This brilliant Commodore 64 homebrew remake of Parker Brothers‘ classic Atari 2600 game first came out in 2022 and it features superb music, great graphics and fun gameplay that mirrors the original 1982 game, but with a few extras to make it a bit more palatable to a modern audience.
Just like the original game, the basic idea is to stop The Empire’s AT-AT walkers from destroying the generator at the rebel base on Hoth. In this remake, though, the game is divided into stages. The first being an attack by scout walkers, which you of course have to blast into oblivion (they take twenty shots to destroy). The second stage brings on the behemoth, full-size AT-ATs, which can be damaged by shooting their head or their body. These big walkers take between thirty and fifty shots to bring down, or one lucky shot to the open droid hatch (which appears briefly on occasion, just like in the original). Subsequent stages are variations on the first two, but with different configurations of attackers, including probe droids and viper droids that will home in on you to try to damage you.
Your snowspeeder has a health bar, which depletes as you take damage, and you get four lives to stop The Empire. And unlike the original game you CAN actually stop them in this – and complete the game – as there are only eight stages (it’s not easy, though).
The graphics in The Empire Strikes Back are excellent throughout, with good animation on the vehicles, silky-smooth scrolling, and atmospheric backdrops (with dramatic colour changes between stages). The music of course features various renditions of John Williams‘ classic Star Wars score, but rendered on the C64‘s distinctive SID chip. Of course The Empire Strikes Back has limited and repetitive gameplay, but to criticise the game for that would be to miss the point – it’s a tribute to an early pioneer of console gaming, and the nostalgia it evokes, and it does that exceptionally well. And remember that this is squeezed into just 64K of RAM (less, even). As an example of modern retro gaming: it’s a great achievement, and a fun reminder of what’s possible with a bit of skill and determination.
The Empire Strikes Back was created by Megastyle Games and is free to download and play from their itch.io page (the link to which is below). Check it out – it’s a fantastic piece of C64 homebrew.