Commodore 64 Reviews C

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

Castles of Doctor Creep, The
Grade: A+

screenshotCastles of Doctor Creep delivers some of the best "spooky" fun to be found in the entire (and extensive) Commodore library! You must make your way through any one of 13 different castles without losing all your lives. Why you need to do this is never explained in the manual, but you know what? Some games are best left to your imagination. As you move from room to room traps, obstacles, puzzles, and locked doors attempt to thwart your progress.

Some doors open with the push of a button, but others are color-coded and can only be opened with a key. Moving between rooms can be as simple as climbing a ladder or pole, or as complicated as using moving sidewalks while avoiding Frankenstein monsters and temporarily disabling force fields. The scoring is limited to the time it takes to reach each castle exit, and some of the more difficult castles can take over an hour to navigate!

Luckily you can save your game at any time - although by saving and reloading you will forfeit your shot at having your time recorded. The top ten fastest times are saved for each castle. Castles of Doctor Creep can be played by a single player, but you're really doing yourself a disservice if you don't try the two-player mode. Having a second player can be a tremendous boon when attempting to shut down lightning machines, turn off force fields, or take control of ray guns.

Two-player games are particularly fiendish because while it's crucial to work as a team, the fastest time is ultimately what determines who won and lost so it's extremely tempting to leave your partner out to dry when you're near the exit and he's low on lives. While ultimately a puzzle game, the atmosphere, sound, and graphics are reminiscent of a good adventure. Twitch reflexes and joystick skill are crucial for surviving difficult spots.

I have to admit I've only been able to get through the first few castles so I can only imagine what kind of time investment it would require to get through some of the more difficult ones. Considering how much fun I've had playing with my youngest son - who absolutely LOVES all things scary and Halloween-y, I can't imagine playing without having him by my side to tempt mummies, trip trapdoors, or work matter transporters. This is a fairly difficult game to find anymore and I paid over $125 for a complete boxed copy of it. But you know what? It was worth EVERY PENNY! © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Cauldron
Grade: C-

screenshotCauldron is sort of a hybrid side-scrolling shooter/platform jumper where you're a witch (literally called a hag in the game - I guess those were less politically-correct times). Your goal is to retrieve her golden broom from her mortal enemy, the Pumpking. You start the game above ground, walking out of your cottage to find six ingredients needed to reclaim your golden broom. The broom is hidden in one of four underground lairs, each of which contains some subset of the ingredients you need to make your potion. Appropriately, the ingredients are: Juice of Toad, Eye of Newt, Wing of Bat, Hemlock Root, Piece of Bone, and Molten Lava. Party at the witches cottage!

Each lair is accessed through a colored door, and you must scour the surface world to find the matching keys before you can open the doors. To search for the keys, you fly on your broom through an opening in the trees and move left or right while watching the ground for keys. Make sure you take off and land only where a clearing exists, because touching anything else is instant death and the collision detection is very unforgiving.

As you fly, you'll pass a forest, a graveyard, a volcanic mountain range, and the open ocean. Depending on the area, you'll contend with flying bats, ghosts, floating pumpkins, flying lava, sharks, and seagulls (really? seagulls? How scary is that?). The fire button shoots a magic bolt at these creatures, but I found it more effective to simply dodge them as you go. When you're hit, magic points are deducted, and hitting zero sends you tumbling to your death. Once you match a key to a door, you can land and enter a lair.

Each lair is a platform-jumping puzzle, and you have to time and space your jumps so that you don't fall to your death. For some reason the witch can no longer use her broom to fly around these chambers, and gravity seems to have quadrupled in strength. Moving from one section of the lair to another is difficult due to some abruptly-shifting scrolling. It led me to die more times than I care to remember, as I couldn't see where I was going until it was too late. E

ven when you know where you're headed, the unforgiving collision detection and physics make getting around without dying a tall order. I was able to collect about half the ingredients but could never gather enough to challenge the Pumpking. While many people appear to have found the music in the game a highlight, I found it rather repetitive and annoying, like a 3rd-grade cousin with his first flute.

Graphically the game looks very nice, with lots of color and smooth scrolling. I really like the Halloween theme, and I almost felt guilty playing this "out of season". The controls left a little to be desired, as when flying above the surface inertia carries you forward (much like Defender). It really becomes an issue when you're attempting to stop straight over a key so you can dip down and grab it.

I think I might have given this game a C+ were it not for the difficulty, which I found almost on par with Ghosts and Goblins (at least underground). There is no two-player option, and the game doesn't record your high scores. I spent about an hour playing Cauldron for this review, and while I can't say I didn't enjoy it I also doubt I'll be booting it back up for another go anytime soon. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Championship Baseball
Grade: C-
Publisher: Gamestar (1986)
Reviewed: 2012/10/11


screenshotI bought this game on the advice of no less than the Video Game Critic himself. He claimed to have fond memories of playing this in his teens and said it was one of the better baseball games of its era. I'm beginning to think early-onset dementia may be overcoming him because Championship Baseball is average at best. Following an unskippable intro screen (for the three people who cared about who the graphic artist and assistant producer were), you are treated to... the main loading screen!

When the loading is finally complete you can take batting practice or play a game. I started my own team with players rated against four different stats (batting, running, throwing, catching). You need to set your batting lineup before each game, and frankly I found it to be a pain in the rear. Would a default lineup be too much to ask for?

When batting, the screen is split into two views; one behind the batter and one from a top-down perspective. In theory the behind-the-plate view lets you anticipate the pitch, but the lack of a shadow makes it really hard to read the ball. The overhead view is more useful, but I still found it impossible to hit a fastball.

When the ball is hit you automatically assume control of what is supposed to be the closest player. In too many instances the CPU put me in control of an outfielder when an infielder was clearly closer to the ball. On top of that, the fielding controls are cumbersome and non-intuitive. You need to press and release the button and then push the joystick toward the proper base - in relation to the pitcher's mound.

I got the hang of it, but still found myself throwing to the wrong base 30% of the time. There's a noticeable lag when throwing, causing you to wind up on the wrong side of some close calls. Conversely, I can't tell you how many times I was thrown out at second because I forgot to advance the runner on first after a hit. Why the game doesn't automatically advance your lead runner is beyond me.

Despite the annoyances, I found myself enjoying Championship Baseball for at least the first four or five innings. After that the bad controls and wonky AI take their toll on me. With the Orioles finally getting a postseason berth for the first time in 15 years I'm in full baseball mode this month, but even with that exuberance it's hard to play a full game of Championship Baseball. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Commando
Grade: C-
Publisher: Data East (1985)
Reviewed: 2016/11/20

screenshotIn celebration of Veteran's Day I decided to fire up a few soldier-related games. Having already reviewed Airborne Ranger (one of my favorites), I opted for the far less cerebral Commando. While it may be a port of an arcade game, it's considerably less playable and enjoyable. With no difficulty settings available you are thrust right into the thick of things and the pace is relentless.

Starting at the bottom of a vertically-scrolling screen, you must forge ahead (upwards) to free POW's. You'll be shot at, have grenades thrown at you, mortars dropped on your head, and cannons directed your way. Against all of this you have a rifle and some useless grenades. Why useless? Because to use them you have to hit the space bar! The action in this game is so frantic that taking your hand off your joystick for any length of time is certain death. Thus, I found better success by sticking with the rifle.

Speaking of which, unless you have a gizmo to enable continuous fire your thumb will be killing you. You must constantly mash the fire button if you want a snifter of a chance to survive. I broke out what's supposed to be a "continuous fire" adapter for my joystick but it didn't work. Commando's graphics and sound are decent but there's a noticeable and somewhat distracting flickering of the screen. As an arcade conversion Commando may be passable, but by the time you're done you might need a medic yourself! © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Computer Ambush
Grade: D
Publisher: Strategic Simulations Inc. (1982)
Reviewed: 2013/2/13

screenshotOne of SSI's early attempts at computerizing their library of war games, Computer Ambush plays like some kind of weird computer/board game hybrid. I knew I was in for a unique experience when the game box produced two laminated maps, grease pencils, and an extensive manual. There's also a large yellow "summary card" with orders information on one side and a soldier characteristics chart on the other. Make sure you have room if you decide to play this game, because you'll need lots of space to spread out these handy reference materials!

The tabletop roots of SSI are evident in the sparse, almost non-existent graphics and sound. You can play one of five scenarios against the computer or seven scenarios against a human opponent (the video game equivalent of going to the DMV). You select different soldiers that fit your play style and strategically place them at the beginning of the game. Pretty much all the scenarios boil down to moving your individual soldiers around a French town, hunting down German soldiers, or defending from German attack. Having long enjoyed tactical-level squad-based war games, I was really looking forward to hunting down some Krauts.

Unfortunately this is one game where the interface really bogs down the action. It should be exciting and suspenseful to move your Sergeant carefully around a corner with his rifle at the ready and an enemy soldier lying in wait. However, doing so requires you to type in an esoteric string of commands like "pr", "mr23d", and "fa5030". That translates to Prepare Rifle, Move Regular north-east 3 squares while dodging, Fire on Area if an enemy is there, and a 50% chance to hit for 30 time points.

Heck, just having your soldier do nothing more than face east means typing "mr30r"! And you won't even see your soldier executing your command, because you're treated to a black screen as time counts down, with any actions conveyed via sounds. You can view what happened in the after-action report screen, but most of the tension is lost in translation.

If you're an old tabletop war-game "grognard" without a human opponent to beat up on, you may find this game enjoyable with its board game look and feel. Personally I couldn't get comfortable with the interface. I had a few moments of fun here and there as my soldiers took fire from an unseen enemy, but largely I felt like I was fighting the interface while wishing I had a decent view of the action. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Congo Bongo
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sega (1983)
Reviewed: 2011/4/15

screenshotI had fond memories of playing this game back when arcades still roamed the earth, circa my freshman year of high school. The completely original game concept featured a large gorilla at the top of the screen throwing boulders or coconuts down at you as you try to climb to the top while jumping over things and avoiding obstacles.

Ok, maybe it wasn't so original, and frankly I'm surprised that Nintendo didn't take Sega to court over it. What they did do differently was make the game play from an isometric perspective and give up any pretense of your character being a hero. In fact, now that I think about it, I have no idea why he is so intent on climbing up to the gorilla but whatever.

In any event I decided to load this game up and see what the Commodore was able to do with it. The answer: not much! This game is clearly a butchered port job from another system, probably the Atari 5200, and is hard on both the eyes and the ears. With so much potential it's a shame the developer didn't do a little more to take advantage of the Commodore's graphical and sound capabilities, but for whatever reason they used the same ugly washed-out orange-yellow-brown color scheme and sparse/monotonous sound effects of whatever God-forsaken system it was ported from.

I was only able to get to the second level, which apparently decided that it would rather rip off Frogger than Donkey Kong, but from what I've read two levels is all the C64 version got anyway (the original arcade version had four). Trying to time jumps and judge distances is tough enough with the isometric display, but unforgiving collision detection makes getting through the levels an even bigger chore.

After playing about a half-dozen games of Congo Bongo I decided I had had enough, and that the best thing I could say about the game was that it was on a floppy disk that also contained Galaxian and Boulder Dash. I'm glad to have played it again after all this time and getting through the first level was mildly amusing, but it's likely to be another 28 years before I play it again. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Crush, Crumble, and Chomp!
Grade: C-
Publisher: Epyx (1983)
Reviewed: 2019/7/16

screenshotHaving recently viewed the movie Rampage I decided the time was right to pull Crush, Crumble, and Chomp! off my shelf. The game is based on the premise that you are the monster in a blockbuster movie. Adding to the cinematic theme is "Night on Bald Mountain" music and a movie-like "starring" text of people and things you'll encounter. The premise is pretty straight-forward: raise havoc and cause as much damage as you can to a city of your choice.

You can tweak your objective slightly, awarding more points for killing humans ("Killer Monster"), wanton destruction ("Destruction"), or simply lasting as long as possible ("Survival"). I choose "Balanced" because I want equal scoring for burning down buildings, eating terrified citizens, and destroying military hardware. You select one of six monsters and the disk version of the game even lets you create your own. Cities include New York, Washington D.C., Tokyo, and "Golden Gate". Why didn't they just say San Francisco?

The manual includes a map of each complete with famous landmarks. Each monster has its own attacks and abilities. The giant ant can sling web to stop pursuers or tunnel underground. The Kraken is confined to water but can paralyze nearby units. The giant robot can breathe fire, and the game will even simulate fire spreading to adjacent structures – pretty nifty for 1981! As you wander the city torching parks and toppling buildings, crowds of humans will appear which you can eat.

All monsters grow hungry over time (except for the robot of course) and at some point they will enter "berserk" mode. In this state you temporarily lose control of your monster. I would love an option to turn this feature off! After a while police cars begin to harass you, followed by the National Guard, and eventually a mad scientist in a helicopter who can paralyze your creature. When gravely injured the music kicks in so you know time is running out!

You heal yourself to some extent but your health is always on a downward trajectory. When you finally succumb you're presented with a wrap-up detailing your carnage and awarding a score. I'll give the developers props for the attention to detail, but after a few play-throughs the action started to feel stale. Still, Crush, Crumble, and Chomp! is a worthwhile summer romp when you need to scratch that movie monster itch. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 


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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

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