Sunday, February 14, 2021

BBC #48

No, it means Bad Brew Crew

Okay, I thought it was about time I featured another Menu Disk and here we have the 48th release by Bad Brew Crew. The menu itself is quite good with their logo, scroller and some rather nice digi-music to enjoy before deciding which game to play. There are two options Skull & Crossbones and California Games for the Extreme fans!

Demozoo and Atari Legend have more from the Bad Brew Crew incl. downloads!

Onto the games, and I think I remembered liking Skull & Crossbones because I have always enjoyed hack 'n slashers and this one features pirates! Surely a win? Anyhow, I doubt I would have ever booted up California games back in the day because joystick-waggle and/or athletics isn't exactly something that interests me.

So, I guess this menu disk is a perfect choice to experience something new and familiar? Let's play...

- Skull & Crossbones -

Hoist The Jolly Roger!

I need a parrot on my shoulder and speak every sentence with an "ARRR!" for we are about to hit the high seas for an exciting swashbuckling adventure with nasty pirates, treasure and fair maidens in need of rescuing ARRR!! ARRR matey, a wizard has stolen our booty ARRR and we need to get it back ARRR!! This shouldn't be hard as pirates are usually crippled with a wooden leg and missing an eye ARRR so let's kill all the scurvy scum ARRR!!

Okay, I think we should now drop the ARRR... Skull & Crossbones is based on the arcade game that had us frantically fighting pirates with nothing more than our trusty sword. We are One Eye and have suffered a humiliating theft of our booty by a nasty wizard. Wizards and pirates? What an odd combination, but let's crack on...

Maybe it's just me but I thought Hulk Hogan had seen better days!

Time to be Errol Flynn!

Skull & Crossbones is basically a 2D platformer for one or two players. Yup, two people can take part at once which is potentially superb. The adventure begins on our ship which has been boarded by a couple of pirate goons that need slicing and dicing. Only after, are we able to jump aboard the wizard's ship but that crafty magician blasted us back onto our ship - just in time to watch your booty stash disappear before your very eyes.

Each level is basically the same with different graphics but it's fun repeatedly killing a barrage of sea-faring enemies: pirates, soldiers, ninjas, and even a few silly monsters. Getting around each level is quite cumbersome for what's basically a 2D fighter and feels trickier than it should at times. You are able to move in all four directions with attacking and blocking moves. Just bang on the fire-button whilst moving in a particular direction:


Pressing the fire button and moving left/right plunges your sword in their chest.
Pressing the fire button and moving up + left/right pokes them up their noses!


Pressing the fire button and pushing up performs an upwards block.
Pressing the fire button and pushing down performs a downwards block.


Pressing and holding down the fire button turns Red Eye around.
I even managed to stab backwards once or twice in my blind panic!
Apparently there are a couple of special moves which I never managed to suss out.

A few hopeful, unresponsive jabs and poof!! Yep, a pirate goes up in smoke.

Argh, I'm dead. Again!

Now that you're clued up in the art of battle, you should practice because this is a tough game to master. Each enemy often attacks in turn, which prevents the screen from getting cluttered or confusing. Killed enemies drop a little treasure to reclaim. However, the bigger guys are really hard to defeat like the executioner and an annoying pirate hiding inside a barrel. I found both of these irritatingly difficult and managed to lose many lives!

Keep your eyes on the health meter; the more hits you sustain the more blood pumps out from your bleeding wounds (which is actually pretty cool). What's not cool is the game's terrible difficulty thanks to its cumbersome and sluggish controls. Attacking is quite basic but gets rather repetitive after a while plus I didn't care for the defence moves which offer little benefit. However, I guess there's only so much a one-buttoned joystick can do?

The concept is enjoyable and follows the arcade rather well. Killing pirates is fun but I felt that the difficulty was too high from the second stage. Those soldiers are tough nuts and seem to attack with great speed which feels unfair. Enabling a trainer helped, and I managed to reach the third stage which was a painstaking journey.

Eventually, I'm back up on deck and there's a girl who needs rescuing. Yep, I'm in!

Graphics and Sounds

To look at, Skull And Crossbones is cartoony with lots of colourful locations and detailed sprites. Sadly, it bombs when actually playing thanks to jerky scrolling and dreadful animation. The scrolling often works against the player from the start - jumping onboard the wizard's ship leaves you open to attack by pirates still offscreen!

Sound effects are basic but the music is quite literally brilliant with excellent chiptunes by Matt Furniss.

We're now plundering a castle and this big fella is nigh on impossible to kill. I'm losing interest...

The CryptO'pinion?

Skull & Crossbones looks the part and could have been a great release with a little more effort. Sadly, the stodgy controls ruin what might have been; not only is it incredibly sluggish but One Eye is often awkward to manoeuvre. I had some fun but the difficulty, later on, is way off and ruined any chance of progress.

The best thing about Skull & Crossbones is the two-player option, which is a brilliant addition and certainly helped compensate for its shortcomings. Unfortunately, I'm getting a distinct whiff of a lame port which is incredibly disappointing. Golden Axe, Guardian Angel and Double Dragon III are all far better choices.

- California Games -

BMX bike? Nah, I'll stick with my Chopper!

I remember the advert with the girl's legs for this sporty Epyx released back in 1989. Sadly, I never played the game as I'm not really a fan of such things, so I must admit I'm quite sceptical about booting it up today.

Athletic events aren't something that I particularly like and I remembered breaking my Quickshot II joystick playing Daley Tompson's Decathalon back in the mid-80s. How pointless! But, upon booting up California Games, I was presented with an array of alternative games which was a pleasant surprise for this couch potato!

Practice! Otherwise, you'll fall flat on your face only to be hit by the rolling skateboard!

Run, Jump and Throw Something... Yawn?

No, none of that boring stuff here, California Games has taken a different approach with a handful of unexpected events. All are completely different from each other, which is something I liked the sound of. I mean, frisbee throwing? I never saw that one coming but I gotta admit I like the style of these Californians!

One to eight players can take part in six extreme events like surfing, skateboarding and BMX biking. Executing each event properly earns you the most points and it's all about the highest scores in this tournament.

Half Pipe Skateboarding

Here we push up when the skater is going up the ramp and push down when, well, I think you get it? Moving left/right or pressing the fire button just at the right time will perform stunts like a hand plant or kick turn. It's all rather childish and probably one of the least stimulating games imaginable yet, I quite liked it!

Foot Bag

This is one of the most peculiar sporting games I would never have imagined to be real. Imagine a soccer player keeping the ball in the air - but with a little bag. And that's about it. What a lame event but the ST does a grand job of trying to make it fun. It's all rather silly and quite difficult timing your movements just at the right moment. Oddly entertaining and I enjoyed it, but try not to his the seagulls (lol brilliant!!)


Now we're talking. This is about the only sport I associate with California and it doesn't disappoint. The learning curve is possibly the highest of all the games but, don't give up because riding these waves is exhilarating. Who would have thought that balancing on a board in shark-infested waters would be enjoyable? Plus we don't need to worry about trying to slip into a wetsuit on a beach of perfect bodies.

Roller Skating

I expected this game to suck, but it didn't. As an event, it's pretty weak and possibly the easiest but that didn't stop me from enjoying it. Pushing up/down gains speed and then you need to avoid or hop over hazards like pavement cracks! Yeah... Okay, this is nothing special but I possibly played it the most?

BMX Racing

Now we're talking, blokes with bikes in the dirt! A game with easy controls to master and a course that's fun and great to play. Sometimes it gets a little too tight, which is unfair, so that's when my man ends up eating the dirt. The physics are pretty terrible but I kept on coming back for more and I'm sure you will too!

Flying Disk

Somehow this kiddy game is now a serious event? Anyhow, along with Surfing, this is a tough one to master thanks to the controls - it took ages to stop dropping the frisbee on my feet!! Not to mention the art of successfully throwing it far enough. Hmm, feels like Frisbee version of Leaderboard to me!

This event sets a great example for the kids as she kicks and screams like a baby. Brilliant!!

Joystick Waggling Fun?

Thankfully, you won't break your joystick with this game as each event requires a specific control with precise timings to perform certain actions or stunts. However, you should ignore any temptation to jump straight in to win a trophy. It won't happen. Practice first and learn what to do with each event, it's harder than you realise.

However, because each event is so different, so are the controls. There is little consistency as each has its own techniques to master. I admit to being a bit of a geek(!) so I made notes to remind me what to do and when. This worked, but I admit the irregularity makes for a massive learning curve greater than I imagined.

Now we're talking! Great controls and dodgy physics make this so much fun.

Graphics and Sounds

Graphically, it's okay with summer backdrops and interesting locations but I got the impression it was limited by its 8-Bit roots. Summer Olympiad is much nicer but the BMX and Frisbee stages are good with decent scrolling. I enjoyed the attention to detail that makes each background entertaining - seagulls flying dangerous close, people boating, sharks and creepy critters lurking underneath the skateboarding pipe. Lovely little touches!

The in-game sound effects are often a weird mix of chip and samples which works fine albeit without blowing you away. Music is by the late, great Ben Daglish and is something that proves chiptunes will live forever.

It's okay fella, nobody looks good in shorts but what's with those ape arms?

The CryptO'pinion?

The concept of "extreme" sports for the Atari ST has proved itself to be a cracking idea and is something I feel Epyx executed well. The sheer variety of mixed events is a splendid change from the usual sorts. Getting grabs with each game's controls is the biggest challenge but, stick with it and make yourself some basic notes!

California Games will appeal to everyone, whether you enjoy sports games or not. Trust me, I'm a couch potato so I know. Ultimately, it will shine brightest when the family are gathered around your Atari ST compared to plodding through solo. What an excellent game and also a nice surprise to boot up something different.

- The CryptO'pinion? -

BBC #48 is a decent menu disk which I've thoroughly enjoyed from the moment I heard the music. Although there are only two games on the disk, each is huge and offers a fantastic opportunity for multiplayer gaming.

Of course, Skull & Crossbones was pretty much a dreadful Amiga port but it's actually a million times better with a friend. California Games is superb even though a part of me still cannot believe it's based on real events! Anyhow, I think Epyx produced an excellent game which I highly recommended, especially with friends & family.

And now y' all gotta scroll all the way back up to the top for the download links... :^)


  1. Great review mate. Skull and crossbones is an excellent game. I knew the arcade version through emulation. You convinced me to try the st version now. The graphics look as good as the original version. As for California games, it requires good reflexes and a perfect timing. I never managed to pass the foot bag contest 😂

    1. Oh dear, perhaps I need to re-write this? lol. Hey, let me know what you think okay?

      btw, hows things going mate? Not spoken in a couple of weeks. Checkout the latest article!! :D

  2. After playing it, I can give now a thorough and more balanced opinion 😁 Skull and crossbones is a good conversion indeed. I enjoyed playing it. The character / sprite is a bit slow and the lack of a second button on the controller may be annoying in some situations. All the rest of the game is pleasant and original. I noticed while playing it on an emulator that the colours were quite different from your screenshots. For instance the sea in the background was gray and the pirate boat at the beginning of the level was pink. Otherwise things are going fine mate. Business "almost" as usual 😁 I hope it the same thing for you and your family.