11 articles Articles posted in Old games

Thrust in Javascript (or just about)

I’ve always got one beady eye on Chrome Experiments, Google’s page for cool stuff built with new web tech. JavaScript isn’t exactly your new kid on the block – but how about when you’re using it to build a remake of BBC Micro B beauty Thrust? It’s the handiwork of Jon Combe, and it’ll flood the memory arteries of anyone who smashed up their Beeb after repeatedly catapulting their craft nose-first into a wall. In Thrust, you fought the law of gravity – and the law won. Again, and again, and again.

Jon’s used a smidgen of Flash to get the sound working, but only Steve Jobs is likely to get upset about that. Head straight to the Chrome Experiments page for Thrust – and have a giggle at the poor mites moaning that the controls are rubbish and it’s all too difficult. Welcome to 1986, kids!

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Granny’s Garden creator interview

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This is my interview with the creator of the BBC Micro’s primary school cult classic Granny’s Garden. It was published on my retrogaming site in 2005.

It’s 1982, and the BBC has just made Acorn’s new computer the official BBC Microcomputer – which gave the chunky cream box an easy ride straight into schools up and down the UK.

Some classroom BBC Model Bs were ignored by suspicious luddite teachers; others had passionate lunchtime ‘Computer Clubs’ form around them. But, for some inexplicable reason, seemingly all of them — every single BBC Model B in the whole of Britain — had Granny’s Garden.

Mike Matson was a Devonshire teacher — specialism: geography — when he created the witch, the woodcutter’s cottage, the talking mushroom and the perplexing four-dragons puzzle, all of which will forever bounce around the brains of any UK citizen now approaching their 30th birthday. We tracked him down for a cup of tea and a chinwag about Granny’s Garden.

Mike Matson… then and now

How did you get into computing?
In the early ’80s I spent the weekend with a friend of mine who worked at Hewlett Packard, and he’d got this huge computer with a tiny little green screen, text-only. He asked me to come and have a look. So I sat down — and I was there glued to it the whole weekend. It was the original Adventure — gold nuggets, diamonds, dwarves — and it absolutely hooked me. This tiny little screen, no bigger than six inches, just got me. It was wonderful.

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Skool Daze feature (Retrogamer)

This is an interview with the creators of the much-loved ZX Spectrum game Skool Daze, which I wrote for Retrogamer magazine (in its Live Publishing days) back in 2006. This was the second time I’d spoken to programmer Dave Reidy after tracking him down for a previous article in Arcade magazine. For this feature, I managed to find Keith Warrington, the game’s artist. As far as I know, this is still the only time the two have spoken about the game since Microsphere’s heyday in the mid ’80s.

Dave Reidy can’t recall much about what he learned at school. “What I remember best are the things between lessons. Kicking balls around corridors, playing conkers, firing a catapult. Making fun of teachers. Making fun of other kids. And that was basically how I wanted Skool Daze to be. There’d be a major task to perform — but if you wanted to spend all your time beating people up, you could. Just like school.”

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Pixels from the past: Toki


Oh gawd, Toki. My main memories of this are playing it on some seedy city centre arcade, on a machine that only let you have two minutes per coin. Two minutes with Toki is nowhere near enough to figure out why Toki exists or what it wants from you. It’s a shooty platformer, yes. But with a fireball-spitting monkey. And zombie monkeys. And monkeys piloting giant floating aztec-style temples with boxing gloves on the bottom. Toki is slow, and it helps you find out exactly how many unfairly-placed deadly exploding stalacmites one game can squeeze in (answer: lots) — but it’s got something, it really has. And to prove it, there’s a sparkled-up version coming for Xbox Live and WiiWare, so this is the ideal time to monkey around with the original. Play Toki (in-browser, Java)

Pixels from the past: R.C. Pro-Am

R.C. Pro-Am

What to do about the relative lack of decent browser-based racing games? Either sit and shake your head ruefully until it falls off. Or play R.C. Pro-Am — the 1988 NES game from Banjo-Tooie boys Rare that’s still one of the best racers in racertown. Race surprisingly fast for 20-year-old technology! Skid around with satisfying just-rightness! Aim rockets at dastardly cheat-happy rival racers! And realise that with that happy little between-circuit screen of medals and cups, Rare invented Achievements about 2 decades before the fates intended. Play R.C. Pro-Am (in-browser, Java)