Version tested: Retro
Does Bruce Carver's 1984 best-seller really deserve a place on this collection of C64 classics? In many ways, no, because out of everything it has probably dated worse than anything else from this carefully selected bunch of gaming relics.
Even the most hardened C64 apologist would have to concede that the graphics look terrible, and most of the five mini-games which make up the game aren't all that great either. So why are we letting it stink the place up?
Good question, I'm glad you asked. I guess it's a question of context. At the time the game was written in late 1983, 8-bit game development - especially for home computers - was only just starting to get fully into its stride, and the majority of games were still in thrall of what was going on in the arcades. Either you had a game shamelessly ripping off a popular game, or...a whole lot of rubbish.
Then titles like Summer Games and Beach Head came along and became the poster children for this big American beige beast. The latter, especially, was the sort of game you'd see running in electrical stores, because, well, at the time it looked like The Future of Home Entertainment.
With five distinct stages to Beach Head it was Like! Five! Games! In! One! Such unabashed gaming variety was a rarity in those days, so we all stood, mouths agog wanting some of that. In truth, Access had a system seller, and US Gold was largely formed off the back of its success.
First off, the map screen gives you the choice over whether to take on the enemy in a naval battle, or sneak through mine-infested waters in a highly risky series of rotational manoeuvres, like an evil take on buzz bar. If you take the former option you have to defend your ships from aerial attack, wiping out enemy aircraft as they swoop down menacingly.
Success was a matter of adjusting your cannons to the right angle and loosing off shots just at the right moment. After that, you had to try and prevent your ship being sunk by the volley of enemy shells raining down on you from the naval vessels stationed on the horizon, so, again, judging the angle of return fire just so was the name of the game.
Beyond that the action switches to a side scrolling beach assault, placing you in control of a tank, dodging mines, turret fire, and shooting enemy tanks and emplacements. At the climax, a faintly ludicrous 'boss' turret greets you, forcing you to take several attempts at shooting ten white squares with improbable levels of precision.
Back in 1983, such design evilry was perfectly acceptable. There were no rules. Nowadays, you're more likely to switch it off in disgust and boot something else up. Still, as a period piece, it's sometimes fun to see what the masses got excited about, and just how easily pleased we were...
4 / 10