Showing posts with label tron. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tron. Show all posts

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

The 8-Bit Wonder Years

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum 8-bit home computers - sparking one of gaming's greatest school playground rivalries.

Christmas 1982, I unwrapped a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K and saw Disney's Tron. From then on I was hooked on computers, thanks to Sir Clive Sinclair and the generosity of my parents.

When Jack Tramiel, the founder of Commodore International, began an aggressive home computer price war in the early eighties, the fabled Commodore 64 'bread bin' would take pride of place alongside an Atari VCS and Sinclair ZX Spectrum in the summer of 1984. The first game I remember playing on the machine was Sega's Up'n Down following an especially gruelling physiotherapy session.

Com-Com 64, as I affectionately nicknamed it, became a gateway into Lucasfilm Games.

From Rescue On Fractalus! to The Eidolon, I was enthralled by early titles from George Lucas' video games division founded during the production of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. It was rebranded as LucasArts before Disney purchased Lucasfilm and shuttered the studio. Disney's decided to bring back the Lucasfilm Games brand for all future licensed games.

It's only apt that Nick Smith, our very own 'Commodore kid', reflects on the 8-bit home computer and console revolution that influenced a generation of geeks (myself included).

Guest post by Nick Smith

They bleeped. They were blocky. They were simple and they took a long time to load up, if they loaded up at all. They were Commodore 64 games.

Released in 1982, the C64 amazed us with the games it offered, available on cartridge, cassette and diskette to play, rewind and repeat. But we wanted more.

In its heyday, the console provided movie tie-ins, revamps of popular arcade games, versions of Nintendo or ZX Spectrum games, or generic knock-offs from car boot sales.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 64, here are just a few of the memorable games we played back in those 8-bit heydays.

Manic Miner

Take Mario, give him a pick, stick him in tunnels and what have you got? Manic Miner, that’s what! Instead of jumping on plums or whatever Mario does, Mr. Willy dug tunnels and it was so much fun that my sister and I were hooked like gold-diggers at a millionaire’s fishing tournament.

Willy explored different caverns, collecting flashing objects before he suffocated. As if that wasn’t enough, he also faced toxic flora and slime, spiders, robots and deadly drops off his precarious platforms. So addictive were the adventures of this chip off the old plumber that Manic Miner was the most popular game of 1984, spawning the sequel Jet Set Willy.


Delivering papers can be an arduous, thankless task. Just ask the players of Atari and Midway’s Paperboy, released by Elite Systems for the 64 in 1986. As you cycled through blocky, green-hued streets, you delivered papers to subscribers, picked up more news en route, and smashed up the homes of neighbours who didn’t have a subscription. Encouraging vandalism was lucrative for the game makers; a sequel came out on various platforms, including the Commodore Amiga, in 1991.


Part of the draw of this game was its splitty subject matter. As you tried to traverse busy digital streets, you risked getting run over by a car and your little froggy life just got harder as you progressed.

Legend has it that Konami game designer Akira Hashimoto was inspired by a frog trying to cross a road with heavy traffic. He got out of his car and ushered the frog to the other side of the street. Since Chickener would be a terrible name for a video game, Hashimoto stuck with frog for his protagonist and a web-footed star was born.


Part of the fun of being a Commodore 64 user was seeing the progress of the graphics over the years, as designers pushed the little machine to handle more complex pixelation. While Manic Miner et al were fun, 1987’s Predator amazed us with its visuals that did their best to capture the feel of the blockbuster movie.

Predator emphasised the survival aspects of the film. No machine gun? No problem, you can use your Schwarzenegger-sized fists. Camouflaged alien lying in wait? Lay some mines to take him out. Sure, you couldn’t see the drool dripping from the predator’s mandibles. But he was still satisfyingly ugly.


Another movie tie-in, this one turned unlikely subject matter – an alienated Vietnam veteran turned invulnerable one-man army – into a kids’ game.

Rambo was released in 1985 to tie in with Carolco’s blockbuster First Blood Part II. As Rambo, the player had to locate equipment, rescue POWs and escape while being hounded by a remorseless enemy horde.

Maybe it was the cinematic cover or the hunting-and-savaging gameplay but the Bowie knife-toting Rambo was a cut above his peers, gaining a whopping 96% score from Zzap!64 magazine.

Star Wars

Once you got used to the vector graphics, Star Wars was a blast. Not only could you play the Atari arcade game in your home, on your TV, but you also took the role of Luke Skywalker and fly an X-wing through the Death Star trenches.

Parker Brothers brought the game to the 64 around the time of Return of the Jedi’s release. By then it already felt like a classic, spawning dozens of follow-up games that continue to this day. However, few gaming experiences compare to flying through space as Red Five, blasting TIE fighters, dogging the Empire from the comfort of your settee.

Attack of the Mutant Camels

Sci-fi games were so popular in the early ‘80s that even sheep in space stood a chance at success. Dropout physician Jeff ‘Yak’ Minter added camels to his shoot-‘em-ups and the rest is dromedary history. I spent many happy hours playing Attack of the Mutant Camels, which reminded me of the AT-AT attack in The Empire Strikes Back. Piloting a jet plane, I was tasked with zapping giant yellow camels before they got to my base, the option to trip them not included.

Minter liked llamas so much that he named a software company after them and incorporated the ungainly creatures into some of his games. The surreal backgrounds and colours enhanced the fun.

Live and Let Die

One of the simplest games on this list was also one of the most difficult. Domark had already digitised James Bond with enjoyable results with A View to a Kill in 1985. 3 years later they retooled a game in development called Aquablast and gave it the more recognisable title of Live and Let Die. Tying a game to a 15-year-old movie reflects the enduring popularity of Bond in general and the film’s lengthy speedboat chase in particular.

However, piloting a boat wasn’t easy because it was vulnerable to mines, rocks, defensive cannons and random pieces of wood. We’d have to wait several years before Tiger Electronics brought us the addictive third-person shooter Goldeneye and by then, the 64 felt like a distant memory.


Elite was a highly influential trading game using vector graphics, giving it a similar look to Star Wars. This intergalactic strategy model was open-ended, giving players plenty of time to explore, mine asteroids, work as a merc or earn booty as a pirate, building up a stash while tackling Thargoid antagonists. The real joy of the game, however, came from simply flying through hyperspace and getting immersed in the daddy of all open-world games.


Not to be confused with the recent disaster movie, Moonfall was a trading game like Elite with humbler aspirations. This time Frontier Alfa was the setting and goods were limited as you travelled from one lunar settlement to another. While landing and piloting your ship was no picnic, the ultimate goal was a lofty one: buying all the bases and factories from aliens to free their human slaves. Never has capitalism looked so good.

Games Gone By

There were many more games and many more long summer days to play through. There have been many other game systems. The graphics have vastly improved. The load times certainly have. But back then when video games were new, we were pixel pioneers, bit-sized pathfinders, joystick journeymen pushing those platform games to their bleeping limits. The C64 was our vessel and shop-bought cassettes were our fuel and the highway promised to go on forever.

What are your memories from the 8-bit home computer and console era? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Build Light Cycles with LEGO Ideas TRON: Legacy

LEGO Ideas has unveiled an official Disney TRON: Legacy Light Cycle set including 3 minifigs featuring Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), Rinzler (Anis Cheurfa) and Quorra (Olivia Wilde), complete with identity discs. It's as awesome as fans would hope.

The playset began life as a LEGO Ideas submission from the fine folks at BrickBros UK and the finished set captures the look and feel of the original movie in brick form. The Quorra minifig is especially cool. Deservedly, Drew and Tom got to review their upcoming set early courtesy of LEGO.

The last LEGO Ideas set I bought was Doctor Who featuring the Eleventh (Matt Smith) and Twelfth (Peter Capaldi) Doctors and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) in 2015. So, this will be an excellent addition to my desktop.

LEGO Ideas 21314 TRON: Legacy will be sold exclusively at LEGO stores and online (affiliate link) for £29.99 from 31st March.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Jumanji 2 is jungle TRON

A trailer for Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle dropped yesterday and mashed-up Freaky Friday, The Breakfast Club, Pitfall! and Disney's Tron franchise with aplomb.

The first sequel to the original Jumanji stars Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Jack Black (Kung Fu Panda) and Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy).

The former Doctor Who star looks like she's channelling Lara Croft in the mid 1990s. However, this trope will be explained in the upcoming movie that sees a group of teens sucked into a video game much like Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) in Disney's cult classic Tron from 1982.

I didn't see Jumanji, starring the late Robin Williams, until it was released on DVD and soon became a family favourite.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

TRON 3 sans Daft Punk

TRON: Legacy left critics and many fans cold, which reflected in the movie's worldwide box office. However, its saving grace was sumptuous IMAX visuals underscored by Daft Punk's lauded soundtrack.

Disney, undaunted, is apparently preparing a second sequel to TRON and will begin production, in Canada, this Fall. Director Joseph Kosinski will be back at the helm, but Daft Punk won't be reprising soundtrack chores and will make way for Skrillex.

"Tron 3 delivers on the promise of Tron: Legacy, particularly its final scenes," Kosinski promised back in 2013 while promoting Oblivion. "There's a big clue there as to where we'll go with the next one. There are also some characters we establish at the beginning of Tron: Legacy who have a much larger role in Tron 3." Oblivion was much improved and there's reason for hope.

Local Vancouver newspaper Vancity Buzz got the scoop, which has since been backed up by Badass Digest.

Surprised by this news? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Disney Infinity gets free BioShock and TRON DLC

Polygon reports Disney has released free user-generated DLC based on BioShock Infinite and TRON for Disney Infinity.

Toy Columbia is a family-friendly version of the terrifying floating city that is the setting of BioShock Infinite and includes Carl's house from Up. BioShock Infinite is a contender for game of the year and Elizabeth evokes Disney's Belle and actress Zooey Deschanel.

Trench Run sees players flying a TRON Recognizer through a trench clearly inspired by the Death Star in Star Wars.

Leveraging community-created content is a smart move and an indication the company is looking at Disney Infinity as a scalable franchise that will be around for years to come: parents and collectors beware.

Have you taken the plunge or are you waiting for Marvel and Star Wars packs?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

TRON Mondo poster by Martin Ansin

This stunning limited edition glow-in-the-dark poster will be available from Mondo this Thursday.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Tron: Uprising

While Tron: Legacy was a frothy diversion; bereft of plot, drama and replete with reference audiovisuals to sell 3D to the masses. Disney XD's forthcoming animated series, starring genre stalwarts Elijah Wood, Mandy Moore and Lance Henricksen, promises to be much more compelling...

Tron: Uprising, set between events in the original Tron and first sequel, combining CGI and traditional animation techniques that owe much to anime, maybe this generation's Batman: The Animated Series. However, that's a lofty comparison.

Get back onto the game grid in summer 2012

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Tron Legacy fan art by James White

This Tron Legacy poster is not official by any means. However, it's impressive and splendidly evocative of the franchise's 'neon' trademark.

The poster was designed by artist James White, who has worked for such clients as Toyota, Armada Skis, VH1 Latin America and MTV. See the original poster on James White's website here.

And for those of us who grew up in the 1980s; here's the original iconic Tron poster as seen in the hit television series Chuck.

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Tron Scherzo

The release of PIXAR's Cars has prompted me to reprint an article that I wrote, for my online portfolio, a few years ago.

An interest and appreciation of CGI began, like many of my contemporaries, with watching the movies 'Tron' (1982), 'The Last Starfighter' (1984) and playing video games at arcades and on consoles - from the Atari VCS CX2600 to Sega Genesis/Mega Drive - in the 1980s.

In the summer of 2000 I began reading 3Dworld. The inclusion of Bryce, a 3-D landscape generation application, reignited further self development within this flourishing arena.

Off-the-shelf software, such as the Academy Award®-winning Maya and Shake, had developed to the point where many of the DTP (Desk Top Publishing) skills for fine art and graphic design can now be successfully transferred to a 3D context without exhaustingly steep learning curves! The artist can now focus on issues of composition - colour, movement through the frame et al - without trying to reconcile with an alienating UI (User Interface).

Alias' decision to provide Personal Learning Editions (PLE) of Maya and now MotionBuilder (from its purchase of Kaydara) is fostering consumer loyalty. Using their free FBX Converter I'm now able to import older projects into Alias applications for future enhancement. The FBX SDK will be worth investigating.

This is a sample collection of original 3-Dimensional images created using Bryce, Corel Photo-Paint, Maya 6 PLE, Painter and Poser (and retouched in Photoshop).

Now you can add Google SketchUp to the Mac OS X application honor roll!