Back in the heyday of consoles/home computers, the common practice for releasing games was to convert every arcade game imaginable for home systems.
Most of these games were, of course, terrible. Some though, were quite good. Others were actually fantastic, and even managed to out-arcade their arcade counterparts. However, I’m not here to tell you about good games; here at The Old Man Club, we like to change things up every now and then.
Here is a list I did of some really bloody awful arcade clones and ports.
Mr. Wimpy (Ocean Software/ZX Spectrum)
It is BurgerTime! With a license from a long-forgotten (and sadly missed – seriously Wimpy were WAY better than McDonalds!) fast food franchise. And a mini-game, to show that it’s at least a little bit original. However, it is also, a bit crap, because the graphics are terrible and the mini-game is boring and frustrating. The sound is good though.
Dinky Digger (Postern/ZX Spectrum)
Another little-known game that tries its hardest to be Mr. Do, and fails on practically every level. Stiff controls, difficulty that (combined with said controls) makes it borderline unplayable, and graphics that look like they’ve been vomited onto the screen by a child that’s eaten way too many Haribo. The cover art is genuinely very good though. To be fair to the publishers, they did release Shadowfax, the first game by Mike “Lords of Midnight” Singleton. And THAT was very good.
Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins (Capcom/NES)
It takes a special kind of bad when the NES port of a beloved arcade game is bettered by a monochromatic sound-free British home computer conversion. Actually, that may be doing the ZX Spectrum a disservice. Many ports were good on the Speccy. Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins wasn’t. However, it was still better than the NES version by a country mile. Poor visuals and a difficulty level that made Castlevania feel like a breeze to play through, this was atrocious. Play the Commodore 64 version.
Pac-Man (Atari/Atari 2600)
Where do we start with this insipid waste of silicon? Ok. Short development time? Check! Flickery unappealing blocky visuals? Check! Awful sound? Check! Terrible controls. Check, check, check!
I get that the Atari 2600, by today’s standards, isn’t the most technically accomplished system around. Even in the early 80’s it was being surpassed by far superior machines, but some 2600 games looked (and still look) great! Pitfall, Keystone Capers, hell, even Frankenstein looked good – there was no excuse for this travesty; and look what it helped cause (see also: E.T. & Ray Kassar.)
Street Fighter (U.S. Gold/Commodore 64)
Ugh. Just, ugh. Look, don’t get me wrong, when U.S. Gold published arcade ports in the early 80’s, they were usually good. Sometimes VERY good (Spy Hunter, Tapper, Zaxxon, all classics!)
I’ll say it again; ugh! Ugly graphics, hideous load times, poor sound, stiff controls. Pushing a brick through treacle is a much more viable option. Honestly, it looks, sounds a feels way more satisfying. Ok, next game, quickly, before I lose the will to live. Again, ugh.
Chase H.Q. (Ocean Software/Commodore 64)
The old beige breadbin was home to some fantastic ports. L.E.D. Storm, Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, Commando, Dig Dug; all of these were classics. Chase H.Q. is not a classic. Visually, it seems to be suffering from ‘I think I’m an Amstrad CPC’ syndrome – it looks like a port of the ZX Spectrum conversion; only worse. It also suffers from not being particularly playable, and not actually being any fun at all. The Spectrum version was, and is, a benchmark in how to convert an arcade game onto an inferior system and make it work. The Commodore 64 version is a benchmark on how to completely screw it up.
Out Run (U.S. Gold/ZX Spectrum)
Conversely, where Chase H.Q. did everything right on the Speccy, Out Run got it mostly wrong. The graphics, while serviceable, plod along at a pace akin to a snail. A snail carrying heavy luggage. Which consequently makes it a nightmare to play; particularly when going through tunnels. The multi-load is a major hindrance too; the start-stop gameplay being off-putting to anybody with less than infinite patience. It’s almost as if the humble rubber beermat is incapable of running something like Out Run with any kind of competency. Then you see Chase H.Q. running on a Spectrum, and realize, no; the devs just did a bad job of it. The 128k music was nice though.
Monkey Bizness (Artic Computing/ZX Spectrum)
Ok, I realize I am giving perhaps a little bit too much fan service to my English nerds-in-arms (and I will probably continue down this path, unabated, until Mr. Spoerl grasps my shoulder and says “enough Spectrum crap!” – besides, I am a child of the 80’s and the Spectrum was my first love!) however, there were LOTS of official/unofficial arcade ports for the Spectrum back in the day. I am even an Artic Computing fan! I love their games, and their cover art. Iconic is the word that springs to mind. They even released a version of Discs of Tron (called Discs of Death) that is, dare I say it, almost as good as the original. HOWEVER, for every arcade clone they nailed, they got one wrong, and this Donkey Kong rip-off is horrible. Yes, I own it (as I own copies of Mr. Wimpy and Dinky Digger – I’m a sucker for bad games with nice cover art) but it’s still an awful, unplayable visually unappealing mess that only gets removed from the shelf when I want to play the game that’s sat next to it. Ironically, the cover art for THIS cacophony of acetate evil, is actually pretty awful compared to their other work, but… it is by Artic.
I know. I need help.
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