Romhack Thursday: Snail Maze in a Cartridge

On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.

Early Sega Master System units released in the US had a small game included on the system ROM. It’s not as cool as the Space Harrier music with FM synthesis included on some Japanese Mark III units, but it’s at least a playable game.

Snail Maze, a really simple game (image from article)

It’s not really that deep a game, just a simple timed maze race, but it’s something, in case you got tired of Hang-On and Astro Warrior. Mike (no last name given), the maintainer of the blog Leaded Solder, decided to take that game and make a cartridge for it, so it can be played on any Master System, not just the early units that had it built-in. It’s a story of electronics work and 3D printing, of ColecoVision cartridge simultarity, roadblocks overcome, and ultimate victory. Here’s some appropriate music to listen to while reading it.

Breaking out of the Snail Maze (

The Forest Cathedral and 24 Killers Review

This is a double review of The Forest Catherdral and 24 Killers both played with press keys provided by the developers.

0:00 Intro
00:16 The Forest Cathedral
4:13 24 Killers

Reimplementations of the Contents of BASIC Computer Games

When we talk about the old days in computers, there’s easily several eras we could be talking about. There are people who consider the Wii/PS3 era to be the Ancient Times, for after all they were both released in 2006, 17 years ago. They’re almost old enough to drive!

I consider the “modern era” of gaming to have begun with the Dreamcast/Playstation 2/Gamecube era, for in my view that was when, with skilled art design and coding, and modest requirements, one could reasonably generate a realistic scene. Take a look at Crazy Taxi and Soulcalibur on the Dreamcast, both have graphics that seem a little simple now but easily hold up, while the Nintendo 64/Playstation generation has to cut too many corners with their 3D graphics generally.

You can from there go back through the generations: the 16-bit era, the NES/SMS era, then the Atari VCS/Intellivision/Odyssey2/Colecovision era. There’s also the era of home microcomputers, Apple IIs, Commodore 64s and Atari 8-bits, among others, a time that really has no comparison before or since.

But even that wasn’t the beginning of computer gaming. Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atari and the gleaming manufacturers, there was an age undreamed of, when shining timeshare systems lay spread across the world like Big Blue mantles beneath the stars. That was when computing may well have not even meant using a monitor, but instead entering data through a kind of typewriter, with your text appearing on paper, and the machine’s output would also appear on that paper. While that was a time where computing was still new and expensive, and people rented time on big mainframe machines with, at the time, ludicrous resources. The IBM System/370 Model 145 had 500 whole kilobytes of memory, and 255 megabytes of disk space. Such a machine would be partitioned out to many users, who each had accounts on it, and would be served by the processor concurrently. And they liked it!

Two covers for BASIC Computer Games, the common later “Microcomputer Edition” and an earlier one.

And before even teletype machines, there were punchcard systems, and the oscilloscope screen on which Tennis For Two was played, but for this post that’s going back a little too far.

This was the time in which David Ahl’s book, BASIC Computer Games*, appeared on store shelves. It was first published in 1973. When I was younger I had a copy of it, given to me by a relative, but it was already a relic by then. I once spotted it on a store shelf, gamely offered for sale despite it being probably around 1991 at the time, a good lifespan in a genre of book nowadays considered disposable. Remember, Pong debuted at Al Capp’s Bar in 1972**. There was a thriving culture of computer gaming even before the first commercial video games were sold.

(* Note 1: While it’s often forgotten now, BASIC is properly written with capital letters. It’s an acronym that stands for Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. That’s not as tortured as, say, “GNU’s Not Unix.”)

(** Note 2: Pong wasn’t the first commercial video game. That was likely the Odyssey, or Nutting Associates’ Computer Space. I don’t want to get into it here. This comment is here largely to satisfy my own obsessive/compulsiveness.)

Super Star Trek. The text of the book indicates that versions of the Star Trek text game existed since “the late sixties.” Remember, the show aired in the late sixties. People were playing Star Trek on computers while Star Trek was airing on television in first broadcast.

BASIC Computer Games, and its sequels More BASIC Computer Games and Big Computer Games, record, as program listings, a couple hundred old computer games and other entertainments much as they existed at the time, which makes it an incredibly important book for software preservation and computer historians, I’d think anyway. It has listings for a version of the “Star Trek” text game that was popular at the time, and that even once inspired a vectorscan arcade game from Sega, as well as a good number of other amusements.

I say game design doesn’t go obsolete, but it’s true that current expectations of what computer programs should do, let alone games, are not met well by the programs in the books. Still, they can be fun to interact with, for a while at least, and a project exists on Github to update all of the programs to a variety of current (I refuse to say modern) programming languages.

You can also obtain the software in .bas files compatible with Vintage BASIC, a reimplementation of classic Microsoft BASIC for current OSes including Windows, Mac and Linux.

PDF of Basic Computer Games (

Compilation of programs from BASIC Computer Games converted to current languages (github)

4am’s Crack of Spare Change

Spare Change is an odd little Apple II game from 1983, where the player tries to thwart mischievous creatures who escaped from an arcade game, who are trying to steal quarters from the machines. One of Broderbund’s earlier hits, although it never gained the recognition of Lode Runner.

Such a charming little game
Do you not only understand this, but enjoy reading it? Then this should be very interesting to you.

Spare Change, in addition to its various little features like animated intermissions and customizable difficulty, also had a pretty strong copy protection scheme. These schemes served to prevent casual copying at the time (although cracks of all the popular titles inevitably started making the rounds on BBSes), but also serve to work against software preservation. Spare Change is 40 years old now, and disks fail frequently. There is an available crack, but it’s said to be missing an important feature: it fails to save their high scores to disk.

4am is the famed preserver of classic Apple II software, performed by dint of figuring out their protection and removing it as unobtrusively as possible. His account on Twitter (I refuse to call it X, I don’t even like saying Xbox) made for great reading for people of a technical mind. He isn’t on Twitter any more for, I dunno, some reason, but he still posts his cracks, and his explanations for how they work, to the Internet Archive, under the 4am tag.

All this is to say his crack of Spare Change makes for entertaining reading to one of the right mindset. One of you may have it, so here it is.

Space Change: a 4am and san inc crack: description and the crack itself.

Sundry Sunday: The Groovy Long Legs Experience

Sundry Sunday is our weekly feature of fun gaming culture finds and videos, from across the years and even decades.

In the year + one half we’ve been doing this, we’ve dug up a lot of varied things for Sundays. This one’s pretty short, but still, the fact they made it in stop motion is respectable. (At least I assume it’s stop motion. They could have made it in a computer I guess, but then, why make look like it was stop motion? Some kind of Lego Movie stylistic flex?)

Anyway, it’s another Pikmin 4 video. Pikmin 4 is not as sharply designed as Pikmins 1 or 3, it takes after 2 (it has caves, and even has one starring that game’s most infamous boss, the Waterwraith), but even the flabbiest Pikmin game is still a wonderful thing to behold.

This video covers is about an actual boss battle in Pikmin 4. Previous games had you fight monsters in the Long Legs family: the Beady Long Legs from Pikmin 1, the Raging Long Legs from 2, the Shaggy Long Legs from 3 and now… the Groovy Long Legs. This video is not confabulating much: it shines lights around, plays music, and your Pikmin actually do get down when you’re fighting it–which usually results in them getting turn into Pikmin Paste. Time to reload the floor….

The Groovy Long Legs Experience (Youtube, one minute)

Chris Trotter’s History of Atari

The Atari brand has been in so many hands, and been used for so many things (including, most recently, NFTs and hotels) that making sense of it all is maddening. Christ Trotter on the atomicpoet Pleroma instance made a fairly lengthy series of posts laying it all out that, to my eyes, is accurate. He may actually know more about their history than I do, although pride makes me loathe to admit it!

The whole thread is useful, but here’s the first post on it, presented as screenshot because WordPress doesn’t yet support embedding that kind of thing directly. I don’t know why it’s so blurry, that seems to be WordPress again.

Chris Trotter’s Capsule History of Atari (, a Pleroma instance)

Twinbeard Plays Super Mario Galaxy One Star A Day

Twinbeard is Jim Stormdancer, who’s on Mastodon. He created Frog Fractions, and its mysterious sequel. But these things are irrelephant to the subject of this post, which is that he’s playing Super Mario Galaxy, one star a day, and posting his play to Youtube.

There’s a playlist of the 51 (as of this writing) stars, and none of them have many hits right now. It’s possible that he does them in batches and just posts one a day, but that’s fine. It’s nice to just follow along at this pace.

Twinbeard hasn’t fallen prey to something I hate about the video internet, which I could complain of as TikTokification, but honestly there are people on TikTok who aren’t nearly as bad as some on Youtube. And Youtube was trending towards it anyway, with their often unwatchable Shorts section serving as just an extreme example of pre-existing trends. It may just be my advancing age, but I really really really dislike much of what I see on Shorts, and Twinbeard’s videos are a nice alternative to it.

Romhack Thursday: Segapede (not really a hack)

On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.

Screenshot of Segapede prototype (image from

In the 90s, there was effectively two Segas, Sega of Japan and Sega of America. Unlike with Nintendo though, where it’s fairly obvious that the Japanese division called the shots, Sega was a little more evenly split. Despite the company mostly being known nowadays for their Japanese productions, Sega was originally an American company, founded in Honolulu making entertainment devices for U.S. military bases. Indeed, SEGA originally stood for SErvice GAmes.

The Japanese branch began to pull out ahead when they started making home computers for that market, but by the time of the Mega Drive/Genesis there was Sega Technical Institute on the American side, which employed some talented developers, including Yuji Naka.

The story of STI is part of that of Segapede, a game created by Craig Stitt. Originally pitched as a Sonic spinoff, it would eventually be cancelled, but not before a demo ROM was created, which saw the light of day for the first time late last year. Not only available is the ROM image itself, but the story of its inspiration, development, and ultimate cancellation, all on its suitably-named home

The Story of SegapedeSegapede Prototype ROM (

Indie Game Showcase For 8/23

The weekly indie showcases highlight the games we check out for each Wednesday night stream. All games played were either press keys or demo submissions. If you would like to submit a game for a future showcase, please reach out.

0:00 Intro
00:14 Mango Mischief
1:20 20 Minutes Til Dawn
4:26 Blade Brigade
7:25 Draft of Darkness
10:16 Video Game Fables
12:30 Kokoro Ultimate

Unexpected Pinball Cow

Cows have had a long history associated with pinball. Not that long compared to the whole range of pinball, going back to the Great Depression, but in the days of games with dot-matrix displays, it became a tradition to hide cows in pinball games in some way.

Just one example. In Attack From Mars, if you hit the Big-O-Beam ramp, sometimes the animal being enlarged is a cow. (If you can’t take your eyes off the game, listen for the woman saying “Would you look at the size of that cow?!”) Further, if you press the start button several times during this animation (each press will be punctuated by a MOO), it’ll turn the Saucer Attack minigame into Cow Attack, which is actually slightly easier I find; the hit detection is pixel-accurate, and the cows make for bigger targets. Here’s Cow Attack in action (one minute):

A history of pinball cows would take quite a while to explain, and that’s not the purpose of this post. No, what I’m here to tell you is that the legend of the Pinball Bovines has crossed to the makers of Metroid Prime Pinball on the Nintendo DS, which contains a cow! Here is video proof (33 seconds):

It’s explained in a saved interview on the Metroid Fandom wiki:

Remrod: “Indeed I am. I am renting two squash courts to store about 100 machines. But our DS version of pinball is more fun than the real thing!” (laughter)

Terasaki: “That’s right. There’s even an unexpected appearance from a cow.”

NOM: “A cow? What’s that got to do with Metroid?”

Barritt: “There was a pinball game in the 1980s called ‘Fire!’ in which a cow puts in an appearance. The game is about a huge fire that once broke out in Chicago. The cause of the fire was a cow kicking over a lantern. Ever since then, cows have become a fixture as hidden characters in pinball machines. This is well-known among pinball aficionados in Europe and the States, and perhaps around half of the pinball games released since then have featured a cow concealed in them. Naturally, we also put one in Super Mario Ball…” (laughter)

Terasaki: “If you do happen to find the cow, please leave it in peace!” (laughter)

The cow in the game has wings and flies around. Please, if you play it, respect this noble beast.

The Copetti Site: Architectures of Recent Game Consoles

From the site, a diagram of the architecture of the Wii U’s Game Pad

A good old-fashioned website! It’s hope to information on the construction of a wide variety of console platforms! Docs on the NES, the Sega Master System, the PC Engine (a.k.a. Turbografx 16), the Mega Drive (a.k.a. Genesis), Gameboy, SNES, Saturn, Playstation, Virtual Boy (yes), Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, GBA, Gamecube, Xbox, DS, PSP, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii and Wii U.

The Copetti site: Architecture of Consoles