“Another visitor. Stay awhile…. Staaaay forever”. Reading that will send a tingle down the spine of anyone who has ever played the original Impossible Mission on the Commodore 64.
Figuring younger gamers also deserved a chance to play this classic platform/puzzle game, veteran software house System 3 updated it for the Nintendo DS and, in an act of unfathomable generosity, put not one, not even two, but THREE versions of the game on the cart – New, Original and Hybrid. Surely that has to be bargain of the century? Or does it?
But first a small plot interlude. Evil Elvin Atombender has started a countdown to launch a nuclear strike and destroy the world. Thankfully, silly Elvin has carelessly left pieces of the deactivation password lying around in his furniture, giving the James Bond-alike Agent 4125 time to dodge the deadly robots find the pieces and avert disaster. You have just 6 hours to complete your mission and every time you die (and you will – a lot) 10 minutes is deducted from your mission time.
When it comes to the different game modes, it’s really only the aesthetics that change, with the basic gameplay remaining virtually the same. Original is a port of the C64 game, New mode has updated graphics and sound, whilst Hybrid merges the two.
Hmmm. I like the original, but I like new graphics. So which is best? To quote Harry Hill: “There’s only one way to find out: FIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHTTTT!
Sadly, Hybrid mode is instantly beaten to death by the other two (and thus disqualified) on the grounds that it’s a bit pointless, leaving us with just two contenders.
In the Red Corner, weighing in at 28 years old: Original Mission. In the Blue Corner, weighing in at just 6 years old is New Mission.
Round One: Graphics
When it comes to the graphics it’s a no contest – although the result might surprise you. The original C64 graphics might look now sparse and simplistic, but the minimal look works in the game’s favour, underlining the bleak storyline.
New Mission might look prettier, with colourful backgrounds and more detailed robots, but it’s also more cluttered. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish between things that are background decoration and things that can be searched. This can be very frustrating as you waste time trying to reach an item which you can’t search anyway.
Round One to Original.
Round Two: Sound
Both versions get points for including the famous sampled speech, but Original scores more heavily as it sounds more menacing.
Sound on Original is pretty sparse, but far more atmospheric. The buzz of the robot’s lasers is genuinely scary, and the lonely footsteps of Agent 4125 as he pounds his way along corridors adds to the air of desperation.
New mode adds some pointless (and dreadful music) which drowns out the sound effects. It can be turned off, but the underlying sound effects (though technically better) are nowhere near as atmospheric.
Round Two: A series of hefty blows from Original has New on the ropes
Both titles share the same core gameplay, which is a plus and a minus. The random generation of room/layouts means the game plays differently every time. On the other hand, the underlying gameplay (go into a room, search objects, die, repeat) can become repetitive. This weakness of the original game has not been rectified in the remake
Round Three: A drawn round gives New Mission hope
The original was TOUGH. I only ever completed it with the aid of cheats. This should have been frustrating, but wasn’t (and still isn’t). Even when you’ve just died for the 30th time, you carry on. When you FINALLY manage to search the item you’ve been struggling with, you feel a ridiculous sense of achievement.
New version is a bit kinder. Robots are easier to avoid and searching is quicker (so you are not vulnerable for as long). It’s still pretty tough but it feels a little fairer now.
Round Four: Another drawn round: If you’re a gaming god, you’ll prefer Original; if you’re like me, New is fairer.
This has to be a draw, since both versions are identical – reasonably logical, responsive and easy to pick up. I’d have preferred the B button for jump (rather than A) because it feels more natural, but that’s possibly a personal preference.
Round Five: Another drawn round brings the fight to a close.
The Judges’ Final Scorecards
It might be nearly 30 years old, but Original beats the pretender to a bloody pulp. Three different versions might look generous, but I’d say the C64 port is the only one really worth playing. You might think that renders this game pointless – you can download the original C64 game off the internet for free – but being able to play it legally on newer, portable hardware is a bonus.
I only paid £2 (second hand). If you can find it for that and have fond memories of the game, you should snap it up.