Pentagorat

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Pentagorat
Title screen
Developer Mika Keränen
Daniel Kahlin (loader)
Publisher The Future was 8bit
Designer
Composer
Released December 18, 2016 (tape)
December 21, 2016 (file)
Platform VIC-20 (PAL)
VICE (PAL and NTSC)
Genre Adventure, puzzle
Gamemode Single-player
Download Download
Information riimukivi.net (homepage)
itch.io (download)
thefuturewas8bit.com (buy a tape)
User rating
Current user rating: 89/100 (1 votes)

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Christmas is a great time for gamers because game developers publish their work just in time for them to be played over the holidays. In 2016, one game especially piqued my interest: Mika “Misfit” Keränen’s isometric adventure game Pentagorat, which was published for the Commodore VIC-20 computer with 32 kilobyte additional memory. The Future was 8bit started selling the game on a cassette on the 18th of December 2016. A few days later, the game’s maker released a downloadable version of the game on itch.io site, where players can choose how much they want to pay for the game. Daniel Kahlin created the loading routine.

Dances with the ajatars

The player wakes up with amnesia wondering who and where he is. A voice enters the dark room welcoming the player to Pentagorat castle. He is told that he’s been imprisoned and his soul will be sacrificed. This threat makes the player leave the room to go figure out what’s happened and try to find his way out of this puzzle-filled rat’s nest. Our spherical hero’s fate is in the player’s hands.

The player dodges the following enemy as best as he can.

Logical puzzles

Shot from an isometric angle, the game resembles classical games like Fairlight and Head over Heels. This is not a scrolling game, instead, the player progresses screen by screen by solving puzzles.

The puzzles are logical. The door opens with the key and the lamp brightens the room. Our hero’s jumping ability is enough to escape his cell by breaking a drain cover, but soon enough the height differences become problematic as the player isn’t even able to get over a small obstacle. However, you can find boots in the locker room, which will help you get over these obstacles, and the game starts to get going.

All the puzzles won’t be solvable during the first attempt. It’s possible for the player to go around and around the castle wondering what needs to be done next, until you find out that the solution was right in front of your eyes. These kinds of moments do make you feel successful, but they also make you wonder how on earth you didn’t see it earlier? One particular puzzle requires the use of the Finnish language and this will be extra challenging for international players, who might have to turn to a dictionary in order to solve the puzzle.

Unforgivable life bar

The player has to investigate his environment, jump over obstacles and dodge enemies. The bar that displays the life energy that he has left is ruthless and even the smallest of mistakes can cost the player a lot. Death is knocking behind every corner. The enemies move around the screen according to a predetermined route or they follow the player. What’s more dangerous than the visible threats are the invisible ones, and in the dark rooms you need a lot of luck so that it doesn’t become the player’s graveyard.

The character obeys the commands well and goes where the player wants him to go. It’s impossible to avoid deaths, but at least they don’t come from the character doing his own thing. Despite fairly high level of difficulty, I seem to keep coming back to the game over and over again. Pentagorat offers the player an over 30-screen adventure that will take hours to get through the first time.

Cassette release

The Future was 8bit sells Pentagorat on the site for £5.99.[1] The first cassettes that were shipped were colorful[2] and because I’d ordered it on the day it was published, I received a red cassette, which was appropriate for the game’s theme. Along with the Pentagorat game, the site advertises a 35-kb penultimate memory expansion module, which makes the game work in your own computer if it doesn’t already have additional memory.[3]

The first cassettes that were shipped were colorful.

The cover booklet helps you figure out additional meanings to the gloomy story. There’s a hidden message near the booklet’s fold: “And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring.” You can also find the words “Häxbrygd” and “Verivalta” (“blood power”) in the booklet, which are vaguely scribbled on the cover. The sentence is borrowed from the 1776 version of the Finnish bible, in Leviticus 17:7.[4]

Ajatar is an evil female spirit in the Finnish folklore, and it’s related to the forest; it’s also known as the “Devil of the Woods”.[5] I think in this game the spirit has been made into a troll because there’s a sign on top of a door that says Only For Trolls. Also, the Finnish translation of the bible in 1933 talked about forest trolls instead of ajatars.[4]

Ajatar, or “Ajattara” in Finnish, is also a black metal band from Finland.[6] They have a song called “Verivalta” and a part of the lyrics say, “Olen saatana vankina jumalan,” or “Satan, I’m imprisoned by God.” The game’s logo is a pentagram, and on the cover the tip points up but on the loading screen the tip points downwards. The song and the loading screen’s connection might be a reference to a symbolic Satan.

Häxbrygd is a song by a Finnish band Finntroll, who play “troll metal.”[7] The Swedish word häxbrygd means witch broth.

Development

Misfit started developing his isometric game in October 2015 after his previous game Dove Dark and The Dirty Trick.[8] By the end of the year the game’s technology enabled him to start designing the enemies.[9]

The character was able to move between the rooms by mid-January[10], and by early March, it was able to pick up items.[11] Misfit started thinking about the puzzles and rooms.[12] The first screenshot of the unfinished game was published on the 13th of March 2016[13] and five days later the game had gotten its first puzzle.[14] The character was able to look for hidden items by the end of March.[15]

A screenshot of the first puzzle, where the character has to escape the jail, was seen on the 23rd of April.[16] Misfit showed the first version of the cover image in early May[17] and published a video of the unfinished game on the 10th of May.[18][19]

The enemies have ears in the finished game (right). They didn’t yet have them in July 2016 (left).[20]

Misfit was able to fix the technical problems by 8th of July.[21] He was looking for a publisher for the game at that time, when Rod Hull from The Future was 8bit showed interest.[22] A week later the game’s 31 screens were completed.[23] At the end of the same month, Misfit composed the theme music for the game.[24]

Pentagorat’s final puzzle and last screen were finished on the 3rd of August and Misfit started testing the game.[25] The rest of the game’s features were added during the next nine days[26] and by mid-August Misfit created an itch.io page for Pentagorat.[27][28] All the bugs were fixed by the 22nd of August and Misfit continued fine tuning the game.[29] Logo for the loading screen was published on the 7th of September.[30] Testing finished on the 30th of November 2016[31] and by this time Pentagorat was ready to be released.[32]

Reception

The cassette version of Pentagorat was released on the 18th of December 2016 and a downloadable file three days later. Misfit notified his Twitter followers about the release and on Denial, a forum for VIC-20 enthusiasts.[33]

Indie Retro News website wrote about the game’s release[34] and the site Vintage is the New Old mentioned it on their game listings.[35] In Finland, Turbovision’s Antti Niemelä interviewed the game’s developer.[36]

The game’s reception among gamers has been good overall, but some think its symbolism and dark theme are too much, even though the game’s end goal is good. According to the comments, most of the game’s players have reacted positively.

Pentagorat’s cassette sales exceeded expectations and many have bought it just to support the developer even though they play the game on an emulator.[36] Two days after the release The Future was 8bit had sold 19 cassettes.[33] Also, many have wanted to show their support and paid for it on itch.io where it is downloadable.

Screenshots

Videos

The game developer’s demo video about Pentagorat

References

  1. The Future was 8bit, Pentagorat (2016) - VIC20 +32k. Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  2. Twitter, @futurewas8bit (20.12.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  3. The Future was 8bit, Penultimate Cartridge VIC20 Memory Expansion + ROMS. Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Koivuniemen Raamattuhaku, 3.Mooseksen kirja 17:7. Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  5. Wikipedia, Ajattara. Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  6. Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives, Ajattara. Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  7. Wikipedia, Finntroll - Blodsvept. Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  8. Twitter, @RGMisfit (24.10.2015). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  9. Twitter, @RGMisfit (24.12.2015). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  10. Twitter, @RGMisfit (19.1.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  11. Twitter, @RGMisfit (6.3.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  12. Twitter, @RGMisfit (13.3.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  13. Twitter, @RGMisfit (13.3.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  14. Twitter, @RGMisfit (18.3.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  15. Twitter, @RGMisfit (30.3.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  16. Twitter, @RGMisfit (23.4.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  17. Twitter, @RGMisfit (1.5.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  18. Twitter, @RGMisfit (10.5.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  19. YouTube, VIC-20 Isometric game prototype. Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  20. Twitter, @RGMisfit (4.7.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-06.
  21. Twitter, @RGMisfit (8.7.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  22. Twitter, @RGMisfit (8.7.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  23. Twitter, @RGMisfit (17.7.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  24. Twitter, @RGMisfit (17.7.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  25. Twitter, @RGMisfit (3.8.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  26. Twitter, @RGMisfit (12.8.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  27. Twitter, @RGMisfit (16.8.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  28. itch.io, Pentagorat (2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  29. Twitter, @RGMisfit (22.8.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  30. Twitter, @RGMisfit (7.9.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  31. Twitter, @RGMisfit (30.11.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  32. Twitter, @RGMisfit (30.11.2016). Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  33. 33.0 33.1 Denial, New release: Pentagorat (32k). Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  34. Indie Retro News, Pentagorat 2016 - An isometric adventure launched for the Commodore VIC-20. Retrieved 2017-01-06.
  35. Vintage is the New Old, New Vic-20 Games to Play over the Holidays. Retrieved 2017-01-06.
  36. 36.0 36.1 Turbovisio, Suomalainen teki uuden pelin VIC-20-tietokoneelle. Retrieved 2017-01-04.

External links


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