Oldschool Gaming - reviewing new games on classic computers
Main review :: written by Frank 

Infiltrate the alien base and take out the CPU! Find equipment to help you on your quest... a very straightforward storyline is what introduces a new 2008 release for the VIC 20. Blue Star was completely unexpected and out of the "blue" really. Already we have been treated to the awesome Astronell in recent times, which was a landmark Jet Set Willy clone for the unexpanded machine and Blue Star matches what Astronell achieved with a similar genre of game and the same RAM restrictions, but with its own little nice touches to make it stand out as a unique little game. In fact, rather than Jet Set Willy, this is more of a cross between Montezuma's Revenge and Forbidden Tower by Atlantis (although not as bloody rock hard as the later, I'm still in therapy because of that game...)

You start off controlling a rather cute looking robot (cute because he's around about a character in size) wandering around various single screens in search of the main CPU to destroy. Control is a delight with the very simple and non hair-pulling set of controls, with "fire" to jump and "up" to perform actions with some of the items you collect. You have complete control over your jumps, and the actions of the "up" control can also be used in mid-air (you'll find out about these actions later in the game). However, after a few screens you'll find some hard to reach platforms which you just cannot reach. It's here where your search begins to find equipment to aid your journey through the game. Find the jet pack later on one of the screens and you will find yourself then able to double jump to the higher platforms and really start to navigate around the map much more freely.

I'M BLUE DA BA DEE DA BA DIE
One thing that made me very happy whilst playing was that Blue Star does not suffer from an infinite death syndrome; Blue Star solves the problem by having an energy bar and a single life. Energy can be refilled at various points around the map whenever you pick up a collectable. To save space and ensure a good amount of screens within the game, the play area is kept down in size and there are ten unique screens which, with tweaks, span a nice sizable 62 screens in total. To be honest, you don't really notice repetition too much when playing through due to the clever cycling between screens and the variety of enemy and movement will ensure that things are kept relatively fresh. The colour schemes also change between some sections of the map quite effectively, and although the game looks fairly simple graphically the shading is done brilliantly and it's overall a nice clean looking game with some well throughout screens.

The enemies you will encounter are colourful, varied and animate very well; I think there are skulls, bats and mini dragons but it's hard to tell as the game is using the VIC's chunky multi-colour mode to get the colour ranges and everything is a single character in size. Each enemy has a different personality though, the bats are slightly dumb and fly around the screen freely but the skull look-alikes in later parts of the game will follow you around and can be a pain in the backside, draining your energy reserves. Without giving too much of the game away, you will find ways of later "removing" these creatures and allowing you to progress even further still with a bit more ease.

After playing for even two minutes you'll find that something really starts the grate a bit, and that would be the background tune. It's actually a quite cool eerie little ditty and sound effects nicely play over the top of the tune, but it plays for about four seconds and just loops constantly. Given the lack of memory, you'll forgive Blue Star for this little inconvenience, but you may want to turn down the volume a tad after a while.

Since its initial release, the game has seen a few tweaks and changes, including the addition of a simple but effective title screen and logo, removal of various bugs and also Joystick support and all of this without affecting its memory requirements. Quite simply amazing! Blue Star overall is a sheer pleasure to play and a lot of fun - but there is one gripe that I sadly have as a result of it being so, and that it is too blimmin' short! It will provide a good challenge for its unexpanded size, and completing the game in under a hundred jiffies (the units used by the game's timer) will ensure that you will replay many times to do so, but I just wish the game was that little bit longer with a bit more to do. It seems that it was crucial to keep the game working on a stock unexpanded VIC 20, which although is an amazing feat, at the same time is a bit of a shame as I would have loved to have seen more of this game in say a 8 or 16K expansion.

Don't take that wrong, this isn't a huge criticism of the game but a show of my passion for the title overall and how much I have really enjoyed playing it. If you love your VIC 20 games, then you would be crazy to not check Blue Star out, especially with it being free! We are seeing some fantastic new VIC 20 games in recent years, with Blue Star raising the bar that little bit more. See if you can succeed in less than that hundred space jiffies... I did, and it was bloody good fun too!

Second opinion :: written by Andy 

It's funny watching the reaction of people who are C64 stalwarts, when they play a VIC 20 game for the very first time. The chunky graphics (even more so than the C64) and crude sound almost makes them cringe, which is a shame because, like so many 8-bit machines, scratch the surface and you can find absolutely wonderful and addictive games. And Blue Star is certainly, definitely, absolutely, positively one of those. Did I successfully make my point there?

Quite simply, Blue Star is what I've always called a "room game"; a game composed of a maze of rooms in the vein of Jet Set Willy and the Monty Mole series or the hundred other similar platform games. With rooms. You explore, collect objects, explore, avoid enemies, jump, explore, avoid, collect, explore, jump and explore, not necessarily in that order but you get the idea. While all this may sound rather mundane, the wonderful control of your main character and the sheer playability makes Blue Star a joy to play. There's a nifty little ditty playing along too, quite an achievement on a machine with such restricted memory available.

That limited memory is cleverly used; there are only a finite number of room layouts, but the layouts are reused often as different parts of the game map to form quite a large play area. While this may sound confusing, rooms are labelled a bit like a chess board, so you know where you are at all times. This system also helps with mapping, if you are so inclined. The excellent use of colour for each room compliments this system well.

If it sounds like I haven't explained the game much, it's because I don't want to give too much away. There are certain objects you must find and collect to aid progress. That's all I'm prepared to say, even if you twist my arm for more. So overall, a gem of game that comes whole-heartedly recommended - Blue Star is certainly, definitely, absolutely... (Okay, we get the point Andy... - J =-)

Information

BLUE STAR

Format Commodore VIC 20
Developer Steve McCrea
Publisher Cronosoft
Released 2008
Price Free
Review Frank and Andy
Download Available
Screenshots
In-game Screen
In-game Screen
In-game Screen
In-game Screen
Scores
Graphics
Sound
Playability
Lastability
8
6
9
8
   Overall 8
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