I absolutely adored this game back in the day, and guess what – it still holds up really nicely!
I made the above comic for the seventh issue of the fantastic Commodore 64 magazine Reset 64, and here’s what I wrote about the game back then:
Three things stick out in my mind when I think about Pastfinder.
Firstly, that main sprite. The way its legs move give the game a real alien feel – in an era where you’re always playing as a soldier, or a car, or a soldier in a car, piloting a giant mechanical spider always felt so intriguing and fresh. And the way it twisted when you moved left and right gave a sensation of actually piloting a vehicle instead of just moving a sprite around the screen. The unique visual style (45 degree viewpoint with shadows) also added to the feel of exploring a barren, desolate landscape.
A big part of the game, for me, was the map screen. You had to chart your own path through the radiated world, and each choice led to consequences for the difficulty of the level, chances of finding artifacts, and cost to your radiation meter. Having that freedom to explore felt so liberating and it had a big impact on every game I made. I wanted that feeling of being able to take on a game on your own terms wherever possible.
Finally – I had no idea the game got reviewed in Zzap well after I got the game! I was lured in by the cover. The colourful Activision branding instilled a sense of confidence (boy, those were the days, huh?), the screenshots looked fantastic, and I loved the idea of having another cartridge game so I could play the game quickly. For some reason, the “BY LUBAR” credit on the front was especially intriguing – who was Lubar? He must be a super famous game designer because people could recognise him by one name, I figured. Like Madonna or Prince!
Pastfinder’s the very definition of an under-rated classic in my mind. Very cleverly designed and expertly executed!