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  • Tower Toppler / Sports-A-Roni (Commodore 64)

    Tower Toppler and Sports-A-Roni by U.S. Gold for the Commodore 64 and other computers.

    This ad from 1988 is for a couple of late 1980s computer games distributed by U.S. Gold in North America. Tower Topper is a platform game while Sports-a-Roni is a sort of parody of the Olympics or other sports games.

    Tower Toppler is probably the most well known of the two. It was originally released under the name of Nebulus in the U.K. but the name was changed to Tower Toppler when it was brought to the U.S. Maybe Nebulus was thought to be too nebulous of a name… Tower Toppler is an excellent game and a unique sort of platformer. Your goal is to make your way from the bottom of the tower to the top while avoiding various enemies and obstacles in order to plant a bomb to destroy the tower. There are eight towers to destroy that you can think of as eight different levels. Uniquely, your character stays in the center of the screen and the tower seems to rotate as you move to the left or the right.

    Tower Toppler was released on a wide variety of systems, including the Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, Game Boy (as Castelian), NES (also as Castelian), Atari 7800 and DOS based computers among others. For overall gameplay experience, I recommend the Commodore 64 version. The Commodore 64 version made an appearance on the C64 DTV in 2004 and was also released via the Wii Virtual Console in 2009.

    Sports-a-Roni is a bit more obscure. It was also released on several platforms, including the Commodore 64, Atari ST and DOS based computers. There are 8 “sports” events including pogo, pillow fight, run up the wall, river jump, boot throwing, the pile of plates, pole climbing and sack race. In its original European release, this game was called Alternative World Games. It’s not a spectacular game but if you enjoy games like the Epyx Games series then this might offer a nice change of pace. However, I don’t believe this one has had any re-releases so you’ll need an original disk and hardware or be content with emulation. I would again say that the Commodore 64 version is the best overall.

  • Paperboy / Gauntlet (Mindscape)

    Paperboy (Commodore 64, Atari 800, Atari ST) and Gauntlet (Commodore 64, Atari 800, Atari ST)


    This 1988 ad is for the initial computer ports of Gauntlet and Paperboy which were done by Mindscape.

    Gauntlet started life as an arcade game developed by Atari and released in 1985. It was inspired by Dungeons and Dragons and an older Atari computer game called Dandy. Up to four players could take the role of a Wizard (Merlin), a Warrior (Thor), a Valkyrie (Thyra) or an Elf (Questor), each with different strengths and weaknesses. The game is played from a top down point of view and the goal is to make it to an exit at the end of a maze that will take you to the next level. Along the way you must battle ghosts, grunts, demons, wizards and thieves among other enemies. You also must find food to regain energy and may also collect treasure and other special items.

    This particular ad mentions the Atari 800, Commodore 64 and Atari ST. I can only assume that these must have been the first ports released because Gauntlet was ultimately available on a wider variety of platforms including the Apple II, Macintosh, Apple IIGS, and others. It was later also released for the NES, Sega Genesis and Sega Master System. I played the arcade version some but it was the Commodore 64 version I played the most and I always thought it was a very good conversion.

    Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons, a 512 level expansion that required the original game, was also released for the Atari ST and Commodore 64. Gauntlet was also released in emulated form as part of Midway Arcade Treasures released in 2003 for a number of platforms. I highly recommend the Commodore 64 version but the Midway Arcade treasures version is more convenient and will give you a closer to the arcade experience.

    Paperboy was also originally an Atari arcade game and was released in 1985. This game is played from an overhead and slightly isometric point of view. You take the role of a paperboy delivering newspapers from your bike. The goal is to throw the papers accurately and avoid missing a delivery to subscribers or damaging their house (e.g. by accidentally throwing a paper through the window). You will face various obstacles along the way (dogs, etc.) and you must avoid crashing.

    While this particular ad only mentions (in small print) the Commodore 64, Atari 800, and Atari ST versions, this game was ported to just about every late 1980s and early 1990s platform you can think of. Again, I mostly (I think exclusively in this case) played the Commodore 64 version. That particular version got mixed reviews but I always though it was fun if a bit repetitive after a while. The controls are a bit awkward but are ok once you get used to them. This game also appeared as part of Midway Arcade Treasures. Interestingly, the NES version of this game was the first NES game developed in the U.S.

    Screen shots above are from the Commodore 64 version of the games.

  • Special Forces (Atari ST)

    Special Forces (Atari ST)


    While I’m pretty familiar with MicroProse’s Airborne Ranger, I was less familiar with its sequel, Special Forces. Part of this is probably because in 1992 when Special Forces came out, I was still using my Commodore 64. Game releases for the C64 were very few and far between by that time and Special Forces was not one of them. It was released for the Atari ST, DOS and Amiga.

    Special Forces shares several similarities with its predecessor. The box artwork is similar, the overhead point of view in the game is also similar. However, there are some differences. While Airborne Ranger had a strategic element, it was really more of an action game. Special Forces on the other hand is much more of a strategy game. In Special Forces, you command a team of four squad members chosen from a squad of eight, each with different abilities. Missions can then be chosen from different regions with day and night variations. There are many possible objectives including rescuing hostages, search and destroy, and recon among others. You do not control the squad members directly but instead issue orders to them.

    Overall, Airborne Ranger was an excellent game and Special Forces lived up to its predecessor for the most part. They are slightly different types of games but share enough similarities that if you like one, you will probably like the other. These were arguably the first games that you could say fell under the tactical shooter category and were fairly unique for their time.

    If you want to give Special Forces a try, you will have to break out your Amiga, Atari ST or old DOS box or resort to emulation. As far as I know this game has never been re-released and there have been no further direct sequels. It’s worth a try though…MicroProse made some pretty great games and this one does not disappoint.

    All images above pertain to the Atari ST version of the game.