One of my first experiences of games was thanks to Nintendo's pocket Game & Watch series. My mum bought me a game called Ball - for 50p from our local Oxfam charity shop - where you simply had to juggle balls and not drop any. A very simple, but addictive game and I was none the wiser at the time that the game would be come very valuable, fetching hundreds of pounds in the future! There were quite a range of Game & Watch titles available, but as consoles and gaming evolved, these little LCD games became cheap giveaways in fast food restaurants.
As a tribute over the years though, Nintendo didn't forget their roots and released a series of compilation packages on the likes of the Gameboy which contained some of the popular Game & Watch titles recreated and on the PC there are a series of emulators which try and recreate the look and feel of the games. Now the VIC 20 has been subject of a Game & Watch conversion with its own rendition of one of early titles: Parachute, an 8K conversion for the VIC 20.
The aim of the game is extremely simple, as with the original; you control a man in a boat out at sea and at the top right of the screen is a helecopter which has a series of parachutists jumping out. Moving only left and right using "Z" and "M" on the keyboard, you must attempt to catch them before they hit the sea. If you miss any, they will get eaten by a shark and you get a "Miss" marked against you and you're only are allowed three before its game over. If you reach 200 and 500 points respectively, your misses are wiped clean and a bonus is awarded.
OVER THE SEAS IN ALL DEGREES
Things start off very simple where you get one person at a time jumping out, but things become challenging when the game gradually starts to increase in speed and also in the amount of people you must rush around and catch at any one time. Trying to catch one person then the next is really a case of moving quickly and accurately - one false move and its a parachutist lost! Although a very startingly simple concept, it is fun to play on a similiar level to Kaboom on the Atari VCS.
Graphically the game is brilliant and the pixelled graphics are fairly close if not spot on to the Gameboy gallery version, though stretched by the VIC 20's resolution. You additionally get an extra splash of colour with the VIC but have the nice touch of being able to switch between colour or black & white for the complete experience. Animation is poor, but this is to be expected because of the nature of the game and it can't be marked down for this. Overall presentation of the game is kept simple but clean and functional, with the main game screen replicated with some options on top. The watch functions are obviously not present, but is only a point to make for the completists out there!
Sonically the game features some original tunes as a bonus to the original game, along with some sound effects which do a great job of representing the Game & Watch original blips and blops. Although not bad, the main tune sadly begins to grate quite quickly, although this disappears when playing the game. For a bit of variety, you get the original two game modes, Game A and B; Game A is the standard saving parachutists whilst Game B is the same, but people who fall on the right hand side of the screen can become stuck in the tree - the parachutist swings and eventually gets free for you to then catch, at a random interval, which the author explains was not as the original game worked.
Overall, VIC 20 Parachute is a wonderful emulation of the classic Game & Watch game. It's not spot-on perfect, but it does a great job of trying to imitate the original hardware. Additionally it is not a game which will capture your attention for many hours, but provides a fun excursion and also a nostalgic trip if you grew up with the Game & Watch series like myself. But you may surprise yourself after a few games and notice time whirl away as you try and hit 500 points. The good news is that this may be one of many Game & Watch conversions to come from the author so maybe a long overdue Ball conversion could happen?