Super Bread Box is a conversion of the 2010 indie game Super Crate Box. I guessing that the Bread Box part of the title refers to the original model of the C64, which was sometimes nicknamed “the bread bin” (because of its rather boxy beige appearance). First published by Vlambeer for the PC, Mac, iOS, Ouya and PS Vita it was down to Paul Koller bring it to the C64. The first version was cut-down to fit on to a 16 Kilobytes cartridge for the Game Development Competition. Since then it has been upgraded to include all the original features of the game, as well as some nice bonus additional levels and playable characters. It’s available as either a cartridge or downloadable in cartridge format image (.CRT file), which you can use either via emulation or flash card reader devices (e.g. the 1541 Ultimate Mark II) for the C64. There’s no tape or floppy disk version, as the game requires some of the cartridge ROM space to utilise as extra memory in order for the game to work.
Enough of the history lesson, what is this game actually like? It’s a sort variation of a platform game. There are six levels: Construction Yard, Rocket Silo, Moon Temple, Mountain Cave, Space Freighter and Office Tower. Enemy creatures appear from an opening at the top of each level and travel down to the bottom, where there is a firepit; if they fall in, then they reappear at the top of the screen and move even faster. They have three forms: small, large and flying! Your character has to avoid contact with them, as well as collect crates which appear randomly all over the level. In each crate is a different weapon. These are part of the key to your success in the game, for they each have different effects. Knowing what these are helps with your survival. The weapons and their various effects are as follows:
-Pistol – which is simple but relatively effective gun
-Double pistols – for shooting in both directions horizontally
-Revolver – a variation on the pistol and much more powerful
-Machine gun – which has a rapid rate of fire
-Shotgun – which has a little more firepower but needs a certain amount of time to reload between shots
-Minigun – which is powerful, but does have a recoil effect on you
-Bazooka – which causes some massive explosions
-Grenade launcher – for some more explosive fun
-Mines – be careful with these
-Disc gun – which fires a projectile disc that rebounds off of the walls
-Flamethrower – to toast your enemies
-Katana – a type of sword, which means you have to get in close for the kill
-Laser rifle – for zapping your enemies
Collecting more crates unlocks the different weapons and also new characters for you to choose. The gameplay is fast and unrelenting. The challenge here is set quite high, you can’t for example, just stick with a powerful weapon, you have to collect another crate to progress and that might mean having to use a weaker weapon that is inside the next crate that you pick-up. Nevertheless, there is an addictive quality with trying to outdo your high score, also unlocking new features really adds something as well. Multiplayer would have been nice, but you can’t have everything!
One of the most interesting aspects of the game is the fact that you can save your high score via a passcode system and then upload that online (via an internet capable device, the C64 can do many things, but that might be a bit tricky for it!). Alternatively, you can save it to floppy disk. The game also records other statistics, for example, things like total kills, crates collects and total number of deaths.
Quite a technical achievement has been accomplished here, managing to fit most of the features from the original game, as well as a few additions. The graphics, which whilst they were never going to match the original’s visual splendour, are rendered quite well given the technical limitations on hand. The scrolling is pretty good, only a little slowdown occurs when explosions are caused. On NTSC machines there is a little bit of slowdown due to the NTSC machines have less CPU power for screen refreshes, it is a minor quibble however. The game is NTSC compatible, but perhaps more designed in mind for PAL systems. The sound effects are good, but it is the music that stands out with quite a catchy little tune playing through the SID chip.
Super Bread Box is a unique addition to the C64’s homebrew library, converting a modern day indie game is a bit unusual after all. If your prepared to put up with the tough toil of the game’s difficulty then you’ll be rewarded, for there is a polished addictive game here. Who knew that boxes could be so much fun?