In the Modern Classis series, I take a look at the many new games that have been released since roughly 2005 for the Commodore 64. Most of these games have been given a real, proper, commercial release on disk, tape or cartridge. They are in way, the next generation of C64 games.

In this edition of Modern Classics, I'll be taking a look at Guns 'n' Ghosts and Joe Gunn, gold edition. Both games where programmed by Georg 'Endurion' Rottensteiner. As we'll see in the article, most of the similarities end there - the games are quite different from one another.
The packaging for Guns
Above: the packaging for Guns 'n' Ghosts & Joe Gunn gold edition.
Guns 'n' Ghosts
Above: a video showing parts of the first 10 or so levels, including the first boss-fight.
Guns 'n' Ghosts is an action game in which you control one of two characters, Trev and Georg. They form a two man team which go to places that are filled with scary ghosts, zombies and bats and blast the undead daylights out of them. Each of the two team members is different: Georg shoots things with his shotgun, Trev instead prefers to use his psychic powers to deal with the evil ones. At the start of the game, spooky things are afoot at the Greenfield, Ohio cemetery. The brothers, naturally, immediately set out to 'investigate', or as I like to call it - delivering some good old fashioned high-explosive justice to them undead beasties.

Each of the two characters you can choose plays very differently. When playing as Georg, your primary difficulty lies is finding the time to reload your gun in peace and aiming at those darned flying bats (your bullets are invisible but have infinite range so all you need to do is line up at the correct height and pull the trigger). Later enemies, such as the fast moving skeletons make for harder targets to kill but all in all, Georg is fun to play and clearly the easier of the two characters to get the hang of.

Playing as Trev, on the other hand, has you using a short range psychic weapon. This first freezes and after a while of applying, kills the enemy you're targeting. Unlike Georg, you need to be standing still for a while to pull this off. The difficulty then lies in finding the time and place to be standing still while you're blasting a zombie, ghost, bat or other ghoulish creature from beyond the grave. As you can only freeze one enemy at a time, this becomes a real challenge in later levels. Trev, then, is effectively the hard mode of the game.

The game also features a variety of two-player modes, including one where Trev first has to stun and Georg then has to blast the enemy with his shotgun. Combined with the many levels (72 in all, including a number of boss fights) and varied power ups, there is quite a bit of game here. It may only feature single screen levels, but it is challenging, tense and immense fun to play. It is one of the C64 games I just keep coming back to. To sum up, it's easy to pick up, but hard to let go.

Graphically, the game features well designed backgrounds, in which the background objects tend to be drawn using darker shades and feature high-res characters, while the foreground graphics tend be drawn using brighter colours and feature multicolour characters. This makes the game very interesting to look at, as this style of graphics is not used often. It also makes it very easy to see what you can jump on and what is in the background, which helps make the game far easier to control. Sprites and animation are also good, featuring some nicely drawn beasties.

Controls in are good and fluent, both characters respond well to your commands. This is for the best, because the game does get rather hectic in later stages.

Sonically, the sound effects option is best left off - there are not many of them and they sound a bit weak, but the music on the other hand is great stuff. A pumping tune plays while you blast, there's a also great, foreboding, title tune and some nice incidental music during the cut-scenes (yes, the game even feature cut-scenes!).

Overall, Guns 'n' Ghosts is a great blaster which I can highly recommend. Definitely worth playing if you like action games!

Guns 'n' Ghosts is published by RGCD / Psytronik and is available on cartridge from rgcd.co.uk and on disk from the Binary Zone retro store at binaryzone.org

9 / 10

Joe Gunn, gold edition (2009)
Above: a video showing gameplay from Joe Gunn, including some of the earlier puzzles in the game.
Joe Gunn is an action adventure game, in which you control Joseph P. Gunn, an archeologist who just discovered a hitherto unknown Pyramid in Egypt. Suspecting it's actually the tomb of the legendary Crocodile King, whose name has been all but erased from history, Joseph naturally decides to investigate. After finding your way in, you find yourself in a massive pyramid filled with puzzles, various foes and lots and lots of bones belonging to dead adventurers and, presumably, archeologist types like yourself.

The object of the game is to find the secret of the pyramid. Which, unless you look up a solution online, will probably take quite some time. The game is not easy. It is in fact rather hard - there are, initially, no hints at all as to what to do in the pyramid so it can be a bit daunting. Controls likewise add to the difficulty. Joseph controls well, but his range of movement (especially his rather odd way of jumping) does take some getting used too.

Another niggle is the way items are used, to search for / pick up items you press down and fire on the joystick. To use items, you press up and fire on the joystick and then select an item from a list. This is somewhat confusing the first time around as there is no indication there are multiple items in the list.

All this is, however, worth it. The game is quite nice to play - you really do feel like you're exploring a mystical (and rather deadly) pyramid beloning in ancient times, filled with tricky (but fair) puzzles and creepy crawlies who see you as their next bit of lunch.

The graphics are mostly in the C64 hires character mode (sprites are multicolour) and look great. The design may be simple, but it is effective - everything is instantly recognizable, the colour palette is well chosen and animation is nicely done. For an adventure game, being able to know what item is what is important and this game manages to do so well.

The sound design is very good - there is great music playing and multiple tunes make an appearance during the game. There are no sound effects, but the atmospheric music makes up for this.

Overall, Joe Gunn is a fun, if hard, action adventure for the Commodore 64. Worth playing if you enjoy these type of games.

Joe Gunn gold edition is published by Psytronik and available on disk and tape through the Binary Zone retro store at binaryzone.org

7½ / 10