system Index K-Q

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

Grade: D+
Publisher: Bally (1982)
Posted: 2015/8/1

screenshotI received this cart from none other than the Video Game Critic himself while attending a convention in Philly with him about 15 years ago. He purchased it for me as an incentive to get back in touch with my Commodore roots. A decade and a half later I finally got around to playing it. The verdict? It may be another decade and a half before I play it again. Actually that's a bit harsh; the game is mildly amusing for short-burst gaming.

Playing as a clown on a unicycle, you move right and left to catch balloons on your head. The balloons come in different colors that fall at various speeds - the yellow are nice and slow, the red a little faster, the blue faster still, and the green fastest of all. After you clear the first screen subsequent levels incorporate pac-men and ghosts (yes - you read that right). A pac-man will eat any balloons or ghosts on your head, but he'll stick around until you're stuck with four pac-men on your head until the end of the level. If you can't catch a falling balloon you can try to kick it back up in the air. This can be done as many times as you wish, but meanwhile subsequent balloons will continue to drop and you can find yourself in trouble.

The graphics incorporate a static cityscape as background and the balloons above in a Space Invaders-type formation. The sound effects are okay but the background music is disturbing, prompting most players to hit the MUTE button about 30 seconds in. This monotonous tune manages to be both boring and hauntingly evil at the same time. Sadly, Kickman has little replay value. It gets a little more hectic after the first screen, but then settles into the same thing over and over. I achieved a high score of 81,150 and feel no desire to go back and top it. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 81,150
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Kickman (Atari 2600)
Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Vector Vaders 2: The Director's Cut (Vectrex)
Dumbo's Flying Circus (Prototype) (Atari 2600)
Pac-Man: Special Color Edition (Game Boy Color)

L.A. Swat
Grade: C
Publisher: Mastertronic (1986)
Posted: 2024/5/3

screenshotI'm including L.A. Swat as part of my "summer games" pack (along with OutRun), because the game is clearly modeled after the infamous Rodney King summer of 1992. Technically it was the Spring, but we’re talking about L.A. so it looked and felt like summer. Ever wonder how those riots would have ended up if the cops used fully automatic weapons and refused to wear shoes? Wonder no more, as L.A. Swat has got you covered!

Playing as a cop you find yourself at the bottom of a screen in front of a big city neighborhood. You're walking with two partners which serve as extra guys as it turns out. It looks like you're barefoot, as the same color is used for your feet as it is for your arms and face. You can walk around in any direction but the game only scrolls up and down, so you're pretty much headed north.

Random bad guys emerge from the edges of the screen looking to take you out with baseball bats and hand grenades. I'm not sure what I find more amusing, the fact that they brought sticks to a gun battle, or that their plan "B" was freaking hand grenades! That's what I call escalation! There’s also an occasional sniper on the rooftops, but since there's no way to shoot him, your only option is to avoid his line of fire.

You can hold down the fire button to fire continuously - a trick I didn't pick up on until my third game! There's no ammo limit so the only real reason to take your finger off the button is the occasional "little old lady". You’ll be docked 1000 points for shooting her, but otherwise there's no penalty... so fire away.

An odd car here and there will obstruct your path, but they tend to work in your favor by giving you a spot you don't have to worry about bad guys coming from. Adding to the realism, when a bad guy chucks an errant grenade and it happens to hit another bad guy he will actually die from the explosion - nice!

Before long you'll come to the "boss fight" which is basically just a block formation of the same bad guys, only now they're all the same color and break off into small groups to rush you. Dispatch those guys and a dude holding a female hostage will appear, running randomly around the screen. The trick is to try to shoot him without hitting her, a fairly difficult task that I only achieved once. Sorry lady!

The audio incorporates a monotone soundtrack that loops about every eight seconds, eating into your brain like some sort of weird slug-like creature from a Star Trek movie. There are basic sounds for firing your gun and grenade explosions, but given the distraction of the "music", you’re probably better off just turning the sound all the way down to help you concentrate.

The middling graphics are pretty typical for a game of that type and era; nothing great but they get the job done. L.A. Swat isn't a game you’re going to spend much time on, but it's worth a few rounds to see what kind of high score you can achieve, even if it's not saved. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Rogue Trip (Playstation)
Ocean City Defender (Atari 2600)
Indy 500 (Tiger
Front Line (Colecovision)
Star Trek (Atari 2600)

Laser Squad
Grade: C+
Publisher: Target Games (1988)
Posted: 2017/4/21

screenshotAnyone familiar with "the gamer in me" knows I consider X-COM: UFO Defense one of the best video games of all time. Over the course of my multi-year man-crush on its developer Julian Gollop I discovered he had in fact developed several precursors to X-COM for the C64! Laser Squad is considered one of the better ones. After spending about three years waiting for it to appear on Ebay, I finally secured a complete, boxed copy with one of the smallest manuals I've ever seen! About the size of a postage stamp, you'll need some sort of magnification to read it.

I played through several scenarios in Laser Squad with mixed results. As much as I love tactical turn-based strategy I couldn't get into this as much as I had hoped. I'm sure many people have fond memories of playing against friends and family but I only played against the CPU. Your objective is to outfit and control a small squad of men against a force of combat droids. Varying scenarios let you rescue POWs or escape hordes of robots but it all comes down to keeping your men alive while eliminating enemy droids.

Action points (APs) determine how many moves each soldier gets during their turn. Equipping weapons, changing direction, and movement all consume various amounts of APs. The interface is a little busy and non-intuitive so it took a couple of games before I got the hang of it. I can't tell you how many times I wasted APs by rotating my character to the left when I meant to rotate right. Another point of contention was figuring out how to open a door.

You'd think it would be pretty straightforward or at least covered in the manual, but you'd be wrong on both counts. Believe it or not, you have to un-equip anything you're holding (which consumes AP of course) before you can open an unlocked door! How ridiculous is that? The scenarios themselves are interesting in that the environments are somewhat destructible. I've seen windows shot out, trees and bushes destroyed, and doors blown off their hinges. Items that litter the playfield can be destroyed or used for cover.

If you detect droids one room over and don't want to risk walking through the door, just blow a hole in the wall! Destroyed droids or fallen comrades can be scavenged for extra ammo or weapons. During the CPU's turn the screen blanks out for any movement your men wouldn't be able to see - a nice touch that adds to the tense atmosphere. Laser Squad clearly has a place in the lineage of the X-COM series, but it would have been a lot more playable with a better interface and a decent manual. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: War of Nerves (Odyssey 2)
Super Bee (Europe) (Odyssey 2)
X-Men (NES)
XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Xbox 360)
Computer Ambush (Commodore 64)

The Last Ninja
Grade: D-
Publisher: System 3 (1987)
Posted: 2012/3/1

screenshotNever have I wanted to like a game prior to playing it quite as much as The Last Ninja. Apparently a huge hit with our Commodore brethren across the pond, the game was released late in the C64's life cycle yet still managed to spawn two sequels. I'd heard plenty of buzz and seen lots of screenshots. The game features an isometric game field (a la Zaxxon), beautiful graphics, wonderfully immersive music, and of course - Ninjas! Can't miss, right? Wrong!

I spent about an hour trying to get into this game and all I got for my trouble was frustration and bloody knuckles. The Last Ninja employs a unique control scheme, whereby your character will move in one direction while continuing to face another. In order to face the way you're actually moving, you need to rotate the joystick around to that direction. Sound confusing? It is.

I can't tell you how many times I was getting a sword to the face (or a foot to the junk) as I flailed at thin air because I couldn't face my assailant in the heat of battle. As you walk from screen to screen looking for items and exploring, you'll face enemies one at a time, pray at statues, and navigate obstacles. At a water crossing it took me about ten tries before I could successfully make the three jumps from rock to rock to the other side.

The isometric view makes judging your spacing and lining up angles extremely difficult. If it weren't for a website that shows you the exact jumps, I may never have made it. Picking up objects, necessary to advance the game, proved equally difficult. It probably took me five minutes to figure out how to pick up my first object (a sword on a rock).

I could occasionally pick up a key, but at no point was I able to successfully pick up something from the belt of a dead man (nun-chucks?). Apparently you have to be standing at just the right pixel to execute the "crouch and grab" technique, and it drove me mad. I've read there's a dragon you have to either kill or run past at the end of the first level, but I couldn't bear the control scheme long enough to find out for myself.

The only things saving this game from an "F" are the impressive graphics and the excellent music. Had they simply made your ninja face the direction you moved, this game could have been a real winner. I'm sure I'll eventually muster the patience to give The Last Ninja another go, but unless I have some incredible epiphany I'm afraid I'll never understand why this game was so popular. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Ninja Assault (Playstation 2)
Ninja Crusaders (NES)
Dragon's Lair (3DO)
Dragonstomper (Atari 2600)
Super Zaxxon (Commodore 64)

Lode Runner
Grade: B
Publisher: Broderbund (1983)
Posted: 2023/1/11

box coverThis charming puzzle-platformer reminds me quite a bit of Jumpman, save for the whole "ability to jump" detail. In Lode Runner you're a little guy navigating brick platforms and ladders. You must collect all the boxes while avoiding wandering dudes trying to touch you inappropriately, resulting in instant death. It’s a slice-of-life premise anyone can figure out even without a manual.

Apparently those "boxes" are supposed to be gold bars. Have the developers seen Pitfall? Now that's a gold bar! The guys trying to end your looting ways are actually guards. Despite what the box cover would indicate, you have no weapon. Your only means of maintaining bodily integrity are avoidance and - you guessed it - hole digging!

That's right - you can dig out a single chunk of brick to either side of you, into which hapless guards tend to fall. You can then walk over them and merrily continue on your way. Talk about disrespectful! After a few seconds the holes will fill in automatically, causing the guard to respawn along the top of the screen. Should you fall into a hole, all you can do is wait helplessly until it fills in and consumes one of your lives. Embarrassing for sure, but it happens more than you'd think.

There were several times I had to pause to figure out exactly "how" I could reach a cleverly-positioned box. Keep in mind that certain stretches of brick walkway are undiggable (is that a word?), indicated by being solid red. You can fall from literally any height without damage, but keep in mind the guards share the same ability.

The graphics are simple but effective, and animation is buttery smooth. I couldn't help but feel like the game could have used some looping background music. One annoyance is the "telescoping" intro and outro effect. It's neat the first time you see it, but I'd just as well just have the next stage instantly appear. But my biggest gripe is how the game often won't allow you to dig a hole if a guard is close by. This even happens with my trusty Tac-2 joystick!

Each level is pre-configured with the guards starting in the same locations, so over time you could learn how to beat all 150 (!) levels by playing it enough. I like how guards are "frozen" for a few seconds at the beginning of each screen, allowing you to mentally map how to proceed. Each level completed earns you an extra life, which on reflection is a pretty fair indication of the difficulty! Lode Runner requires both quick reflexes and mental somersaults, presenting a considerable challenge for any retro-game enthusiast. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Lode Runner (Atari XEGS)
Miner 2049er (Atari 5200)
Tunnel Runner (Atari 2600)
Space Panic (Colecovision)
Oink! (Atari 2600)

MicroLeague Baseball
Grade: B
Publisher: MicroLeague (1984)
Posted: 2022/4/6

screenshotIt took a small, nondescript company called "MicroLeague" to do something in 1984 that MLB can’t seem to accomplish to this day: it made baseball fun! But this isn't your brother's baseball game; MicroLeague is pure strategy.

You begin by selecting two teams from a selection of 25 (with additional teams available via "add on" disks). The potential matchups are a baseball historian's dream. You get two 1983 All-Star teams, American and National all-time greats, and 21 of the historically best teams ever from the 1927 New York Yankees to the 1983 Baltimore Orioles.

I couldn't resist taking my 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates up against the 1983 Baltimore Orioles. For my starting pitcher I went with John "The Candy Man" Candelaria. Each player is rated on a number of statistical data points which indicate how he will perform in the game. I just went with the default batting lineup, because I had no confidence that I could come up with a better side than good old Chuck Tanner. The ensuing contest was every bit the exciting and down-to-the-wire game as I would have expected.

On defense you can throw fastballs, curves, sliders, or changeups. You can also pitch-out, bring in the infield, pull in just first and third base, or intentionally walk a batter. You don’t have to select pitch-by-pitch however, instead choosing a general pitching style for each batter you face.

Scrolling text provides a rich play-by-play of hits, fielders, and close calls at bases. After a few games (including one that went 19 innings!) I was still seeing new text so there is a decent variety of descriptions. Audio is minimal but there are sound effects for hits, strikeouts, cheers for exceptional plays, and fanfare music. The crowd of spectators looks more like someone spilled a giant bag of Skittles in the stands.

As someone who gave up caring about Major League Baseball during the canceled 1994 season I found myself strangely drawn back into the excitement of individual matchups, stat comparisons, and "what if" scenarios. Sadly, every game is self-contained with nothing carried over to the next. To play a season you'll need a separate "General Manager/Owners" disk. It’s a shame that wasn't baked into the original game.

After a few games of MicroLeague Baseball I could really appreciate the relaxing nature of making simple managerial decisions coupled with the nervous excitement of being in a 4-4 tie going into the tenth inning. It may not look like much but there's something to be said for this game's cerebral, hands-off approach. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: High Heat Major League Baseball 2003 (Game Boy Advance)
Grand Slam (Playstation)
Baseball (NES)
Tecmo Super Baseball (Genesis)
Micro League Baseball (Atari XEGS)

Grade: C
Publisher: Unknown (1984)
Posted: 2011/6/1

screenshotI snagged a copy of Munchy off Ebay after one of the Critic's readers suggested it for review and I realized it wasn't in my collection. Having never heard of it back in the day, I'm not sure this game was ever officially released by a real publisher, and I was unable to find much information about it online.

Munchy is, for all intents and purposes, Pac-Man. I mean, just look at the picture for cryin' out loud! I have to believe that if any legally-recognized company put this product out on the market they'd have been sued by any combination of Atari/Midway/Namco.

You run around a maze eating dots, avoiding ghosts, and occasionally gobbling up fruit for bonus points. If you eat a large dot, the ghosts become vulnerable for a short time and you can snack on them for extra points. As far as I could tell the course layout is identical to the original Pac-Man and even the ghosts are the same colors. I think the biggest difference is that Munchy has the status information (score, # of lives, current bonus fruit) displayed on the right-hand side of the screen, making the actual playfield slightly more "up and down" than the official Atarisoft version.

The sound effects are slightly different, with a continual "woooo woooo woooo woooo" which will make you think your little brother is behind you trying to imitate the sound of a fire truck as best a 7-year old can. Yes, it's THAT annoying. I do like the display slightly better on Munchy than I do Pac-Man, so it's a complete toss-up as to which one is better if you're a Pac-Fan. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Jr. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Muncher (Bally Astrocade)
Pac-Man Collection (Atari 7800)
Pac-Man: Special Color Edition (Game Boy Color)

Grade: B-
Publisher: US Gold (1986)
Posted: 2024/5/3

OutRun cartWith its bright coastal scenery, bouncy soundtrack, and convertible sports car (complete with hot babe in the passenger seat), OutRun is a warm weather staple for racing fans everywhere. When the Critic sent me a link to some guy in England that was selling games on custom cartridge "boards", I figured it was my chance to finally obtain a copy of OutRun for "the Commie". In terms of presentation this thing looks so freakin' cool! It even has a handy 'reset' button built into the card itself (more on that later).

Upon starting the game you’re given the option to select any ONE of five different tracks, labeled Routes A through E. I guess these correspond with the original games' branching tracks. When you select a track there is no branching however; you're stuck with that one. This is where the reset button comes into play, as a quick press lets you select a different track. You can also choose between two soundtracks or no music at all. Personally I prefer the default, but both do a good job of showing off the C64's "pipes".

While racing you toggle between first and second gear via the button. Pushing up accelerates and pulling back applies the brakes. I gave up on braking after my first couple of runs, preferring instead to simply downshift briefly when taking a tough curve. Passing other cars is difficult, as any one will take up 33% of the road. Go off-track and you’re treated to the familiar car flipping over, spilling you and your honey out onto the ground (which I was happy to see retained by the developer).

Graphically the game is even better than I imagined. Bright and colorful, it truly conveys a sense of speed and danger. My main issue (and this just may be a "me" thing) is that I was unable to get beyond the first stage after even a dozen tries! And I had a few REALLY good runs. I've watched online videos of other people playing who don't seem to have this problem. Considering it's also missing the splash screen and course maps, I suspect whatever version of the game that was burned into this card was some sort of hack.

It's really too bad, because overall I think this is a very impressive conversion of the arcade hit. This looks great sitting on your shelf as a display, but I get the feeling I might be better off acquiring a legit copy of the game. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: OutRun (Genesis)
Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit (Playstation)
Impact Racing (Saturn)
OutRun 2006: Coast to Coast (Playstation 2)
OutRun 2019 (Genesis)

Grade: B+
Publisher: Mastertronic (1986)
Posted: 2024/7/10

screenshot“It’s illegal in 9 countries. It was programmed by a team of real panthers, so you know it’s good. 60% of the time, it loads every time!” Sorry, I just couldn’t talk about this game without channeling Anchorman Ron Burgundy.

Panther came on the same floppy as L.A. Swat (Mastertronic, 1986), and I can honestly say this is one of the more pleasant surprises of my later-years of C64 gaming. Panther is what happens when Blue Max (Synapse Software, 1983) and Choplifter (Atari XE, 1982) have a baby, combining a diagonal isometric view/travel mechanic with having to occasionally stop, land, and pick up survivors on the ground.

I can't tell if my ship looks more like a piece of Pez candy or a sardine can. Pushing forward and back on the joystick controls your altitude and subsequently, your speed. The higher you fly, the faster you go. The dashboard on the bottom contains a radar, a count of your remaining ships (you start with 5), and how many enemies you must dispatch in the current wave.

During the early levels enemy saucers tend to come at you one at a time - as if they were extras in a 1970's kung fu movie. You need to really pay close attention to your shadow because being at the same altitude is crucial to actually scoring a hit.

Avoiding enemies is not too difficult, but avoiding their projectiles is. Looking like the Glaive from the movie Krull (Atari 2600, 1983) or maybe throwing-stars (back to 70’s kung fu!), enemy shots have no shadows so trying to determine if they’ll hit you or not is nearly impossible when they approach from the side. My advice is to change altitude every time one approaches from the left or right.

After shooting all the saucers down you'll come to a survivor on the ground indicating where you're supposed to land. Be careful however not to come into contact with a errant cactus, tumbleweed, or the sharp corner of an oil rig! Wait until all the survivors climb on board if you can, but you may be forced to take off prematurely due to a fresh wave of enemies.

In theory, after making it through 8 levels you drop off the survivors and the game loops back around to the original desert level. I've never personally made it that far, but one day I intend to. When I do finally make it to that drop-off I will consider the game completed and get on with life.

The soundtrack, a theme lasting almost three minutes, plays on a loop but makes for a fantastic accompaniment. You can listen to it here. I definitely recommend Panther to any C64 enthusiast. It’s a great test of one's joystick prowess and a fun retro romp. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Blue Max (Atari XEGS)
Bop'N Wrestle (Commodore 64)
Kung-Fu Master (Atari 2600)
Choplifter (Sega Master System)
Blue Max 2001 (Commodore 64)

Pitstop 2
Grade: C-
Publisher: Epyx (1984)
Posted: 2011/6/1

screenshotI recently had a chance to play the original Pitstop with the Critic on his Atari XEGS, and Pitstop 2 isn't much different. You have the option of racing 3, 6, or 9 laps around any one of six tracks (or all six if you select Grand Prix). The graphics are much improved over the original. That isn't to say they're spectacular by any stretch, but compared to the original it's like night and day. As you race around the track you need to avoid other vehicles and keep an eye on your fuel gauge and tires. If you're running low on fuel or your tires are worn (as indicated by different color bands that appear on them) you'll need to make a pitstop.

What could have been an interesting "mini-game" is a bit of a mess in this iteration, as it's more difficult to change tires than I remember in the original. Trying to maneuver your tire-changer around the front and back of the vehicle and then line him up just right is a maddening exercise in frustration. Apparently the developer realized this and put some dotted "guiding lines" on the ground but you still have to fuss around to get him to the sweet spot.

Considering how speed is the #1 criteria for pit stops in real racing, it's amazing how slow and clumsy your crew is. Refueling is much easier; the gas man only goes left or right, so you move him towards the car until he starts pumping and push him away when you've got enough. Do not let him overfill your tank, as that will lead to your fuel dropping back to nothing and you'll have to refill it all over again.

You can usually get away without even hitting the pits if you're only racing three laps, but otherwise you're sure to run out of fuel or blow a tire before you complete the race. One odd thing about this game is that it always presents the action in a split-screen format, even when playing the computer! When playing against another player I find myself glancing down occasionally to see what he's up to, but I really don't care when it's the computer player.

It's a shame they don't have the option for playing full-screen, but what can you do? The audio is limited to your racing engine and some minimal sound effects when you do hit the pits. Pitstop 2 isn't bad for an early 8-bit racing title. The two-player split-screen was pretty unique for the time, but the lack of a save feature for best lap or race times hurts its replay value. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Pitstop (Colecovision)
Pitstop (Atari XEGS)
Grand Prix (Bally Astrocade)
Victory Run (Turbografx-16)
The Great American Cross Country Road Race (Atari XEGS)

Project Firestart
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1989)
Posted: 2018/10/26

screenshotCheck it out - a game set in the future that actually takes place in the future! In 2061 genetic experiments are in progress aboard an orbiting space station to develop a stronger, heartier race of mining creatures. What could possibly go wrong?

Project Firestart casts you in the role of an intrepid "fixer" sent to retrieve the station's log files, initiate self-destruct, and get the heck out of Dodge before two hours elapses. Otherwise *they* well remotely destruct the ship, taking you with it. Which begs the question, why are they sending you in the first place? They must really want those logs!

Once you arrive they fax you a map. Who could have guessed such a problematic, hated technology would make a comeback in 2061? I'm surprised they didn't issue me a beeper for good measure! I had read Project Firestart is considered one of the first (if not the first) "survival horror" titles and I believe it. Despite minimal sound and sparse inventory there's a pervading sense of dread and foreboding as you search the deserted vessel while keeping an eye on that ever-ticking countdown.

On occasion you're subjected to a jump-scare in the form of a sudden loud noise accompanied by a quick cut-scene of a mutant. When played in a dark room in total silence it is a jarring experience! Despite being armed with an energy weapon there isn't much combat. Finding your way around is the primary challenge and it can feel tedious at times. The game seems designed for confusion. You press "up" to enter a room but to exit you have to push left? And while I'm no cartographer I am a guy and could not make heads or tails out of the so-called map. I did find a decent fan-made map on the internet so apparently I wasn't the only one with issues.

Apparently there are several endings to the game although to date I've only been able to achieve one of them. Sadly, it's the one where you die! There's no "Try again?" option. No, you have to power-cycle the C64 and completely reload the game. Talk about punishment! Project Firestart is a difficult and often disorienting experience. Still, when played alone at night it does a surprisingly good job of raising goose bumps and building tension as you feverishly try to complete a harrowing mission in the lonely desolation of space. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare (Dreamcast)
Taboo The Sixth Sense (NES)
Ace Combat 2 (Playstation)
Roc 'N Rope (Atari 2600)
Hook (Sega CD)

Grade: B+
Publisher: SSI (1984)
Posted: 2024/1/2

box Up front I should mention Questron has some of the most face-meltingly awesome fantasy artwork to grace a box cover. There's a muscled barbarian riding a giant eagle and about to absolutely BURY his axe into some bad guy's ugly disembodied face. The background offers a menagerie of shadowy creatures and buildings that can’t possibly house anything but evil. If this doesn’t get you pumped enough to begin wailing away on monsters of yore, you may in fact be clinically dead.

An early-ish RPG for the C64, this game was heavily based on the Ultima series, so much that legal threats over the game had to be settled out of court. You play the role of a lowly serf in the land of Questron who slowly gains the fame and fortune required to take on the evil wizard Mantor. Early in the game Mantor destroys your hamlet of Geraldtown, so you know he means business.

Unlike other RPGs of the time, there is no gaining of experience through slaying monsters and finding treasure. Instead you have to bide your time, doing whatever you can to stay alive until the slow passage of time opens up better and better weapons and armor options. There's no “speed-running” through THIS game! It can be pretty brutal, as you drop most of your hit points to random creatures in the countryside. As the ultimate indignation, I was once killed by an albino leech!

Enemies drop gold, and yes, bears do carry gold! This can be exchanged for healing potions, but it's just barely enough to sustain you. On top of that you must constantly buy food that gets consumed at a standard rate. At least once I died because I wasn’t paying attention and ran out of provisions!

Eventually I figured out that I could "game" the system by making liberal use of the casinos in some cities. “Double or nothing” is your friend! At some point you’re tasked with a quest I've never seen in another RPG. It necessitates you slaughter all the poor, innocent guards in the good wizard’s castle. Typically killing innocents in a game has some kind of negative consequence but this game doesn't even care!

Eventually you travel to the Land of Evil, a continent much like Questron, only evil…er. Here you descend into dungeons in a specific order so that you can finally confront Mantor himself. After a somewhat anticlimactic battle, you’re treated to one of the most rewarding and spectacular celebrations of victory ever seen in an RPG. FINALLY I’m given the hero’s welcome I’ve always deserved!

In a somewhat ballsy move, the game ends by indicating Questron II is the next logical stop in your adventure. Was this just a bit of Chutzpah on the part of the developer, or was a follow-on game already in the works? In any case, it’s satisfying to get such prominent recognition for hard work. This game can drag on in certain spots but it all feels worthwhile in the end. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Final Fantasy (Guest Review) (NES)
The Incredible Wizard (Bally Astrocade)
Roadwar 2000 (Commodore 64)
Food Fight (Atari 7800)
House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return (Wii)

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