Hercules16 - Original Soundtrack

September 2022

Sometimes the small and lovely C64 Twitch community gets all obsessed with a game - most recurringly, Airwolf, of which I'm firmly in the anti-camp of. But this time it was Hercules, a punishingly hard platformer.

It turned out that the C16/Plus4 version, converted by Wise Owl Software in 1987 had really jank controls, making the game close to unplayable. So, the brilliant C64_Mark got down to business. In record time, he had reverse engineered and rebuilt the entire game! TheJolieJones and i_a_n contributed graphics and level design, and I got the chance to do some sound.

This was an interesting challenge, because the TED chip in the C16 is not exactly a powerhouse compared to the legendary 6581, as it was allegedly designed for "Business Applications" (snort!)

TED sports a whopping two channels. The first channel can produce a square wave, and the second can generate square AND noise. The frequency range is also severely limited, so one just has to imagine the low frequencies of a bass.

Thanks to the genius Hermit, I could avoid the hard work of coding my own player, and opted to use his excellent TedZakker, which even works on the C64! The player got it all; vibrato, portamento, slides, wavetables and subtunes. It's also got great UX.

I disassembled and re-labeled the player (TZ does come with sourcecode, but not in my preferred format), and wrote a little tool that would convert a worktune into assembler statements. This made it easy to hand over revisions to Mark - he could just plonk it into the source, keeping everything snugly relocatable within the tight confines of the C16 memory space.

There were a few false starts trying to convert music of the C64 version of Hercules (by Steve Bak), which failed miserably. So I made my own title tune instead. Subtunes were used for the "step", "jump", "death" and "item" sounds. There was also space for a Game Over / Highscore loop, plus End Game, Get Ready (from Yolanda, the Amiga version), and Janksoft™ jingles.

A really fun project, and really interesting to work with a new chip. I hope another opportunity arises. Thanks to Mark for letting me have a go!


Player running in YAPE