Sunday 21 April 2024

(Not a) VIC 20 Top 20

When Robin (8 bit Show and Tell) released the video on the Penultimate + 2 cartridge refresh, it was, as you would expect, well received. Looking through the comments most were appreciative, but there was one from a user who disliked the idea of the Penultimate Cartridge altogether, and insisted the only way to properly appreciate the VIC20 was to load from tape or their (Raspberry Pi emulation of a) disk drive.

(I was going to insert a screen grab here of the full conversation, but the comments seem to have been deleted by the original poster now. I did find one I took of the original post.)

Robin had a bit of fun trying to understand their arguments, which continued that "none of their favourite games were in the cartridge anyway". Really? So Robin asked for their top 20.

They duly responded with a list of their top 20 games (actually top 23), so I thought it would be fun to go through this list and check out all these hidden gems we have been overlooking all this time.

The first thing to note is I recognise quite a lot of those as already being in the cartridge, but never mind, lets get started.

(hums Top of the Pops theme music)


OK, in at number one is Quadrant. This one from Romik games. We will be hearing a lot from them today....

This is one I had previously looked at and it was in the "to be converted folder". 

Sort of Moon Patrol, but with a guy running instead of a moon buggy.

It was a multipart loader for the unexpanded VIC, so would need some conversion, and I guess didn't score highly enough to warrant that. Maybe one for the next round of conversions?

Lucy Lizard

I don't know if this list was in order, but top 2 in the list is, well, quite a game.

You play the eponymous lizard, and you need to press return at the right time to catch the bug which is moving across the top of the screen.

OK, it's not great, a very simple BASIC game. But I did spend a good few minutes trying to get the timing right.

Yay, got one!

It sure was.

Space Fortress

Here was have a game from Romik Software. I like the "S", very "Superior Software"

I wonder who this one is written by?

Ah yes, Darren Hall in big flashing letters. Noted.

It seems to be quite a large multipart game for the unexpanded VIC, which promises four sections, although I couldn't get past the first one to see what the rest were like.

Seems to be a lot going on, some kind of space invaders with a space dog at the top of the screen?

Space Escort

I assume this was a game about a 1980s Ford Escort being driven around space?

Oh look, Romik Software again.

Oh look, also by Darren Hall.

I wonder if the guy in the comments was Darren Hall?

I found two versions, neither of which would load, so I guess I will never know. Will see if TFW8b has a version of tape.

If I understood the modern world, I am sure I could ask some AI to generate me a picture of a Mark 1 Ford Escort floating around in space, but I will leave that to your imagination.


Here is another title from Romi..... Oh wait, it isn't. This is from Nanuq.

I always like a maze game.

This one is written in BASIC, so is a bit slow generating the maze, but at least you get to watch it being generated so you don't get bored waiting (#foreshadowing)

This one has you (pink dot) moving around the maze, eating the dots before the Trap-Man (asterisk) catches you. The AI driving the Trap-Man seems to always move towards you, so I haven't quite worked out how to hide from it.

Ha, got it, think I am going to make it out of this one.

OK, that wasn't bad. I will play this one again.


This was another multipart tape game that was previously looked at for conversion. 

You drive around a three lane track, moving lanes to avoid the car in the other lanes.

Nah, not for me. Will leave that conversion for another day.

Downhill Skiing

Another Nanuq release.

This is a very flickery BASIC skiing game.

Nice ambulance, but sorry, but it's a no from me.


This one is OK, reminds me of Robotron and Shamus.

Either way, it's already in the Penultimate Cartridge.


This one is also already in the cartridge.

I wrote a blog post about converting this one.

Lunar Leaper

This one is a 16K cartridge for a change. This one was in the Penultimate, or was at least in one of the release candidates.

I have absolutely no idea what is going on here.

It is all happening too fast and I don't know what I am meant to do.

I guess that explains why it was removed.


Which one? there are loads. (note to self, did I check for "Romik Software presents Darren Hall's Hangman"?)

OK, this one is annoying me straight away. You serious cannot code to check for Y? Do I actually have to type in YES?

For the sake of decency, I shall omit the screen captures of most of the things I typed in.

It didn't seem to like that. I just followed the instructions, my world PEDANT, followed by RETURN......

OK, it seems to be broken anyway, and has made a 20 letter word out of "pedantic"?

Oooh, I see HangMath. Maybe that's what they meant. I bet that will be fun.

OK, is that long division........

......errr.....oh, is that someone at my front door? sorry I will have to leave this one here.

Donkey Kong

This one has been in since the very first menu driven Penultimate Cartridge.

Not a bad port.

Duck Shoot

This one is also in the cartridge, but under it's original title of Kwazy Kwaks.

There is also a blog post on that conversion.


This has been in since the very first DIP switch driven Penultimate Cartridge.


Ah, another maze game.

This time, one where we don't get to see the maze generation, which is taking a while as it is written in BASIC.

Initial thoughts are that is must be designed for 3D, the way there is red and blue fringing on the blocks.

You move around the maze, which scrolls up and down until you find the bomb, or run out of time (although no timer is shown).

Hmm, I wonder if that is code up there at the top of the maze?

Not bad, have played that a bit and got as far as "round 4", but it just keeps going back to the same maze I think, with you and the bomb in slightly different positions. Not sure if anything changes as you progress.

It looks like this was a type in game, rather than a commercial release, so I think it's fair game for an upgrade? Might have a go at speeding things up, maybe get rid of the visible code as graphics at the top of the screen and add in a countdown timer.

Deadly Skies

This is another of the very few games to be removed from the Penultimate Cartridge.

In PAL mode, the horizon was very flickery and not easy to look at. But the screen was at least sort of centered.

In NTSC, the horizon was perfectly stable, but the screen was too far to the right.


Got that one already. Quite impressive that they even attempted a wire frame tank game on the VIC20.

Death Star

Oooh, this looks exciting.

A bit of exposition to get us started.

Getting ready.

This is going to be an exiting space shoot-em-up, right?

Ah, it's one of those.

It looks nice, I love the colours and the clear text, but it's going to take a bit of work to convert, so I will pass for now.


This one has a very slowly animated title screen. Not in the mood for that right now. You know when you start something, and really think you shouldn't have, but now that you have, you may as well keep going until the end?

And there we go, lets see what this is.

Breakout. A very slowly animated version I'm afraid.

Nice touch that the ball bounces on the bottom of the screen and stays in play.

But time for me to break out.

Ah, it's written in BASIC.

Of course it is.

Miniature Golf

Does what it says on the tin.

Golf simulator, type in the strength, direction etc. and be thrilled as the ball is slowly animated.

Another one that's not for me.

Pedes and Mutants

Ah, a Romik title, haven't seen one of those for a while.

OK, this sounds complicated.

OK, I admit it's getting late, and I am getting a bit tired. But I have no idea what is going on here.

Nope, sorry.

Tank War

OK, here we go.

And it's a tank game.

Not bad, just a little slow and unresponsive.

Vegas Jackpot!

And finally, one that is already in the next update.

Blog post on that one as well.

Phew, that took longer than expected.

Still, I think a few of those will actually make it into the next refresh of the Penultimate Cartridge.

Assuming they get through the TFW8b quality control......


If you want to a "Top 250 VIC20 Games", then you can order a PU+2 from The Future Was 8 bit, currently on offer for £49.99 + tax


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