Video Carnage 13 — Commodore 16 & Plus/4

As I skip along my merry, chronological way through consoles and computers passed in these reviews, I sometimes feel like I’m taking a step back or two.  When I played that stinking Vectrex racing game, I could have sworn it was belched forth from the bowels of the 1970s.  This happened when I did the Golfyssey too.  When I hit the Commodore 16 and it’s bastardized, incestuously-bred cousin the Plus/4, I felt like I had gone back in time to at least 1980.

I don’t think I need to rehash why these computers suck, but let’s just start from the common assumption that they are underpowered crap.  You really can’t make good games on these things, unless short text adventures are your thing.

BMX Simulator (1986)

BMX Simulator case

This looks to have been a fairly popular game made for the home computers of the era.  The C16 version is a port.

BMX Simulator 01

And what a port it is!  After playing this version, I fired up the Commodore 64 version for comparison.  More on that later.

BMX Simulator 02

Speaking of morons, if you find one handy, you can make this a two-player game.  If you don’t have joysticks or gamepads handy, the keyboard can be used.

BMX Simulator 03

You can also set the number of laps to race and choose to race against the computer for a single-player game.

BMX Simulator 04

So here’s the race course.  It’s top down, and you can see me and the computer opponent ready on a ramp near the bottom left.

BMX Simulator 05

I didn’t win.

BMX Simulator 06

So here’s some hot racing action.  That’s the computer opponent on his way around… quite literally running circles around me.  Can you see me yet?  That’s me splayed-out on the ground after I’ve crashed.  I’m near the upper right of the screen, reclining off the inside edge of the track.  Right under that green bush.

The reason I was just kind of hanging out there and not doing a whole lot of riding is because of how poorly programmed this port is.  You see when riders collide on the course, one of them sometimes falls off his bike.  This is a good thing to happen in a bike racing game like this, and you’d expect something like this from a game with the word “simulation” in the title.

But what is not a good thing is the way that I keep fucking crashing as soon as I get back up on the bike.  This is because of where I was when I fell.  I was right on the edge, where all those obstacles were.  After crashing out and resting for a while, the little biker dude on the screen gets back on his bike.  And then he usually crashes all over again because he’s around the exact same spot where he crashed, and being in that area is an automatic crash trigger.

To make things worse, even if you’re in the middle of the track and far away from any obstacles when you crash, you might find yourself facing the opposite direction when you mount your bike again. I don’t understand how this would be anything but a flaw in the game’s programming.

BMX Simulator 07

I did manage to beat the computer opponent a couple of times, and here is the second track.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to invest any more precious minutes from my life trying to accommodate the fucked-up controls, bugs and glitches this game has so I can beat this level too.

Bad game, avoid.

Though I can’t just leave it at that.  The saddest part is that this could have been better.  This is actually one of the best looking and sounding games for the Commodore 16 that I’ve played.  Now how sad is that?

The Commodore 64 version is much, much better in all ways you can imagine and all ways you can’t, so if you want to try this game, play that version instead.

Formula 1 Simulator (1985)

Formula 1 Simulator

Ah, Mastertronic!  Low-priced games for the non-discriminating consumer!

Some of their games were decent, but let’s remember we’re talking about a crappy computer that should have never been released here.

Formula 1 Simulator 01

The game starts off with a demo of the car driving along the track… uh… where’s the race track?

Well, just like the way that the earliest racing games in the 1970s had to cut all kinds of corners in order to function at all, a third-person view racing game on the C16 just can’t have a graphical representation of a road now, can it?  Instead, we get these white markers, like we had in that Apple II game ”International Gran Prix”.

Formula 1 Simulator 02

At least there’s a checkered pattern to mark the start line

Formula 1 Simulator 03

This game plays about like you’d expect.  It’s basically a clone of “Pole Position”, only it can duplicate only the barest of gameplay from this kind of racer.

Formula 1 Simulator 04

You have the ability to switch from low to high gear, the ability to accelerate and decelerate, and the ability to steer.

Formula 1 Simulator 05

There is only one kind of car in this grassy land without roads, and you all go to the same autobody shop for your paint jobs too.

Formula 1 Simulator 06

If you play this game for some strange reason, I hope you like crashing.

Formula 1 Simulator 07

There really isn’t much point in playing this.

Formula 1 Simulator 08

This kind of game had been done better so many times by 1985, and it had been improved upon countless ways.

Formula 1 Simulator 09

I have to admit, that final crash was on purpose.  If you actually own a C16 or a Plus/4, then that would be the only reason to ever want to play this.

Trailblazer (1986)

Trailblazer case

This one’s different.  Instead of racing a car along a racetrack or a highway, you’re steering a soccer ball along an obstacle course.

TrailBlazer 01

It doesn’t really sound as fun as it is when I put it that way, but it is.

TrailBlazer 02

This takes place in outer space, of course.  Things move pretty fast, especially for a C16 game.

TrailBlazer 03

There is a Commodore 64 version of this game too, but believe it or not, I like this version better.

TrailBlazer 04

Your controls in this game are left and right to steer, and forward and back on the joystick to speed up or slow down.  “Jumps” are limited in number for each level, and you can jump by pressing the button.  You start the game rolling, and you must avoid falling through the gaps in the track.

TrailBlazer 05

Different coloured rectangles on the track will do different things to your ball.  Blue rectangles make you jump.

TrailBlazer 06

Fell through.  You don’t run out of balls or lives, but you do run out of time.

TrailBlazer 07

Those green rectangles ahead will speed up your ball.

TrailBlazer 08

Another gap ahead that I needed to be moving much faster to clear.

TrailBlazer 09

This game moves surprisingly fast for this computer.  I really can’t believe that such a game exists for the C16 as a matter of fact.

TrailBlazer 10

Another jump from a blue rectangle…

TrailBlazer 11

And I wasn’t going fast enough

TrailBlazer 12

Time’s up.

TrailBlazer 13

Here’s a view from another try.  The red rectangles coming near will slow your soccer ball down.

TrailBlazer 14

And now I’ve successfully made it to the end of level one.

TrailBlazer 15

Here’s level 2.

TrailBlazer 16

It looks like the holes and coloured rectangles are in the same places each time.

TrailBlazer 17

This allowed me to build my skill a little each time I played, but this is still quite a challenging game.

TrailBlazer 18

This game makes me think of what would happen if you merged your average third-person racer with the game “Ballblazer“.

TrailBlazer 19

I’d be willing to bet that this is where the idea came from.

TrailBlazer 20

This area was damn near impossible for me to get through, with slow-downs and holes everywhere.

TrailBlazer 21

But then I was able to at least catch my breath and coast for a while…

TrailBlazer 22

…before the puzzle-like aspect of this section.

TrailBlazer 23

Your timing and steering have to be just right to make it through these sections quick enough.

TrailBlazer 24

This is where a bit of memorization would help.

TrailBlazer 25

I couldn’t help but have a big dumb grin on my face through it all though.

TrailBlazer 26

I eventually cleared that and got to the more regular hazards of holes.

TrailBlazer 27

Time eventually started to run out for me…

TrailBlazer 28

… and I just couldn’t make it.

TrailBlazer 29

Well, I’m surprised that I’ve found a game to play again for the Commodore 16.  And I was even more surprised to see that it’s different than the Commodore 64 version.  That version is 2-player split-screen, even if you’re only playing a single-player game.  And believe it or not, I like the graphics better in the C16 version.

Even the music was programmed decently.  Like the Atari 2600 and 7800, the Commodore 16 has an out-of-tune sound chip. This is bloody inexcusable if you ask me.  But it sounds to me like the developers of the game chose a key for their game music that would sound the least terrible.  It took me a few seconds of listening to tell if this game used the TED or the SID addon chip to be honest.

I will heartily recommend that you download a copy of this game and try it out for yourself.  The odds of you owning a Commodore 16 or Plus/4 computer are pretty damn slim, so I’ll recommend the YAPE emulator again.  If you’ve ever wanted to race along a space-track as a soccer ball, this is your chance.