SHELLSHOCK We’ve touched on Beyond Belief before. They’re the Northamptonshire publisher whose plans for an avalanche of Commodore 64 games were strangled when most high street stores ceased 8-bit trading […]
Three full games
Part three of Corya
Three sprite demos
We’ve touched on Beyond Belief before. They’re the Northamptonshire publisher whose plans for an avalanche of Commodore 64 games were strangled when most high street stores ceased 8-bit trading in late 1992. This month – a mere 12 weeks after their puzzler Snaredemo’d on the Power Pack – the knackered business sold its Commando clone Shellshock to Commodore Format instead of sending it to retail.
There are four levels of moving forwards and shooting stuff. You already know how this one plays. Far more interesting is Shellshock’s chaotic development. Here’s the game’s artist, Alan Benson, who frantically worked on it with coder Craig Wright after another unnamed team pulled out of the project:
“This game is crap because we got the project from [owner and operator] Jim Scott at Beyond Belief on the Monday before Comic Relief in 1993. We were posting off the (semi) finished game on Comic Relief night!”. That makes a dev time of around, er, two weeks.
Shellshock’s flat graphics and jumbled backgrounds can make an otherwise reasonable shooter confusing to play, but the weirdest bit of this game is a problem with your ammo. Here’s Craig:
“The ‘banana bullets’ were never debugged! By that I mean that if firing a bullet horizontally (the bullets were characters and not sprites) and then scrolling the play area vertically, the bullets never remained straight, they followed the scroll so appeared to curve. [It was a] Rush job, [and] laziness!”
The pair were “so embarrassed” by Shellshock’s lack of quality that they began work on a sequel in their spare time which was 75% complete before the dwindling Commodore 64 market couldn’t justify any further work. All that remains is an MP3 recording of its soundtrack, which you’ll find on Frank Gasking’s Games That Weren’t site.
PACK FACT: The original score by Nigel Smith was left out in favour of a tune composed by the team when they were working on McDonaldland in 1992. Here’s the abandoned music.
Paul O’Malley must’ve had a thing for spiders. His earliest notable effort, 1984’s platformer Boffin for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron, was famous for its horrifying eight-legged predators. By 1986, the now 19-year-old programmer brought them to the Commodore 64 with a twist: in Arac, you’re part spider and part droid. Your task? To deactivate three reactors within half-an-hour for reasons (brilliant – Ed).
At the start of this 100 screen Dizzy style maze you’re a bit crap. You can only move in a limited fashion and fire a net. It’s obvious you’re gonna need to upgrade yourself. The first half of your adventure, then, has you waddling about in search of some legs and the mysterious power globe. Assemble them like you’re some sort of insect-y Transformer and you’ll become (echo FX) the Arachnidroid®. You’re pretty cool from this point on ‘cos you’ve got firepower and can, erm, fall upwards like yer Da after a pint.
You’re still going to need some help from your (captive) friends, though. Scuttle about the playing area and you’ll encounter different creatures who’ve all got their own talent. Some can jump really high, others can drill through walls or black out radar systems. If you catch one of these beasts with your web, it can be used to solve problems you encounter in exchange for their freedom.
You might like Arac (uh-oh – Ed). The game was warmly received by a games press tired of the same old shooters back in Autumn ’86. In ZZAP! 64, Julian Rignall called it a “very unusual…graphically excellent arcade adventure”, praising the main sprite in arachnid mode. Over at rival mag Commodore User, Bill Scolding thought it was only let down by the minimal sound. CVG was taken by the game’s little touches. Les Walker particularly liked the way your character gets annoyed if you stand still for too long.
In the brutally harsh light of the 21st Century, Arac can be very frustrating. Control of the droid is fiddly, requiring a pull down and push up on the stick to jump. It’s an admirable attempt at weighted inertia, but it doesn’t feel right. Screen-punchingly awful collision detection is the main reason you won’t persevere, though, because it reduces the fun bits like throwing a net to a frustrating chore. You’ll want to love it – and if you enjoyed it in the mid ’80s you probably still will – but this one hasn’t weathered the decades well.
PACK FACT: You can choose to play a short version of Arac. It starts with the robotic spider already assembled and 20 minutes on the clock.
Invision is a PD offering made in EA’s Pinball Construction Set, a utility so integral to the American publishers’ early success that there’s now a meeting room named after it in California.
PCS – which, as the names suggests, lets you make your own standalone pinball games – orignated on the Apple II. Its simple graphics interface required no programming knowledge, allowing you to easily drop bumpers, flippers, spinners and other parts on to a table. The gravity and physics can be modified, and – here’s the best bit – your creations could be saved as standalone programs and freely distributed.
Bill Budge wrote and sold it on his own label, BudgeGo, in 1982. Struggling to tap the US distribution network, he accepted an offer from EA’s Trip Hawkins to publish it again and convert over to the Atari machines and our beloved beige box. The program was a hit, with Apple’s Steve Wozniak calling it the “greatest program ever made for an 8-bit machine”. Video magazine called it “clever and easy to use”, while Compute said it was a “work of art”. InfoWorld were bang on the money when they tipped PCS to have “lots of children and grandchildren”: EA followed up with the Music Construction Set, Adventure Construction Set and Racing Destruction Set. Other publishers got in on the act too, most notably Sensible Software/Outlaw’s treasured Shoot ‘Em Up Construction Kit.
As for Invision, it’s not that great. For some reason, the “twist” here is that parts of the table (the flippers and bumpers) are invisible. There are better pinball games out there, many of ’em made in PCS. Or, y’know, just make your own.
CORYA PART 3 is our last trip to the realm of the warrior sage which started here. If you’re playing these tapes along with our articles and couldn’t finish part two, the password to start playing here is FALCON. Power Pack 34 is rounded off with SPRITE AND CHEERFUL, a collection of techie demos to illustrate the Do The Sprite Thing feature in this month’s mag.
CF had over 80 pages this month, beefed up with its Modern Classics pullout. It was the biggest the mag had been in some time or would ever be again. That’s where the value was in July 1993, for sure: the fun on the tape really balances on whether you’re namaste enough to plough through Arac. CF
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