Impossible Mission

1984, Epyx

Epyx, a California based games company were early out establishing their position as a lead developer for the C64. Impossible Mission was one of their earlier hits and you will quickly see why. I remember this game fondly as one of my favourites, although back then I was probably too dim to actually understand how the puzzle part worked. Anyway the beautifully animated hero character and the randomized games with both action and puzzles is the winning combination here.

The mad and evil professor is the target here and to be able to enter his door you need the password which can only be obtained by piecing together some pieces you find scattered around the base. To find these you have to navigate your hero to an object and press up to search it. This will take some time depending on how lage the object is. Which again requires some nifty footwork and sumersaulting over the droids that guard the rooms. You can also operate elevators to reach different levels within a room. Careful planning and timing is needed to avoid the robots which are programmed differently. Some turn and look and if it sees you it moves fast in your direction, some fire their electric beams, others just move back and forth in a preset route. To aid you in this you can find card codes for disabling the robots for a short time and to reset the elevators in case you missed a step and fell down. Many rooms are very easy to search, while others are very difficult, so save those robot disable codes for that (you use the terminals scattered around the rooms for that).

The rooms are connected by an elevator system which you can travel fast up and down, and to reach another elevator you need to pass through rooms, all very well detailed in the map on the bottom. In the elevator screens you can also hit fire button to access the puzzle computer which is where you will be trying to assemble 4 pieces to a solid rectangle. It sounds easy but the pieces can be flipped the wrong way, and you need to mirror them correctly as well as changing their color to match them up. When you complete a puzzle you get one letter of the 9 letter password. All letters are needed to enter the mad scientists door (I think). And all of this you have to do before the time runs out.

A brilliant feature of this game is that you dont have lives, but only loose 10 minutes of time if you fall down (off the screen) or is zapped by a robot. You have exactly 6 hours to solve the game, so you cant die too many times or the mad professor will blow up the world (or whatever he does). To assist you a bit you can call the main base and use two tools, one is to correct the orientation of two pieces, and the other is to know if you have enough pieces to solve a particular puzzle. Both of these take 2 minutes of your precious time. Getting the pieces rotated is a very handy tool and it would help you a lot to at least get one piece correctly aligned per puzzle, although it will take some time to find which pieces actually match. Fortunately combining some pieces usually result in symmetrical features which simplifies this process a bit. There is also a fun little room with a memory type game where you have to click the squares on a big screen in the order they play. For some reason it didnt recognize the second run with 4 selections, so either I didnt understand it at all or there is a bug in the downloadable version linked from GB64. Perhaps there is a reward for completing one that uses all squares of the area, although that would be an impossible mission indeed. :)

Just to mark itself as an instant classic Epyx also added sample playback with some nice sampled speech from the mad professor. Lines like "Another Visitor, Stay a While, Stay Forever!" are all well known to old C64 gamers. A nice scream of terror is also added when you fall off the screen, as well as a "Destroy him my robots" and an end speech when you complete the game (or laugther as he presses the button when time runs out). Epyx uses two single color sprites to animate the hero very smoothly something we would all see again in Summer Games and the others in the series. Some of the finest character animations ever made for the C64. I often wonder why more developers didnt do the same. Chances are that Epyx used scanned material of real actors movements to do the graphics. All in all a real classic that you should really try if you plan on playing some old C64 games again. Using Vice it becomes very easy since you can take snapshots frequently and try things over and over again to search those hard spots. But still the game is indeed solvable without Vice with some practice by avoiding the tough rooms until you have enough passes to disable the robots in them. Definitely one of my all time favourite games for the C64!

All images and text are Copyrighted by John Christian Lønningdal 2007-2015 unless indicated.
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