One of the great things I enjoy with the current generation Commodore 64 gaming scene is when an relatively unknown coder arrives with little or nil fanfare to provide a game title that is full of quality and passion. Chris Stanley did it last year with his debut C64 title, Exploding Fish and this year, we have Simon Jameson and Doc Cosmos.
Doc Cosmos is a flick screen platform game where you control Doc, on the search for a powerful alien device that is rumoured to allow the user to time travel. Upon touching down on the alien planet where the powerful device is said to be located, Doc sets off on his mission to explore the immediate area when to his surprise he quickly locates the time machine.
As Doc picks up the device, he is instantly switched across to a 1982 timeline where the landscape around him is quite different including the absence of the platform he was standing on and falls down into the underground complex within the planet.
Doc quickly realises that he is trapped and needs to find a way out by going around collecting keys and unlocking doors in order to get back to the rocket ship. But more importantly, Doc understands that the device he has just picked up allows him to switch back and forward between the current day timeline and the 1982 timeline and that this will be a key to his success to escape the planet.
Switching between the two timelines not only changes the graphical and music style of the game but it also influences the way the game is played. The current day timeline allows you to control Doc using responsive jumping controls but with a shorter horizontal jump distance while the 1982 timeline allows Doc to jump longer distances but only in the one flat trajectory.
Switching between the two timelines also alters the features found within the game environment as you will find that the current day timeline will feature platforms and bridges not found in the 1982 timeline while the earlier environment will often uncover ladders that are otherwise not visible in the current timeline.
But beware, the alien device used to change between timelines requires power and that each switch comes at a cost of using up one of the three available power cells. Run out of power cells and you are stuck in the current timeline.
Luckily the underground complex contains many power consoles that allow you to fully recharge the time switching device and so your objective of finding keys and unlocking barriers needs to be balanced with managing your power cells so you have the ability to shift to the right timeline as needed.
Doc Cosmos looks, plays and performs very well. The shifting from one timeline to the other is seamless and the control of your character in either timeline is spot on. The game’s graphics in the present day timeline are bright and quite well defined and I really grew to appreciate that the game’s music instantly changes along with the timeline shifts.
The game’s difficulty setting is well balanced. There are no pixel perfect jumps or the need to make blind jumps into other screens to progress. It is a very well designed game.
Doc Cosmos is available as a digital download from Simon Jameson’s Itch.Io page and I would encourage you to head on and grab a copy, even those of you who are tired of platform games. Well done Simon for coming up with a clever twist on a tired genre and I look forward to seeing more episode of Doc Cosmos in the near future.
To see the game in action, take a look at the video game review below.
Innovative & very well performing game that revitalises a tired genre & sets a benchmark for homebrew developers looking to produce future platform explorer type games on the C64
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Contributes to RetroGamerNation YouTube channel, RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Reset 64 Magazine, The 8-Bit Annual and various other publications.