Zippy the Porcupine

A two year old game on a 39 year old console? Only on Load/Error!

Let me set the scene.  Once upon a time, there was a gentleman called Chris Spry. Chris loved gaming, just like the rest of us. It was his passion, and it was his hobby. However, Chris wasn’t into games like Titanfall 2 and Final Fantasy 15…. he loved retro games.

One day, Chris was dashing through the seventh level of Sonic 2 on his Genesis (Mega Drive to us non-Americans) and as the machine’s “blast processing” powered him around at an insane speed he thought to himself: “wouldn’t it be great to be able to play Sonic with a Joystick on the Atari 2600?”

Woah. Stop. Back the F up. How on EARTH can one guy start with nothing but an idea and a pocketful of dreams build a functional tribute to Sonic on an ATARI??  Hard work, dedication… and probably a lot of coffee?  It must have taken months of programming, testing and tweaking….. Squeezing every last bit of juice from the very limited hardware.  128 bytes of RAM was all the old girl had!  But he’s managed it.  And against all odds, it was TOTALLY worth the effort!

zippy3

Of course, the game will be available to download somewhere on the internet, meaning you can sample the fruits of Chris’ labour in an emulator. But that’s the easy road. I like to do things a little differently!

Thanks to AtariAge.com, Chris’ hard work has been made into a legitimate, 64 Kilobyte Atari cartridge!! Released in late 2014, it comes with it’s own artwork and beautiful instruction manual, and both look like they’ve been dug up from the summer of 1987.

Zippy (not Sonic, remember?) Even has his own backstory, he fell asleep on a strange ship, woke up in an unfamiliar place and spotted a moustached man escaping with power gems from his home!  Time for a bit of search and rescue, then.

zippy1

I was like a kid at Christmas booting this game up on my Woody – curiosity and excitement peaked as I saw the title screen, the presentation was on point, at least!

The game features sixteen different stages, and you can choose one at will, via a neat selection screen. Levels are named and based on original Sonic zones, and they’re really well designed. Yes, the famous loop-de-loops are present and correct! The same goes for the power-ups, spin dashes, rings, and even the little spinning finishing post at the end of each level. Everything a fan of the blue hedgehog could want.

My highlight so far is the speed. This game moves faster than anything else I’ve played on the console. Zippy looks great, spins and jumps look exactly as they should and each level is full of secret areas, traps and baddies to smash. The game encourages you to explore, sometimes you have to find switches or move platforms to proceed.  While you’re dashing through these levels, there’s no stuttering/tearing of the backgrounds.  After seeing a lot of what the 2600 has to offer, this is really impressive!

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Second only to the superb speed and smooth gameplay is the sound.  The wonderful 8-bit rendition of the title screen music had me grinning ear-to-ear. The stages all have music, the well known “stage complete” jingle is here in all it’s glory…… I really couldn’t ask for anything else.

I’m led to believe there are 5 separate boss fights as you quest for those oh-so familiar emeralds (sorry, Power Gems!). I’m looking forward to getting that far.  I’m still getting used to using a joystick for control.  It’s a learning curve!

zippy4

This was quite an expensive addition to the games room, imported from America and all… But it’s a standout title in my collection, and proof-positive that if you fully commit to a project, however outlandish it may sound…. you can achieve some cracking results!

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