Donkey Kong on the Commodore 64

One of the hobbies that I enjoy involves reviving, maintaining, and using old computers. For the past decade, I have been focusing on a Commodore 64 from 1984.

I got this from an old woman who said it belonged to her husband. As I went through the floppy disks, I figured out that he was part of a group called CSUN, or Commodore System Users Network.

He had all kinds of games and other software. There was some redundancy in his collection, as CSUN would distribute physical floppy disks to every member monthly.

So I went through over 300 floppies and consolidated them for my own convenience and sanity. Plus, it saves room to not have 300 floppies in tow.


Last year, I cleaned up the computer and re-applied thermal grease to the chips, which improved performance, and also fixed a problem where a few of the keyboard keys were not working.

I cleaned a little and added the thermal grease before remembering to clean the rest. The capacitors appear to be relatively new. Replacing the capacitors is a practice known as “recapping.” You can buy complete sets of new capacitors for your Commodore 64, based on ASSY NO., for $6.95.

I don’t know if the system was recapped, but I may recap it myself next year. It’s working fine right now, so no problems.


My favorite things to do with this computer involve keeping a daily journal and playing some of the games. Today , I’m going to write about my favorite game, Donkey Kong.

I’ve played Donkey Kong since it first came out on July 9, 1981. I drove to the arcade and spent at least $50 playing the machine in one day. Needless to say, but the game was new and it took a lot of time to figure it out and learn it.

I have played it on various systems. Today, I have it on the Commodore 64, as well as the Nintendo Wii and GameBoy Advance SP.

With the Commodore 64, there are some bugs and challenges.

One bug is that Mario [known back in the old days as “Jumpman”] will sometimes just fall for no reason, or die with nothing near him. I wonder if this is a sign that there are capacitor issues, but it may not be because the bug isn’t very consistent. It has only happened a handful of times in the past few years.

It has happened only once since replacing the heat grease.

Donkey Kong (Atarisoft) - C64-Wiki

There is a level with conveyor belts, where lots of fire balls try to get Jumpman. Many things are moving on the screen, including Donkey Kong, the girl, the oil barrel on fire, conveyor belts, fire balls, and Mario.

As a result, sometimes there will be some lag as the action on the screen beings to move in slow motion.

There is no feature where you can pause the game or choose a save point.

Finally, you cannot save your high score. This isn’t a bug, and isn’t specific to Donkey Kong. This is how games are on the Commodore 64. So if you want to keep track of your high scores, then you can either write them down or take a photograph.


GAME PLAY
At the start of the game, you can decide where you start. Levels 1-5 are an option. I chose level 5. It is more difficult, but you get to bypass four levels that are relatively easy.

Each level has six screens. There is a girder scene, the cement factory, another girder scene, the elevator scene, another girder scene, and the rivet scene. These are not official names, but represent how they look.

The original arcade game had four screens per level. On a side note, Donkey Kong was the second-ever game to have multiple levels, right after Gorf by Midway.

In this older video of me playing, I start on the first level, so you don’t get to see all of the levels. The cement mixer level shows up later in the game play.

It appears that the first level has only two screens. I haven’t played levels 1-4 for so long that I can’t say for certain how many screens they have.


HIGH SCORE
Yesterday, I got the highest score that I’ve ever achieved on this particular system.

I started out on Level 5, which has six screens. Every level from at least this point forward has six screens. I made it to the first screen of Level 12.

From Level 5 to Level 11, up to the first screen of Level 12, is 42 screens.

Each game starts with 3 Jumpman characters. The player is awarded an “extra” Jumpman at a score of 7,000. There are no other bonuses after this.

After clearing 42 screens through 7 levels, my new high score is 358,100.

This took just over one hour.

In my morning routine, I will usually write a journal entry on the C64 and then play one game of DK. My average score is usually between 70,000 and 120,000.

This new high score is an unusual result for me, so it’s neat that I was able to get a picture of the final screen before it reset and jumped back to the opening screen.


IN THE END
Old computers like this Commodore 64 can take a person like me back to a simpler time.

Before ending this, I should note that I have not really been gaming all that much lately. When I do, it’s on the Commodore 64. Yesterday, I tried playing DK on the Wii and GameBoy Advance SP, and it takes a while to adjust to the faster game play and the controls.

Whatever it is that you love to do, try giving that some attention today or tonight. You’ll be glad you did.

Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

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