Category Archives: Retro Video Games

Play CoCo’s “Donkey King” in a web browser.

One of the all-time best ports of Donkey Kong on a 1980s home computer was a clone called Donkey King (later renamed to The King). Although we didn’t know this until years later, it was authored by Chris Latham, who also created the first CoCo game to require 64K – The Sailor Man (a clone of Popeye).

Last week, the gang over at CoCoTalk (the weekly video chat/interview show) started a game contest where everyone is invited to try to set a high score on some CoCo game. The first game chosen was Donkey King, which is quite fitting since it’s one of the greatest CoCo games ever. Unlike most (all?) other versions of the day, it features all four levels as well as the intermissions (see the Donkey King link above for screen shots). It also plays amazing well and is as frustratingly difficult as the arcade game it was based on.

For those interested in trying it out, you can go to the JS Mocha CoCo Emulator webpage (the Java Script version of Mocha, which was original a Java CoCo emulator). It is one of the games available there.

You will find it in the second column. Just select it then click Load Bin. It uses the right joystick, I believe, so you can select “Dual Key R” from the Joystick config and that will map that to the keyboard – Arrow Keys and Space Bar (to jump).

If you want to hear the sound effects, you have to checkbox the “Sound” option in the lower right of this screen.

Give it a try and see what you think.

Until next time…

Arcade1Up replacement trackball rotary encoders

NOTE: I do not own an Arcade1Up, but I have a friend who has the Centipede version. I am posting this article to give some extra exposure to research he and others are doing on the trackball problems.

Arcade1Up is a 3/4-sized 80s arcade cabinet for home use. They have several units available, with most playing four classic arcade games (and one special edition with 12 games).

The Centipede unit has a vertical monitor and comes with Centipede, Missile Command, Millipede and Crystal Castle.

After first playing my friend’s unit, we both agreed that Centipede played very poorly. This led him to dig into the problem, and he found this Do-It-Yourself solution on YouTube:

Fixing the trackball rotary encoder on the Arcade1Up Centipede machine.

The trackball is a rotary encoder where, as it spins, a little wheel turns and is either blocking or allowing light to flow through and be detected by a light sensor. The software counts the pulses and determines how far the wheel has spun. (Here’s the Arduino playground on them.)

The stock encoder wheel has 30 spokes, and this D-I-Y solution shows how to make one with 24. My friend decided to try it and designed one on his 3-D printer. After installation, Centipede does indeed play much, much better, and the other games seem to still play as well as they did before (they were mostly fine, so I can’t tell if there was any significant improvement without doing a side-by-side comparison with an unmodified cabinet).

I think we could convince him into making these replacement parts available at a low-cost for folks who don’t want to DIY. Comment to this post if you might be interested.

Until then… There is an active discussion on Reddit about various problems, solutions, and modifications to the Arcade1Up machines. Be sure to drop by there check it out.

Old School Games – Pac-Man Fever returns!

Buckner & Garcia, the duo/band that brought us the Top-10 hit Pac-Man Fever back at the end of 1981 (and also the full album of video game songs) is back again with a new song called Old School Games. Listen here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEyeT7evqmEv

Their last release was the theme song to Disney’s Wreck It Ralph in 2012. I remember hearing the song Wreck-It, Wreck-It Ralph over the end credits and thinking “aw, man, they should have gotten the guys that did Pac-Man Fever to do a song!” Much to my surprise, the credits revealed that they actually did!

Sadly, original member Gary Garcia passed away in 2011, so he did not get to see the retro resurgence that is underway across America as retro arcades (and bar-arcades) open everywhere. Heck, we have three retro arcades right here in Des Moines, Iowa!

The new song may very well be the 2010s anthem to retro arcade players much like the 1980s Pac-Man Fever was to the first generation players.

They would love to have arcades add it to their playlist, so be sure to let your favorite local video game place know about it.

And, if you are looking for something a bit different, there was also last year’s (2015) Pac-Man Fever (Eat ‘Em Up) redo/redeux/remix, which you can check out at http://www.pacmanfevereatemup.com/

And, for some really neat stuff, check out the Pac-Man Fever Vault for rarities, interviews, and more.

TRON arcade game joystick research

  • 2014/01/28: Updated information on 4-way restrictor for flight stick.
  • 2015/02/18: A note about the HAPP joystick, and restrictor plates being made for it.

A friend of mine is in the process of building a custom arcade controller for home use. Here is some of the research that may be of interest to others trying to replicate the 1982 TRON arcade game controls. (A flight stick with a trigger button, and a paddle spinner controller).

The TRON handle can be bought from Groovy Game Gear. They claim they are using the original molds and also used the original color key chip to match the color as close as possible to the originals that were made in 1982:

http://groovygamegear.com/webstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=319

This handle is designed to replace the one for an original arcade stick, but folks have been modifying other types of joysticks to make it attach. No details on this, yet.

Next, there is a low-cost trigger stick from RetroCade.us. It is available in several places:

$20 – Paradise Arcade Shop in Hawaii:

http://www.paradisearcadeshop.com/imported-joysticks/299-import-flight-stick.html

They also sell it on Amazon.com, for $22, but shipping is cheaper there (currently $26.83 for the stick and shipping):

http://www.amazon.com/Arcade-flight-Joystick-joystick-buttons/dp/B00F1YQ5HW/ref=sr_1_1?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1388078024&sr=1-1&keywords=arcade+flight+stick

RetroCade.us also sells it direct through Holland Computers:

http://www.hollandcomputers.com/store/pc/Arcade-flight-yoke-stick-Joystick-eight-way-joystick-with-two-fire-buttons-and-firm-grip-p8069.htm

The stick is incorrectly described (on Amazon and at Holland) as a 4/8 way switchable stick. It is not. You need a restrictor plate to make it 4-way like the arcade TRON stick is. I have not located a restrictor plate for this joystick yet, but Paradise Arcade Shop says they may be able to custom make one.

Update: There is also a higher priced HAPP joystick commonly used for TRON:

http://forum.arcadecontrols.com/index.php?topic=78233.0

That stick is also an 8-way, but my same friend who is building the custom arcade controller now has a 3-D printer and has designed a 4-way restrictor plate for this. He will be offering them for sale, so contact me if you are interested.

As for spinner controllers, there seems to be two candidates. One is sold by Groovy Game Gear. It is the Turbo Twist 2 and it runs about $70:

http://groovygamegear.com/webstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=268

Ultimarc also sells a spinner for the same price called the SpinTrak:

http://www.ultimarc.com/SpinTrak.html

No details on which one is better for this purpose.

More to come…