Audiogenic’s mysterious arcade platformer is up there with the most grown-up of Commodore 64 games. It takes patience, planning and skill. And the 1991 classic divides people to this day.
“Thought the covertape demo was dreadful”, says one CF fan over on our Facebook page. A post underneath enthuses about the title, though. “I lost weeks of my life to it. An utterly absorbing game!”
And there’s the crux: putting in weeks is what Exile requires you to do – perhaps like no Commodore 64 title since Elite, a game which itself sparks full scale wars on internet forums. And just Elite, Exile is not a bad game. It is just not a game for everyone.
You play the part of Mike Finn. He’s the leading member of Columbus Force, a space-exploration organisation who’ve been ordered to the planet Phoebus on a rescue mission. You have to save the surviving crew of a captured ship from the clutches of a psychotic renegade engineer called Triax. He’s the exile of the game’s title, and he appears briefly on the very first screen stealing a vital piece of equipment from the ship.
And so that’s where you begin – deep below the surface of Phoebus in Triax’ laboratory. Standing between you and the rescue of everyone else is a network of caves, tunnels and rooms filled with Triax’ insane experiments. There are robotic security guards everywhere and man-made obstacles to navigate. Objects and switches that might help you litter the floor and walls.
And that is one of the game’s real strengths: you can interact with pretty much everything. Flick a switch, move a brick, push a robot. Each object has a physical mass and reacts in a different way according to Phoebus’ atmosphere; you have to take into account what items might do in a severe lack of gravity to solve puzzles.
You can walk, run, jump, duck..and even use a jetpack. The latter is what so many people have fun with and often load up Exile for: Mike Finn will float around in Phoebus’ atmosphere until you push him a certain direction. He might be smashed back by water or other forces, or a well-timed jump might hop you into a previously unseen part of the planet. There’s even a neat teleportation system to navigate that can save you time flying around and dozens of other hidden things to discover. It is a game with depths still being unearthed in 2014 – a mapper’s paradise.
CF’s reviewer Gary Penn said it was the best thing he’d seen since The Sentinel – praise indeed. And CF’s final editor, Simon Forrester, told us that it’s his favourite Commodore 64 game. But the sheer volume of things to do and get your head around are the same reason that so many younger players were put off at the time, with many shutting off their computers in frustration after playing the demo.
Perhaps, 24 years later, it’s time to give Exile another go. Let the adult you see what all the fuss is about. CF
CF SAID: “The future of arcade adventures, as simple as that.”
WE SAY: As C64 owners, we always go on about playability over looks. Time to put your money where your mouth is with this one and give it another try.
- Read Gary Penn’s full review
- Go back to the CF’s Top Ten homepage
- Play Exile (requires C64 emulator)