Following its drawn out demise in the early 1990s, as 8-bit personal computers started heading to garbage scrap piles all around the world, the Commodore 64 gaming scene laid somewhat dormant for a number of years before enthusiastic hobbyist programmers started to pick up the classic 8-bit personal computer again and create new titles for it.
While C64 enthusiasts have been blessed to receive numerous quality new games for their beloved machine for well over the past decade, it wasn’t not until 2018 where the scene was well reignited again with barely a week going by without some form of new C64 title being released. While most of these, were small freeware titles, there were quite a number of commercial games that received full ‘AAA’ title type treatment providing C64 game collectors with high grade, professional packaging featuring lots of extra goodies such CD soundtracks, badges, postcards and posters. Most importantly, many of these commercial titles provided quality production values and engaging game-play that would have made them a classic if there were released 30 years ago. Let’s take a look at some of the more notable releases for 2018.
Aviator Arcade II is the latest vertical shoot-em up to be released for the Commodore 64 looking to provide players with a console quality arcade experience on a classic 8-Bit home computer. Featuring game graphics that are both bright and very clear, moving your chopper around feels seamless and game scrolling is quite smooth. The shooting game play on offer is quite good without it being spectacular but the constant reveal of new enemy types and background all wrapped up within an intriguing story that reveals itself as you progress through the game ensures that the player is constantly engage on the blasting action.
While Aviator Arcade II only features 10 levels, the gradual increase in difficulty and the hectic nature of some of the end of level battles should ensure that even the best players out there will need to spend some time before they complete the game. End to end, you will find that there is over 30 minutes of blasting action on offer. Aviator Arcade II does not necessarily bring anything new to the shoot-em up genre but it does provide an overall high quality gaming experience
Development by Achim Volkers / Trevor Storey / Saul Cross
Released by Psytronik Software
Organism starts off with one of the most atmospheric and cinematic introduction screens seen on the Commodore 64. The scenes depict a military grade transport container on 6-month journey through space where you, the first crew member to awake from hyper-sleep detects an alien breach on board and you are ordered to abort the mission, contain the spread of the dangerous organism on board, destroy all evidence and set off the self-destruct sequence before jumping into one of the ship’s escape pods to safety.
This sci-fi arcade action adventure game, inspired by the movie Aliens, has you exploring the decks of the doomed transport ship and trying to find a means of escape by finding pass-keys, data disks and terminals that will give you access to other areas on the ship. Be wary of crew-members that may have been infected by something that is lurking on the ship…something that you must evade or destroy at all costs!
Organism’s high production values do a great job to grab your attention and make you feel like you are about to play something epic but the shooter element of the game lacks depth and only those that love exploration type games will be able to obtain the most from the game.
Development by Lasse Oorni
Released by Psytronik Software
Steel Ranger is a 2D platform shooter for the Commodore 64 that takes inspiration from classic games from its genre such as Turrican and Metroid. You are traveling on a military patrol ship on its way to investigate a mysterious signal in the shape of an Omega symbol coming from a barren planet when your craft comes under enemy barrage, crashing down on the planet surface. Equipped with a Ranger self-charging armor suit, it is up to you to find the Omega symbol and destroy whoever it is that doesn’t want you around.
Featuring a large game map with 17 distinct environments, Steel Ranger strikes the right balance between shooting and exploration, it never gets dull. The game moves around smoothly at a very good pace thanks to its high quality scrolling and your Ranger character is very well animated and defined. Each of the different sections within the game world are quite distinct in their aesthetic and enemy types, providing plenty of variety to keep the gamer engaged as they progress through to the deeper sections.
Steel Ranger is a highly enjoyable experience that reminds us how good 2D shooter a platform game can be. High production values, large game world, absorbing game play, and steady pacing make it a must play game.
Development by Carl-Henrik Skarstedt / Stein Pedersen / Ole-Marius Pettersen
Released by Protovision
Space Moguls is a turn-based strategy game for the Commodore 64 that can be best be described as a modern day tribute to the cult classic M.U.L.E. Four players (human or AI) partake in a game of engrossing resource management play with elements of economic principles with each game comprising of a specified number of rounds (with 16 being the maximum) and each round being broken up into 4 broad phases: Land Grant, Development, Production and Trading.
Random events, along with the unique land distribution and item production of the 4 planets available to play on and the fact that the landscape for each planet is generated as the game starts, means you get a unique experience with every game. The game is brilliantly presented throughout with its thematic music soundtracks, bright and vivid graphics, nicely illustrated introduction screen, ability to choose from 8 different characters to play and its amusing end game ranking ceremony.
Those looking for fast paced action will need to look elsewhere but if you like some intellectual depth within your game then you can not go far wrong with Space Moguls.
Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis
Development by Stuart Collier / Trevor Storey / Saul Cross
Released by Psytronik Software
Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis is a platform adventure game with strong puzzle elements that sees you take on the role as Rocky with the ultimate goal of uncovering the secrets of Atlantis by collecting the 10 scrolls of knowledge hidden within temple within Northern Africa. To do so, you will need to explores the mysterious chambers of the tomb avoiding the hidden traps, dangerous creatures and deadly specters.
The Legend of Atlantis features a broad range of puzzles for you to solve, which typically involve finding an item and placing or using it in a specific spot. All through out the tomb, you will find cryptic clues on stone tablets to assist you. Paying attention to detail and searching everything in sight is the key to progressing through the game. Combining found items with wall switches, pedestals and statues will often result in a closed section of the temple opening.
Game design is the key to any successful puzzle platform game and the non-linear nature of the game play, along with clever and fair puzzles and a mid-game switch to a moonlight illumination mode, transforming the game to twice its size, all combine so well to produce a long enduring and enjoyable game. The Legend of Atlantis rewards you the longer you play by gradually opening up the game world to you and always giving you something new to see and has somewhat of an addictive nature to it that will not allow you to stop playing the game until you have completed it.
Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis was recently awarded the C64 Gamers’ Choice 2018 Award by RetroGamerNation followers.
The year 2018 will long be remembered as a watershed moment for Commodore 64 gaming and momentum into 2019 is equally as strong as the year has already started with a couple of confirmed new titles to be released in January. Nostalgia and looking back at the 1980s is great and all, but its the new game scene for the next decade that has me hooked onto my Commodore 64 these days.