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

Airball, Atari ST

Published by Microdeal in 1987, Airball is a weird and challenging isometric puzzle game where you play a bubble exploring a trap-ridden castle, looking for gems (which convert to a low number of points), and also looking for ‘Inflation Stations’ because the bloody stupid ball has a slow leak and needs to be constantly topped-up with air…

Touch anything dangerous and the bubble will pop, losing you a life. Lose all three lives and it’s game over. At least the pump stations also act like waypoints, so you return to the last one you visited if you die. At leastAirball is a tough game. Touch the wrong pixel and you’ll pop…

Airball on the Atari ST is slightly better than the Dragon 32 original. It just looks so much better and is more varied and playable. It’s still a relatively frustrating experience, although I am glad it exists! 🙂

More: Airball on Wikipedia

Airball, Dragon 32

Microdeal‘s isometric adventure/puzzle game Airball originated on the Dragon 32 in 1987. This is the original version.

It doesn’t look like much, with its (sub Knight Lore) monochrome graphics, but it plays okay. It’s frustrating to play in general. Mostly because of the premise, which is: you are a delicate bubble, exploring a large, trap-ridden castle for hidden treasures (for measly points too – it’s hardly worth it). Touch anything even remotely spikey and you go “pop!”. You also have a slow leak so must find pump stations to keep the air topped-up. As if the game wasn’t difficult enough…

I had multiple goes over the space of a couple of hours and the most I ever scored was 15 points. I think you get one point for each item of treasure… The measly bloody programmer! 🙂

Thankfully, Airball was converted to other systems and proved a bit more interesting than this Dragon 32 version. The Atari ST version of Airball is much better.

More: Airball on Wikipedia

Bank Buster, Atari ST

Programmed by M. Pezzotta and published by Methodic Solutions in 1988, Bank Buster is an obscure, single-player Arkanoid clone in which you break into a bank by tunnelling underground.

Bank Buster is a strange idea, but somehow works quite well. It certainly had me captivated for a few hours, even though my first impressions of the game were not that favourable.

Graphically, the game is adequate – arguably a little rough around the edges – but, gameplay-wise, it seems to have something compelling about it that isn’t easy to pinpoint.

The idea is to bounce a ball upwards into the underground soil, which removes it, eventually opening up a hole into the next screen. You then bounce the ball into the next screen and follow it, repeating the process until you reach the bank’s vault. “You” being a bat with a pair of eyes underneath (and in a nice touch the eyes constantly follow the position of the ball).

Like Arkanoid, the bat can collect power-ups to give it extra abilities, such as spawning extra balls, or allowing it to fire upwards. Unlike Arkanoid, this has various bank-robbing tools scattered around the various screens which you collect for points, and to open up previously locked doors.

When you near the vault itself, extra hazards start popping up, such as robots and alarm bells, and your ultimate aim is to avoid them and reach the treasures inside.

If you like bat and ball games, Bank Buster is worth searching out. It’s sufficiently different to other bat and ball games out there, and has a certain je ne sais quoi about it that makes it worth playing. Just don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed.

More: Bank Buster on Moby Games

Lasso, Arcade

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.

More: Lasso on arcade-history.com

Karnov, ZX Spectrum

The ZX Spectrum conversion of the Data East arcade game, Karnov, is a good example of a decent arcade conversion on the Spectrum.

The graphics are colourful, well-drawn, and avoid colour clash by using a black masking effect around the sprites. It’s quite a clever technique that works very well in this game.

Gameplay-wise: Karnov is an unforgiving arcade game, and this Spectrum conversion is marginally easier than its parent, helped in a perverse way by the frequent slowdown. It’s reasonable fun though and worth digging out if you like challenging platformers.

More: Karnov on Wikipedia

Revolution, ZX Spectrum

Costa Panayi‘s Revolution was published by U.S. Gold in 1986. It is an isometric puzzle/action game with well-designed, monochrome graphics and a bouncing ball that you control around a series of rooms, levels, and puzzles.

Holding down the fire button makes the ball bounce higher and you must manoeuvre it towards a series of black cubes in order to touch them. Touching these cubes turns them white temporarily, and you have to keep touching them until they turn white simultaneously. Each puzzle has two associated cubes and each level has a number of different puzzles. When you complete every puzzle on a level you ascend to the next level, and there are nine levels in total.

You start with five lives and lose one if you fall off the edge into the abyss, or hit a spiked ball, or any of the other nasties trying to thwart your progress. You’re also up against a time limit.

Revolution is typical Costa Panayi – beautifully-designed, simple, but interesting and playable. It won’t appeal to everyone, but if you like unusual puzzle/action games then there’s some mileage to be had with this classic ZX Spectrum game.

More: Revolution on Wikipedia

Rotox, Atari ST

Rotox was published by U.S. Gold in 1990. It is an obscure-but-interesting overhead robot shooter, with flat, polygonal platforms suspended over an infinite drop. Which you must of course avoid falling into.

Your robot stays positioned in the same place on-screen as you move, with the landscape moving around it. This does restrict your view, but it doesn’t seem to hamper the game at all. Some platforms rotate, or move in other patterns, so you have to carefully time your advances to avoid falling off the edge to your doom.

Each large level is divided into nine segments and you have to explore each segment individually, blasting away at pesky enemies, and picking up power-ups and upgrades as you go. At first the segments are all visibly connected and you can attempt each one at your leisure, but later levels restrict access to some segments and force you to attempt them in a certain order, which makes the game more challenging. The platform configurations become quite complex from the second level onwards, and by the third level you’ll have to deal with crazily-animated platforms to stay in the game.

Rotox is challenging and reasonably fun for a while. It’s not a patch on something like the overhead sections in Contra on the SNES, which are very similar to this in gameplay terms, but it is a decent ‘hidden gem’ on the humble ST nonetheless.

Rotox was also released for the Amiga and PC DOS.

Final note: I read a review of this online that said the name Rotox came from the use of ‘rotoscoping’ in the game, which is complete and utter BS. There is no rotoscoping in this game. None. Whatsoever. The name Rotoxand I’m taking an educated guess here – actually comes from the rotating control method in the game. Not rotoscoping.

More: Rotox on Moby Games

Eye of the Storm, PC

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.

More: Rebellion on Wikipedia
More: Eye of the Storm on Mobygames