Apple IIe: Childhood Games of Frustration

November 19, 2006

My introduction to computers came in the form of an Apple IIe bought by my parents. It had a green monitor, a floppy disk drive, and a dot matrix printer – freaking awesome technology at the time. While all the other kids with their Atari 2600s got to stare at cubes and blocks, my brothers and I got to stare at green dots and lines and punch holes in a floppy to make it double-sided. Try doing that with a cartridge. It rocked!

I also spent a lot of time playing video games on the Apple IIe, marking time until the Nintendo came out. Anyhow, I recently revisited some Apple IIe games through the magic of emulation. Some are still pretty impressive (which I’ll document in a future post). But here are a few that I seriously can’t understand why I ever played:

1. Super Quest

This was a Dungeons and Dragons type game that on a good day, could be seen as a precursor to Baldar’s Gate or even World of Warcraft. But here, your character is a capital letter that you moved around with the arrow keys. A true testament to the power of imagination, the letter “V” represents a vampire. This is a good example of how incredibly basic (no pun intended) the graphics these games were. I never finished this game since it was so ridiculously difficult.

Lesson Learned: Imagination is a powerful thing.

2. Taipan

This was a trading game set in Asia that was largely text based. You’d load your junk up with capitalist goods and then pick a port to sail to. Along the way you’d get attacked by pirates, and treated to an awesome display of graphic power. In retrospect, it was basically a text game. The result: I wasted a lot of time trading virtual goods and I don’t even remember what the ultimate point of the game was. Maybe it had something to do with Hon Hai or stocking WalMart.

Lesson Learned: Debt blows.

3. Chivalry

This was some kind of medieval themed, kiddie educational game that consisted of little mini-games. The ultimate goal was to get to a Black Knight’s castle. In this screen shot, you have to get to the top of the hill without being crushed by barrels. Other games involved jumping over rocks and catching bags of flour in a cart. I think all the violence was sucked out of it in order to appeal to the Candy Land set. Yeah, it sucked.

Lesson Learned: Kids games are for kids.

4. Bilestoad

Bilestoad was a top-view gladiator game. You basically fought another gladiator with an axe until bloody body parts littered the ground. Sounds cool, but as a kid I remember the controls being so confusing that if I just pressed keys randomly until my gladiator was spinning around like a windmill, the effect was essentially the same as if I consciously tried to win: I lost.

Lesson Learned: Sometimes too much complexity is no better than random.

5. Way Out

A truly strange first person point-of-view maze game. Your goal was to find the exit. The wrinkle was that a spinning rectangle would chase you down and if it touched you, would steal your map, which was basically essential to getting out of the maze. In order to get the map back you’d have to hunt down the spinning rectangle, and touch it. Fun, but in retrospect I played this game way too much for the eventual pay off which was essentially zip. You didn’t even have a chainsaw or a shot gun to defend yourself. I remember the end result was frustration and bitter hate towards spinning rectangles. Maybe this is one reason why I dislike Flash banner ads.

Lesson Learned: Even simple can be annoying.

6. Aztec

Aztec was the epitome of frustration. You controlled an Indiana Jones type archaeologist venturing into a dungeon to retrieve a sacred idol. There were lots of cool things you could do, like run, jump, use a knife, fire a gun, and light dynamite, but unfortunately the controls were complex and the character had an annoying habit of hitting walls or falling off of stairs and going unconscious. You’d then have to wait until he woke up, and sometimes he’d immediately stand up, hit his head, and fall unconscious again. So many times I’d get pissed and angry, yelling at a comatose green Indiana Jones stand-in while spiders and water filled up the room and he died.

Lesson Learned: Never play a game where the animation for “run” is basically “walk” sped up.

7. Bolo

The fun here is driving a tank around a maze looking for alien bases defended by enemy fighters. Sounds fun, but the time was mostly spent roaming or running away. Plus, if you hit a wall, you died. The game got fiendishly difficult the longer you waited as the enemy fighters would quickly take over the maze. Also, some of the enemy fighters’ flying capabilities were insanely hard to beat with a lowly tank. Definitely more frustrating than fun.

The moral: Anything with a base and a big explosion still reminds me of Star Wars.

8. Spy Vs. Spy

I read MAD magazine as a kid and therefore played this game with my brother. I think the basic idea was to wander around the rooms of a house setting traps for the other Spy character and trying to hurt him. This was essentially one of the things we’d do to each other as kid brothers in real life, so I don’t get why we played this particular video game.

The moral: I shouldn’t have thrown out my old Mad magazines.

9. One On One

Whenever you wonder how far sports games have come graphics-wise, remember this Electronic Arts basketball game. It was a half-court challenge between Larry Bird and Dr. J. I feel I have to explain it since I don’t think that would be evident from the screen shot above.

The moral: In retrospect, game graphics improve at a staggering rate.

10. Star Blazer

I hate Tony Suzuki. I think I was obsessed with this game because as a confused kid, I thought it had some relation to the Star Blazers cartoon show. Basically you flew a jet on missions to bomb a radar, an ICBM, and a tank. The tank was the bitch, as in order to destroy it you had to push down on the joystick hard and press the fire button at the exact right time to get a bomb to fall straight down. Now that was a skill really worth spending hours mastering. Anyhow, the reward was just more missions – no secret easter egg featuring Nova or Princess Starsha.

And that was truly frustrating to me as a prepubescent, video game playing kid.

The moral: Don’t confuse a television show with a video game.

Comments

  1. Dean Briscoe says:

    There used to be a game for the Apple IIe called “Crossfire”. It was a grid where you could move your character up/down/sideways to shoot at other attacking characters. I used to play it for hours. One of the most engaging games I have ever played.
    Do you have any idea where I might get a copy for a PC?

  2. webomatica says:

    Well I can dig around my ROMs… maybe I have that game.

  3. webomatica says:

    Well I can dig around my ROMs… maybe I have that game.

  4. Oh man, Bolo — that game was great. I’m finding remakes that just don’t preserve the goodness of the old game. Got any ideas on where I could find an old original copy (for the PC as well?)

  5. webomatica says:

    Hmmmmmmmm….. Let me do some research and get back to you folks. I’m on a Mac, so the software I’m using is Mac oriented.

  6. I actually found it — AppleWin 1.8j plus bolo.dsk.gz (found on apple2.org.za). Totally cool. I can’t believe I found it. Thanks so much for the screenshot; otherwise I’d have completely forgotten the name. It’s a completely frustrating game, but it’s too addictive — I just suddenly remembered it after about 20 years!

  7. Webomatica says:

    Gee, I’m glad you were able to “help yourself.” There are many other games that I have memories of… I hope to post on some of my favorites in the future, namely Karateka, Boulderdash, and some other treats.

    It sure reminds us how long computers have been around (and how old I am getting)… these are the “oldies but goodies” of computing!

  8. Yeah! Totally — a thank you post on my blog is coming shortly. :)

    Hey, do you know where I can get a version of Oregon Trail or Word/Number Munchers? I think I even played Carmen Sandiego on the Apple too.

    Man, those were old (but fun) days :)

  9. webomatica says:

    I might have some of those roms. I’ll take a look when I get home.

  10. dvint1 says:

    Oh man, what a trip.

    Use to play Bilestoad hard out back in the day :)

    Also Conan the barbarian and load runner :)

  11. Webomatica says:

    Hey dvint1… yeah I’m going to do another post with my favorites (this one was more the ones that I got frustrated with). As a preview, some are Karateka, Sabotage, the Ultima games and yes… Lode Runner.

    What really blows me away is that we had a green screen monitor…. never upgraded to the color one… so we spent so much time staring at the green lines… which is why my screen shots look like that…!

  12. dvint1 says:

    hehe yeah, the old green screen, had that too.

    Those old Ultima games took many hours of my life too

  13. Andrew says:

    We must be the same vintage, they were all the games i played (and played). With Taipan i used to go into debt and then pay pay it back plus heaps more. The game a had a bug in it which would add massive interest to my payed back debt. In no time i was in the billions. Bolo was my fav plus montezumas revenge. a friend gave me about 1000 – 1500 zips of the roms, everything from apple lemonade to the zardax wordprocessor and all the beagle bros stuff

  14. webomatica says:

    huh… never knew about that Taipan bug… that’s pretty cool! I don’t think I have that many roms. I got them off of some Apple archive site that I don’t remember what the URL was. Maybe Apple should stick IIe emulation in the iPod… that would be hilarious.

    Here’s another post I wrote with my favorite IIe games: http://www.webomatica.com/wordpress/2006/12/31/apple-iie-games-i-loved/

  15. Archon says:

    I also grew up on this stuff, my first computer being a II with an AppleSoft language card (which would make it a II+). I LOVED some of these old games you seem so frustrated with — especially Bilestoad and Aztec. Maybe I was more of a nerd; I’d write doc files for the cracked games, too.

    For Apple II emulators: http://www.a2-web.com/a2emul.html
    For Apple II software: ftp://ftp.apple.asimov.com/pub/apple_II/

  16. webomatica says:

    Archon, thanks. The second FTP site is I think where I started with the emulation thing.

  17. Seth says:

    Loved all those games! But my favorite was Rescue Raiders.

  18. seeker says:

    I can’t seem to run Bolo with applewin 1.8j. It just goes to a DOS prompt. I don’t have this prob with any of my other games. Do I have to launch it from DOS? If so, I can’t for the life of me remember the old DOS commands.

    Can somebody help? Thanks.

  19. Jenny says:

    I just decided one day that I miss playing an old computer game from when I was really little…Chivalry! When I googled it, I found this website and was wondering if you could help me out. I hear that you had to use an “emulator”…which is probably a little easier than just trying to find an old Apple! I would appreciate any help in figuring out how to get ahold of this game and which emulator to get for my PC. Thanks, Jenny

  20. Lyteck says:

    anyone recall a game called Galaxy-L for the Apple IIe. I can’t find record of it anywhere on the web. You would control a small spaceship in a maze and collect gems. Any info would be appreciated. Thanks

  21. Dan says:

    I cannot seem to locate an emulator of the old ultima 3 game. Can anyone help

    Reading the comments brought back great memories like trading Opium in Taipan, a crappy game called Caverns of Freitag, Dropping the bombs straight down in that Star Blaster game.

    A game I used to love was Micro League Baseball and then the phenomenal graphics (for the time) of California Games

  22. Gary says:

    Uh, Caverns of Freitag rocked just to let you know. You probably never gave it a chance Dan.

  23. Adam says:

    Can anyone recall a western shoot ‘em up game where you had several response options? You were the Sheriff and could draw your gun when you brought the cursor above your response options>? Thanks in advance.

  24. Mike says:

    Adam – just dusted off my Apple emulator to play good ‘ol Taipan. BUT, I also came across the game you are talking about (I have fond memories of most of these old Apple games)… the one you want (I’m pretty sure) is Law of the West

  25. Mike says:

    That would be the game ‘Law of the West’. Just booted ‘er up to refresh my memory. I remember playing this one back in the day!

  26. Erin says:

    The first encounter I ever had with the Apple IIe was in elementary school and I LOVED the educational games that we’d play! The was one called something like King’s Rule and another had something to do with Safari – can anyone help me out with names? I’m pretty sure they were both math-based and amazing!

  27. Howard says:

    HI I was wondering if someone could help me with finding a game since I have no luck on the internet finding it. I was wondering if someone could help me find a game called where in the usa is Carmen Sandiego for the Apple //e emaulator for windows.
    thanks for the help and have a great day.

  28. Howard says:

    HI I was wondering if someone could help me with finding a game since I have no luck on the internet finding it. I was wondering if someone could help me find a game called where in the usa is Carmen Sandiego for the Apple //e emaulator for windows.
    thanks for the help and have a great day.

  29. Damon says:

    I am fruitlessly digging for an old PC game I used to play in the 80s. It was a two-floppy game and I believe the title of it was Odyssey. I have searched and searched and can't even find a mention of it. You started on a main island and your character representation was a single person. Using arrow keys you walked around the island and when you encountered something it would ask you what you wanted to do. You could attack people, be attacked by people, find gear, visit the markets (marked as a plus sign, I think) and buy stuff. The object was to get to the top of the island, buy a ship and set sail. Then you loaded the ocean part. Sea monsters would attack, storms would force you to reef the sails, if you didn't have fruit men would die of scurvy. You visited several islands before making it to the final island where you had to have the right gear to get passed various obstacles. If you had enough men in your party you could just keep going through the obstacles and risk killing them off. Reach the castle and you win.

    This was a single screenshot game, no scrolling. All “action” was read in script form.

    Anyone got anything on this?

  30. christie says:

    i have a question….does anyone remember the old computer game that came out in the late 80s or 90s and your in a maze/labyrinth and you have to get through the walls…there's spiders and roses….its a strategy game?!?!?!….please help!!!!

  31. lilmama66oo says:

    i have a question…im looking for an old computer game where your in a maze or labyrinth and you have to get through the walls…maybe “spider rose” or something….its a strategy game…spiders etc … please help me!?!?!!?

  32. jonathan says:

    the review of bolo was unfair.
    i think bolo was probably the best game every made for a personal computer.
    sure it was challenging, but if you got into it, it was just the ultimate – the ultimate – fighting game.
    nothing compares.

    even today, there is no game that exists that compares to the sheer adrenalin and iq-challenge of this remarkably fun game.

  33. corey says:

    do any of you all remember the game “sneekers/sneakers/seekers”? it was out around the same time as many of the aforementioned games, with the object being just to move from side to side shooting enemies who came from above. i've looked everywhere for it, and can't find it. god it was great!

  34. Kogepan says:

    The Odyssey game was called Odyssey – The Compleat Adventure.

    Get the ROM from
    http://www.spy.org/zaurus/public/feed/games/app

  35. victoria1234 says:

    do any of you remember that old candy game where you were a soldier and you had to go save the princess and you could collect apples and candy i can't seem to find it anywhere i just remember playing it on my pc as a child with my friends

  36. valko99 says:

    Did you ever find out the name of that game?? Im looking for the same one i think.

  37. valko99 says:

    Please help! Im looking for this game I used to play and its driving me crazy that I cant figure it out. It was in the early 90's for Mac. I thought the name was Labyrinth but not the labyrinth game with a metal ball and wood board; It was like a maze you had to make your way through with obstacles. Please if you know let me know! THANKS.

  38. jackleope says:

    Corey:

    I've got Sneakers for the Apple IIgs. It uses the AppleWin emulator.

    -jackelope

  39. Matt says:

    Woot !
    Green Screen !
    Trip down memory lane.
    Taipan and Star Blazer – excellent games.
    Played them at school in the ‘computer lab’.
    Lets see.. edited first applesoft BASIC program in 1983 so that’s 27 years (22 in I.T. industry) with my face glued to monitors.
    No wonder my eyesight is stuffed.

    :)

  40. Dale says:

    How i loved the apple (i had the apple IIC+ 128k of power)

    Seeing that game aztec, brought back all the nerd rage from my past.
    I remember being banned from playing for yelling insanely at the dude to run faster from the aztec warrior, straight into the snake!
    What was the point of the game?
    Tipan as ok but i always got robbed in the port.
    One on one was awsome with the joy stick, even though you got hand cramps

  41. Gil Megidish says:

    Tony Suzuki is my childhood hero. He did both Star Blazer AND Alien Typhoon (which was my first game I ever played.) I have recently finished an Apple2 emulator for javascript (html5), you can find it at http://www.megidish.net/apple2js/ and it runs Alien Typhoon :) )))

  42. Joe Cincotta says:

    OMG – it’s like reading my own thoughts…