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HSC01 Round 13: Blast Droids / Haunted House

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Blast Droids is the main game for Round 13 of the Astrocade High Score Club. This game controls like the game Asteroids, and is even similar to it, but it's not a direct copy of that game.

The BASIC bonus game is an extremely simple text-adventure-like game called Haunted House. It uses a menu system rather than a parser. This one is pretty unusual, but I thought it might be interesting to try a game that is pretty far off the beaten path.


Round 13 will last about three weeks. The round ends on Sunday, December 18'th at 8pm MST.

This is the last regular round for 2016. After this round is complete, there will be a catch-up round that will last until the last day of December. During that final round of the year, if there are any games that you missed, or there are any games that you'd like to try getting a higher score on, then you'll have that final chance to play previous games again.

Blast Droids

Blast Droids is a 4K cartridge by Esoterica released in 1983. This game was written by Dan Drescher, and J.P. Curran.

Note: In the Bally/Astrocade Game Cartridge and Hardware FAQ, Michael White writes that the Blast Droids cartridge reads "Spectrecade Presents: Blast Droids," but Spectrecade had nothing to do with this game. Esoterica, Inc. previously manufactured "Treasure Cove" (a Spectrecade game). Somehow that name ended up on this cartridge's label, the box, and even in the manual. It's a mistake.






The Blast Droids cartridge ROM image (called "bstdroid.bin") is part of this archive:


In the May 1984 issue of the Arcadian, in the The Game Player column, Michael Prosise wrote, "Uh-oh. Lloyd Friedman of New Jersey warns, "BLAST DROIDS: worst game ever." Watch your $$$$, folks..." This game was never submitted to The Game Player for review. However, Kevin O'Neill was much more optimistic in his October 1983 review in the Niagara B.U.G. Bulletin newsletter, which you can read here:



A pdf of the Blast Droids manual is here:


I've OCRed the manual for Blast Droids:

SPECTRECADE Presents Blast Droids © Mfg. & Dist. By Esoterica, Inc.

Intergalactic Stardate

From: Chief of Operations, Spectrecade School for Intergalactic Space Pilots, Inc.

To: All Future Star Pilots

Dear Prospective Intergalactic Space Pilot,

The Spectrecade School for Intergalactic Space Pilots is pleased to announce that you have passed our entrance exam with flying (ha, ha) colors and have been accepted for our Home Study Course I. This program consists of:

1. Four lessons in "Ship Maneuvering I," after which you will

2. Solo in the training sector (perhaps alongside another new cadet) followed by

3. Your first real mission. We sincerely hope it will not be your last.

Successful completion of this Home Study Course will earn you fame (for fortune you need to take the more expensive Home Study Course II) and your name will be ranked with the late Buck Rodgers and Flash Gorgon.

Ship Maneuvering I

Lesson I. This ship is only capable of forward thrust. To fire thrusters push joystick forward. For delicate maneuvering short thrusts are required. Hold stick forward for additional speed and quickness.

To fire thrusters, push joystick __________.
Answer this question correctly and move to Lesson II.

Lesson II. To change heading push stick to the right or left.

Pushing the joystick to the right or left will change __________.
Answer this question correctly and move on to Lesson III.

Lesson III. To achieve a braking action while ship is in motion you must first reverse your heading and then fire thruster until ship comes to a stop or reverses momentum.

To achieve a braking action first change __________ and then fire __________.
Answer this question correctly and move to Lesson IV.

Lesson IV. To fire bullets pull the trigger.

Pulling the trigger will fire the __________.
Answer this question correctly and move on to the training sector.

The Training Sector

This sector is designed to test your knowledge of Lessons I thru IV. Some of our graduates, because of overinflated egos and overestimated confidence, have opted to skip this phase of their training. While we point out that you also have this option (enter Training Sector or game play from hand control or keypad), these so-called pilots have not been heard from since.

In this sector you will be given the option of flying alongside a fellow cadet. (Enter number of players off keypad or hand control.) Each player will be given 3 ships as a test of their ability. Each player must avoid the Barrier in the center of the screen. "Accidentally" shooting your opponent may be grounds for dismissal. (So, if you shoot him, be sure it's on purpose). YOU ARE NOW READY FOR YOUR FIRST MISSION.

Mission Impossible

Android space ships have begun building force fields in deep space. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to seek out and eliminate these alien intruders.

Before each sector begins the screen will display the number of ships you have remaining and the number of droids you must shoot to go on to the next sector.

In each sector you will encounter several android spaceships guarding force fields in various stages of construction. Each player must avoid contact with all droids, force fields, bullets and his opponent's ship.

In sector 1 and 2, the droids are confined inside the force fields. After this, they will begin to wrap around so every angle must be watched carefully. In sectors 4 and 6, the droids have retreated to their space fortress located in the center of a maze. Players must maneuver the maze and shoot one droid before the door of their fortress shuts. Successful completion of this task, by either player, results in a bonus ship for both. Failure results in a loss of a ship.

We know that you have learned your lessons well and feel confident that you will succeed. We regret, however, that we cannot be with you.


Each droid is worth 50 points times its sector number. So that you may evaluate your progress, we have provided you with the following comparison chart.

0 - 5,000 - Go directly to Lesson I. Do not pass the Training sector. Do not collect a bonus ship.

5,000 - 15,000 - Return to the Training Sector. You are not quite ready for the big time.

15,000 - 40,000 - You are now a Class II Pilot, but your endurance is suspect.

40,000 - 90,000 - As this score shows, when your number 2 you try harder.

90,000 and over - It's Diploma time! You are now promoted to Supreme Allied Commander of the Spectrecade Intergalactic Space Pilots.

- Chief of Operations

As usual, 10 points can be earned this round (excluding bonus points).

Blast Droids Bonus Point

There is one way to score a bonus point for Blast Droids:

1) Highest Level Reached - I'm not sure exactly how many screens that there are in this game, but the player who reaches the furthest level in the game will be awarded a bonus point. I'm not sure how we will keep track of this, as (I don't think) the game shows your current level on-screen during game play.

Haunted House (BASIC Bonus Game)

Haunted House is a very unusual game because it is made up of nine different loads, each of which is a separate BASIC program. This game must have been difficult to play from tape, but it's easy to play from the separate digitally archived loads. I found that loading the nine BASIC programs onto my phone and loading them into the Astrocade from there worked great for this game.







You can download Haunted House for "AstroBASIC" here:



You can read the game's instructions and see the BASIC listing for all the programs here:


I think that the above instructions are for the Bally BASIC version of the game. The "AstroBASIC" instruction are here:


Here are the Haunted House in-game instructions:

Come on in!!!

You have just entered the Haunted House. To win the game, you must find a way to get out (the door has locked behind you). You may enter any of 8 rooms in the house. In the rooms you will have the chance to examine six different items. One of the items in one of the rooms will lead you out. Also, at times you will receive clues, but you have to figure out what they mean. (We're not telling.) If you want to enter a new room, you must load a new program. (There is a separate program for each room.) When the computer asks you which item to examine, press zero, and follow instructions.

The correct program will automatically load. Note: Do not reset computer!!!

Here are the complete Haunted House instructions:

Haunted House - 1 Player-Keypad

This game uses nine separate programs to play.

The first program gives you the introduction and instructions, and sets certain variables that are kept throughout the game. Load the first program with :INPUT;RUN and follow instructions when they appear on the screen. Stop the tape when the program start's running and do not rewind. DO NOT RESET the computer at any time until the game is over. If you run into any problems during the game and have to halt and restart, Key in GOTO 200. "RUN" will not work.

The object of the game is to go through the house one room at a time until you find the way out. (This will change every game.) In each room, there are six different items for you to examine. One of them in one of the rooms will lead you out of the house, but you have to find it. You examine an item by pressing it's number and "GO'. When you are done in a room and wish to proceed to the next room, press zero and 'GO'. Then, when prompted, hit any key and start recorder on 'PLAY'. The next room will automatically load. Don't forget to stop recorder where it's at after the program starts running.

The creator of this game assumes very little responsibility for the corny jokes in it!!!

Haunted House Bonus Points

1) Playing Haunted House - You get a bonus point just for playing Haunted House.

2) Finishing Haunted House- You can earn another bonus point if you escape the from the haunted house. This isn't hard, but a screenshot of the final screen is required if you want to earn this bonus point.

3) Video of Haunted House - A bonus point will be awarded to the first person to upload a video of Haunted House containing a full game. If the video is a video review, then you'll earn two points!

Please post all of your scores for both games here. Scores posted on the Bally Alley discussion group will not be accepted. If you post a video score, then please note the score obtained in the video-- as this makes it easier for me to keep track of all the scores.

Enjoy blowing-up the android space ships in Blast Droids and the extreme weirdness of Haunted House!


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Here is a link to a gameplay video of Blast Droids:

A few people posted in the comments section. They compare Blast Droids to a cross between Asteroids (which is an unmissable comparison) and Berzerk (which I didn't notice, but can see now that someone has pointed it out).


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I played Blast Droids this evening for about 35 minutes, which is certainly the most time I've ever put into this game. If you haven't played this one yet, then you might not have discovered that Blast Droids has some serious issues with collision detection. I also encountered at least a few bugs that affect gameplay (at last count I have found four bugs). This game is being discussed in the next Astrocast, so I won't discuss the game's issues here (although maybe after the podcast is done and/or this round is over I'll post all the comments here).


My current high score on real hardware is:


Blast Droids - 4,150 (Sector 4)




Sector 4 is the "space fortress" (a simple maze). You only have to destroy one droid on this level, but I've not been able to do it yet. I can't complete my path to the center of the fortress to destroy the droid before time runs out. When time runs out, then I lose a ship and start over on the same level. I'll never top my score if I can't complete Sector 4. Has anyone gotten past this sector?


Also, I "beat" Haunted House-- if you consider escaping the house winning the game. I'm not sure if the way out of the house is random or not (I'll have to play again to find out for sure). I had described this game as a simple text adventure that uses menus... but now that I've played it, I don't see it that way anymore.


A lot of work went into this title, but it's really not much of a game. Haunted House is kind of a one-trick pony... but I'm not complaining about the game. I think its point is to make you laugh a few times, and in that regard the "game" is a success. This one is worth playing for its sheer oddness alone. It may even be unique; I'm not sure. I certainly can't think of any game console that has a game like this one.



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I played Blast Droids using MAME this evening so that I could use save states to get past the Sector 4's "space fortress." It took me about seven or eight times to finally manage to pass that level; it's tough.


Here is a screenshot of Sector 5 (I didn't expect to see new droids-- I thought the droids would be reused):




Here is a screenshot of Sector 6 (it's another "space fortress," but this time it's even harder!):




I used save states a few times to try to pass the Sector 6's "maze," but eventually I gave up in frustration. The passageway is really too narrow.


(My score achieved while using save states doesn't count, of course.)



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I just lost many dozens of ships (maybe even hundreds of ships) on Sector 6, the second "space fortress" of Blast Droids. This level isn't only difficult, it's downright impossible for me (and, possibly, just plain impossible for anyone).


I'm playing the game with save states in MAME, which effectively gives me "infinite lives." This doesn't make it any easier to play. Navigating the "maze" is bad enough, but I've not been able to even reach the center room to destroy even one droid, let alone the eight droids that must be destroyed to clear this level. Plus, there is still just the thirty second time limit to complete this task. Don't forget that only four droids appear on a screen at a time, which means that even if I started in the center room with thirty seconds on the countdown timer, I would still have to shoot four baddies, wait for four more to appear (usually one or two at a time), and then shoot them too, all the while dealing with crumby collision detection.


Even using save states, my high score is still only 7,600 points. According to the manual, scoring between 5,000 and 15,000 points still means that I need to "return to the Training Sector. You are not quite ready for the big time."


Ugh, this game is becoming a chore to play!


(And yet, despite this frustration with the game, out of curiosity, I have start disassembling Blast Droids this evening!)







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I managed to get past Sector 6 of Blast Droids using save states just now. What's weird, is that it took me about fifteen ships to get past the "space fortress" on Sector 4, but I cleared the much more difficult "space fortress" on Sector 6 the very first time I reached it in this game. That's because while the game says you have to destroy eight droids on that second "space fortress," you really only need to destroy one of them. So, it seems that it is possible to get better at this game!


After you pass a "space fortress" you earn a bonus ship (score doesn't seem to affect whether you earn it or not):




Here are the last different looking droids from sector 7:




After sector 7, the droids start to repeat, but not in the same order that you initially encountered them. I reached about sector 12 before I gave up for now.


Oh, and MAME seems to have some sound issues with this game. Sometimes I notice that the sound will cut out (or get really low) after you shoot a droid. I don't remember this happening on real hardware.



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I largely share Adam's frustrations with Blast Droids. I tended to just stay in the safe spot for the first couple of levels, which was optimal from a standpoint of getting a high score, but also super boring. The third level was potentially interesting, but I tended to respawn practically on top of enemy ships, which was just frustrating. I did finally make it to the fourth level, but didn't live long enough to get much of a feel for it. My best score was 3900.



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I finally escaped from the haunted house!





I ran the 300 baud version through our digital processing tools. Each item actually has three different messages--the standard message, a clue message, and an escape message. That's 144 messages total!


I'll attach the text in case anyone wants to take a look. But be wary of spoilers.




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Since this thread hasn't been finalized yet, I'm wondering if the catch-up season can be extended for a week or so? I haven't had a chance to play and now I'll have some time...16 hour holiday shifts are killing me!

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Since this thread hasn't been finalized yet, I'm wondering if the catch-up season can be extended for a week or so? I haven't had a chance to play and now I'll have some time...16 hour holiday shifts are killing me!


The catch-up thread hasn't even started yet. I've been busy doing other holiday-related stuff. This round is over, but not many people played. I'll try to close it out tomorrow and the officially start the catch-up round in a day or two.


Oh, and 16-hour holiday shifts? What's with these long shifts during the holidays? For instance, My wife had to work a 24-hour shift on Christmas day.



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Round 13 of the HSC ended on Sunday, December 18'th at 8pm MST. There were only two entries for the high score contest. I was accepting late entries (hoping for more players), but no one else posted a score (even though I'm pretty sure that nd2003grad played both games). It's finally time to wrap-up this last official round this season. Hopefully, more people will participate in the next full round. The next round will allow all past and (possibly) new players to "catch-up" by posting scores for any previous games played this season).

Final Tables

Blast Droids

1st BallyAlley 4,150 (Level 4) 10 pts
2nd ranger_lennier 3,900 (Level 4) 9 pts

The bonus point awarded for highest level reached was earned by ranger_lennier and BallyAlley, who both reached level 4. This is one tough game, even when playing under emulation with save states. Getting to Round 4 isn't hard... but passing round 4, well, that must be hard because we couldn't do it!

Overall, I found Blast Droids frustrating and not too fun to play-- which might explain why only two people participated in this round.

Both players earned a point for playing the BASIC bonus game, Haunted House. We also both finished the game, so we get a point for that. I awarded an unannounced bonus point to ranger_lennier for posting the BASIC source listing for Haunted House in text format. That's cool! If you haven't glanced through it, then you should check it out.

Haunted House

I didn't play this game much, as it's sort of a chore (it is nine different BASIC loads), however, I like how different this game is from other BASIC games.

Total points awarded this round:

1st ranger_lennier 9 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 0 + 1 = 13 pts [email protected]#%
2nd BallyAlley 10 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 0 + 0 = 13 pts [email protected]#

Bonus Points Key:

Blast Droids

! - Highest Level Reached.

Haunted House

@ - Playing Haunted House
# - Finishing Haunted House
$ - Video of Haunted House (No Point Awarded)
% - Posting the BASIC listing for Haunted House (Unannounced bonus point)

Please, check your scores. ;)

Congratulations to Round 13's winners (who tied again this round)... ranger_lennier and ballyalley! The unannounced bonus point is what made the tie occur in this round.

The two games that will be played for the next full round (after the short catch-up round this week) will be the same games that will be covered for the Bally Alley Astrocast podcast, episode #8.

Season 2, Round 1's main game will be Solar Conqueror, a cartridge by Astrocade, Inc. This game was a late release for the system, and it's considered pretty hard to find. Solar Conqueror has a prototype that is quite different from the final game. I'll probably make the prototype available for play as a bonus game.

The BASIC bonus game will be Space Gauntlet an interesting game released on tape by The Tiny Arcade. I haven't played this game in many years, but I recall thinking it was colorful (for a BASIC release). I'll post the start of the round 14 (the catch-up round) in the next few days, but feel free to start playing any of the games that we've played this season (including the two in this round).

Thanks to Paul for always participating in this high score club for the little-appreciated system called the Astrocade! As for everyone else... please, feel free to jump in during the catch-up round, and especially during season 2 (which will begin in a couple of weeks).


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I was flipping through back issues of Astrocade newsletters this morning when I ran into a neat trick for Blast Droids. Although the HSC round is over, I figure it is worth sharing this information here. I'd completely forgotten about this tip, but I'd originally posted it on the Bally Alley Yahoo Group as message #4098 on May 13, 2007.

While going through the Niagara BUG Bulletin newsletter for program listings, I found this neat (and, for most people, I bet, impossible to perform) trick. This trick is an excerpt from:

O'Neill, Kevin. Cartridge Swapping, Niagara BUG Bulletin 2, no. 2 (January [?] 1984): 9

"The menu sequence for the selection of game parameters in the cartridge games is the perfect opportunity to swap carts. The following are little 'tricks' that I've discovered that get pretty interesting results.

"Play Incredible Wizard and write down your score. Now, without resetting, put in the Blast Droids cart [which all Astrocade user have, right!?!]. From the menu, pick Blast Droids, Training Sector. Swap to Incredible Wizard. Now choose 2 players, and the rest of the options as requested, and needed. Now, when the game begins you should be starting with the score as you last left the game, but with a full supply of men! Hacking does have its rewards, folks!"

I have not yet tried this trick, but If anyone tries it (successfully or not), then let me know your results. Both of these games are on the Astrocade multicarts. There would be no cartridge swapping involved if you use a multicart. It seems that it would simply be a matter of switching the cartridge's DIP setting rather than ejecting an swapping cartridges.


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