|Platform(s)||Commodore 64 (original)
Acorn Electron, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari 7800, BBC Micro, Sega Master System, ZX Spectrum, PS2, PSP, NES, Nintendo DS, Oric Atmos
|Release||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
Impossible Mission is a video game for several home computers. The original version for the Commodore 64 was programmed by Dennis Caswell and published by Epyx in 1984. The game features a variety of gameplay mechanics from platform and adventure games and boasted novel features for the time, such as digitized speech. Impossible Mission, which casts the player in the role of a secret agent infiltrating an enemy stronghold, is widely considered one of the best games for several platforms and inspired sequels and remakes.
The player takes the role of a secret agent who must stop an evil genius, Professor Elvin Atombender, who is believed to be tampering with national security computers. The player races against the clock to reassemble and decrypt the password to Atombender's control room while avoiding deadly robots. Password pieces are found by searching furniture in the rooms. When searching, the player can also reset all moveable platforms and freeze enemy robots for a limited time. The game also features similar rewards for completing bonus puzzles. Impossible Mission enemies include 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 a hovering, electrified ball. Most of these chase the player.
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 lets the player 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 second in their list of best Commodore 64 games, while readers ranked it first, with 26% of votes. Compute! listed the game in May 1988 as one of "Our Favorite Games", writing that the sound effects of the character committing suicide was one of their guilty pleasures. 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
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 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.
The game ElectroCop was rumored to have started as a sequel to Impossible Mission, but this has not been substantiated. 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.
Developers System 3 revamped Impossible Mission for the Sony PSP, Nintendo DS and Wii. In the US, the Nintendo DS version was released exclusively at GameStop stores by Codemasters (which similar to the Amiga sequel, included a filter for graphics and audio to recreate the C64 original of Impossible Mission in terms of look and sound, albeit a little remastered) and the Wii version was released in March 2008 as a WiiWare title.
- Bevan, Mike (December 2013). "The History of... Impossible Mission". Retro Gamer (122). Imagine Publishing. pp. 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. June 1985. pp. 83–86. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- "Our Favorite Games". Compute!. May 1988. p. 12. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- "Top 50 Games of All Time". Your Sinclair. Imagine Publishing. November 2004.
- 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.