The Commodore 64 conversion of Defender of the Crown is a celebrated retro gaming classic. Apart from loading times, there’s little to fault about it.
One of Cinemaware‘s last games, Wings was released in 1990 to critical acclaim.
It’s a First World War-based scenario, with you piloting a biplane over German lines, dogfighting enemy fighters and bombing positions on the ground.
Dogfighting uses a third-person cockpit view, with simple 3D graphics, and bombing runs use 2D bitmapped graphics (with overhead and isometric viewpoints). Cut scenes – like in all Cinemaware games – use high quality 2D graphics throughout.
As you create and lose pilots you get a great feeling of loss from the game, which is as it should be. You don’t recreate First World War battles and have everyone cracking jokes every ten minutes… The subject matter is treated with respect, and the result is: Wings is one of Cinemaware‘s (and the Amiga‘s) best games.
The original Amiga version of Cinemaware‘s The Three Stooges was released in 1987.
With ‘mini games’ inspired by classic Three Stooges films, it features Larry, Moe and Curly on a quest to save an orphanage from an evil landlord.
The intro boasts of an ‘interactive movie’ (as is often the case in Cinemaware games), but in my opinion this is one of their least cinematic games.
Not that it’s bad – it isn’t – but it plays more like a regular game than something like The King of Chicago or Rocket Ranger, which have a lot of cut scenes. This game seems to centre around the animated sprites of the three main characters, rather than rely on a lot of cut scenes. Which is fine by me.
Playing The Three Stooges feels a bit like a board game, which is how the game was designed. Every move is decided by a button press, then the characters move and a mini game is played. The problem with this is that there are mousetraps on the board which will snap your finger if you point at them. Get caught six times and it’s game over.
The Three Stooges is not my favourite Cinemaware game, but is reasonable fun nonetheless. If you’re a Three Stooges fan you probably already know about it. 🙂
The Commodore 64 version of Cinemaware‘s Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon is the version to play in my opinion – the earlier Amiga version of this excellent fantasy adventure game is uncharacteristically poor in terms of presentation.
Sinbad is a disk only release and succeeds in bringing the swashbuckling adventures of Baghdad’s favourite sailor, complete with monsters, magic, platforming sections, and sword fighting.
At the core of the game is an open-ended world map which you can travel around, exploring places and talking to people. Random action sequences intersperse the story, bringing various challenges. There’s sword fighting; ship sailing (avoiding rocks), side-scrolling platform running and jumping and rope climbing, and even a Cyclops boss battle!
Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon is classic Cinemaware. Graphically, the Commodore 64 version is top quality (unlike the Amiga original). Gameplay wise it’s excellent too. It is an intriguing love letter to Ray Harryhausen films, and of adventure stories in general, and it works extremely well.
The King of Chicago is a strategic gangster simulator, released by Cinemaware in 1987. And – while “gangster simulator” might sound bad – the game is full of dark humour and is something of a satire, so is not to be taken too seriously on that front.
You play a young, ambitious wiseguy in 1930s Chicago who must work his way up to the top in The Organisation. You do that by initially towing the line and doing ever-increasingly dangerous jobs for the mob, until the time is right for a bloody coup… There are cops to keep off your back, and a demanding girlfriend to appease, so other challenges to consider as you progress.
Although The King of Chicago is a very good game I have to point out that the graphics – in particular the human figures – are laughably bad in places. I guess it kinda suits the satirical nature of the game, but it is one of the few Cinemaware games that I’ve looked at and gone: “what the hell is that all about?!” Still, at least the gesticulating characters look funny…
Surviving in The King of Chicago is not easy. Most of the decision-making sequences take the form of thought bubbles that you can click on, and some are time limited, so if you ponder too long you can lose a chance at a particular moment. As always, with games like this, making the right choice at the right time is key. Also, luck plays a big part of your success – maybe too much… If you do get stuck, there are always guides.
S.D.I. (Strategic Defence Initiative) is a 1986 release from legendary American games company Cinemaware.
Set in a Cold War type scenario, S.D.I. pits East against West in a fight for dominance in space. You play the American commander of an SDI system of 12 anti-missile satellites whose job it is to protect them from attack by rogue KGB agents.
You start off in a command room and can check on various status screens, although ultimately you have to personally jump into a cockpit and go out into space. While you’re out there you can blast enemy attackers and repair broken satellites. When you’re done you can then re-dock with the space station and carry on your war from the safety of your viewing platform.
S.D.I. is a mixture of Star Raiders and a ‘regular’ Cinemaware game. It has pleasant cut sequences and detailed information screens and a pretty good core game, although it isn’t quite up to the standard of some of their other releases. It’s still a decent game overall though, which just goes to show the general high quality of Cinemaware‘s releases in the games market.
The Amiga version of Cinemaware‘s classic Defender of the Crown is both beautiful to look at, and great fun to play. Actually, pretty much every version of Defender of the Crown I’ve played has been great, but the Amiga version is probably the most well-remembered. It was also the very first version of Defender of the Crown too – all the other versions followed later.
Defender of the Crown is very much like the timeless classic boardgame Risk, but with ‘knight-based’ mini games interspersed throughout to keep things interesting. You start off as a land-owning Saxon Lord, with one county to your name, and must expand your land ownership through combat, or knight’s tournaments. Taking over land is done via an expeditionary force, which must be assembled beforehand. Pillaging castles or rescuing maidens is done differently, with you simply piling in as an individual (with a few helpful allies) and hacking away with your sword. If you lose the sword fights you either get locked-up and have to pay for freedom, or you’re killed.
Tournaments are a little less fatal, but just as physically demanding. Getting a jousting pole to the shield, or face, or anywhere else for that matter, will not only lose you the bout, but also lose you some land. Or win you some – depending on how well you do.
Defender of the Crown is a timeless classic and plays just as well now as it did over thirty years ago when it was first released (1986), so is well worth tracking down if you fancy playing a simple-but-effective turn-based historical combat/strategy game with lovely graphics and no magic spells!
Also on The King of Grabs: Cinemaware Week