The premier issue of the German C64 magazine GO64!, issue 03/97, featured an article about the at that time quite unknown game producing crew, PROTOVISION. Their first game, Stroke World, was announced there, as well as the famous SuperCPU shoot’em up Metal Dust, which finally was released in 2005. There is also a mention of a project named “Hurrican” which eventually later turned into the “Turrican 3 V1” project also described here on GTW. But there was one other game mentioned of which we never heard of again: “Mike the Magic Dragon”.
Started in 1996, Mike the Magic Dragon was a conversion of the game with the same name from the Amiga. In fact, Mike the Magic Dragon was a very early Amiga release (1987, Kingsoft). It featured music from Crocket’s Theme and graphics in a style never seen before. Set in a fantasy realm, the little dragon Mike had to escape from various castles by solving a riddle and collecting diamonds.
The task was to collect letters in the right order to form a word, and the word always was a term from the computer world. The diamonds had to be collected completely, then a key would appear. Collecting the key, the game would check if the letters had been collected in the right order. If not, you had to re-collect them (but not the diamonds), else you reached the next level. On some platforms some enemies made your life harder. After time was up, you didn’t lose a life, however a spider came from above hunting you down.
Each level consisted of a great pixel artwork by Gabi Kittner, featuring a famous castle, and in fact this graphics plus the unusual use of the Miami Vice tune gave the game its extraordinary atmosphere.
The C64 conversion by Protovision was to be based on the same graphics converted from Amiga, using the Godot image processing tool. The special thing was that the graphics on the C64 were not in multi-colour (160×200, 3 colours in an 8×8 square + background colour), but instead in hires (320×200, only 2 colours and no extra background colour per 8×8 square). In fact the unique graphic style coincidentally allowed a very good conversion to the C64. Of course still a lot of re-touching was required and actually done for almost all levels (17 of 21).
The Amiga game had the same castle for three levels in different “atmospheres”: For example at night, at daylight, or in summer and in autumn etc. On the Amiga this was done by tricky palette changes, using the same picture. Due to the limit of C64 colors (16 vs. 4096) this didn’t look as good on C64, but it was considered to have at least two of the three castle pics each, so reducing the amount of levels to 2/3 of the original, which would not have been a problem.
Development was severely slowed down because the game’s author, Malte Mundt alias Thunderblade of Protovision, was heavily involved in releasing the monthly printed GO64! magazine from 1997 on. In 1998, he even released a monthly full-colour Amiga magazine, the “Amiga Fever”, in Germany (20.000 copies were printed each month!), which of course meant even less time for game coding. Another reason why the game was not continued probably was that it was based on converted graphics without actually having the legal rights to use them.
A very playable preview of the first level exists, but was never released. It features Mike, the elevators, the diamonds and letters but not the enemies. Also the parachute sprite is missing. Apart from that, the first level completely works. Today, Games That Weren’t can present it to the public as Thunderblade provided it to us.
And not only that! We got four D64 images with all level graphics in hires (Doodle) format, some IFF pictures from Amiga, the converted but not yet retouched title picture in Hires-FLI and all Source Code to the game. Thunderblade states that whoever wants can take it and finish the game. He warns though that the code may be quite crappy in places. ;-)
A neat platformer with unusual atmosphere…..
Contributions: Jazzcat, Ian Coog
“Hi altogether… Well, the idea for the game ‘Mike the Magic Dragon’ was born because the original Amiga game had such unique graphics. Just for fun, I had tried to convert some of them to the C64 using the great ‘Godot’ image processing tool. I found that ‘Godot’ could produce amazingly good results when converting these pictures into hires (320×200 but with only 2 color in one cursor-block!). Why not use these graphics in a game then? In a conversion?
Furthermore I always loved the Amiga game because it had such a great fantasy atmosphere. ‘Mike’ is a Jump’n Run, but unlike all other Jump’n Runs which are set in a ‘comic’, or even ‘bubble gum’ world, this title was completely different. It actually had some ‘magic’ as promised in the title. Instead of a comic, this game more looked like a fairy-tale! I just loved these castle-pictures, which in the game changed from night to day or from summer to winter.
The game had been my favourite game for a long time, I think I first played it in 1988 or so when a classmate showed it to me on his new Amiga. The gameplay itself was kinda simple, like ‘Jumpman Junior’ maybe, with some extensions, so the special thing were the graphics and, of course, ‘Crockett’s theme’ – the famous Miami Vice music I fell in love with immediately – which was playing in the background of the Amiga version.
I started working on my C64 version of ‘Mike’ in 1996 or 97 I think. But then I also began my studies, plus my activities for the famous GO64! magazine started. When I began coding the game, there were still magazines like the GAME ON and Magic Disk left -both heavily published games-, and people who actually bought them. But as you all know, even the hardcore gamers disappeared in the late 90’s and I wondered how many people actually would really play my game. It was a “simple” Jump’n Run after all – at least at first sight; you had to play it a while to get into its atmosphere (it was like this on Amiga).
With GO64!, my studies and later the Amiga Fever magazine project getting the priority, ‘Mike’ somehow starved. For a long time I could not decide whether to give it up or not, and as soon as I wanted to give it up and took a ‘last look’ at the level graphics, I again could not decide! ;-) Realistically however I recently realized that I probably won’t have the time to touch it again and so I thought: Why not releasing all there is – the graphics, the music and of course the source code! Someone else might pick it up and finish this game. If you do, let me know!
All source and graphics of ‘Mike the Magic Dragon’ is available as D64 images in the ‘Download’ section of this game.