Wheel of Fortune: Commodore 64
Some time ago I picked up a small lot of Commodore 64 items from arguably one of the most interesting C64 guys on the planet. Here on 1MC, I asked what I should do with it. Specifically, I asked What the Eff should I Play? I hadn’t mentioned the system since then, and with good reason. I had nothing to play, or do, aside from making little BASIC programs, until a few weeks ago. A small lot appeared on my local Craigslist consisting of a few C64s, a C128, and a VIC20, along with approximately 100 game disks and five or six game cartridges.
This was an odd Craigslist deal (aren’t ALL Craigslist meet ups?), with the seller texting me specific instructions as if I were delivering a suitcase full money to a hostage stand-off in some third world country. Is EVERY Commodore guy a little nutty? Whatever. After arriving home safe and sound a few hours later, I discovered that I indeed, finally, had a functioning disk drive and a set of disks. I set to work. I didnt’t realize there are over 20,000 (!) games for the C64/128. That’s, um, a lot. The first disk I pulled out of a box? Wheel of Fortune.
Buzz.. CLICK CLICK BUZZ.. WhirrRRRRrr goes the C64 drive. It worked! If you’ve ever watched Wheel of Fortune, odds are you have a pretty good idea of what the video game I’m going to discuss is about. Oh you there in the back, you haven’t? Well then. Wheel of Fortune is a TV game show consisting of three rounds and one bonus round. Three contestants each take turns spinning a big wheel mounted on the ground, similar to a roulette wheel. One contestant spins the wheel, then guesses a consonant, hoping that it’s Part of either the phrase, person, place, or thing, on a wall in front of them, similar to Hangman. The wheel indicates the dollar value of each consonant guessed. Alternatively, you can ‘buy a vowel’ for $250. Play alternates between contestants until the puzzle is solved. The final bonus round is played only by the highest scoring contestant from the first three rounds, usually playing for a car, house, boat, or trip. That person selects five letters and one vowel and has 15 seconds to ‘beat the clock’. The lovely Vanna White has
spun touched the tiles for the thirty or so years, and Pat Sajak has been the warm host.
This game has been on almost every video game console and computer system from 1985 on. An Atari 2600 version was even planned, but shelved due to the ‘crash’. I’m not sure what an Atari Vanna would look like, anyway. Here on the Commodore 64 we have a very 80’s looking Vanna. Unfortunately, Pat Sajak is not here. Vanna walks across spins the illuminated letters and applauds, in all her 8 bit beauty. Unfortunately, you don’t see yourself portrayed, unlike say in other game show games, like Jeopardy. Sound effects on the C64 are usually pretty good and Wheel doesn’t disappoint, compared to the DOS release with it’s PC speaker beeps.
Having personally played several versions (NES, Game Boy, DOS and C64 to be exact), the game is much easier with an actual keyboard, even with real live players. Do you REALLY need everyone to have a controller? I say no, but I prefer to sit back and bark out letters, anyway. Hooked up to my big 30″ish tube tv, Wheel looks like you’re watching the game show, if it had a black background for a set, and the tiles were all painted solid colors, and Vanna was animated like a cartoon character.
But seriously. I picked a television game show game this week. Why? Time and time again I always come back to Wheel, regardless of the system. When I was a child I played the DOS version with my parents occasionally on rainy Sunday afternoons. I had the Game Boy version later, but it’s not as fun solo. The NES version gets regular rotation with my fiance’ and I, and more recently the C64 version initiated an almost two hour marathon with a friend when I was exploring my Craigslist buy. Admit it people, you play these game show games too. They are great when a bunch of people are over and you are tired of jumping on mushrooms or playing fake plastic instruments. Give Wheel of Fortune, on any of the retro systems, the Fair Shake.