Very early in the 1980's, Imagine software kicked off by selling this game. Hard to imagine now, but the author became very wealthy from this. It was released on multiple platforms (which probably accounts for some of the success), as well as a very infantile market for computer games. In any case, Imagine should have stuck to making crude games. They ended up over-extending themselves trying to make a "megagame" that was to be called "Bandersnatch", and went spectacularly bankrupt. The game itself never saw release, and the whole farce was catalogued in a rather historic BBC documentary called "Commercial Breaks" which you can still find if you search the internet for the video.
Now, enough of the history lesson, and all about Arcadia 64.... I remember loading this one from cassette back in the day. It took about 10 minutes to load (no fastloader), and possibly because of that I valued playing the game more than I would have. Time has not been kind at all!
There's no plot really to speak of. You pilot the ship Arcadia, and have to blast rounds of aliens which parade across the screen and drop bombs down at you. Gameplay itself is somewhat reminiscent of a classic Apple II game from 1981 called "Sneakers" (which was incidentally written by the same guy who went on to make Mortal Kombat).
Different rounds produce a different enemy sprite to shoot at and a different attack pattern, not too unlike many games of the era. Unlike the many early shooters, your ship can actually move up-screen too, but with one caveat. There seems to be some magical gravity that drags you back to the bottom of the screen unless you keep pushing up on the joystick. Unfortunately you will be pushing up-screen very often as your bombs don't go very far to begin with.
In addition to this annoyance, controlling the ship sideways is as slippery as pushing banana skin around on ice. It's as if your digital joystick is dreaming in analogue. The combination of loose controls, annoying gravity, and a hailstorm of enemy fire results in a lot of frustration and death (but at least the explosion sequence is pretty).
If that wasn't bad enough, the enemy sprites flicker more than the ghosts in the ugly Atari 2600 version of "Pacman". You can tell that the author tried to develop a sprite multiplexor to get around the C64's eight sprite limit, but failed rather miserably. All the sprites are rather ugly too and not much to look at. To add injury to insult, the action even occurs all over the scoreboard display, which obfuscates it and it gets in your way of your playing the game.
Sound is particularly atrocious. Every round begins with an annoying ditty, and in-game sound effects consist of bleeps every time you fire your lasers. To make it all the more horrible, there is a grating white-noise effect played every time you thrust up screen (which is very often) or explode. It's as if there's a rainstorm going on inside your C64. I strongly suggest turning the sound off entirely.
In short, the game is quite horrible. It screams "I am dated" at you. It may have been passable at the time, but there's really no excuse to play it now, if only for nostalgia. It's only redeeming feature is to challenge you to reach higher levels to see all the enemy sprites (if that's your thing), and if you can deal with the frustration, the controls, and the sound, you may extract some pleasure from the game. Everyone else will wish that they could have made a million pounds from selling stuff like this in 1983.
|GRAPHICS - 2/10|
|Flickering sprites and minimal graphics. Nice explosion when you die though (you'll get used to seeing it a lot).|
|SOUND - 1/10|
|Annoying in-game ditty, bleeps, and a splashing white-noise sound. Turn it off!|
|PLAYABILITY - 4/10|
|Mildly playable and challenging if you can manage to learn to control your ship. Frustration and boredom will kick in eventually though. |
|OVERALL - 3/10|
|Very early game that makes minimal use of the C64's sound and graphics features... and it's quite horrible.|