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Classic Gaming thoughts

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The Many Faces of....Pac Man

I'm stealing the bit from Retrogaming Times. "The Many Faces of" was one of my favorite articles. Comparisons of the same game for various systems. Ordered from worst to first. Here are the various versions of Pac Man for classic systems. No homebrews or hacks allowed. These are the versions I've played...please let me know if I missed any.   Last Place:
Atari 2600 - People like this version for nostalgia's sake...but it's not a good game. Main sins: Pac Man doesn't face up or down. No fruits. Weird colors. No intermissions. Sounds aren't even close to arcade.
  The "also rans":
VIC-20: They tried. But it's too choppy to be fun. And the maze is way too small.
  TI 99/4A - Looks GREAT. But way too slow and easy. And the lack of multi-channel sound hurts it.
  Atari 8-Bit: The game is good. Great graphics, great sounds. But no intermissions. Game is easy.
  Commodore 64: Almost identical to the Atari 8-bit version. No intermissions. Too slow and easy.
  NES: It's really good. But Pac Man and the ghosts are way too big. Plus the game is slow.
  5200: They took the 8-bit version, added intermissions, and ramped up the difficulty. It's great. But those controllers will cause you to die sometimes.
      Medal Winners:
Bronze:
Intellivision: I'm giving this version a medal for technical achievement. it's amazing how good this version is, given the hardware. Control is no issue. Tight and fun. It has intermissions. The sounds and graphics are great. I love this version so much.
  Silver:
Sega Game Gear - It's just about perfect. The screen scrolls, but that's ok.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKzZyAFqUNM   Gold:
Colecovision: It's a prototype. It should have been released because it is AWESOME. It's so fast. There are intermissions. Ghosts have eyes. Amazing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-3OOdjnTq4

RickR

RickR

 

Behold -- The power of the "Scraptop"

A blog post for the cheap retro-gamer who likes to tinker....   I'd like to introduce the concept of the "Scraptop". It is essentially, a really old laptop, bought for a low price...souped up, and loaded with retro games (emulators) and tools.   Why? What's the point? Well, it all started with an Atari SIO2PC cable, which is a piece of hardware that allows any PC with a serial port to easily emulate an Atari 8-bit disk drive. The function of the cable is probably a good subject for another blog post...but keep this in mind...it's only about $30, and it allows you to load ANY Atari disk image on a real Atari computer. Did you notice the mention of serial port? Most new laptops do not have serial ports. Old ones do. So I can have the scraptop right there next to my Atari computer and load any disk image. Cool, right?   The scraptop I have here is a Dell Latitude D520. It came with an Intel Core Duo CPU (2 cores) at 1.83Ghz, 1GB of memory, and a 20Gb serial hard drive. It has a fully functional battery. The screen, keyboard, and case were in really nice condition (except for dirt). It was marked down at Goodwill for $10...probably because it had a big security cable bolt on the top.   Step 1 when I bought this thing was to make sure it worked. It fired right up. Everything seemed fully functional. Hard drive was blank, but that's OK.   Step 2 was getting the security dongle off. A few minutes with some acetone and a paint scraper, and it came right off. I put a sticker over the discoloration left behind. My backup plan was to buy the case top on ebay, but that wasn't necessary.   Step 3 was replacing one of the 512Mb memory sticks with a 1Gb stick I had in my box of parts (more on this later). More memory = faster computer.   Step 4 was opening the laptop up. Dell's are usually super easy to work on. In this case, removing the keyboard was easy, and it allowed me to pull the dust out of the heatsink and put new thermal compound in.   Step 5 was loading Windows Vista on it, which went really smoothly. Why Vista? Well, it works fine for emulation and the Atari tools, and it's free (since I have a Dell disk that came with another Dell PC). It will load on any Dell computer.   Once I had it working, it was time to soup it up a bit. I bought a 32Gb SSD on Ebay for $15, as well as a $3 1GB memory stick. You'll be amazed at how cheap parts are for these old computers.   The extra memory and SSD allow the computer to boot in about 40 seconds. Very nice! And even though this computer is a good 10 years old, it will run emulators perfectly. DVD's play fine on it, and surfing the web is fast. The SSD makes the computer almost completely silent. Moore's Law is dead, my friends.   So for a roughly $40 outlay, I got a very nice portable PC that holds all of my Atari disk images, can run old emulators, and even play movies. Plus I had a lot of fun getting my hands dirty and working on this thing. It's a lot cheaper and more functional than a tablet.   For me, I like to stick with the "Dell" brand, since I have a lot of spare parts already (this isn't my first scraptop), and that important Vista disk.   So there you go. If you ever spot a lonely old laptop at a garage sale or thrift shop, you might take a look and consider doing something similar with it. All I'd suggest is to make sure it has at least a dual core CPU, a functioning battery, and seems to be in good shape.

RickR

RickR

 

Multi-cart Reviews - Commodore 64

It's been a while, but it's time yet again for a multi-cart review. This time, I'm reviewing the Retro-Link Multicart 64 for the Commodore 64.     Pros Menu driven - easy to use
Instant load - no disk drive waiting
Socketed - theoretically possible to change the EEPROM for a different set of games.
Inexpensive
Cons None. I love this thing.
As you can tell by the summary above, I think this thing is pretty sweet. 63 different games and utilities all on one menu-driven multi-cart. It would only be better if they included 64 to match the name of the computer.   The menu for this thing is elegant and easy. F1 and F3 scroll through the available choices. F7 starts it up.     The selection of games is pretty nice. Lots of stuff you've heard of, and lots of items you haven't. Those are fun to see and play for the first time. It's also cool that some utilities are included. A C64 self-test program is so dang useful for a collector! It really helps diagnose what may be wrong with your C64 (and believe me, a lot can go wrong. Commodore went cheap cheap cheap, and it shows in how hard it is to find a fully working 64). Games load instantly. No waiting. It just plain works -- easy and fast, and that's the best compliment I can give for any multi-cart.   Here's a few screen shots...Frogger and Pitfall.     I've had this thing for a long time, but I'm pretty sure I paid less than $50 for it. I bought the bare board and put it into a broken "Jupiter Lander" cart shell.   For more information about this multi-cart, a list of the games it includes, and how to order your own, look here: http://blog.retro-link.com/2013/06/multicart-64-is-now-available-for-sale.html   The seller Charles is a great guy and very easy to work with.   Final verdict: Great multi-cart, highly recommended.   Here's a picture of my Commodore 64C. I'm very proud to have this one in such nice condition. I do like the breadbox brown 64's better, but haven't ever found a fully working model! But this 64C works perfectly.     Finally, I'm going to end this review with a picture of another, much different item for the C64 -- the SD2IEC disk drive emulator. It allows you to place ROM files on an SD card and load them as if they were real floppy disks. It's more difficult to use, but it can play almost anything! Should I review this one too? Please let me know in the comments.  

RickR

RickR

 

Multi-cart Reviews - Atari 5200 (128 in 1)

Ah, the Atari 5200. It's basically the same hardware as the Atari 8-bit computers, repackaged as a gigantic, over-the-top, "Big is Better" gaming system. Consider it an Atari 400 with no keyboard, but with some very "interesting" controllers.   Love it or hate it, it's the perfect system to buy a multi-cart for. The original library is reasonably small -- easy to fit on a multi-cart. But what's really special here is the number of homebrews, and hacked 8-bit ROMS that really expand the library of games. A lot of this stuff isn't available on the 5200 unless you use a multi-cart. . The multi-cart I have is from AtariMax, and it's called the "128-in-1 USB Flash Multi-Cart". This particular model isn't available for purchase anymore (replaced by the newer "Ultimate SD" model). But it can be found on ebay if you prefer a slightly less expensive option.   AtariMax 128-in-1 USB Flash Multi-Cart   Pros Holds 128 Games
Beautiful, easy to use menu selection system.
Cons Expensive
This older model is programmed using a PC, the AtariMax 5200 Flash Studio software, and a USB cable. It's really pretty easy to load up with ROMS, and honestly, once you fill up the 128 slots, you probably won't use the studio software very often. It's a drag and drop interface. Simply drag a ROM file into one of the 128 available slots. Once you are satisfied, hit the "Synchronize" button. Simple. Below is a shot of the software on my laptop:   And a few pictures of the multi-cart itself. It's got a very nice sticker--very professional looking. And there is a USB port on top for connecting it to your PC. Again, very well done. They must cannibalize more common carts to make these things, as the case is 100% authentic Atari.   Once you are done programming the cart, you unhook the USB cable, plug the cart into your 5200, and an amazing menu system appears. Choose a game by either using up/down to select a game (left/write move the list by a full page), and then hitting the lower button on the controller to select. This is the perfect interface for a multi-cart. Fast and easy. Here's a few shots of the interface:     Let's talk about the games. You can load in any ROM, but check out a few of the choices on mine. 8-bit conversions, hacked versions, prototypes, homebrews. It is awesome! Here are screen shots of a two 8-bit conversions (Donkey Kong and MULE).     In my opinion, games on the 5200 are excellent. Most of the arcade conversions are really good. My favorite games are Berzerk (it talks!) and Realsports Baseball (probably the best baseball game on any classic console). But (don't get mad at me, this is just my opinion) the controllers are TERRIBLE. Mushy buttons, a non-centerering stick -- what was Atari thinking with this thing? On the bright side, the controllers have a pause button, which I think was a first for home consoles. To sum it up -- great games, bad controller. . The newer multi-cart is even easier to use than mine -- it has an SD cart slot. Load up the ROMS on the SD card, put the card into the cartridge, and away you go. Same great menu interface.   Let's talk costs--this multi-cart isn't cheap. The newer version is $130 plus shipping. The older one I have was $100 when I bought it new. I've seen them on ebay for around $80-$100. Both options are costly. But it's a lot easier to use your console without having to find and insert cartridges. And did I mention the hacks, conversions, and homebrews?   Would you rather deal with this: or this?   To summarize, the AtariMax multi-cart is totally awesome. It's easy to load ROMS, has a beautiful and fast interface, and just plain works. Huge thumbs up.   Please send any questions you have in the comments!

RickR

RickR

 

Multi-cart reviews - TI 99/4A

Hi everyone. How do you all feel about multi-carts?   My thoughts are that they are a really convenient way to enjoy your classic gaming consoles, and experience the games the best way -- on REAL hardware.   These things come in a variety of formats. The very best have an SD card slot that allow you to place the entire library of games on a single memory card, and then enjoy the games via a menu driven interface. Other types include a set/built-in group of games on a cartridge, games selectable by DIP switch, or emulators for disk drives.   I thought I'd write up some quickie reviews of the multi-carts I own. Ask questions please! Let's start with the system I currently have out: The TI 99/4A.     TI 99/4A Multi-Cart (2048k Games) Pros: Nice menu interface
Lots of games
Low price
Cons: Requires 32k memory upgrade
Not all games included
Here are some pictures of my console, and the multi-cart. I have the speech module attached. There are several voice games on this compilation that do actually work with the speech unit -- very cool! I have the stainless model of the TI, which always reminds me of a DeLorean. I'd say this is one sweet looking computer. The cart is made by a user on Atari Age. I can provide his name to you if anyone is interested. It's a really nice cartridge -- looks professional in all regards. Even the label looks TI authentic.   The one thing about this cart that is kind of quirky is that your TI must have a 32k memory upgrade. That can take several forms. The big giant PEB disk box has 32k expansion, or there are new fangled disk emulation devices that also include the upgrade. Mine actually has 32k built onto the computer motherboard -- which is a really nice setup provided by another user on Atari Age. I will say, both guys are really nice and a pleasure to buy from. You can tell they love the TI platform.   So plug it in, and you get a nice menu screen like this. I won't include them all. There are 8 screens on the menu with 16 games per screen. I think right around 120 games! Wow. All of the Atarisoft games are included. Many of the best games I know of are here. The only one I noticed as absent is a speech enhanced game named "Alpiner". But that's OK, I have a real cartridge of that one.   Games on the TI are hit and miss. The system itself has really good graphics for the era. I'd say C64 equivalent. The sound is just OK. TI made some pretty lame games -- lots of simple games that don't push the envelope in any way. With the notable exception of Parsec, which is unbelievable. It's a side scrolling shooter...kind of a slower clone of Vanguard. Hi-res graphics and speech make this a fantastic game. TI Invaders is a really good Space Invaders clone.   The third party games really shine on this system. Every single Atarisoft game is beyond excellent. Take a look at the Pac Man and Ms Pac man screen shots below...the ghosts have eyes with whites and pupils -- which no other system of that era can boast. And Imagic's "Demon Attack" is probably the very best version on any system. It supports speech, has multitudes of crazy looking aliens, a nice planet background, and even a boss level! WOW!     TI made an ET game! It's really just a Frogger clone. How weird is that?   I hope no one worships the Flying Spaghetti Monster, because the first Demon Attack aliens look like FSM.   TI made TWO ET games! I have no idea how to play this second one.   Overall, this multi-cart is a bargain -- even having to buy the 32k memory expansion. Worth every penny, and I can't wait to explore all the games available on this thing.   Please feel free to send me feedback! I have several other multi-carts to share if there is any interest!

RickR

RickR

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