difficulty for reference is ‘Introductory’ which they say is suitable for kids aged 9 and above.

 

Official Souvenir Program

In many Infocom games there’s often a short story to set the scene for the game. In Ballyhoo the scene is set within an ‘Official Souvenir Program’ that actually forms part of the box cover. It provides a brief history of the circus and introduces several of the ‘acts’ that perform in it, both past and present. The program then gives way to the games instruction manual, describing how to play the game and even giving tips on drawing a map and so on. It’s an essential part of the packaging for sure.

 

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Inside the Infocom Ballyhoo box

 

As with all Infocom games there’s more than just a disk inside the box.

 

Infocom Ballyhoo

View of the box compartment with plastic ‘lid’ in place.

 

Infocom’s Ballyhoo offers a number of circus themed extras tucked away inside its box.

 

View of the box compartment with plastic ‘lid’ removed.

 

Normally there would be a reference card included that gives directions for loading the game but it looks like that is missing from my copy. However the 5.25″ disk is present and correct and in really good condition too with no signs of mould on the label. It loads fine as well although when I play it I’ll be using a copy or just using a disk image to preserve the original disk.

 

Infocom Ballyhoo

Ballyhoo game contents laid out.

 

Also included is a single ‘Admit One’ circus ticket and a trade card for Dr. Nostrum’s ‘Wondrous Curative’, ‘Guaranteed to sooth all ills’. As I mentioned at the beginning, the balloon is still in the box too which I’m delighted about. Admittedly it is now rock solid and could never be blown up but as a memento of a gaming period gone by it’s a terrific addition. Many of these little trinkets are missing from the games now as they were easily lost over the years.

 

Infocom Ballyhoo

A closer look at the ‘feelies’.

 

Quite a lot of effort has gone into the creation of these extras. For example, reading the reverse side of Dr. Nostrum’s trade card reveals the ailments it can be used to treat. These include Toothache, Grippe & Catarrh, Constipation, Pin Worms and even ‘Singer’s Throat’, whatever that is. It even gives directions on exactly how to use it for each type of ailment. Snake oil remedies like this were commonplace in this time period so this all helps to build atmosphere.

 

A closer look at the ‘feelies’ – reverse side.

 

The back of the ticket gives details of the acts you will be seeing and also warns you to be wary of pickpockets, gamblers, thugs and thieves which doesn’t bode well! It also reminds you that you are entitled to three sessions with ‘Rimshaw the Incomparable’. Apparently he will read your palm, the bumps on your head and even hypnotise you!

It definitely has the foundations of a good mystery thriller and I look forward to getting stuck into it one day very soon!

If you enjoyed looking at this page then here’s a look at some of the other Infocom games in my collection that I’ve posted about.

The Valley – C64 Cartridge Review

The Valley Cartridge

Recently Tim Harris was kind enough to lend me a new cartridge based game called ‘The Valley’ for the Commodore 64 to try out. The cartridge arrived housed inside a sleek oversized cassette case complete with a very attractive inlay card.

 

The Valley

The Valley Game Case.

 

The rear inlay depicts the April 1982 cover of the British ‘Computing Today’ magazine (costing just 70p!) which is where ‘The Valley’ game actually originates from.

 

The Valley

Back of case.

 

Upon opening the case it becomes immediately apparent that these are no ordinary cartridges. They are little electronic works of art.

 

The Valley Cartridge

Cartridge Design 1

 

The Valley Cartridge

Cartridge Design 2

 

As you can see from the above two photos there are actually two completely different cartridges. However the difference is purely cosmetic as they both run the same game.

 

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Rather than have a traditional plastic case these cartridges have been constructed in such a way that lets your see their inner workings. One consists of a PCB sandwiched between two purple perspex layers whilst the other is a triple decker PCB stack.

 

A Closer Look at the Two Cartridges

 

The black one… this is constructed from 3 PCB’s bolted together and is my personal favourite.

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The purple one… this is made from a single PCB sandwiched between two sections of purple perspex.

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Plugging the Carts In

Here’s what they look like plugged in…

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So why exactly have the cartridges been created like this? Well part of the reason for this strange construction becomes obvious when you first plug the cartridges in and switch on the power. They light up like Christmas trees, the reason for which I will reveal shortly.

 

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The Game

This game actually has quite some history to it and it all relates to that Computing Today magazine featured on the inlay card.

Back in the early 1980’s the magazine published The Valley in the form of a listing for the 32K Commodore PET.  The listing was hundreds of lines long so it was broken down into more manageable chunks for budding adventurers to type in (and then spend hours on end bug checking).

 

The Valley Title Screen

Title Screen.

 

This also made it relatively straightforward to convert the game to run on other machines as each chunk of code was accompanied by comprehensive documentation that described exactly how everything worked. A nice bonus of typing in games like this was having the option of tweaking the game to your liking. Nasty Troll kicking your arse? Just nerf it’s physical damage stats in the code!

 

The games backstory.

 

The object of the game is to find the Amulet of Alarian from one of the temples and also locate the 6 gem stones that slot into it. You must also reach the rank of ‘Demon Killer’ so that you can find the Helm of Evanna and return it to the castle. Only by doing this will you save The Valley from the darkness that has engulfed it. To achieve all this, you, the hero, must travel across the valley battling many monsters and raiding temples to find treasures and stones for the amulet.

In this original form the game lacked a proper ending and ‘suffered from very poor gameplay’ according to Dungeon Dwellers Inc (DDI), the makers of this new incarnation of ‘The Valley’. DDI have taken the original game and enhanced it to make it more fun to play. The enhancements don’t just concern the coding of the game either… but link directly into the design of the cartridges.

 

The Valley Cartridge

A thing of beauty!

 

The cartridges feature graphics for both the Helm of Evanna and the Amulet of Alarian etched onto the PCB. The really cool thing though is that within the graphics are a series of LED’s which depict the presence of each item within your actual in-game inventory.

There are 8 LED’s to represent the helm, amulet and each of the 6 mystic stones. When you find one of these items in the game the corresponding LED will light up! If you are lucky enough to find all the items there are LED’s on the back of the cart that will start to pulse signifying that you a nearing the games end.

A handy little extra feature is the addition of a reset button at the back of the cartridge which is itself illuminated by a red LED.

 

The Game

DDI have added a very atmospheric title screen complete with music to the start of the game that really sets the mood. However this is the only sound that you will hear from the game (unless you manage to beat it) as the game is played in complete silence. There is supposed to be an animated ending complete with sound but I’ve not come anywhere close to seeing that yet.

 

The Valley Instructions

You control the game using the numeric keys. Very strange layout at first but you get do get used to it. Shame there appears to be no joystick support though…

 

You begin the game by naming your character and choosing your class. The 5 options available are; Wizard, Ranger, Barbarian, Warrior and Cleric. The choice you make affects the in-game stats of your character, namely your Combat Strength, PSI (magic) Power and Stamina. If you ignore the choices on offer and select a different number then you are randomly assigned a class from one of 7 alternatives including: Villager, Thief, Bandit, Archer, Druid, Knight and Warlock.

 

The Valley Game Screen

The main game screen.

 

The main game screen then appears and the map of the kingdom is drawn up. The map and everything within it is generated randomly each time you start the game so no two play-throughs will ever be the same.

You will start in south west corner of the map on the safe path. So long as you stay on this path you will never be attacked. However once you stray off it it’s game on. Away from the safety of the path you can be attacked even if you are standing still so don’t wander off for a cuppa or you will likely find your hero dead when you return!

 

Combat

The Valley is a proper old school RPG that requires a healthy dose of imagination to be properly enjoyed. Other than the visual representation of where you are (Valley, Forest, Swamp, Tower etc.) there are no graphics to depict enemies or battles. All encounters are text based and the battles performed by rolls of the dice. When you encounter a foe you will be informed of their presence via text and a (semi) turn-based battle will commence. Whatever moves they make and the damage they do will be displayed on screen.

I previously described the combat as ‘semi turn-based’ and that’s because it uses a mixture of turn-based moves and real-time inputs from you during battles. When it is your turn to move a ‘Strike Quickly’ message will flash up on the screen and you literally have about half a second to press a key and select your attack. If you are too slow you miss your chance to retaliate and the monster gets another swipe at you. This is especially frustrating when you have to cast spells as you have to press ‘S’ to signify that you want to cast a spell and then press ‘1’, ‘2’ or ‘3’ to select which one. All of these key presses are subject to the same strict time restraints which can lead to frustration when you get flummoxed mid-battle.

 

Exploring a forest in The Valley

Exploring a forest in The Valley.

 

As I said combat is all a roll of the dice so both you and the enemy can and will miss and attacks will do a random amount of damage, sometimes none at all. Consequently you need to be prepared for anything. Occasionally you will surprise an enemy and get a chance at striking first or evading them – but only if you spot the opening message and press the correct key in time to take advantage of the situation.

I must admit I would have preferred a true turn based approach where you can take time to select your move and play at a relaxed pace. However this does make battles more tense, albeit at the expense of risking cramp in your hands from hovering over the keyboard like a praying mantis all the time!

Speaking of moves you have 6 at your disposal, 3 physical attacks and 3 magic. Physical attacks consist of Head, Body or Leg strikes with head strikes being less likely to succeed but rewarding success with more damage, whilst leg strikes are most likely to hit home but do the least amount of damage. The magic spells you can cast are Sleep, PSI Lance and Lightning however the latter two can only be cast once you reach level 8 and 16 respectively.

Damage reduces your stamina and combat strength and if either of these falls to zero your hero dies. To recover from damage you just need to move around. After every turn your stats slowly increase so it pays to keep moving although you can’t move far before you encounter another enemy to fight.

 

The Valley Lair

Inside a lair… each of those asterisks could potentially, if you are really lucky, be the amulet…

 

Occasionally you will encounter some treasure or a ‘place of ancient power’ rather than enemies with the latter granting welcome stat bonuses to aid you in your adventure.

When you venture into a swamp, forest or the Tower the upper half of the screen changes to show the map for that area. Forests have temples to explore whilst the swamps have lairs, each comprising of a single floor. The Tower is split into many floors and is the only place you are able to find the 6 stones, but only once you have located the Amulet of Alarian. If you try to enter the tower before you have located this your entry will be barred.

 

Exploring a swamp in The Valley

Exploring a swamp in The Valley

 

Progress can be saved by making your way to one of the two castles that are found at either end of the road – assuming you manage to get there in one piece! Additionally if you manage to place all six gem stones in the amulet it will grant you the power of resurrection… but only once. If you are slain and resurrected the stones disappear and you will need to find another set in the tower again!

Verdict

 

The Valley is a pretty unforgiving and difficult game I have to admit and I’m not very good at it. I was constantly either too slow pressing the keys or pressing the wrong ones in the heat of battle. Consequently I wasn’t able to get very far during the time I had the game for. However the allure of lighting up those LED’s on the cartridge was very strong indeed and it definitely had that ‘one more go’ quality about it. It’s not cheap but it’s definitely something I’d consider to be a collectors item and something I would treasure for years to come.

At the time of writing The Valley cartridges are only available from DDI. You can find their website here: sys64738. I believe the game will cost $80 plus postage to your location.

If you would like to try the game first to see if you like it before parting with a not insignificant amount of money it is also available to download from CSDB.

Commodore 64GS Gamepad Review

A Little History

Back in the twilight period of the C64’s life, Commodore released the C64 Games System or C64GS. It was a keyboard-less console that used cartridge based games just like the Sega Master System or NES. Unfortunately there were only ever a few dozen games released for it and it was a commercial flop.

Why am I mentioning this now? Well, although it didn’t come with a gamepad, it did come with a joystick (Cheetah Annihilator) that had a second, independent fire button. Prior to this all C64 joysticks just had a single fire button. Those joysticks that did have two physical buttons existed solely to allow left or right-handed play.

Unfortunately due to the short life-span of the Commodore 64GS only a small number of games were ever produced that supported this second fire button.

 

Present Day

 

Super Mario Bros C64

Super Mario Bros on the Commodore 64.

 

Fast forward to 2019 and the amazing Super Mario Bros for the C64 was released supporting 2 buttons. This kick-started my desire to find a decent 2 button joystick to control Mario. I mean who wants to have to push ‘up’ on a joystick to make Mario jump?

 

Commodore 64GS Gamepad

The gamepad comes with a nice long cable.

 

A few weeks ago I discovered someone who is actually making Commodore 64GS gamepads. The company, based in the USA can be found on Etsy and eBay and is called RetroGameBoyz. The gamepads it produces are custom made to order and they offer quite a few different options to choose from.

 

Commodore 64GS Gamepad

Commodore 64GS Gamepad.

 

They sell the gamepad for around £25 with delivery to the UK taking around ten days. Unfortunately I did get stung for import taxes and the usual Royal Mail ‘money for nothing’ charge. Combine that with the postage fee and this basically doubled the cost of the pad for me.

 

Commodore 64GS Gamepad

A close-up shot of the D-pad.

 

In More Detail

The gamepad is well constructed and nicely presented in a glossy black plastic shell. It is faced with a custom made vinyl ‘C64 Games System’ skin which really sets it off. This skin is how RetroGameBoyz differentiate each gamepad in their range. They do one for the Amiga and few more variations for the C64 too. In one configuration you can have the second fire button mapped to ‘up’ which would come in handy for a lot of platformers.

 

Commodore 64GS Gamepad

A close-up shot of the 2 fire buttons.

 

The gamepad came with a very generous 10 foot (3m) long cable and is fitted with a standard 9-pin D-sub plug.

 

Commodore 64GS Gamepad

Rear view of cable entry point.

 

In use it works well with the D-Pad being easy to operate and the two fire buttons very responsive. The two central ‘select’ and ‘start’ buttons are actually extra ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons. The main fire button is labelled ‘I’ and the extra button ‘II’.

 

Commodore 64GS Gamepad

Bottom of the gamepad case.

 

I’m really happy I’ve found this controller. For games like Super Mario Bros it really transforms the gameplay experience. I know joysticks are great for a lot of games but I do prefer using a gamepad these days for platform games.

 

Second fire button option selected in Chase HQ 2 settings.

 

The addition of the second fire button is a real boon too. In supported games like Chase HQ 2 you can play them without having to keep reaching over to press a key on the keyboard. In other titles like Paradroid Redux it offers a more nuanced control system by separating off one of the extra controls from fire button A to button B.

 

Supported Games

Here’s a list of Commodore 64 games that support a 2nd fire buttons and its function, if I’ve played them.

  • Alien 8 – 2nd button used to pickup/drop objects
  • Battle Command (Cart) – 2nd button toggles between driving and cursor control
  • Chase HQ2 (Cart) – 2nd button operates Turbo mode.
  • Double Dragon (Ocean Cart) – 2nd button performs all sorts of extra moves
  • Giana Sisters 30th Anniversary Hack
  • The Last Ninja Remix (Cart)
  • Myth (Cart) – 2nd button changes weapon
  • Paradroid Redux – 2nd button used to enter transfer mode
  • Robocop 2 (Cart) – 2nd button used for jump
  • Spacegun
  • Super Mario Bros – can now use buttons to jump and throw fireballs
  • Turrican II (Rainbow Arts)

Freeze 64 Issue 34 Fanzine is out now

Freeze 64 Issue 34

The latest issue of Freeze 64, issue 34 has just been published and posted out to subscribers.

Issue #34’s featured game and interview is Manic Miner 64DX and its coder, Graham Axten. In the interview he discusses the improvements he’s made to the new DX version of the game. There’s no cheats or pokes in this issue which I initially thought was a little odd. The mystery was solved however when I actually read Vinny’s intro. In it he explains they took a back seat due to the focus on Manic Miner 64X in this issue and that they will return in issue #35.

 

Freeze 64 Issue 34

Freeze 64 Issue 34 comes with a ‘Doc Cosmos’ cheat card (no. 29) .

 

Percy is the featured game from the Mouldy Cupboard. When I saw that name I was initially surprised as I started thinking of ‘Percy the Potty Pigeon’ which I remember as being a superb little game. No, this game is all about a Penguin called Percy and is far from superb!

 

In another interview, Stephen Kellet dives into his coding past and reminisces about the games and systems he worked on. Most the fanzine regular sections like Zzapback!, Secret Squirrel and My C64 Heaven also make an appearance in this issue. A special mention has to go to the ‘Games we typed in’ article though. This was a real trip down memory lane for me as spending countless hours typing in listings as a kid is something I can definitely relate to!

 

Freeze 64 Issue 34

Quick peek at the contents 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!

VS-7000 Joystick Review

VS-7000 Joystick

I recently picked up a super little arcade joystick off eBay for my Commodore machines. It’s brand new and made by this seller on eBay. He’s calling it the ‘VS-7000’. I’m really impressed with it so thought I’d share my thoughts.

 

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VS-7000 Joystick Construction

As standard it comes with a plain black plastic base with four sucker feet. However there’s a couple of retro styled vinyl VS-7000 stickers supplied in the box. These can be attached to the sides of the base if you want to jazz it up a little more. Additionally, if suckers aren’t your thing then they can be replaced by the included set of 4 rubber feet.

The seller also offers the same joystick in a couple of other colours. There’s one with a white base and another black one but with wood effect panels, presumably for people that want to use it with Atari systems. Sadly at the time of writing this he’s got no stock left of any variant but hopefully he’ll make some more soon.

 

VS-7000 Stickers and Rubber feet

The supplied stickers to go on either side of the base and a set of 4 rubber feet.

 

Both the buttons and stick are micro-switched and this makes for a really satisfying ‘click’ when pressed. In use I was never unsure whether a button had been pressed that’s for sure. The joystick unit itself is based on the Sanwa mechanism which is designed for arcade game cabinets. The shaft is made of metal with a nice chrome finish and it all feels reassuringly sturdy in use.

The joystick is available with either two ‘A’ buttons or an ‘A’ and ‘B’ button configuration (on request). It is straightforward enough to change from ‘AA’ to ‘AB’ yourself too. Unfortunately the A & B configuration of this stick is NOT compatible with 2 button capable C64 games like Super Mario Bros and Chase HQ 2. The C64 just doesn’t see the extra button at all.

 

VS-7000 Joystick

Here’s what the inside of the joystick looks like

 

Verdict

I have to say that this little joystick has really exceeded my expectations. It requires very little lateral force to move the stick around so it makes extended play sessions much more comfortable. I also found it enabled me to move around games more accurately or pull off those different moves in IK+ more easily. Puzzle games such as Vegetables Deluxe and Milly & Mollie suddenly became far more relaxing to play too.

I can’t overstate how much I love the stick movement on this thing. Selecting a direction only requires a gentle nudge which is immediately rewarded with a satisfying click. I can guide it in the direction I want using just my forefinger and thumb instead of needing to clamp my whole hand around it. Consequently, playing for hours no longer results in getting cramp in my right hand like I do with the other sticks (especially the Suncom). I should point out that this may well be an age related preference. I loved the ZipStick when I was a kid but fifty year old me? No so much.

The VS-7000 joystick does have one shortcoming though… the base is quite bulky and angular so is not the most comfortable thing to hold for extended periods of time. However I suppose that’s to be expected from a homebrew project like this. The joysticks of yesteryear were manufactured in large numbers and had custom, injection moulded bases, not something you can easily replicate on a small scale. Having said that this didn’t prove to be much of an issue for me as I use it mostly either resting on my knee or affixed to my desk with the suckers.

 

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Sherlock Holmes by Infocom – Classic C64 Purchase

Infocom Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels was the last of a bunch of Infocom adventure games I picked up before Christmas. This, like all my others, is for the Commodore 64 and is in pretty good condition. The box does show some signs of wear but nothing too bad, just some creasing and wear to the corners. Sadly, like Border Zone, it is missing a ‘feelie’. Originally it would have shipped with a little plastic Sherlock Holmes key fob. It’s a little disappointing for sure but I can live without it, it’s the least important part of the package to me anyway.

Sherlock Holmes Infocom

Contrary to what I had expected, you actually play the role of Doctor Watson rather than Sherlock Holmes. The Crown Jewels have been stolen from the Tower of London and you only have 48 hours to retrieve them. Holmes deduces that this is a deadly trap constructed for him personally and so gets you (Watson) to take his place to throw the perpetrator off guard.

Sherlock Holmes Infocom

Exploring Victorian London is the highlight of the game for me. Locations are richly described which really helped immerse me in the games world. Playing Watson instead of Holmes is very odd though and I’m not sure why the author decided to do this. Only time will tell if it ultimately proves detrimental to the game.

Invisiclues

Unfortunately I don’t share Sherlock Holmes’ legendary deductive abilities so I’m glad there’s help available in this game. Just typing ‘hint’ brings up an ‘Invisiclues’ help screen. From here you can choose what you need help with from a menu. What’s great about this system is it gently nudges you in the right direction rather than just blurting out the answer. It does this by offering three hints. The first is quite vague but enough to hopefully get you thinking along the correct lines. The the second is less vague and if you still can’t figure it out the final hint is the actual answer. You can also turn this feature off if you think it will pose too great a temptation.

Sherlock Holmes Contents

As with all Infocom games there’s quite of lot of stuff packed inside the slide out tray.

Sherlock Holmes Infocom

Sliding out the box insert

Sherlock Holmes is no exception here with lots of extra goodies tucked inside the box insert.

The Sherlock Holmes box insert

Inside there’s the instruction manual, the game on a 5.25″ floppy disk, a tourist map of London and a copy of The Thames newspaper.

Sherlock Holmes Infocom

A look at what’s included inside the Infocom Sherlock Holmes game box

Sherlock Holmes Infocom

London Tours Guide Map

The Thames newspaper

Sherlock Holmes Infocom

The manual gives you a few pointers including how to draw a map…

As I mentioned earlier there should also be a little key fob but unfortunately that was missing from the box. However all the important things are present and correct and the fob isn’t required to actually play the game.

Sherlock Holmes Fob

You can see the fob that should have been in the box next to the magnifying glass above

Once again this is another lovely addition to my Infocom collection and hopefully it won’t be the last. There aren’t many Infocom games floating around these days so it may be a while before another one crosses my path.

If you enjoyed looking at this page then here’s a look at some of the other Infocom games in my collection that I’ve posted about.