Thursday, 22 March 2012

SOULLESS - Unleash the beast from your C64!

Greetings Retro Chums!

With the release of the amazing new Commodore 64 title SOULLESS now imminent I thought I would treat you guys & gals to some more details about the game, previously unreleased screenshots and some sneaky peeks at the lush new packaging that we are working on.

Firstly, a bit about the game itself. SOULLESS tells the story of Rizek, the ruler of a war-torn land who grew weary of battle. He declared a time of peace but was betrayed by his bloodthirsty Generals who wanted the wars to continue. The Generals plotted against Rizek and enlisted the help of Kalen, an evil Wizard who cast a spell on Rizek, transforming him into a grotesque beast, robbing him of his soul and casting him into a dungeon for all time. Rizek was locked away and forgotten for a thousand years - until a great quake shattered the walls of his cell. Rizek was at last FREE and began his quest to reclaim both his soul and his kingdom. And that is where the game begins.

A still from the superb animated intro!

You start off in the dungeons and must find your way from the deep dungeon into the nearby temple. The dungeon area is inhabited with a few guards and there are no objects to search - so this is a good way to familiarize yourself with the controls and to learn how to avoid the guards and other monsters that inhabit the game.

Rizek begins his quest deep in the dungeons

As you enter the main temple you will encounter searchable objects. Hidden away throughout the game are twelve randomly placed SPIRIT STONES - you will need to find all 12 of these and then take them to the Soul Chamber and place them in the correct order in order to reclaim your imprisoned soul. This gameplay dynamic is similar to Impossible Mission - but, thankfully, is much simpler. The correct order in which you have to place the Spirit Stones is shown in the form of clues that are displayed on the walls of 12 rooms in the game. Each time you encounter one of these clues all you have to do is make of note of the Spirit Stone and which slot you must place it in the Soul Chamber. One of the clues is shown in the screenshot below.

The red clue on the wall shows where to place one of the Spirit Stones
It will help if you keep a note of these as you play the game

The game will even include a printable Spirit Stone sheet in which you can record the position of the Spirit Stones each time you play it. So don't worry if you are are put off by the puzzle aspect of the game, it's very easy to pick up and makes for a very enjoyable part of the game. The searchable objects in the game also contain other things as well as the vital Spirit Stones. Some contain different magic spells that will either slow down, freeze or destroy all the enemies on the screen. You will also find gold & rubies that will increase your score along with potions that will restore your life energy or give you extra lives.

Boom! Rizek has just destroyed all the enemies on
screen by finding Red Magic hidden in an object!

You will also encounter spawn points scattered throughout the map. Once you have activated a spawn point you will return to that point if you lose a life. You can also replenish your life energy from a spawn point as well. You will find that some areas of the map are blocked by locked doors. You will need to find keys to open these doors in order to access more parts of the map. Once you have correctly placed all 12 Spirit Stones in the Soul Chamber Rizek will reclaim his soul and your quest will be complete!

Rizek poses for a photo near to a spawn point

SOULLESS was designed by Trevor 'Smila' Story who also produced the amazingly detailed graphics for the game. The game was programmed by Georg 'Endurion' Rottensteiner (author of the hugely popular C64 game Joe Gunn) and should prove popular with Joe Gunn fans as it does share a few similarities (I.E. It's a huge flick-screen adventure!) - although the main character sprite in SOULLESS is much bigger (think Draconus, crossed with Impossible Mission with a hint of Shadow of the Beast!) Amazingly, the main game and its lavishly detailed 70+ screen map has been crammed into a single load - with the animated intro and end sequence included as separate files (the end sequence can only be accessed once you have completed the game of course). The atmospheric soundtracks for the game were composed by Mikkel 'Encore' Hastrup.

The awesome Premium Disk cover artwork by Smila

To make SOULLESS an extra special release for C64 fans we have really gone to town with the packaging on this one. The game will include a stunning full colour A3 print that features a complete map of the game on one side and a poster of the game artwork on the other. The game will also include a superb 16 page comic booklet showing the game back-story along with a companion CD that features an emulator compatible version of the game, bonus 'making of' materials, a printable Spirit Stone sheet to help you with your quest, the game soundtracks digitally recorded from a real C64 and much more!

A sneaky peek at the Soulless goodies - including the A3 poster / map,
compantion CD, tape & disk versions of the game and the comic book!

SOULLESS will be released in May 2012 and you will be able to buy the game on C64 tape, 5.25" disk and as a digital download from and on C64 cartridge from

Thanks for reading!

Kenz /

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

SEUDS 2 scoops a SIZZLER!

Greetings fellow Retroids,

After the last rather lengthy and somewhat ranty blog entry (!) I'll keep it short and sweet this time. I was recently more than a little chuffed to see that the Shoot 'Em Up Destruction 2 managed to scoop a sizzler in issue 99 of Retro Gamer magazine.

The sizzling SEUDS 2 review (clicky the piccy to embiggen)

I was particularly pleased about this as a lot of work went into the compilation and everyone involved went the extra mile to make this an extra special C64 release. It's also great to see Alf Yngve's work getting the recognition it deserves. To celebrate the new-found Sizzlerdom all future copies of the game will be shipped will now proudly adorn the Sizzler stamp on the cover.

The SEUDS 2 box - now with the RG stamp of approval!

If you haven't snapped up a copy of SEUDS 2 yet then head on over to the BZ RetroStore and treat yourself to some retro fun for the Commodore 64. As a little bonus, everyone who orders SEUDS 2 will also receive a free download link for the original SEUDS compilation too. Bonus!

And that's almost yer lot now. Tune in next time for an update on one of the BIG Psytronik releases for 2012 - SOULLESS (and a sneaky peek at the gorgeous packaging!)

Thanks for reading!

Kenz /

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The start of a new year - and a new ERA!

Greetings fellow carbon units,

2012 didn't start off very well for Psytronik & Binary Zone I'm afraid. If you've visited the BZ RetroStore in the last month or so you will see I posted a notice on the front page to say there was a delay with orders being processed. In actual fact, I came THIS close to shutting up shop on both Binary Zone & Psytronik at the start of the year:-

This is how close it came to being GAME OVER for Psytronik!

So what almost caused the untimely demise of Binary Zone Interactive after over 20 years? A series of INEPT INK-JET PRINTERS, that's what! During the last few years I have got through a LOT of ink-jet printers - several in fact. This is probably due to me being a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to presentation and with the re-launch of Psytronik in 2008 it meant doing a lot of glossy prints ... And I mean, a LOT! A result of this meant the average lifespan of a printer in the BZ HQ is approximately 12 months. Or in the case of my last printer, 11.999999 months. One of the last ink-jet printers I bought was a Kodak ESP 5250 - I was hooked into this purchase by the promise of cheaper ink (a massive selling point after my previous ink-guzzling HP printer - two of which I owned and were duly flown apart by my glossy printing japes).

Anyhoo, all was going well with the Kodak printer until about the 11th month when I noticed a bit of striping appearing on the black parts of prints. I ran every possible print-head clean and maintenance procedure but to no avail. The quality of prints continued to decline to the point where I was not satisfied they were good enough to be used for Psytronik releases. As I was off work for a week for the Christmas break and my in-tray was bulging with unprocessed BZ orders I decided to get the printer situation sorted ASAP and so I dug out the receipt for the printer ... It turned out I bought the printer on December 29th 2010 - and I was sat there looking at the receipt on December 28th 2011 - One day before the 12 month guarantee expired!! After a few minutes of running around in a circle gibbering and waving my arms around* I decided to pack the printer back in its box (which I had luckily kept "just in case") and zoomed in my Silver Mondeo of speedliness to Comet - which is a bit of a 10 mile jaunt from my home town of Malvernium.

* My reaction to the imminent expiry of the printer guarantee may have been exaggerated slightly.

I arrived at the Comet store at precisely the wrong moment as it was packed with shoppers taking advantage of their Christmas sale. I huffed my way to the counter and was served by an everso nice girl with intense bottle-red hair and cheekily short / tight skirt. But I digress. Instead of being rewarded with a replacement printer and no hassle it turns out that after 3 months a product is no longer the responsibility of the store and it's down to the manufacturer. The girl kindly rang Kodak for me and I tried to speak to a woman in Outer Mongolia (or quite possibly Outer Space) with one finger in my ear to drown out the store din. I just about managed to convey my make of printer and address to the mongol(ian) at the end of the phone and was promised a replacement in 3 working days. Result!

So the Christmas holiday came and went and my liver was Jagerbombed into submission over the New Year - but still no printer. I then returned to work (in the real world) while the Binary Zone orders continued to pile up - much to my concern. And then ... What was waiting for me when I got home around 10 days after my voyage to Comet? An alarmingly SMALL package from Kodak - far too small to contain the replacement printer that I was eagerly awaiting. Ripping into the package revealed a replacement print-head for my printer. Not what I was expecting but it would get me out of a fix - and hey, it was free. So I purchased a full set of ink (not wanting to risk putting old dried-up ink cartridges into a new print-head) and at long last prepared to process orders - some of which were around 3 weeks old! My face fell off when instead of seeing a glossy Psytronik inlay emerge from my printer I was in fact rewarded with a BLANK PAGE. Things had gotten WORSE with the new print-head and my printer was now only capable of spewing out blank pages.

Aaaaaargh! I just want a working printer - dammit!

I was climbing the walls at this point as I really needed to process some orders - IMMEDIATELY - so I decided to abandon that printer for now and invest in a replacement printer to get me out of a pickle. After all, actual ink-jet printers are pretty cheap, it's the INK that's expensive. But then another disaster stuck. Another trip to Comet revealed my printer had been discontinued (after 1 year!) - and the nearest equivalent was the cheaper ESP C315 model. I plumbed for that one as I was desperate at this point so I rushed home with it, set it up, faffed around finding an extra file that wasn't included on the installation disk - (I'm looking at you .ini file), and out emerged a glossy inlay print ... that ... looked ... shite! For some reason the black parts of the image looked all blotchy - totally different to the crisp black images the Kodak 5250 used to emit. Further investigation revealed that I couldn't use the BEST quality printer setting unless I fed the printer branded Kodak photo paper - but that was no use to me as I cut up my prints to use as tape inlays and disk sleeves etc. so it would be no good me printing those on glossy Kodak paper. So the printer was all packed up and returned to the store for a full refund (that took about a week to reach my card, I might add). This meant I STILL had no printer and the weeks were creeping by - so I decided to sort out my original printer. I rang up Kodak and the bloke working in a call center on the planet Venus told me there was nothing they could do as it was more than 12 months old. I then explained (in a slightly louder voice) that the printer stopped working BEFORE it was a year old, and the replacement part they sent me did not fix the problem - it in fact made it WORSE. The bloke went off to speak to a more important Venusian who took pity on my poor burbling self and said they would send me a replacement printer. Wikkid!!

So with trembling anticipation I awaited the replacement 5250 printer - and sure enough, a nice hefty package arrived by courier from Kodak. Now imagine the expression on my face when I opened the package only to see a C315 printer grinning back at me ... They had sent me the same make of printer that I had recently returned as that one had replaced my model!!

Kodak you imbeciles! You made me go and break my lab!

That was the last straw. Over a month had now passed since I was able to process a Binary Zone or Psytronik order and there seemed to be no end to my printer woes ... I just wanted a printer that WORKED, dammit!! I'd really had enough at this point and it was time to make a pretty important decision ... Should I actually call it a day with Binary Zone?!?! Something else to bear in mind is that over Christmas & New Year I was unable to process orders - so instead of doing that I played video games, watched movies and generally sat around on my ARSE enjoying not being at work - just like a normal person!! But after a while my little creative mind started going into overdrive and I started to miss doing BZ stuff (I have been running BZ for over 20 years after all, it's what I do!) - and that's when I had a brainwave - one of those zen-like moments of clarity that solved everything. Why not ditch ink-jet printers and buy a gorramn LASER PRINTER!! No more having to fork out for expensive ink cartridges, no more clearing gunk out of clogged printer innards, no more having to chuck away sheets of paper after one of the inks decides to run out midway through a print. So after doing some cyber-research one of these babies was delivered to the Binary Zone HQ (in supa-quick time with NO hassle - thanx!):-

Oooh, so shiny and new and lasery!

And by golly it's FAB! I have never owned a laser printer before so I was already excited by the prospect - and I was VERY impressed with the quality of colour prints - they don't actually look like photos, more importantly, everything that comes out the printer looks like it has been PROFESSIONALLY PRINTED - which is very important when it comes to Psytronik stuff. So I was more than happy with that. And the actual printer itself didn't cost much more than an ink-jet printer and came fully loaded with colour toner. Yes, I know the toner will cost a lot more to replace when it runs out - but I will get gazillions more prints than an ink-jet was capable of. The main thing is it's RELIABLE, it's fast, it's quiet, the quality is consistently very good and there's no worry of dried up print heads or clogging. Also, and this is probably the most important thing of all, it has made me excited about doing Binary Zone & Psytronik stuff again. So you can expect great things in 2012 from the Zone - as we enter a new ERA of releases presented in glorious full-colour glossy LAZORVISION(tm)!

Yes, this is laser-printed - and the 36 page
booklet looks superb in LazorVision(tm)

Thanks for reading!

Kenz /