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

4th & Inches
Grade: C+
Publisher: Accolade (1987)
Posted: 2013/9/27

screenshotThe dawn of the 2013 NFL Season seems like the perfect time to finally review a football game for the C64 (that's American football for those across the pond). Apparently using the same engine employed by Accolade's Hardball baseball games, 4th & Inches toes the line between arcade and simulation. The end result leans more toward the arcade side, but there's still play-calling and player-substitution for those who want a coaching touch.

There's no NFL licensing here; just two stock teams: the All-Pros and the Champs. Players are rated by esoteric descriptions like "speed!" and "tough!" When you want to power ahead for a yard or two, you substitute in your bigger, stronger (but slower) players. When you need to stretch the field you'll stick in your burners. Quick, who's best for a goal line situation, the backs labeled "strong" or "big"? It tells you in the instructions, but a numeric rating would have been more practical than having to check the manual just to see if "fast" is faster than "speed".

The sound is adequate if sparse, and the graphics are decent. The field is situated horizontally, but the game is unable to scroll. Instead it must re-draw the entire field from scratch when the ball reaches the edge of the screen. This has the unfortunate side effect of making you run "blind" during punt returns and kickoffs. Worse, it often turns the passing game into chuck-and-pray since you can't always see your receiver before you let the pigskin fly (he's already off the screen).

Another shortcoming is how once you select a play, you're locked in - no audible action here! Of course, if you wish to abort a pass play you always have the option of running it with your QB. On defense you select your player and basic formation. When the screen redraws you automatically take control of the defender nearest the ball carrier. This can be disconcerting, as you suddenly need to crank the joystick in a different direction.

The computer clock management is questionable at best. I once watched the CPU let the clock run down to 0:00 when he could have called a timeout and kicked a field goal to tie our game. 4th & Inches isn't a bad football game, but it plays a little slow and the limited options are glaring in hindsight. I didn't get a chance to check out the two-player action unfortunately, and that might bump up the grade by half a letter grade or so. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Realsports Football (Atari 2600)
Football (Odyssey 2)
10-Yard Fight (NES)
Joe Montana Football (Genesis)
Realsports Football (Atari 5200)

50 Mission Crush
Grade: D+
Publisher: Strategic Simulations Inc. (1984)
Posted: 2012/10/11

screenshotStrategic Simulations Inc. (SSI) was a well-known publisher of cerebral war games, so I was curious to see how they would handle a B-17 bombing campaign simulation with RPG elements. Your goal is to fly 50 successful bombing runs from England to continental Europe. Each mission begins with a quick briefing and the opportunity to properly outfit your bomber. Keep in mind that overloading can cause takeoff issues! Once in the air you direct your bomber to the target, release your payload, and do whatever it takes to return home safely.

Since this is an SSI title, no joystick acumen is required - your plane is controlled by way of keystrokes. Your flight consists of phased turns. Changing altitude, firing guns, and dropping bombs are done via keyboard commands and the results are based on a loose statistical evaluation. Your bomber sustains damage to various systems (bomb sights, fuel tanks, etc.) which affect your ability to complete your mission.

Damage is incurred while taking flak or being jumped by enemy fighters. This adds tension but it seems random and beyond your control, so you just have to endure it. While taking flak, fire burst shell animations mess up text messages already displayed on the screen. Is that intentional or a sign of sloppy programming? I named my nine crew members after friends and family members, and anticipated them gaining experience as I progressed.

This is where SSI dropped the ball. The only indicator of their progress is a simple counter of the number of missions survived. They all gain the same amount regardless of their actions, so while "Newk" may have done the lion's share of fighting enemy aircraft, he gets the same single experience point as the others.

The instruction manual looks good and even contains a mini "novella", but it fails to explain many things. My engineer was blown away during my fifth mission (sorry RPG Critic!) but I have no idea what impact this had on my flight. Your only evaluation is points you receive for successfully bombing targets (whoops - sorry about that orphanage). I'll give SSI credit for trying something different, but 50 Mission Crush feels too random to satisfy the war gamer or the RPG player in me. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: B-17 Bomber (Intellivision)
Gunship! (Commodore 64)
Air Raiders (Atari 2600)
Surgical Strike (Sega CD)
Ace of Aces (Atari 7800)

Agent USA
Grade: B-
Publisher: Scholastic Inc. (1985)
Posted: 2015/5/5

screenshot"Makes learning fun!" How many times have we seen this boldfaced lie emblazoned across the front of a software box? I can't say whether it was on the box for this particular game since I only have the disk, but if it was, it may be the only known instance of it being true. I wasn't even aware that this game was supposed to be educational, and that's exactly the point. In Agent USA you travel from city to city cultivating crystals while trying to locate the source of a new-tech viral infection called a Fuzzbomb.

Essentially a giant TV, the Fuzzbomb transforms random "citizens" from giant walking hats into fuzzy walking lint balls. When the fuzzies make contact with other citizens they infect them as well. As you travel between train stations you can consult a map of the USA to determine where and how fast the virus is spreading. Along the way you'll learn math, geography, time zones, how to tell time, and how to spell city names - whether you like it or not.

The world consists of nothing more than train stations with various numbers of "rooms" in them. To destroy the Fuzzbomb you must touch it while holding 100 crystals. You begin with only ten crystals but can drop them to "grow" new ones. The thing is, when you drop them the people will snatch them up. The good news is, those citizens become immune to infection, and sometimes even drop crystals in an attempt to grow more themselves. Pretty neat really!

Being touched by an infected citizen will destroy half of your crystals, and this is annoying when you're at your limit of 100 and just one town away from the Fuzzbomb. The best strategy is to find a room in a train station with only one entryway, drop a bunch of crystals at the far end, and play goalie at the entrance, guiding citizens away before they see your crystals. If you get infected while carrying no crystals, you're done for. Despite its minimal graphics and sound, Agent USA is an interesting and fun diversion for a few hours. Once you beat it however there's not much incentive to play it again. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Othello (Atari 2600)
Brain Games (Atari 2600)
Mind Strike (Intellivision)
Pachinko (Odyssey 2)
Alex Kidd in High Tech World (Sega Master System)

Airborne Ranger
Grade: B+
Publisher: Microprose (1987)
Posted: 2011/10/28

screenshotAirborne Ranger allows each of us to bring out our inner Rambo from the safety of our easy chair (while warming our feet on the Commodore power brick). Best described as a "thinking man's Commando", you control the actions of a soldier working his way up a map. You take out enemies (or avoid them) until you complete your mission and meet the Osprey helicopter at a predetermined pickup point.

There are twelve missions to embark on, and you can select either a practice or veteran Ranger. The veteran gives you a persistent character that accumulates points, medals, and even gets promoted! I once lost a veteran Ranger at the end of a grueling mission only to discover that he was posthumously promoted and awarded a medal!

The missions take place in three zones - arctic, temperate, and desert. These affect your rate of fatigue and availability of concealment. Varied goals include destroying a munitions depot, capturing an enemy officer, and photographing a secret enemy aircraft. You start each mission by flying over the combat zone to plan your general route of attack. You can drop three supply pods which will allow you to refresh your supply of ammo, rockets, grenades, bombs, and first aid kits.

Once you parachute down, it's GO TIME! You can run, walk, or crawl to traverse the landscape but you need to be mindful of the countdown timer. Play too cautiously and you can get left behind by your Osprey. Side note: if you miss your pickup and run out of ammo, you can be 'captured' by the enemy and your Ranger is no longer available to you. However, if you then create a second Ranger and play the 'Liberate P.O.W. Camp' mission, you can actually rescue your formerly captured Ranger and continue playing as him! How freakin' cool is that!?

You'll typically use a combination of crawling and running to forge ahead. Sprinting minimizes the chances of being shot, but you will get fatigued if you sprint too much. The best strategy is to sprint from trench to trench and then crawl until you're ready to take off again. If you complete your mission early, you can call your Osprey and get out of dodge without having to wait it out.

Airborne Ranger is graphically decent and the sound/music is well done. The only thing that kept this game from an "A" was the realization that while the mission objectives are different, the basic gameplay tends to be pretty much the same. Still, I really enjoyed starting a Ranger in the Campaign mode to see how many points I could accumulate and what medals I could attain. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Desert Strike (Genesis)
Bionic Commando (NES)
Metal Slug First Mission (Neo Geo Pocket)
Commando (Commodore 64)
Gunship! (Commodore 64)

Aliens
Grade: C-
Publisher: Activision (1986)
Posted: 2020/4/30

screenshotAliens was a great movie with ripe material for an exciting video game. Sadly, this isn't quite it. It’s not a bad game mind you, it just feels like a familiar mash-up of mediocre minigames we’ve all seen before, this time with an Alien-esque look. The first stage has you trying to pilot your landing craft down to the surface of LV-426, but it’s little more than a reskinned Master of the Lamps (Activision, 1985).

The second stage is more unique, although it did detect shades of Project Firestart (Electronic Arts, 1989). In this one you're trying to transport four Marines stuck underground to a landing vehicle as aliens chase them down. It was a bit confusing at first, but once I figured out what was going on I'd say this was my favorite level.

The third stage is a "monstered up" version of Stampede (Atari 2600, 1981), as you use a flamethrower to torch aliens coming at you from the side or run into them to push them back. Allow too many past before the Marine cuts through a door at the bottom and its stage over!

Level four is a fairly straightforward maze crawl in which you’re trying to carry Newt through ventilation shafts to safety, all while avoiding aliens and trying to reach the drop ship on the far right of the maze. Level five is similar to the third, only this time you’re trying to guide Ripley to where the queen alien has taken Newt. You have limited ammo, a few flares, and a direction-finding device to help you navigate to where she is and back again.

The final stage is where you confront the alien "bitch" herself (Ripley’s words - no hate mail please). Using the exoskeleton suit from the movie, you try to smack the queen around until you’ve hurt her enough that you can grab her and toss her out the airlock. The initial screen where the queen makes an appearance is very nice graphically, but once the action commences she looks like she’s doing some kind of intergalactic Riverdance… quite comical, actually.

The game provides codes to jump to any stage you've already completed, and also gives you a cheat hotkey so that you can jump to the next level if you’re stuck. There's lots of text dialogue and even some static graphic scenes from the film, but the disjointed mini games don't do the film justice. Had they focused on fleshing out the more original stages Aliens would have been a more enjoyable, cohesive product. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Escape From The Mindmaster (Atari 2600)
Alien (Atari 2600)
Alien Vs. Predator (Jaguar)
Blair Witch Project, The (Atari 2600)
Demon Attack (Odyssey 2)

Archon
Grade: A
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1983)
Posted: 2022/6/9

screenshotYou may recall the scene in Star Wars: A New Hope on the Millennium Falcon where C3PO and Chewbacca are playing a checkerboard game with individual pieces actually fighting each other. Archon attempts to incorporate that extra layer of action into a chess-style strategy title.

The game pits the light side against the dark, each with a roster of 18 characters of varying abilities. Much like your pawns, rooks, and bishops of chess, you're provided with an army of animated creatures like archers, valkyries, golems, and banshees. Each has its own unique attack, speed, and strength. Move your piece onto an occupied space and the screen transforms into a battlefield with obstructions phasing in and out as you fight to the death.

When you're the light side (we'll call this NATO), your pieces gain a health and power bonus if you're battling on a lighter-colored square, and vice-versa for the dark side (a.k.a, the Soviet Union). While approximately half the squares are a fixed color, the remaining gradually cycle between black and white. Key to winning battles is striking when the color is in your favor. Few things are more satisfying than catching a powerful enemy off guard and making him pay for the mistake! Occasionally you're prone to an annoying matchup. Once the shapeshifter attacked my phoenix, and it was so ridiculous I ended up intentionally losing just to get past it.

Victory is ultimately achieved by occupying all five "power point" squares or through pure attrition as you hack, slash, shoot, and burn your opponents' pieces until he's completely wiped out. Special characters like the wizard and the sorceress also have the ability to cast spells like revive or summon elementals to turn the strategic tide.

I played Archon innumerable times as a young lad and it never got old. Personally, I still find the basilisks (on the dark side) to be hands-down the most powerful piece and I’m not bragging when I say I am UTTERLY AND COMPLETELY UNSTOPPABLE if you let me choose that side in any matchup. An uncanny blend of strategy and twitch skills, this undisputed classic remains every bit as good today as it was in 1983. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Archon (NES)
Archon (Atari XEGS)
Star Wars Chess (Sega CD)
Othello (Atari 2600)
Sonar Search (Fairchild Channel F)


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