Not too long ago, the C64 community saw a release of a new game, Soulless. New games for the C64 gets released every once in a while, but what made Soulless stand out from the usual new C64 game releases was the passion put into it’s proper commercial release. I was impressed enough to order myself two copies of it!
The game was released under Psytronik Software label and is being sold by two UK based retro game stores; Binary Zone Interactive and RGCD. The game was released simultaneously in all imaginable C64 formats: Cartridge, floppy disk and tape, plus digital downloads to complete the lineup. RGCD distributes the top of the line cartridge version and Binary Zone sells the floppy and tape versions of the game, and the digital downloads. I ordered the cartridge version from RGCD and the premium disk version from Binary Zone. As a nice touch the fellows from both stores sent the game as digital download by email after confirmed order.
The game is identical between all the versions, one can just choose the option that fits one’s retro tripping the best! Cartridge, floppy and tape versions are only for a real C64 of course, but the digital downloads can be used with emulators and devices like Chameleon, 1541 Ultimate, sd2iec drives and so on.
Both stores additionally offers a choice between a budget and a premium version – the game can be bought as a cartridge/disk/tape only or with extras. I’d recommend getting the game with all the extras, as all that stuff makes it feel a genuine old school game!
And besides – just look at all this stuff! This is the cartridge version from RGCD:
The map – you need one. And it’s a poster on the other side in a true old school way. The Spirit Stone sheets are really useful for scribbling up the puzzle solution. The companion CD has the map, poster and Spirit Stone sheets as print quality files, the game in all three digital formats and a lot of extras. The inlay booklet even has a background story comic on it. Exclusive to the cartridge version extras there are even small Soulless stickers in there :)
The game starts off with a nice cinematic intro, which introduces the setting and sets the overall atmosphere of the game nicely. The atmosphere continues brilliantly throughout the game thanks to fitting graphics and very atmospheric music. The game itself is an adventure platformer game where your objective is to search and collect items while navigating trough a large dungeon and dodging enemies. The gameplay is very simple, you cannot attack, you can only avoid enemies. Major part of the game is to search items, much in same manner as in Impossible Mission. Navigating in the dungeon and making notes of game hints completes the game mechanics. Using a printed map and making notes on pre-made paper templates gives a nice retro touch!
The difficulty of the game is not in the retro-league, as the game is fairly simple. At least if you bother to read the instructions, use the provided map and take notes on the puzzle hints. I was able to complete the game after just few attempts. However the game has a good replay value, as the item locations are randomized on every game. True gamers can have their pissing contests by comparing completion times and final scores.
The tape version I don’t have, but it appears to be a black C-cassette with printed label and clear plastic case with inlays. The disk version is your ordinary black 5,25″ floppy disk with nice color-printed label and sleeve. The disk comes in clear plastic case including nice inlays, sealed in plastic wrap! The cartridge comes packed into printed cardboard box, and the cartridge itself is fitted into very cool looking transparent purple case with a bright white LED inside.
As said earlier, the game is identical between all the versions. It’s just a matter of taste if you like to load games from tapes over disks. You know, the tape version has a loading picture and music in a true old fashion way to keep you entertained while the game loads.
The disk version of the game does not have any built-in fastloader, so loading it up also takes a while on a stock C64 system and a 1541 disk drive. On the other hand any preferred fast loader can be used, and the disk version of the game should work from just about any C64 compatible disk drive or storage device. A 1581, CMD drives, sd2iec devices, MMC, IDE 64… – all should work. If your preferred device cannot read or mount .d64 disk images, then you are likely able to simply copy the game files to your device or medium in question. It’s truly up to the user to choose from where one wants to run the game from.
The cartridge version of course starts up immediately as the C64 is switched on when the cartridge is inserted.
Worth mentioning, the game runs on both C64 and C128, PAL and NTSC systems.
And sure, I did peek inside the cartridge ;)
Soulless is a nice game, made by enthusiastic and active people in C64 community, for the community. Especially the enthusiasm can be clearly seen with the release of Soulless. If you’re like me and appreciate and respect this kind of activism, get the game – Buy it! I’m not going to pretend that the game wouldn’t be easily found as a non legit download. But the minimum price of two pounds for the official digital download version should not be too much for anyone.
Not only the creators of the game, but the publishers and resellers of the game – Psytronik Software, Binary Zone Interactive and RGCD – deserve the support. It’s a wonderful thing that we have software labels and publishers providing us retro enthusiasts a stream of new game releases for our retro systems.