Dungeon Jukebox

Monday, October 7, 2013

Interview with John Rudzinski

A while back I reviewed a little gem called BLORT II and I promised to try and get in touch with the game's creator. As luck would have it, I did manage for find Mr. John Rudzinski on twitter! Mr Rudzinski was gracious enough to take some time and answer some questions! What follows is A Space Dungeon exclusive interview with the man behind BLORT. I hope you enjoy!

Did you go to school for computer programming?

Initially, no. In 1981 I had a father-in-law who was a teacher and a fan of all things digital. He gave me a Sinclair ZX-81 as a marriage present, on which -- after we'd expanded it to a leg-numbing 16K -- I learned BASIC. Thereafter, it was replaced with a Commodore VIC-20. It was on this I learned -- with the help of its programming reference guide and Jim Butterfield's monitor software -- 6502 assembly.

I read everything I could find about machine code and assembly programming. The Toronto PET Users Group -- TPUG --  was very helpful, as were magazines like Compute!, Byte, and the Canadian magazine Computing Now!. I was working as a shipper/receiver and writing assembly code with a pencil in a notebook during transit trips to and from work.

Much later, in the early- to mid-'90s, I took FORTRAN, Pascal and other less-than-current courses in university. In the late '90s I got an IT diploma to make the history degree a little more saleable.

Tell us about the genesis of Blort! and of course Blort! II

In 1983, Steve Rimmer, Computing Now!'s editor, hired me for some reason . . . possibly because I was moderately literate, possibly because he liked my cartoons, or possibly because he knew I was really into computers. After I worked for a bit as an editorial assistant, he made me the magazine's assistant editor, which meant -- among other things -- I could write bylined articles.

I wrote a few binary/hexadecimal mathematics and assembler tutorials for both Computing Now! and sister publication Electronics Today, and somewhere in there (I can't remember for which magazine) I managed to slip in a program I'd written for the Apple ][ computer: Blort!

Blort! was written in 6502 assembly, and took up perhaps 4K of memory because it didn't use graphics. The shuttle was an 'A' that shot exclamation marks at alien 'V's (and likely a few other ASCII characters). Both the shuttle -- on its oiled launchpad -- and the aliens moved back and forth endlessly, so actually hitting an alien took some skill; you'd need to both control the shuttle's left-right movement and release the payload at the correct time to ensure actual contact. It was easier said than done.

All computer- and many electronics enthusiast magazines at the time printed computer program listings from readers and other contributors. These were typically short pieces in BASIC or another high-level language. Despite compiling to such a small size, Blort! was published as a full article, with an illustration, an explanatory article, and a listing that took up a few pages in tiny type by itself.

In terms of reader feedback, I had to mollify one subscriber who was absolutely livid that my program didn't work. After a few probing questions, it became apparent that instead of using an assembler program such as Merlin or LISA to compile the listing, he had been entering each line into AppleSoft BASIC. With every line he typed, the BASIC interpreter would politely beep and print '?SYNTAX ERROR' on his screen. I think Steve recommended I mail a disk to him.

A year or two later, the publishing company had exchanged our Apple compatible computers with IBM XT compatibles. As this was an opportunity to learn the intricacies of a different microprocessor, I asked Steve if I could rewrite Blort! in 8088 assembly. He was less than enthused. I offered to write it using actual 640x480 graphics. He raised an eyebrow . . .

I should point out that Steve was my hero. He'd been writing CP/M utilities in Z80 assembly for the magazine on his Radio Shack TRS-80 (complete with 8" disk drives) when we first met. Before I'd left the magazine, mixed in with his myriad articles, utilities and games, he'd written at least one graphical music composition program, a spreadsheet program and -- if I'm not mistaken -- an entire inventory control system (published over several issues). If you're at all interested in the early days of hobby computing, certainly from a Canadian perspective, I highly recommend looking him up.

Blort! II was written in 1986-'87, weighed in at 10.5K when assembled and was basically a more visually-appealing monochrome VGA graphic version of the original Apple program. There may have been a few more aliens, and I can't remember if the land mine hazard was in the 6502 version. I don't think anyone tried to type its assembly code into their PC/MS-DOS C> prompt, but I can't guarantee that.

Did you ever get to complete the game Protek, which you alluded to in your game intro to Blort?

No. Protek was basically going to be a cross between Sea Dragon -- an Apple ][ game probably best remembered for its digitized spoken title -- and Minefield. It was basically about a submarine protecting freight ships while dealing with WWII sea mines, unfriendly ships and airplanes, and underwater caverns.  I only got as far as getting all the graphics down on graph paper before Real Life demanded my attention elsewhere.

What have you been up to since Blort?

After leaving the magazine I did some consulting . . . I wrote a combination BASIC/assembly Point of Sale terminal for an eyewear retail chain, for instance. But over time, things grew less focused: I sold computers and resistors at a hobby electronics store; took orders for pizzas on ASCII terminals hooked to a mainframe; drew political cartoons for a local paper and spot cartoons and commercial art for other publications; went to university and had both lungs explode -- I'm currently recovering from my 6th pneumothorax . . .

There's a lot more, but it basically ends going through culinary school with my third wife, and later making tiny instrumental compositions with accompanying slideshows and plunking them onto YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/z0ot62).

Does Hennsoft still exist?

No. I made the company official in 1984 by registering it and setting up a business account at a local bank. Blort! II brought in a five dollar check (we call 'em cheques up here) from someone in the 'States. I never cashed it. Eventually, with no actual business plan and bleeding under a boatload of bank 'service' charges, HennSoft folded into a nice origami butterfly and fluttered away. I haven't seen it since.

When is the last time you played Blort?

1990 at the latest, I think; there's a reason why it's called 'Abandonware.' I'd completely forgotten about Blort! II until this March when I had a discussion with a geeky neighbour who asked me about my geeky past. Blort! came up, and -- after coffee -- I hit Google and found this: http://www.myabandonware.com/game/blort-ii-23x

Subsequently, I forgot about it again until you contacted me on Twitter.

Have you ever thought of a remake?

Prior to the '90s, I thought I'd take another kick at the can. If I rewrote Blort! yet again, employing colour and physics (more realistic explosions and the aliens actually getting knocked off their courses before exploding, f'rinstance), maybe I'd be happy. I managed to get it mostly finished before I left for university, but it remains unfinished in a box in our garage on a floppy whose oxide has most likely lost its magnetic charge . . .

The trouble with Blort! is that it wasn't engineered to be a game with lasting playability, designed by committee, whiteboarded by a team of crack programmers, proven managers and hungry sales reps and test-demoed to three solid demographics in five markets. It was scratched out and programmed by an insomniac editor with a deadline, initially using an HB pencil and a graph-paper notebook. Its listing and its article had to fit in the editorial space it was allotted. It was written at a time when programs had to be small in order to fit into limited memory. The Apple ][ computer had 48K of RAM . . . expandable to 64K. Its 5-1/4" disks held 140K or so.

That last is no real excuse; Sir-Tech's Wizardry was written in Pascal (I think) and provided hours upon hours of solid play under the same restrictions. It's one of thousands of far superior games that professional game programmers (and not a few gifted high school students) produced in the '80s.

What are/were some of your favorite video games? 

I mentioned Wizardry. For overall playability, I still like Diablo II. I prefer it hands-down to Diablo III. Every now and then I hit the 'Net for NetHack or Rogue; what they lack in graphics they more than make up for in scale and imagination.

Castle Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem and Quake were fun in their time.

In the arcades, I played a lot of Defender and a lot of Joust. And there's something about Frogger . . . I suspect, incidentally, that most of what I've typed here probably hit the shelves (or the arcades) before much of your readership was born.

If you had unlimited funds and access to any IP's, talent, licensing, etc.....what would your dream project be?

I've seen games go from blocky Space Invaders clones on 8-bit computers to the graphical intricacies of the Borderlands, Assassin's Creed and Halo franchises. But I can't imagine writing (or even planning out) games even remotely like today's blockbusters, and -- in truth -- having a media department and a gaggle of programmers at my command isn't my style.

It's been over 25 years since I programmed anything fun in assembly. I'd like to do that again; Blort! is basically my version of 'Hello, World.'

I've just download the 16.5 megabyte, 7 volume PDF of the 'Intel 64 and IA-32 Architectures Software Developer's Manual.'  We shall see. :)


I truly hope that we see more assembly language games from Mr Rudzinski!  Meantime, I'm happy to have been able to pick his brain about this great little game and his thoughts!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Blort II (1987) Hennsoft

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would achieve a first in internet history.  Let alone that, I never thought that first would involve my little, rarely read video game blog.  But here I am, on June 21, 2013.  The first day of summer.  It's currently 10:32pm, EST.  And I am making obscure video game history.

So what is it, you may ask, that I am writing about that could possibly deserve such a hyped up introduction?  What on Earth could possibly merit such pomp and circumstance?  What's with all the fanfare?  Well, I will tell you:  Tonight, I am reviewing Blort!  A 1987 DOS game by John Rudzinski of Hennsoft.  I have searched high and low on the great world wide web and I can say with a fair amount of certainty that I am the first person in the history of the universe to review this game.  Take a minute to soak that in......

Now that I have you whipped into this frenzy, what do you say we continue on in this carnival like atmosphere......

Blort II is a simple shooter written in 8088 assembler and was assembled in Eric Isaacson's A86 Assembler, which apparently was a public domain utility available in the late 80's.  Blort II was released as shareware, with a the option to send five bucks to John to help him keep Hennsoft afloat.  If you were interested in the Source Code for the game, John would send you a floppy disk containing the files BLORTII.ASM, BLORTII.COM as well as files for the original Blort!, BLORT!.ASM and BLORT!.COM.

Speaking of the original Blort!, it appeared as a type-in program in the magazine Computing Now!

Okay, that's enough history and tech specs.  Let's get down to it, shall we?  We get a little backstory when we first boot up the game:

Okay.....so let me get this straight:  I work for NASA and was sleeping on the job, which led to someone or something named Sludge stealing a shuttle and accidentally shooting down a UFO?  Okay, I'll buy that for a dollar.  What's that?  The shuttle is out of control and it's hopeless, so I should just shoot the rest of the UFO's that appear?  Alien genocide.....check.  No problemo.  So let's jus-wait a second.  What the hell?  Am I reading this right?  Aliens will use landmines in level 2?  Landmines.  In outer space.  They're going to use landmines in outer space.  Screw it, let's just roll with it.  Off we go!

First things first, because I was playing this in DOSBox, I had to slow my CPU cycles WAAAAAAAAY down because the ships were appearing as little more than a flicker on the screen here.  While I was slowing my CPU cycles, I accidentally hit the space bar and shot down my first UFO!  See?   100 points, all for me! I didn't even mean to do it!

Anyway, the ship slides back and forth along the bottom of the screen all by itself.  By pressing either Z or X on the keyboard you can force the ship go either right (X) or left (Z), unless of course you are at the edge of the screen.  Spacebar fires your weapon, as mentioned.

The UFO flies up at the top, back and forth, back and forth.  So what we've got here, is essentially an extremely simplified version of Space Invaders, with only one UFO to contend with.  Now adding to the difficulty is the fact that each UFO flies at a different speed and you have to learn the timing to shoot them down.

Alright.....So there's the landmine in the middle of the bottom of the screen, there.  Just sits there, effectively cutting your play area in half.  However, if you press L, the landmine will detonate and you'll be clear to roam the lower playing field as before.

Don't run into the landmine, because this will happen.  I blowed up.  

There are only two levels to the game and it it repeats over and over again, but as I said the UFO's fly at different speeds, which you have to learn to time for and there's the always pesky landmines, which are a huge pain in the neck when you're not paying attention.  You get three shuttles (lives) before it's game over.  

Blort II is a fun little time waster.  It's got that "I'm just going to give it one more go" quality to it.  I started to play the other night and before I knew it, an hour had passed.  It can be addictive when you're trying to beat your old high score.  I'm aiming to become Blort World Champion! I would recommend it to anyone who's into retro arcade style games.  You can download it from Abandonware and Old PC Gaming.

Well, there you have it, the world's first on line review of Blort II!  I hope that you've enjoyed this little bit of pixilated history making.  I think I may have tracked Mr Rudzinski down on twitter.  If it is indeed him, we'll see if we can get an interview and pick his brain about all things Blort and Hennsoft and find out if he ever completely the promised game Protek, which was set for a May 1987 release.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Final Fantasy - Astos is a Jackass!

When last we left our intrepid heroes, they were getting the snot kicked out of them at every corner.  After stocking up on some much needed potions and assorted other items, it was time to go up to the northlands to grind some more.  Plus, I've caught wind of a witch that lives in a cave.  I should pay her a visit!

I'm starting to see these bastards in my sleep!  Seriously, I am haunted at every turn by imps.  I actually had a dream about imps yesterday.  How messed up is that?  Of course I also dreamed that a black unmarked helicopter crashed into the back of my house as well.  What does it mean?  Who the hell knows, but we've got some adventuring to do here, so the conspiracy theories will have to wait!

This here is Matoya's Cave.  Don't let all the skulls throw ya....she's not bad.  She's got some animated brooms as pets too!  Seems Matoya has lost her Crystal Lens and she can't see without it.  Well, I guess we'll see what we can do to help her out!

After trekking up to Matoya's Cave and back, I'd finally leveled up enough that I decided to give Elfland a go.  I dock my ship and head directly for Elfheim.  Turns out their prince has fallen asleep after being cursed by a dude named Astos.  Only a powerful herb can wake him up.  I smell a quest.  Talking to a few local elves, I catch with of a crumbling castle to the northwest.

YATZHEE!  Looks like we've found our castle in question.  Upon entering, we find a few bats flying around and meet up with an old king who says that Astos has stolen his crown and hidden it in the Marsh Cave.  However, if we're willing to go and retrieve it for him, then he'll help us with our sleepy prince problem.

This is the Marsh Cave, eh?  Looks more like a wetland version of the Sarlaac Pit.  Friggin great.

No sooner are we in the cave, then we're fighting Scum.  LITERALLY, we're fighting sentient scum.  As it turns out, swords and such don't hurt it much.  Magic seems to do nicely though.

Zombies and Ghouls.....terrific.  The zombies aren't so bad, but the Ghouls, much like their Geist counterparts can paralyze with just one hit.  In this cave you can either go north or south.  I chose north first. After encountering a crapload of these baddies, I came up completely empty handed.  After battling my way back down, I tried the southern direction. Finding a stair case, I battle my way three floors down.

Searching aimlessly, I finally enter a room that's guarded by four....count them, FOUR Wizards!  These guys hit HARD!  Barz takes a shot that halves his health immediately.  Luckily, Klov learned Cure2 before we came down here.  Equally lucky was the fact that I'd been saving Darn's Lightning2 spells for a rainy day.  Looks like it's time to unleash some whup-ass!  The fight is intense and I take a pretty serious beating, using quite a few healing potions.  In the end, the Wizards go down and the crown is mine.  

Back up to the crumbly castle, my weary band of adventurers are tired and running low on health.  All we gotta do is give back the crown and then it's Miller Time!

Oh son of a bitch!  Turns out we've been duped and we went and retrieved this crown of Astos who was in disguise.  As you can see, we're quite low on health.....low on potions and Klovs white magic is almost used up.  

What a dick.  

HOLY CRAP!  Astos is defeated, but three of my party are dead and Darn is just barely clinging to life.  I'm completely out of potions and Klov is dead so there's no white magic for cure spells.  I've got 21 hitpoints and a LONG way back to the safety of Elfheim.  There are Wolves and Creepers and Ogres and all sorts of nastiness between here and there.  In short.  I'm screwed.

Darn, alone and wounded begins his trek back towards Elfheim.  This has turned into the video game equivalent of Artimus Pyle.  I realize that I actually have a house in my inventory, which restores HP and Magic to full.  Holy crap, what a break!  Still.....it's a looong way back.

Aw, man, that's A LOT of wolves.  Let's see how they like some Lightning!  SHAZAMM!  Gotta love Lightning2!  All six wolves are reduced to road kill.  

OH COME ON!!!!!  Are you serious?  Wolf sneak attack?  Awesome.  I get the shit bitten out of me before I can even make a move.  I have one more Lightening2 Spell, which I unleash after the wolves onslaught.  All six wolves die, but the Grey Wolf is still hanging on.  He bites me again and I give him a fireball to the face.  I'm starting to think that I'm not going to make it.  Another encounter like this and I'm done for.

OH DEAR GOD THERE'S SO MUCH WILDERNESS!  I got attacked by an ogre and a creeper.  I got the first move, so I cast sleep on them.  Luckily it worked.  Then I blasted them both with Ice and a couple of whacks with my staff.  Through some miracle I made it through, with about 8 hitpoints remaining.

I MADE IT!  HEAVENS TO MERGATROID, A FREAKIN' MADE IT!  I'm gonna kiss the first Elf I see!  HOLY CRAP!  Great googily, it's good to be alive!  I head into town and get my comrades revived.  Everyone rests up and orders a pizza.  Darn has a mild heart attack and is now prone to severe anxiety.  Luckily Klov has some Clonopin on hand.   After one hell of a day, our motely crew hunkers down for a night of Buffy reruns.

Tune in next time, where you'll hear Degh say:    "I ate what?"

Friday, June 14, 2013

Final Fantasy - Back to the Grind....and then some!

So clearly, I am still under-powered.  Our intrepid heroes spent a few hours grinding away in hopes of not getting their asses handed to them on a silver platter.  Thank God for emulators and Save States because I made a few REALLY stupid mistakes last night.......

After a night of mead and an Atomic Bomberman LAN party, our heroes are feeling refreshed and ready to open up a can of whup-ass on some baddies.

After boarding our vessel and listening to Darn exclaim "I'm on a boat, yo!" about a million times, we set off in search of aquatic monsters to slay.  Hi ho, Hi ho, it's off to grind we go!

"I think we're going to need a bigger boat!" quipped Darn.  Degh shot him a dirty look and then did what he knew he was born to do:  hit sharks with his nunchaku!  As it turns out, nunchako do do so hot against sea dwelling creatures.  Who knew? As usual, Barz picked up his slack and sliced up Jaws here with his blade pretty good.  Feeling cheeky, Darn finished him off with a big ol' blast of lightning.  Sushi anyone?

Immediately after defeating the shark, we ran into these freaks.  Two Odd Eyes and two Sahags. Damn, I hate Odd Eyes.  Mainly because they paralyze you with a hit.  Naturally, the monsters get first strike.  By some miracle, they all miss!  My turn.  I attack the Odd Eyes first, in hopes that I can avoid any paralysis.  Apparently the boys were still a bit tired from their bout with the shark, because they all missed too.  This was going to be a long battle.  Next round, Barz and Klov get paralyzed.  It was at this point that I realized I failed to buy any potions before leaving Corneria.  Brilliant.  Looks like it's up to Degh and Darn to save the day.  Darn casts sleep on the whole lot and it works.  Degh's nunchaku are still friggin useless apparently and he only manages 1 point of damage on an Odd Eye.  Darn steps up and unleashes some fire.  On Odd Eye Down.  Klov is released from paralysis and whacks the other Odd Eye killing it in one blow.  Barz cures and the four of them make fish sticks out of the Sahags.

I think it's time to go get some potions and perhaps grind on land for a while!

We head back to dry land, having to deal with some more Sahags along the way.  We reach dry land, slaughter a pack of Imps and head into Corneria to load up on some much needed potions.  With the inventory full it's time to head over the bridge to the northlands.

Three Mad Ponies are waiting on the other side of the bridge.  It's okay, we're doing alright at this point.  It's a bit of a struggle (them ponies kick HARD!) but we defeat them and get a very nice experience and gil haul.

Darn starts to sing a line from Mexican Radio "I wish I was in Tijuana eating barbequed Iguana!" and then roasts him with a fire spell.  Every one rolls their eyes (but they secretly love it) and takes a turn whacking the  lizard into submission.

Walking a little further we run into some Geists.  Undead fellows, eh?  This shouldn't be too hard....I had quite an easy time with the zombies and skeletons in Garlands crib.....no problem here!

Let's see how you guys like a little fire on your corpse asses!  Though Barz did manage to get a critical hit on one of them,

Fire has about the same effect as Degh's nunchaku do on sea life.  Fantastic.  Oh and look at that, Geists can stun you with one hit!  Oh yay, there are four of them hitting us all at once!  All four are stunned at once.  Total bullshit.  Klov and Darn get completely slaughtered.  Degh cures for one round and takes out one Geist and then is immediately stunned again.  This is not looking good.

Barz manages to come around and whacks another of the Geists out.  Yeah, we might actually have a shot here......oh wait.....Barz is stunned again.

The Geist are not stupid creatures apparently.  They target Barz primarily, taking a moment to whack Degh to make sure he stays stunned.  I am defenseless as I watch Barz fall to the assault.  Degh is the the last man standing.  No magic.  Wooden nunchaku.  Why the hell did I not upgrade his weapon yet?  The next few minutes are a desperate battle for survival.......

......that ends with the whole party dead.

SAVE STATES!  Luckily I saved just after buying up all the potion!

Upgrading Degh to some Iron Nunchaku was a good idea!  I also decided that Darn's wooden staff was worthless.  I tried to get him and Iron Staff, but that bastard wouldn't use it.  So I got him a large knife instead.  Seems to work a little better.  Also beefed up both Darn and Klov's magic skills!  These woves were  a cinch!

Oh hey now, this is like an 8-bit recreation of the Liam Neeson flick The Grey!  Only there's only one Grey Wolf.....the others are.....em.....orange?  Anyway, these guys don't give us much of a challenge.  We've managed to level up to a Level 7....but there's still a long way to go.  I want to be at least at level 10 before I even think about heading down to Elf land....there's friggin Ogres and Asps down there man!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Final Fantasy - The Journey Begins!

So, we've met our intrepid heroes and now it's time to just dive right into adventure!  It's been MANY years since I've played Final Fantasy, so if you're reading this and it it seems as though I'm fumbling my way through the game....it's because I am.  I forgot how absolutely BRUTAL this game is!

Arriving on Coneria, things are looking on the up and up.  Nice castle, beautiful hedgework around the sides....looks like a nice place to hang.  

Not surprisingly, the Princess has been kidnapped by some goon named Garland and she's in need of some rescuing!  Never fear!  The Warriors of Light are on the job!

 WHOOOO boy!  Okay, so I completely forgot how much grinding you had to do to get anywhere in this game! It gets extremely tedious when they only send one imp your way.  Do you have any idea how long it's going to take me to level up?  We're gonna be at this for a while....

Really?  I'm still on the first damn area!  Either I'm doing something way wrong, or this game is cheating.  There's only two of these bastards and no matter what I do, I can't seem to hit them....swords, magic....it don't matter.  They just continue to wail away on me.  This is not looking good.  Everyone but Klov is dead, and he's just barely clinging to life.

Here goes nothing.....I'm going to try and cure myself and maybe with a little luck I'll be able to fend off these Creeps!

Well, that didn't work out as planned.  At least I took one of them out in my last ditch effort.!!!

Glad I saved before I got wiped out.  With everyone revived, I set out to grind and level up in the area immediately around the castle.  Finally, getting myself to level five, I was able to storm Garland's stronghold to the Northwest.  After a tense battle, I was able to defeat him and save the princess.  Unfortunately, I got so wrapped up in the whole thing that I forgot to get screenshots of it....so you'll just have to take me word for it.

After returning the princess to her castle, the king builds a bridge to the north and the princess gives me a lute as a gift (just what I've always wanted!).  I make my way east to the town of Pravoka, which apparently has been overrun by pirates, lead by some dude named Bikke.  After whupping his (and his merry band of pirates) ass, they give us their ship and promise not to cause any more problems.  Again, I was so caught up in the moment, that I completely forgot to grab any screen shots.  Seriously though.....they were pirates...you've seen one, you've seen 'em all.

After loading up on supplies and learning a couple more magic tricks, I set off on the high seas.  About two seconds after leaving port, I ran into this motley bunch of fellows.  I defeated them, but I nearly lost everyone in the process.  Apparently, it's time to do some more leveling.  So back to the woods of Pravoka I go to grind away......

So this is about four hours into our quest.  Grinding is the order of the day and what is taking up the majority of the time.  I promise that the rest of the legs of the quest will have many more screenshots.  Join us next time where you will hear Degh say:

"Dark Elves?  Lord Jesus, ain't nobody got time for that!"

Setting out on a Final Fantasy - Meet our Heroes!

In anticipation of Final Fantasy XV being announced for PS4 (and XB1) the other day at E3, I thought it would be fun to go back and play through the Final Fantasy series in order.  No small feat, I"m sure...but I'm feeling cheeky.  I've been neglecting the Space Dungeon and there are cobwebs everywhere.  The prisoners have all died of hunger, so I'm not all alone up here.  What better way to ease my loneliness than  to immerse my self in a quest of epic proportions.  I'm hoping that this undertaking will compel me to fire up the space dungeon on all thrusters and get some more damn prisoners in here!  You can't have a space dungeon if you don't have any prisoners!  How can you have prisoners if you neglect that space dungeon?  You Laddie.....Yes!  YOU!  Stay Still......

Okay that was weird....I went all Pink Floyd on ya there for a minute.  Okay, what do you say that we get this party started!

Ah yes.....that old chestnut.  It's been a while since these words have played across my screen!  Well....best get to it!

Oddly enough, I started out wanting to play this on my PSOne version (prettier graphics and all) but then I decided to go old school and do it NES style.  I wasn't planning on starting my quest with this particular run...it was only meant as a test, hence the ridiculous names I gave my characters:  

 Meet Barz!  A Red Fighter with a sordid past.  His parents sold him at the tender age of four to a den of thieves to pay off gambling debts.  The thieves tried to train him in the ways of a criminal, but Barz just didn't take to it.  What he did excel at was fighting.  And so he was forced to fight in underground fight clubs, where the fights were usually fixed.
When he accidentally killed another young fighter, Barz escaped and swore that he would never harm another innocent.  He spent three months wandering and hungry before Degh found him in a back alley scrapping for food.

Johnny Degh, a martial artist who spent the early part of his career as a movie star.  Fame and fortune went to his head and he found himself face down in the gutter with no home, no money and no work.  Scrapping himself together, he hitchhiked his way across the US, heading for a new start in Maine.
However, one dark night on a back road in Pennsylvania, he came across a small Chinese restaurant.  He was down to his last few dollars, but he was starving.  The restaurant was open, but there were no customers.  A lone chef stood behind the counter.  Johnny pleaded for food, offering to work the food off by washing dishes.  The chef nodded and disappeared into the kitchen.
Sitting at the table, Johnny scarffed down lo mein and crab rangoons.  The chef brought him a pot of herbal tea, which he immediately drank.  That was the last thing that Johnny remembered.  When he awoke, he was in a strange new world full of magic.  He swore to cleanse his soul in this new land.

Klov, a young mage from the mountains spent much of his youth doing magic shows for the livestock on his parent's farm.  While many youths were taught magic at an early age, Klov found that his powers came naturally, however he could never get a full grasp fully on either the White or Dark arts.
This caused him to be very unpopular at the low rent magic school that his parents sent him too (think low rent Hogwarts).  Because his peers would pick on him, Klov also picked up many of the skills of a fighter.
Unknown to him, his teachers were keeping a close watch on him...they knew he was destined to go forth and bring together three companions to become The Warriors of Light

A feisty young black mage with a heart of gold and a wicked sense of humor.  Darn was named so because he was the 13th child of a local woman.  When he was born she said "Oh Darn!  Another one!"
Though Darn's a master of the dark arts, he refuses to use his powers for evil.  Darn's philosophy is that there can be no light with out darkness and harnesses his powers to prove so.
Though Darn is referred to as "he" by his companions...they actually have NO idea what gender Darn is, do to an androgynous voice and the fact that much like his cousin, Orko (who lives on Eternia) no one has ever seen his face.

These four are The Warriors of Light.  Stay tuned for their adventures!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Zauberwald (Magic Forest)

If it isn't obvious from the majority of the games that I've reviewed here in the Dungeon, not that I've reviewed a whole lot at this point, I love obscure little times wasters from the days of yore. There is something that is truly magical about the games released for home computers in the 80's. Designers had a devil may care attitude and released some of the weirdest titles ever. You think that there's some "out there" stuff on the Indie section of the XBLA shop? Games like Zauberwald have got them beat, hands down. See, the difference is that back in the day game designers let their imaginations run wild and because video games were still a new medium, there wasn't a huge backlog of games to be inspired by. Nowadays retro styled games are a dime a dozen. Sure, they're fun and have a hint of nostalgia to them...and some of them are really good.....but man, nothing beats the completely ludicrous premise of these old school games.

 Zauberwald is a fun little puzzle/platformer that sees you controlling a wizard and his skeleton companion. The wizard is limited in the places he can move, but the skeleton is able to walk through walls and other objects that the wizard cannot. The goal is to collect a series of herbs in the order shown at the bottom of the screen. To do this, you must move your wizard and skeleton in tandem to get to the herbs. The screen scrolls to the right and to the left, so you must figure out how to maneuver your team around the various obstacles. Also you must avoid various enemies and objects that are constantly flashing in a psychedelic pulse. It would seem that your wizard and skeleton have a collective life meter, though it's not shown on screen. If you touch the flashing enemies/objects too much they you are both dead.

The music is great as well. There is only one song that plays, but it's a fun little atmospheric groove that really helps to set the mood. It's like dark Electronica and I could totally see this music being played in some dank underground club in Amsterdam by a DJ who is wearing a wolf mask and neon pink fishnet vest.

The game's story is pretty much left up to interpretation (in more ways than one, all text is in German!) but it's pretty straight forward once you know what you have to do and how to control the characters.  It is a little frustrating until you get the hang of it, but after that it's a breeze.

This is a fun little time waster that can be completed in five minutes or under.  Perfect for when I'm in the mood for a little something to get me in the October mood on a chilly Sunday afternoon, witch a mug of hot apple cider and some cookies.  Mmmmm, yeah.