two Commodore 64 games
by steve harter

carefully, you lean out into the hallway. looks clear. eerie, how there's no sound. with so many creatures near, you'd think you would hear something. they're just waiting for you, probably, hunched over an illegal dice game, or digging through a garbage can for scraps of food.

brown monkeyyou need to catch one more spar to move on to the next level. now you can hear one whirling down the hall. well, no choice really--better move. you run down the hall, looking down each hallway you pass. trouble. one hall harbors a group of dangerous monkeys. a particularly nasty one looks up and stares right into your eyes. you see him reach for his gun. panicked, but trying to look cool, you fire a few blind shots and move on, sweating. they're on your tail now, no doubt about it.

just when you think you've got them licked, you run almost head-on into a blue rubberhead. it bellows in anger. no time to shoot. you duck down a hall. there's the spar. you can hear the rubberhead screaming behind you as it starts to shoot. but you've won this round--on to the next level of "crossroads."

blue fleacrossroads and its sequel, crossroads II: pandemonium, are two of the most satisfying and playable games for commodore's c64, but they have only ever been published as lines of machine language in compute!'s gazette, an off-shoot of the computer gaming magazine compute! which specifically covered commodore 64 gaming and programming. the original game appeared in the december 1987 issue, and its sequel was printed a year later in december 1988.

crossroads is an overhead shooting game for one or two players. the player is placed in a maze filled with creatures and asked to collect whirling "shield spars." collecting five will advance the player to the next level, and each grants the player immunity to one enemy shot.

red human mutantthis game, however, is emphatic about treating the player as "just another creature." any creature in the maze can, for example, collect the aforementioned shield spars, and receive the same bonus bestowed upon the player. to return a collected spar to the maze, the creature who collected it (even if that creature is a player) must be killed, either by a player or by another creature.




the creatures all have alliances and enemies of their own. orange lions and brown monkeys, for example, will never fight. blue rubberheads and purple rubberheads are enemies, and will fight if exposed to each other. often, successful strategy will be to leave the enemies of one creature alive if that creature is overrepresented in the maze.

each creature is driven by its own little bit of artificial intelligence: creatures will attack their enemies, seek out spars, and avoid your shots. often there will be a huge number of enemies on the screen, all simultaneously moving and interacting with one another. as the number of creatures onscreen dwindles, the speed of the creatures increases. (demo video of gameplay - requires divx.)

the sequel, pandemonium, increased the number of maze creatures from nine to sixteen, and introduced characters like the green vacuum, who can suck up any creature and destroy it instantly, and the pink mutants, who can combine into a stronger creature. additionally, there are colored spars which convey new abilities on the creature - player or otherwise - that collects them. creatures also appear continuously, rather than in one lump at the beginning of a stage - ensuring that the maze will never be empty. there are new mazes as well, which combine open arena areas with labyrinths of twisting corridors - indicative of the fact that the second game is more balanced than the first.




playing crossroads

first you'll need to get the game running. if you don't have a commodore 64, the easiest solution is to use an emulator such as VICE (i use winVICE). you'll also need to download disk images: for crossroads or for crossroads II.

orange lionthe game is played with the joystick (the joystick in port 2, in a one-player game). the joystick button fires. F5 will pause and unpause the game, and F1 and F3 will cycle the colors of player 1 and player 2 respectively (in pandemonium, this must be done while paused). on the original game's demo screen, pressing the numbers one through nine will populate the maze with creatures (this is a good way to deduce alliances). in crossroads II, pressing F7 will generate a new demo screen, with a different maze and different set of creatures.

purple rubberheadkeep in mind that creatures and bullets leaving one edge of the screen will warp around to the opposite (the mazes resemble pac-man labyrinths reimagined as death-match arenas). if you're not careful, you can shoot yourself - or you can set up walls of moving bullets to delay enemies. also remember that some enemies have special characteristics: rubberheads (blue and purple in the first game, purple and green in the second) reflect bullets if they are not shot from the front.



CODE (SCANNED): 1 - 2 - 3 - 4