Mindroll: Commodore Amiga

Mindroll: Commodore Amiga
Mindroll: Commodore Amiga

Insert Disk collects Mindroll for the Commodore Amiga.

Today’s retro game review is Mindroll for the Commodore Amiga. This retro gaming classic is the remake of Quedex for the Commodore 64 (C64) by Stavros Fasoulas. Also known as “The quest for dexterity”. It’s also one of the most frustrating retro games in my collection. The aim is to steer your eyeball through a series of dexterity based maze levels against a strict time limit. It’s frustrating but that’s exactly what the developers were going for. Mindroll by Thalamus is also considered a rare game to collect.

Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. A while back I picked up a game in a job lot, to be honest I almost wished I’d never had the misfortune of finding it. Join me today to take a look at perhaps one of the most frustrating games of all time, welcome to Mindroll. It’s a game that you will roll your eyes at, quite literally. Based on the 1987 release by the name of Quedex, Mindroll for the Commodore Amiga looked to add more mind shattering frustration to the gamers of the 90’s.

How to describe Mindroll? Well, the box describes the game as. A physical test of skill. 3D planes that will blow your mind. Roll off the edge of infinity into a dimension with no room for mental midgets. So, yeah the box text isn’t pulling any punches, you’ll need dexterity and some serious brain power to get through this one. I’ll try to describe what the game is actually like to play. Basically it’s a world where everything you do is punished and everything you try to do seems needlessly difficult. It’s a maze game where everything seems illogical. The levels usually manifest themselves in getting to an end goal, typically through a multipart level. You control a rather erratic rolling eyeball. The timer will count down and you will race against the clock to solve the dexterity puzzles. Quite frankly this game has one brutal learning curve.

You can choose from any 1 of the 10 planes. Even plane 1 is a challenge. Sometimes you’ll have to jump to the next square rather than rolling, the game will give you very few hints though. Trial and error seems to be the lesson of the day. Once you’ve worked that out you then try to roll over the flashing square to open the escape hatch. Then it’s a case of getting to the next pressure plate and you’ve almost certainly run out of time by this point. I didn’t feel like giving up and repetition was the key to getting faster and more accurate. Open the next planes though and it turns out the game was just teasing you. It gets progressively more and more cryptic to the point where even the walls are invisible. I’m up for a challenge but a level with multiple teleports with no reference points in to a level of invisible collision sections. Just what were they thinking? This isn’t fun this is just a really cruel joke.

In fairness I did manage to work out how to complete a fair amount of the game but the trial and error methodology really grated after a while. The level with the pipes and keys is just insane to try and work out. You’ll roll around aimlessly, pick up a key to unlock a door (not necessarily on the screen at that time). You’ll then look to a pipe to transport you across the map. However, get the order wrong and you’re practically back at the start. Pick the wrong pipe and you may hit an instant game over tile. I appreciate this might look a little bit fun as a spectator, when playing the game though it’s just an absolute nightmare. Bear in mind I’m approaching this game afresh having seen no prior solution videos or walkthroughs. If you’re a newcomer to the world of Mindroll as I am you’ll certainly be left feeling a little beaten.

So it’s at this point I thought that I might be missing something so I went to the box. Inside I found a piece of paper. There are some helpful hints but only so much to throw you a crumb of hope. When you read “Another in an ongoing series to frustrate and enrage brought to you courtesy of Thalamus”. You really do just feel like you’ve become the butt of someone’s joke. The main box itself is rather nice, clean, simple and at least boasts some rather nice artwork. What you will find throughout the packaging are multiple references to the original release of this title “Quedex the quest for ultimate dexterity…”. Quedex was originally a Commodore 64 release and if I’m truthful looks almost identical. The Amiga version does boast a wider colour palate, resolution and higher sound sampling rates but on balance isn’t a great step up from the original concept. Personally I prefer the title Mindroll over Quedex but it was clear from all of the references that the publisher wanted to draw us back to the association of the original game.

I’m not suggesting that you do track this one down, other than if you really hate someone and want to gift it to them but you may have a difficult time doing so. I’m aware of Thalamus as a British publisher but interestingly I couldn’t find any sales of Mindroll on the internet auction sites in the past 6 months. From past experience though I know that Thalamus titles can sell for significant amounts due to their scarce nature. Thalamus released relatively few titles and in the past I have known them to fetch some reasonable prices at auction. Usually I try to put a collecting price on the games I feature, in this case though I had a real challenge. Having scoped out my usual channels there was plenty of information on the original Quedex (the quest for dexterity) but very little information on the remake of Mindroll.

As sometimes happens with collecting between starting this episode and posting it a mint boxed version of Mindroll was posted on the UK EBay site. The Buy It Now price is set at £69.99 which is around the $90 mark. I have to say that this shrink wrapped version is as good as you’ll ever find. The £69.99 price tag though, well I honestly don’t know. I’m guessing also that the seller is also a little uncertain of the market value as this isn’t a game that’s frequently traded and relatively unknown about. There is wisely a “Make an offer” option. I can tell you that the seller Retro_Pixelss is a regular seller with 100’s of positive sales and 99%+ rating. I’m often jealous of some of the items they have for sale. The final price of Mindroll, if I could sell for close to the £70 I would be ecstatic. The reality is though that at the moment it sits on my shelf like a cursed doll that nobody really wants in their house. If you have a copy of Mindroll I would genuinely be interested to find out how much you paid for it. When it comes to setting prices, scarcely traded items are the bane of the collector’s world.

What we do know is that the game was designed by Finnish programmer “Stavros Fasoulas”. I made an attempt to get in contact with Stavros but sadly couldn’t easily track him down. Stavros Fasoulas is far more well known for the original of Quedex, Sanxion and Delta all on the Commodore 64. His career is very well documented in several gaming magazines and you’ll also be able to find some YouTube videos regarding his career. The general consensus is that he is now living in San Francisco with no current connection to computer industry. There are unconfirmed reports that he rarely uses the internet and does not have an email address. Mindroll is an excessively frustrating game bordering on being psychologically upsetting. To its credit, it is well designed and certainly evokes the frustration and outrage that the designers were going for.

I can’t say that Mindroll is a bad game but it is difficult to judge as having a wide appeal, other than for those curious retro gamers and collectors of obscure software. If you’re looking for a game with a really steep learning curve and frustrating time limits then Mindroll is most certainly the game for you. That all for this week, I’m off to book in for some counselling time and burn the vision of that rolling eyeball out of my own eyeballs. Stavros, if you are out there. Well played…

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