Penguin Tower

Visualize / Problemchild Productions

Status: Full Game, Findability: 5/5

After the games stopped being reviewed in Commodore Format, it looked like the end. That was, until a games explosion occurred and where this little gem was all seemingly ready for release.

Being coded in Finland, this Bomberman clone was something that the dwindling C64 scene was crying out for and Commodore Format magazine jumped on it like a pack of hungry wolves when they heard about it. At the time Jon Wells was also trying to keep the C64 going, and made an arrangement with the coder to distribute the game in the UK and sell across Europe too.

After packaging up a 10 level preview for Commodore Format’s Power Pack and requesting for interest in the game. Jon received a staggering amount with 700 reservation slips received – which was a lot at the time when readers were abandoning the platform rapidly for the likes of the Sony PlayStation.

When Jon attempted to finalize details with the coder, he never had any reply from multiple contact attempts. A massive shame, as it could have made a reasonable amount of money for both.

Jani Hirvo, the coder of the game, got in touch with GTW – saying the game was 90% complete with 100 levels all in place and that he could one day finish it. This was however around 2000 time, so of course it seemed very unlikely after over 20 years (and 27 since the preview itself!). Jani informed us that the game had a new intro, outro, music and high score compared with the demo version we all have.

Interestingly on a separate note – a separate re-development of the game was carried out and started, which is slightly controversial, as it was never authorised by Jani. The development is essentially the same, with the same graphics and new contributed levels. It was born out of frustration of the original game never seeing release. It’s an interesting curiosity to check out:

Jani was surprised to learn about the 700 reservations with Jon Wells, and didn’t know about Jon’s contact attempts. Had he known, he would have certainly finished the game to fulfil the pre-orders. Over the years we had tried to encourage Jani to finish the game.

We had hoped that our page on the game and video post updates would potentially spur on Jani – especially with the resurgence of the C64 in recent years too (mentioning the likes of Psytronik and Protovision as potential outlets). Jani did give hope that he would some day finish the game – but he had no idea when :)

Well – finally in November 2023, Jani finally made time and decided to finish off the game once and for all and release to the world in its final state, completely for free. It marks almost 30 years since the game first entered our minds, and it is amazing to finally see the game and enjoy it as originally intended.

In December 2023, Jani then added all of the source code onto GitHub, which you can find here:

A huge thank you to Jani for finishing his work – and yet another case closed in the GTW archives!

Contributions: Jani Hirvo, Jon Wells

Supporting content

Available downloads

Creator speaks

Jani Hirvo speaks to GTW about work on Penguin Tower…

“I’m the one responsible for coding the game ‘Penguin Tower’ back in the good old days. The game was (sadly) never finished.

These things are years old so I cannot get mad about things said then. The sad thing is that I never knew that the game was received that well… 700 reserve slips. Man, that was a lot those days and probably would have motivated pretty well to get the product done. It is a pity that the whole thing ended up in problems with communication.

Just for the curious, I’ve actually been working with the game last summer (2000) doing recoding on the PC with a c64 compiler and emulator. What should be done is the endtro and some bugfixing….You never know if it someday gets released. ;-)”

FRANK – “So you plan to finish it?…..”

“Yes, but that’s been the plan for the last five years. ;)

I work as software designer/coder and sometimes I relax from work by, well, doing some more programming. It’s kinda relaxing to sit down and just tap code on a machine you know so well.”

FRANK – “Maybe the GTW team could finish it off for the site?”

“Thank you for the offer. I really have to think about this. At the moment all of my C64 development is done on the PC. The game takes currently 98% of the memory space so there’s no room for a (turbo) assembler in the memory. I hope the GTW team is familiar with coding on PC. And… I can watch TV through a TV-card or listen mp3’s while coding. ;)

When the game (PC/C64) is ready, you’ll be one of the first ones to know. …Don’t get your hopes up… It might take some time. ;p”

Update history

  • 20/12/23 – Source code added to Github
  • 21/11/23 – After almost 30 years, the full game has been released!
  • 13/05/21 – Overhaul of write up that was probably written by 16yr old me.
  • 06/08/20 – Few details about second game added.
Posted in: GTW64 archive | Tagged: | 7 Comments

7 Responses to Penguin Tower

  1. I’d just brought a Commodore C64c now a year earlier after upgrading from an Amiga A500. I was so excited around that time to see new software and this was the one that I was looking forward to the most. With the re-emergence of the C64 as a viable gaming platform, thanks to THEC64 / Mini and the Ultimate 64, as well as other devices, there is no reason why Penguin Towers 2020 can’t be done if the developer is readinig – PLEASE finish it :-)

    • Me too but John just went quiet! Loved the Demo. Tried to contact Jani many years ago without success. Hope it does get finished, I,ll buy it.

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