Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Kicking my own ass

Posted by Trixter on August 8, 2008


I love Wizball. Every few years, as I slowly work my way through my hobby of restoring vintage IBM PCs and clones, I will pull Wizball out and try to finish a game on the PC that I’m restoring at that time (as a burn-in test — yeah, that’s it), and see how far I can get.

The PC version of Wizball is brutal in that the speed of the game is not constant. It speeds up and slows down based on where you are and what enemies are onscreen, which is annoying all by itself, but the real problem is that the entire game is not based off of a timer. If you play it on an original 4.77MHz 8088, gameplay is glacial; the game itself is much easier because of the slower speed, but you discover a new hidden gameplay mechanic of endurance (it can take three to four hours to finish). If you play it on any 80286 or higher, it’s too fast to play.

About two years ago, I discovered a bootable disk distribution I hadn’t seen before with four games on it, one of them being Wizball. I wrote it to disk and decided to try it out on my 4.77MHz PC/XT. After trying the others, I started Wizball and before I knew it a few hours had gone by. Determined to finish, I slogged through and managed to complete the game and get a pretty good high score.

Since the game wasn’t written to save high scores to disk, I wrote my score on the sleeve (like putting quarters on the marquee of an arcade game, a common computer nerd practice back in the day). For your enjoyment, here is that disk:

Not a bad score, if I do say so myself. I wrote the score down, happy that I had finally finished the game, and put the disk away.

Today I was organizing all of my loose floppy disks and sleeves (gathering into a giant pile is more accurate) in an effort to see which disks I could reformat to archive some data off of a new conquest.  In a pile of nearly 100 sleeves, this little gem put me in my place:

Evidently, twenty years ago, I had kicked my own ass at Wizball.

(And it was a true ass-kicking, since my machine twenty years ago ran at 7.16MHz, not 4.77MHz, which meant the game ran normally and required decent reflexes to play.)

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6 Responses to “Kicking my own ass”

  1. Richard Nichols said

    Yeah, the 4 game compilation was called Aces High I believe. It came bundled with Amstrad PC1512 8086 PCs (that’s how I got it). Wizball and Arkanoid were the highlights of the pack for sure.

  2. JasonT said

    I’m pretty sure I played that all the time on the C64, and I’m equally sure that I never got anywhere close to that score :)

  3. Hopefully you didn’t write on the sleeve with the disk in it… :)

  4. Trixter said

    Give me SOME credit here. And I didn’t fold, spindle, or mutilate them either ;)

  5. jake said

    I’m loving the degeneration of your handwriting over the years, as an obvious keyboard over-use has affected you (and probably everyone reading this blog!)

    Wizball was fantastic. I used to be so jealous of my C64 owning neighbour.

  6. Trixter said

    VERY astute observation about my handwriting. It’s gotten exponentially worse over the years. I learned cursive in 2nd grade (two grades ahead) because regular writing was too difficult for me; in sixth grade I learned Applewriter and never looked back. I am sometimes outwardly ashamed of my handwriting, but thanks to computers, nobody has to know…

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