Tag Archives: 8 bit

LET’S PLAY (And Overthink): Conan: Hall Of Volta Apple ][ #Retrogaming #AppleII

15 Mar

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So first of all, I’m not writing about this game because it’s good… Oh Sweet Lord Satan No. But this game was a (incredibly vexing) part of my childhood, and it means a lot to deconstruct it. See, first of all it was the mid-to-late 1980s and I had a very serious fixation on hella buff dudes in loincloths for some reason.

conan8Let’s face it, at no point in my life was I ever heterosexual…

So anyway in one of my classes, along with the expectable classics like Oregon Trail, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego, and Karateka, they had a copy of this game. I made a copy to take home.

conan7The schools copy was “cracked“, by the way. Don’t Copy That Floppy!

Conan: The Hall Of Volta is a computer game by DataSoft, originally written for the Apple ][ and ported to other platforms. It was released in 1984 alongside the second Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan movie, although it has characters and scenarios independent of any canonical Conan The Barbarian storyline.

conan9One of the main characters is a bird, for instance.

It’s a pretty straightforward one-hit-death side-view platform puzzle game, one of the first of it’s kind. Adding to the replay value, there were stage-specific death messages when you game over.

conan5They were also terrible, just terrible, “puns” most of the time.

Getting through the stages takes some practice to get the timing right, but once you know what you’re doing, the game can be finished fairly quickly. Stage One gets you used to everything:

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You climb the ladders to go up, and you kill the Giant Bat (1) as soon as possible because it has access to the whole inside of the castle and has no qualm with killing you first. Once you reach the top of the castle, jump over to the tree (2) for a free life from your bird friend. Any time you see him throughout the whole game means a free life. Stage 2 introduces a new element (keys), but keeps up the same pace as the first and doesn’t have any monsters.

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You grab the key (1) to unlock the door (2). Pretty simple. You can also grab a free life from your bird friend (3) by jumping up to touch him at the end of the stage. Stage three brings in the third primary gameplay element (gems and gem holders) and is distinctly harder than the first two, the beginning of a difficulty jump that continues for the rest of the game.

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In stage three you use the teleporters (1) to get the gem (2) to place in the holder (3). Once the gem is in the holder, a bubble forms in the lava(4) that you can use to jump to the end of the stage.  Your avian friend is also here for the last time (5) to provide a free life, and keep in mind that the scorpions and ants on this level (6) are too low to the ground to hit with your weapon. The ants can also use the teleporter, which can seriously screw up any timing you were having for jumps and moving around the level.

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In stage 4, the length of time you can spend at this stage is completely random. You grab gems (1) as they randomly appear, and once you put two in the holders (2) you get access to the key (3) to open the door. Extra weapons (5) appear on the stage randomly as well, and you should keep an eye out for (6) the fall-away white parts of the platforms as well as the middle platform that periodically rises from the geyser beneath it. You can also snag extra gems on this stage if you’re patient, which makes the next level slightly easier.

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Stage 5 is a bastard. No way around it. Basically the best way to go about doing it is standing right around where pictured in (1) and shooting the dragons (2) until you get a key and gemstone for the door(3) and holder (4) on the top level. It might take a few tries to get it where you weapon comes back and you don’t lose it. With the gem in the holder, you get access to the other key (5) which you can use to unlock the door out of the stage (6). Hopefully the absurdly overkill number of gems (7) on the bottom level are clue enough that it’s a trap.

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Almost over… To get through stage 6, you need to kill the floating eyeballs (1) until the ladder (2) appears that gives you access to cut down the chandelier (3) that will smash the power generator (4) allowing you access to the door to the final stage (5). Also, you can get your weapons restored on the bottom level (6) if you need to.

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Final stage, and there is quite a bit going on. Your bird friend is in a cage (1) captured by Volta (2). Volta has some sort of device next to him that spits out gems and then turns them into green and purple magical bolts. Basically you wanna hit the green bolts with your weapon, which turn back into gems, and place them in the holders (3). With three gems in the holders, your bird friend goes free, throws Volta into the lava pit (4), and then flies you to the door at the end of the stage (6). If any of the bolts reach the lowest level, they can release one of the dragonflies captured there (7) which travel back and forth on that level. Also there is a pit in the middle of the stage (8) which drops you back to stage 6. Good if you’ve run out of weapons, not so great for any other reason. After this stage is the ending.

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For some reason, the Apple ][ ending features a knight in full armor instead of the barbarian. This is possibly a throwback to the first draft of the game, when it was called Visigoth. You can also see initials of the game designer and programmer snuck in the background as well (bottom left in blue and on the right in green). Later versions included a character much more recognizable to the theme of the game.

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This ending would have no doubt better satisfied the “burly barbarians in loincloths” fix I desired so much as a child “for some reason”.

conan19Seriously, who the fuck did I think I was fooling back then?

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8-Bit App Review: 8-Bit Command Window

25 Jan

So one of the (many) things I wanted to start getting into on this blog was writing reviews of 8-bit retro-themed phone apps, so here we go on that. For our first shot at this, I wanna chat up the 8-Bit Command Window, a handy-ish $1.26 app I’ve been using on my phone for about a month now. It’s a set of menus that interacts with your other apps and is designed to resemble the command screen for the NES RPG series Dragon Warrior. It’s actually a package of several different size widgets (I’m currently using 2 of the 7 total).

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Most of it is pretty customizable, with some limitations put in place that are theme related (four-letter names like in the original Dragon Warrior being one of them).

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Functionally, it’s pretty straight-forward. “Talk” pulls up the phone, “Party” pulls up your contacts, “Status” shows battery charge, used/remaining memory and OS version, “Take” is your camera, and of course “Tweet”-

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The rest of the functions require “equipping” or “learning” your other apps like weapons or spells.

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It’s pretty fun, and if you’re bored to death with your phone’s normal OS it makes a clever shell, though I couldn’t imagine using it all the time. Definitely worth the buck and a quarter to pick it up.

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New Destroyed For Comfort Button Design: Available Soon

16 Jan

ButtonMakers Pattern Template

23 Of The Ugliest Video Game Accessories I’ve Ever Seen.

18 Aug

Prepare to see some of the most hideously off-brand 1990s-ish stuff ever. It’s so 1990s I’m not sure why I’m not posting this on Tumblr. Anyway, let’s soft grunge this blog up a bit:

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^I may have to do an entire post just based on this ad sometime, TBH.
No way I’m gonna let a company with the brand acronym STD get by without a making fun of them further.

NEW DFC VID “L1F34CE(LIFEFORCE)” + Lyrics & Backstory

27 Apr

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So, last weekend I was out of town visiting Liz Larsen from LZX Industries for her wife’s birthday. While there, we set aside some time to crank out a Destroyed For Comfort video using her personalized home studio modular video synthesizer. We decided to make one for the song L1f34CE, a personal favorite song composed in 2005 (one of the first songs composed entirely on the Yamaha SU700 rather than porting over from the Zoom 234). We’ll talk more about the song in a moment, but check out the video first:

The video itself was filmed in one take, after about an hour of Liz and I discussing particular filter elements and color pallets and making sure the camera caught *just enough* detail to make sense while being washed out enough to look unsettling. As you can see, it turned out great.

The version of the track included was recorded at 512 Studios , engineered by Omar Vallejo, and mixed by me at home. It was also recorded in one take (which really added to the urgency of the vocal performance in my opinion). The recording session was a really enjoyable experience and the engineering crew is obviously very talented and efficient. Really happy with the result.

L1F34CE (LIFEFORCE)
(Everything’s gone green!)
I can’t quite explain my condition
I’m feeling fine except for this constriction
(I see silver cords and spots now)
I CAN’T FUCKING BREATHE
I’m like a rat in a glue trap
Grinding teeth
I can’t stop it
IT’S ALL GONE GREEN AND I CAN’T BREATHE

The lyrics may not make much sense, but they’re based on actual statements I was apparently mumbling to a boyfriend of mine while he was nursing me through an opiate and alcohol related overdose.

But overdoses are boring. Seriously. Yawn. You either have them or you don’t. Whatever. Moving on.

Composition wise, I wanted to reflect the idea of being poisoned to death. I composed the opening riff to sound like one of those “your character has been poisoned” tunes from an old NES game, and of course included those Gauntlet-esque warnings (“Your Lifeforce Is Low” “You Are About To Die” “Heal Yourself Quickly”) at the beginning before leading it into a super-dirty sounding electro main riff. This is also the official very first song where I started using that “okay I’m using pitch shift like an industrial singer normally does but STRETCHED THE EVERLOVING FUCK OUT” that even I’ll admit I overuse currently. It’s my thing.

Pretty sure this is the song I’ve performed live the most, but that’s debatable (No Wife No Horse No Mustache is a close second as well as Monarch/EPI7EPC).

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