The Atari ST conversion of Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is pretty ugly. For some unknown reason the developer put a horrible aqua panel at the bottom of the screen (probably to save some CPU time), and it looks really, really bad. The pink text on top? Ugh. I don’t know what they were thinking…
I can’t believe Software Creations developed this… Compared to the PC Engine, SNES, and Megadrive versions this is pretty poor. And the Amiga version is pretty much identical to this as well. What a waste!
The Commodore 64 conversion of Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is surprisingly good, even though everything in it looks a bit tiny. To achieve a playable scale the designer has shrunk the graphics down, and it does look a bit funny. I think they made the right call, though. It would’ve looked worse had they not adjusted the scale and probably wouldn’t be as playable as it is now.
Ghouls ‘N Ghosts on the C64 was developed by Software Creations for US Gold and published in 1989. It did reasonable business and was a hit with the fans and critics.
The game is well-programmed and nicely-polished and is a darn sight more playable than most Ghouls ‘N Ghosts conversions. Three severed thumbs up!
Megadrive Ghouls ‘N Ghosts was reprogrammed by Sega and published on cartridge in 1990. And it has to be said that Sega did a marvellous job. The graphics are a work of pixel artistry; the gameplay is challenging and precise; there’s a practise mode that allows you to explore a bit more of the game than you might normally see. I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I’m convinced I saw stuff in this that I hadn’t seen anywhere else – not even in the arcade game. I must be wrong… It could be because I got further in this version than any of the others.
Ghouls ‘N Ghosts was an early release for the Sega Megadrive and it really showed what the console was capable of. It also still holds up well to this day. A testament to its greatness.
The second video game based on Disney‘s famous 1982 movie, Tron, released into arcades in 1983 by Bally Midway. The first one is here.
Discs of Tron focuses on the disc-throwing game, as seen in the film between Tron and Sark, and it was one of the first games to feature a playfield set in a 3D space.
You basically throw discs at each other and have to catch your opponent out by hitting their ass. Well, not their ass – just catch them off-guard. Or knock them off the platform.
As the levels progress the difficulty gets harder. Your opponent, Sark, becomes more and more aggressive. Platforms begin moving vertically, requiring you to aim up and down. Actually, aiming upwards can be the key to beating your opponent, because bouncing a disc off the ceiling, and onto one of your opponent’s platforms will make it disappear for ten seconds. Which can be a huge problem for him. Or you, if he does it to you.
It’s strange that the developers didn’t include a simultaneous two player game, with player two controlling Sark. But then again: this was 1983 and we were stupid back then. 🙂
Atari Games‘ 1990 arcade game Rampart is a strange but compelling single-screen castle-building action game, with artillery-based shooting sections.
You start off in round one having to quickly build a 2D castle using bricks that you can rotate and place on the ground. The castle’s walls must be completely enclosed otherwise you lose the game. Round two sees you placing cannons inside the walls of your castle. And round three is the artillery shooting section where you must blast away at an invading armada at sea in seingle-player, or your opponent of playing with others. The enemy ships (or your opponent) fire back and damage your castle, so you must then repair your walls before the cycle repeats itself.
Up to three players can play Rampart simultaneously – against each other – and a full-on three-player game is something to behold (and rare). The original arcade cabinet featured three individual trackballs for fast analogue movement, so you had lots of elbows during three-player games! The cabinet – and screen on this arcade game – were pretty big though, so there was just about enough room for three players to play comfortably.
Playing Rampart now is still a blast – especially with friends. The analogue controls of the original arcade cabinet are not absolutely necessary (as they are in something like Arkanoid), Rampart can still be played okay with a digital controller because there’s also a joystick version available.
Arkanoid: Revenge of Doh (aka Arkanoid 2) is the sequel to Taito‘s hit game Arkanoid and was released into arcades in 1987.
It takes the ‘bat and ball’ genre (aka the ‘Breakout‘ genre) to previously unheard of levels of both playability and difficulty, and it also managed to influence a lot of other games in the process.
Differences to Arkanoid include: Warp Gates which allow you to choose a direction to branch off in, after completing a level (left or right); new power-ups and enemy types; two new brick types; a mid-game mini boss; 64 levels in total, of which 32 are playable in any single game, before a boss battle with mighty Doh himself at the end (if you were wondering who the hell “Doh” was – he’s the end boss).
Revenge of Doh – like its parent – is devilishly difficult, but very compelling. To play the game properly you really need an analogue controller – otherwise you’re going to struggle to reach the ball with your bat in time. Get it set up right, and Arkanoid 2 is a challenge still worth undertaking today.
This game came out around the same time the 16-bit- home computer revolution was happening, so was converted to most home systems. The Atari ST conversion is particularly good.
Taito‘s Arkanoid was released into arcades in 1986 and did for bat and ball games (often referred to as Breakout clones) what Mario did for platform games. That is: revitalise them with new ideas and features.
The name “Arkanoid” refers to the ship that the player’s vessel – the “Vaus” – escapes from, which is shown in the introduction. Controlling the Vaus was by a dial, or paddle, on the cabinet, which allowed for quick, analogue movement of the bat. This was pretty much essential, because the ball speeds up the longer it is on-screen. Playing the game now, in MAME for example, the analogue controls are often switched to digital, which seriously hampers the player’s ability to move quickly. It pretty much ruins the game… So anyone wanting to play Arkanoid the way it should be played will have to switch the controls back to analogue and set them up to work with a mouse, a thumbstick, or an actual paddle.
The aim of the game is to clear every screen, either by bouncing the ball up at the blocks, by shooting them, or by picking up a falling capsule that opens up the next level. Fail to return the ball up the screen and you lose one of your bats. Lose all your bats and it’s game over.
Arkanoid is colourful, compelling, and very challenging. The game has stood the test of time well and has also been very influential over the decades. An even better sequel – Arkanoid: Revenge of Doh – was released in 1987.
Lasso is an obscure arcade game, developed and manufactured by SNK Corporation in 1982. In it you play a rancher/cowboy trying to round-up his cattle with a rope.
The game generously gives you an opportunity to practise throwing the lasso at the beginning with a “warm-up” screen. Then you have to catch loose sheep and shoot fireballs at attacking wolves… Ah, you can’t make this stuff up… Let a wolf or any of your cattle touch you, though, and you lose a life. Lose all three lives and it’s game over.
If you complete the sheep level, it’s then onto the cow level at a slightly harder difficulty; then the horse level. And so on. Extra hazards, like fire(?) breathing lizards, also become more frequent as the stages progress.
Lasso is basic at best. Like Food Fight and Domino Man it is a video game idea that doesn’t really work that well in practise, but probably sounded good on paper. It’s fun for a short while, though.
Sega‘s Pengo is an arcade classic from 1982 and is a block-pushing maze game starring a cute penguin called – you guessed it – Pengo.
Pengo must push the ice blocks around to squash the Sno-Bees, while at the same time avoiding any contact with them. He can also push the diamond blocks together, which stuns and makes the Sno-Bees vulnerable for a short period of time. And one other ability he has is to ‘push’ and the perimeter fence to stun any Sno-Bees chasing him (and once stunned they can be killed by walking over them).
Pengo is both visually and sonically appealing, and also very challenging. Like many early arcade games: it’s no kid’s game, even if it might look like one.
Another classic from Sega‘s early catalogue, Pengo and has been re-released and re-made a number of times, so remains popular to this day.
Millipede is a direct sequel to Atari‘s Centipede and was first distributed into video game arcades in 1982.
It’s basically the same trackball-controlled gameplay as before, but with a few changes and enhancements.
You control a small elf (yes, an elf – called Archer) who can move anywhere within a small area at the bottom of the screen. Millipedes – long, multi-sectioned insects – move side to side and down the screen, turning when they hit a mushroom (or the side of the screen). What this basically means is that hitting mushrooms makes the millipede move down the screen quicker, so shooting the mushrooms and removing them from the millipede’s path helps keep it higher up the screen for longer. The ‘elf’ fires constantly if you hold the fire button down, but – crucially – he will not fire another bullet until the last one has gone. So shooting becomes tactical at certain times.
Differences to Centipede include: DDT bombs that can be shot once and will kill any insects caught in the blast radius; a bonus level where a swarm of bees replace the usual millipede; the choice of whether to start at an advance level before the game starts; and the introduction of a variety of new enemy bugs. The millipede itself also moves faster than the centipede in the previous game, which makes it harder to hit.
Millipede is a fast and enjoyable shooter from the early days of video game arcades. It’s also been converted to many home systems and is still popular today. Considering that it’s been 37 years since it’s release, that is quite remarkable.