domingo, 31 de maio de 2015

Celebrating 30 Years of the Amiga: My Top 26 Games - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#52

July of 1985 was when it all began for the Amiga family of computers. It was so ahead of its time that everyone seemed to have a problem to categorize it, even Commodore!
Its 4096 colors, 8-bit stereo sound, multi-tasking capabilities and an attractive starting price were features that could take the Amiga to the very top and simply crush the other players on this game. But Commodore insisted that the Amiga was a business machine and not to play silly computer games.
In one of my first videos I’ve already pointed out Commodore’s mistakes regarding the Amiga family, so, if you haven’t already watched it, do it now!

My personal experience with Amiga computers began around 1989 and went on through late 1993, time when I embraced the PC, mainly because of my academic choices.

So, regardless of the model of the Amiga, it was hard to make a Top 26 list with my favorite titles, ‘cause I enjoy the number 26 as much as the one I’ve placed in number 1! So, let’s not waste any more time and jump right into the 26 video games that, even today, I still relish playing on my Amiga!

- North And South (26) 
North & South was my first experience with a strategy game. Developed and published by Infogrames in 1989, it’s based on the American Civil War but with a twist of a series of Belgian comic books named the Bluecoats or “Les Tuniques Bleues”.
This strategy and action type of game is extremely fun and with a lot of comical situations that really grabs us and takes the player right into the middle of these awesome and hilarious battles trying to conquer one more state!

- Pipe Mania (25) 
Extreme caution when playing Pipe Mania! It’s so addictive that you’ll certainly find yourself playing it for many, many hours!
It was originally developed by The Assembly Line for the Amiga and, later, ported by LucasFilm Games to all other home systems who changed its name to Pipe Dream, without any plausible reason!
So, in this game we just have to connect those pipe pieces that popup randomly on the left side of the screen and assure that the nasty yellow goo passes through a number of pipe pieces for us to advance to the next level! It’s that simple!
The music kind of reminds me of the 1978 arcade original Space Invaders, ‘cause it speeds up as the liquid flows towards the end of the pipe line putting a bit of pressure onto the player! Brilliant stuff!

- Stunt Car Racer (24) 
Geoff Crammond is a legend in simracing video games development, and Stunt Car Racer was the first game to offer me a realistic driving experience with its impressive physics engine. In this game we’re invited to perform some crazy stunts on a bunch of roller-coaster-like elevated courses and be rewarded for doing so!
It was originally released by Micro Style, in 1989, and in its cover we can read the sentence “games for adults”, what, back then, made this fourteen year old kid feel like he was a grown up just for being able to finish every single course present on the game!

- Pang (23) 
I’ve played Pang so freakin’ much at the arcades and couldn’t wait for it to be released for the Amiga! So, by the trustful hands of Ocean Software came, in 1990, the home versions of this highly addictive game!
Also known as Buster Bros and Pomping World, this two player action game takes us through 50 levels at 17 idyllic locations with some amazing graphics, sound and music that just invites the player to keep on going, busting more and more balloons and save those threatened cities and their important landmarks!

- Pinball Dreams (22) 
The first pinball game I’ve played on the Amiga and, just when that intro was loaded, I was immediately blow away by its high quality music!
Developed by Digital Illusions and published in 1992 by 21st Century Entertainment, we’re offered the chance to try four different tables: Ignition, Steel Wheel, Beat Box and Nightmare… or is it Graveyard? On the menu says Nightmare, but on the table itself is displayed Graveyard… Hummm…

- Ivan “IronMan” Stewart’s Super Off Road (21) 
Converted from the arcade game, Ivan “IronMan” Stewart’s Super Off Road is extremely fun and addictive to play with up to 3 players simultaneously, plus 1 more controlled by the computer!
There’s several off-road tracks with jumps, bumps, holes, water splashing, you name it! And those figure 8 circuits just look like destruction derby death matches! So much fun!

 - Sensible Soccer (20) 
Simply one of my favorite soccer games ever! Sensible Soccer brings some awesome memories of long sessions with friends during school’s summer vacations!
Developed by Sensible Software and released in 1992, it still has legions of fans all around the world.

- Puzznic / Plotting (19) 

Puzznic is an awesome Taito arcade original converted, back in 1990, by Ocean Software to the Amiga and all other home systems and is one hell of a truly addictive little game!
It’s a turn based tile-matching puzzle arcade game highly influenced by another great puzzler, also from Taito, entitled Plotting, again converted and released, a year earlier, by Ocean Software.
Both deserve to be on this list, so, in the number 19 I’ve placed these two extremely addictive puzzle arcade games!

- Fury of the Furries (18) 
This Kalisto platform and puzzle game was so damned enjoyable and addictive that, when I moved to IBM PCs, I just had to get also the DOS version!
Published by Mindscape for the Amiga in 1993, we control 4 colored furry creatures, each with their own special abilities, across eight main locations, like the desert, forest, mountain, etc, each with 10 levels and also bonus levels. The main goal is to kill the Wicked One. Simple, huu? Never finished it! The game is simply enormous! And I like that!
With awesome music, graphics, gameplay and references to other video games and even movies, everyone should try it, if you’re into some relaxing puzzle platform type of stuff, obviously!
While we’re at it, the CD32 version is the best option, for a couple more audio tracks and faster loading times.


- SuperFrog (17) 
My favorite Team 17 game, recently made available also for Windows through the digital platform.
In SuperFrog we control a frog with this cape thing and we must guide it through six different environments which contains, in total, 24 levels. To advance on through the next, we need to collect enough coins for the exit to be usable. In the end, there’s a witch to be defeated and a princess to be rescued!
The Amiga version of SuperFrog features a bonus level that functions as a kind of an homage to Team 17’s own Project-X game! Neat stuff!

- Super Scramble Simulator (16) 
I’m almost certain that the members of Red Lynx, the company behind the Trials franchise, played Super Scramble Simulator a lot when they were just youngsters!
It’s an extreme and, most of the times, slow paced bike trial kind of game in where we must navigate through these treacherous terrains filled with all kind of obstacles. And we get this awesome feeling of accomplishment for every successfully concluded level!
Developed by Magnetic Fields and published by Gremlin Graphics in 1989, it became my second favorite motorcycle game, just after Enduro Racer, firstly on the arcades in 1986 and later on the ZX Spectrum, in 1988.

- The Secret of Monkey Island (15) 
It was the first and only point-and-click adventure game that I’ve played on the Amiga. Because of that dreadful disk swapping that, in my opinion, just ruins the whole experience, I promised myself to only play these type of games on the PC!
Nonetheless, The Secret of Monkey Island is one of the best in the genre! So amusingly funny and highly entertaining!
It was developed and released, in 1990, by LucasFilm games and was because of this title that I became addicted to PC gaming and to point-and-click adventure games by, around, 1993.

- LionHeart (14) 
Exclusive to the Amiga, Lionheart is a platform and hack and slash type of game developed and released, in 1993, by Thalion Software.
The game features amazing music and graphics, with a superb parallax scrolling effect, and has a pretty nice touch regarding the difficulty level chosen by the player in the beginning of the game, meaning that, if you choose the harder setting, not only you have to defeat tougher opponents but also a different environment is generated granting an also different gaming experience! Awesome thinking!

- Fuzzball (13) 
Already reviewed on my channel, Fuzzball is another Amiga exclusive title that is highly addictive and fun to play!
In this puzzle & platform game, developed by Scangames Norway and published, in the beginning of 1992, by System 3 Software, we have to carefully plan every move, ‘cause touching an enemy means instant death.
With amazing graphics and enjoyable music, this is one of those games that Amiga owners should be proud of! At least, I was!!

- Katakis/Denaris (12) 
An obvious R-Type clone, but it’s one of the best shoot-em-ups ever released for the Amiga.
It was developed by Manfred Trenz, also responsible for the Turrican series and an obscure Japanese Super Famicom release entitled Rendering Ranger R2, recently made available for western players by the name of Targa, and recently reviewed, also, on my channel.
Katakis was originally released, in 1987, for the Commodore 64 and, a year later converted to the Amiga. Finally, in 1989, Katakis was re-released, but now under the name Denaris.
Despite all this, this amazing shooter takes place on this human colony named Katakis that was overtaken by machines. So, our job is to destroy these machines and retake the planet.
Where it differs from R-Type is on the two player mode, where the second player controls that circular orb creating a strategic type of approach to this awesome game.

- Pinball Fantasies (11) 
I just love pinball games and Pinball Fantasies is still my favorite after all these years!
From the same guys that, a year earlier, brought Pinball Dreams, this new game offers another four amazing pinball tables for us to enjoy! Ball physics is spot on, graphics are simply amazing and the music is just brilliant! What else can I say? Well, I can say that I’ve also played the DOS version for many, many years! And I still do!!
An amazing game and a must have to all pinball fans!

- WolfChild (10) 
Another game that I’ve already reviewed on my channel from the creative mind of Simon Phipps, the designer behind the also amazing Rick Dangerous franchise.
Published by Core Design in 1992, WolfChild is a fast and amazing multi-directional platformer with some outstanding graphics and smooth scrolling. The musical score, from musician Martin Iveson, is also of extreme quality and fits perfectly into this frenetic shoot-em-up platform action game!
Just click on the rectangle for more info about this great game!

- Apidya (9) 
The first immediate impact is the awesome soundtrack by Chris Huelsbeck.
Developed by Kaiko and published, in 1992, by Play Byte, Apidya is another master piece exclusive to the Amiga and one of the best shoot-em-ups ever with amazingly colored high quality graphics!
We control Ikuro who transforms himself into a bee to go and rescue his wife that has been poisoned by this evil black magic lord. Besides the Japanese Manga-style obvious visuals present in the game, it was totally developed in Europe and by a European team, with Chris Huelsbeck himself along with a couple of friends. Also interesting was that many people saw the game as a sequel, ‘cause the “II” was on its cover. But, apparently, that was just for laughs!

- APB: All Points Bulletin (8) 
Here’s probably where Rock Star games drank the inspiration needed for the Grand Theft Auto series, mainly because of its open world and overhead top-down view of gameplay!
APB was a 1987 arcade game by Atari that was ported by Walking Circles, in 1989, and published by Domark for the Amiga.
We play as officer Bob and must drive a police car around the city trying to reach a predetermined quota within a limit of time. This quota is met by, for instance, arresting thugs that are committing crimes and, as well, do some writing applying some traffic tickets to law-breakers.
Pay much attention to the gas level and time limit! For the first, just pull-up on a gas station and, as for the second, just collect some donuts and you’re good to go!
The arcade cabinet was complete with a siren button and lights on top that would flash when officer Bob was on pursuit of a criminal!
Completing a level successfully, you’re congratulated by the chief, otherwise you’re fired!

- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Action Game (7) 
I also have the Kixx re-release of the point and click graphic adventure, but, again, I prefer to play these type of games on the PC.
So, on my ZX Spectrum and, later, on the Amiga, I’ve played a lot the Action Game, developed by Tiertex and released, in 1989, by US Gold, finishing it over and over.
Based on my favorite Indiana Jones movie, the action game of The Last Crusade is a basic platformer that received really poor reviews… and I agree! ‘Cause there are a lot other way better platform games, miles away from this one! But, as a huge fan of the man in the hat, I, somehow, got right away overwhelmed by it: its difficulty, the puzzles, the exploration and the simple crack of Indy’s whip with the raider’s march in the background. Suddenly, I’m transported to that adventurous setting! What a feeling! Sadly, no modern game can do just that.

- Frontier: Elite II (6) 
The idea of doing absolutely anything and go anywhere was just mind-boggling back in those days, and David Braben’s Frontier: Elite II was just that, a space trader and combat simulator that really showed what the Amiga was capable of.
Published, in 1993, by GameTek, Elite II features awesome and extremely well modeled galaxies that completely obey the laws of physics!
So, in this game we explore space, trading legal or illegal stuff, taking people from one planet to another, do some military missions, etc, etc, and it’s a game where there is no ending sequence or a final boss to take down!
As amazing as it may sound, the game came in only one disk! The entire galaxy, and beyond, in just one floppy disk! This was possible ‘cause it was written in assembly language and the game’s universe was procedurally generated by the game’s own engine. An outstanding piece of programming history!

- Rock’n’Roll (5) 
Here’s my favorite action puzzle game ever: Rock’n’Roll, developed and published by Rainbow Arts, in 1989, and with awesome music by, you guessed it!, Chris Huelsbeck!
This is a huge game where we control a ball with the mouse and try to reach the end of each level avoiding ventilators, magnets, arrows and other objects that simply drains the player’s energy! It’s not an easy task, but it’s a highly enjoyable one!
The ball physics are just right, so we have a good control over it and can easily anticipate annoying situations.
Check my full review by clicking on the rectangle!

- Myth: History in the Making (4) 
As a huge fan of Mythology, and all that finishes with “ology”, I was blown away when I first saw those walking skeletons just trying to kick my butt! It immediately reminded me of Ray Harryhousen’s movie Jason and the Argonauts, from 1963, that I fondly recall and still watch in 2015!
Myth, originally released in 1989 by System 3 for 8-bit machines, had some coding and design modifications that led to a 1992 single 16-bit release for the Amiga platform.
The game is filled with all kind of mythological creatures and situations that can really grab the player and almost teleports us to those amazing places that we can only envision in our dreams!
It’s an amazing experience and one of the best platform puzzle action games ever!
Check my review for more stuff about this awesome title!

- Batman the Movie (3) 
Simply one of the best movie adaptations ever, by the trustful hands of Ocean Software!
Developed and released in 1989, right after the première of Tim Burton’s masterpiece, Batman the Movie’s ZX Spectrum and Amiga versions were critically acclaimed all over the place! It’s an extremely well designed platform, driving, shoot-em-up and puzzle game! All in one, like those tab things we put into the dishwasher!
Graphically, it just have that dark and obscure feeling that the Batman universe transpires, and all the different musical pieces created for the game are also of extreme good taste and really fits like a glove into each level to which they were created!
I simply love this game and finished it over, and over again for countless times!

- Turrican 2: The Final Fight (2) 
With the most amazing soundtrack ever created for an Amiga game, by Chris Huelsbeck, and superbly designed by Manfred Trenz, Turrican 2: The Final Fight is, for me at least, the best Amiga platform run-and-gun video game!
Developed by Factor 5 and released by Rainbow Arts in 1991, we’re invited to travel to the galaxy Cobra 2, in the year 3035, fighting for peace as we’re the last survivor of a recent conflict.
There’s plenty of references to the original 1986 NES Metroid game and the 1987 arcade title Psycho-Nics Oscar that, altogether, and very well mixed up, offers this intense, beautiful and complexly detailed title that will certainly be mentioned in all future video game history books.. or not!

- Lemmings (1) 
What started being just a simple character animation made in Deluxe Paint by DMA Design employee Mike Dailly, turned into one of the best video games ever made!
Published by Psygnosis in 1991, this puzzle, strategy and action game sold, on its first day and for the Amiga only, fifty five thousand copies! That was something unthinkable back then!
Everyone knows what Lemmings is all about, it crossed practically all generations of computer systems and consoles and is known as the most widely ported video game ever. The two following sequels, Lemmings 2: The Tribes and All New World of Lemmings, are also extremely well made, but the first one, for its originality only deserves the first place for its own!
By the way, DMA Design is nowadays known as Rock Star North! You know what that means, right? It means that the minds behind the Lemmings franchise are also responsible for the continuous bestselling titles of the Grand Theft Auto franchise and the award winner Red Dead Redemption game from two thousand and ten.

So, guys, here’s my favorite Amiga games that I still play and encourage others to do so, ‘cause, 30 years ago a groundbreaking machine was born that, if marketing and development strategies were done right, would certainly be leading today’s video gaming related industry!
Happy birthday, Amiga!
And, happy 1st birthday to the Pixel THING also! A year ago I was taking the first steps into making this weekly youtube show! And I’ve achieved just that! This is the 52nd episode, that means that at least one video per week was released during the past year despite all the parenting, husband and full time worker stuff I have to do on a daily basis!

Thanks to everyone who have subscribed to the channel, commented, liked or unliked and even to the still one and only Patron that, generously, subscribed to my recent Patreon campaign! Thanks, Tiago! You’re the very first in the whole world – besides myself – to watch this video, and, for now, that’s the main perk I have to offer to Patrons! Thanks, in advance, to everyone that could take this possibility into consideration!

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domingo, 24 de maio de 2015

Stormfinch [2015, ZX Spectrum] Review - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#51

Right at the start we’re greeted by this rather amusing plot:
“Greetings pilot. You are Commander Armstrong and you must destroy the evil empire of Mandarax. Actually let’s be honest. There is no evil alien empire. You are not a hero. Probably. You are not the last hope of mankind. You enjoy blasting space aliens. These aliens are specially bred to feel no pain.”

Dave Hughes’ team, Stonechat Productions, released, last week, Stormfinch, a shoot-em-up where the player has nine lives to battle through 10 levels and defeat 9 bosses and, as well, the entire galaxy!! Let’s face it, in real life we only live once.. I think! So, why not only one life and an energy bar along with some scattered power ups for us to pick up?

Our ship provides two types of weapons: lasers and plasma rays, but, just like in R-Type, there’s also an extra capsule that can be oriented around our ship and do multiple shooting, highly useful as the enemies pop up from all directions!

Enemy detection could be better, but the game is so highly enjoyable for its smooth scrolling only, that I can live with that!

Stormfinch is an awesome accomplishment on the ZED X Spectrum. It brilliantly uses Einar Saukas’ NIRVANA engine that, since it was released in late 2013, was only being used to create beautifully colored puzzle and reflection type of games. These two are a good example of this.

Never crossed Spectrum users’ minds, like myself, the possibility of multicolor tiled display, like the one shown on this screenshot. This is a new frontier for homebrew developers and a beginning of a new Era for Sinclair’s machine 33 years since the very first ZED X Spectrum model arrived and it’s now proven that this brand new engine can produce amazing games like the one we’re looking at!

As said before, the engine is capable of multicolor tiled display across 30 columns and 22 rows and it is capable of changing color attributes every two scanlines delivering an 8by2 “almost full screen” pixel display.

So, we’re looking at a multicolor shoot-em-up, something unthinkable to ever get to see on a Spectrum. A lot of people believed that the NIRVANA engine wasn’t capable of showing lots of action onscreen at the same time. Here’s the proof that they were wrong!

Stormfinch isn’t better than Electric Dreams’ extreme quality conversion of the original R-Type, or the awesome Zynaps from Hewson Consultants, or even 2010’s Genesis: Dawn of a New Day from RetroWorks. But this one will surely beat those three on its visual beauty of these multicolor animated sprites that the NIRVANA engine can provide.

This nonstop shoot-em-up also offers the player this awesome tune that fits perfectly into the action, even if it loops after a couple of minutes. Nonetheless, after I’m through with the game, I just kept on whistling it!

We’re on the right path to a ZED X revolution where developers have, now, these awesome tools to create a brand new world for 8bit gaming awesomeness!

I’m so thrilled and I can’t wait to see what’s coming in the future!

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segunda-feira, 18 de maio de 2015

IBM Model M Mechanical Keyboard - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#50

Finally I got my hands on one of these beauties! The IBM Model M mechanical keyboard is the forefather of modern keyboard design and the most enjoyable typing experience ever!

The Model M is considered the best keyboard ever manufactured. This particular one that I’ve managed to grab is from 1989 and features those awesome key caps and PS/2 detachable cable, not mentioning that amazing key stroke sounds produced by the buckling-spring mechanisms so particular to the Model M keyboard.

This beast weighs around 2 kilos, and, as you can see, it’s really dirty and was most likely been on a dark storage room in the past 15 years or so..  Poor thing!

Disassembly and cleaning the Model M is quite easy and a task not to be done under pressure. Just take your time and enjoy while you’re doing it!

So, let’s get to work!


(a couple hours later)

What a beauty! It feels like new and I can’t wait to try it out with my IBM PS/1 486 DX2!

The Model M was bundled with 8086 and 80286 IBM PS/2 computers from around 1987, but was originally introduced in 1985 as part of the IBM 3161 terminal, and it’s so durable and well-made that it will most likely be usable today, even after 30 years and probably half of that of use and abuse.

Tell me: do you know the exact date of manufacture of your actual keyboard? Well, this one was put together on the 12th of August of 1989! It can’t be more accurate than this! Every Model M keyboard comes with an ID and production date printed on a sticker on its back case and also on the inside.

The Model M is able to transmit that tactile feeling of the user-keyboard connection; it’s like driving a car and be able to feel the road surface all through the steering wheel. You know, that kind of feeling!

Just look at that proper full-sized space bar and long backspace key! Everything looks just right, with no windows or shut down keys that can accidently be pressed and ruin something that you’re working on.

This exact Model M was manufactured by IBM UK and I believe that these ones are the best Model Ms. Later, from 1993 onwards, Lexmark got the license to manufacture the Model M which features a blue IBM logo and fixed keyboard lead.

This is simply one of those pieces of hardware that are really “hard” to break and will certainly live longer than all of us! The only item that I think will be necessary to grab in the future is a Model M’s PS/2 to USB converter so that I can continue to play this awesome music!

So, guys, have you tried one of these? Do you own one? Just post below your thoughts and typing experiences you’ve had, or have, with IBM’s Model M mechanical keyboards.
Looking forward to your thoughts and comments!

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terça-feira, 12 de maio de 2015

TOPO Soft and ERBE Software in the Golden Age of Spanish Video Games - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#49

If you thought that all great 8-bit home computer games of the 80s came from England, well, think again!

This week we’ll be traveling back to 1985, year where it all began for one of the greatest Spanish video game developing companies: Topo Soft.

It all started in 1985, when the Golden Age of Spanish software development for 8bit home computers was flourishing. ERBE Software was, in the eighties, the biggest and most important Spanish video game publisher that became famous not for Paco Pastor, its founder, being the ex-vocalist of Fórmula V, but for their anti-piracy battle attaining the rights to publish video games from renowned companies, like Ocean, U.S.Gold, Gremlin, etc, with much lower prices and sold all throughout the Iberian Peninsula. Back then, when I saw ERBE’s logo stamped on the cover, I knew that I was buying quality controlled and tested stuff for my ZX Spectrum, Amiga and, later, for my IBM PC. This caused a huge revolution; full priced video games of around 12 euros each started to be sold at about 5 euros under ERBE’s label and distribution. Surprisingly for some, it triggered a gigantic boom in sales! From this moment on, piracy was practically a thing from the past. I remember to buy great original games for my PC at my favorite magazine store. Every month, along with Micro Hobby, the most famous Spanish ZX Spectrum magazine, I also used to buy a monthly ERBE publication dedicated to a specific game bundled with its own physical copy. The first number brought Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, The Graphic Adventure, for IBM PCs. ERBE’s marketing & merchandising system was extremely powerful and converted Spain and Portugal, in late eighties, into almost “piracy free” countries.

Besides spawning this low price revolution, ERBE also made possible for the small Spanish developers to prosper and publish their games abroad. One of those developers was Topo Soft that was established at the basement of ERBE’s building. In Spanish, “topo” means “low”, “the lowest point or position” or even a mole.

It all started when Emilio Martínez thought about creating an educational software for his nephew based on the Spanish geography. He asked his fellow programmer friend Javier Cano to do the graphics and, thus, MapGame was born. Curiously the title was developed in a black & white TV, not knowing what the game looked like when they’ve finished it. One day the two friends took the game at a ZX Spectrum reseller and ask permission to test the game on a color monitor. Emilio and Javier were amazed by the beauty of the graphics and the owner of the shop was blown away! Quickly he handed over to the young programmers an ERBE business card.

So, both created their own brand – Action – and, seeing a probable commercial profit, they made copies of the game and started selling it at the “Rastro de Madrid”, a kind of used and second hand stuff local fair.
Then, both agreed on contacting ERBE and their future was, at this point, assured. The publishing rights for the game were sold to ERBE and both programmers were hired to work on an Amstrad CPC version of MapGame and, later, for the MSX.

The game was a sales success and, at this point, they met José Manuel Muñoz, also known as RAMBO, a very talented programmer specialized on working with sprites with masks, a hugely important aspect when working with moving objects on screen.

José Muñoz had this script for an action and fighting type of game and he was so thrilled about it that he managed to convince his two new friends to embark with him in his quest. So, ERBE Software hired José and the trio designed, in 1986, “Las Tres Luces de Glaurung” that was extremely well received by Spanish gamers which led to an English translated version for distribution in the UK by Melbourne House and under the name “Conquestador”.

Feeling the need of separating the distribution business from the development of new products, ERBE created, at this point, Topo Soft.

Still under ERBE’s label were developed two more games: “Ramón Rodríguez”, in 1986, that wasn’t as successful, but highly entertaining, fun and extremely difficult; and “Whopper Chase”, in 1987, a promotional title that was ordered by Burger King to be offered to customers, in which the tape contained all four 8bit versions of the game: Spectrum, Amstrad, MSX and Commodore.
Topo Soft’s première was with the game “Spirits”, in 1987, which led, till 1991, to a gigantic wave of awesome games that catapulted Topo Soft to the very "topo" of Spanish video game development rivaling with the giant and well established Dinamic.

Let’s now take a quick look at the essential games from Topo Soft:
“Survivor” – 1987 – An awesome arcade-action game where you control an extra-terrestrial character somewhat based – off the record – in the movie Alien;
“Stardust” – 1987 – An amazing shoot-em-up that didn’t grab all the attention it deserved;
“Desperado” – 1987 – based in the Capcom Arcade hit GunSmoke and kind of “Red Dead Redemption” of that Era! J  A huge hit in Spain and in the UK!
“Silent Shadow” – 1988 – Action game with two players simultaneously! WoW! Awesome stuff! Was considered one of the best games from Topo Soft. Curiously, the C64 version was totally different from all the others. As you can see, the scrolling is made in the horizontal, from left to right.
“Mad Mix Game” – 1988 – A new vision and, again, “off the record” version of the classic Pac Man. For the English release, they even had to remove the first level, ‘cause it was so identical to the original Pac Man that Topo could run into trouble.
“Black Beard” – 1988 – A pirate’s game where we need to infiltrate a ship and grab a treasure map hidden inside a fiercely guarded safe.
“Chicago 30’s” – 1988 – Something related to the Untouchables or The Godfather movies is purely coincidence! An extremely difficult, but very well made title!
“Tuareg” – 1988 – One of the best Spanish action-adventure games ever made.
“Titanic” – 1988 – Probably the best game Topo Soft made for IBM PCs.
“Colosseum” – 1988 – Another movie inspired game, this time around its Ben Hur complete with chariot races. Was released in the UK under the KIXX label, the budget range of the mighty US Gold.
“Score 3020” – 1988 – Topo’s Pinball game! And I love pinball games! But this one didn’t have what it needed to be a good pinball game. The ball was completely uncontrollable! What a shame..
“Wells & Fargo” – 1988 – The game’s beautifully detailed graphics can, somewhat, attenuate its extreme difficulty trying to control the carriage and, at the same time, blow the enemies away.
“Rock ‘n’ Roller” – 1988 – One hell of a game that I’ve played so many freaking times back then! Simple concept and highly addictive! It practically passed unnoticed. A funny thing about the cover of Rock ’n’ Roller is that in the Spectrum and MSX versions it was inverted! The letters on the “STOP” sign are inverted! Why did they made this? Someone was really wasted or in a bad mood!
“Emilio Butragueño Futbol” – 1988 – This title sold more than one hundred thousand copies! It became the bestselling Spanish video game of all time! But, by then and as for soccer games, Match Day II was still the best.
“Perico Delgado” – 1989 – It was the very time I’ve ever saw something like this: a cycling simulator! What an achievement for 1989 and all fans of “La Vuelta” were amazed by it!
“Viage Al Centro de La Tierra” – 1989 – One of the best Spanish video games of all time! And, as a huge fan of adventure and exploration, I couldn’t simply stop playing it! Sadly, the C64 owners never had the change to try it. Its development was canceled.
“Emilio Butragueño 2” – 1989 – The Spanish localization of Gremlin’s “Gary Lineker” games, “Superskills” and “Hot-Shot”, to compete with Dinamic’s “Mítchel Futbol Master” that was hugely popular in Spain by that time. Sadly, it was a failed attempt.
“Drazen Petrovic Basket” – 1989 – A really poor basketball game.
“Mad Mix 2 – En El Castillo de los Fantasmas” – 1990 – The sequel to Mad Mix Game and, if the first one was based on Pac Man, this one is on Pac Mania! Curiously, they’ve published the game with a black & white cover for fans to develop their own painting skills. Later was announced the winner and the cover would be used in a Special Edition of the game, that I believe never happened..
“La Espada Sagrada” – 1990 – Another awesome adventure game that had its best version on IBM PCs with some amazing and colorful EGA graphics.
“Lorna” – 1990 – This title was based on a comic book character by Alfonso Azpiri, a Spanish artist that also made the cover for the game, and, as well, many others for practically every Spanish software house! And, when the game had a cover by Azpiri, I would certainly buy it! You couldn’t miss! Games with covers made by this great artist were always good games! Take “Viage al Centro de la Tierra” as an example! About the game, it’s a pretty good arcade action title with some differences between the 8 and 16 bit versions. So, you need to try them all!
“Ice Breaker” – 1990 – This one is just to keep the releases coming! Nothing special, just a “shoot all things on screen” type of game.
“R.A.M.” – 1990 – A kind of hard to control game, but, when you get the hang of it, it’s quite fun! Another “kill all enemies and stay alive” game.
“Gremlins 2” – 1990 – The first and, I believe, only official movie adaptation which had such a huge media coverage never seen from a Spanish game. The hype was so enormous that they had to ask the UK based ELITE Systems to make the 16 bit versions! The game was ok, spite the amount of time they spent making it. Many players ended up losing interest and just bought another games. 
“Zona 0” – 1991 – One of my favorite Spectrum games ever and, obviously, inspired by Disney’s movie Tron. Super-fast, super addictive and with awesome music!
“Desperado 2” – 1991 – I was wrong when I said that all games with covers by Azpiri were good. Well, Desperado 2 is a decent game, but was released in a time that LucasArts was around with their amazing point’n’click adventure games and Wolfenstein 3D was, as well, around the corner. This was the point where it all started to collapse for the Spanish video game industry.
“Tour 91” – 1991 – The follow up to “Perico Delgado” and one last breath for Topo Soft. It’s a brilliant Professional Cycling Simulator that, again, attained high scores on specialized magazines and was, I think, the first Topo Soft game with support for VGA graphics on the PC.

Topo Soft made one last effort to conquer the IBM PCs market with 6 more games: “Black Crown” (1991), “Luigi & Spaghetti” (1992), “Olimpiadas 92: Gimnasia Deportiva” (1992) and “Olimpiadas 92: Atletismo” (1992), “Luigi in Circusland” (1994) and, finally, “Super Scrylis” (1994).

The Spanish video game crisis arrived around 1989, year when companies had to canalize and adapt their efforts towards the 16 bit machines that were already flourishing. The 8 bit Era was practically over and Topo Soft tried really hard to make it work.
“Viage al Centro de la Tierra” was probably the biggest bet in the area ever made in Spanish territory. It was one of the few games that had all three most important 16 bit home computer versions - Amiga, Atari ST and DOS - and also distributed in the US without any tangible success.

Every time I saw a Topo Soft game on one of my favorite video game resellers, I was always impressed by their extremely well drawn covers. Back then I was a huge super-hero comic book fan and collector and, as well, created my own universe along with a couple of friends. We even developed our own brand and presented our work at a couple of magazine publishers here in Portugal. Needless to say that they’ve revealed some interest, but that was all. So, we started making and selling our own fanzine on a few specialized shops.

The box art and loading screens from Topo’s games were a sight to behold! Definitely one of the best, in my opinion and taste, obviously!

Have you played any of these amazing titles? Obviously there were other great Spanish video game developers around like, for instance, Dinamic, Opera Soft and Zigurat/Made in Spain. But Topo Soft, being part of the ERBE group, needed a special treatment; it was part of one of the greatest and most successful anti-piracy campaigns ever.

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