Thursday, 12 April 2012

Impossible Mission - Commodore 64 - 1984

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Impossible Mission. Mmmmm. It’s been a game that has always been near the top of any chart of Commodore 64 games but I’ve never had any real desire to play it.  The screenshots always seemed a bit samey and plain to me but I was forced to give it a go because of this blog.

The plot involves someone called Elvin Atombender who is hacking into the world’s military computers in order to launch a missile attack. Why or against whom it doesn’t say.  It is estimated he will gain access to the launch codes in 6 (real-time) hours. Your character is a secret agent who has to infiltrate Elvin’s underground stronghold and apprehend him in his control centre before he has a chance to launch the missiles.  To gain access to the control centre you need a password, parts of which are scattered in various items of furniture over the base.

Elvin’s stronghold is set across 32 rooms connected by elevators.  The rooms are randomly located for every new game. Each room contains at least one security terminal and a series of platforms, some connected by lifts.  The platforms are populated by robots and some contain items of furniture.  To find the codes you need to search the items of furniture while evading the robots.  The time taken to search varies - wastepaper baskets take a second to search, bookcases take longer. 

There are two types of robot in the game.  The most common are those on the platforms and they have various patterns of movement – some stay still, some move in preset patterns, some move towards you when on their level, some have different movement speeds, some fire electric bolts.  All kill on contact. The second type of robot is a floating dark sphere.  This can move between platforms, either moving in a preset pattern or homing in on you.  You can also die by falling through holes in the bottom of the screen.  I am using the words ‘kill’ and ‘die’ but what actually happens is the game deducts 10 minutes from your remaining time instead of losing a life. 6 hours doesn’t look so generous now.

Inspiration from The Prisoner maybe?

After searching an item of furniture it disappears from the screen.  If you find anything it will be one of three things.  The first is a password that can be used in one of the security terminals in the room and will reset the lifts back to their original positions. The second is another password that can be used at the security terminals to disable all the robots in the room for a few moments.  More of these lift inits and snoozes (as they are called) can be earned in the code rooms by completing a musical puzzle.  The third item will be part of the password to gain access to Elvin’s control centre. 

A fireplace is the last place I would hide a password
Once you have searched all the items of furniture it is off to one of the elevator rooms to assemble the control room password. The password is broken up into pieces of what look like computer punch cards and need to be put together like a jigsaw.  Each card is broken into four pieces and once assembled provides a letter to the password.  This part sounds easier than it is because some parts seem to fit and look okay when in fact they are wrong.  I even had one part that fitted both the right and wrong way up – at first I couldn't work out why it wasn’t being accepted.  Once the password has been completed it is off to the control room to apprehend the evil Atombender.

The Control Centre password is complete...
...and Atombender is captured.  Well, until the sequel anyway.

Okay, that’s a lengthy description of what is essentially a quite simple part platform/part puzzle game. The first thing that strikes you is the quality of the sound effects and particularly the speech at the beginning of the game. Second are the graphics and animation of the main character.  There is none of the double pixel chunkiness prevalent on many Commodore 64 games and the character runs and somersaults smoothly and realistically. As already mentioned the rooms do look plain and samey but that does not detract from the game. The difficulty is set just right as is the balance between the platforming and puzzle.  Overall Impossible Mission is an excellent game and one that actually has an ending – are you listening Bounty Bob?

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