Sam’s Journey – upcoming C64 homebrew platformer

Fans of old-school arcade platformers might want to check out Sam’s Journey, an upcoming Commodore 64 game from retro developer Knights of Bytes.

Drawing inspiration from genre classics like Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog and Rainbow Islands, it’s an original side scroller that sees you guiding the eponymous Sam through a cutesy fantastical world full of deadly obstacles and squishable monsters, with all manner of simple puzzles, collectibles, hidden items and secret passages to keep you entertained.

As you’d expect, Sam can run and jump, but he can also swim and climb as well as pick up objects and chuck them that at baddies. Best of all, special costumes unlock new abilities – the pirate has a cutlass, the ninja sticks to surfaces, the vampire can transform into a bat that flies, and Elvis can twist through the air (obviously!).

Here’s a little taste of what it looks like, plus there’s plenty more footage on their YouTube channel.

Visually, Sam’s Journey is one of the most impressive Commodore 64 games I’ve ever seen. It’s fast paced, the movement and scrolling is highly fluid, the backdrops are wonderfully detailed and colourful, and it seems to support multiple on-screen animated sprites. Incredibly, it boasts three Zelda-style overworld maps comprising “27 huge levels with multiple sections” and “2000 screens to be explored”, as well as 19 funky chiptunes, a checkpoint system and a save game option.

It’s certainly a remarkable technical achievement and no wonder they’re planning to distribute Sam’s Journey on a whopping 4MiBit cartridge. However, there will also be 5.25in floppy disk version and, for those of us without real hardware, there will be a digital edition that should work with C64 emulators such as VICE.

Sams journey swimming

Coder Chester Kollschen explained to me: “My team and I are big fans of those classic 2D platform games that exist on the 8-bit and 16-bit video game consoles. And we’ve always wanted to create a console-style platformer for our favorite home computer, where games of this kind were quite rare.

“Although Sam’s Journey is an original platformer, every team member contributed ideas from his favorite games of this genre into the concept. We love games like Super Mario Bros. 1-3 (NES), Kirby’s Dreamland (NES) and the Donkey Kong Country Series (SNES).”

Knights of Bytes are a three-man team who “create and distribute brand-new games for old-fashioned home computers and vintage video game consoles”. Their previous C64 projects include Ice Guys, a two-player arcade platformer inspired by Bubble Bobble, and Metal Dust, an R-Type style side-scrolling shooter. For the future, they have ambitions to produce an action-adventure game for the C64, a port of Sam’s Journey, and a game for the Super Nintendo. If you want to support their work then you can donate money on their website or make a pledge on Chester Kollschen’s Patreon page.

Sam’s Journey will be released sometime in the first half of 2016.

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