The other day, I randomly started thinking about some of the video games my sister and I used to play when we were little. We had an old Commodore 64 computer, two joysticks, and a handful of random games we had found at yard sales. They were all classic 8-bit and totally crappy, but we loved them so much. We couldn’t wait to be done with school so we could sit down in front of the glossy grey screen.
It was a carefree time of DOS and bike riding and Twizzlers.
Anyway, it started me thinking about how weird and cool those games were. Today, I don’t really play video games because I get too antsy and bored, but I’ve watched others play and have a pretty good idea of what they’re like. They typically have some sort of point to them, like an elaborate, multi-part quest or something, and sometimes you can do other fun stuff like go on side trips to drink beer and steal a book from some random peasant’s cottage to get coins or whatever. They’re super realistic and fancy and the characters have complicated backstories and emotions.
The games I remember were much simpler, and definitely less grounded anywhere in reality.
Anyway, here are a few that really stick out in my memory (Ian actually did a search on YouTube and found longplays for the games, which I included in the post. So yes, I stayed up until like 1 am watching Commodore 64 gameplay).
Maybe some of you even remember these…
If so, your day might be weird and flooded with memories after reading this post.
If you’re younger and have no idea what a Commodore 64 even is, then this is a look at what your elders were wasting time on when they were little.
This game involved nothing more than a seesaw and these alien monsters who tried to push bricks onto these weird bird-looking things (we decided they were partridges).
All the disk came with was a dusty old olive-green cover with a picture of one of the crappy partridges(?) on it. The point of the game was to get inside the castle. You had to try to dodge the flying alien bricks and then pile them up on one side of the seesaw so that when the alien pushed one onto the other side, the bricks flew up and knocked out some of his alien brethren.
When the castle wall was low enough, you had to try to get yourself flipped up and over it so you could rescue the guy they had trapped in there. I don’t know what business a partridge has rescuing people or how they got involved in that situation, but hey.
Ok, this is my all-time favorite game. It was basically just a soccer ball flying through space on this road/track thing made of many-colored squares. Certain squares did certain things, like slow you down, speed you up, or let you jump.
As the levels went up, it got harder and harder because there started to be more holes in the track. If you didn’t hit the right squares at the right time, you fell straight through into space.
Really, this game required like no skill. All we had to do was press the joystick forward and hit a button sometimes. We had no idea what any of it meant, and it was just total blissful excitement and joy for us.
I could watch this forever:
I remember being super creeped out by the cover art on this game. It was this guy who looked like a zombie Captain Pickard, sitting edgily in a chair in a control room that I still think looked a lot like the Enterprise deck. The expression on his face looked like he had just enjoyed a little too much cocaine, but that he had to stay serious because this was a serious-ass mission they were on and he couldn’t screw around. I also got the feeling that he had been jilted by a beautiful and dangerous alien woman who had fled away into space after taking advantage of him…and stealing his heart.
The best part about this game was that it was totally confusing and you couldn’t really do much. You could mess with the controls a little, from the perspective of Captain Blood, and occasionally find a planet to blow up. Sometimes you could fly the ship around through this little canyon. Once or twice this weird alien guy showed up, and I think he was trying to talk to Captain Blood, but we didn’t really care and I think we usually just blew up his planet.
As useless as it was, we’d sit there for hours just pushing buttons with Zombie Pickard’s freakish white hands and hoping something cool would happen. But it never did.
I feel like this game was supposed to be based on Desert Storm or something. Basically, at the beginning of the game, you had to jump your guy and some supplies out of a plane into an enemy base. He had a little parachute and everything. Then you just kind of ran around and hid and threw grenades at these little hut buildings and tried to avoid landmines. There were different missions you could do, but mostly we just sat there and laughed and made our guy do random stuff.
In this game Bruce had to make his way through a beautiful marble palace, mostly by jumping up onto pillars and balconies and stuff. And you had to jump up and get these little lanterns that gave you extra points.
Bruce also had to battle ninja opponents that came out of nowhere, which meant we just hit all the buttons on the joystick over and over again feverishly until the guy he was fighting died.
There was one guy who was like twice the size of Bruce. And for some reason, he was green. So, we started calling him Pickle. Pickle was the biggest obstacle in that game. The best way to beat him was to wait up on a balcony and jump down onto him when he appeared, and then do kick-jumps at him until he collapsed. It was really challenging and we almost never made it past him.
And last but not least…”Catastrophes”
This was the most gut-wrenching, frustrating game ever. It taught me a lot about patience, disappointment, and letting go of your dreams.
The point of the whole thing was to use a helicopter to add bricks to a little building and try to shore it up before another natural disaster hit it. Just when you were starting to make progress, the sky would darken, lightning would strike, and half your work got knocked away.
I don’t know what the hell kind of climate this game took place in, because there were sudden, intense storms like every 30 seconds. Maybe it was a foreshadowing of climate change….