Archive for the C64 Category

One man. Three hostages. Ninety-nine bullets. Untold riches. An infinite number of expendable Nazis. Welcome to Into the Eagle’s Nest.

Gauntlet, the classic arcade game released by Atari back in 1985, quickly inspired multiple clones both in arcades and at home on both consoles and home computers. Knock-offs such as Alien Syndrome (Sega, 1986), Druid (Firebird, 1986) and Demon Stalkers (Electronic Arts, 1987) copied the top-down maze format of Gauntlet and competed directly against licensed Gauntlet ports in the home market. While most of these Gauntlet clones took place in fantastic, magical settings, Into the Eagle’s Nest dropped players into World War II.

Presumably inspired by (at least in name) the classic World War II film “Where Eagles Dare” starring Clint Eastwood, Into the Eagle’s Nest places you in the heart of of the Eagle’s Nest, a Nazi fortress full of treasure, danger, and, well, Nazis. Your orders, according to the game’s manual, are to penetrate the Eagle’s Nest, rescue three allied captives before they are killed, destroy the Eagle’s Nest using hidden caches of explosives, and save as many stolen art treasures from destruction as possible.

To those who have played Gauntlet, the game’s layout should seem familiar. An overhead view of the Eagle’s Nest appears on the left, while a running inventory and status of your keys, ammo, health, and score are displayed vertically along the right hand side. A few differences between Gauntlet and Into the Eagle’s Nest are immediately noticeable. One, Into the Eagle’s Nest is a single-player game, so there will be no help for you. And two, the game’s graphics are much larger than Gauntlet’s. This design choice allows for more detailed graphics, but also means players are not able to see much of the game’s map at any given time (your view is limited to approximately 8×8 game tiles).

The game mechanics of Into the Eagle’s Nest should also seem familiar to Gauntlet veterans. Players will need to collect keys to open doors, collect first aid and food for health, and treasure (jewels, paintings, and vases) for score. Each level also contains elevator, wooden doors (which can be shot open), dynamite (boom!), and boxes of ammo. You’ll need the ammo to shoot and kill the hoards of Nazis, who are more than happy to return the favor. They’re not particularly bright, but there are lots and lots of them to deal with. The game is made more difficult by the fact that all bullets are invisible.

The ultimate goal of the game is to find all three allied prisoners and lead them to safety. Once your cohorts have been moved from harm’s way, you can complete the game’s final mission by using explosives and blowing the Eagle’s Nest sky high. If so are somehow able to do this, you’ll just start over in another, more difficult Eagle’s Nest. That doesn’t even make any sense. It would be like Darth Vader telling the Rebellion, “Oh yeah? Too bad for you I had ANOTHER Death Star!” And just how many stolen pieces of artwork were the Germans hiding in World War II? I mean, seriously; the Eagle’s Nest has more art than the Louvre!

As far as Nazi-killing games go, Into the Eagle’s Nest closes the gap between the original Castle Wolfenstein (Muse, 1981) and Wolfenstein 3D (id Software, 1992). Although it’s a difficult game, it’s a fun one to play. Into the Eagle’s Nest was released for most major 8-Bit computers including the Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, as well as a few 16-Bit platforms including the Amiga, Atari ST, and DOS.

Wonderboy
Sega (1987)

Call me isolated, but for almost two decades I had no idea the classic platformer Wonderboy for the Commodore 64 was actually ported from an arcade game. While I knew the same was licensed from Sega and written by Activision, it wasn’t until just a few years ago when I happened across a Wonder Boy cartridge for the Sega Master System that I realized the game was released for multiple systems!

Wonderboy was released during the flood of platformers that followed Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros., and while the game doesn’t contain the depth of hidden objects nor the iconic hero of the Mario games, it’s still a great platformer that I played the heck out of for many months.

The game’s mechanics should be familiar to fans of platformers. There are two basic types of enemies, those which take away from your Vitality meter (like rocks) and those which kill you instantly (most animals, rolling boulders, fire, and more). Your Vitality meter also acts as a timer and is continually being depleted, but it can be restored by eating any of the snacks (from bananas to banana splits!) you come across. There are also giant yellow eggs that can be busted open to reveal weapons, guardian angels, skateboards, tomahawks, and other goodies to help Wonderboy in his quest. Throughout the levels are hidden cupie dolls, each of which will have to eventually be collected in order to fight the final boss.

Since the C64 is limited to one joystick-button, jumping is done by pressing diagonal on the stick. Holding down your stick’s fire button makes you run faster, and after picking up throwing axes the fire button throws them too.

Wonderboy contains everything that made the classic 2D platformers of the mid-1980’s great. The Commodore 64 was designed to deliver colors, graphics, sound effects and music such as this. The whimsical enemies (from whirling natives to jumping octopi) are as cute as they are deadly, and the game’s platform designs are both challenging and entertaining.

Uridium
Hewson (1986)

Uridium is one of the fastest games I’ve ever played. At top speed, things whiz by you so quickly that your reflexes simply aren’t fast enough. You’ll have to memorize the levels to fly at that speed — too bad you can’t memorize where the next wave fleet of enemies will be coming from.

It doesn’t matter that the box says you’re piloting a Manta class Space Fighter. In Uridium, you fly a snowspeeder from The Empire Strikes Back, making horizontal runs along the surface of big huge ships called Dreadnaughts (which might as well be Star Destroyers). Similar to a side-scrolling Zaxxon, players must destroy guns, ships, and parts of the Dreadnaughts themselves by shooting them. To complicate matters, you’ll be under constant attack by waves of enemy fighters who don’t take too kindly to your attempts to destroy their star cruiser. Fly too slowly and you’ll be hunted down by a smart mine. Fly too fast and you’ll discover the hard way all the walls, antenna, and other indestructible objects that have been mounted to the deck of the ship.

Destroy enough of the ship and you’ll be given clearance to land, after which the Dreadnaught will begin to self-destruct. Don’t spend too much time celebrating. Another ship is always waiting in the wings.

Uridium was one of the first games I ever saw on the Commodore 64 that made me say, “this looks good enough to be an arcade game.” It looked and played that good to me. From your ship’s spinning 180 degree U-turns to the shadows cast on the decks of the Dreadnaughts, Uridium was a graphical masterpiece. Programmed and designed by the legendary Andrew Braybrook (also responsible for Paradroid and the C64 port of Rainbow Islands), Uridium raised the space shoot-‘em-up bar to an all-new level. Along with a catchy theme song and some exciting sound effects, Uridium sounded as good as it looked.

Fans of the game should also check out Uridium+ and Uridium II, which combine the same frantic gameplay with all new layouts. Uridium was also one of the games included on the recent all-in-one Commodore 64 gaming joystick.

Despite its breakneck speed and overall lack of depth, Uridium is a classic entry in the shoot-‘em-up genre. Just when computer games appeared to have hit a plateau, Uridium blew the Commodore community away and sent programmers back to the drawing board collectively scratching their heads.

Transformers
Ocean Software (1985)

The raging battle between the Autobots and Decepticons continues in this exclusive title for the Commodore 64 computer. Take control of five different Transformers in the Autobots’ quest for Energon.

Back before fantastic graphics and CGI cut scenes, videogames often included additional paper documentation to explain who the characters where and what you were supposed to be doing. Atari, for example, packaged comic books with many of their games to add depth and back stories to their titles. Some early games relied so heavily on this documentation that without it, the games were difficult to play and didn’t make much sense. Ocean’s Transformers title was one of those games.

Like millions of other Commodore 64 owners in the 1980s, my primary source of software was the file areas of local bulletin board systems. Unfortunately for us, without documentation many of these free games were confusing, difficult, or even impossible to play. For example, the Commodore 64 version of Transformers contains absolutely no text explaining anything, leaving the point of the game largely a mystery and the game play mechanics an exercise in trial and error.

In the Transformers universe, the Autobots largely got the shaft by only being able to transform into cars and trucks, while the evil Decepticons convert into fighter jets. Let’s face it, who would choose a Volkswagen Beetle over a supersonic jet? Here, players get the opportunity to control Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Jazz, Mirage and Hound. Each Transformer can only die once, giving players a total of five lives with which to complete the game. Each character can transform between their robotic and vehicular modes, although players will discover within five seconds that the four-wheeled modes are essentially worthless. At least in their robot forms the Autobots can shoot and fly. Yes, fly. Like Superman, all of the Autobots can fly through the air with a flick of the stick.

One new detail I don’t seem to recall from the comics or television series is that the Autobots in this game are constructed of fragile porcelain. The slightest fall or collision into the background will instantly transform your Transformer into a giant flaming fireball. In fact, the only thing that doesn’t kill you is the one thing you might think would; attacks from the evil Decepticons, of which there are seemingly unlimited numbers. Each Autobot has a finite amount of shields which are depleted by the Decepticons’ attacks. Theoretically once your shields are gone your character is destroyed. I’ve never been able avoid being killed by stepping off a platform long enough to find out.

For close to twenty years I had no idea what the point or goal of this game was. Only now through the wonders of the Internet was I able to track down the documentation and discover the game’s back story — not that the information makes the game any easier to play, mind you. Apparently the goal of the game is to collect pieces of Energon while battling Decepticons, but as I previously mentioned your Transformers are so fragile that even without the Decepticons buzzing around and shooting you in the head, you’re probably going to kill yourself within seconds anyway by flying into something or stepping off a platform.

Ocean Software’s Transformers opens with an impressive splash screen and some terrific sounding music. The in game graphics are a mixed bag; the characters are detailed enough to distinguish from one another, but the backgrounds are extremely plain. While Transformers fans may enjoy recognizing familiar characters and running around the levels for a few minutes, only the most adept gamers will be able to get anywhere in this challenging platformer.

Skate or Die!
C64, Electronic Arts (1987)

Throughout my teenage years, I had three distinct career paths in mind. The first one was professional breakdancer. When I realized that probably wasn’t going to pan out, I began planning on a more obtainable, more realistic goal: professional ninja. This was of course during the big ninja craze of the mid-80s. When that career path didn’t pan out, I set my sites on a third goal: professional skateboarder.

That decision was partly based on the skateboarding craze which appeared out of nowhere and exploded into mainstream culture during the mid-1980s. The fads, fashions, and lingo of southern California swept across the nation. Sanctioned skateboarding events began appearing on ESPN in 1985. The movie Thrashin’ (1986) brought the world of skateboarding to the masses. 1986 was also the year Atari’s 720 skateboarding game was released. 720 popularized the phrase, “skate or die” (which was spoken in Atari’s infamous synthesized speech). Both Thrashin’ and 720 opened the skateboarding floodgates, and by 1987 the sport was everywhere. One of the most popular skateboarding videogames to hit the home market during that era was Electronic Arts’ Skate or Die.

Borrowing the established formula from Epyx’s “games” series and featuring the musical talent of Rob Hubbard, Skate or Die consists of five separate skateboarding events in which players can both practice or compete in. The five events take place at three different locations: the ramp, the downhill, and the pool.

The ramp is home to Freestyle and High Jump. In Freestyle, skaters try to rack up the highest score possible by performing (and landing) tricks in the local half pipe. Your character’s list of maneuvers isn’t exhaustive, but it’s enough to keep it interesting. You’ll see a lot of rail slides, hand plants, and backside airs here. In the High Jump, players compete to see who can get their skateboard the highest. This is accomplished by building the maximum amount of speed (by pumping in the transition portion of the ramp). It takes practice to get the timing just right.

The downhill section hosts the Jam and the Race. In both events, two skaters make their way down the back alleys of California, skating hard. In the Race, the goal is to make your way through an obstacle course as quickly as possible while building your score up by pulling off some radical moves. In the Jam, which takes place in a back alley, players can now punch and kick as well as pull off moves! Both games pit you against an opponent, so if you don’t have a friend to play with you’ll be pitted against the evil green-haired Lester.

The last location, the pool, is home to the Joust. In the joust, two skaters skate an empty swimming pool while trying to bash each other with big padded jousting sticks that resemble the ones used on American Gladiators. While Jousting against a friend can be a blast, playing the computer can frustrate even the most veteran player as Aggro Eddie tends to make few mistakes.

All of these events are tied together through the Skate Shop, run by Rodney (Dangerfield, with a purple Mohawk). Once you decide in the skate shop whether you’re competing or just practicing, you’ll get to skate to the event or events you wish to play.

I always felt that the Freestyle, Jam and Race events were strong enough to be games on their own. The High Jump and Joust events, while fun, lack much depth. Skate or Die brought the world of skateboarding home to the Commodore 64 in grand fashion. While 720, Skaterock, Skate Crazy, and even the skateboarding event in California Games would all later appear on the Commodore, Skate or Die stands at the top of the ramp as the best and most complete skateboarding game for the Commodore 64.

Sammy Lightfoot
Sierra On-Line (1983)

From the success of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong came, well, lots of games that were similar to Donkey Kong. And while Donkey Kong’s plot (especially compared to the games of today) may seem incredibly simplistic, many of the clones that followed it had even less of one. Such is the case with Sammy Lightfoot. Like Mario in Donkey Kong, Sammy is a portly fellow who has been tasked with reaching the top of a series of platforms. The games box art and documentation describe Sammy as a circus performer, ostensibly to explain the trampolines and trapezes located on each level. This is where the plot ends, and the action begins.

Sammy Lightfoot (the game) consists of three levels, each with different obstacles blocking Sammy’s path to the top. Like most 2D platform games, stepping off a platform or touching just about anything leads to the player’s instant demise. Maneuvering through each level involves lots of jumping and swinging. Each level is built on patterns that are easily memorized, so once you’ve beat one a few times you should be able to blast through it at top speed. Once all three levels have been completed the game starts over on the next difficulty setting. The difficulty ratings ramp up quickly; I can beat the first difficulty setting in my sleep, and I’ve yet to beat the third.

The game’s sounds and graphics are a bit of a letdown. Sammy Lightfoot for the C64 looks and sounds almost identical to the Apple II version — the in game tunes are produced with a single voice, and the color palate of green and purple girders looks to be lifted directly from the Apple’s color scheme as well. Even in 1983, C64 programmers were capable of more than this. It’s a shame the C64 version of Sammy Lightfoot wasn’t tweaked to take advantage of the Commodore’s capabilities. I suspect that if the game had been ported later in the C64’s life, the game would have been more detailed.

Although Sammy Lightfoot is a fun game, there’s not enough there to keep players interested for long periods of time. It’s one of those games that I play every time I pull my C64 out of the closet, and quickly remember why I stopped playing it. The C64 version of Sammy Lightfoot certainly holds its own against the same game on other platforms, and while the game isn’t particularly deep, it’s a perfect half-an-hour time killer.

Return of the Jedi
C64, Dormark (1988)

Back during a time when most companies pressured programmers to code home versions of popular arcade games as quickly as possible, software publisher Dormark took a cool four years to bring Atari’s Return of the Jedi videogame to the home computer market. Far different from the color vector style used on the first two Star Wars arcade games, Return of the Jedi placed gamers in a Zaxxon-esque 3D perspective world, and contained several levels based on scenes from the movie. Dormark ported the arcade game to several platforms in 1988, including the Amiga and the Commodore 64.

Each level within Return of the Jedi consists of multiple scenes. The game begins with players controlling Princess Leia during a Speeder Bike chase. In an isometric view (moving from the lower-left hand corner of the screen toward the upper right), players must navigate their speeder bike through the Endor forest without crashing while being chased by Biker Scouts on speeder bikes at the same time. Allow a Biker Scout to trail you long enough and he’ll blast you to bits, so you’ll need to either outmaneuver them through the forest, or ram them into a forest object (tree, tree stump, etc.). Also on your side are the Ewoks, who have set up traps throughout the forest. Fly between two logs with a biker on your tail and the Ewoks will smash him — fly over a rope two Ewoks are holding, and they’ll clothesline a baddie. Be warned though; Ewoks, while cute, aren’t necessarily bright — they’ll gladly smash or clothesline you as well if you’re not careful. Yub Yub! The level ends when you reach the Ewok village.

The second half of the first level puts you behind the controls of the Millennium Falcon as you fly through the inside of the Death Star, destroying TIE Fighters and ultimately destroying the main reactor core. It only takes a few moments of playing to realize that this is essentially the same as the first level. Fly, slalom between objects, and shoot enemies.

Level two begins again with the speeder bikes, but contains different subsequent scenes. There’s a part where you take control of an AT-ST and must once again traverse the dangerous forest. Unlike Pitfall, which required players to jump over rolling logs, these wooden enemies can be blown to splinters by your Emperial gun turrets. In classic videogame logic, only logs rolling toward you can be destroyed; stationary ones kill you. So much for technology. The next level consists of gamers piloting the Millennium Falcon once again, this time traveling through space with X-Wings flanking you. You’ll encounter TIE Fighters, dodge Star Destroyers, and not need the Force to realize that every level in this game is essentially the same, but with different graphics.

One interesting aspect of gameplay, and something that really captures the spirit of the film, is that beginning the second level the levels will begin to flip back and forth between one another. You’ll be engaged in the middle of a TIE Fighter dogfight when the game will flip to the AT-ST level, where you will suddenly find yourself contending with oncoming logs. Clear those obstacles and the game will jump back to the TIE Fighter sequence. The game’s layout mimics the film’s sequences, and while initially jarring, the action does keep you from getting too bored with any one particular level.

Star Wars (the arcade game) is considered by many to be not only one of the best Star Wars games of all time, but one of the best arcade games of all time as well. Return of the Jedi had a lot to live up to and was met with mixed reviews. While certainly not one of the best games of all time, Return of the Jedi is okay in its own right. The levels are pattern-based requiring a slight amount of memorization to master, and the game itself is fairly repetitive with all the levels being basically the same save for graphical swaps, but it’s still not a bad little game. There are much, much worse Star Wars games available.

Rally Speedway
C64, Commodore Business Machines (1984)

Rally Speedway is one of those games that is more fun than it probably should be. The goal of this simple top-down racing game is to complete laps with the fastest lap time possible. Despite the fact that the game features tons of tweakable variables and sports both one and two player modes, it’s probably best remembered as, “the game where your poor guy catches on fire.”

In one-player mode, there are no opponents to race against — it’s you against the clock. Using the game’s default control scheme, forward accelerates, left and right steer, and the button mashes the brakes — that last one is most important, as you’ll need to ride the brakes long and hard to make even the most gradual turns without exploding into a fiery death.

For the most part your car stays in the center of the screen and rotates while the track itself spins and scrolls by. The penalty for leaving the race track is sudden death — any collision with a house or tree causes your car to explode in flames. And yes, occasionally your driver will catch on fire as well, forcing him to stop, drop and roll before waving his arms wildly at you.

By default your car’s top speed is 60mph, but that can be bumped all the way up to 200mph. At 60mph I had trouble making turns without riding the brakes constantly, and at 200mph the game lasts merely seconds between crashes. Trust me — the trees won’t know what hit ’em.

From the main menu, players can configure road conditions (dry, wet or icy), top speed (40, 60, 100, 150 or 200), and acceleration speeds (slow, normal, or fast). You can also choose between “real life” (the normal setting) and “only in a computer”, which turns off all sprite collection detection and lets racers drive across houses, trees, and swimming pools.

In two-player mode, you and a friend can race one another at the same time. If one player leaves the other behind, a five-second penalty is awarded to the slower racer, and the cars are lined up again. This happens frequently — expect a normally 90-second track to take five or more minutes to complete in two-player mode.

Rally Speedway also allows gamers to create, load and save new tracks. The map editor is joystick driven and odd-looking at first, but with just a few minutes players will be able to create their own tracks, which are easily traded between racers.

There’s not much to Rally Speedway, but that’s part of what makes it so enjoyable. Once you memorize the basic tracks it’s fun to see just how quickly you can zip around them (fastest times are saved), and with a friend you can get some serious head-to-head competition on.

Park Patrol
C64, Activision (1985)

In Activision’s Park Patrol, you play the role of a litter-collecting park ranger. Your goal is to keep your lakefront property clean by picking up litter (cans and bottles). To do that you’ll need to use your handy-dandy motorized raft to pick up the trash floating in the lake, and run as quickly as possible to clean up debris lying on the shore itself.

Of course, you won’t be alone in the water. Snakes, swimmers and other obstacles will be floating along side you. While snakes and swimmers will poke a hole in your raft and sink more than your hopes of winning, hitting the end of a log will jettison you straight up in the air. If you can pull it off, you can land on top of the log and start running lumberjack-style in order to gain bonus points. If not, it’s glub glub glub, bub.

The shore is no picnic either, with turtles and ants constantly nipping at your heels. If a turtle happens to slip off the shore and fall into the water, you can take it out of commission by running over them in your raft. Likewise, dropping one of your limited snake repellant pills into the lake can dissipate any snakes in your immediate area. You’ll also have to keep an eye on those swimmers — occasionally one will start drowning, and it’ll be up to you to rescuer him (yeah, the same swimmers that will try and kill you. That’s gratitude for you).

You’ll have to do all of this while racing the clock as well. The park ranger has a hut on the shore where you can duck in and get some more time (think “air” in the swimming level of Jungle Hunt), but it won’t be easy running past all those land critters.

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this game. The graphics are cute and enjoyable, and the musical tunes played throughout the game gives each level a bit of personality. A built in level editor in the menu allows players to set the difficulty of each level (and even choose between a boy or a girl ranger), something that was pretty uncommon back in those days. Park Patrol is what classic gaming is all about to me — a fun little platformer with bright graphics, happy music and lots of action.

Mail Order Monsters
Electronic Arts (1985)

In the fall of 1985, my parents opened Yukon Software, a computer store specializing in PC, Apple and Commodore software. Every week I drooled over the stacks of brand new games my parents received to stock their shelves with. Occasionally I’d talk my dad into letting me open a game to demo it on one of our in-store computers. Mail Order Monsters was one of those games. The thought of building and battling monsters really appealed to me as a young teenager, a fantasy Mail Order Monsters delivered.

In Mail Order Monsters, players purchase and battle “morphs”, short for Mail ORder Psychon Heroes. There are twelve different morphs available, ranging from dinosaurs and insects to giant worms, squids and even a carnifern (a killer tree). Each morph has individual stats, such as armor, muscle, speed, mind, and life, and one or more extras which fall under one of four categories: means of movement (burrow, teleport, etc.), means of attack (spit, sting, claw, fiery breath, etc.), defenses (anti-thump, anti-psi, etc) and natural aids (hands and tentacles, healing, etc). Each morph comes equipped with a couple of extras, but all of them can be purchased for the right amount of psychons.

After picking out a morph, building his stats and arming him with a few extras, you can further arm your morph in the weapons shop. Those who spent too much money in the morph-building stage will most likely leave with only a sword or a Boorang. Those who saved their psychons for a rainy day can purchase cooler toys like Lapistols (a quick-firing laser pistol), Mindsinks (which attacks your opponent’s brain, confusing them) or the always effective bombs. You’ll also need to stop by the sundries department to pick up ammunition for your weapons (food is considered ammunition for physical attacks). If you have any money left you might want to pick up some armor on the way out. Some morphs, like the mutant crab, have pretty strong natural armor. Others, like the giant amoeboid, not so much.

Mail Order Monsters offers three different levels of gameplay. Beginner mode, essentially an arcade mode, allows players to simply pick a morph and go fight. In Intermediate mode, players rent a morph and get 1,000 psychons to spend on goodies. In Tournament mode (which would be called career mode today), players buy morphs and store them in their corral. Tournament mode is the most challenging, giving players only 500 psychons to spend. You’ll need to be pretty quick on the joystick to survive the first few rounds. The coolest thing about tournament mode is that your morphs are actually saved to disk, so successful players can build a stable of monsters to have on-hand.

All three levels of gameplay offer three different game formats: Destruction, Capture the Flag, and The Horde. All three games pit you against a second morph which can be controlled by either a second player or the CPU. In Destruction mode, morphs battle each other until either someone wins five battles, or a morph is totally destroyed. In Capture the Flag, players race across a world map chasing flags. The flags are numbered 1-8 and must be captured in order; however, the flag’s numbers aren’t readable until you get up close to them. Each flag is being guarded by a warrior (which your opponent will control when you try and capture a flag). In The Horde, a massive wave of monsters invades your map. You and your fellow morph will have to prevent the hoardlings from reaching the bottom of the screen. Whoever kills the most wins. If one reaches the bottom, you both lose.

One of the neatest things about Mail Order Monsters is the insane amount of combinations available within the game. Certain weapons are only available to certain creatures. Others, like the multi-firing laser rifles, require tentacles (which, oddly enough, can be purchased) to operate. There are so many different types of attacks and defenses that no morph is ever 100% invincible. The strongest armor in the world won’t protect you from a wave of psi-blasts, and likewise a psi-helm is no defense against a run-of-the-mill missile. Another cool feature is that each player gets to pick one of two battle variables, which keeps battles fair. One player gets to choose the type of terrain, while the other gets to choose the style of battle. Even the most deadly land-based creatures move slowly over hills and through water — that is, unless you purchase a teleporter …

Each battlefield consists of two maps — a “world view” (in which your morph is a tiny colored dot) and a close up “battle view”, in which your morphs come to life. The battle sequences resemble the one from Archon (which comes as no surprise; programmer Paul Reiche III worked on both games). As your morphs run around on the battlefield, you’ll have to aim and duke it out on the terrain you’ve chosen. Win and live to fight another die. Morphs with multiple attacks can switch weapons mid-fight, but chance leaving themselves vulnerable while doing so.

Mail Order Monsters was a great idea for a game that was implemented relatively well considering the platform’s limitations. The graphics are adequate but lack detail. The weapon swapping system is one of the biggest frustrations, forcing you to stop moving/attacking during a battle to swap weapons (leaving you wide open). And, as with most “uncracked” software, Electronic Arts copy protection and drive routines were incompatable with most fast loading cartidges, causing long load times in between battles. For a while my friends and I built up morphs in Mail Order Monsters and then got together for big battle competitions, but as computer graphics and general gameplay evolved we moved on to bigger and better things. Our monsters were eventually shuffled off to morph retirement homes and spent their final years talking about the good ol’ days.

Fans of King of the Monsters, Rampage, and other monster-mashing games will get a kick out of this game. While its graphics may have not aged well, Mail Order Monsters was an ambitious title for the platform and is still fun to play today.