A hat-trick contains three items, and this article looks back at three games from Capcom USA for the Commodore 64. Instead of the high-profile titles and coin-op conversions we all know, these are three that you may not have heard of. In fact all three started life as coin-ops by rival firm Bally Sente.
Videa was a development company formed by ex-Atari people, including Ed Rotberg. Its first arcade release Gridlee fared badly in test markets and Videa lost its distribution deal. With Atari founder Nolan Bushnell looking to launch his Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time restaurants, he needed arcade games to fill the locations. Bushnell invested in Videa and renamed it Sente (like Atari it is an expression from Go, meaning to have the initiative). It also led to a lawsuit from Atari, alleging Bushnell was breaking his non-competition clause signed during his departure from Atari. In return for dropping the suit, Atari got first rights to home versions of Sente games.
However, Chuck E. Cheese would soon find itself in financial trouble as it tried to expand too quickly. Bally took on the remains of Sente – although it was not long before Bally was looking to pull out of arcades. Bally Sente arcade games of that era used a cartridge system that predates the JAMMA standard – so cabinets could be changed between different games. Bally finally wound up its arcade division in 1988, licensing Capcom to create home versions of the last few Sente titles.
This ice hockey arcade game is well-known in North America. It featured a Zamboni clearing the ice between matches and fast moving gameplay. The later Team Hat-Trick was designed for four players, but was only tested in Canadian arcades.
So how did the C64 version fare? The main menu allows one or two players and a choice of difficulty levels. The view of the ice is from overhead, with a player and a goalie in each side (representing Team Blue or Team Red). When the player moves vertically, so the goalie moves too – which is crucial for saving shots. Cleverly the ice gets scratched over time, and the Zamboni does appear at the end of each game to smooth the ice. Best played in two-player mode.
Ice hockey fans should check out Hockey Mania from Protovision, which plays similarly to Hat-Trick – but it supports the four-player interface, allowing much more frantic action.
Mini-golf – sometimes called crazy golf – is a fun activity. This arcade game used a trackball to control the cursor players aimed with.
The C64 version does not support trackballs, so it uses an unusual control method. The aiming cursor circles around the ball, moving inwards in a spiral. If the player does not press fire to aim before the cursor reaches the ball, they forfeit a shot. Once aim is set, the power level is determined by moving left and right. Fire hits the shot. If you fail to complete the hole in par or below, it costs you one hole. When you run out of holes, you can continue once. There are 18 holes in total with a variety of hazards, including slopes, electric fields and loops. The overhead view works quite well but the aiming mechanism can be frustrating.
Note: not to be confused with Mini-Golf, developed by Magic Bytes and published by Gremlin, which was on sale at the same time as Capcom’s game… For the best miniature golf action on the C64 it has to be Mini Putt by Accolade, with four great courses packed with wacky obstacles.
There would be three games in the Stocker series for arcades. The original Stocker closely resembles Super Sprint, but with a bigger scrolling course map. Euro Stocker had different courses and graphics, but is rated rare by the Videogame Museum. Night Stocker takes a different 3D view and has the car driving on other planets to take out alien bases.
In Stocker the car sets off at the start with a set amount of fuel. Control is by pushing in the direction you want the car to go. Running into other cars or obstacles drains fuel, and the game is over when it runs out. Sections of the course are timed, and the faster you complete it the higher the bonus score. But speeding and crashing into other cars can attract the attention of the police, who issue a ticket when they catch you (with a close-up view of the cop, asking where’s the fire?). Each ticket reduces your final score, based on distance travelled.
There are better overhead race games out there on the C64 – examples would be the polished conversion of Sega’s Hot Rod, Rally Cross Simulator from Codemasters and Supercars from Gremlin.
A ROCKET IN MY POCKET
A little bonus here to end with, with another Capcom USA title you may not have heard of. Pocket Rockets is all about powerful super bikes, with four different models (based on real road bikes) to ride. The action takes place on either a road course or the drag strip. On the road the player must not collide with the roadside obstacles and must set the fastest time to become champion. The view is from behind the bike in 3D, which is ok. On the drag strip the player must not false start, over-rev or fall off by accelerating too fast. The aim here is to set the lowest time for the quarter-mile, seen from side on and scrolling horizontally. Amiga and DOS versions were also available.