Retro gaming is like a time machine to me, it transports me back five, ten even thirty years into the past during the time it takes the game to load. Rockman from Mastertronic is no different. The game takes me back to the 8-year-old kid who just got a Datasette for his Commodore Vic20.
I’d got my Vic at Christmas in 1983 with Cosmic Cruncher and the brilliant conversion of Defender from Atarisoft on cartridge. It took a few of months to buy the Datasette but then the world of affordable Mastertronic titles became available.
Rockman was the first game I’d brought along with Duck Hunt on cassette. The unexpanded Vic20 had 3.5k to play with but Mastertronic always made use of the few kilobytes available.
Rockman is a Boulder Dash clone with puzzle, arcade and gravity elements. It was programmed by M+S Srebalius, M Srebalius also programmed the version for the Commodore 16 and also R.I.P for the unexpanded Vic20 all three were published by Mastertronic.
The aim of Rockman is to collect all the gems in 14 x 12 playfield with or without killing all the enemies in the process. Once collected you get to move to various levels all as tricky as the very first screen. Scoring takes place by clearing screens, killing enemies, collecting gems and generally being lucky.
The game supports Joystick and keys, had bold colourful graphics and unforgettable sound. Unforgettable by being incredibly annoying, ear-shattering but catchy all at the same time.
The game is really tough with limited time, falling rocks, Monsters with random movement and Blue Skulls all placed to cheaply relieve you of your five lives. Unfairness is hardcoded into the game, whether it be the automatic deaths when enemies were placed next to you or times when the random placement of items made the level impossible to complete for that life. This added to the charm in a masochistic kind of way.
Movement is laboured, too many key presses will lead to a certain death, the joystick control is even more fraught. Playing this on an emulator is even more difficult as keypresses can transfer to your next life. I’d recommend playing it on original hardware with an SD2IEC or even from tape. Even now it’s pretty cheap on eBay and it won’t cost much more than its original £1.99 price.
A modern remake does exist in Hamster jam which can be found at http://ovine.net/ which I heartily recommend.
A great Boulder Dash clone for the Commodore Vic20. The difficulty stops it from being a classic but a great budget game from Mastertronic that has that “one more go” gameplay.