Rock-afire Explosion - Billy Bob

At Maker Faire The Rock-afire Explosion Finds New Life!

It should come as no surprise that I’ll talk about the Rock-afire Explosion at the drop of a hat. While Showbiz Pizza is of course a cherished memory for me. It was in fact Creative Engineering’s delightful animatronic band that is such a vivid memory.
Rock-afire Explosion

Well, in addition to all of those video games that Showbiz Pizza provided a vidiot like myself.

Perhaps when you have time you might enjoy my own memories of Showbiz Pizza on the Diary of an Arcade Employee Podcast?

Now the reason we are still talking about the Rock-afire Explosion is because of the work of Creative Engineering. The blood, sweat, and tears that creator Aaron Fechter and his company put into the characters paid off. As a result they obviously transcended their original purpose.

I have mentioned on the Diary Podcast as well as on The Retroist before of my first encounters with the Rock-afire Explosion. It wasn’t just the kids that were being entertained by the likes of Billy Bob’s gentle nature and humor. The adults also were being captivated by the melodious cover songs of the Rock-afire Explosion themselves.

[Via] Fan Programs

Not only did Aaron Fechter and his staff create the band, they also provided the music and voices to the characters. Fechter in fact voiced Billy Bob, Rolfe DeWolfe, Looney Bird, and Earl Schmerle to name a few.

[Via] Rockafire Explosion fan

Now having said all of that, thanks to Caseen Gaines, we have this fantastic YouTube video. Uploaded by Norman Chan of Adam Savage’s Tested, it focuses on Jack Turner at Maker Faire 2017. A young man who in fact with the help of his Father has begun to learn firsthand the amount of work it took Creative Engineering to bring the Rock-afire Explosion to life.
Rock-afire Explosion - Mitzi - Jack Turner

Rock-afire Explosion - Solenoide Valve

As well as restoring the characters, in this case. Billy Bob and also Mitzi Mozzarella, to as near as original working condition as he can. In regards to the parts and method used to bring them to life.

I think the work that Jack Turner has done is of course amazing. However, I would quibble over his statement about Chuck E. Cheese purchasing Showbiz Pizza. As it was in fact the other way around. Due to them attempting to buy the Rock-afire Explosion from Fechter and his obvious refusal. They decided to rebrand everything to Chuck E. Cheese as they owned the rights to it.

Furthermore, regardless of the title to my post. The Rock-afire Explosion are doing quite well. Fechter is releasing brand new YouTube videos featuring his creations. As well as in the case of this video uploaded by Michael’s Short Films. Fans are using Minecraft to bring Dook LaRue’s cover of Heartaches to life!

While it is natural for younger generations to compare the Rock-afire Explosion to Five Nights at Freddy’s. I would have them watch this vintage commercial showing what the characters really do after closing.

[Via] SPP California

Rescue In Gargamel's Castle

Smurf – Rescue In Gargamel’s Castle

My husband and I went to a cool retro gaming shop in Northeastern Ohio last year (we drove 4 hours to buy video games…there aren’t any good shops in our area for that kind of thing!), and upon seeing the wall of Atari and ColecoVision games, I may have shed a few tears (read: I cried…a lot). While I was happy to see so many wonderful games on the shelves, mostly I was flooded with emotion and remembering so many great times at my Grandparents’ house. Sadly, I began writing this the day after my Grandmother’s funeral – she had been battling vascular dementia for several years, and will finally be at peace. I am sure that was really driving the wave of emotion, as we knew it’d be soon, but it never makes it any easier.

As I was looking through the games, I spotted one I played a LOT when I was a kid – Smurf: Rescue In Gargamel’s Castle. I’ll be the first to admit this game doesn’t look like much. It’s really pretty simple to play, and there isn’t a ton of strategy or skill to it. Still, at 5 or 6 years old, getting to dodge bats, and birds is pretty cool. I grabbed it, even though we don’t own a ColecoVision system*, for the sheer nostalgia factor. We did have it on one of our Atari emulators, so I played that to satisfy my whim.

Rescue in Gargamel's Castle

Smurf: Rescue In Gargamel’s Castle is a single-player platformer developed in 1982 by Coleco for the ColecoVision and Atari 2600, and obviously based off of the cartoon series. This game is very simple – upon selecting your skill level, you are greeted with a little hut beside a path, and a perky little Smurf waiting for adventure. You are presented with obstacles along the way – fences, tall grass and small hills, stalagmites and creepy bats, and crazy-fast spiders – until you reach the inside of the castle, where Gargamel has your beloved Smurfette locked away. All this amazing action while faced with a time limit and cloyingly sweet music – my palms are sweating just thinking about it!

Rescue in Gargamel's Castle - Leve Three Opening

Rescue in Gargamel's Castle - Game Options Menu
There are a total of four skill levels per player setting – you can select a one-player game, or an alternating-turn two-player option. The levels grow increasingly frustrating as you adjust the skill setting – not because they’re terribly complex, but the game is very touchy when coming into contact with your foes:

* Level 1 – smaller obstacles, no flying creatures and is relatively easy to clear quickly; you get five lives.
* Level 2 – introduces flying birds, taller cliffs to jump, flying bats in the cave, and freaking spiders who are fast as…well, they’re pretty darn fast. Again, you’re allotted five lives, and the level isn’t difficult to clear LIES! The level, while it isn’t the most difficult, can still be challenging. If you can manage to clear the spiders, you have my respect.
* Level 3 – the distance between obstacles to jump is closer than previous levels, and I swear it feels like the birds and bats have a homing device planted in your little Smurf cap. (I can’t make it through the caves, I’ll be honest. (*shakes fist & mumbles* stupid bats!))
* Level 4 – the birds and bats come back for you, man! Even if you manage to duck out of the first attack, they come back! The energy bar seems to deplete faster, too. Five lives never seem enough. I have never managed to beat level four, so there’s that.

Rescue in Gargamel's Castle - Spiders

If you die repeatedly in the same spot, the layout will change a bit; it can be argued it makes it a little easier to clear, depending on whom you ask. Scoring is simple – each item you jump has a point value assigned to it on the screen, usually 200 or 300 points – the catch is landing precisely on the number! As if clearing the spikey stalagmites without impaling your little blue body isn’t hard enough, you have to stick your landing EXACTLY on the 200. Rescuing Smurfette yields a whopping 10,000 points! If you manage to make it through the scene quickly enough, you’ll be rewarded with bonus energy! Huzzah!

Rescue in Gargamel's Castle - Smurfette

Smurfs: Rescue In Gargamel’s Castle is pretty much an endless loop – once you’ve reached Smurfette, the game will revert back to the opening scene for you to start over, with a few minor tweaks. This game also features a couple easter eggs – one is rather infamous and involves Smurfette (accomplished by exiting and re-entering the final screen quickly and the white pixels on the top of her dress disappear (along with the whites of her eye…creepy!)), and the other is in the forest scene – supposedly flipping back and forth between two screens may reveal a set of initials and you may receive ‘hundreds of thousands of points’ according to the interwebz. I have not been able to replicate this – either on the emulated version or on the actual cartridge version, so I can’t attest to the legitimacy of the latter eggy goodness.

As you can see from the screen grabs – the game isn’t flashy, and gameplay is really basic. The game doesn’t have a huge following because of this – really, it’s not an amazing game – but I think the nostalgia factor wins out in making this game memorable for me.

*I am happy to report that this is no longer the case – Husband surprised me with one, which arrived in the mail as I began writing this! Oh how I love the ColecoVision!

Rescue in Gargamel's Castle - Colecovision

Have you played Smurfs: Rescue In Gargamel’s Castle? I’d love to know what you think of it!

[Via] Old Classic Retro Gaming

Speaking of things Smurfy. Do you recall the mystery of the Green Smurf?

Castlevania: Vengeance

Netflix Unleashes Castlevania: Vengeance Teaser!

Holy Cow! When Neflix announced plans for Castlevania: Vengeance back in February. I think we can certainly say it took us fans of Konami’s Castlevania series by surprise. Beyond the announcement of Castlevania: Vengeance however there was very little to go on. Then again we at the very least knew this was going to be animated.
Castlevania: Vengeance - Belmont

I have been a huge fan of the Castlevania series. All the way back to 1987, with the original offering on the NES in fact. I also seem to be in the minority in regards to its 1988 sequel Castlevania: Simon’s Quest. Likewise while I enjoyed the platforming elements of Castlevania it was the RPG elements of it’s sequel that made me a fan of the Belmont clan as well.

To say nothing of of the incredible score that Kenichi Matsubara, Satoe Terashima, and Kouji Murata delivered.

[Via] GBelair

Of course we started to hear further rumblings on Castlevania: Vengeance. None other than Warren Ellis was tapped to be the writer for the animated series. While Ellis might be best known for his work on Transmetropolitan comic book series. I am an absolute fan of his Wildstorm series entitled Planetary – in fact every New Years Eve I reread the entire series.

So what I am getting at of course is that I feel that Castlevania: Vengeance is in good hands. Then just a couple of hours ago Netflix unleashed the trailer for the upcoming animated series.

Kind of hard to not have a grin slowly creep across your face when you watch the teaser announcement. Everything from the awesome looking red hued Castlvania cart to the humorous nostalgic touches. Netflix knocked it out of the park.
Castlevania: Vengeance - Netflix

Castlevania: Vengeance - Select Screen

Castlevania: Vengeance - Synopsis
I beg you not to take my word on it however but watch the trailer yourself and decide!

Furthermore, the press release that Netflix provided sheds some light on the story of Castlevania: Vengeance:
“Inspired by the classic video game series, Castlevania is a dark medieval fantasy following the last surviving member of the disgraced Belmont clan, trying to save Eastern Europe from extinction at the hand of Vlad Dracula Tepe himself. The animated series written by best-selling author and comic book icon Warren Ellis and executive produced by Warren Ellis, Kevin Kolde, Fred Seibert and Adi Shankar.”

Let us hope that on July 7th Castlevania: Vengeance treats this Belmont a little better than Captain N: The Game Master did!

AZTEC for Apple computer (Datamost 1982)

If you grew up with an Apple computer in the 80’s, chances were very high you’ve played Datamost’s AZTEC. This dandy of an adventure game was the pinnacle of gaming for the Apple 2 back in the day!

Imagine yourself as an Indiana Jones (c) type adventurer journeying into the bowels of an ancient South American temple in search of a mystical, and mysterious idol! The quicker you acquire and bring said idol to the surface/entrance of the temple, the more cash it’s worth! I’m not saying the temple catacombs are a cakewalk to maneuver through, far from it!  Just a few creatures you’ll run in to are Spiders (of course), Snakes (sure), Scorpions (you bet), a Giant Octopus (excuse me?), Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaurs (WHAT???), and the occasional Aztec Warrior, plus a bunch of other awful things you wouldn’t want to step on. Like I said, no cakewalk!

What makes this dash through an Aztec tomb more daunting? The laundry list of keyboard controls! Check it, ready? Here you go:






A-turn left

D-turn right

G-crawl (once)

P-place and light explosive


O-opens box or digs in trash pile

L-look in box


F-goes to fight mode. Below are keys while in fight mode:

S-spin around

A-move one to left

D-move one to right


M-strike down

G-draw fun

Space bar-shoot

W,R, or J -move mode

Did you get all that? Good, because you’ll be using all of ’em!

Oh, did I mention the joint is also booby-trapped? Falling bombs, flooding rooms, compacting walls, and more all wait to do you in. Good luck Indy….type of generic adventurer! You’re gonna need it!

The graphics at the time were top notch, the game play was fun and fresh as the temple map would change every time you played. Heck, it’s still fun to play now a days. Check out the video below and see what I mean!

Enter if you dare…press any key…

Space Invaders

Celebrate Atari Day With Space Invaders!

Being the 26th of the month once again it is time to celebrate Atari Day. There is so very much to love and celebrate as well when talking about Atari of course. Although as usual I am focusing on a particular game for the Atari 2600. A port of the massively popular as well as legendary Space Invaders from 1978!
Space Invaders - Flyer

When Tomohiro Nishikado set out to create Space Invaders I certainly doubt he realized how popular it would become. In Japan there were arcades that offered nothing but the “fixed shooter”. Just rows and rows of Space Invaders for gamers to spend their money on. As a matter of fact it’s been reported that by the end of 1978, Taito, who produced the game had manufactured over 100,000 arcade cabinets.
Space Invaders

To say nothing of the amount of money that the success ofSpace Invaders earned for the company. I ask you, how does 600 million dollars sound? Having said that, bear in mind that was only for Japan in its first year alone.

Now as you might imagine when Atari announced they were going to be producing a home port for their Atari 2600. It was kind of a big deal. Not only did it mark the first arcade title to be licensed for home use. It smashed sales records for the 2600 as well. Steven L. Kent’s 2001 book The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon has in fact said that it helped to quadruple the sales of the Atari 2600.

Were you aware the Atari 2600 port was part of the How To Beat Video Games Series?

Which leads us to why in particular Atari made sure to mention their home version of Space Invaders in print. As much as possible. As well as producing rather charming television ads like in the case of the one below entitled Uncle Frank.

[Via] Dig That Box RETRO

Far smarter people than myself have pointed out that the Space Invader themselves have become almost an iconic symbol. Representative of video games itself – more well known than even the likes of Mario!

Listen to Uncle Vic’s hit novelty song inspired by Space Invaders!

Now the great news is you can easily join the Atari Day celebration and play Space Invaders right this second.

By and large it’s available online in one form or another, I would recommend the online services of the Internet Archive.

Image courtesy of Atari I/O’s Facebook page.

To learn even more about the fun of Atari Day be sure to hop on over and check out fellow Retroist writer Atari I/O’s site by following the link here!