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|Release date(s)||1984: Commodore 64
1985: Acorn Electron, BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum
1986: Amstrad CPC
1988: Sega Master System
2007: PS2, PSP, DS, Wii
2010 Oric Atmos
The player takes the role of a secret agent who must stop an evil genius. Professor Elvin Atombender is believed to be tampering with national security computers. The player must penetrate Atombender's stronghold, racing against the clock to search the installation for pieces which form a password, all the while avoiding his deadly robots. Once in possession of all the password pieces, the player must correctly assemble the password pieces together and use the completed password in the main control room door, where the evil professor is hiding. Password pieces are found by searching furniture in the rooms. When searching, the player can also find "Lift Resets" and "Snoozes." They are used at computer terminals. "Lift Resets" reset all moveable platforms; "Snoozes" freeze all enemies in the room for a limited time. There are also two special rooms where additional lift resets and snoozes can be awarded for completing a musical puzzle. The location of puzzle pieces, arrangement of the rooms and elevators, and abilities of the robots are randomly selected each game, providing replay value.
Impossible Mission has two types of enemies. The first are the robots. These have a cylindrical main body. Their bodies are electrified, and some are able to use a short range death ray. Some are stationary; others move in patterns, and others specifically hunt the player. Some have to actually see the player, and others know where the player is at all times.
The second enemy is an enormous hovering electrified ball. Much rarer, most of these chase the player (with a couple of exceptions). While affected by "snoozes," unlike the robots they still have a high voltage when disabled. The hovering balls disappear if they come in contact with a robot. In certain rooms, it is possible to stand on a movable platform with the hovering ball directly underneath, and push the ball off the bottom of the screen, only to have it re-appear at the top.
The player has six hours of game time to collect 36 puzzle pieces. Every time the player dies, 10 minutes are deducted from the total time. The puzzle pieces are assembled in groups of four. The puzzle pieces overlap, so three pieces can be assembled before the player realizes he must start over. Pieces may be in the wrong orientation, and the player may have to use the horizontal or vertical mirror images. Additionally, the puzzle pieces are randomized in every game. A completed puzzle forms a nine letter password which allows the player to reach Professor Atombender.
The first element of the game to be created was the player character's animations, which designer Dennis Caswell lifted from a library book about athletics. Caswell recalled, "I animated the somersault before I had any clear idea how it would be used. I included it because the animations were there for the taking ..."
Caswell cites Rogue as his inspiration for the randomised room layouts, and the electronic game Simon as his inspiration for the musical checkerboard puzzles. The hovering balls were inspired by the Rover "security guard" from the Prisoner TV series.
The Commodore 64 version features early use of digitized speech. The digitized speech was provided by the company Electronic Speech Systems, who drastically raised their prices after Impossible Mission became a successful test case. Epyx did not deal with ESS again as a result. Caswell recounted:
I never met the performer but, when I supplied the script to the representative from ESS, I told him I had in mind a "50-ish English guy," thinking of the sort of arch-villain James Bond might encounter. I was told that they happened to have just such a person on their staff. When I was given the initial recordings, the ESS guy was apologetic about them being a touch hammy, but I thought the over-acting was amusing and appropriate, and they were left as is...
The game's title was one of the last elements to be finished. According to Caswell, "The choice of a name was delayed as long as possible, and Impossible Mission was more resorted to than chosen. It was, at least, somewhat descriptive, and the obvious allusion to Mission: Impossible was expedient, to the extent that both the game and the TV show involved high-tech intrigue."
In 1985 Zzap!64 editors ranked Impossible Mission in second place in their list of best Commodore 64 games, while readers ranked it in first place with 26% of votes. Compute! listed the game in May 1988 as one of "Our Favorite Games", writing that one of its "guilty pleasures is to send your character hurtling repeatedly into the abyss just for the sound effects". The ZX Spectrum version was voted the 28th best game of all time in a special issue of Your Sinclair magazine in 2004.
Ports and sequels
Though originally developed for the Commodore 64, Impossible Mission was ported to the Apple II, Atari 7800, ZX Spectrum, Acorn Electron, BBC Micro, Amstrad CPC and Sega Master System. Not all of the ports had the same features as the C64 edition, such as speech.
The NTSC Atari 7800 version has a confirmed bug that makes the game impossible to win; it places some of the code pieces underneath computer terminals, which the player cannot search (since attempting to do so will access the terminal). The bug was fixed in the PAL version. Rumors of a bug fix for the NTSC version were put to rest when Atari formally announced the retirement of the Atari 7800 on January 1, 1992.
The NTSC Atari 7800 version was converted from the Commodore 64 version by Computer Magic, Ltd. Contractos Brian Richter started the conversion, with Arthur Krewat finishing it. Krewat states that he was able to complete the game in the final version he gave to Atari, but that either Atari used a previous development version for the cartridge, or they tried to shrink the memory footprint so that it would not require as much static RAM in the cartridge. Atari themselves tested the game and approved it, paying Computer Magic for the final product. Krewat is adamant in stating that the final version supplied to Atari was bug-free. Krewat searched for his source code of Impossible Mission for the Atari 7800 and founded it by December 2008. He determined the code he supplied Atari is identical to the ROM image available on AtariAge.com. Work continues to determine how the bug came about.
The ZX Spectrum version also had this bug, although as the placement of code pieces is random, terminals may not always be used to hide the pieces. This may also explain why the the games Krewat ant Atari played they were able to complete.
The sequel, Impossible Mission II, followed in 1988. It further complicated the quest with new traps and items. Elvin's stronghold also grew in size, divided into a number of towers which the player had to traverse, all the while picking up pieces of the password (an aural one this time).
In 1994, Impossible Mission 2025 was released for the Amiga. It kept the same idea as the previous games, and mainly featured updated graphics and audio, as well as allowing the player to choose between three different characters. The game also contains the Commodore 64 version of Impossible Mission.
In 2004, Impossible Mission was one of the games featured on the C64 Direct-to-TV.
Impossible Mission was to be remade for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance by Oceanic Studios under license from Ironstone Partners in 2004. The development deal seems to have been put on hold.
Developers System 3 are revamping Impossible Mission for the Sony PSP, Nintendo DS and Wii (it is often mistakenly believed to be the first WiiWare game, but is a budget title released on the 31 August in the UK). In the US, the Nintendo DS version was released exclusively at Gamestop stores by Codemasters and the Wii version was released in March 2008.
- Bevan, Mike (December 2013). "The History of... Impossible Mission". Retro Gamer (122) (Imagine Publishing). p. 44-49.
- Edge issue 167, October 2006; "The making of Impossible Mission"
- Dennis Caswell interview from MayhemUK Commodore 64 archive
- "YOUR top 64!". Zzap!64. 1985-06. pp. 83–86. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- "Our Favorite Games". Compute!. 1988-05. p. 12. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- "Top 50 Games of All Time". Your Sinclair (Imagine Publishing). November 2004.
- Post on World of Spectrum forums
- Bevan, Mike (December 2013). "The Electrocop Connection". Retro Gamer (122) (Imagine Publishing). p. 45.
- System 3 official website of the revamped game
- Epyx returns on Wii, PSP, DS; retrieved from Gamespot UK
- System 3 website of revamped Wii game
- Gamestop's Impossible Mission Page. Retrieved on April 22, 2008.