Following in the footsteps of C64anabalt by Paul Koller, a C64 game ported from iOS, we have Spike 64 Dislike, another iOS port for the C64, this time by David Eriksson.
Are we witnessing the start of a trend? Are these ‘de-makes’ – remakes from new systems to old – the scouts, surveying the terrain ahead before the arrival of the army not far behind?
I hope so, because there is something uniquely charming about people porting over games from modern platforms to old, so-called obsolete systems. It might remind people that while graphics and technology improves, gameplay remains the same, central component of what makes a great game. And in that respect the abilities of older systems such as the ZX Spectrum or C64 haven’t aged as much as people might think.
Spike C64 Dislike is a one-button score attack game of sorts, where you move a constantly bouncing ball as far as possible while avoiding various spikes in your path. The further you get the higher your score, gaining combo bonuses for passing spikes within the combo time limit.
That is, in essence, all there is to the game for better or worse. The iOS version has numerous options relating to speed and layout, which the C64 version lacks. It also has different graphical skins, including a retro skin, but not surprisingly Spike 64 Dislike sticks with its own authentic 8-bit skin.
And it is pretty comfortable in that skin too. The hi-res graphics are crisp and colourful but the lack of sound is a severe disappointment. Yes, it’s more important that the gameplay works but in the iOS version the sound plays an important element in ratcheting up the tension as you build a large combo and the lack of sound in the C64 version means the tension doesn’t quite build in the same manner.
Your combo bonus is represented in a bonus bar but it is impossible to know exactly how it is affecting your score without the combo bubbles that pop up in the original. The iOS version has the advantage of showing the points you gain as you pass each obstacle, but for whatever reason, possibly due to the limited power of the C64, this feature is missing in Spike 64 Dislike.
It doesn’t affect gameplay but when the aim of the game is to rack up as high a score as possible it’s frustrating when it is impossible to know the size of your combo (ooh er!).
Nonetheless there is room for nuance even in such a basic game and the key to racking up a decent sized score comes from your ability to time your ball movements so it bounces gracefully amongst the obstacles at a fast enough pace to keep the combo going.
While the aim is obviously to rack up as high a score as possible through the combo mechanic, a patient player can relatively easily ensure they don’t hit the obstacles and slowly but surely hit a big score. Nonetheless the combo game mechanic cleverly rewards high-risk play, luring the player into increasingly risky jumps. Whether you have that patience or not is another matter entirely, as I quickly found out.
Spike 64 Dislike doesn’t really hit the heights of the other C64/iOS port, C64anabalt (or the other C64 version, simply titled Canabalt) but this is as much down the source material than the quality of the port.
Spike Dislike is a simple idea, well implemented, but it is not as enjoyable as other score attack games of this ilk. Spike 64 Dislike is a very well done port, but has its own share of limitations on top of those inherited from the original.
Even though the C64 is a lot more primitive than an iPhone or iPad, it does have some advantages and it would be interesting to see the game take advantage of that, for instance through a two-player mode. While this would mean it’s not such a straight port, it might make up for the lack of bells and whistles that accompany the iOS original.
Spike 64 Dislike doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but that was never its intention. Crisp graphics and fun music help make it an enjoyable way to spend a bit of time, but the limited variety in gameplay shows why it’s more suited for bite-sized mobile gaming than an extended play on a home computer system like the C64.