A-M | N-Z
New to the Color Computer? Learn a bit about it and the terminology I use here.
Want to submit a review or offer a second opinion? E-mail me and I'll post them.
These are graded from "A" to "F" based mostly on my opinion of them, although the collective opinion of reviews from the era and the CoCo gaming community also factor in a bit, especially when I feel my opinion might be seriously out-of-whack with the majority. Also, these are graded on a curve relative to other CoCo games. Brutal as it sounds, I would probably lower all scores anywhere from half to a full letter grade if matched against competing platforms.
Games with a "play online" option can be found at Brad Grier's amazing Mocha emulator site, while the individual games offered for download come from L. Curtis Boyle's invaluable CoCo games site. Thanks to both of them for their huge efforts in keeping our beloved titles of the past alive.
3D Bricks (C+)
A Mazing World of Malcom Mortar (C)
Advanced Star Trench Warfare (D)
Adventure in Ancient Jerusalem (D)
Alpine Slopes (A+++)
Here you're a skier (other programs you might be a car or something else) and you use the arrow keys to dodge light blue trees (oh, that makes sense), while touching yellow slolam gates and dark blue ski jumps for extra points (the jumps also scroll you ahead, giving you a momentary breather from all the obstacles). The trees get fatter as you get further down the course, and you can select speeds and visibility when you start. The game ends when you hit a tree.
In reality this is all pretty tepid stuff and totally lacking in originality, so I'd probably give it a D- on an objective scale, with the various options and the fact it doesn't have any known bugs that cause it to crash saving it from failure. The graphics are blocky, there's a lot of flicker and the sound really is pretty annoying. So as you read my cranky comments further down this list (especially any programmers mentioned here), remember I'm in no way saying I could do better.
Somebody named Doug Kelley wrote this in 1983 - given the state of CoCo software at the time I can only assume - or hope - that it was part of a cassette magazine's monthly collection or a magazine type-in program (if it was the latter it would actually rate as a very good program within the quality of such offerings).
There are so many Defender clones out there that I have played worse, but that doesn't mean this is any good. Luckily, that's why we all had software reviews back then, to make sure we could at least pick one from the masses worth having.
Arithmetic Football (D+)
All in all, this one is pretty well done. Instructions are provided. Get an answer right and you progress toward the end zone. Get it wrong and you lose yardage or fumble. Each player can set their own difficulty level and how much time they get to answer questions. Everything takes place on a high-res field, but unlike some titles it doesn't slow things down. The only thing you can't change is the fact this is a math drill - how often did stuff like this really get used anyhow? I could see it being something a teacher or student wrote for se at a local school (I did a few similar projects myself) and then getting encouragement to send it to a CoCo magazine. The grade might not reflect it, but truth is I haven't seen a lot of titles like this that were better, but I certainly saw plenty that were worse.
This is a conversion of Bag Man, an arcade game that industry pundits thought would be a hit, but never really caught on. You're a robber trying to collect gold bags in a mine shaft that stretches over three screens, avoiding a couple of policemen as you go. You can take them out by finding one of the pickaxes scattered about, but mostly you'll spend your time trying to avoid them. Dave's conversion looks very good, but in typical CoCo version has to omit most of the sound. This is too bad, since the arcade had catchy tunes and other fun sound effects as you went about your thievery. And it's also slower than the arcade, another pretty normal thing for CoCo conversions. I also found it pretty tough, but that's just because I'm a lousy gamer at most titles. There are better, faster and more in-depth platformers in the arcade and CoCo world, but this is solid and novel enough to recommend to fans of the genre.
In this one you control a ship at the top of the screen which shoots arrows at balloons rising from the bottom. They move faster as you go, you die if one reaches the top of the screen and things progress until you lose your three men. Unlike the multitude of BASIC games, this one is playable because it's written in machine language. It's also very simple and idiot-proof, maybe giving it appeal to those who want to kill time without reading instructions. But this and all others of its ilk were never going to become classics; with any luck whoever wrote it was just doing it either for their own satisfaction - in which case they can take comfort in knowing this is a perfectly competent game - or in order to get a paycheck at some software house cranking this stuff out in bulk.
Concept: Shoot robots in a maze or lure them to collide with each other (surprisingly easy because they're incredibly stupid, part of the coin-op game's charm) and get out before Evil Otto shows up and fries you to a crisp. The first maze is largely a mulligan since the 'bots don't shoot, but afterward they shoot increasingly often and quick. It seems like Evil Otto shows up kind of quick here, but it also seems like he's just a bit slower in pursuit as well, so this evens out. All in all I'd have had plenty of fun with this if I'd bought it as a kid, but I'm hoping it went more in the $20 range instead of carrying a $30 premium price tag - it wouldn't be worth that much.
You're keeping four rows of customers in suds, who gradually progress toward your end of the bar unless you toss them glasses to keep them satiated. A lot of them will then slide the mugs back to you, which you need to catch. If you waste a beer, miss a glass or allow customers to reach the end of the bar, well, it's later days, mate.
As noted, it's the simplicity of the original that allows this to shine. Nothing ever moves so fast that the CoCo can't duplicate it from a gameplay perspective - yet the gamepace gets frantic as hell as the customers increase and more glasses start flying in both directions. All the original game's features are here, including the bonus rounds (on second thought I take that back - I don't remember seeing the Budweiser dancing girls do their dance in the background on this one. There's a real loss). Animation is pretty minimal in the real thing, so nothing has to be pushed in the home version. And the graphics really are impressive in sort of an abstract/impressionist sort of way; rather than seeking pixel-perfect perfection, the characters are captured in ways where all are distinctively interesting and fun, as long as you don't scrutinize them up close (irrelevant rant - I always felt Nintendo did a great job accomplishing this on their GameBoy titles; that platform has a lower resolution than the CoCo, yet was releasing Mario World and Donkey Kong Land games that looked great and earned raves similar to what its 16-bit titles got).
I'd have paid the $18.95 asking price for this easily as a youth and gone back for more titles from this company - they had plenty of others that looked - and indeed played - great. No surprise; I just wonder why they ended up in the so-called bargain bin under a different company name.
Buzzard Bait (A-)
Candy Company (C+)
Canyon Climber (C-)
This game has three screens: The first two bear very rough resemblances to, in order, the rivets and barrels screens in Donkey Kong. The object of the first is to plant dynamite charges on bridges while avoiding goats (instead of fireballs); the second you climb several ramps, avoiding arrows along the way (instead of barrels). The third you jump from platform to platform, trying to reach the top of the screen while avoiding, uh, rocks being dropped by birds flying at the top of the screen.
It's all carried off competently, with decent graphics and speed for the time, but as soon as you've completed the levels a few times the challenge is pretty much gone. And there's too many annoying little details to really make this a worthwhile time killer; one of the worst is the random-factor element that guides the goats and rocks, meaning they move at random and all too often whether you live or die is all about luck and not about skill and planning.
Basically you run around picking up cash and avoiding bad guys on each level. Simple concept, but the fun and challenge comes from the different designs of each level (I believe there are 45 of them). Subsequent levels throw all kinds of weird stuff at you, like screens where you can't jump, screens where you do "super jumps" trampolines and so on. Also, two players can play at once - nice option even if I never used it.
This game is far and away better than Canyon Climber (amazing how similar games can differ so much in quality) and deserves more words, but none are really needed - grab it and play it if this sort of genre is your thing.
Castle Guard (C-)
Castle of Tharoggad (D+)
Cave Hunter (C-)
The concept is somewhat similar - move a guy around and shoot large numbers of enemies in a room, then move on to the next one. Here there's only one thing to collect, a key that allows you to access more chambers once you've completed the wave (you do this by exiting through one of the doors in the walls). There are no humanoids for points and the selection of enemies is much smaller - usually the bad guys moving around, plus some missiles occasionally launched from the base (or whatever it is) in the middle of the screen. I confess I haven't made it that far into the game yet, but the whole thing takes place in a chamber with many, many rooms, and there may be some further developments in those as you progress. Just seeing them there on the map gives a feeling of anticipation (sort of like those Mario world maps where you know there's lots and lots of areas to conquer). Tom Mix also made an effort to add lots of Williams Electronic-like flash to the graphics and gameplay, which all works well here. And it all takes place at a very playable speed. All in all, a very addicting game.
Chopper Strike (C+)
CoCo Max (B+)
CoCo Zone, The (B)
College Adventure (D+)
Unlike some Infocom games I rave about later (see Wishbringer), these text adventures are shallow and unlikely to hold anyone's interest for long unless they enjoy torture. This is actually one of the better examples - which is why I selected it - in that the plot is somewhat original, you get instructions to start and it tells you what commands are allowed. One of the worst sins of many homebrew text adventures is they make you guess all the commands, which usually becomes an exercise in utter frustration and futility.
However, this game suffers from another common and deadly flaw: the unavoidable, completely illogical death. You "die" in a number of ways simply by wandering into certain rooms (i.e. the girl's dorm), even if you haven't been there before and had no idea what you were entering next. Any good adventure needs to give the player a chance to remedy a mistake, or least ensure they've done something to put themself into danger (i.e. if the player entered the room drunk and naked) to ensure such a fate. As it is you need to make a map (essentially for most adventures anyway) and retrace all of your steps time after time, trying to get a bit further before your next demise. It's definitely a lot more work than play.
I've played some outstanding homebrew adventures by very creative people; sadly I haven't been able to track them down yet. With any luck I'll stumble across them someday. In the meantime, try this for a couple of minutes if you want to learn and feel grateful about something you didn't spend time on during your youth.
Color Baseball (B+)
One or two players go at it with nine-player rosters. You can enter names and batting averages for players, which actually affect their hitting ability. The national anthem plays and then the teams take the field. Batting, pitching, fielding, running and everything else is amazing intuitive and well-suited for those lousy joysticks. Crowd noise is well done and there really aren't major flaws EXCEPT it gets way too easy to kick the living hell out of the computer opponents, even if you give your players lousy batting averages. Basically, it all comes down to timing and after a while you end up hitting most of the time and winning by 20 or more runs. Works better as a two-player option, but even after I mastered the one-player mode I'd still boot it up from time to time and play with various goals (like overcoming huge point spreads).
Color Caterpillar (B)
Ninety percent of the game is well-executed. The centipede looks authentic, moves authentic and appears like it does in the arcade - whole at first, then with more and more individual head segments (harder to hit) as you progress. Spiders and fleas do their thing as expected. Mushrooms are chipped away by your shots and heal up when you die. The only real annoyance is the lack of scorpions - instead mushrooms just get "poisoned" at random moments without warning. This is the game's one true annoyance, since there's no warning and can lead to some unfair deaths when the centipede hits a sudden one and plummets to the bottom of the screen before you can do anything about it. And one more small thing - it'd be nice not to sit through their very annoying title screen sequence every time a game ends.
Still, I'm interested in finding out what else they've authored. I'd probably have gone back for more titles if they had them and they were reasonably priced.
Intracolor (programmers of the very good Robotron conversion Robotack) did this version and it generally wins out based on the strength of all of its elements combined. Others might play well and look like utter crap or look pretty good and be totally lacking in gameplay. More often both elements just generally kind of sucked on the various versions.
The movement is a bit choppy and there is nothing resembling the great addictive sounds of the coin-op here, but generally it captures the stuff that makes the pay-as-you-die version a blast. And for once the CoCo's analogue joysticks are an advantage here, since the movement in the original was controlled by a trackball and a free-floating joystick makes it easy to mimic the variable speeds and angle of movement in such an environment.
Color Space Invaders (C+)
This version's gameplay is probably a bit closer to the arcade's and you get to choose 15 levels of difficulty. But the sound is much more spartan. Radio Shack's version feels a bit livlier and has the "expert" option with the two-directional movement and lack of shields. Neither qualifies as the best the CoCo had to offer in this genre. I had this game as part of a 10-pack of older games sold late in the CoCo's life for $20 (early version of the shovelware concept) and this was one of the lesser-played games in that batch.
Given those elements, it wasn't too difficult to make this conversion of the arcade game Spacezap into a decent version for the CoCo. And it's fun for a few games when your brain is a numb as it'll ever get and you need to pass time. But there's too many better games in the world to keep it up for long. But it's worth noting one of the coolest "edutainment" titles ever was born from this concept (and never converted to the CoCo, of course): a learn-to-type program called MasterType where you had to type out letters and/or words and then press the spacebar to fire. Not only was it a great typing tutor, it was a lot more fun to play than the arcade game. Hmmm...maybe for one of those Web games I keep wanting to write it's time to steal the idea and do a conversion...
Cosmic Clones (C+)
It might take a few minutes to list all the games it borrows elements from: Berserk, Space Invaders, Demon Attack, Phoenix, Missile Command, Tempest, Joust, others I'm not thinking of immediately. Basically it's pretty simple - shoot the 'bots before they reach the bottom of the screen and turn into faster 'bots. If you shoot them they turn into a pair of bombs (uh, that's logical, I guess) that must be shot before they collide with the row of large dots (whatever they are) you're protecting at the bottom of the screen. All the while you need to avoid a barrage of missiles from a slowly descending shield across the screen that protects the 'bots when they're above it - you're still fair game, by the way.
It's that shield that makes this game impossible. You get a few moments when it's relatively near the top to battle it out fairly, after which you have little shot at the 'bots before they get too low for comfort and the shots prove unavoidable no matter how skilled you might be. The gameplay elements - graphics, control, sound, speed, etc., are all good here - but it's all for naught if you decide early on to toss this in a drawer because the programmers decided to put you in a hopeless situation. Oh, well. Even if that wasn't the case it'd probably never be better than a B game since it's not an overwhelming original, so it's not like it's a near-miss classic.
Cuber (B-) disc 41
You get all the vital stuff, including the animation sequences showing how you need to jump on the squares to complete various waves. The characters act pretty much to their true selves and speed is true to form. Nice effort, although I wish someone had put the best of all these games together into one stellar title.
As with many titles, it's the little things that help. The graphics, while obviously not as good as the real thing, are still cute. Sound is sparse, but still a plus for a change. Gameplay moves along nicely. And there's other little things like needing to press the fire button after losing a life (allowing for pauses if desired) to resume the game.
There are a few quibbles: The color scheme is random rather than constant, leading to some playfields that are uglier than others. The snake seems to need to be only one square away from Qbert when he jumps on a disc (in the arcade it's two), and I died a number of times because of this. The graphics are a bit jumpy, but nothing like some primitive versions like the Atari 2600. At the same time I used to play this on the Colecovision all the time and that's a far superior version, as are the coversions for a lot of other consoles and computers. A better version of this no doubt could be done (maybe it has - I know there's some other titles I haven't played yet - but I've definitely played worse (see Queer Bert review)), but this one won't feel like a disappointment.
Cuthbert in the Mines (C+)
Your goal is to guide your miner to the top of the screen, avoiding all the mine carts on the conveyor belts that will knock you down a level (but not completely off, unless you're on the bottom level). Meanwhile, a devil-looking creature patrols up and down a ladder on the right hand side of the screen, occasionally hurling a fireball across a belt. I didn't find him to be too much of nuisance.
While simple gameplay elements often make for a winner, here it's all too simple, since it's just wave after wave of the belts. It doesn't have the diversity of Frogger or the multiple screens of Donkey Kong, and according isn't as much fun. But I'm sure it beats 12 hours of inhaling coal dust, even if you won't get any union wages for your efforts.
Cyrus Chess (B+)
Dallas Quest Adventure (D-)
And when it's time to move on, often a single innocent "misstep" puts you in a trap you can't get out of. In other words, if the story says "obvious" paths go north and south, and you choose south, you may end up stuck in a jungle with no means of escape - not the result of a bad decision, just INSANELY BAD PROGRAMMING to try to make a pathetic game more "challenging." The ending is totally ridiculous and frankly I can't believe I played it that long. I think I was irked at the $40 price tag and felt I had to get my money's worth. Don't go near this one unless you're the type that also uses webpagesthatsuck.com to figure out what you shouldn't be putting on your Web pages.
Demolition Derby (B-)
So what about the game? Well, I managed to get some fixes for my pirated game a few months later (along with a list for a bunch of other carts) and it's OK in a not-terribly-exciting way. It's a conversion of the arcade game Bump-N-Jump and it's done fine, but it just doesn't have any elements that make it all that addictive. Your role is to guide a car along a track that scrolls from the top of the screen downward, forcing other cars off along the way. The harder the car is to push, the more you bounce off it (and therefore are in danger of hitting the side walls) and the more points you get for it. If I recall right, this is also critical to keeping your fuel supply going and to advancing to further levels. Better than a lot of driving games on the market, but I'd still boot up two or three better titles (Speed Racer, Pitstop II) before considering this one.
Demon Attack (B)
The game can't be any simpler: Guide your ship along the bottom of the screen and destroy the waves of aliens shooting at you from above. Starting with the third wave they split in two when hit and start diving toward you when one of the "split" enemies is hit. And every third screen you get a chance to take out a massive mother ship that keeps spewing out little demons - a feature first included on the Intellivision and preserved on most later versions for the more "advanced" platforms.
This is a long ways from the most advanced or sophisticated game on the planet; it's just simple, well-executed fun. Too bad that's a concept that all too often gets lost in the desire to be flashier, bigger and (not really) better.
Demon Seed (B+)
Desert Rider (B-/incomplete)
Everything moves along nicely, the simple controls work well, the graphics are pretty good and the jump element saved my life more than once. Mostly my reservation is the other games I've mentioned have better graphics, features such as multiple tracks and/or pit stops, driver realism, etc. I suspect I'd probably have seen a demo of this running at Radio Shack and taken a pass as a youth, since I already had better stuff waiting at home. Still, those who bought it certainly don't need to feel ashamed or cheated.
The game is one of those scrolling shooters, where terrain passes under you and various bad guys attack your plane from the ground or air. Probably my main gripe with the game is it's somewhat slow, a killer with a shoot-em-up like this where one of its main attractions is the fast and furious action. It's also not possible to fire bombs at ground targets and missiles at ships separately, since the CoCo joysticks have only one fire button.
Gameplay elements like graphics and sound are generally in the moderate to good category, and there's enough depth to keep players interested for multiple sessions. There's other shooters that are more entertaining, but this one wouldn't feel like a bitter disappointment if it was the one you plunked down your allowance money for.
Donkey King (later
The King) (A)
The game has all four screens, the appropriate number of girder levels on each (no "short" screens to accommodate TV's horizontal screen, presents them in the proper order, features the opening and intermission sequences, and the gameplay very closely mimics that of the coin-op. There are only two real drawbacks: 1) The game is extremely hard - you will play it many, many times before getting past the first barrels screen (either the barrels are bigger or Mario can't jump as high, or something); and 2) the sound is competent, but nothing more. At least the game offers a practice mode with 12 men so you actually have a chance of getting to the latter screens.
One magazine reviewer at the time said "it's hard to communicate just how impressive Donkey King is. If I had to pick one game to show off the Color Computer's capabilities, this would be it." I can't say it better than that after all these years.
Donkey Kong (A)
Doodle Bug (B)
This unlicensed CoCo version does everything well, but nothing so spectacular as to make it stand out above other solid titles. It's fun in a mindless way, but after Ms. Packman and the like you do want a bit more variety in mazes and other stuff as the game progresses. Also, the level of difficulty stays the same throughout the game - you choose from three to six bugs at the start, and that's how many there always are; and they always move at the same speed. But it's certainly not a bad way to kill a few minutes of idle time.
The concept, a like a lot of classics, is amazingly simple: Use your joystick to guide a line as it snakes around the screen, circling objects that pop up along the way. If you circle them completely they disappear and you get points for them. Circle more than one and you get an increasingly high number of points (five objects, for example, would be the total of all the objects multiplied by five). You lose one of your lives if you touch any of the objects.
And that's it - sort of.
A kid could play this a long time by circling objects one at a time and enjoy it, thanks to a very slow increase in the level of difficulty. The objects are fun, colorful and act in interesting ways. Progress slowly and new types will appear every so often, and it's fun to see what comes next: Roller skates that move back and forth, yo-yos that move up and down on strings, spiders that chase you and many others.
And here's the real key to its success: This game is as difficult as you make it. An experienced player can wait a few minutes until a bunch of objects are screen at one time (there can be up to 20) and, by doing some careful planning to get most or all of them in a group (takes work, since they are moving in different patterns), can have an enormous number of points almost immediately - and touch off the program's nasty side. Since point totals determine when certain enemies appear, your sudden high score means all sorts of nasty bad guys start coming after you - frequently at very high speed - and some wicked stuff which NEVER disappears crops up. On the other hand, you can get bucketloads of points for grouping and circling the objects that appear, if you can manage it.
Titles like this always made me wonder what original games I was missing out on for other platforms. I didn't think much of it when I first read reviews describing it as a perfect family game (sort of like recommending a "heartwarming film"), but this is one of the very few CoCo titles I'd recommend without hesitation to anyone. Pity no one's ever ported it to more modern machines.
You are Mario, trying to get through 10 screens of caves and gathering keys that allow you to open doors to other screens. There's also treasures to collect for points (big deal - survival is always to key to these types of games). Balls and drops of acid from the ceiling get in your way. You navigate by jumping and climbing the vines and walls. You need to get to another screen before a timer expires, otherwise a bat-out-of-hell comes after you and kills you - this is not some slow-bouncing Evil Otto, by the way; it runs your ass over instantly.
The levels progress in difficulty very well, the sound is sparse but effective, the graphics are well done without getting excessive - in short, all the pieces fit together very nicely. And the great thing is it isn't simply a matter of going from one level to the next: You often have to go back and forth between levels to get keys for higher levels, expanding the challenge significantly since doing a screen backwards is often a completely different challenge (imagine trying to get from the top of elevator screen in Donkey Kong to the bottom - yikes!). And only once did I make it through all 10 screens, but it appears the keys open entirely next doors at the next level, so the challenge begins anew there even if the screens are the same.
This is one of the few CoCo games I still play regularly today. It's not in Nintendo's Super Mario category by any means, but it's always a hell of a lot of fun for when all you have are short stints for platforming. It turns out a disk-only sequel (I believe it's called Cave Walker) was done with 25 screens and a lot more happening (treasures have specific functions instead of being just decorations, along with a lot of other advancements). Sadly I can't find it on the 'Net anywhere; otherwise I'd plan on kissing a few evenings goodbye getting through it.
What's obvious is a huge amount of effort went into this program. The graphics and sound are very impressive. Everything about the gameplay is also well-done, from the behavior of the enemies to control of your ship. But the whole thing feels awfully sluggish, a failing far too common in latter-day CoCo titles when looking good seemed to take precedence over gameplay.
This conversion is fine if you're a fan of the game and it even has one notable CoCo achievement: Due to some clever split-screen programming, it manages to get eight true PMODE 3 colors on the screen at once. Basically half of a color set is used in the upper half of the screen, while another appears in the lower half. This may be the only title able to claim this, but if I'm wrong I'm sure somebody will set me straight.
Dungeon Master (D-)
Instructions are provided and it's easy to navigate around and kill things. Too easy, really. There's no strategy in combat - just keep pressing attack until the random number generator makes you or the enemy the winner - and not much intrigue to the dungeons. But if you want a brief overview of how these games work (it's definitely not Diablo, or even Rogue - a truly cool text-based dungeon game for many early computers and can be found nowadays on the Web) this is worth a shot for a few minutes.
Dungeon Raid (B-)
I confess I haven't made it a long way into this game - it's tough no matter what skill level you select, but at least doesn't feel overly or unfairly so. And it definitely has a "play once more" quality since games are fast and furious. Something I wouldn't have minded paying for as a youth. It is not, however, quite up to the 2600 cart.
Dungeons of Daggorath (A)
The goal was nothing unique - explore a five-level dungeon, killing monsters and collecting items to aid you in your quest along the way. The graphics were in a standard 3-D "wire" format used by a lot of this genre at the time. You typed in various commands to move, pick up things and fight. Actually, most of the time you typed singe-letter abbreviations because everything occurred in real time and even slight delays could result in death.
Torches, weapons and shields - starting with basic ones and progressing to better ones as you progress - cover basic needs, while things like rings and flasks dealt with the wonderful world of magic. You couldn't just use many of them, however - you needed to solve a riddle to properly ID it, although without giving too much away I'll say a thesaurus generally proved enough to get you through.
Probably the most unique feature of DOD was the heartbeat. Essentially this was your health meter, hit point count or whatever you want to think of it as. If it got too fast you would pass out - and a wandering monster was almost certain to kill you before you woke up - and too much strain killed you outright. It started slowly and would pick up in pace every time you did something - a little bit for moving slowly, faster if you started moving faster, a lot if you attacked and often by a fatal amount if a monster hit you even once (I always felt this was just a bit too harsh). To get it under control you needed to find someplace safe where you could move nice and slow, or not at all. There were also some magic flasks that would help get things under control. Your heartbeat sounds with an ominous thump-thump throughout the game, just one of many first-class sound effects that for once make this a superior audio experience.
The heart thing was definitely a big-time challenge at the beginning of the game, when you're a pathetic weakling and even a bit of quick movement gets your heart going too fast for comfort. Even most of the weak creatures could inflict a pretty fair amount of damage as well. The key to getting stronger lay mostly in killing monsters - sort of like getting experience points in D&D - although a few magic items could help (some on the other hand could hurt, so you had to be careful figuring out what was what). After a bit you could at least move about without having a heart attack, but combat always remains a bit of tricky thing.
The goal was to find and kill the wizard on the bottom level, but like the best of dungeon games even the seemingly simple elements had a bunch of subtle nuisances you needed to figure out for any real chance of success. In combat, for instance, it turns out there is a creature too weak to kill you. One key to defeating the game on later levels is to let him/her/it occupy your "space," therefore keeping other monsters at a safe arms' length, and then do some quick back-and-forth maneuvering to kill the nasty creatures.
The monsters pretty much wander at random early until they see you, but in latter levels will start hunting you down in groups at once. Eventually there will be long lines of them in all directions coming at you and you have to act and type at least as quick as you think.
So with all these raves, what's not to like? Well saving and loading games was a huge pain in the ass, thanks to Radio Shack's cassette-based storage system. Making sure your tape was properly positioned and the recorder set properly is not what you want to do in the heat of battle, which you're pretty much always in later. And loading was the worst - you can actually crash the game if it never finds a saved game to load. Some sort of interrupt feature really was needed here. I already said getting killed in one blow is a bit harsh, especially since you need to hit most enemies a bunch of times. Finally, the ending is universally described as disappointing and anticlimactic.
But it'd be treason to say any of these are enough of a problem to merit serious complaint. The CoCo never managed to get major hits like Ultima and Wizardry translated for it, but this provided nearly all of the fun and so many unique opportunities of its own it was one of those few games you could show off to competing platform gamers and not have to worry about sniveling superior reactions.
Dunkey Munkey (C-)
Like a lot of other low-end Kong clones, this offers only two screens: One is a reasonably good copy of the rivets screen that ends each round in the coin-op version. The other is a rather goofy hybrid of the barrels and elevator screens. It's OK, but certainly nothing great, or even as far as either screen is in the real thing and its various home versions. Play it once so you can appreciate how much better Donkey King is and be done with it.
For those of you unfamilar with Tron, it probably ranks as the best game ever done from a truly awful movie - just like Mario Bros might get credit for being the best game to spawn a truly awful movie (anyone wants to make other nominations, I'm all ears - and what the HELL is this rant doing in here anyways?). You go through a series of minigames, including being a tank hunting other tanks in a 2D maze, a guy who has to shoot spiders in one game and blocks in another to enter escape zones, and a lightcycle that leaves a trail behind riding against other cycles in an attempt to crash them into the trails or walls (this last one is one of the most common retro games anywhere, starting in the 70s under the name of Surround and progressing to the modern day where you get advanced features like a first person 3D view of the playfield).
All four minigames will be familar to fans of the arcade game, but they all feel and look a bit crude. I don't expect perfection, obviously, but I suspect the CoCo is capable of better. I'd probably still recommend it to die-hard fans who wanted to play this on the machine, but maybe not to others.
F-16 Assault (B)
Fembots Revenge (B+/Incomplete)
Fortress of the Mutant Waffles (D+)
Your job is to explore a large maze and gather nine bottles of syrup, returning them to the room you start from. Along the way you need to avoid mutant waffles that will drain health points from you if you touch them. The object is to complete the task in the least amount of time. The game ends once you've returned to the entrance with the waffles.
A simple, but strangely warped version of Atari's runaway 2600 hit Adventure? Sadly, no, although I felt that way at the start. The problems are very simple - not enough challenge and absolutely zero replay value. There are only a few waffles and they move in predictable patterns, so it's highly unlikely your health will be seriously threatened. The waffles are easy to find and once you've done it there's no incentive to go back and do the same quest again, even if you supposedly should try to shave a second or two off your time.
This would have been a great game if 1) mazes and the waffle locations were generated randomly and 2) the waffles chased you intelligently - or even better, there was a selective difficulty option and/or the possibility of them getting smarter in a progressive series of mazes. Easy for me to be a critic, of course. I wasn't writing this on a deadline for some tiny company that was probably already trying to figure out a dozen new program ideas for the following month.
The Frog (B/D-, depending on controls)
The graphics are much sharper here than the official conversion of Frogger, which is probably its main advantage. It also moves along at a somewhat better pace. The gameplay isn't perfect; probably the main shortcoming is things are a bit crowded on the freeway and more difficult in the river than the coin-op and home CoCo versions. Not a problem for experienced players, but probably a bit discouraging for all the kids and novices that tend to be attracted to these sorts of games.
The big problem is the controls. Far too often your key presses aren't recognized and you die as a result. In fact, the game is pretty much impossible unless you do something totally absurd: hold the spacebar down with one hand while using the other to control your frog. I do not know why this works, but it's a tip from the Web that ended up saving my sanity on this title.
All this preamble is for a reason: With so many great versions, it's an utter shame that the CoCo folks put out such a lame version for our humble machine. It's in low-res PMODE 1 graphics, a bit pokey and just doesn't feel as much fun as other versions. It's not bad - most of the arcade elements are there, even though the background music that plays such a big part of the original's charm isn't possible here. But a lot of phrases like ho-hum, mediocre and so on come to mind. Luckily there are better, non-official versions out there. Hell, I wrote a version in BASIC using only 4K of memory that I ended up playing more than this one (not an ego thing - I just didn't have the commercial version for a while).
Basically the premise is you fly around a large scrolling sky area shooting aircraft (they start simple and get more sophisticated in subsequent waves as "time" progresses) and rescuing balloonists. There's more, of course, but I can't say much about it because the truth is I'm pretty terrible at this game and don't know what secrets might be locked in the advanced waves. But give this one a spin for sure.
Basically you're shooting at some very odd-looking dragons and trying to catch their eggs - I'd say it's a little like Phoenix in concept, but it's a bit too deviant for that. The game moves along quickly enough, but suffers from flicking and just general weirdness from the graphics. On the other hand, I guess that's one of the things I liked best, sort of like owning one of those ancient and completely loved VW Beetles that ran horribly - but always ran.
Galactic Attack (C+)
Every element minus the sounds (of course, but those that are included are still OK) is in this title. Aliens enter the screen in patterns similar to the original, and their habit of shooting and bombarding you in latter waves during this process is fully intact. The actual waves are executed perfectly (mother ships that can capture you, diving aliens that reenter the screen unexpectedly from the bottom, etc.) and the challenge stages are similar - not exact - to the patterns in the original. The slight movement differences are a plus to me - you're not just duplicating everything from the arcade when booting up at home.
The only thing that might be an issue for experienced players is this seems a bit easier than the original, only because I managed to progress further in it than I ever did when feeding quarters into the money-grabbing version. I dock it just a bit for that, since I'm guessing more people will be annoyed by that than poor players who will welcome it. But it isn't noticeable enough to really be an issue, especially if you're a fan of the genre.
Galax Attack (B-)
Lots of little stuff makes this better than Radio Shack's version. The graphics are higher-res with a black background so it actually feels like space, there's a starry background, the action is faster and sounds better, and the larger characters make it feel closer to the arcade original, even if it isn't completely convincing.
But I always considered it a great game and the lure of a home version, complete with the ability to play with up to three people (instead of four) at a time seemed pretty impressive. The screen shots in the print ads, like other Diecom games, were absolutely stunning for the Color Computer. Furthermore I was mostly pleased with another of their games, Marble Maze (see review elsewhere), even if I had learned a harsh lesson in reality when the game turned out to be w-a-y-y-y-y too slow compared to the arcade version.
OK, so I'll take a chance on this and keep my expectations in line, I thought. And I guess I could say this game managed to exceed them and fall short at the same time.
This game has incredible depth speeded into the limits of a 64K CoCo: 15 large and innovative levels with fantastic graphics (levels 7-15 repeat once you're good enough). The character choices of fighter, mage or thief are well-balanced, and you can take shortcuts to higher levels once you learn where they are. Overall, I'd give design a perfect score - something maybe two or three other games deserve.
But that damned speed thing!
If Marble Maze is pokey, this thing absolutely crawls. There is no way to pretend this is an arcade experience - it's basically a strategic exercise the whole way, which I guess also has the advantage of making it easier for clods like me. It's been a while, but I'd guess you'd be lucky to get the equivalent of 5 frames per second when there are an average collection of monsters on screen - and it's even slower when there are a bunch of them.
But like Marble Maze, it gets a higher score than it might deserve because in the end the damned thing is so addictive, especially for a CoCo conversion. It took a long time to get through all the levels and for the most part I had a ball doing it. Sure the speed issue was a bummer, but in the end it's still a superior title compared to most everything else available on the platform. Sometimes getting graded on a curve is a good thing.
The game is competent in all respects, but there's nothing really that's exciting and addictive here. You'll play it a few times and then move on to something with more depth. And it's not terribly likely you'll seek it out the next time you boot up your machine.
Germ Warfare (C-)
In this case it may have been because the game was a T&D Software monthly cassette release, so maybe they hadn't done a machine language shooter of this type yet. It certainly is better than a lot of the crap cranked out in BASIC by them and other hackers, but a lot of it is still rather crude.
You shoot aliens that look different each wave, but don't act all that different as they move toward the screen (except for getting faster). You need to shoot them before they reach the bottom, but there's no other elements - no shots to avoid, shields, mother ships, etc. In addition, the game has one real annoyance - it picks up exactly where you left off when you die (ideally the aliens should return to the top of the screen), so you can lose all your men at once if you get into too deep of a jam with multiple aliens. Fix those tweeks and you'd have something that got a better grade - I might even overlook the crude graphics and play it a few more times.
Ghost Gobbler (D)
Gold Runner (B)
Second, a memo in retrospect to Dave Dies, with all respect to one of my favorite CoCo programmers: If you aren't desiring or able to exactly duplicate a popular game on the market, feel free to leave out a few of the original's most annoying features. The CoCo version has, I believe, only 30 levels and no level editor - understandable given the CoCo's limited memory and the fact it was sold through Novasoft, the bargain unit of Tom Mix Software. It's still a fun game offering a lot of challenge and gameplaying hours and I'd score higher if Dave had made one change in his "almost too perfect" conversion. When a level starts or you die (which happens to me a lot), the game screen features a circular screen "wipeout" effect that takes forever to close and then open up again. I hated this in the original and it caused me to quit a lot of games when the going got rough and, from the comfort of my desk chair, it seems like this could have been speeded up or left out in Gold Runner.
Of course, my lecturing Dave on programming is roughly equal to a fan of Kenny G telling Miles Davis what he ought to be playing on stage, so he's welcome to flame me here for all he's worth or come up to Alaska to kick my ass (actually I'd love to meet him and a few other CoCo gurus) if he ever sees this. The rest of you back off - at least submit your own second opinions with enough thoughtful analysis to show me up as the moron you consider me to be.
Grid Factor (B-)
You only need to press one key to play this. It controls when bricks of various colors are released by a gun (ship, man, whatever) that moves rather rapidly across the bottom of the screen. The released bricks collect at the top of the screen. The game ends when two bricks of the same color are touching horizontally or vertically. And that's it. And it's amazingly fun with a high replay value.
The game works because everything moves along quickly and smoothly. The graphics are the lowest resolution the CoCo has, but that doesn't matter here since bricks are rectangular anyhow. The scoring is simple but clever: You get points for each successful brick launch and, while not required to launch bricks before the gun crosses the screen (the initial direction, by the way, is random), you lose a point if you fail to do so.
I remember thinking someone probably could have written Tetris years before it came out on any number of primitive computers and maybe made a fortune. This obviously is a lesser game that never gained any acclaim of note, but is a great example of how cleverness will outdo flash every time when programming on limited hardware. A B- might seem like faint praise, but that is on my unflinching scale of how I view commercial games, meaning this would rank above average as a stand-alone title someone was charging money for. Given how simple its appearance is, the game itself has to be pretty strong to make up for it.
Grid Run (C-)
This 3D space shooter would definitely rank as an above-average BASIC effort (the subpar grade has to be expected - there's no way it's ever going to measure against a commercial title; bad BASIC games are pretty much all D- or F efforts). It works by keeping things very simple and user-friendly. You get the option of instructions, which are simple and presented fairly nicely (if slowly). The objective is simply to target an alien on the horizon and shoot it before he does the same to you. This happens in waves of increasing difficulty (again, progressing probably too slow for impatient gamers). A convincing 3D grid scrolls along as you fight the aliens, which materialize and move about as well as you could expect in BASIC (meaning everything is still pretty choppy and full of flicker, but at least it's playable).
I probably wouldn't play this more than a few times, but I definitely would have been interested in how the 3D effects were done (I won't go into it here, but trust me, I've seen it with other CoCo programs and it's a trick well worth learning). Look at it as an example of what primitive homebrew gaming was all about - it's the sort of thing family and friends could no doubt play and have kind words for, without being overly condescending.
You navigate your guy through eight stages (misleading really, since half of them are basically the same screen repeated over and over - one of the many frustrations with this title). In some you're trying to get through a pseudo 3-D environment to some location on the screen; in others you need to shoot or avoid stuff coming at you on a Zaxxon-like scrolling field - but with nowhere near the graphics, speed or playability of the more-esteemed space-shooter. In theory, the game might have had promise. In reality, it can be interesting for a while to see what the next screen is - and some of them are interesting (hence an overall passing grade) - but in the end it has no real staying power.
Every version seems to have its flaws, ranging from terrible 3-D portrayal to just plain terrible gameplay. The CoCo suffers from tepid-for-the-era graphics, slow movement and almost no sound. And having every other screen repeat itself is a terrible idea when it's perhaps the most boring screen of the game - even the cartoon character in the instructions complains about having to navigate the canyon in question so many times. Like I said, bad sign.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (B+)
Mostly the news is all good and I wouldn't dream of not recommending it to any fan of the series or text adventure fan who thinks they're in for a good time. You don't have to read the book to get through this, but it sure as hell helps. Example: One of the first challenges is making sure you don't get caught in your house when it gets bulldozed; another is making sure you're on a spaceship instead of buying drinks and getting hungover when Earth suddenly gets blown up by nasty aliens who are really bad at poetry. If you've read the book you'll know what you need to do here; if not, you'll have to find out on your own.
The game has Infocom's usual enormous vocabulary, so you're mostly relying on your wits and not on trying to guess what verb will allow you to light a torch. I have it on good authority the story is clever and funny throughout, and the truth is this is the only place I've ever seen someone say anything bad about it at all. So what's my problem? There is one puzzle for a key thing you need early on that is almost completely impossible to solve and the logic required to get through it is often nonexistent. It's terrible to sink a great game on one thing, but this is inexcusable to me for a number of reasons. To put a puzzle like this in so early in the game, especially when a lot of people newer to the genre are probably trying this game out, and the overall concept of it is so frustrating that it made me dread what might lie further ahead even if I got through it. The puzzle is sort of a really bad running gag - the setbacks you'll encounter the first three or four times are funny, but by the end (I believe there are 20 steps you must follow EXACTLY to get through it) you want to shoot the messenger. Even typing in the hints directly from a code book didn't ease my frustration - I just kept thinking how stupid it was to allow this into the program.
Others probably found it great, though, so I'll abandon the rant. One thought: If you want to get into Infocom without that much frustration, try one of their easier games floating around the Web. I got through Wishbringer pretty easily (see long, raving review further along, Planetfall is a funny sci-fi favorite of mine and, for pure laugh value, Leather Goddess of Phobes is a real winner that allows plenty of initial exploration without too many puzzles blocking your way.
Finally, a word about the original Hitchhiker packaging, which of course you don't get if you're just booting it up online or downloading it (it's free from a number of sources for PCs, Macs and other platforms, so unless you're using the Mocha emulator there's no real reason to use the CoCo version). It was, like most Infocom products, incredibly great, including a "DON'T PANIC" button and other fun stuff - but inexplicably there is no towel in here. How, in the name of all that's sacred to galactic hitchhiking, could they leave that out?
Maybe this platform game caught the reviewer on a good day (not). Actually, the utterly simple, even stupid, concept is executed so well that all the quirks actually end up being somewhat charming - sort of like a "B" movie. It's not a classic by any means, but if this was somebody's contribution to a cassette magazine or homebrew programming project, they should take pride for a title that ranks above most other such efforts (which often flop by trying to get too fancy or complex).
The entire game is you are a blob and you have to jump on the other blobs before the timer runs out. Do so and you go to another level with more blobs than before. You use vines on the edges of the screens to move between the platforms. Movement, especially jumping, is about as sophisticated as those handheld LCD games - in other words there's basically no animation - but somehow the controls feel mostly OK (enemy blob movement appears to basically be random, so your successes and failures aren't always totally your fault). Generally games will probably last a couple of minutes at most, so it doesn't feel like a huge time-waster until you've played it 30 times. Why this game has that "it" that makes me replay it while others don't can't be quantified with any analysis here, but it's worth booting up as an entertaining example of primitive CoCo programming.
Indy Race (D-)
This version is probably about average for the genre. You can select the width of the track and how much of the road you can see. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles, which is usually what people added once they go familiar with the basics of programming and wanted to move on. But those efforts as often as not ended up resulting in a game that was worse as people tried to be too clever for their own good (Want a modern day example? Look at how virtually every version of "Mortal Combat" or "Pitfall" after the first sequel or two has been almost universally slammed by the gaming community).
Instrument Flight Simulator (C-)
The Interbank Incident (B-)
The storyline is you've been hired to recover a stolen codebook and must travel to several locations around the world to find it. You get to select one of eight characters, each with different strengths and weaknesses, and the interface is selected using icons instead of the usual "type in the command" text interface. This, of course, became pretty standard for these games in the PC/Mac era, but back then it was still a novelty. You could also examine areas on the screen by clicking on them (also standard now), essential to finding key items and clues in your quest.
I probably made it a third of the way through this game, but simply didn't have the patience to go further because at least 90 percent of your time is spent waiting for the disk to load the next action every time you select an action. A classic example of trying to make the CoCo's limited hardware do too much. Sigh.
Junior's Revenge (B+)
The graphics are large and blocky, making it feel more like a 2600 title than a CoCo game (note: that doesn't mean it looks anything like the Atari version - which basically used squares for its gameplay elements and yet still played great; go figure). The action is fast, but nothing much feels like the real thing, especially if you were aware of any of several titles that did everything better. Oh well, guess there wouldn't be incentive to try harder the next time if you were the best at every title out there...
My memory's a little hazy on this, but I believe there was a time limit you selected for the game and there was also a limited amount of fuel you had (I'm pretty sure there was a way to recharge). Also, you had a protective shield/suit/something that eroded gradually as bugs escaped from the bottom - if too many made it you bit the dust (or "bought the farm," as the game would inform you).
The whole thing was supposedly based on Robert Heinlein's book Starship Troopers. Could be - I know nothing about him, the book or what apparently was a terrible movie about it that came out a few years ago. All I know is I played it a fair amount in the short term after buying it and remember it was one of my lingering choices when I was in the mood for something different. The graphics are a bit clunky and it's not like there's a ton of variety in gameplay from wave to wave, which keep the score in the respectable but not phenomenal category. But definitely make it a point to feel the burn at least a few times if you get the chance.
The Lair (B-/incomplete)
Your task is to land on the same platform over and over, with no fuel gauge to make things more challenging. As you progress other ships appear in the sky to get in the way. But so what? This is really too dull to even spend much time on as a reviewer. I hope this wasn't their "feature" game of the month.
You use the joystick to steer around one of three tracks and the fire button to accelerate, with control being both as easy and out-of-control as those early games that usually relied on steering wheels for control. There are a scattering of obstacles and bonuses that pop up at times - fuel tanks good, dogs bad - and the game keeps track of your time and laps run. Races last 20 laps, which is far too many in my humble opinion. Would I have paid for this? Not likely - I seldom had anybody to do any CoCo gaming with (sniff!) so it would have headed straight for the dusty drawer.
Your goal is to guide a moon buggy along the surface from wave to wave, jumping over craters and shooting rocks on the ground while avoiding the missiles from alien ships overhead. Simple concept that is an enormous amount of fun, because the simple range of perils are creatively combined to increase the difficulty as you progress, so you've got to think and plan ahead as well as blast away at everything. Plus you can continue your games at the end, something a lot more games should allow.
This version retains the charm of the arcade, including the catchy opening music, the fun bouncing of the wheels as you traverse, the quirky behavior of the ships overhead and the great explosions when you screw up. A good solid title that reminds people why retro games are often a lot more fun and innovative than the endless fighting and other cookie-cutter games coming out these days.
You guide your chef through various screens, assembling the burgers on the platforms by running over them and avoiding hot dogs or dousing them with pepper to disable them. Experienced players will note I mention only hot dogs - this is not an oversight, as all the other enemies from the game (eggs, pickles) are missing. This is one of the game's big oversights, as is the fact that there's only three hot dogs throughout the game. It means the game feels rather faithful to the original at first, but less so as you progress. A shame, because the first impression is really rather good. The graphics are as good as the CoCo will allow for this sort of title, the mazes are diverse and progress in difficulty nicely and all the gameplay elements included - enemy movement, control, etc. - feel spot-on. I'd have been cool paying this as a teen and played it enough to get my money's worth, but would always feel just slightly cheated since I could play better versions on other machines I had access to at the time (at school, but don't tell the gurus in charge there that).
Madness and the Minotaur (C+)
Furthermore, the instructions provide a vocabulary list - a great addition all adventure games should have so the challenge is solving problems using logic instead of guessing what words the programmer might have been thinking of (i.e. "take" doesn't solve something, but "grab" does).
The game places a heavy emphasis on spells (not a bad thing) and on navigating around a maze that features one-way passages and other hazards (this is a bad thing - it's a tacky method many adventures use to make the game more difficult in an illogical way that's unfair to the player). Unless the unique plot of Bedlam appeals to you, this is probably the Radio Shack adventure title I'd recommend first.
Marble Maze (A-)
Was it worth it? Well, yes and no. I played this thing to death and even after realizing its major shortcoming (more in a minute), I was astounded at the quality of the game. No matter what else is factored in, Dave still managed to get eight decent and mazes of increasing difficulty implemented into the 64K RAM limits. The graphics were also as good as could possibly be expected - even now it remains one of the main things that draws my attention when I boot up most Diecom products.
So the problem? Same thing as always - it's just so doggone slow. The Atari version is a fast-and-furious arcade game; this is more a strategic affair. But unlike some games where the lack of speed would mean death, the concept of this game and the desire to see what mazes and challenges lie ahead are such that it can still be very interesting at a relative crawl.
The concept, by the way, is to guide a marble mostly downward through a 3-D maze, avoiding obstacles, drop-offs and various enemies such as marble munchers along the way. Oh, you also have a time limit which becomes a bigger and bigger factor as the mazes get more complex. The CoCo version has simpler mazes and is missing some enemies that obviously are far too animated for the humble home machine, but there are a few extra/substitute elements as well to discover.
Soundwise, the home version gets a D. The arcade has catchy tunes and creative sounds; the home adaptation has basically a couple of beeps and bips, but is mostly nearly silent - too many other things are already sucking up processor time. I guess this wasn't a big deal to me, since I can't think of many CoCo games where sound is a selling point.
All in all, worth playing, at least to me. I have no doubt others would give it a harsher grade, but in the end it retains the one most important element of the arcade version - the addictiveness.
Eventually we got the ROM pack (and more importantly the 16K upgrade needed to run it) as a Christmas present. We all played it our fair share. And in the end, that's basically what this is - a good, not great, family-oriented game suited for just about anyone. But it doesn't completely thrill because 1) it takes forever to clear a maze (one is a major achievement) and 2) the game feels slow-paced as a result. It's better than some of the other early Pac efforts, but better ones would come. Amusing tidbit: programmer Steve Bjork said in an interview he hates Pac-Man games and can't stand to play his own title - all the more amusing since it was one of his best-selling efforts.
The graphics look like the vectors they're supposed to, and the action is consistently smooth and fast. If you liked the coin-op version, you'll like this. How much more needs to be said?
Mine Rescue (B-)
Miss Gobbler (D+)
The screenshot of the first maze is the first giveaway – notice those long dead-end passages to the energizers? Any Pac game with closed-off passeges immediately outs itself as incompetent. The PMODE 4 artifact graphics are strictly functional withoutmuch effort to match the coin-ops colors (which, as seen in Ms. Maze below, is somewhat possible), but at least a shade better than the garish lower-res PMODE 3 hues in Spectral's preceding effort Ghost Gobbler. The main playability issue is excessively high speed because it severely inhibits the ability to nagivate accuractly. Most of your deaths are likely to be high-speed invadertent collisons until you acclimate, if you ever do. The ghosts, like far too many home Pac games, move rather erractically without anything resembling the coin-op's intelligence and character (oh, to have those simple-but-clever algorhythms known to programmers back then).
In Miss Gobbler's favor, and saving it from a lower grade than the "D" earned by Ghost Gobbler, it matches the arcade original with four mazes and eight types of wandering bonus prizes. The mazes change every level, so even though the game is unfairly difficult there's some hope of seeing all of the layouts. Speaking of difficulty, there's Specrtral's usual 16 levels of difficulty, but I didn't observe a great deal of difference between choices zero and 15.
There's also one trick feature that's more of near-fatal curse if you're trying to play without the instructions (highly likely with emulators): There's a hidden one-way warp at the bottom left of the screen that activates unless you're holding the fire button down. Frankly, I'd like to see it the other way, so the uninformed don't get the impression there's a bug that makes it all but impossible to clear a maze. I'm thinking it might have been a stealthy form of copy protection – and certainly far from the most irritating I've encountered if that's true.
Monkey Kong (C)
This version has the two levels, barrels and rivets, that appeared on the dreadful Atari 2600 and Intellivision official conversions. The graphics (even if they are the totally incorrect colors of green, red and blue) and gameplay are somewhat better than either of those primitive platforms, but overall it isn't vastly superior to either. Author Ken Kalish said he wanted to a Kong game that would run in 16K of memory, but acknowledged later that might have been a mistake. Luckily the company he worked for, Tom Mix, would revolutionize the CoCo gaming world not too long after with the 32K phenom Donkey King (see rave review elsewhere).
Montezuma's Dungeons (C-)
The concept is the same: enter rooms in a giant hall, shoot the monsters inside and make off with the treasures. The graphics in this version are much better than Venturer, although your player looks nothing like Winky from the coin-op and I have no idea who those dungeon enemies are. Also, one other flaw: there are times when you're put into impossible situations depending on the door you enter. Skill, not luck, should always be the determining factor when it comes to life-or-death at the arcades.
Mouse Maze (B/Incomplete)
The premise is apparently the need to navigate a maze to prove Earth has intelligent life, otherwise it will be destroyed. So far it's been a basic wander around and collect things that help you overcome puzzles type of experience, but it all appears to be well done. The graphics are good, I've been able to do a fair amount of exploring without absurd puzzles blocking my way and the idea it's a 64K disk game makes me believe there will be plenty of depth. Kudos to John Kowalski (a.k.a. the Sockmaster) for what looks like a strong, if not revolutionary, release - and for making it freely available to the public.
Ms. Maze (B)
The main problem is the programming of the monsters - they simply don't navigate the way they do in the arcade and latter 2600 versions. They shift back and forth over the same territory a lot, seemingly at random, and exhibit none of the individual character that makes the real thing so charming (you know the red one will aggressively chase you, the pink one will try to cut you off, the orange one is a dolt, etc.).
Other minor "non-touches," such as prizes that appear at random in the maze without moving, also drag down the score here. But it gets an above average score thanks to the bell curve; there isn't anything else I would recommend instead to a Pac-starved fan determined to boot something up on a CoCo.