Matt Thompson buys some new BBC games...?
The BBC Micro games market should have finished many years ago, as RISC OS machines took over from the good old Beeb, so it seems rather strange that all these years later here I am with not one, but three brand new BBC Micro game releases.
The games have been released by Cronosoft, who specialise in releasing brand new games at budget prices for old computer systems - such as BBC, Spectrum, Commodore, Amstrad. More on Cronosoft later, but let's turn back the clock to the Beeb years and have a look at these new games, complete with 'The Micro User' style scoring system!
Egghead In Space
This started out as a ZX Spectrum game but was then converted to the BBC, and it is a good old 8-bit platform game of which many were released for the BBC Micro. In this game you take control of Egghead (an egg on legs) who has had his favourite computer games stolen by aliens (yes really!) and he has managed to hitch a ride back to their planet, now he is on a mission to retrieve his games collection.
The game is played by moving Egghead around the screens, avoiding nasties, and picking up and using items along the way. There are the usual key open door puzzles, plus others, such as a light which will illuminate rooms that are dark. You will find that some items will dispose of the alien creatures, for example the Water Pistol is not liked by one type of alien so if you pick it up and head in their direction you will find that they have disappeared.
The graphics of Egghead In Space are in monochrome, so you only get one colour per screen as you can see from the screenshots. Whilst this is not the most colourful of graphical displays it does work well, and was used in many BBC games in the past such as Spellbinder, Return Of The Jedi and Plan B so it isn't anything new. The lack of colour doesn't spoil the game as the graphics are well drawn and detailed.
There's not much in the way of sound in the game, there is a rendition of "The Great Escape" on the title page, but apart from that a few functional in game noises and that's about it really.
Egghead In Space is a relatively easy game to get into, not too difficult or too easy, Egghead is easy to control just left, right and jump. The controls are redefinable, you have 5 lives to start with and will lose one of them if you come into contact with any of the alien beings or fall too far from a ledge. Beware as being an egg you break easily!
I haven't got that far into the game as yet, but I was able to explore quite a large area of the game and solve a few of the puzzles before getting stuck. I don't know how big the actual game is but I think there is plenty more to discover, and unlike many of the old BBC games which I never managed to complete, I'm certainly going to try and finish this one.
I liked Egghead In Space, as I found it to be a quality little platformer and would go as far to say that it is better than some games that were released commercially for the BBC many years ago, I found it a good challenge and it was entertaining to play.
I would recommend it to anyone who used to enjoy platformers back in the 1980s and would like a new challenge, definitely worth a go.
Sound ............. 5 Graphics .......... 7 Playability ....... 7 Value for Money .. 10 Overall ............9
Weenies is a game that must have been inspired by Lemmings as there is more than a passing similarity to it, as the object of the game is to save a group of creatures from killing themselves and guide them safely to the exit.
Upon loading you get the main game menu, there are four options here, start game, enter password, load a different group of levels and turn the sound on or off.
Playing the game itself is very easy, but you need to read the instructions first to know what everything does. Using the cursor keys to control the 'flashing block' you move this around the screen and then can place either bricks, rope or ladders to help the Weenies get to the exit, you only have a certain amount of each to complete the level. To place a block you simply press the corresponding number 1) Ladder 2) Rope 3) Brick , you can remove a block if it's in the wrong position by deleting it but you don't get it back! You can place a brick anywhere on the screen, but ladders and ropes can only go in certain places, you can't have a rope hanging in mid air it has to be suspended from a platform above so the Weenies can climb down the rope, and the ladders need a block beneath them so the Weenies can get to the ladders and then climb up them.
The screenshot below, shows the first level, this is very easy to complete, you simply place the brick in the gap and the Weenies can then travel safely across to the exit.
Visually the game looks like a typical BBC Micro game, the graphics are slightly blocky in places, and the levels use three colours plus black, but it looks OK and works well considering the limitations of a 32K machine.
On the right of the screen is the information panel which shows the number of each block available for that level, the time left to complete the level, the number of Weenies currently out and the rate at which they will emerge from the hatch. You can speed this release rate up if you wish to do so, there is also the scanner at the bottom right which is a map of the level and also shows the position of the Weenies on the level. The early levels are just on the one screen but later ones scroll to the left and the right to make for a bigger playing area.
Weenies will die if they fall too far off a ledge so you have to be quick to make sure they don't fall, to complete the level you need to guide all the Weenies to the exit before the time runs out otherwise it will be game over. When all the Weenies have made it to the exit, you will get the password for the next level, and you can then skip the levels you've already completed.
The sounds in the game include a very typical BBC tune at the start of each level and a different one on the completion of each level, the in-game sound effects are minimal beeps and noises.
Overall I think Weenies is a great little game, entertaining to play, addictive and at times frustrating, plus it is an original game idea for the BBC as well, when you remember that Lemmings was never released for the BBC Micro. As with Egghead In Space I would say that this would not have looked out of place back in the 1980s as a commercial title, and is well worth playing.P>Verdict
Sound ............. 6 Graphics .......... 7 Playability ....... 8 Value for Money .. 10 Overall ............8
This is the final new BBC release, and this time a change in game style, as Dominion is a MODE 7 text only adventure, the story of this adventure is as follows:
You take on the role of Squire Knightson, who is the Lord of Rhodas Manor, whose land is threatened from a dark force led by a powerful Emperor. Knightson must now take on the challenge of destroying this force and save the land. In this quest you will visit far off regions, fight creatures and use magic to complete your quest.
When you load the game you will see the title page which is shown above after that, the game will start, I couldn't get MODE 7 screenshots from !6502em so this is the text equivalent - which is much the same thing anyway - just imagine it's in MODE 7 style text!
"Squire Knightson was at the Rhodes Village"
"Knightson can proceed :"
"What now sire ?"
Typing in North moves you to a new location, same with typing South. In additional to typing direction movements, other commands need to be entered there are basic two word commands such as "Take Item" "Use Item" "Examine Door" and also some more in depth commands (as taken from the manual) "Say To Wizard Cast Spell" and "Give Bread To Wizard" if you type in "Look" you can get a more detailed description of your current location.
I didn't really go a lot on this game, not because it's bad, but because I'm not a massive fan of text adventures, they have never really appealed to me, although I have to admit I did like Project Thesius by Robico which I had on one of those Beau Jolly games collections and found that to be a very good text adventure.
I didn't know Dominion was a text adventure, if I had then I probably wouldn't have bought it, but I just bought the three new BBC games!, however those that used to like text adventures might like to give it a try, i'm sure there is a market for these types of games.
I'm not going to give the marks out of ten for this game as I haven't really played it properly and would be unfair to judge it from the small part I have seen of it.
These three BBC games are available to buy from Cronosoft at www.cronosoft.co.uk and they are available in both emulator images or on tape or disc as you would find them in the shops complete with inlays, if you still have access to a BBC Micro then you can buy Weenies and Egghead In Space on cassette only, and you can buy Dominion on 5.25" disc (remember them?) other formats may be available at a later date, but at the time of writing that is all that is listed on the website. If you want a different format then might be worth contacting Cronosoft to see if they can help, the games are also available as emulator images for use with BBC emulators such as !6502em. All three games are available as images and when you order them you will get the game image file and also the instructions as a textfile sent to you via email.
It is worth mentioning here that Cronosoft also have a lot of new games available for other 8 bit machines with can be played without problem on RISC OS machines, the main market seems to be for ZX Spectrum games and there are a lot of them, all new titles, including some other Egghead games. Some of the Cronosoft games are available as emulator images from Retro Soft see www.retro-soft.co.uk for details. These games will run perfectly on !Z80em although there is a problem with sound on the Iyonix for some reason, the games seem to run OK, but are silent, this issue only occurs with an Iyonix and hopefully it can be resolved at some point as it's rather annoying. The only solution at the moment is to run the previous version of !Z80em through Aemulor Pro and the sound is there, although the games run a bit slower than they should, this problem will not occur on RISC OS 4 machines - Virtual or real.
There are also Commodore games available which should run ok with the Vice range of programs, games currently available for Vic 20 and Commodore 64. In addition there are also some Amstrad games available but the RISC OS Amstrad emulator is a bit out of date and isn't Iyonix compatible, so I don't know how good it is at running these new games. Maybe someone could update it to work on the Iyonix ?
It's great to see some brand new BBC titles being released commercially, and good quality ones rather than just any old rubbish. I particularly liked Egghead and Weenies, a throwback to the good old days of gaming, when games were fun and entertaining to play, and not just about fancy sounds and graphics like so many of today's games are, you need a playable game as well! I didn't really go a lot on Dominion, but I was never much of a fan of text adventures, so naturally it didn't appeal, but probably worth a try for those who used to enjoy text adventures.
Finally if anyone has any unfinished or finished BBC games that they never did anything with, why not contact Cronosoft and get it released and also make a bit of money at the same time, hopefully there will be more BBC releases to come from Cronosoft, we shall see.