Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress

Today’s game hails from the relatively early days of what would go on to become an incredibly popular genre worldwide: the RPG.

Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress is often regarded as the “black sheep” of the Ultima series, but it nicely demonstrates how things worked for this type of game back in the Good Old Days… as well as makes me realise that I really had no need to feel intimidated by the supposed complexity of RPGs back when I was a kid!

The ST version perhaps isn’t the most visually impressive game you’ll see on the platform, but it does make good use of the GEM interface, and provides some solid, enjoyable adventuring action!

Ants in Your Pants

Type-in listings in computer magazines in the ’80s were more than just an opportunity to get some “free” software, with the only expense being the cost of the magazine and your time. They were also a chance to learn something.

In many cases, type-in listings were accompanied by commentary from the author explaining the processes and techniques they’d used in order to create the various functions within the program. In the case of Ants in Your Pants by Allan Knopp, published in issue 27 of Page 6, the technique in question was “page flipping” — a method of getting the computer to draw several screens in advance, then seamlessly switching between them to create the illusion of full-screen animation.

As a game, it’s fairly limited, but as a demonstration of some of the things it’s possible to do in Atari BASIC, it’s definitely worth a look!

Thunderbirds

As we’ve previously talked about a few times, licensed games on 8- and 16-bit home computers tended to follow a particular formula.

That’s why when games like Thunderbirds came along and tried to do things a little different from the usual “platform game that doesn’t have much to do with the show or movie” approach, it was worth taking notice. Okay, so Thunderbirds in particular manages to create a lot of its own problems by taking this approach… but it’s got ambition, I’ll certainly give it that.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that when this was released, a lot of conventions that we take for granted in gaming today were still being established and figured out. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself as I had to restart that first mission over and over and over again…

Zybex

We made it to Z once again, folks, and it’s time for an all-time classic shoot ’em up for the Atari 8-bit: it’s Zybex, from Zeppelin Games.

Zeppelin began their life as a company specialising in budget-priced titles on cassette; the first time I came across them was when they released today’s game Zybex and motorcycle racer Speed Ace for £2.99 each. Speed Ace was fairly decent, from what I recall — though at the time of writing it’s not one we’ve revisited as yet — but Zybex was something truly special.

Featuring frantic shoot ’em up action for one or two players, Zybex truly brought the arcade-style scrolling shoot ’em up home in style — and it still holds up pretty well today.

 

Codebreaker

With the digital revolution, many classic tabletop experiences have fallen by the wayside. But back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, you could count on most households having a copy of Mastermind.

Mastermind was a code-breaking game developed by an Israeli telecommunications expert named Mordecai Meirowitz, and it was based on an earlier pen-and-paper game named Bulls and Cows. The concept is simple: one player develops a code consisting of four coloured pegs, and the other player has to guess this code in as few steps as possible, making use of the codemaker’s feedback.

Codebreaker is essentially a digital adaptation of this game, making use of numbers rather than coloured pegs. It also features an adaptation of the ancient mathematical game Nim, for those who enjoy taking the last chocolate in the box. As a complete game package, it might look a bit limited from a modern perspective, but there’s fun to be had here.

Slaygon

There was a time when we couldn’t take first-person adventures for granted; a dark time when you could only turn by 90 degrees and move by 5 feet at a time.

Okay, we still have games like that, but at least we have a choice these days. Back when Slaygon was released for Atari ST, it’s pretty much all we had if we wanted to infiltrate some sort of complicated installation… such as a futuristic tech company looking to unleash a deadly virus into the atmosphere for… some reason!

Slaygon put an interesting twist on the dungeon crawler formula by putting you in control of a futuristic cybertank with all manner of fancy systems for you to use. It was still all about finding the right keys for the right doors though…

Yogi Bear & Friends in The Greed Monster

Licensed games were a real mixed bag in the 8- and 16-bit eras, because mechanical genres were still being defined and refined — and it was sometimes tricky to relate an established style of game to a particular property.

Hi-Tec was one company that got a bit experimental with their various licensed games. They had the rights to all the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, after all, and to their credit, rather than simply churning out various reskins of the same game, they tried lots of different ways of doing things — even between multiple games featuring the same character.

Yogi Bear & Friends in The Greed Monster is an example of a game where they got it right. It’s an interesting and enjoyable game, even today, and distinguishes itself by being just that bit different from other licensed games of the period.

Atari games, software, hardware… and memories