A 1992 homebrew conversion of the fourth Freescape game, Castle Master, coded by Tanacs Attila (aka “TGMS”), with additional graphics by P. István (aka “abcug”).
A 1990 homebrew conversion of the classic Freescape game, Total Eclipse, by the Hungarian coder Soós Ferenc (aka “SF”). It requires 64K of RAM to run.
And Total Eclipse an excellent conversion – pretty much identical to its Commodore 64 parent (from which it was converted).
There are currently two different homebrew conversions of Dark Side available for the Commodore 16/Plus4 – one by Tarzan, and one by Csory. Both are shown here.
A 1990 homebrew conversion by Pygmy that requires 64K of RAM (which technically makes it a Plus 4 release). Driller is an impressive achievement on the 6502, even if it does run slowly.
Eye of the Storm was the first game released by Rebellion Developments in 1993, and also the first video game designed by Jason Kingsley, co-founder of Rebellion and current owner of 2000AD comic.
Back in 1993 I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Rebellion, in Oxford, England, to see Eye of the Storm; to have it demo-ed to me by Jason himself, and then to take it away for review. Luckily, at the time I was working in Oxford (at Maverick Magazines), so it was only a short walk from our offices to theirs. I spent probably three or fours hours with Jason, playing the game, discussing it with him, and later being given a sneak peek of the Aliens vs. Predator game they were also working on for the Atari Jaguar… It was a memorable day.
Playing Eye of the Storm now I have the same feelings I had when I first played it back in 1993. It’s a clever, playable and absorbing game (identifying alien lifeforms for cash in the atmosphere of Jupiter and shooting down poachers); initially a little confusing (easily sorted with a little bit of effort), and it could easily be dismissed by those who just don’t ‘get’ it.
The basic premise of Eye of the Storm is that in 2124 life is discovered (by a probe) in Jupiter’s great red spot, and there’s a mad scramble by mercenaries to bring back specimens for cash. Except you’re no mercenary – you’re a representative of the Interstellar Conservation Executive (ICE) and you’re there to document these lifeforms for posterity. Not kill or catch them, but identify them. And you’ve got a small, blue spacecraft in which to do it in. And not get killed. So you’re a conservationist of the future, with homing missiles and lasers, of course. And you are encouraged to blow the poachers out of existence!
The ship’s Heads-Up Display (HUD) is nicely designed and each instrumentation module can be turned on or off using key commands. The 3D graphics are simple by today’s standards, but are fast and reasonably colourful. The 3D models are comparable to Star Fox on the SNES, which came out the same year. Not as complex, sure, but only a couple of people made this game – not a large team. The random explosions when you die are quite nice. Kinda weirdly kaleidoscopic and unique…
The mouse and keyboard controls work very well and flying around is fairly relaxing, when you get the hang of flying in a 3D space with a limited turn speed. If you want to play Eye of the Storm seriously: there is a very good game in there to be had. With missions and objectives (watch out for messages that come up). Exploring and marking landmarks will help you find your way around the seemingly featureless “gas giant” although a lot of people may be put off by the lack of ground-based landmarks. There is no ground! There is a mysterious monolith though…
Eye of the Storm is a good concept and a decent game, nicely executed, but with limited appeal. And, while I wouldn’t rate it as a “must play” game, I would recommend you try it out if you’re interested in space cockpit games that are different from the norm. Personally: I really like Eye of the Storm; I enjoyed revisiting it and remembering how to play it properly. In fact: I’d love to see Rebellion bring it back with a few new ideas and features… Extra-terrestrial conservation will be a future trend, I feel. 🙂
Eye of the Storm was released on only two platforms: on the PC, in MS-DOS (the version shown here), and also on the Amiga. I’ve actually never played the Amiga version, but aim to rectify that soon.
Because Eye of the Storm is so good, and because it may seem confusing to play for some people, I’ve written a little starter guide to help first-timers get the hang of it. Hope it helps!
Eye of the Storm (1993) by Rebellion Developments Ltd.
Mini Guide by Mallo, September 2019
The basic aim is to survive long enough to record the creatures and events in the great red spot of Jupiter. To earn money, all you have to do is fly around, observing, identifying and shooting things. First of all: don’t shoot the lifeforms. Shoot the mercenaries that are shooting at you. Of course: to spend that money you make you’ve got to make it back to base alive. To do that, simply turn towards your base (the blue doughnut-looking thing with the red stripe on the side) and fly into the black area, which is the entrance. Once you’re docked you can check your money totals and buy new things. Some upgrades will be out of your reach at the start, but you should buy a number of fuel upgrades and PODs, namely: Defence PODs and Sentinels, which you can then release in space and use as your eyes and ears. From time to time you’ll get a message to capture a certain creature for a bonus. You don’t have to do this, but it is the quickest way to get those engine and hull upgrades.
Tip #1. For your very first sortie: don’t go far, or you will probably die. Just stay out for a few minutes, then return to base. You should then have some money to use for extra fuel. Make sure you save the game every time you dock when you’re starting out.
Tip #2. Identify everything (by pointing at it and pressing ‘I’). Check your ID totals in the Player Status option in the Save/Load menu.
Tip #3. If you catch a creature and there is no market for it, release it back into the wild. Make sure not to accidentally release your last fuel POD by accident, otherwise you’ll plummet into Jupiter’s core. In fact: use the ‘Release’ command as carefully as possible!
Tip #4. Getting an engine upgrade opens the game up significantly, so make that a priority. The Agile Engine is only 20,000 credits.
Tip #5. Getting a hull upgrade will mean that your ship can withstand the crushing pressures deeper down inside Jupiter’s atmosphere, where the weirder lifeforms dwell.
Tip #6. On the HUD, at the bottom are three coloured, horizontal lines. These are important. The top (yellow) line is your speed. The second (orange) line is your fuel, and the third (red) line are your shields.
Tip #7. Make sure to sell your empty fuel PODs once you get going, and to replace them with new ones.
Eye of the Storm keys:
1 – Net
2 – Release
3 – Map
5 – Homing Missile
6 – Missile
7 – Laser
I – Identify
R – Radar on/off
P – POD view on/off
M – Map on/off
B – Base (Turn toward)
Speed up/slow down – either hold right mouse button and backwards and forwards, or plus and minus on the keyboard
S – Sound on or off
G – Ground on or off
B-17 Bomber is a very early – but really rather excellent – WWII bomber simulation, released for the Intellivision in 1982.
B-17 Bomber came bundled with the ‘Intellivoice‘ speech module at the time, which gave very impressive speech synthesis within the game. Actually, the game opens with a voice that says “Mattel Electronics presents…” then a strongly recognisable Texas accent kicks in and says: “Bee Sevahn-teen Bow-mer!” Clearly a tribute to Slim Pickens‘ character in Stanley Kubrick‘s Dr. Strangelove, and also amazing that this early speech synthesis could successfully portray a Texas accent. Remember: this is not digitised speech – it is phonetically synthesised. Most Intellivision emulators will happily emulate the speech and it is quite useful in-game because it warns you of approaching enemy.
The game itself is surprisingly engrossing. Considering that it’s only a 16K ROM cartridge B-17 Bomber has quite a lot to it. The aim is simple: to go out on bombing runs to destroy enemy targets. In practise: you have to juggle a variety of hats, including fighting off enemy fighters; piloting the bomber; and of course dropping bombs from the bay doors with an overhead view of the area. There’s a map of Europe, dotted with potential targets, which always shows your position relative to everything else.
Considering the limitations of the Intellivision, and the fact that this was released in 1982, B-17 Bomber is a remarkable achievement – in gaming terms. It’s an impressive prototype flight sim, squeezed into very little memory; with good playability, and high quality synthesised speech.
More: B-17 Bomber on Wikipedia
I wrote quite a bit about the original ZX Spectrum version – because it’s so good – but this 1986 Amstrad version of Tau Ceti is possibly even better than the original…
Why? Slightly better use of colour (debatable). Wider display (with a slightly different layout), and because it runs slightly faster than the original. So the differences are “slight,” but are still worth a mention.
Playing Tau Ceti is like a bit like that scene in the film Pitch Black: when the sun goes down you’re gonna need a bigger gun (and your Infra Red goggles) to survive for more than ten minutes…
Tau Ceti is a classic game on any system. I played this Amstrad version for a few hours recently and had a ball in the process. It’s still great to play now.
Tau Ceti: Special Edition is an updated, enhanced version of the original game, released for 128K Spectrums in 1987.
The Special Edition contains a number of new features that make playing Tau Ceti easier and more well-rounded.
For starters: the most important addition – in my opinion – is the Library, which contains information on everything from enemy identification charts to files about cities; but its most important addition are the city maps, which make finding target buildings easier. That said: the maps are still quite clunky to use and having to keep referring to them is a bit tedious. Still, it’s better than no city maps, like in the original.
The main game is essentially the same as the original version. There are some enhanced still graphics on some of the screens, but in general the new additions are mostly in the form of extra information. Which is fine because it does make the game better.
Published by CRL Group in 1985, Tau Ceti was programmer Pete Cooke‘s breakthrough game. ‘Breakthrough’ in that it was just completely brilliant and ahead of its time, and ultimately: influential.
What makes Tau Ceti great are not just the atmospheric graphics, with their stunning use of light and dark, but that the gameplay is also very easy to get into and also completely absorbing. When you know what you’re doing. You have to read the manual really, but the craft you fly (called a Skimmer) requires a mixture of command input (when you’re docked at a base you must type “launch” to set off flying, for example) and regular joystick type controls (up, down, left, right and fire).
When you’re out in the Skimmer the main job is to shut down the central reactor, but that is in a different city to the one to start in, so must be travelled to via a series of jump pads. Tau Ceti has a neat built-in map for locating cities and the links between them. The main reactor is in Centralis and you will need luck and skill getting there.
The cities on Tau Ceti are hostile places and have various strengths of defences. Some are static (like mines) but most will come after you. Blasting them, and keeping them off your tail, is done with a series of ordnance including lasers and missiles (shooting a distant Hunter ship with a missile is very satisfying).
As mentioned earlier: the use of light and dark in Tau Ceti is quite exceptional. The game uses a pseudo shadow effect to create night and day, as the host star moves around in the sky. This creates an atmospheric night-time feel when the shadows fall, and visually it makes it almost impossible to see the buildings and defences, which is why the Infra Red view mode is so cool. Switch Infra Red on at night and the game gives you a brilliant ‘night vision’ view. Complete with faux screen blur. Pretty amazing for the time. You can even fire up flares to light up the night sky.
Tau Ceti is not for everyone, but if you learn how to play it properly (ie. read the manual and learn the keys) you’ll find an amazing, complete, self-contained, sandbox world to blast around in and dominate, crammed into just 48K of RAM.
Tau Ceti spawned an even better sequel, called Academy. As much as I love Tau Ceti – and how innovative it is – I think Academy is even more amazing. Together I think both represent two of the best 8-bit games ever made.
Known affectionately as ‘Indy 500‘, this high octane race game broke new ground when it was first released in 1989.
It was one of the first racing games to become a full-on racing simulation, and actually feel as though you could get somewhere with it. Indy 500 wasn’t as impenetrable as something like Revs. It was (and still is) extremely playable…
Indianapolis 500: The Simulation also contains an innovative and easy-to-use replay feature, which allows you to re-run races from a variety of angles, and also pause and rewind the action as desired.
It may be quite simplistic by today’s standards, but Indy 500 can still give a brilliant race now. The speed and exhilaration as you play are outstanding.