Classic and Newer games considered on the Enterprise 64..
We return to a topic hinted at in last issue's big write-up of the
Enterprise 64/128, my earliest favourite computer never to get the success
it deserved. This issue, we're covering some of the games that appeared,
both early favourites of mine, and some latter-day hits which actually went
some way to pushing the machine nicely.
The first released games on the E64 started as 'Entersoft' releases. This
was the software arm of the Enterprise Computers company, and existed in a
similar role to Amsoft for the Amstrad CPC series. These first games were
just about all ports or versions of popular second-string 8-bit games at the
time. This is mainly what I'm looking at in the first part of this report.
When the main company went bust, the Entersoft titles were left in an
uncertain legal limbo. For a long time, it seems nothing was happening, and
at about that time, I got out of that machine. However, the 'Independent
Enterprise User Group' (IEUG) and their software label called 'Boxsoft' took
over as much as it could. They were also developing their own original
titles, memory serves that these were mainly things like art packages and
utilities, but there is one surprise for a bit later in this report.
Ultimately, interest in the machine went overseas to Hungary. These new
parties effectively restarted software production, and also extended the
idea of 'porting' beyond any reasonable limit! But there were also people
who managed to develop some original titles which finally used the machine's
One strange fact is, that you hardly ever see any Enterprise software on
Ebay. The machines crop up ready for sale, yes, but there are not usually
any tapes or 'extras' with them? Which leads me to ask whether people just
bought the machines on their own originally and lost interest in them
without doing anything further? It's not as if there wasn't a retail sector
interest at first, because Mr Bracey did sell whatever games came his way at
his Liverpool emporium. When this source dried up, there was the mail order
option from Entersoft GHQ, at least until they went bust.
So the first part of this round-up is a major trip down a leafy lane of fond
memories, How do some of the classic games look now, in the cold harsh light
of the present day?
the classic stuff..
We start with 'Fantasia Diamond' (Hewson). This was the first game I got for
the system, mainly on the grounds there was very little else available. I
think there was that, and a crude text-based 'simulator' called "Dictator",
which was a management program simulating a small Latin American country!
Still, I digress.
I managed to remember the name since the last article on this subject.
Clearly it was such a great game, that I forgot it completely. Memory did
serve to tell me that it was a rather pedestrian text adventure with a
routine plot, and Spectrum quality graphics reminiscent of the 'Hobbit' on
the Speccy, including the onscreen slow realtime redrawing.
I googled a review, culled from "Crash" magazine, which seemed to be quite
favourable. There were lots of subtleties which I must have missed the first
time around. Anyway, here's a potted plotline in a cribbed paragraph.
"Fantasia Diamond, a family heirloom and the largest diamond known to man,
has been stolen and removed to a fortress across the river. Boris the master
spy, who made his way to the fortress to recapture the diamond, has been
imprisoned by the faithful guardian who patrols the rooms and corridors for
intruders. On your journey you are likely to meet elves, pixies, gnomes and
the decidedly unfriendly woodcutter."
I did try to run it, but for now, my memories will have to stay as memories,
as my emulator set-up disagreed with running it. This wasn't the only early
program it disagreed with, I think some of these games only worked off a
very early rom issue.
Anyway, we try our luck with something a bit more arcade orientated. That is
'Wizards Lair' by Bubble Bus. This resembles a cross between 'Atik Atac' and
'Sabre Wulf', with the overhead view of the former game. There is a huge
maze to explore with your character 'Pothole Pete'. He has to find the
missing pieces of something or other (a golden lion) to defeat the evil
wizard. It was typical of most Entersoft releases at the time with Spectrum
perfect graphics, although they did try a bit harder with the music. (Which
sounds like hastily kncked-together melancholy dirge now, but I'm a lot more
picky about my ziks these days!) The game-play was quite fast-paced with a
lot to do, and you had to balance exploring the levels, with running away
from the monsters, or standing and fighting, and also running out of energy.
Trying it now, the emulator put up its hands in the air in a gesture of
weary surrender once more. This time, we had a partial success. The game was
very glitchy and unstable on the emulator, only displaying about half of the
title screen, and dying as soon as you tried to get into the game. Was
anything going to go right here?
So onto 'Sorcery' (Virgin games). This was the flagship game for the
Entersoft early phase releases. I first saw this at the PCW show in 1985 on
the Enterprise stand, and was impressed enough to pre-order it. There were
no lukewarm Spectrum graphics here! I think that these were closest to the
Amstrad CPC graphics. (Another machine where the higher capabilities were
under-used, this game was hailed as a groundbreaker on there too.)
When I got it, I remember playing it through very quickly, having had an
intensive 'how-to' course on a friend's copy of 'Sorcery Plus', which was
the CPC disk version, with extra levels, over the previous summer. The
classic 'Sorcery' part was a smallish game with about forty screens, but
there was a lot of care and detail put into those. It was a fast action
game, where you had to eliminate the monsters with whatever weapons you
could find, and banish the evil necromancer from your village. The 'plus'
part involved going after the Necromancer in his castle afterwards.
Now this is good, just ignore the fact you're being dragged inexorably to
the right hand side of the screen!
This one was *almost* there on the emulator. Everything was fine up to the
point when the title sequence is finished, and you go to play the game
itself. The player appears, and the joystick constantly pulls to the
right, up to the point where you get stuck. Is this another problem with the
ROM version, as in it needs a very early ROM to work correctly. This could
be behind the problems with the other games tested so far?
It does get better from here, honest!
Here's a funny little game now, it is 'Devils Lair' from Loriciels. This
French softco was a name we were going to get a lot more familiar with in
the early ST years. For the Enterprise, they produced this fantastically
difficult platformer. Death was everywhere around you, and if this was not
enough, your energy levels were dropping through the floor even before you
could find the time to say "Argh!" Getting anywhere at all in this game
was a major breakthrough! Good points were the 'not made on the Speccy'
original graphics, including some intricate animations of the player sprite
getting impaled on spikes, blown up in a minefield, zapped in half, fried on
an electrocution plate etc. The coder and designer of this game must have
been real sadists! The positioning really had to be down to the nearest
exact pixel! It was that unforgiving! This is a very unusual game,
especially for that time, as I think it was specially written for the
Enterprise, and exclusively for that system. Googling for information didn't
produce any results beyond what I had already written for Alive 12!
Oh, I nearly forgot, there was a burning flame which turned on and off, and
a laser beam to dodge too!
This game chose to co-operate with the emulator. Playing it now, the
graphics and sprites seem to be 'larger' than I remember. It is still as
hard as ever. This time around, I didn't even get off the first screen. I
think this is the game that ruined the membrane joystick on my original
Or on reflection, it was probably this one that did the most harm to that
flimsy construction! 'Starstrike 3D', by Realtime Games was a deserved hit
on whatever platform it touched down on. It owed a lot, no, owed EVERYTHING
to the Star Wars X-Wing vector line sit-in cabinet arcade game. Realtime
changed the name and were unable to offer the cabinet as an option, but that
was all! They made a surprisingly serviceable copy of the original in the
small world of the 48k Speccy!
My first contact with it slightly pre-dated me getting the Enterprise. It
was on the machines of my Speccy-owning computer peer group at college,
where we discovered the best way to thrash this thing. When a version of it
was made for the Enterprise, of course I had to have a copy! You were served
up with an indentical experience from the Speccy one, with no enhancements
made for the better hardware, but this time it didn't matter!
Booting up now, the emulator was happy to oblige, and yes, it is just as
quick and addictive as before! There seems to be a lot more confusing stuff
happening on screen, but that is probably age-related (myself, not the
game!)Shields down, incoming.. Aaagh!! Dead! (Try again.)
Swiftly moving onto 'Nodes of Yesod' (Odin) now. This was the last game that
I bought before Enterprise and Entersoft went under. This game was a modest
hit for the makers, Odin Graphics, rated a "Crash Smash" for the Speccy, and
a version was duly commissioned for the Enterprise. This was yet another
typical early period release, with more Speccy graphics. Apparently, they
had to code a workaround specially to make this work for the Enterprise!
However, a cool title tune, with sampled speech(!) made up for this.
The game was extremely playable, and was another roam-around a cavern
system. This one was on the moon, you were in a space-suit, and you had a
little mole helper to zap the bad guys and dig tunnels for you. You were
looking for missing pieces of something, and a monolith, and trying to avoid
dying whilst doing all of this . You could fall down too far, or bump into
too many bad guys (Teddy-bear on a spring being typical!) or the red space-
suited bloke could nick whatever you were carrying and dump it elsewhere in
the cavern, which was annoying! And yep, this one still works, and time has
been kind to my memories of it. Maybe I will have a push to try to finish
the damn thing one day?
There were other games released in the period after the demise of
Enterprise. Some of these titles managed to avoid being based on Speccy
style graphics. Names such as 'Cauldron', 'Jammin', 'Super Pipeline', and
'Airwolf' all had a Commodore 64 heritage. 'Get Dexter' or 'Crafton and
Xunk' bore a closer to the superior Amstrad CPC graphics. These games were
promised but didn't get to my attention in time, as the ST was already
looming large in my life by then. From subsequent internet trawling, it
looks like these managed to get a release in the Hungarian market at least,
and are available from websites there as emulator images.
At some stage, the Hungarian Enterprise fans decided to see if they could do
any better, and the second part of this report consists of a quick look at
some of the best stuff from this later period.
the newer stuff..
Some of the Hungarian early prods went right back to basics and resembled
nothing more than the worst of some early Entersoft releases. This would be
expected as they were getting to know the basics of the machine. However,
things soon got better, and they even made some releases making use of the
machine's capabilities, specifically the better graphics. Of all the
different people who went down that road, one name in particular stands out,
that is 'Orksoft', whose releases really were the pinnacle of quality gaming
on the Enterprise 128. Even now, when the main part of activity has passed
by, there are still a few things going on now via a one-man band called
PovySoft. And who knows what might appear in the future?
So we start with 'Pacman City' by Orksoft. This appeared in 1993. It is
an overhead view arcade roam-around, with a character loosely based on the
classic Pacman. There aren't so many ghosts to dodge, there is a bit of
pill-eating, and a lot of exploration and finding keys. It runs in what
looks like a custom sixteen colour mode, using the 256 colour palette, and
at a guess, it's around 320 x 200 pixels. It is a fairly gently paced game,
with some huge levels to explore. Any extra information is exclusively in
Hungarian, so I can't tell you a lot more, but it seems to have been well-
received enough to spawn a sequel "Pacman City II".
Orksoft offer something quite different, for their 1994 vintage next game,
which is called "Book of Life". This suffers from the language barrier, and
I never quite figured it out. There is clearly an adventure base to it. The
title screen features one of the best static screens on the Enterprise, with
an unusual four colour hi-res mode, and much use of stippling or shading.
The game itself, in complete contrast, thrashes the most out of a low-res
256 colour mode, where you get a first-person viewpoint. This strongly
suggests that some kind of 'Wolfenstein' game engine might even be possible
on the Enterprise!?
To round up a busy section from Orksoft (yes, there are others by them!) I
found a demo of a platformer called "Dark Lord". This has a passing
resemblance to games like 'Nodes of Yesod', but features a very psychedelic
sixteen colour ST-res screen mode and pretty large sprites, and some nice
music. I'm not sure of the age of this production, there is no date listed,
it may even be a newie! I hope so!
Povisoft have been the predominant producer of new goodies for the
Enterprise in recent years. They've produced versions of 'Soko-ban' for the
size-limited Mini-Games competition, and now they have come up with a fresh
release with a 2006 date on it. This is a puzzler called "Atomix". There are
Soko-ban elements in there, but you have to manouvre the pieces of a
molecule around a maze and join them together under the cosh of a time
limit. It is graphically 'fair', clearly an 8-bit game, but one of the
better ones so that is reasonable enough.
I'm saving the best to last, that is, the 1990-vintage "Magic Ball". This
came from another prolific local label called 'A' Studio', but Boxsoft also
got its name on the credits, and the instructions are in the Englsh
language, rather than that strange Magyar script!
It is a Ball-Blazer clone, which is hard to screw up, unless someone does an
Atari GEM version of it I guess! Fortunately, the temptation was resisted,
and they really got it right on here! The graphics are nearasdammit 16-bit
quality, and it is one of the quickest games out there, lightning fast, as a
good Ballblazer game should be!
I thought I'd share this with you.
Static screenshot conveys NO impression of how quick this is!
I also think some of the shading was lost in this grab!
If you were only allowed one game to show off the potential of your
favourite computer, I'd choose Magic Ball for the Enterprise. Everything
about it screams quality and effort.
We've only touched on a tiny part of the Enterprise games back-catalogue.
There's a lot more out there. Quite apart from the other lame Entersoft
releases, there were a fair number of originally authored games, many of
which weren't too much to look at, but quite a few exceeding the original
expectations. In this article, I've just taken a snapshot of the ones that I
consider to be 'the best' of the post-demise software production from
Hungary, as well as sharing a few fond memories of the early games that I
owned and played.
I would say that in spite of the machine's premature demise in the wider
marketplace, the Magyar posse did it proud in the end!
NEXT TIME, we take a look at some demos!!
CiH, for Alive Mag, June '06..