Hi there, I am Louie Dimovski, founder of the RetroGamerNation YouTube channel and contributor to multiple retro-gaming themed Internet blog sites, and I have a great passion for 8-bit personal computer hardware and gaming, with the Commodore 64 being my specialty.
As part of my daily routine of keeping up to date with new gaming developments for retro systems, I came across a Twitter post from The Future Was 8-bit (TFW8B), promoting the physical release of RodMan. What stood out in the announcement was that the game was not released for one format but 8 different systems (Amstrad CPC, Atari 8-bit, C16, C64, MSX, Oric, Vic 20 and ZX Spectrum) and that the release would, initially, only be available in a special triple cassette covering all of these formats. Being an avid collector of current generation 8-bit releases, there was no way I was going to miss out on having this unique product in my collection.
RodMan is developed by hobbyist programmer, Mika 'Misfit' Keränen, who has recently been quite active in developing new games for vintage personal computer systems (Cheese & Onion (VIC-20), Pentagorat (VIC-20), WTF (C64) and Time Pilot (ZX Spectrum). Mika is always looking for projects where he can add a new perspective to timeless classics so when TFW8B asked him to port his previous titles to other formats, he instead came up with the idea to create a new title that would be designed to be easily portable across all of the 8-bit personal computers that he personally owned. It was surprising to hear that the whole development timeline was only a few months (working on and off when time permitted) with about 90% of the code being shared across all platforms, meaning that platform specific coding only took a few days for each supported system.
Taking a look at the game itself, Rodman is a great example of reimaging classic titles that provide a fresh gaming experience. Upon first glance, you would be forgiven to consider Rodman as nothing more than a Pac-Man clone, however, as you start to guide RodMan around the maze collecting round pills while avoiding enemy characters, you soon realised that in place of power pills are diamond bombs that can be used to blow up and eliminate the bad guys, similar to another classic game, Bomberman.
The game also takes a departure from single screen action by having its game levels spread across three distinct screens which is supposed to depict a house setting with a garden and basement. Completing a level requires the pills to be collected from all 3 screens.
Overall the game play style is somewhat consistent and very responsive across all versions. Despite the limited levels on offer, RodMan does provide quite a bit of a challenge which will ensure that it will take many hours before it can be mastered. Perhaps the main criticism of RodMan is that collision detection is somewhat dubious and you will often lose a life despite it being visually clear that the enemy character did not touch your RodMan character. Despite this oversight in game design, it is hard not to be drawn into this modern day reinterpretation of a classic title that provides some engaging game play.
The Amstrad CPC version uses Mode 1 graphics, which means only 4 colours are used on screen at any one time. This produces a bright colour scheme but it means that all enemy characters are of the same colour, making it a little difficult to immediately distinguish between them.
The Commodore 16 version runs without any memory expansion and the results produced here are quite good. The game runs very well and certainly looks on par with the C64 version, albeit colours look a little subdued. Interestingly, my best performances were on the C16 version and as a result, I found myself coming back to this version the most.
The benefit of multi-colour mode is highlighted here as enemies have their own distinct colour, making it easier to isolate the most dangerous one on screen. Plays well overall and the limited sound effects sound good but don't push the system's SID chip to anywhere close to its capabilities.
This is the system that RodMan was initially designed for. The VIC-20 version distinguishes itself by providing a near full screen game play and the 'chunky' graphical style that the system is well known for. It takes a few plays but ultimately you appreciate that the full screen display provides the best '8-bit' experience. However, note that the game requires a 16K expansion pack in order to run the game.
The ZX Spectrum version provides a good allround visual experience. Bright colours, enemies are easily distinguishable and the game moves around quite well. Curiously though, the sound levels on the Spectrum version is very low and you need to dial the volume knob up to 10 to just get a decent sounding output.
Perhaps the most pleasing version to the eye. Plenty of bright colours on offer and enemies are of a different colour. Plays well like most of the other formats. A good experience overall and definitely a great addition to the MSX library.
Limited graphical scheme on offer means that RodMan, the enemies and the pills are all the same colour. The Oric version is the only one that features some minor graphical glitches of the RodMan character. Plays fine but the graphical limitations does make this the least engaging version to play.
The Atari format comes in two versions, MultiColour and High Resolution. The Multi-Colour version provides a good '8-bit' feel but the display output is somewhat 'mushy' in my view and felt somewhat uncomfortable to play. RodMan, enemies, and the pills are the same colour. The Hi-res version features a monochrome display and it felt like I was playing the game on a Nintendo Gameboy rather than a proper personal computer. Graphics are well defined but the lack of colour ultimately diminishes gameplay experience.
Given that all formats of RodMan play very close to each other and that the sonics are not a big feature of the game, the only way to distinguish each version is via it graphical display. As a result, your favourite version will often get down to which personal computer you either grew up with or currently using on a regular basis but there is no doubt that the versions that provide a clear differentiation between RodMan and all the enemy characters will stand out. Despite the Commodore 64 being my personal favourite 8-bit personal computer, I would say that the graphical full screen charm of the Commodore VIC-20 would be a stand out for me, while I am greatly impressed with what has been achieved with the Commodore 16. Coincidentally, in speaking with the developer on this project, Mika mentioned that the VIC-20 and the MSX version were perhaps his two favourite versions.
ZX Spectrum Version
Atari: High Resolution