BBC Micro Game Reviews

BBC Micro Game Reviews - taking a look at beeb games from the past. And not necessarily the popular ones! I particularly like type-ins and oddities.

BBC Micro Game Review: "Bird Strike"

Submitted by Ben on Sun, 02/05/2017 - 17:25

Strange-yet-unremarkable WWI pigeon-killing simulator.

Bird Strike, BBC

One of the wonderful things about 8-bit games is the fact that people were making up game mechanics on the go, and had to somehow shoehorn a plot into whatever crazy idea they thought might make a good game. This game is a bit of a case in point.

So... It's World War One. You have some sort of anti-aircraft gun. You are dive-bombed by a series of planes. Once you have hit a plane, a carrier pigeon is released. You must hit and kill the pigeon. For each pigeon you manage to nail, a musical note is filled in on the musical stave at the top of the screen. Once you complete the musical phrase, you are rewarded with a rendition of the music, and taken to the next level.

So it's weird. But it's also incredibly unsatisfying, because it has one mechanic, which is shooting a plane, then shooting a pigeon. And the only change from level to level seems to be that you have to fill in longer and longer lines of music.

Musical lines in Bird Strike

The planes might get faster; I didn't stay to find out. It's a shame, really, because the original idea is so odd, you wish they'd taken it and run with it to create something completely bizarre. But in another way it's reminiscent of later games which require timing to build music tunes, like Boom Boom Rocket. Perhaps that's the sort of thing which they were reaching for. One thing I thought was quite clever was the interesting use of the town and mountains to create a mild perspective effect.

In the end, unfortunately, it's just the same thing, over and over again. And so:

Two out of Five.

Cascade 50: Noughts and Crosses ?!

Submitted by Ben on Thu, 08/08/2013 - 07:53

Right, so I fired up my tape drive, and up next, we seemed to be loading “NOU”. The only thing I could think of was the word “Nougat”. Had Cascade somehow contrived to create a game based on confectionery? It was one hell of a long tape load, so I was expecting greatness. Oh, Cascade how you taunt me with omens of goodness!

Well, here was what loaded up:

Noughts and Crosses?

Do you see what I have to contend with here? I can see no good reason why they couldn’t have taken Y or N as inputs. In fact with the space saved by removing the line “ANSWER YES OR NO PLEASE:” from the code, we could have added IF LEFT$(INPUT$,1) = “Y” and we all would have been happy. But no.

This is a game of noughts and crosses. With potentially reasonable AI! So, stalemate! Would I like another go, well, “Y”, I would:


Guess they couldn’t be bothered to put in another “YES OR NO PLEASE” routine.

Cascade 50: Psion Attack

Submitted by Ben on Sun, 08/04/2013 - 19:29

Judging from the main menu, Psion attack doesn’t know whether it’s called Psion Attack or Zion Attack, but I’m pretty sure it wants to be called Cylon Attack and they changed the name to avoid getting sued, because the one thing that looks like a sprite looks like one of those cylon things from Battlestar Galactica.

Personally, I would have liked it to be called Zion Attack, because that would be topical and potentially edgy, although I suppose now “The Matrix” has poisoned that particular well.

But, oh dear dear dear:

Cascade 50 Psion Attack

I knew there was a problem when the tape load was only six blocks long. The game involves guessing how far away the Ps/Z/C(y/i) lon is from you. If you get the guess wrong, the Ps/Z/C(y/i) lon bad guy gets closer.

Or at least, it’s supposed to, but I don’t think it does. You get a point for each guess. This game would be basic even for a magazine type-in. It probably *was* a magazine type-in at some point, the sort of thing the authors of “100 Simple BASIC Games for your BBC Micro” would have been embarrassed to include.

So, in summary, this is even more classic Cassette 50!

Cascade 50: Galactic Dogfight

Submitted by Ben on Fri, 08/02/2013 - 18:35

What the? What fresh hell is this? For the love of all that’s holy!

Cascade 50 - Galactic Dogfight

Okay, I’m really starting to believe that Cascade have made a point of interspersing stinkers with playable(ish) games. I was going to call this a steaming pile of ordure, but there’s not enough here to make a pile. It’s like a very small sample of ordure.

Two ships whizz around the screen (randomly). You have each got one button (for this is a multiplayer game), and when you press it, you fire in all directions.

I struggled with this for all of two minutes before the game informed me “You have crashed”. No “Player 1” or “Player 2”, so goodness knows which of my players won, it didn’t tell me, and the crazy flickering graphics (no waiting for the refresh cycle here!) made it impossible to tell what was going on anyway. Yikes!



Cascade 50: Attacker

Submitted by Ben on Thu, 08/01/2013 - 18:32

Ah, thank goodness! Another playable game!

Cascade 50 Attacker

In attacker, your bomber loops around above these skyscrapers, getting lower, line by line. You have to bomb the skyscrapers in order to avoid hitting them. You have to bomb them all in order to land.

This is a really great game, it’s simple and fun, and I’m sure many of you will have played something similar (or identical) in the past. There may be stinkers like “Star Trek” on the Cassette 50, but then there are beauties like this. No, it’s not sophisticated. Yes, it’s written in BASIC. But it’s good.

Cascade 50: Star Trek?

Submitted by Ben on Wed, 07/31/2013 - 15:11

Okay, now game number four ought to be something else, but my “tape” has obvious faults on it, and I’ve been struggling with the dreaded “Rewind Tape” message, eventually something loaded. Here it is!

Star Trek?

Oh, good god it’s a Star Trek game. Right, well let me be honest. I could work out how to move, but I couldn’t figure out how the in-game “maps” related to the coordinates I was entering, and I had no idea if I had come across any Klingons. No idea. It just felt like I was moving around at random (in this delightful text mode interface so reminiscent of our last game) and nothing was happening!

Also, someone forgot to put the equivalent of an “Else” into the menu system, so if you press return without entering a command, the game quits. Brilliant work guys!

This is another dog of a game! Something good next please!

On a more serious note, I hope this isn’t the only tape image of the BBC Cascade Cassette floating around the internet, because it’s pants.It seriously makes me want to start a digital archive devoted to tape images. It’s so much more fun when you have to sit through the loading process like back in the day, it’s the only authentic way to do it, and if all the tape images are borked, no-one will be able to do it.


Cascade 50: Space Mission

Submitted by Ben on Mon, 07/29/2013 - 15:06

Alright! This was the first true stinker that I’ve encountered! This is a one-button game where you have to hit the space bar before a random number generator decides that a planet has blown up. If enough fuel has been loaded before you hit space, your rocket flies off the top of the screen. I’m guessing that this game could randomly kill you at any point.

As you can see, I turned it off pretty quickly, as it’s barely even a game! Ah, well, this is the beauty of the Cascade Cassette 50!

Cascade 50: Galactic Attack

Submitted by Ben on Sun, 07/28/2013 - 15:00

Hi everyone! Here’s a video of me playing number 2, GALACTIC ATTACK! This is a good game! If there are more like this, I’ll have to revise my assessment of the Cascade tape. I originally played the C64 version, which was *alright*, but it could be that as the games were apparently bought from the public via magazine adverts, the BBC version is a little better, as BBC owners tended to be a bit more technical, perhaps?

Anyhow, this is like a sort of 2D version of Star Raiders, it’s clever, and I played it for a bit!

Cascade 50: Maze Eater

Submitted by Ben on Fri, 07/26/2013 - 14:55

Okay, right! So let’s go, I’ve chosen the BBC Micro version of the Cascade Cassette 50, loaded it into my tape drive, *TAPE, and LOAD"“.

First up, is, apparently, "MAZE EATER”:

Maze Eater

Hmm, okay, this looks moderately familiar. It appears to be a very basic version of Pacman, with no pills, and tiny flickering graphics. Actually, it did keep me playing for all of two minutes, so it’s not an entire waste. Sadly the gameplay doesn’t seem to go much beyond the stilted, slow movement around this maze, and the ghosts appear to have an AI system which only allows them to move towards me in the most obvious way, I think it’s a shortest-path algorithm.

That said, they nailed me once there were about four of them. Sadly, not engaged with this one, so on to the next game tomorrow…..

Cowboy Bandits

Submitted by Ben on Sun, 06/09/2013 - 21:44

Brill-Fun Bank-Raiding Shooter

I got this game on one of a set of floppies which came with a BBC B that I bought a while ago. Now, I appreciate that the title screen says “Bandit” and that there is no record anywhere online of a game called “Cowboy Bandits”, but in homage to the person who created the boot menu for that floppy, I’m reviewing it as such. Sadly, Acornsoft does not agree with my appellation:

Bandits Title Screen

You know, by pluralising the name there, they could have made the loading screen vaguely symmetrical. But Bandit or Bandits, I reckon “Cowboy Bandits” is loads better. So - the premise: You are a sheriff or something. A bunch of bandits are trying to break into a bank! You must shoot them!

In practice, it works like this: The bandits start on the left and right of the screen, and you’re at the bottom, shooting upwards a la Invaders. The bandits slowly creep towards the bank, which consists of a series of walls at the centre of which are some bags of cash. You must try to prevent the bandits from removing the walls, by killing them. Here’s how it looks:

More Bandits

There are a couple of things worth pointing out here. Those cacti are like bases in invaders. The bandits are shooting back at you, and it’s handy to hide behind the plants until they get blown to bits. That odd-looking striped red and yellow thing - well - I don’t know what it is, but it blocks your access to the bandits by following you around, and it fires at you too. Damned annoying.

Every so often, another inexplicable element in the game appears - it looks bizarrely like a greek “pathos” mask, or the mask from “V for Vendetta”. I have no way of explaining this in terms of the plot, but I haven’t managed to shoot the damned thing yet, so I don’t know what it does.

Occasionally, one of the bandits will get a move on, and leg it at top speed towards the jail, repeatedly removing bits of wall. These guys are a right pain in the posterior, and you have to shoot them sharpish.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this game. It came as a welcome relief after the drudgery of April Showers, and I commend it to you all as a great waste of time.

Four out of Five