Friday, 20 May 2016

COMING OVER ALL DIZZY

What have I gotten myself into?  After reviewing Fantasy World Dizzy (click here) I thought it'd be a great idea to go back and play all of the Dizzy adventure games in order of their creation.  As a teen Fantasy World Dizzy was the first game I ever bought myself for my original C64 with my birthday money a few days before that Christmas when I received my computer.  (Yes, my parents had been buying me Commodore Format for a few months already but this was the first game I purchased with my own money.)

So basically I have a soft spot for the third game in the series and recently reviewed it here on the blog after being enchanted by it all over again, and completing it for only the first time!  With ten days off work at the moment I decided now would be a great time to get stuck into the first game in the series, despite still having other games I haven't played yet.  But I've all the time in the world with this great machine now, so I ordered his original game up from eBay and kept it sealed away (after testing it worked) until this week.

Hard boiled gaming

I've only played it twice so far and my initial reactions have been somewhat mixed.  It's clear this is the first game, with simpler graphics and animation, no in-game music, incredibly simplistic Spectrum-esque sound effects and a similarly basic loading screen when compared to Fantasy World's, but I expected these.  As a game series continues it's obviously going to evolve and develop and, while the Dizzy titles were criticised at the time for not developing enough and being too similar to each other, the difference between the first and third games is quite startling on first inspection.  With the other game I could happily bop along to the fantastic music no matter how many times it repeated itself and there was a great deal of humour amongst other improvements, such as the ability to carry more than one item!  This in particular is quite annoying in this first game as a lot of backtracking is needed with our eggy-breathed hero only capable of using one hand for some reason.

But there's one thing which is proving more difficult to get to grips with than anything else.

Humble beginnings for a smash hit computer game series

It really is insanely difficult so far.  I have every faith it'll get easier the more I get used to it but in the first couple of plays I haven't got very far at all I have to say.  With no other characters to interact with you're really on your own with no idea of where to go, and if you thought having one bird to contend with in Fantasy World was bad enough there's a ton of them here and they all follow random flight patterns.  That's not so great when there may only be one safe position on the screen and you have no idea where that is, and Dizzy isn't the fastest of eggs, nor is his set jumping pattern helpful in trying to get away from said birds when they change their direction suddenly.

But it's still early days and I will crack it!  Sorry.  I'm going to go and get stuck back in now and see how far I can get, though I probably know the answer.  I'm looking forward to the game opening up and I'll be back with a review as soon as I can.  In the meantime if you hear a joystick cracking against a wall you'll know where it came from.    


Thursday, 19 May 2016

COMMODORE FORMAT AND ME

This may not be the last post with a similar title to it, as my own time with the excellent Commodore Format magazine back in the 1990s became very personal to me in later issues and at some stage I'd like to cover that here on the blog.  But I've already written up a summary of this on another website and I appear to have completely forgotten about sharing it with you all on my own page!

The excellent Commodore Format site on Wordpress is a wonderful
resource for fans of the mag

There's a section of the site run by Neil Grayson which focusses on the stories of readers and how Commodore Format influenced them in various ways.  Called My CF it's a fascinating look for me at other readers' stories since I have one myself; I can't say my story is particularly fascinating and I've probably let the side down(!) but hopefully you'll disagree.  (That sounds modest enough, right?)

The beginning of my own CF story

I won't go on about it here (at least not yet) and will instead leave you to have a look at the article for yourselves.  Then when you're done make sure you check out the rest of Neil's superb tribute, including some brilliant interviews with the team behind CF, something which not even Retro Gamer magazine has been able to achieve!  It's a great site and I'll do a proper in-depth write-up about it at a later date, but for now just make sure you have plenty of spare time because you will get lost in there for hours!



Monday, 16 May 2016

NOT A CREATURE WAS STIRRING... EXCEPT A MOUSE

Another so-called un-boxing "treat" for you all.  Back as a teen I received my C64 for Christmas 1991 and as I've previously said my disk drive arrived around Easter 1992 after a redundancy payment to my dad (click here).  A friend of mine also had a C64 (the original breadbin) and disk drive and it was purely a gaming machine, as were the Amstrads and Spectrums owned by other school pals and when they started to move on to 16-bit machines they mainly continued to be used for this purpose.  The one exception was a friend who used his Atari ST for music production, as he was wonderfully gifted (and still is) and the ST was a fantastic machine for such tasks.

My parents had said they wouldn't buy me a games console because it could only do one thing and I was fine with this.  I'd wanted a computer to be able to do a whole variety of stuff on and, while the majority of my time up to Easter 1992 on my Commodore had been made up of gaming, I'd dabbled in some BASIC using the manual for instructions and I'd typed in the odd listing from Commodore Format.  By the time my disk drive arrived I was creating little basic (no pun intended) programs and saving them on disk, but nothing major and I was still games orientated.  That summer I bought the 3D Construction Kit and it was this that really started to open up the potential of using the computer to create as I'd always intended but hadn't got around to yet.  From there on in though it was clear I wanted to do more and more with this machine.

So for the next Christmas I then asked for that essential computer accessory, the mouse, which we'd been using on our new Macintosh computers at school, and a printer.  This would complete the package as far as I was concerned (apart from the Action Replay cartridge but my breadbin-owning friend had lent me his temporarily when he upgraded to the Amiga) and my dad even built a few shelves of various depths into an alcove in my bedroom as a workstation in preparation for it all.

There are several mice that can be used on the Commodore and in reading through the early Commodore Formats from its first year I see now the main one advertised was the Amiga mouse, complete with big chunky buttons. There was also the Stop Press & Mouse device used for a special desktop publishing title where each of the three raised buttons had a specific function within that particular programme.

The mouse my Amiga-owning friends will be familiar with

The software-specific three-button mouse that came bundled with
Stop Press in an offer within early issues of Commodore Format

However, by the time I joined in with the 64 and wanted to start drawing, programming and generally being as creative as I could with it, the mouse had changed to what I felt was a much better model.  It's this model I've now purchased again and it's not from some wish to recreate my youth, or to own everything I had back then, it's simply about knowing I'll need a mouse at some stage and this one was a joy to use.

As I've said all along I started this blog and purchased my Commodore this time around with the simple brief of enjoying my time with it and, with no pressure to amass a huge collection, see where it led me.  I wanted to treat it like a brand new purchase just like I had back then, but with the added benefit of adult hindsight, a love of retro and a bit of disposable income.  It didn't take me very long to realise I needed a disk drive.  It was something which made a huge difference originally; I couldn't turn back and go tape-only as a teenager and these days owning a disk drive is simply essential, especially with the new games being released and the wish to have the format for working on my own programming and whatever I decide to do.

The mouse was always in the back of my mind.  I knew at some point I'd need one in order to draw and it'd make certain tools and software much more enjoyable and easier to use.  I've read since then (in the book previously covered here for example) how some professional games artists would still use only a joystick, but the mouse was always my preferred choice, even back when they were still somewhat of a novelty and new to me.

However, it wasn't top of my priorities this time around as I know they sometimes go for ridiculous amounts of money (ignore these sellers, folks) and I'd yet to see anything but that Amiga mouse on eBay.  Well, lo and behold but didn't this turn up on everyone's favourite auction site a little over a month ago?

Quite the large package for such a small creature

While I knew it was coming bundled with the OCP Advanced Art Studio just as my original one had, I didn't actually realise it was packaged inside its original Datel Electronics box, so that was a great surprise when I opened it up.  Inside was an immaculate mouse which looked like it had never been used.  It had, but had been well looked after and cleaned up according to the seller.  It also came with some nice additional bits'n'bobs such as a mouse mat and holder, or "mouse house" as it's called on the box, guarantee card, all original packaging in superb condition (as was the outer box above) and the aforementioned art package with original manual.  Also included was the Simon's BASIC manual for some reason, even though it's actually instructions for a special cartridge not included here.  The seller must have just thrown it in for good measure.

Everything here looked like it was just purchased in the early 90s!
I couldn't believe this was 'as new' in the most perfect way

Close-up on the Datalux mouse box and the specifications of the
then-lastest, technologically advanced C64 mouse 

Matching my 64's colour scheme, do you remember these mice with
the wee ball in them?  It even came protected in its own foam
compartment and didn't have a speck of dirt on it

I just had to add this to show you how new this thing
looked and felt.  Works a treat too!


My original mouse came with a bright red mousemat and a mouse holder like the one in the top advert above, which was stuck to the mat with a foam sticker and made for a very neat cubbyhole for the mouse when not in use.  The mouse holder that came with this purchase is one of those you attach to the side of your monitor though, and with my CRT TV being very curvy there's no actual flat surface to stick it to.  So it's still residing in its box and the mouse is just sitting out and proud on the mat.

Miss my original holder it has to be said

I'm extremely pleased with my latest purchase, especially as it came in all that wonderful mint condition packaging and didn't need so much as a whiff of a Flash wipe.  My setup feels complete now and I'm so happy this model appeared when it did.  I may not have been planning on getting the mouse until I actually needed it, but it's here now, the desk (well, dining table for now) looks excellent and it means I'll have no waiting about when the time comes.  I certainly wasn't going to settle for any other C64 mouse and goodness knows when one of these models will turn up again.


If you're after a mouse for your 64 just be aware of the people who fire them up on eBay for ludicrous amounts of money.  The regular Commodore mouse is more abundant than you'd think, so if they're commanding a high price just ignore them, another one will be along shortly.  Now if you'll excuse me I've a week off work and a certain egg to get reacquainted with again.    

Prices can vary wildly but to give you a rough
estimate this whole package was sold for
£15.00 plus £3.80 postage on eBay UK