All Commodore reviews were submitted by special VGC correspondent The C64 Critic
Publisher: Unknown (1984)
I 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 were 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.
Publisher: Epyx (1984)
I 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 pitstops 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.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1989)
Check 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" title 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 feverish try to complete a harrowing mission in the lonely desolation of space. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Raid Over Moscow
Publisher: Access Software (1984)
Fans of Beach-Head will find a lot to like about Raid over Moscow. Once again you're pitted against a militaristic threat, but instead of a faceless dictator, your foe is no less than the former Soviet Union! This game pulls no punches on calling out the true enemy of Democracy (at least back then). Several USSR cities launch missiles at the good ole' US of A, and it's up to you to pilot stealth fighters from an orbiting space station and kick the living borscht
out of them. Obviously built using the same engine as Beach-Head, the game progresses in the same linear, mini-game fashion. The first task is to pilot one or more stealth fighters out of the space station. It's no small feat considering you're attempting to maneuver a machine not designed to operate in an airless, zero-G environment. After flying down to the offending city, you launch into a Zaxxon-like side-scrolling attack on the locals. You'll destroy military grade targets like oil fields, tanks, missiles, and... is that the NFL Hall of Fame?!
School buses desperately try to escape the Hell you're raining down from above. TAKE THAT YOU EVIL 5th GRADERS!! What's that? The Russians love their children too? Big words for a man who stabbed the back of the band that launched his career, Sting!
Anyway, assuming you survive you'll be presented with a new screen where you must destroy missile silos with well-aimed shots at just the proper altitude (much easier than it sounds). You'll go through this process X number of times depending on the difficulty setting, and eventually attack the Soviet Defense Center. You'll then get to experience the joy every child dreams of; launching rocket propelled grenades at the Kremlin! You'll pick off Ivan Drago wanna-bees sniping at you from the walls before entering the core of the nuclear reactor (within the Kremlin). You then do your best Tron imitation by flinging "disk grenades" at the robot feeding coolant into the reactor. Once these tasks are complete you have 2 minutes to destroy the boss. If you do, great, the city is destroyed but you somehow survive. If you fail, at least you've given everything you could in order to preserve our way of life, just like a good soldier should! In either event, Moscow is toast and America wins. Just like real life. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Raid on Bungeling Bay
Publisher: Broderbund (1984)
In PC circles Will Wright is considered gaming royalty and Raid on Bungeling Bay is a good example why. Famously the father of SimCity and The Sims, Will had a fascination with artificial intelligence which is reflected in his early work on home computers. The concept here is to attack an empire war machine using a helicopter launched from an aircraft carrier. The Bungeling empire is spread over several islands and your main targets are factories that slowly expand and develop tougher defenses over time. Damaged factories will actually "heal" over time. Defending the factories are anti-aircraft guns, tanks, guided missiles, gunboats, and other aircraft. These are destructible by gunfire or bombs, which leads to a major sticking point. Most joysticks circa 1984 had a single button, and in this game it serves four
different functions! You hit the button quickly to fire your machine gun and hold it for a half-second to drop a bomb. You hit it quickly to land on your carrier and hit it quickly to take back off. Can you guess how many times I accidentally bombed my own carrier because of this control scheme? Occasionally you'll need to protect your carrier against direct attack from the empire forces. If destroyed it will take your remaining extra choppers down with it to Davey Jones' locker. A fun sub-plot of the game is preventing the Bungelings from completing work on a massive battleship that slowly takes shape over the course of the game. You can bomb it in dry-dock to undo some of the progress or wait until it gets completed and then blow it out of the water - my favorite tactic! It's tough as heck to take out, but it feels extra satisfying knowing all the hard work those Bungelings put into that project. Raid on Bungeling Bay begins at a leisurely pace but the gameplay becomes quite frenetic as the defenses get stronger and more enemies get thrown your way. Destroy all six factories and you're treated to a newspaper article celebrating your heroics and a quick animation of a ticker tape parade held in your honor. After that it's back to the carrier for another round - no rest for the heroic! You keep playing until you lose all your helicopters, with a high score saved to floppy for future bragging rights. Bright, colorful, and innovative, Raid on Bungling Bay is a must-own for all C64 enthusiasts! © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Microprose (1988)
If there is one lesson the Critic has taught me time and again, it's that to be properly appreciated, games must be played "in season". And with the surprise turn of events that lead Vladimir Putin to invade the Ukraine, this is the perfect time to curl up with Red Storm Rising! That's right, The Cold War is back in season, baby!
How I pine for the simple days of old when you knew at any moment the entirety of the human race could be wiped out by a simple misunderstanding. Like the Tom Clancy novel of the same name, Red Storm puts you in command of a nuclear sub sent on missions to counteract Soviet hostilities in the European theater. The success or failure will impact NATO's effort to turn back the Soviet juggernaut. Succeed and watch cut-scenes of NATO grabbing the upper hand. Fail and watch the Soviet boot stomp its way ever westward. Graphically and audibly simple, this game focuses on simulating the true experience of commanding a sub in the north Atlantic against a technologically inferior (but numerically superior) foe. No offense to my buddy Ryan, who spent four grueling years at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis and eight follow-on years perfecting his submarining skills at sea, but he could have saved himself ALL that mess
by simply putting a few solid hours into RSR. Packed with a military-style guide, the massive tome explains not just the gameplay mechanics but provides detailed information on advanced submarining skills like torpedo evasion, running silently at depth, and setting your enemy up for the perfect kill. There's also a keyboard overlay to help you with commands in the heat of battle. A database of weapons, subs, and ships rounds out the information you'll need to successfully "stalk the Bear". Part of the game is played on an overhead map of Europe and the North Atlantic, where your sub and listening platforms are shown as icons. On this map you'll move to intercept the assigned enemy, be it sub and/or surface fleet. The screen then switches to a tactical screen where the REAL action takes place. Move above or below the thermal layer, stick with passive sensors or go "active", increase or decrease speed, and dodge enemy "fish" as they home in on you - sometimes from an enemy unseen. It's intense, it's exciting, and few accomplishments feel as hard-won and satisfying as taking out a Soviet aircraft carrier fleet - and getting away scott-free. Putin can have the Crimean peninsula, but he'd better think twice about sojourning very far from his Atlantic Fleet bases or he'll have ME to deal with. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Strategic Simulations Inc. (1986)
Seemingly the perfect game to play while hunkered down for the Coronavirus pandemic, Roadwar 2000 is an RPG-lite throwback romp to a future 1999 (I know what I just said). At that time some terrorist organization - I assume based in China - released a disease on the United States. After letting it ravage the population for a few months they follow it up with nuclear strikes. Talk about kicking 'em while they're down!
Fast forward (back) to the year 2000, you and a small crew of misfits are scraping by to survive. You travel by vehicle from city to city, occasionally fighting other road gangs and local factions. During these encounters you're given the option of "fast combat" or tactical battles. After choosing the tactical option once, I went strictly fast combat the rest of the way. Beat the local faction often enough and your gang (I named mine the Ala Ohana) is given the opportunity to take over the city. I’m not sure what benefit taking over cities actually does for you, but I do it whenever I’m given the option. Along the way you’ll loot food, fuel, medicine, and other staples to keep your gang alive and on the move. You can also recruit doctors, drill sergeants, politicians, that confer benefits like helping your gang members level up faster (drill sergeant) or avoiding excessive conflict (politicians). Eventually you’re given a password to a secret underground lab, and once you find it you’re on the hook to locate eight scientists who have the knowledge for a vaccine to save humanity. No pressure or anything!
I began Roadwar 2000 expecting it to be a D, but once I found my groove I thought it was a solid B+. Now that I’ve gotten the lay of the land I'm thinking C+. It’s tough sledding to get started, but once you find that perfect balance of vehicles and gang members to maraude around the country with, it’s a good time. Once I started collecting scientists however it turned into a repetitive series of fetch quests that rely heavily on chance. I don’t think my floppy drive has ever gotten such a workout, with the game accessing the disk for every little menu selection. Currently I’ve rescued three scientists to go with my six-vehicle convoy and 170 gang members. The idea of grinding to find the remaining five would be a bit of a quarantine killer. I've gone through 52 towns/cities out of 120, and I don’t think I have another 6-8 hours in me. It was a fun 20-or-so hours thus far, but all I can see on the road ahead is monotony. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Konami (1985)
Booting up Rush 'n Attack rekindled fond memories of playing the game at the local arcade back in my teens. Unlike Commando
(Data East, 1985) and Who Dares Wins II
(Alligata Software, 1985), this is a horizontal
scroller, so you'll move from left to right trying to avoid (or kill) enemy soldiers. You can climb up or down ladders to any of three levels, but enemies can do the same. Often they'll surprise you by shimmying up a ladder right into your lap! There are four POW's to rescue, one at the end of each stage, and if you can reach them all you're a better soldier than I. While not excessively hard, I found myself suffering a lot of what I considered to be cheap deaths. First off, who's the Commanding Officer in charge of planning this infiltration? This game exemplifies why you never bring a knife
to a gunfight
, because that's exactly the situation you're put into here - with predictable results! Sure, you can capture enemy arms as you go, but like the grenades in Commando, you must hit the space bar
to use any alternate weapons. While the action is not as frantic as Commando, it's still in your best interest to stick with your knife attack. When you lose your final life the game forces you to sit through a musical number that seems to last about 90 minutes. Why not just let me start over for crying out loud!? I really thought I would enjoy playing this throwback to the good old Cold War days (the threat of nuclear annihilation was much more fun during the Reagan years) but I found myself more annoyed than entertained. Graphically Rush 'n Attack is sharper and more colorful than either Commando or Who Dares Wins II, but in terms of gameplay it was my least favorite. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
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