I’m a few weeks behind on my regular Chinny watching but for those new to it, it’s a show (mainly) dedicated to comparing ports of 8 bit games, running on the original hardware wherever possible.
Whilst I absolutely understand the need to get as much parity between versions of modern games, there’s a joy to be had in how games used to be almost like “here’s the first one and here’s five cover versions of it”, or whatever. It led to some often fascinating diversions, not always for the best either but them’s the breaks.
SmashTV isn’t really the greatest example of that really but it’s a game I have a fairly complicated relationship with. It should, by rights, be a game that I adore. Kitsch gameshow, bit of action movie silliness in a Robotron pudding and yet, I find it almost unbearable to play because of how rigidly designed around extracting money from the player the game is. In its arcade form, it’s pretty bloody brutal and not in my preferred way. It’s a game of endurance primarily and that’s very not my bag.
As if to compound things, having ports handled by Probe was never going to ease that any. At the time they were rather notorious for putting an awful lot of effort into enormous showy graphics when that rather literally would have to come at the cost of the game. The huge sprites of Trantor made it as close to unplayable a game as can be without being obtuse, the elegance of Dan Dare 1 & 2 entirely lost in Probe’s own sequel. I can’t say I was a fan.
And as Chinny’s video here shows, SmashTV is very much the archetypal Probe port in a couple of its iterations. The cut to the C64 version is jarring as the game loses the excessive and needless Probe-isms in favour of a starker, more traditional arcade style and it’s so, so much better.
Anyway, Chinny wades into the ports with the usual gusto so that’s enough from me.