Another visitor. Stay awhile…stay FOREVER!!!!
Those sinister words, spoken by the maniacal Professor Elvin Atombender, welcome players to the perilous world of Impossible Mission. Released for the Commodore 64 in 1984, the game has long been regarded as one of the finest titles created for the system.
The game pits you, as Secret Agent 4125, against Professor Atombender and his army of killer robots. According to the dossier provided in the game’s manual, key military computers have been accessed across the world. Atombender is attempting to gain the codes to launch an attack that will annihilate civilization. You mission:
“You must penetrate Elvin’s underground strong hold and stop him. To succeed, you will have to evade the scientist’s robot guards, break his security code and find his control center. Your predecessors, Agents 4116 and 4124 (may they rest in peace), were able to send back some information about Elvin’s installation. It is detailed in the following pages.
Your only weapons will be your keen analytical mind and your MIA9366B pocket computer. Good luck. The world is depending on you.”
To play the game, you navigate your character through a series of rooms and hallways, taking an elevator to different levels. Each room contains items to search, platforms to take you to different levels in the room, enemies (which include killer robots and an electrified attack orb), and computers that allow you to reset the platforms or freeze the robots. There is no limit to the number of times you can die in the game, but you are given a total of six hours to complete your mission, and ten minutes are deducted from the timer each time you die. To beat the game, you must collect 36 puzzle pieces and then arrange them in the proper sequence to gain the password which gives you access to Atombender’s control center.
Gameplay is hard enough to keep it entertaining, but not so hard as to induce rage quitting (well…at least not much rage quitting). The adventure style gaming found in the puzzle elements mixes well with the platformer features. The location and placement of rooms is randomized, and there are eight possible passwords that can be discovered to unlock Atombender’s control center, giving the game good replay ability.
At the time of its release, the game was relatively novel in its use of digitized voices. It was not the first game to use speech. Stratovox and Berzerk (both released in 1980) used synthesized speech, as did Wizard of Wor (released in 1980) and Gorf (1981). Intellivoice for Intellivision provided speech synthesis for games like Space Spartans, B-17 Bomber, and Tron: Solar Sailer (all released in 1982). Still, speech in video games was a new enough concept in 1984 that it became a distinguishing feature of Impossible Mission.
The voice for Impossible Mission was provided by Electronic Speech Systems. The company traced its roots back to the 1970s when physicist Forrest Mozer patented the first integrated circuit speech synthesizer. In the 80s, the company began working with Commodore to give voice to games like Impossible Mission and Ghostbusters. The process worked by recording a human voice before converting it to binary code and then compressing it. This method minimized the amount of memory required for the operation and required no special hardware. The sound then played back through the Commodore 64’s SID (Sound Interface) chip.
Despite this technology, speech was still fairly sparse. In fact, there were only six “spoken” lines in the entire game, and two were just sounds (Agent 4125 screaming as he fell to his death and the laughter of Atombender), but it made good use of its limited audio. For anyone who played the game, it’s hard to forget Elvin Atombender’s sinister command:
“Destroy him my robots!”
A complete walkthrough of the game can be viewed here: