I’m probably dating myself quite a bit, but does anyone else remember the Commodore 64? This was a sweet and fancy little machine that pioneered and dominated the PC market in the 80s. IBM and Apple came first, but Commodore came harder. Uh, never mind.
Anyway, the brown and tan “breadbox” was a big part of my childhood. It was released in ’82, but hey, I was only born in ’81, so my recollections of the system probably start somewhere around ’87. My first association with it was due to the family business. No, we didn’t use it to keep track of how many kneecaps we had broken, we used it for… Well, I don’t remember what it was used it for. I’m sure there were some facts and figures and data and bookkeeping and spreadsheets involved though because that’s how you run a business!
The World Famous Commodore 64 Blue Load Screen
Now we didn’t have many games for the system. I was all about the Nintendo Entertainment System back in my misspent youth. But the C64 was a close second. Forget about the fact that the Commodore 64 had games that were tougher to beat than a World War II draft. And speaking of world wars…
While being shoveled off to the family business to spend the day there just sitting around, what did I look forward to most? No, not going across the street to the convenience store and getting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles popsicles—although they were delicious. No, no, I liked to sit down with a cold and refreshing can of Sprite from the vending machine inside the shop (which always had a unique taste due in some part to that particular soda machine) and heading to the back and playing Blue Max!
Just take a look at that cover! Are you caught up in the EXCITEMENT yet ?!? There’s freakin’ sperm jumping up from the ground at you! If that’s not a game worth playing, then I don’t own a Richard Marx CD. This game was great, you had your machine gun to *try* take out of other planes, but the problem was you had to match your altitude with theirs to do it, and if you were skilled enough to do that, you probably ended up smashing into each other anyway. Oh well. The best part was dropping bombs on these sick perverted SOBs. Warships, bridges, tanks, runways, buildings, innocent moving vehicles… just destroy it! Factoring in how much damage your plane had taken and where, your fuel could run out quickly or your wings may get damaged thus causing you difficulties in piloting. This is considered by many to be one of C64’s best, and I can’t disagree.
The next game that I have early C64 memories of would be Zork. Or more importantly, “Zork I: The Great Underground Empire”. Now there’s actually a version just called “Zork I”, but why there is no great underground empire in that game, I’ll never know. Did the empire crumble? Was it yet to be a force to be reckoned? Thoughts like these keep me awake at night and stuck in the 80’s. Anyway, this game was text-based. Yes, forget all about your Xbox360 or PS3 or spiffy PC graphics card– Zork comes from a time when men were men and women knew their place and all fantasy-based games were in TEXT format. Just like radio, you had to use your imagination.
What a creepy coverbox!
The game had a humorous slant (at times), but I must confess as child roaming dark cellars, fighting trolls, and being warned of being eaten by a “grue”… Well, I was a little bit frightened! Maybe it’s because I was so young when playing it, but there’s a definite eeriness to the game. And how ANYONE was ever able to beat it I’ll never know. I couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to go and at first sight of the thief hanging around in the caves, I always attacked him. And he always killed me. Oh well, that’s what walkthrough guides are for! YES, in the Year of Our Lord, two-thousand and six, I have mastered Zork I: The Great Underground Empire! It took me almost 20 years, but I just hate having failed at defeating any game I own. Stick it, Infocom.
But wait—there’s more! In what was to become a lifelong affair with comic books (aka- “sequential art” for you high society types), I got an early taste of Marvel Comics with two games: Doctor Doom’s Revenge and X-Men: Madness in Murderworld. I enjoyed the heck out of Doctor Doom’s Revenge. You alternated each scene playing as Spider-Man & Captain America. I guess they were trying to seize Dr. Doom’s castle because that’s where all the action takes place. Shouldn’t it have been called ‘The Revenge of Spider-Man & Captain America’ then? To call it ‘Doctor Doom’s Revenge’ seems to imply he had a plan and was actively pursuing these Marvel icons, but he wasn’t. He was just kickin’ it in his Latverian castle and the fact that Cap & Spidey showed up was incredible luck on his part. But Doom always has a plan. Always. He really throws everything but the kitchen sink at you in this game! Gorilla robots, regular robots (sorry, no extra crispy robots), Rhino, Batroc the Leaper, and some guy called Machete (who carries a… wait for it… machete). Now, in my over 15+ years of reading comics, I’ve yet to ever hear of or see Machete, besides in this game. His costume is a total rip-off of the old Doctor Octopus green & yellow spandex. Maybe this was the best Doc Doom could do considering Spidey & Cap showed up out of the blue? Never beat this one game, it was like running the gauntlet. The fights were incredibly tough and an exercise in button-mashing and even if you did win a battle against a villain, you always carried on with the damage dealt to you. That’s fine in real life, but this is a GAME! Where are the power-ups? The mysteriously refilled health bars? I did enjoy the comic book cutscenes though.
If Batroc the Leaper and a robot gorilla are giving you trouble, maybe it’s time to retire, Cap…
So THIS is the cause of the apes coming to power on our planet!
X-Men: Madness in Murderworld is quite a different “beast”, hehe. Sure it features the classic Claremont/Byrne line-up, but what the heck are you supposed to do? I never got past the first level! There’s all these commands on the screen but I couldn’t even figure out how to open the darn door to get into Murderworld! How can I get in on the madness if I can’t find the key?! How can I find the key if I don’t get in on the madness?! Anyway, I was probably just stupid at the time and that’s why I couldn’t figure it out. But, I loved the idea of playing as the X-Men and the manual came with some cool illustrations and bios of the featured characters and it also had a comic book based on the game included as well. I wish I still had that comic, it’s probably worth some $$$ these days. A quick eBay search confirms it being sold for $10 and it had art by Mark Bagley. Awesome!
The final game we owned, and the one that got the most play from me, was Family Feud. What an awesome game and it still beats every single other video game variation of Family Feud. The great thing was that it was so easy to be get first response during the face-off; all you had to do was hit the spacebar. I hit it without even reading the question first. I would play this game for hours. You would be asked to enter your family name and I’d type stuff like ‘WWF’, ‘X-Men’, and ‘Avengers’, and ‘JLA’. Then you’d get the game calling your family members names like ‘Dad X-Men’ or ‘Brother X-Men’. It was great! This game was always challenging, and it’s what I like about the Feud in general, you can dominate in the early rounds, but all it takes is a few wrong answers and the competing family could win the whole game. I just played a few games of this last night and I still love it. The questions and even answers are definitely outdated in this day and age. One survey asks you to name fuel companies, some are easy (Shell, Texaco, Exxon), but for others I had to think about the 80s because some aren’t even around anymore and one of the companies I had never even heard of. Needless to say, since the game was made in 1984, by the time I was playing it somewhere around 1990, some of the answers on the board left me scratching my head. My only question is this… what are The Simpsons doing on the game?!
Check out this old C64 commercial and feel… the… POWER !!