First there was the Penultimate Cartridge.
Then there was the Penultimate+ Cartridge.
Now introducing the Penultimate+2 Cartridge.
So what is it? well it's one better than the Penultimate+ Cartridge for a start.
This is a cartridge for the Commodore VIC20, and probably the only cartridge you will ever need.
Once installed in the back of the VIC20, you never need to remove it.
At power on, you are presented by a large, friendly, menu (although that can be changed - see later)
From here you have lots of choices. I'll start with a bullet point list of the main features:
- Built-in games. Lots of them. The entire TFW8b VIC20 catalogue plus many more, including some exclusive new titles and good old classics
- Games sorted A-Z
- Games sorted by category
- Rod's Random ROM Runner - random game selection
- Utility ROMs - including new test tools
- File Browser - built in file browser with automatic memory selection
- File Favourites - Put your favourite games in one folder for quick access
- Advanced Memory Config - Select all combinations from 0K to 35K
- Settings - Configure boot to menu / file browser / random game / BASIC etc.
Lots going on there, let's go into those in a bit more detail.
There are over two hundred built in games. 200. For reference, there were around 70 on the Penultimate+.
This includes all of the Future Was 8 bit VIC20 catalogue, cartridge release such as Cheese and Onion and Nibbler, cassette release such as Pentagorat and Cheesy Trials, and new titles such as Pink Windmill Blitz, and VIC20 versions of 3D Monster Maze and Tut-Tut.
There are many favourite classics, and some quirky titles found only on dusty cassettes that you might never have heard of. There should be something for everyone.
Games displayed A-Z
The Penultimate+ had 3 or 4 pages of games (depending on region), so it was not that difficult to locate the title you wanted. The PU+2 now has 10-12 pages (again depending on region).
To make it easier to navigate, you can how press SHIFT + letter to navigate to the first game starting with that letter. E.g. Shift+B gives you the list starting at Bandits.
Some games will work on PAL or NTSC machines. Some will start correctly in PAL mode, but may need adjustment for NTSC systems or vice versa. Some will only work in one region. The menu is filtered by default to only show titles that will work in your region, or where the screen can be moved using the keyboard or joystick at the start of the game.
These are indicated by K and J icons on games that will need to be adjusted.
You can press P (for PAL), N (for NTSC) or A (for All) to see the hidden games. Ones not suitable for your region will be shown with an X.
For example, Avenger will startup correctly on NTSC systems, but on PAL systems, you will need to use the arrow keys to centre the screen correctly.
Once centered, you can play the game as normal.
Games by category
To make it easier to find different types of games, you can also view games by category.
Fancy a snake game? OK, we got you covered. Want to see various takes on PacMan? OK, have seven.
Paddle games and adventure games have been moved out of the main list, in their own categories.
There are also categories for our most prolific creators, such as Misfit and Hewco.
Rod's Random ROM Runner
200+ games too many? Too difficult to choose? Let Rod's Random ROM Runner pick a game for you.
The games are selected from the main 200+ titles, so will not include ones that cannot be adjusted for your region, paddle games or adventure games.
There are various programming, development and testing tools, including assemblers, monitors, languages etc.
CBM Command is a useful tool to transfer files between multiple disk drives, this is now built in. The help file is not included, but there will be a blog post to follow showing how to use it.
Also include are some new tools such as the SD2IEC device ID changer - a simple way to switch to ID 9 and back without having to type commands.
There is also a simple IEC port test tool that cycles through the output pins and monitors the internal loopbacks (blog post to follow).
DeadTest+ is a useful system test program which will test the RAM and ROM inside your VIC20.
There is now a built in self test, which will test the RAM and ROM inside the cartridge. However, please remember that can be affected by things inside your VIC20. The results are only valid on a full working machine, but it can be useful to diagnose faults (i.e. bad 74LS138).
A big improvement in the PU+2 is a built in file browser. This means you no longer need to have an SD card with FB on, you can browse directly from the cartridge menu.
Folders and disk images are supported, and filenames should be displayed correctly regardless of case.
When you select a file, it will be analysed and the appropriate memory option selected.
Files with a load address of 1001 will be loaded with no memory expansion.
Files with a load address of 0401 will be loaded with 3K RAM.
Files with a load address of 1201 will be loaded with the full 35K of RAM (I am not aware of any titles that complain about too much memory).
You can override that by pressing the R key if you want a different configuration, but for most standard files it should be fine. (for anything weird, can always try FB as on the previous cartridge or exit to BASIC and load from there anyway).
Files with a load address of A000 (i.e. cartridge images) will be copied to block 5 and started from there. Only 4K and 8K cartridges are supported, not multipart ones.
Create a folder called "pu+2" in the root of drive 8 and you can go directly to that from the menu.
And yes, if you are on an NTSC system it says "File Favorites" instead. Yes, I went there.
Advanced Memory Config
There are shortcut keys to exit to BASIC with most of the main memory options on the main page, F1 = unexpecded, F3 = 32K etc., but if you want a specific combination, the advanced memory config screen will allow you to select whatever combination of memory expansion you want.
Settings - Configure boot options
Normally, the cartridge will boot to the menu at power on, or when you press the reset button. However, with the PU+2, you can now change that behaviour.
When you select one of these options, the LEDs will flash to show the setting has been saved and the selected option will start.
Boot to BASIC or some of the utility ROMs with full RAM enabled.
Boot to file browser will always start up with the file browser selected.
Boot to random game turns your VIC20 into a random games machine. Each time you switch on, a new random game is selected for you.
When in random mode, the LEDs on the cartridge change to white, and the reset button now works to select a new random game each time you press it.
LEDs and Buttons
The left button is green and always brings up the menu.
The right button is normally red, and will serve to reset or restart the current game.
In Random mode, the right button will change to white, and will start a new random game. (N.B. random as far as a simple 6502 function can generate, if you get a game you have seen recently, just press the button again).
Hold down the left button at power on to reset to the default behaviour of boot to menu if you need to.
Hold down the right button at power on to start DeadTest+ (as in the previous Penultimate+ Cartridge).
All the yellow rectangles on the bottom of the screen are shortcut keys. As well as those, there are some more, which you can see on the help screen (by pressing H).
And finally a credits screen.
Where can I buy one?
Pleased you asked. You can pre-order a PU+2 from the secret new The Future Was 8 bit website at plant42.co.uk This is going to be the style of the new website, and will eventually take over the current URL, but for now it is being tested in parallel with the old one.
The new site shows prices exclusive of VAT, in an attempt to make working out the postage easier and give some people the option of paying VAT and handling chargers at the border rather than the easier and faster option of paying up front when ordering, which is still recommended.
The PU+2 is also available from the old site, if you prefer.
When will I get one?
The first batch of boards have arrived and are being programmed and tested. The firmware is being finalised, and the latest release candidate is currently being put through it's paces by out crack team of testers. Expect the early preorders to go by the end of June - this is TFW8b, not some never-never kickstarter. Now shipping from stock.
Oooh, have we got a video?
Yes, here are two great videos from Robin, 8 bit show and tell:
You can support me via Patreon, and get access to advance previews of posts like this and behind the scenes updates. These are often in more detail than I can fit in here, and some of these posts contain bits from several Patreon posts. This also includes access to my Patreon only Discord server for even more regular updates.