The year of the C64 - A 2018 Roundup and GOTY Nominees!


As another super year for the C64 draws to a close, I take another look at the release highlights of the year, starting with all the games which had Physical versions ship this year, then followed by all the digital download releases, including the ones which will ship next year, but which got digital releases this year. I’ll also nominate my favourites for the Indie Retro News GOTY 2018 (Game of the Year). I’ll reveal the winner on my Twitch stream on New Years Eve so stay tuned!

2018 Physical Releases:

MAH
Publisher: RGCD / Protovision
Developer: Retream
Release: 1st March 2018
Compatibility: D64 / CRT (PAL Only)


MAH v1.0 was developed by Retream back in 2015 as a free download. This is MAH v2.0 and it’s a much improved and expanded version, which saw a physical disk and cartridge release back in March. You have 90 minutes to hack the apocalypse shield and save the world. Using your Peekpoker hacking tool, you must hack 24 security layers defended by 138 different enemies. This is a deep and original arcade blaster and a technical tour de force. There are 10 sound tracks which play dynamically as the game action changes. The thought that’s gone into the user interface and overall game presentation is phenomenal. It’s also brilliant fun. Easily one of the best game releases this year.

9/10
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Hunter’s Moon Remastered
Publisher: Thalamus / RGCD
Developer: Martin Walker / Thalamus
Release: 31st July 2018
Compatibility: CRT (PAL & NTSC)


Originally released in 1987 Hunters Moon is a huge multi-directional scrolling overhead shootemup with strategy elements. The idea of the game is to blast your way through multiple alien cities consisting of various cell type structures in order to collect all the star cells dotted throughout. A nice touch is to add a level select screen per star system which allows you to avoid particularly tough levels and choose your own path through the game.

This remaster was announced as a Kickstarter in 2017, to celebrate the game’s 30th anniversary. It adds over 50 new levels to the game’s original 127 (including 1 designed by me!) , a level editor, new music by the legendary Matt Gray, a stunning opening intro, cartridge saving and a heap of new game modes including to play the original version.

The game easily deserved it’s Zzap Sizzler back in the day, and even in 2018 still plays fantastically well. You’ll be playing for years more to come and we can’t wait for more Thalamus remasters. Fingers crossed for more announcements from them in 2019. You can also watch a full interview and gameplay of this game from the archives of my twitch channel: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/314915097


8/10
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Steel Ranger
Publisher: Psytronik
Developer: Covert Bitops
Release: 28th Jan 2018
Compatibility: D64 (PAL & NTSC)


Set in a desperate war against a hostile AI controlled space fleet, You and your crew must investigate strange transmissions from a supposedly barren world. Grab your power suit and prepare to face the enemy.

Obvious inspirations for this huge Metroidvania platformer include Manfred Trenz’s Turrican series and a story driven narrative system which you’d associate more with arcade RPGs on the NES. From the opening crash sequence to to the first boss you can tell the level of effort and care involved in making this game must’ve been incredible. Excellent combat and movement controls ensure that this is C64 run and gun perfection.

9/10
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Pains n’ aches - A Knight & Grail Adventure
Publisher: Psytronik
Developer: Mikael Tillander
Release: 27th Jan 2018
Compatibility: D64 (PAL & NTSC)


Also from Psytronik and released alongside Steel Ranger back in January, Pain n’ aches is the sequel to Knight & Grail. Both are solid arcade adventure games where you must explore the huge number of screens destroying enemies as you go, and hunting down items which can grant your character more powers and unlocking further areas of the map.

The game features great controls, superb graphics and an atmospheric sound track which changes based on your location. Both this and Steel Ranger were the first Psytronik games to come in the beautiful new Collector’s edition boxes which scream quality.

8/10
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Sidney Hunter And the Sacred Tribe
Publisher: CollectorVision
Developer: Exidy
Release: April 2018
Compatibility: D64 / Physical CRT (PAL & NTSC)


CollectorVision’s excellent series of games have been released on SNES, IntelliVision, Sega Master System and April saw the C64 release of Sidney Hunter and the Sacred Tribe.

You play as Sidney Hunter, the great adventurer who has been captured by a mysterious tribe whilst searching for treasures in the Yucatan Peninsula. The tribe are trapped in an dangerous underground cave and need your help to open the doorway to the Mayan City.

You must navigate through 100 screens full of traps, puzzles and deadly creatures as you secure the lost gems and find the key the tribe need. With no weapons enemies must be avoided with expert timing using the fire button to jump, and one touch means insta death. You do have a map which you can open by pressing F1 and it will be essential as you try to plan the best route through the levels. Movement is silky smooth and the game has tight controls. Also fabulous music and graphics by Saul Cross.

There’s also another Sidney Hunter game being ported to NES right now, so fingers crossed we’ll see more of Sidney Hunter on the C64 in future.

8/10
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Legend of Atlantis
Publisher: Psytronik
Developer: Stuart Collier
Release: 17th June 2018
Compatibility: PRG, D64, TAP (PAL & NTSC)


Your search for the ancient secret of Atlantis is reaching its conclusion as you search a half buried temple somewhere in North Africa. Inside you must search the rooms for items, avoid enemies, traps and find more clues to help you in your search.

Another superbly presented, quality platformer from Psytronik veterans: Stuart Collier, Trevor Storey and Saul Cross. Controls are responsive although the traps and movement of enemies can be a little unforgiving especially as 1 hit with anything will kill you and combat is clunky and limited. Whilst the game’s learning curve is a little on the steep side, you do seem to make a little progress on each playthrough, although I feel like once you’ve solved all the puzzles and finished the game, they’ll be little to keep you coming back to it.


7/10
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Organism
Publisher: Psytronik
Developer: Achim Volkers
Release: 17th June 2018
Compatibility: PRG, D64, TAP (PAL & NTSC)


Just one look at the fantastic Trevor Storey box-art screams Alien, and the backstory could be straight out of successful 20th century Fox franchise. The crew of the Heracles have been working early from hypersleep because of a high alert caused by a breach in the cargo containers.

Gameplay consists of navigating the isometric levels searching the ship for access cards, surviving crew, ammunition and ultimately a way off of the doomed ship. Data access to other levels can be achieved by routing power in a pipeline style sub game and either avoiding or killing the aliens which will try to overwhelm you throughout. One nice touch is that you’ll only see the muzzle flash of your assault rifle, while bullets are invisible, Alien breed style. There are clear nods to the Alien films, to Ocean sub games, to Ultimate Play the Game’s isometric games like Staff of Karnath and the ship’s lift level selection screen is straight out of Paradroid.

You’ll need wits as well as brawn to escape!

7/10
---

Yoomp! 64
Publisher: RGCD & Psytronik
Developer: Zbigniew Ross
Release: 2nd August 2018
Compatibility: D64, CRT (PAL only)


A slew of summer physical game releases included Yoomp! 64. A C64 port of Yoomp, an indie game originally made for the Atari 8-bit machines. The player must navigate a bouncing ball through a series of increasingly difficult 3D tunnel mazes. Helped or hindered by a number of special tiles lining the tunnel walls, finishing all 23 levels will not be easy. But with a blasting sound track produced by Michał Brzeski, the soundtrack to your journey will be as thrilling as the gameplay.

It’s always great to see games pushing the hardware to its limits, and this C64 remake definitely does that.

8/10
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Shadow Switcher
Publisher: Dr. Wuro Industries
Developer: Dr. Wuro Industries
Release: 15th Sep 2018
Compatibility: PRG, D64 (PAL & NTSC)


Dr. Wuro have produced a solid library of pure fun action arcade games in the last few years, and Shadow Switcher doesn’t disappoint. This would be a fairly standard platformer, albeit one with great controls and super fast gameplay. Collect all the rings on each static screen level and reach the exit. However the game adds a cool twist as you must switch between your shadow self and your real self to avoid the evil zombie robots.

If the included 40 levels of mayhem are not enough, then there’s a level editor to create even more and share with the community. Not only is this an excellent C64 release, which will keep you coming back for more, but the digital download is also freeware available from Dr. Wuro’s website. Easily the best freeware game of the year. A cartridge version is scheduled for release in 2019 which will include even more levels some of which will be a selection of the best levels created by the players.

One of the best games of the year, and it's free to download!

9/10
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Mono
Publisher: Clay.ch
Developer: Clay Spoerri and Raphael Graf
Release: 8th August 2018
Compatibility: CRT (Pal only)


Mono is a fast paced vertical scrolling shoot em up which came out of nowhere this year. Released on cart, a lot of negative comments followed regarding the game’s graphics - they most likely only saw the screenshots because in action, the animated backgrounds look great. Don’t listen to them, play the game yourself, it’s nonstop action from start to finish and includes weapon upgrades, boss battles and a unique score system which is linked to your weapons and your health. It’s not the longest or hardest, but definitely above the average shooter.

6/10
---

Space Moguls
Publisher: Protovision
Developer: Carl-Henrik Skårstedt
Release: 8th Dec 2018
Compatibility: D64, CRT (NTSC & PAL)


Space Moguls is a tribute to M.U.L.E, a strategy game from 1985 in which players must take turns to harvest resources from an alien planet. I never played the original M.U.L.E but I had an absolute blast playing this on my stream when the cartridge arrived this month. Every turn counts as you take turns to pick mining locations and search for either food, energy, ore, or precious materials then head on over to the pub to receive your pay check. You can play solo against the computer AI or go head to head in the 2-4 player multiplayer modes.

Presentation is very good, from the slick UI to the humourous graphics and animations. The sound track is thrilling and changes throughout each turn of gameplay. Gameplay is deep and initially may be a little overwhelming, but the manual is clear and easy to follow, so either veterans of the game who loved it back in the day or even newcomers like me should be able to pick up and play the game in no time.

9/10
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Mayhem in Monsterland 25th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Psytronik / Thalamus
Developer: Apex Computer Productions
Release: 17th October 2018
Compatibility: D64, (PAL & NTSC different versions)


As well as all the brand new games being developed, it’s just as great to see the remasters and re-issues of classic games of the past, repackaged in shiny new boxes. Mayhem is another cutesy platformer from the Rowland brothers (Creatures & Creatures 2) and released under the Thalamus label 25 years ago. It famously received a massively exaggerated 100% review in Commodore Format, who were keen to big up a AAA title coming out on the ageing 8bit format in 1993.

Gameplay wise I don’t think this lived up to the hype. It isn’t a bad platformer, but it’s let down by some obnoxious level design and fiddly combat mechanics.. Jumping on the heads of some enemies requires pixel perfect jumping. They’ve tried to create something fun like Mario, but there are so many tricky jumps in level 1 you might give up without even seeing the colourful level 2. You’re required to backtrack constantly to collect enough stars to be allowed to pass through the level exit, and those tricky enemies will respawn every time you leave the screen. It’s like playing Flimbo’s quest, without the gun weapon, and with a load of difficult jumps to manage right at the start of level 1. With better level design and a few tweaks, it could’ve been much better, but still not 100%.

I still want a boxed copy though so thanks Psytronik ;)

7/10
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Escape From London
Publisher: Ginger Colin
Developer: Darren Edwards
Release: 24th May 2018
Compatibility: Cassette, BASIC (PAL & NTSC)


Escape from London was a successful Kickstarter project and also featured on Games That Weren't as it looked like the game had been abandoned a few years ago.  


Successfully Kickstarted in January, Escape from London is a humble text adventure with a terrifyingly good backstory.  Can you survive a dirty bomb attack on London?



I wasn't able to get the digital version to work on VICE, so haven't put a score for this game here.

N/A
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Counterweight Kate
Publisher: Cogitare Computing
Developer: Alex Martinelle
Release: 3rd April 2018
Compatibility: Cassette, D64 (PAL)


Another original concept for a static screen platforming game: use the seesaws and counterweights to reach the top of each level, avoid the enemies and even includes boss fights. This is implemented really well and would have made a fantastic budget release back in the day. Grab yourself a physical copy on tape or get it on itch for $1 or more. We’ll hopefully see more from Alex Martinelle and Cogitare in 2019.

7/10
---

Single Button Games Collection
Publisher: Komoda & Amiga Plus
Developer: K&A
Release: July 2018
Compatibility: Cassette, (PAL & NTSC)


K&A’s Single Button Games, as the name suggests is a compilation of games where you just need one fire button to control. Popularised by mobile games which only required one hand or one thumb to control on the phone.. The most famous one Flappy Bird is even included in the compilation. Inside the modest box packaging of the deluxe edition you’ll also find a unique single fire button controller which you can use to not only play all the included games, but also modern masterpieces such as P0 Snake and C64anabalt. This collection was included as the first cover tape of Komoda & Amiga magazine, and it includes the following games: Captain Cloudberry - Episode IV: Helium, Pixel City Skater, Fire to Jump, Flappy Bird and Flapper.

7/10
---

Exploding Fish
Publisher: Reset Magazine
Developer: Megastyle
Release: 4th May 2018
Compatibility: Cassette, D64, (PAL & NTSC)


A quality budget release from Megastyle. Exploding Fish is a series of single screen levels set underwater where you must collect the oxygen supplies and defuse the bombs which have been hidden at numerous locations along the protected coral reefs.

Protect the fish while avoiding them, as they don’t seem to appreciate your efforts. This game is fun and challenging and reminds me of the Piranha Pond sections of Creatures. Originally released as part of Reset Magazine issue 11’s coverdisc, and as a digital download on itch.. It has since had a full cassette tape physical release from Megastyle and is a worthy addition to anyone’s collection.

6/10
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Sizzler
Publisher: RGCD / Psytronik
Developer: Stuart Collier
Release: Dec 2018
Compatibility: Cassette, D64, CRT (PAL)


Sizzler is the latest work of Collier, Storey and Cross. Released as a perk in the Zzap annual Kickstarter, it will see a full commercial release early next year from Psytronik. Gameplay involves controlling a robot with slinky spring legs called Mik3 around Zzap towers collecting the disks, computer code and music for the hot new Zzap Sizzler.

Graphically stunning, it suffers a little from slightly odd movement mechanics which mean some enemies become impossible to avoid. It’s another solid C64 platformer and another great pre-xmas surprise.

7/10
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2018 Digital Download Releases:



The year started on a high note with a remake of Blox Copy by Jason Kelk - the game source code was cleaned up in preparation for a port to Atari 8 bit, and made available on Github and CSDB. Blox Copy RX is quite a fun but challenging line em up puzzle game and was released as a digital download on 1st Jan 2018.


February saw a port of a minigame from Fallout called Fallout Hacker. Unsure how the game works as I never played much of the Fallout games, and this release appears broken in places… Maybe worth checking out if you’re a fan of the series:



April 1st saw a joke about Farm Simulator being ported C64… haha, ye right!


Flappy Typing was created for April’s Ludam Dare 41 game jam - the theme was to create a game crossing to genres, and it was a great surprise to see a really really cool game made for the jam, which was really original and played brilliantly. Created in only 48 hours, It’s like flappy bird, but you have to navigate the bird through the pipes by typing the words appearing on the screen with perfect timing. You can even play it in the browser over on the itch.io page:


PET Snake 64 released on April 24th, is a port of snake game made for the PET in 40 column mode in 2017. It would’ve been much better with some adjustment options for the speed of the snake. Nokia Snake is one of the best games ever, and other than the speed this plays pretty close to that version.



TND (Multiple Game releases)
More original games from the consistently great The New Dimension. Games like Quad Core, Star Toast, Rogue Ninja, Missile Blaster, Ceti 21 and Spider Maze. The New Dimension have been busy championing new game dev initiatives both in and out of SEUCK with a SEUCK competition which saw a ton of new SEUCK games and also Assemble IT, a compilation of tools and tutorials for creating new Assembly games easily on the C64.

You can check them all out over on their blog here:



May saw the release of a much anticipated text adventure Hibernated 1 - This Place is Death by Steven Vogt. The game featured a fantastic Alien inspired storyline and multiple synonyms to ease the gameplay. We’re expecting the physical release from Pond Sofware very soon.


A new party game from 2-8 players came out (yes there’s an 8 player joystick adapter out there somewhere, but I can’t find anywhere that still sells it!).. Anyone able to get one of those and some mates round would be able to have a blast with Schlimeisch Mania II, a Tron / Snake style game with great graphics by the Unreal group.

Reset 4KB Competition 2018


29 brand new games came out end of June / beginning of July for the 2018 Rest Magazine 4KB game competition. The winning entry was Paul Koller’s Conga 4096, which was a fantastic port of RGCD’s Pan Dimensional Conga Combat (available on steam for pennies). There were many more awesome entries for the competition which I sat on the judging panel for… such as Wave Hero (Geir Straume), Snake-A-Space (Jamie Fuller), Mind the Mines (Derek), Chef Quest (Pond) and Kalle Kloak 4K (Megastyle), Freaky Fish and so many more.



Tower of Rubble was another K&A cover disc game released on CSDB in October. A fast and fun high score game where you must avoid the falling blocks and use them to avoid falling into the water below. Great controls, and another excellent high score challenge!



Speaking of high score games: Scuttlebutt 64 is a hilariously fun Viz inspired shootemup / catchemup game from Karl Hornell. Depending on the level, you must either catch the falling poos in your bucket or shoot the invading asses… big colourful butt graphics and great controls! Meanwhile Poo of the Year award goes to hGabor84, who in the comments to my review of the game, suggested the developer never make games again because it’s not intelligent enough for him… What an ass! :P


Tombstones from Megastyle was a great looking but a rather throwaway quickdraw game where you just shoot opponents in gradually increasingly difficult rounds. It featured nice graphics but not much to keep you coming back.


Forum 64 and Protovision hosted a Sport games compo which saw 7 great new games entered, you can find all the downloads and places for the compo here:




Halloween saw this spooky game ported to C16, VIC20 and C64: Zombie Calavera Prologue by Hokuto Force. The game concept is really cool, and the silhouette style graphics are unique and atmospheric. Check it out here:


Then in the last couple of months we’ve really seen some great games like Aviator Arcade 2 - A shootemup from RGCD which is available as a cartridge to order right now, but which will ship early in the new year… Also remember that April Fools' joke about Farm Simulator?, it actually happened with a limted edition physical cart (sold out) also due to ship in January from Protovision. Although it received a lot of hype in the press, it was mostly a marketing gimmick to promote the PC release of Farm Simulator 2019, as the version on C64 is frankly awful. 


A 2D platforming version of Portal from Jamie Fuller, which plays brilliantly although far too short, I thought I’d just completed the tutorial but it turned out to be the entire game.. Fingers crossed for a level editor and more levels in the new year.  And last but not least L'abbaye des morts, the best port of Locamolito's open source platform adventure by Antonio Savona and Double Sided Games.  It is available to order now, and a digital version will be available when the game ships in Jan 2019.


And yesterday saw a fantastic looking run and gun platformer called Digiloi with huge PETSCII graphics from Dr. Terrorz.. I haven’t had a chance to play it, but the video made by Saberman for Youtube shows some really impressive looking gameplay. Read more here: 

GOTY 2018 Nominees.

Congratulations to all the nominees, the competition was insane this year.  Winner to be announced live on my Twitch stream New Year’s Eve
  • Hunters Moon Remastered (Thalamus) 
  • Steel Ranger (Psytronik) 
  • Pains n’ Aches (Psytronik) 
  • Shadow Switcher (Dr. Wuro) 
  • Space Moguls (Protovision) 
2018 saw some incredible stuff for the C64, It’s the year I started streaming new and old games for C64 on my Twitch stream, it’s been super fun and the reactions have been amazing. Thanks to all the readers, the game developers, C64 owners, real or emulation, the publishers and also all the bloggers and vbloggers who are keeping this system alive. All the best for 2019.


If I missed any games please feel free to mention them in the comments

@hayesmaker64

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