Lost Levels hasn’t been an active website in a really long time now — and even the forums, which were thriving for a while, are starting to die down — but researching the history of dead video games is still an active obsession of mine.
I’m still digging up new stuff constantly, but I don’t have time to sit down and write a proper article, and I know some of you out there would like to see what I’m up to. That’s why I started up a Facebook fan page, to quickly be able to post little nuggets without much hassle.
Lost Levels turns 10 this year, and I have hopes to do something special with it, but in the meantime the majority of what I do is probably happening on Facebook. So go check it out, and show me you like Lost Levels by clicking on a rectangular button that says “Like” on it. One day this will be the primary conversation mechanism of the human race, so you may as well get a head start on it.
Hi folks! I know I haven’t posted here in a while, but I thought some of you might appreciate knowing that (among other things) I’ve been writing a semi-monthly column about unreleased games for the Retronauts Blog on 1UP.com. I did this thing about Titan Warriors for the NES, which was pretty cool, but even cooler is a little piece called How Goofy Killed Desert Bus.
This piece has edited excerpts from my recent interview with Mark Morris, who was a programmer with Absolute at the time that Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors was under development. And hey, it (and this post) are oh-so-conveniently timed with this year’s Desert Bus for Hope charity event. So go put the video stream on in the background and snuggle up with the interview, then get inspired and donate all of your money to Child’s Play. It’s the American way.
Game collector “NationalGamesDepot” has recently discovered, via his collection of various Color Dreams memorabilia and development assets, a copy of the unreleased action-adventure game Happy Camper for the NES.
“It was very um …Camp… I guess you’d say. It actually started out life sort of poking fun at the environmentalist/camping scene and at the same time trying to blend the Paperboy/California Games/generic skateboard game with an outdoor theme. There was going to be a fishing section where you rowed your boat around and every time you saw some fish, you’d throw some dynamite at them, and so on… Basically just the American RV camper destroying the environment as he entertains himself. Unfortunately, due to some limitations in the development environment in use at the time, it sort of shifted into a shoot’em-up in which the ‘camper’ was fighting space aliens… Similar theme, in some ways, but more conventional. The staff testers at Color Dreams liked it very much, or so they told us, but it turned out to be VERY difficult to play. (Out of the entire staff of Programmers, engineers, etc. Only I and the testers were able to get out of the first level). Some revision was done to make it easier, but by that time CD was swinging seriously to Wisdom Tree and the margin in selling that game was too low to justify it.”
NationalGameDepot has plans to make the game “available” - either physically or through a binary download - through the Nintendo Age website. And, though it took some time, he too was able to surpass the first level - level two is represented in the darker screenshots seen below.
Courtesy of the latest issue of Nintendo Age’s PDF-format magazine comes these brand new, emulator-fresh screenshots of the NES Hoppin’ Mad prototype we reported on previously. These shots come from an article written by Mark Nolan, who currently owns the prototype.
There has been no final word yet on the game’s public availability, but Nolan states more than once in his op-ed that he intends to let the community play the game, one way or another. He is currently looking for someone to possibly patch up the third, incomplete level and create a reasonable facsimile of what the final game might have been.
Via gameSniped.com (as was the last post, I think I forgot to credit them!) comes news that Yogi’s Frustration, the unreleased Intellivision game starring Yogi Bear, is for sale on ebay.
Yogi’s Frustration (sometimes titled Yogi’s Adventure, Yogi and BooBoo or, disturbingly, Yogi’s BooBoo) was the result of Mattel’s marketing department acquiring a handful of licenses and trying to apply them to games already in development - in this case, a game with a completely original IP called Modern Times, then being coded by Mark Buczek.
According to Intellivision veterans (and current owners) the Blue Sky Rangers, the game itself tested well, but the inclusion of Yogi and Boo Boo characters did not, proving once again that you should ignore your marketing department in all creative matters.
I haven’t seen this game in action since Classic Gaming Expo ‘99 (photos here, you might even find a chunky 17-year-old me somewhere), and that was the Rangers’ personal copy, which they of course can not legally sell or distribute without paying licensing fees. As far as I’m aware, this is the only privately-owned copy ever for sale.
The auction has a buy it now of $9,995, but I don’t think the seller is honestly expecting that much - in fact, he is taking offers.
A video for the unreleased and mostly unseen game Mail Plane for the Vectrex video game system has been uploaded to Youtube. Further, the game is currently for sale, as part of a large ebay lot.
Mail Plane is an important historical footnote for Vectrex enthusiasts, as it is the only title designed to only be playable with the Light Pen attachment. This is not the first copy of Mail Plane to surface - an article in a 1997 issue of Retrogames contained a review of what appeared to be final code, noting that the game is “as close as the Veccy gets to a simulation.” This was apparently one of two known copies, with one being held at a $5,000 ransom by a collector, as this dramatic discussion details.
Oddly enough, there is a binary ROM floating around for Mail Plane that does not seem to boot properly. If recent discussion is to be believed, it may be corrupt and unusable, making the aforementioned auction the best and possibly last chance for a Vectrex fan to save this game from complete obscurity.
The auction has plenty of other EPROM chips and prototype cartridges too, including a handful that do not boot (some without labels!). The unreleased games include Tour de France, Dark Tower and Pitcher’s Duel, all of which had previously been preserved in playable fashion, and Berzerk II, Mine Storm III and possibly others that are brand new discoveries - I don’t know my Vectrex stuff enough to tell for sure.
The embedded YouTube video for Mail Plane is below.
I have also mirrored the original video, because I don’t trust YouTube as an archival source. Who knows, we may never see this game in action again, depending on who ponies up the cash for this lot. If anyone wants to put together a pool to make sure these games are properly documented and saved, let us know in the forums link below.