Kokotoni Wilf, Commodore 64

Of the three versions of Kokotoni Wilf released by Elite Systems, the Commodore 64 version is arguably the worst.

It was published in 1984 to a userbase already familiar with excellent games, and was viewed as something of an insult to Commodore 64 gaming, even back then.

Like the Spectrum original, the aim is to guide Kokotoni Wilf – a magician’s assistant with wings on his back – through a tortuous maze of dangers, in order to collect pieces of an amulet for his master.

Also like the Spectrum original; the graphics are pathetic. Even more so on the Commodore 64, which does have some fairly elevated capabilities over Sir Clive‘s humble machine, and fails to use any of the them to impress the player. That said: I don’t think it looks quite as bad as the Amstrad version

Unlike the Spectrum original, the Commodore 64 version has an in-game tune. A hilariously out-of-place rendition of “Consider Yourself” from the musical, Oliver. Let’s just say that it does little to enhance the game and swiftly move on…

Every version of this game has its own version of the flying mechanic and they all centre around trying to cheat gravity. The mechanic in this version makes controlling Wilf feel like you’re flying a bloody bumblebee at times… It certainly doesn’t look or feel very convincing…

Ultimately the main over-riding feeling you get from playing Kokotoni Wilf on the C64 is that you are wasting your precious time on a game that is not very good. 🙂

More: Kokotoni Wilf on Wikipedia

Kokotoni Wilf, Amstrad CPC

Compared to the Spectrum original, Amstrad Kokotoni Wilf is pretty ugly. The developers have chosen a dark blue background with green caves, and the odd splash of colour in the (very flickery) sprites and landscape decorations. The graphics are very poor in my opinion.

Controlling Wilf is more a matter of luck than judgement. He zips around the screen semi-uncontrollably, trying to pick up pieces of an amulet, and – rather annoyingly – getting stuck on the landscape all the time. So much so that you have to factor in getting stuck on the landscape as part of your survival strategy.

Gaps – through which you might never think you would fit – are seemingly the only way of progressing, and – when Wilf dies – the controls are so over-responsive (and the game so eager to continue) that you can easily kill him a number of times in a row if you’re not careful. So you have to quickly remember to stop using the controls when he dies…

These kind of dodgy “features” are from the primordial days of video gaming – ie. when everything was archaic and unfair, and no one knew any better at the time… Well, some did, but most fledgling video game designers hadn’t learned how to make their games fair yet…

So, is Amstrad Kokotoni Wilf worth a play today? No, not really. By the Amstrad CPC‘s standards it’s a pretty poor game. Whether it’s worse than the awful Commodore 64 version or not is open to debate.

More: Kokotoni Wilf on Wikipedia

Kokotoni Wilf, ZX Spectrum

A leading contender for the game with the silliest name of all-time, Kokotoni Wilf is an early platform action game with you in the role of the titular Mr. Wilf.

The back story is about a magician, called Ulrich, who is trying to reassemble a broken Dragon Amulet in order to keep some dangerous dragons in check. But Ulrich realises that he is too old to go out adventuring himself to collect the pieces, so he sends his assistant out to get them instead, and that assistant is you – Mr. Kokotoni Wilf.

To help ‘Toni’ (as his friends sometimes call him), Ulrich creates a pair of wings on his back, and these help him fly around. Which in turn makes it easier for him to reach these broken pieces of amulet. “Easier” being a euphemism for “near, but not quite, impossible”.

What Ulrich doesn’t tell you is that your journey to collect these amulet pieces is going to take you on an adventure through time and space, which is why later stages of the game appear to be set in ‘present day’ London (a very shonky 8-bit version of London, it has to be said), and also far further into the future (into a future with dodgy 8-bit graphic representations of overhead monorails and space ports).

The original ZX Spectrum version of Kokotoni Wilf is not a bad game, although – looking at it now – it hasn’t aged particularly well. Compared to, say, the atrocious Commodore 64 and Amstrad versions of this game, it still plays reasonably well and can deliver some fun.

In all versions of Kokotoni Wilf it is a matter of getting used to the rather dodgy and archaic control system. Flying Wilf around is more luck than judgement at times, and even if you think you’ve got a handle on it, you can easily bite the dust very quickly, lose all your lives, and end up back at the beginning again.

More: Kokotoni Wilf on Wikipedia

Zolyx, Commodore 64

Written by Hungarian coder Zoltán Tass and published by Firebird in 1987, Zolyx is a variation on the ‘painting game’ theme, made popular by the classic arcade game, Qix.

Zolyx is similar to Qix in that you control a ‘dot’ which can be used to draw boxes inside the playing area by extending out from the edge, and returning back to the edge, to close the connection.

Depending on the difficulty level, a certain number of enemy pixels bounce around the inside of the playing field. If one of these bouncing pixels hits your line (or your ‘dot’), you lose a life. You can, however, if you’re quick, draw a box around an enemy pixel and trap it for extra points.

Also – unlike Qix (and in a genius moment of game design brilliance) – enemy dots also bounce around the ‘positive space’ that you’re drawing, making avoiding them even more difficult (especially at higher levels when there are more enemy pixels bouncing around).

You’re essentially drawing positive space inside negative space, and the bouncing dots threaten you inside both spaces.

Zolyx is a simple game but is great fun, highly addictive, and very challenging.

More: Zolyx on Moby Games

Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, Commodore 64

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!

More: Ghouls ‘N Ghosts on Wikipedia

Defender of the Crown, Commodore 64

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.

Considering that the game has effectively been converted from the 16-bit Amiga original, down to the 8-bit Commodore 64, it must rank as one of the best conversions of all time.

Part Risk; part Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Defender of the Crown is where castles, strategy and cinematics meet – 8-bit retro style.

Also on The King of Grabs: Cinemaware Week

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defender_of_the_Crown

Pyracurse, ZX Spectrum

An involving, multi-character isometric adventure set in an Egyptian tomb, Pyracurse was written by Mark Goodall and Keith Prosser and published by Hewson in 1986.

You take control of a party of four (a woman, two men, and a dog…), on a rescue mission to find a lost scientist. Each character has individual strengths and weaknesses. Frozbie the dog, for example, can dig up buried items. Very useful in certain situations.

Controlling the characters is done via the little red little menu at the bottom of the screen and either joystick or keys. You choose a character and put them into “mobile mode”, then you can take them for a manual walk. Items found when wandering around can be picked up by simply walking over them. An inventory is also accessible via the small, red menu.

A variety of monsters patrol the tomb. Some will chase any of the party members on sight, while others will only activate when approached. Each character has their own life bar and will snuff it if it reaches zero. Exploring can be quite tense for a tiny little 48K game… That’s what made Pyracurse a critical hit at the time, and still makes it worth a play now.

More: Pyracurse on Wikipedia

Movie, Amstrad CPC

Duško Dimitrijevic ‘s brilliant isometric adventure, Movie, translates exceptionally well to the Amstrad CPC, as can be seen from these screenshots.

The game is essentially identical to the ZX Spectrum original although the extra colour does make a big difference.

What I would liked to have seen were 16-bit conversions later, but those never materialised.

More: Movie on Wikipedia

Movie, ZX Spectrum

A legendary ZX Spectrum game, designed and programmed by Duško Dimitrijevic and published by Imagine Software in 1986.

Movie is an isometric action/adventure in the style of Knight Lore, and it utilises a Marlow-esque ‘Film Noir’ type setting. It’s basically a detective story where you have to solve simple puzzles by using conversations and item manipulation.

What really made Movie stand out back in the day were the graphics, which are beautifully designed and stylised – a true work of 8-bit pixel artistry that still hold up today.

The rudimentary physics that underpin the game are impressive – for a 48K game. The gameplay is held back a little by the slowdown, and this is common with isometric games on the Spectrum, although the programmer seems to have compensated for this and it doesn’t mar the game too much.

Deciphering Movie‘s secrets is not easy, but it is worth a go, and using a walkthrough will help not waste time. As will learning how to use the game’s built-in text parser.

An arguably better Amstrad CPC version was also released the same year. No other conversions exist (outside of maybe homebrew), that I’m aware of.

More: Movie on Wikipedia

Cauldron, Commodore 64

Palace Software‘s 1985 release Cauldron is one of those game that looks great, but is so difficult that it is not much fun to play overall.

If you play the game without cheats, you’ll need superhuman powers to get anywhere. And – even if you play the game with cheats – it’s liable to send you potty with frustration.

You play a witch who flies around on a broom and must find four keys allowing her access to a number of hidden chambers, each containing a special item needed to beat the evil Pumpkin Lord who resides at the end of the quest.

That would be simple enough, if it wasn’t for the game’s strange and archaic (and very annoying) mechanics. For example: the witch – once flying – can only land in clearings. Trying to land on trees or mountains results in the loss of one ‘Hag’. Positioning the witch so that she lines-up with the clearings is, frankly, ridiculous. What I mean by that is: the process the programmer chose for this is ridiculous. It doesn’t work, is confusing, unfair, and… well, stupid. Had a bit more thought (and fairness) gone into that particular feature, then the game would almost certainly have been better.

Other annoyances are: being attacked from behind while flying and not being able to do anything about it; having to make ‘blind jumps’ into new screens; getting trapped in dead ends; unfair platform collision detection… The list goes on. Cauldron very firmly comes from a time when a lot of home computer game developers didn’t care about making their games fair…

Which is a real pity because Cauldron looks amazing. The scrolling is silky smooth; the sprites are great; the graphics overall are beautifully-drawn. Don’t be fooled, though. Cauldron is a bastard of a game and only hacking can save it.

A better sequel – Cauldron II: The Pumpkin Strikes Back – followed in 1986.

More: Cauldron on Wikipedia