Super Six: Epyx
This famous Eighties developer/publisher actually began life in the Seventies as Automated
Simulations before morphing into Epyx, the renowned 8-bit sports and action game brand that
brought gamers so much joy throughout the decade. With many of its games available to play online at Antstream Arcade, we thought it was high time we brought you the lowdown on our favourite six of Epyx’s finest efforts. Game on!
Following the outstanding success of Summer Games, in 1985 Epyx gave the multi-sports template a frosty makeover with Winter Games. Over the course of up to eight events players compete for medals while representing their country, and each individual game can be practiced on its own or played sequentially, mimicking the real life Winter Olympics. The events demand different skills, ranging from the critical timing of ski jumping to the break-neck pace steering of the bobsled and luge events. Hugely successful, Winter Games helped cement Epyx’s outstanding reputation on the Commodore 64 in particular – although there were plentiful conversions to other machines, and all of them are excellent games.
While the original Pitstop has its fans, it wasn’t until this follow-up that the series really took off both technically and in terms of gameplay. Released on the Commodore 64 in 1984, Pitstop II offers six tracks to speed around and a remarkable split-screen view for multiplayer racing. The game’s simple controls belie the complexity and tactics that lay beneath its glossy display: the pitstop of the title is a vital facet of the game, requiring the driver to constantly monitor tyre condition and fuel levels in order to best judge the time to enter the pits. Once on this screen, swift and careful manipulation of the various mechanics is key should you wish to win the race. Beautiful and compelling, there are few 8-bit racing games as good as Pitstop II.
With Summer and Winter Games firmly establishing it on the map, Epyx looked to the west coast of America and the Golden State for its next mega hit. Developed once more for the Commodore 64 (this time together with an Apple II version), California Games infuses the spirit of the sun-drenched state into a series of fun and original events. From the wheel-based antics of half-pipe (in other words, skateboarding), roller-skating and biking (BMX) to the flying disc and our favourite, footbag, each of these playable and creative games is a delight, ensuring California Games’ celebrated status today.
Away from the multi sports genre, Epyx moved into puzzle gaming with this tale of a high-school
nerd out to impress the magnificent Melinda the Mental Marvel. Originally included as a launch title for Atari’s impressive handheld, the Lynx, this tile based puzzler requires its star to negotiate each level, collecting chips via the increasingly tricky hazards and brainteasing conundrums. You can enjoy Chip’s Challenge on the C64, Amiga and ZX Spectrum on Antstream Arcade, and each version is an entertaining yet mentally demanding experience.
Ever since releases such as Miner2049er and Manic Miner popularized the genre, platformers have been a staple of gaming, and Jumpman is Epyx’s brilliant contribution in this field. Set on a futuristic Jupiter base, Jumpman’s world is under attack from terrorists. Within each platform-laden screen, the hero climbs and leaps, defusing bombs and dodging enemies while being careful not to fall to a tumbling demise. Deceptively tricky to play, Jumpman is a true classic of the genre and its sequel, Jumpman Junior, is also available on Antstream Arcade.
For our sixth Epyx game we proudly present the fabulous spy caper Impossible Mission. The evil
professor Elvin Atombender is tinkering with the world’s national computers in an attempt to incite an apocalyptic World War III. The player assumes the role of an unnamed secret agent who must decrypt the coded entry system to Atombender’s control room and foil his dastardly plans. In the way is an army of deadly robots, prowling the professor’s lair and ready to zap anybody who crosses their path. A formidable mix of puzzles, platforming and exploration, Impossible Mission is one of the finest arcade adventures on the Commodore 64. For more complex world-saving, check out the return of Elvin Atombender in Impossible Mission II, also available on Antstream Arcade.
Also from Epyx on Antstream Arcade: Spin-tastic dancing sim, Breakdance; RPG Gateway To Apshai; more brainteasers in Puzzle Panic; space battle Silicon Warrior; and the sleek motorcycle racing sim Super Cycle.