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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Commodore 64 Reviews B

All Commodore reviews were submitted by special VGC correspondent The C64 Critic

Beach Head II: The Dictator Strikes Back
Grade: C-
Publisher: Access Software (1985)
Posted: 2023/4/7

screenshot
Beach Head 2 No, this game has nothing to do with that time you took your girlfriend to Ocean City for Senior Week (editor's note: inappropriate!). This lesser-known sequel to Beach-Head (Access Software, 1983) follows the same mini-game formula, except instead of dislodging a dictator from power, this time the dictator is attempting to dislodge you from his beloved island.

The first mini-game has you manning a machine gun at the bottom of the screen as airborne soldiers are dropped across the top. They scurry towards two walls for protection as you attempt to ruthlessly mow them down. Your gun sight moves more quickly when you're not firing, so it pays to go light on the "pew-pew" until you have a good shot. Enemy soldiers advance upon your position by moving from one wall to the next, and will attempt to blow it up with a well-placed grenade.

I was initially confused by the second screen, which rendered my joystick unresponsive. I instinctively grabbed the second joystick, which I keep plugged into the "other" joystick port, and suddenly I was back in control! The C64 is notorious for the annoyingly random nature of which port you need to be using. I have no clue why this happens, but be aware you may need to quick-swap between screens!

Once that was sorted out I realized I needed to protect individual soldiers running across the screen as enemies attempted to kill them. This requires almost constant shooting. No sooner do you eliminate one threat (like a soldier throwing bombs from a wall) than another appears, like a tank bearing down on a grunt, attempting to run him over. Wait, isn’t that against the Geneva Convention!? This stage boasts the single best voice synthesis of the entire game; as your soldier is run down by a tank, he unleashes this drawn-out, dramatic, almost Wilhelmian scream!

After getting my first three or four soldiers across (or killed), I checked to see how many more I had to go. SIXTEEN!?!? Therein lies the problem with this game: the levels take too damn long. It was as if the developers were compensating for the game's length by extending each mini-game to painful lengths.

The third screen is my favorite as you pilot a helicopter up a vertically-scrolling battlefield. You're attempting to fly hostages out of harm's way as enemies try to take you down. Tricky at first, it's not bad once you learn to "never stop moving side-to-side."

Sadly, the final confrontation is the weakest part of the game. You and the dictator find yourselves on opposite sides of a river. Moving up and down on your ledges, you throw knives at each other. The first to hit the other four times wins one round, but get this: there are NINE FREAKIN’ ROUNDS! Do the math; that's a lot of stab wounds!

Beach Head II's graphics are good and its audio is GREAT. High scores saved to disk to be preserved for future generations. I sort of get the impression these stages were outtakes from the original, but when all is said and done, you can never really get enough Beach-Head. That's what she... oh nevermind. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Beach-Head
Grade: B
Publisher: Access Software (1983)
Posted: 2012/3/1

screenshotEssentially a set of five mini-games, Beach-Head offers a fairly easy and quick way to get your fix. The goal is to move your military force to a beach and then defeat an evil dictator by destroying his fortress. You begin the game with a flotilla of ships at the top-left of a strategic map. You can opt to either head straight for the beach or "sneak" closer to the shore. If you choose to sneak up, you'll have to navigate your ten ships, one by one, through a treacherous waterway filled with mines and torpedoes. Difficult at first, it becomes much easier with practice and is my preferred approach.

If you take the direct route, you'll begin by fending off enemy planes using your AA gun. You must train your gun on approaching fighters and attempt to destroy them as they strafe your ships. Occasionally there's a patrol plane you can shoot down for extra points, not unlike the UFO in Space Invaders. It can feel like you're spending forever on this screen. Next you'll find yourself engaged in a battle with the enemy fleet itself, as large guns fire at you from their decks. Using feedback such as "1300 meters long", you gradually raise or lower your own gun to destroy their ships.

After sending the enemy fleet to Davy Jones Locker, you finally move onto the beach itself. Here is where your previous skills either pay off or leave you hurting. Each ship carries two tanks, and the last thing you want is to start your land attack with only two or four tanks! Your tanks move from left to right over a scrolling landscape filled with walls, trenches, things that look like mailboxes, and the occasional enemy.

Touching anything is deadly and the collision detection is unforgiving. At the far end of this obstacle course is the fortress with a large gun emplacement at the top. Hit all ten targets on the fortress to destroy it and win the game. You even see a little white flag waved from the top, suggesting this may have been a French beach (wait, never mind, these guys actually put up some resistance).

It usually took me three times reaching the fortress before I could destroy it, but if you're really good you can probably do it in two. You can play with two players, but there's no co-op of any kind. The top ten scores of all time are saved to disk, giving you extended bragging rights and something to aim for in the future. A bug I discovered lets you run up your score by continually shooting the displayed point value of any enemy destroyed in the tank screen. As my son discovered, that same bug will kill you if your tank runs into the score before it disappears. That dictator is one sneaky bastard! © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Beyond Castle Wolfenstein
Grade: C+
Publisher: Muse Software (1984)
Posted: 2012/3/1

screenshotWhile generally frowned upon in our society, the remorseless killing of two particular sub-classes of people has become not only acceptable but actually encouraged. Obviously we're talking about zombies and Nazis. Beyond Castle Wolfenstein lets you get your fill of the latter, allowing you to blow up Hitler himself as icing on the cake. You begin in a room in a three-story bunker, alone with only 10 bullets, 100 Marks, and some random number of passes.

Your goal is to walk from room to room until you find a bomb hidden in a closet. You then need to stealthily deliver it just outside where the Fuhrer himself is holding a meeting (always on the third level). The game plays from a top-down perspective, and as you walk around you will be challenged by guards to show a pass. You must guess which pass is used for each level of the bunker, and you get two chances to get it right. If you show two wrong passes in a row, the guards will attack you and/or set off a bunker-wide alarm. You can use your Marks to bribe them if you aren't sure which pass is the correct one and don't want to risk it.

My favorite tactic is to figure out the correct pass number, show it to the guards, and then stab them in the back as they walk away. This way I don't have to deal with them on the way back, and stabbing them helps preserve my limited number of bullets. Searching closets reveals tools, keys, first aid kits, bullets, etc., and of course, the bomb. Once you find it, you need to make your way to where Hitler is holding his meeting, leave the bomb outside the door of the conference room, and head back to your starting location as quickly as possible.

Once the bomb explodes alarms go off and guards will attack you on sight. The graphics are pretty sparse and the sound minimal, but it was one of the first games to incorporate not only synthesized speech but synthesized German speech! Although you'd think it would get old, I never got tired of hearing "Halt!", "kommen sie!", "aus pass?", or best of all the incredibly high-pitched girlish scream when I drove my dagger home (hey, they're Nazi's for cryin' out loud!)

While highly motivated to finish the game, after I blew up Hitler and his cronies my enthusiasm for a second go-round at a higher difficulty level was lacking. It's pretty fun to play through once, but the random bunker generator notwithstanding it seems like just more of the same. I highly recommend the game to all Commodore enthusiasts, but doubt it's one that you'll sink endless hours into. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Blue Max
Grade: B
Publisher: Synapse Software (1983)
Posted: 2016/2/7

screenshotBack before we owned a C64 my father borrowed one from his friend for some non-gaming business. Once I found that Blue Max disk in the box however my dad found himself in a constant struggle to pry me off the system. I was fascinated with the concept of piloting a WWI-era biplane while shooting, strafing, and bombing anything I could get my munitions on.

Blue Max is an isometric shooter in the same vein as Zaxxon (Atari XE, 1983). The object is to destroy a certain number of targets indicated by colorful flashing. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can zoom in low and strafe targets on the ground. I say adventurous because more than once I've unceremoniously plowed into the ground due to an unexpected wind gust. You can even fly under bridges if you're daring enough!

The enemy won't go down quietly, as anti-aircraft guns, boats, tanks, and planes take potshots at you. Get hit and you'll suffer malfunctions affecting your weapons (become intermittent), fuel tank (consumes at twice normal rate), or your plane's maneuverability (sluggish and sometimes lists to the side). It can actually be quite thrilling to nurse your plane along with fuel leaking and impaired maneuverability.

If you stay aloft you’ll eventually arrive at a friendly airbase to stock up on ammo and repair any damage. I discovered it's actually possible to be bombed while sitting on the runway preparing for your next flight! Which begs the question, why are there friendly airfields in the middle of enemy territory? Hasn’t it occurred to anyone to use those tanks to take away my ability to conduct air operations?

The stages aren’t terribly different from each other but enough to keep things interesting. Apparently it's possible to win by reaching an area with three fortified bunkers in a city but I’ve never gotten that far. Blue Max is a short, fun game that scratches that itch for some quick, mindless arcade action. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Blue Max 2001
Grade: D
Publisher: Synapse Software (1984)
Posted: 2016/3/13

screenshotDespite its futuristic title, Blue Max 2001 takes place a full 15 years in the past! You play the role of the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Max Chatsworth, the pilot in the original game. That would make Max Chatsworth the 9th, one of the best made-up names since Homer Simpson declared himself Hercules Rockefeller, world's strongest millionaire! But how could there be nine generations since WWI? The math doesn't add up.

Anyway, this game was programmed in 1984 when everybody assumed that by 2001 we'd all be zipping around in flying cars. So instead of a biplane, Blue Max 2001 puts you in a hovercraft that looks like your stereotypical flying saucer. Oddly, the picture on the box depicts a jet fighter. The opening music is moody enough but the graphics in the game are kind of ugly. You begin on a landing pad and lift off straight into the air.

The controls are atrocious, and I could never get the hang of maneuvering my ship. You press forward and backwards to change altitude and diagonal to move forward and backwards. Lining up with enemy craft is a constant source of frustration. I can get my position right or my attitude right, but rarely both at the same time!

Unlike the original Blue Max, the screen remains stationary until you move to the top left of the screen, at which time the ground begins to scroll diagonally. Your goal is to shoot and bomb pretty much anything you can (except for refueling depots), including cars, boats, artillery, and buildings. One really cool type of building looks like a tesla coil firing a bolt of lightning skyward.

Enemy craft can shoot you but seem to prefer ramming you. Your ship can sustain more damage than your biplane ever could, but you're a sitting duck in the act of refueling. A single bomb is all it takes to put a fork in your game, and that seemed to account for the bulk of my deaths! Ugh. Instead of moving the series forward, I'm afraid Blue Max 2001 took it in the wrong direction. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Bop'N Wrestle
Grade: C+
Publisher: Mindscape (1986)
Posted: 2024/6/15

screenshotWhen I was in high school I couldn't wait to watch the latest WWF show on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 on a grainy, blurry, UHF channel 45. Shout out to Piper's Pit! Bop'N Wrestle thrusts you into the "squared circle", minus the crappy reception. It's been quite some time since I paid much attention to wrestling (probably not since the WWF became the WWE) but I remember the outrageous characters and moves like it was yesterday.

My copy of Bop'N Wrestle is *almost* complete. I have the record album-style cardboard sleeve, a registration card, a Mindscape catalog of products, an advertisement to order a personalized book for your child, and even the original receipt from Toys R' Us! Whoever purchased this game originally bought it with cash on June 30, 1987 for a total of $26.22. One thing I don't have is the bloody instruction manual, and it was clear pretty early on that I was going to need that. After an internet search I knew to some extent what I should be doing.

The point of Bop'N Wrestle is to battle your way through the ranks of increasingly difficult opponents until you face the ultimate baddie for the Championship. You begin against a Hillbilly Jim rip-off, a country bumpkin in denim coveralls and hat. Don't let his look fool you though; this clown pinned me within the first 10 seconds! The controls of the game are, to say the least, not super intuitive. With a little practice however I was able to beat Redneck McCoy on a pretty consistent basis, earning a second match against Molotov Mike. Many, MANY matches later, I finally pinned him and went to face the Iron Sheik… err, Angry Abdul. That's as deep as I got.

If you're agile enough with the joystick, the game allows you to perform up to 19 different wrasslin' moves, although to be honest I generally stuck with the same three or four. My standard approach would be to try and grab my opponent and either give him a suplex or airplane spin, kick him in the junk a bunch of times, slam him down again, and go for the pin. I found that if my opponent ever did the same to ME, I was done for. I could never seem to get up off the mat with any regularity, and I don't think I ever kicked out from a pin.

The game also supports a two-player mode, which I would imagine is LOADS more fun, as I can see myself sitting on the couch talking total trash to any one of my friends as we pummel each other into submission in the ring. Still, I rather enjoyed playing this mode without a second person so that I could practice all my moves and basically just pummel the ever-living daylights out of every unmoving opponent. Very cathartic!

The sound effects are pretty dreadful, with digitized yells and counts that sound as if they were recorded using a Radio Shack cassette recorder. The upbeat music is great though. It goes great with the game and at no point was I tempted to turn it down despite it being a pretty shallow loop. You can listen to both tunes here and here.

The graphics are pretty good and it's obvious that most wrestlers are modeled after then-current popular wrestlers. I suspect I'll practice some more two-player matches before attempting to get beyond Abdul, but I really think I need to give my wrists and forearms a break first! © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Bruce Lee
Grade: A-
Publisher: Datasoft (1984)
Posted: 2015/8/18

screenshotBefore there was Chuck Norris, there was Bruce Lee. And let me tell you, for all the internet memes about how tough Chuck Norris is, Bruce Lee embodied ten times his badassery. True story - Bruce Lee actually fought Chuck Norris in the movie "Way of the Dragon" and literally beat him to death. In this Bruce Lee game however Chuck is nowhere to be found. Instead Bruce must deal with the likes of a bo-staff wielding ninja and a big green Sumo wrestler named Yamo. Chuck actually got his own C64 game which if memory serves really sucks but I haven't played it since 1985.

Bruce Lee is a platformer at heart and plays as quick and easy as the best of them. In single-player mode you play as Bruce on a quest to collect lanterns and destroy some kind of wizard. A second player can control Yamo which is actually quite fun! Your quest begins in a village but after collecting all available lanterns a trap door opens and you continue below ground. There you'll contend with vines, exploding bushes, "pan lights", and electrical charges (in addition to the ninja and Yamo).

Sporting something akin to the yellow and black outfit he wore in "Game of Death", Bruce has to punch, kick, and jump his way through the various obstacles. Precision is required as you must carefully time not only your jumps, but climbs (to dodge swords) and even falls (to avoid electrical charges). The controls are simple enough although I noticed Bruce would occasionally hesitate when running.

Initially I blamed my 30-year-old joystick but after swapping it with other joysticks I concluded it was either a bug or a feature. While no show-stopper it's enough to screw you up from time to time. While a bit on the blocky side, the crisp, colorful graphics are pretty good (for 1984) and I like the sound and music as well.

I had a great time playing Bruce Lee while sipping a delicious "Fielder's Choice" lager (from the unofficial brewery of this website, Heavy Seas) on a 90-plus degree summer day. This is the kind of game that promotes the "one more time" mentality as you get farther and farther along. Wife complaining? Cat meowing? Kids fussing? Tune it all out, block off a solid hour, and immerse yourself in Bruce Lee! © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: SDZ 72,900
1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, MobyGames.com, RetroGamer.net, Old Games Club, Lemon 64, Wired.com, C64 Preservation Project, Gamebase 64, Hooked Gamers, My Abandonware, Stadium 64, Games Database, Retroplace

All Commodore reviews were submitted by special VGC correspondent The C64 Critic