The Beginner’s Guide: Commodore 64
Here at Peoww when we talk about retro our minds often go to the golden age of 8-bit gaming when memory was measured in mere double digit kilobytes and if you had to wait less than ten minutes for a game it was considered a fast loader. So when talking to some members it came as a bit of a shock when they mentioned the Playstation One as being retro. Retro â€¦ the PS1 â€¦ are you fucking kidding me? What about the Spectrum or even the Amiga. What’s that, those machines where released before you where born ah right now is see the problem. So for those of you who didn’t grown up with these classic machines, we present a beginners guide giving you everything you need to start exploring the rich world of gaming heritage.
Released by American company Commodore International in 1982, the C64 would over the course of the next decade become one of the most popular home computers in the world thanks to its easy accessibility and modest price tag of £200. Boasting over ten thousand pieces of software from games to home accounts, art packages, word processing and even music creation but I’m not going to waste time with all that stuff you’re here for games so lets talk games. After much soul searching I’ve made a list of the ten C64 games everyone should play be it on the original hardware or through emulation (more on that later) who knows maybe if we bug Nintendo enough they’ll put them on the *Wii Virtual Consoleâ€¦ yeah and Gigi Edgley would marry some fat bloke from Somerset.
* Well since writing this feature back in ’08 Nintendo HAS put the C64 on the Virtual Console I guess you’ll be needing this Miss Edgely.
(System 3 – 1988)
The best of the Ninja trilogy by Twiddy, Riley and Gray and it mixes combat, exploration and puzzle solving with a unique ‘ninja in New York’ flavour thanks to some impressive isometric graphics and a cracking soundtrack by the aforementioned Matt Gray(Although the ‘Remix version had just as good tunes from Reyn Ouwehand).
Dodging killer bees, Molotoving sewer alligators and even finding deadly weapons inside a toilet stall, yes the Last Ninja 2 is all this and more.
(Firebird – 1986)
How many times have you seen a preview of an original puzzle game only to find it’s just yet another Tetris meets Bust-A-Move hybrid? Well apart from a semi sequel on the PC and PS1 the Sentinel remains an original puzzle game. Your task is to defeat each levels sentinel by avoiding its energy draining gaze and trying to get to higher ground and drain its energy by using trees to gain extra energy and stones to increase your height. Yes it sounds mad and is but even with its basic graphics and sound hasn’t been surpassed twenty years after its creation.
(Thalamus – 1987)
Created by Stavros Fasoulas and along with Armalyte is the best scrolling shooter on the C64. This gets the nod above Armalyte, X-Out, Denaris and Uridium because of its hypnotic soundtrack and more varied gameplay that mixes furious shooting and tricky piloting in later stages.
Special mention should also go to the loader that lets you remix the Delta theme my changing the sound channels on the fly to different styles as varied as bossa nova and depeche.
(Rainbow Arts – 1991)
Next up is a strong contender as the best platform shooter EVER with Bren McGuire’s sophomore outing. Improving on the original Turrican formula it has bigger levels, bosses and weapons and even finds time for three levels of scrolling shump action a la Katakis AND has the biggest boss even seen on the C64.
The franchise went downhill after this instalment and focused on generic shooting and pointless gimmicks like grapple lines and freeze beams rather than the exploration and non-linear paths found here. So be sure to play this before attacking the inferior console sequels.
(US Gold – 1989)
If you want pure speed on the C64 look no further than Probe software’s conversion of this Sega coin-op featuring an amazing soundtrack complete with digitised speech thanks to the always reliable Maniacs of Noise.
Add to this outstanding conversion some super smooth scrolling graphics and sprites that go into hyperspace once you hit the eponymous turbo button, and you’ve got a game so fast and yet playable it’s hard to believe it’s only 8-bit. If this whets your apatite you can also track down the underrated Outrun Europa.
(System 3 – 1989)
System 3’s mythological hack ‘n’ slash adventure that sees you rampage through time and in the final stage even space! Slaying all manor of fantastical beasties from reanimated skeletons to your oh-my-god-look-at-the-size-of-that-dragon.
Great graphics, great music thanks to the Maniacs of Noise (again) and a super playable mix of action and puzzle solving that easily gets it into the top ten of must play games not just the Commodore 64 but any 8-bit system.
For more information about Myth you can read my Perfekt Past feature HERE
(Audiogenic – 1991)
An alien world filled with strange creatures, deadly machines trying to kill you at every turn and a well developed psychics engine, all this comes together to make Exile. You take control of a jetpack wearing space adventurer who can fly in any direction all the while dealing with gravity and momentum whilst dodging enemies and finding new equipment to use. When the time comes that flying gets passÃ© you can save waypoints at any time and teleport to them if you take too much damage meaning you won’t ever die but if you don’t play carefully be prepared to see the inside of your spaceship a lot.
(System 3 – 1991)
While Turbo Outrun is included as the best straight racing game, Turbo Charge also gets in thanks to equally blazing speed and with more road based destruction than Chase HQ or SCI ever managed to muster up.
Blasting across the middle east in pursuit of a stolen UN weapons stockpile you drive, shoot and blast anything in your path be it cars, taker trunks or even attack helicopters while ensuring you don’t crash in a screaming fireball or just plain run out of fuel.
(Thalamus – 1990)
The beautiful, bloody and damn right cuddly game filled with fuzzy wuzzies and chainsaw killings. Creatures manages to effortlessly mix scrolling platform action with puzzle solving against the clock with bloody conclusion if you fail or just want to see some comically gleeful executions. Make it worthy of not just purchase but enshrinement in gaming nirvana.
For more information about Creatures you can read my Perfekt Past feature HERE
(System 3 – 1987)
Yes I know it’s ANOTHER System 3 game but this was for a long time THE beat ’em up of the 80’s easily beating all the other contenders to a pulp. You and two friends can take part in bouts of unarmed combat broken up my fiendish reflex test like deflecting bouncing balls or kick away lit bombs before they explode! Programmed by Archer MacLean it’s full of little humorous touches be it blink and you’ll miss it cameos from Pac Man or even dropping your trousers. Smooth animations and responsive controls make fighting your two opponents a doddle and thanks to a good line in enemy AI the often all defeating sweep move never unbalances the game unlike Way of the Exploding Fist or even the original International Karate.
Original C64 hardware is easy to come by through any good second-hand online retailer like eBay or Amazon or even your local games emporium, expect to pay £30-40 for a full set of hardware: Keyboard unit, Dataset, Transformer, AV lead and some kind of joystick the Zip-Stick is my personal recommendation or any Quickshot joystick especially the Python will do. A disk drive is good for faster loading and game storage but by no means essential.
Whilst of the different models are more or less that same save for different chips under the hood and don’t believe anybody that tells you the brown breed-bin models sound better than the later grey modeles, it’s pure bullshit. Also be sure to stay away from the C64GS as this only takes cartridges and they are bloody expensive due to the limited number of games and units made for it but if you do happen upon one it will work fine with your original C64.
For those of you wanting to play C64 games from the comfort of your home PC you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to software emulators. CCS64, Vice64 and Hoxs64 all get the thumbs up from me and can be downloaded for free from any good C64 retro site like Lemon64 or C64.com and if you’re made of money there are several models of C64 Plug-and-Play TV Game with various games included but be sure to check the game listing before buying as many break sports games like California Games up and classes each event as a different game.