Wednesday, January 24, 2007

C64 Greatness

As I bummed around last night trying to upload a giant post to the intertubes (which must be almost full, because it took for ever) I browsed around My Documents. Because sometimes, I download stuff I want to look at, and then don't. Yes, it is called disorganization, thank you.

These catchup sessions, which often involve my inner geek, usually amount to very little productive output. Which means I don't get any home work done, by which I mean work I do exclusively at home, not work which I brought home from work, or school. Which I am all good with, when the results are so satisfying.

First I tried to play some R-Type on my Amiga emulator. I couldn't get my joystick to work with the emulator, and honestly, if I was going to play R-Type I would play it on MAME, so it would *be* the arcade version. After about 10 minutes I gave up.

And that's when I started poking around a bit and discovered that at some point I had downloaded a Commodore 64 disk image of Mail Order Monsters. Yet another EA classic from way back in the day when EA meant good.

The Concept:
You play at one of three levels of challenge - in this case challenge means complexity more than toughness. At the EASY level you have 500 bucks (called psycosomethingorothers - why can't you just say credits?) and get to pick a "monster", which is then pitted against another monster for open combat supremacy. Each monster at this level comes with the same basic equipment (or thereabouts) and BEASTFU power - i.e. a basic melee attack.

After you pick, the game loads a random map based on a theme, like islands or swamp, and it is bash time. Who ever runs out of health first is out. The controls are joystick and one button. I went through at least 3 of those classic Atari 2600 sticks on this game, before I bought my Wicco "Boss". Clicking once gets you an attack, by whatever you've got in hand. Clicking twice -yes, a double click before mice - gets you a menu to change weapons and use other things, like food or health packs.
(Image shamelessly borrowed without permission from getting sued means getting read)

Intermediate level introduces the vats and weapon shop. When you fire up, you have an avatar that drags your monster from the vats, to the shop, to the transmat where he/she/it will get pitted against an opponent. At this level, you have the option of equipment AND can genetically engineer your monster. Having trouble getting enough distance from your opponents to use your BOORANG? Give your pet some speed juice. Want that BEASTFU attack to give your opponent pause? Add some strength juice.

When you use the transmat, one opponent picks the terrain type and the other chooses between open combat, flag hunt and the horde game modes. Open combat is as before, pound away until somebody drops. Flag Hunt is a take on capture the flag. You race against your opponent to touch 8 flags. First one to touch all 8 wins. Each flag is guarded by a guardian with a zapper. If you die, you lose as well. The horde mode features you and your opponent against an untold number of menacing monsters trying to get from the top of the map to the bottom. I didn't get around to trying it out, but I seem to remember the victory conditions being something on the order of impossible.

Hard introduces owner mode. You can pen a stable of monsters, and use the winnings from your matches to build them up. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the save disk to work in my emulator, so I couldn't revisit this mode, but I do remember one thing. Hard refers to the reality of this level. If your monster gets killed, he's dead. Unless you've bothered to make a back up of your save disk.

I stayed up way too late remembering my youthful enthusiasm for this classic. The best, best, best part? Multiplayer! On the same machine of course, home networking hadn't been invented yet. Actually, neither had IP addresses. I think.

I took some snaps from the emulator, I'll add those eventually.

Obligatory Links:
Mail Order Monsters on Wikki
Mail Order Monsters on MobyGames

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