Thursday, June 16, 2016

LOAD "*" , 8 , 1

Those of you born after the mid 1980s may find it hard to believe, but back in the 1980s the Commodore 64 was a pretty awesome gaming machine.  One of my friends had a cousin in the Air Force who was stationed in Greenland or some such place and had a C-64 with him there.  I guess it was to fight the Russians with, but who knows?  It seems the there wasn't much to do in Greenland though what with all the ice and such, so they played a lot of computer games up there, most of them pirated.  This piracy benefited the American homeland though because several times a year, a shoebox filled with 5.25" floppy disks would arrive at my friend's house.  Each of these disks would be crammed full of games.  Many a Friday night (when we weren't playing Dungeons and Dragons) was spent with four of us huddled around my friend's Commodore 64 trying out all of these wondrous new games.  Of course we had no instructions for any of them, so beyond any on screen clues we may have had we were on our own as far as figuring out how to play.
An impressive opening screen for the 19080s
One of the games that arrived was a game from the impressively named software company ULTIMATE PLAY THE GAME called The Staff of Karnath.  It was an isometric side-scroller where you played some sort of wizard in a castle trying to collect the pieces of a magical pentacle.  You had a number of spells with names like Forthrin and Umphalos, all of which seemed to shoot the same missile out of your hands.  Of course the spells all did something different, and this was no doubt done to thwart potential pirates.  Cough, cough.  The castle was full of all sorts of enemies such was suits of animated armor, witches on brooms, a troll, a floating skull, some weird hopping guy, and many others.  We died a lot, and we only ever figured out that the Forthin spell was the main attack spell.  Beyond that the mystic arts eluded us.  In any case, we played this game a lot without ever getting anywhere, but that didn't really diminish the fun, rather it increased it.  
Beware the skull!
The joy of discovery when we figured out how to play one of these mysterious games (many of which we had never heard of before), was huge.  Those were some good times, and those games, while simplistic by today's standards were still pretty awesome.  The Commodore 64 has passed into history, but it will always have a special place in my heart.  As an aside, I came across a long-play video of the Staff of Karnath on youtube and have included it here in case anyone is interested.

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