Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Dragon 32, Pengo and Star Wars

Of course most of us around 1983 couldn't afford the BBC Micros that we had been playing in school.  Fom the cheaper end of the spectrum the Sinclair Spectrum, and was defiantly the most popular one with people we knew back then.
For me though Christmas brought a cream colored box with the name Dragon 32.  The computer came packaged with one cartridge and what we thought at first were two broken joysticks.  The joysticks turned out the be designed that way with Dragon deciding to ignore the established arcade and Atari joystick system by including non centering analog sticks.  While these were great if your wanted to draw swirls on the screen as demonstrated by that "type in" you and your mate spent the last 6 hours typing up.  The main problem is they didnt center themselves after being moved which made games like Frogger or Qbert very difficult to play if you had played them anywhere else.
Microdeal loading screen

This brings me on to the cartridge that came with the computer - yep - Frogger.  I remember being amazed that the game loaded almost instantly having only ever experienced tape loading and a few times floppy disk on the BBC.  Pop the cartridge in, turn on and there it was.  Marvelous, never having had an Atari 2600 this was new to me!  The colorful loading screen of Microdeal is replaced by a good arcade version of Frogger ruined by weird joysticks. 

While this game I remember for how colorful it looked every other memory of this computer is games colored either green or orange thanks to the strange color set the decided to use.
Cuthbert Goes Digging
An example of this is Cuthbert Goes Digging, this is obviously a pretty straight forward Space Panic clone meaning i spent a lot of time with this game as an already confirmed Space Panic addict...  but still my remaining memory of it is the washed out green/yellow colors.  That said don't think my memories of the dragon are all bad.  It had a great real keyboard while everyone else was bashing away at their "dead flesh" style specrum keyboards.  That meant i quickly learnt to type and with the help of the "programming the dragon" book i learnt dragon basic.  I remember getting a block graphics man moving around the screen controlled by the joystick but then getting frustrated by the fact you couldnt print text very easily on a graphics mode screen. 

It wasn't all about home computers just yet though as down the arcade we had two games hooking us totally.  The first was Pengo.  A simple game where you slide blocks of ice in straight lines to squash the nasties.  Sounds simple and it would be if it wasn't for devious level design bringing in a puzzle element which makes fr an addictive game.  The other is the 3d vector graphics star wars game.  This game i loved at the time, the simple wire frame graphics and grainy speech samples seemed to capture the final scenes of Star Wars perfectly.  I know one of those long forgotten arcades that actually still has one of these - converted to run on new coins and getting a bit glitchy but its still going.  Always worth a go if passing...
Star Wars (Arcade)


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