Also found in the museum:
- All the characters in the Indiana Jones Atari 2600 game
- The thing at the end of Pitfall 2
- Everything in the Commdore 64 version of Double Dragon
Also found in the museum:
Part man, part machine, all cop that has to move his arm in awkward 45 degree increments because that’s how 8-way joysticks worked back then. What made it even worse was that when you aimed up and to the right or left Robocop would keep moving in that direction too so you’d end up walking directly into the line of enemy fire. Just another day in the life for video gaming’s greatest cyborg.
The arcade version of this is my favourite of them all, simply because they stuck to the home console design but didn’t have any of the C64 or Amiga’s technical limitations. Big beefy sprites and an awesome looking ED-209 to contend with plus lots of sampled speed which was a big deal back in the day of course.
The C64 version had horrible bugs which meant one level was a garbled mess, so much for quality assurance back then.
As a kid living in a boring town with two streets and one store, an hour’s drive away from a slightly less boring town with four streets and two stores, California seemed like an amazing place to have fun. I formed that opinion primarily from playing California Games.
Actually now that I think about it most of my geography knowledge was based on the games I played. I was kind of diappointed when I visited Sydney for the first time and didn’t see anyone having karate fights across the river from the Opera House.
California Games was a gem of a mini-game collection, barring the stupid frisbee game. That thing was pants and to this day I’ve never caught a frisbee in it ever. I really liked the BMX section, the rollerblading section (once I figured out the controls) and the skating was also pretty good even though I preferred the skate bowling duel game in Skate Or Die. Hacky Sack was pretty good too if only for as long as it takes to hit that bloody seagull.
To me though the star of the show was the surfing. It was a real skill to keep moving ahead of the wave, not to mention pulling off tricks. You had to position your board perfectly right on the re-entry or you’d fall off the board quicker than you can say “whoa dude that was a totally gnarly wipeout” or whatever lingo I picked up from watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons.
It was pretty harsh that you sometimes got eaten by a shark though, maybe that was left in for a version of the game designed for sharks to play.
California Games was converted to all sorts of formats along the way – the C64 and NES versions were the most popular around the world, of course, but I remember sinking a lot of time into the Master System version. The BMX section in particular was a lot better on that system than any other to me. I was especially interested in the Lynx version – the only one to have simultaneous multi player! – and remember thinking that the waves in the surfing section looked amazing. You could pull off tricks a lot easier in the Lynx version, too.
And I didn’t even know there was a MegaDrive version until I was doing research for this comic! That looks pretty cool, I should give that a go sometime. And the Atari 2600! man, that version must look INCREDIBLE.
You know what, now that I think about it, I really missed out on a lot not owning a Lynx.
For the longest time after Shadow of the Beast came out I thought there was something wrong with me.
This was the game to own if you had an Amiga. Not having the luxury of owning one when this game came out, I figured it was my role to be envious of Amiga owners who could play it. All the magazines were gushing about it. The screenshots were stunning. It all looked so…big. Polished. Far beyond what we were used to thinking what a video game looked like at the time. All those levels of parallax scrolling! The music! The box art!
And yet…I just wasn’t fussed about it.
This was the first time I really couldn’t get what the hype was about. Was it me? Was I just jealous that I didn’t own a machine capable of such awesome 16-bit graphics? Maybe I was just growing out of video games?
Or maybe, just maybe, the game was a bit crap.
Come on, you can admit it now, the game was a bit crap. It was slow and boring and the combat was comically simple and you never really knew what you were meant to be doing. It just wasn’t any fun. Underneath the slick exterior was a simple maze exploration game made artificially hard by cheap deaths and unfair collision detection.
I did like checking out all the conversions that came later, it’s always interesting seeing how a technically ambitious game gets fit into less powerful hardware. The Lynx version had nice sprite scaling, the Master System version was pretty average and they even managed a C64 conversion for the C64GS. It was pants.
So what if it was basically an overblown Breakout, Arkanoid was the killer app that sold me on the idea of using a mouse to control a game. Sure, you could play it well enough with a joystick but if you wanted total control you really needed to play it with a mouse.
Thanks to the simplicity of the game (I mean really, it was just a bat and ball game that you could make yourself in an afternoon) there wasn’t a bad home conversion. Even the Spectrum had a great version of Arkanoid! Chances are whatever you’re reading this on has a version of Arkanoid available for it. The DS had a neat one that came with a paddle you plugged into the GBA cartridge port – I thought it was funny we came so far along with technology that we went back to playing games with a paddle.
Anyway, it was the Amiga version that was the business back in the day. It looked just like the Arcade game, as long as you don’t mind a third of the screen being devoted to a bunch of logos and junk. But you got to play it with the mouse, and it felt glorious, and it made me mad I didn’t own an Amiga yet.
Now you have the music from Wonderboy in your head, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
I love this era of gaming because random weird stuff happens all the damn time and nobody bats an eyelid. A game starring a fat kid in a grass skirt? Sure, why not. Jumping animations? Don’t need ’em. Heck let’s make skateboards and tomahawks come out of eggs while we’re at it.
I played the Jabeebus out of this on the Master System, which was a high quality port that featured large characters, smooth scrolling (that was a thing back then) and music so bad that you wanted to chop your ears off with a rusty hacksaw.
Again, a game from an age where any regular daytime activity could be turned into a video game and nobody looked at you weird or nothing.
I can’t say I was ever really in love with this game, but as an artifact of the era it’s quite interesting. And holy cow look at how many machines it was ported to! That’s got to be a record, surely? Maybe Robocod has it beat…
I really feel bad for the artists on that game having to draw everything at that weird forced perspective angle. Ick. This is one of the few classic games where I think a first person perspective would be better.
I’ve been pushing off doing a comic about Elite since pretty much the day I started making these. It’s the greatest video game of all time and I spent weeks trying to think of a comic that would show it the respect it deserves.
Then I remembered what a complete bitch the docking sequence was and just did this instead.
I can’t understate how much of a big deal Elite was. For the first time here was a game that didn’t have lives and levels and a big boss that you had to beat. You made your own way around the universe, exploring, fighting, trading, learning and seeing what happens based on how you interact with the game. It was the first “sandbox” game and we’ve spent the last thirty years trying to make something as groundbreaking since. It was the game that really made me think that there was more to video games than it first appeared.
The C64 version was the one I spent the most amount of time with, but I have to give special credit to the unofficial GBA homebrew version which pretty much lived permanently inside my handheld for a year or two.
Note to anyone at Frontier who may be reading this: I will do anything, anything, for Elite 4.
And I really mean anything.
Ever notice that they stopped making Bomb Jack games around the time that Bomberman became crazy popular? COINCIDENCE I THINK NOT.
Inspired by someone’s insane collection of every version of Robocod, I am going to start collecting ports and sequels to Bomb Jack. A cursory look around my games room reveals I already own like three of the bloody things, so that’s a good start!
Poor Chip, he never really had a chance. There is no Bit-Busters club, you idiot! She was just kindly blowing you off, which isn’t a euphemism.
This game got ported to everything, heck even Microsoft ported it to Windows. That was a big deal back in the day!