64k of Childhood Memories

Travel with me to a magical world of video games & 4.25" floppies. I am the Commodore 64!
May 17, 2007
If you grew up like me in the 70's and 80's then you played video games. Maybe you played at the corner 7-11, or on the Intellivision or Atari 2600. If you were lucky, you played games on the Commodore 64!

So step back in time with me and take a gander at some of the artificial intelligences that, in conjunction with Captain Crunch and Saturday morning cartoons, raised me. Here are some of my all-time favorite C64 games. Read the whole thing....some of the best I saved for last!

Archon - the fighting magic chess game!

Archon was a ton of fun. You could play against the computer or a friend and each of your pieces had different magical powers. What made it even more interesting was that the colored squares on the board changed each turn and the color affected how powerful your piece was in battle. A white knight (pawn) was normally very weak, but if on a white square he had more life points. Likewise, the enemy would be at a disadvantage with fewer life points.

In the end, I could beat either side using only one piece and without dying. If I played the light side, the unicorn was my piece of choice since it shot lightning bolts that were very fast. If I played the dark side, it was the Shape Changer which I used to destroy just about any opponent by making sure we battled on a dark square. The Shape Changer took the shape and attack of whatever piece you were attacking. This game was uber-fun.

The Bard's Tale was an early leader in the computer Role Playing Game (RPG) genre.

The Bard's Tale almost controlled my life for years. I first saw an ad for it in a magazine prior to release and subsequently nagged my mother incessantly until it came out and I was allowed to buy a copy. Boy was I in for a surprise: I couldn't get anywhere! I made party after party of adventurers and inevitably wound up dead. Finally, I put the game away and waited until my good friend Justin McCallion got his own copy. Then I went and stayed for a week at his house (we lived in a different town) and together we were able to get our crew up to 3rd level. We made a copy of the character disk so we could both continue playing with our buds Sir Marcus, Sir Gregor, Flame Fingers and the rest.

I did ultimately beat the game, but only after setting it aside until High School.

Watch out for that stealthy ninja!

Bruce Lee has a 10 CQ (Coolness Quotient). Who doesn't want to run around and kick the cr*p out of fat guys and ninjas? While you're at it, pick up some lanterns and you've got the formula for 95% of all 1980's style video games.

Who ya gonna call?

Don't cross the streams!
(Urine or otherwise)

One of the few movie-based video games that was actually fun, Ghostbusters let you buy and upgrade your ghost-hunting equipment, trap spooks and confront the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. No special comments here except to note that I kept a little notebook with all my save game codes in it.

Defender of the Crown

Defender of the Crown had jousting and medieval battles. I think it did anyway. My memory is fuzzy on this one!

Ghosts 'n' Goblins: Guaranteed to make you crazy!

Ghosts 'n' Goblins was SO hard that I barely played it on the C64. In High School, when we had a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), I played GnG all the way to the very end with my friend Greg Hudson and then blew it. Being a spaz, I shut off the NES. They didn't have saved games back then. We never played again.

Jumpman: The Original Ripoff!

Jumpman and his son Jumpman Jr. were very original in that they totally copied Lode Runner. You were a guy...who jumped...and ran around collecting...things. They were dots man! Just dots. I still have nightmares about the gunshot sound made when the snowball thing decided to kill you. This is one of the few games where stepping down off a ledge or jumping straight up in the air would kill you.

If I'm remembering correctly, this is the first game I ever had for the C64 and we copied it from our family friend Billy Newhouse (they got a C64 before we did).

Mail Order Monsters!

Mail Order Monsters had one of the cleverest game covers in history. They made it look as if you were getting a monster in the mail...equipped with heavy artillery! The game itself was addictive. You not only bought, trained, fought and equipped your monsters, you also "corralled" them and pitted them, along with your skills, against the merciless Horde!
The Horde were a collection of walking eyeballs that shot nasty eye beams at approximately the speed of light on crack. You had to crush them all before even one reached the bottom of the screen...a near impossible task.

Ultimately, we created gimp accounts so that we could "fight" our morphs against this imaginary owner. The patsy, which we controlled, would merely surrender every battle. This ensured a steady supply of money and experience to upgrade our monsters to the max in order to fight the Horde.

Let's be honest: who doesn't want a trained T-Rex armed with Grav-Guns and trained in...swallow your Mountain Dew first...trained in Beast-Fu. Yes: BEAST-FU! The martial art style chosen by monsters all over the world. Ki-ya!


Who says Phantasies are safe?

Phantasie was a fantasy RPG born in a time when you could judge the quality of a game by the length of the instruction manual. That era was replaced by the one where you could judge games by the weight of the box, which indicated the number of disks. Nowadays the game comes on one DVD and downloads 4 gigs of skins when you install it.

I had a blast learning all the classes and races and spells. This game randomly rolled stats and you could accept or reject them. Inevitably, I learned how to race through hundreds of stat rolls, rapidly scanning them for those coveted 18's and then punching myself in the leg if I twitched past a great set of stats. In pen and paper RPG's, you just cheat.

Here is my stupidity story: I finally got my party high enough in levels to where my priest could raise the dead. That meant that if one of my characters died in a fight, he could be raised no problem. We then explored a dungeon and found a statue of a random god and the game offered us the choice to damage it. Being the vandalous adventurers that we were (see the Adventurer's Credo, below under Ultima IV) we did so. It promptly turned into a minor deity and started dishing out whoop-arse by the six-pack. We won, but at great cost. All of our healing was used up and most of our other magic, too. I did have to raise someone from the dead, so that part really paid off.

The statue was still there. Do we want to (D)amage it or (L)eave it alone? Well, we already kicked this guy's butt, so let's see what happens. What happens is he comes back and does a TPK (Total Party Kill). In my shock, horror and stupidity I quickly shut off the disk drive hoping to prevent losing my beloved characters. Instead I corrupted the disk and they were lost forever!


Pirates kick-arse!

For this game, Pirates!, you actually needed a real map of the Carribean! Sure, one might have come with the game but how would I know, I used an illegal copy! Pick a nation and attack the ships of your enemies. Marry a beautiful Governor's daughter. Buy bigger and bigger ships and recruit armies of bloodthirsty cutthroats.

My favorite feature in this game was that in combat, no matter how outnumbered you were, the enemy couldn't put you down unless he landed a blow. If you were sufficiently skilled (and I was) then you could fend off defeat almost forever. Good times.

The Sword of Fargoal!

A beautiful, simple, dungeon-delving game. You explored randomly generated dungeon levels and collected gold and magic items in your quest for the big magic sword. I never got it, but always had fun until getting my butt kicked by a Monk, Wyvern or Spider of some nasty kind. 10 Thumbs Up for Fun!

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar had dozens of dungeon levels that I carefully mapped and explored. If I found someone living there, I murdered them and stole their stuff. This is the adventurer's credo.

Surprises and great sound effects made Wizard of Wor a hoot for two players.

I had a blast playing Wizard of Wor with my good friend Jason Shrednick. Get an emulator and try it yourself. =)

Realm of Impossibility - Greatest game ever?

This is the first game we bought for our *new* Commodore 128. I say we, but my parents just paid. I picked it out and played it obsessively. This game literally hurt my thumb so badly that I had to soak it in ice water regularly. That was the same summer when I had headaches every day and ate the "New" Tylenol for Teens by the fistful.

Realm of Impossibility had more than just great cover art (see for yourself at http://www.mobygames.com/game/zombies_/cover-art ). It was an Indiana Jones style game where you ran around collecting scrolls and crowns while avoiding zombies, snakes, spiders and orbs. Your only weapon? Sacred crosses that you could drop, which the monsters could not pass. The crosses evaporated after a couple of seconds and wound up back in your pouch so you could drop them all over again! Endless fun and as a special extra you could pronounce the level "The Mines of Minos" as "The Mines of My Nose" for a cheap teenage laugh.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed the trip and maybe ran into some old friends on the way. Let me know if you liked it in the comments!

Everything I need to know about life I learned from my C64
How to turn someone on and get them to follow instructions.
Why you have to take a break--or the disk drive will stop working from the heat.
How to push yourself to the physical (strained thumb muscle) and mental limits (sheer exhaustion at 4 AM) in pursuit of a worthy goal (magic sword or experience points).
The importance of flagrantly violating copyright law by copying all your friends' games on huge 4.5" floppy disks!
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