“ Website dedicated to downloading and playing old BBC games „
According to the Oxford English Dictionary nostalgia [noun] is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.
According to Robert Orben (comedy writer) "Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson. You find the present tense and the past perfect."
According to me nostalgia is a pain in the butt - it gives you an overwhelming desire to recreate something from the past with no way to actually do it. Kinda like the feeling you get when you loan out a book you haven't read for years and the second it leaves your possession your thoughts are consumed with the desire to read it.
Well, I was to suffer a nasty bout of nostalgia when a family conversation turned to the wonderful old computer games of the past from before my age even hit double figures. That's right - on the amazing Acorn BBC micro machine where games were loaded from ROM, were mostly text-based with vector graphics and had up to an astounding 16KB memory for usage. This did go up to a whopping 1MB by 1987 - go progress! But compared to today's show off standards of 3D graphics, multiple controllers, simulated physics, motion detectors, a movie like plot with a composed score by John Williams, epic explosions and gunfights...what was my point? Oh yes, compared to all that these games will always remain awesome.
I thought I would escape this nostalgic conversation without too much residual feeling of annoyance, but then we hit upon one game we realised we never finished all those years ago - "Castle of Riddles". How could we have allowed such a fiendish game to defeat us all those years ago - what were we, mere mortals? The burning desire to rectify this past oversight became too unbearable and I made it my life's mission to find away to play this game again - I knew it would be difficult, could even kill me, but for sanity's sake I had to try. With buying a BBC machine and "Castle of Riddles" tape an unlikely if not utterly ridiculous plan, I regrouped and decided a Google search could be the place to start.
Where to begin on this epic task....? I tried typing "Castle of Riddles PC" and I came up with the website www.bbcmicrogames.com which fortuitously solved all my problems. Huh...that was easy.
This is a very simple website, but for such a purpose as mine in mind it is an exceptionally useful one! It's fairly basic to look at with a few lines of text here and there plus screen shots from various games so could be easily overlooked, but is incredibly easy to navigate and is just a brilliant resource. On this website is everything you require to play one of these terrible, yet equally brilliant games from the 1980s.
First things first you need to download a piece of software that will allow all the old coding to run on your PC. This is ridiculously easy, there is a page on the website which will talk you through it in 3 easy steps:
* No. 1 - download an emulator. You can choose from a number of emulators suggested by the website author, or just click on a link of the author's preferred emulator BeebEm which will automatically allow you to save an exe file which takes about 20secs to download.
* No. 2 - download a game.
* No. 3 - how to load your game and start playing.
So once you have your emulator downloaded you have the tricky decision of what games to choose from an awesome array on the website. Naturally I went for Castle of Riddles straight away which loaded and began working without a hitch - in my elation I jumped up and did a little happy dance which fortunately only the cat saw...it was only mildly traumatised. Within 1 minute of playing the game with memories flooding back I had died my first gruesome death by being eaten by a Warlock Spider, one of many deaths in the next 30mins. How could I have forgotten how evil this game was? Stupid nostalgia.
But if Castle of Riddles isn't your thing you can choose from all sorts of games from the manufacturers Acornsoft, Superior Software, Micropower and other classic sources. From Acornsoft there's arcade type games like a version of PacMan, Meteors, Labyrinth, the break-through game at the time Elite and adventure games like Philosopher's Quest, Sphinx Adventure, Countdown to Doom etc.
For games with much improved graphics from Superior Software and Micropower you can find a lot of arcade games such as Hunchback, Overdrive - one of the first racing games (in a straight line only!), Thrust, Stryker's Run and some very cool adventure games like Citadel and Ravenskull, Eldorado Gold and Castle Quest as well as games like Chess - the list goes on and on. With well over 50 games to choose from on this site and links to other sites which contain more games if you so require then if you have a specific game from the past in mind you probably will be able to find it on this site.
Once you have picked your game(s), for which the majority have useful little descriptions by the website's author, you can save the img file in a location of your choice. Then to play the game, open up the emulator you saved and, in the example of having downloaded the suggested BeebEm emulator, click under the File menu Load Disc 0, then locate your img file and double click, then click Shift+F12 and the game will load and away you go. Easy peasy! The games do run painfully slowly at times, but you can't have everything in life!
Despite how basic these games are, the programmers were terrifically talented given the extreme limitations of memory that they had to deal with back then. To have created so many challenging and addictively fun games back in the 1980s for an 8-bit machine with for the majority of games only 16KB-32KB of memory to play with was exceptional!
The only really disappointment came with the fact we cannot get access to the utterly awesome game that was Granny's Garden which was a grand mixture of puzzles, logic, maths and spelling tests (great for children) due to the meanies at 4Mation exercising their copyright muscles and forbidding the distribution of this game!
So, if you remember any games from this 1980s era and have this stupid urge to play them even though they are so ridiculously basic and with dreadful graphics and awkward gameplay by comparison to today's games then I suggest you look at this brilliant little website as it will allow you to get up and running in just a couple of minutes. Oh...and the best part is it's all free!
A serious thanks must go to the website author Oliver Robinson for devoting so much time in converting all these games for PC use so us nostalgia suffers can finally get some peace. You have my eternal gratitude...or at least until I get bored.