Cubic Critters (Vic 20)

1982 Commodore

Platform: Commodore Vic 20

Jack Attack as a game title for the Commodore 64 (and Plus 4) was a well known dig at Jack Tramiel and his so called “Jack Attacks” that he used to give out to his staff. The red main character sort of looking familiar to the Commodore boss at the time.

But did you know that the game had originally been produced back in 1982 by Kevin Kieller and John Traynor, and was originally a 4K cartridge game written for the Commodore Vic 20?

Commodore loved the game, but got the developers to re-develop it for the C64 and gave it a rename. But what of the Vic 20 original?  Kevin Kieller spoke about Jack Attack in Bitmap Book’s Commodore 64 visual compendium book, and mentioned that just a single cartridge exists with the game.

We got in touch with John, who had the following to say:

“One of the reasons that the VIC-20 version wasn’t released was that Commodore didn’t think the C-64 version was sufficiently “better” than the VIC-20 version. Kevin Kieller and I developed the VIC-20 version first, and then adapted (ported) the code to the C-64. One of the oddest phone calls I ever had with Commodore was when they said, ‘We just reviewed the C-64 version you sent; why are you not using sprites?’ Of course, from our perspective, there were no game elements that ‘needed’ sprites (from a technical perspective) and we wanted the game to be consistent between the VIC-20 and C-64 versions.

In contrast, Commodore’s view was that all things on the C-64 should be “better” than the VIC-20, and so decided to shelve the VIC-20 version. Which, frankly, is pretty sad, since so many more people could have enjoyed the game. That said, I’m sure many people who owned a VIC-20 went on to buy a C-64, so perhaps it didn’t matter in the end. I don’t have a physical copy of the cartridge (and don’t know who does), but there’s perhaps a slim chance Kevin may have a printed copy of the source code.”

Could it possibly be preserved some day to make digitally available? We hope so and we’ll try and get hold of the developers soon to see if that could be possible to share a piece of history.