|Top 20 SID tunes|
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The C64 was my first 'serious' computer, and the only one I look back on with any fondness. Despite having only 64K of memory and a painfully slow cassette loader, it featured some of the best-designed and most enjoyable computer games ever released. I've included twenty of my favourites here, along with links to C64 emulators for the PC and Mac.
Scroll down to read more about the games.
Alternatively, you can discover my favourite SID
tunes; or if you want to know more about the current Commodore scene,
check out my C64 links page... And finally,
if you have achieved a high score on any emulated C64 game, send it
to the Scorelord,
along with proof (e.g. a screen grab), and an idea of where you live.
If he's in a good mood, he'll put it online.
These are my current favourites.
If you decide to download a game, bear in mind that you're only legally
entitled to do so if you own the original software, otherwise you must
delete it within 24 hours, and yada yada yada. CCS64
is my emulator of choice, and full instructions are included when you
download it; but basically, extract the game to the directory of your
choice, run the emulator, press f9, press RETURN
on the '1541 Device 8...' line, locate your game, and press RETURN
again to wallow in nostalgia... CCS64 lets you set the screen mode,
and use a joystick and/or keys, so make sure you explore the options,
too (ALT+O). And have fun!
1. The Sentinel
|Geoff Crammond's magnificent strategy classic is an epic achievement of imagination and technique: it's like a game of 3D chess set across 10,000 worlds, or a strangely pleasant headache. The goal in each level is the same: starting at the lowest point of the landscape, you absorb and redistribute energy in order to usurp The Sentinel's position at the summit. It's slow and not to everyone's taste; but once you're hooked you stay hooked for years.|
|The C64 variants of the Williams arcade game, Defender, were all pretty shabby until Dropzone appeared. Like Defender, the gameplay here is simple enough: you have to return your men to the safety of their base while simultaneously defending them (and yourself) from alien attack. Shields, smart bombs and a fab control system make this a fine shoot 'em up by anyone's standards, even mine. Fast, frenetic and very, very addictive.|
|This was one of the first games I played on the Commodore, and it's still one of the best. Inspired by the arcade game, Marble Madness, it expands the concept into an exploration/ mapping game. You play GERALD (a marble, pin or spinning top, according to your whim), and you have to explore 385 screens packed with gems and 3D puzzles before the time limit expires. I bet no one has finished it without cheating.|
|4. Hunter's Moon|
|One of the most innovative shoot 'em ups you'll ever find, Hunter's Moon is not so much a blast-fest as a subtle combination of shooting, precision, speed and skill. Your task? To gather star cells from myriad galaxies populated by organic life forms. Every galaxy is different, and one great feature is you don't have to complete all the levels to finish the game. It also has some of the best sound effects on the C64, so download it now.|
|Another shoot 'em up, and another game inspired by the arcades. This time it's Gravitar, but personally I think Thrust is better. The objective is to collect pods from a series of heavily guarded underground bases, while ensuring that you don't run out of fuel. When you complete the first half dozen levels the action repeats, but with the gravity reversed; if you finish those, you're in for an even nastier surprise... Hard to believe it was a budget game.|
|6. Montezuma's Revenge|
|This was underrated at the time of its release: it's still one of the best platformers around. You guide an Indiana Jones-like figure through underground caverns in search of gems. Three difficulty levels and a host of monsters, traps, keys, ladders, ropes and disappearing bridges keep you occupied. The graphics are pretty crap, and the sound is insultingly basic, but if you like old-style platformers you'll love this. I did, anyway.|
|The C64 version of Tetris wasn't the first (it debuted on the Electronica 60 in 1985), it lacks the two-player mode found in later variants, and the control method is slightly different (down makes blocks drop suddenly) - but it's still a classic. Arrange falling shapes into solid horizontal lines to make them disappear. The action gets increasingly hectic, and you can theoretically play forever, or at least until your head falls off.|
|Andrew Braybrook produced some amazing games for the Commodore, and Paradroid was arguably the best. An intergalactic Robo-Freighter has been taken over by rogue droids, and using a rudimentary influence device you have to destroy or take possession of them, and ultimately regain control of the ship. The sub-game alone is a great feat of the imagination, as you battle target robots for control of their circuits, and fail miserably.|
|If you want an example of the kind of game that just wouldn't get made today, this is it. Sensible Software are probably best remembered for their soccer sims, but Galaxibirds, Parallax and Wizball were all funny, unique and very playable C64 forerunners. Wizball in particular is superb: fantastic music, and gameplay which involves collecting paint and colouring in drab, grey landscapes. It's a shoot 'em up, but unlike any other.|
|You'll either love or hate this one. Most people love it: it's fast, colourful, and meaty, like a Turbo Cow in a tie-dye T-shirt; but you need to be 100% perfect in the early stages, or it's goodnight, Mr Crap Player. One thing almost everyone agrees on is the soundtrack: it's one of the best on the Commodore (see the Top 20 SIDs): Armalyte is probably a better horizontal scroller, but Rob Hubbard's music sways it for me.|
|Another peculiar idea typical of the crazy genius in some C64 games: guide a bouncing tennis ball over a vertically-scrolling and treacherous series of platforms... And that's it. There are plenty of miscellaneous baddies spinning across your path, and mysterious power-ups (some of which turn out to be traps), but your basic aim is survival. It sounds weird, but it works - and the bizarre music is a perfect accompaniment to the action.|
|12. Bounty Bob Strikes Back|
|The sequel to Miner 2049-er, this has the most irritating control system around (you jump in a kind of odd, slow loop); but there aren't many better platformers out there. I never paid much attention to the story, but I think it ran like this: Bob's mansion has been infested with slimy green monsters, and he has to annihilate them all while covering every inch of his turf. Great highscore table, anyway. Nice birdies... Pretty birdies...|
|It's not easy writing all these reviews to the right length, you know. You have to vary your introductions, explain what the game's about, and give some half-baked excuse for liking it. Then, if you're lucky, you can make some inane, throwaway quip in the hope it will get a laugh from anyone bothering to read this - which probably means only me and my giant weasel friend, Howard... And Zenji? It's a great puzzle game, so give it a go.|
|Ah, Nebulus... The world's first rotating 3D towers game to feature a strange, pig-like creature who is also meant to be a demolition expert; though how he manages it without arms is anyone's guess. Still, that's none of my business. This is a great combo of platform and puzzle action, and if you haven't played it, you should. It's a pity there are only eight levels, but you can't have everything. Unless you're the Man Who Has Everything, which I'm not.|
|Armalyte is quite simply the best horizontally-scrolling shoot 'em up on the Commodore 64 (unless you prefer Delta, which is harder, and not counting Dropzone, which is 2-way, or Wizball, which is 2-way and weird). So, it's the best right-to-left horizontal scroller, apart from Delta... Oh, I give up. It has a great two-player mode, and fantastic graphics, and really really special sound effects, and... it's lovely, it really is.|
|16. Buggy Boy|
|One of Elite's better arcade games, this is also one of the best conversions on the C64. Marvel at the smooth 3D graphics! Gasp in amazement at the arcade-accurate music and sound effects! Bite your own tongue when you crash into a boulder! It's all here, apart from having to pay money every time you want to play. And the arcade chair was quite nice, too - but nothing some papier mache and a bit of crepe paper wouldn't reproduce at home.|
|17. Park Patrol|
|The tunes in this game are so catchy I'm almost tempted to transcribe them; but I won't, because it's pointless. Despite an uninspired premise - you play a park keeper whose goal in life is to collect litter, kill snakes and rescue drowning swimmers too stupid to know that you shouldn't enter the water after eating a heavy meal - this is very addictive stuff. In fact, I don't know why it's not higher up my list. Well, who cares? Not Howard, anyway.|
|18. Pipe Mania|
|Ah, Pipe Mania... Hang on, I already started Nebulus that way. Pipemania is a game featuring pipes in a maniacal fashion, hence the name. (They're not stupid these software houses, you know.) You manipulate pipes within a time limit so that water which starts flowing at the end of the limit flows freely and doesn't get stuck before the required number of pipes has been flowed through... And I used to write for a living. Honest.|
|Crazy name, crazy game. This is a variation on the arcade classic, Qix, and is probably the only time in your life you'll get to play a white dot. Unless you're already a white dot, in which case Zolyx was made for you. Your goal is to imprison other white dots (who probably all have names, families, and nice houses, but we aren't told), and to fill 75% of the screen by creating structures like those on the right. It's better than this review, believe me.|
|What, no Impossible Mission, no World Games, no Bubble Bobble, no Creatures? No: Bounces is the last in my list, because Kati and I spent one summer playing it to death, beating each other on the bonce with those weird long glove things, and laughing our heads off. It's a seriously crap one-player game, but for two-player action it can't be beat. So, if you haven't got any friends, avoid it. And get some friends.|
Emulated games load without fail, and without hassle. You don't have to fiddle around with that tiny screw in your datasette, praying that a quarter turn clockwise will finally get the damn thing to load. However, emulated games in .t64, .d64, .prg and .p00 format don't let you see the original loading screensbut the .tap format (supported by CCS64 and VICE) does. This means you can watch the loading animation in Paradroid Championship Edition, or play with the Mix-e-Load in Delta, or play the Invade-A-Load game in Kane 2. The drawbacks are: .tap files are relatively large (typically, around 400K); you have to wait as long as you used to for the tape image to load; and the games are a little harder to locate. Try this site to find what you're looking for.