Wonderful programming machine, CPC was an ideal playground for amateur creators. From the simplest program in BASIC to further written
directly in machine language code, hundreds of works that can now be described as "homebrew" bloom in the 80s. Quick and
low-cost distribution way, magazines directly benefit from this momentum by offering the most successful applications and games
in the form of listings to type by yourself. Homebrew.AT even offers you some high quality ones such as
MOLECULARR or AXYS - THE LAST BATTLE.
But in France, one of the great stars of this time monthly monopolizing many columns, there are two brothers that chain
productions with an unbridled pace. They called themselves BLACK SYSTEM. Between 1988 and 1993, they will produce twenty-seven games
that will be mostly distributed in the most popular French magazines, offering a graphic style and content sometimes close to commercial.
They fail to publish their games on the video-game market but nothing seems to be able to demoralize the duo that continues tirelessly
to spread his creations as printed listings. In 1993, the CPC finally bows and BLACK SYSTEM seems to have decided to follow its favourite
machine in 8bit computer paradise. Let us take another look at an iconic group of the CPC era in France.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY...
Back in the early years of the 80s, microcomputers were tremendous learning machines for generations of children and teenagers
who wanted to discover a mass-market computer world and learn to program. The second generation of computers such as the
TRS-80, VG-5000 or Aquarius just to name a few, and the technical limitations that were already evident at the time, did not
allow going beyond initiation level. In contrast, the third generation offered the technical capabilities and tools that
can satisfy the most demanding amateur programmers. With its balanced architecture, its all-in-one concept offering a powerful
BASIC supplied with a richly documented instruction manual, the CPC is a marvellous sandbox to let express the creativity
of young programmers.
At the same time, many book initiations to programming are published. to illustrate the themes, programs are frequently
broadcast giving a examples. Provide a floppy disk or tape was very expensive, so the idea of including the program directly in
the book under the form of a listing to write by yourself grows. This is a low-cost way and a great benefit for the user,
rewriting the program itself of a game or an application giving the impression of being involved in its creation. Quickly,
books containing only listings appear.
During the second half of the 80s, the specialized press grows. Naturally, all magazines have a programming section that provides
their own listings to write. If at first it is the writers who create these programs, readers soon join the effort. The
phenomenon takes an unexpected extent and the publication of programs through printed listings becomes a means of expression for
the most motivated creators. Some even take over like LOGON SYSTEM, a French group that animated a section on hardware
programming in the monthly magazine AMSTRAD 100%. Each month, it becomes customary for magazines to propose game listings. Some
listings may require pages of several issues to be fully printed. Again, the most ambitious and prolific developers
could make a name. Among those who came most often in numerous publications, there were Luc and Hervé Guillaume under the BLACK
We finally know little about Luc and Hervé Guillaume, and the informations concern their games. This is
regrettable because it would be nice to learn more about the mysterious authors of so many productions printed in our
favourite magazines. Unfortunately their name, widespread in France, further complicates the research, and it seems impossible
to know what they could become after the CPC went out and they disappeared. Now just remain their productions. Here are some
interesting "trivias" about them:
- BLACK SYSTEM filled the columns of most French magazines of the time proposing a section with game listings to rewrite by
yourself: Am-Mag, Amstrad 100%, Amstar, Micro-Mag or CPC-Info. It is to believe that the method of the duo was to propose their
latest production to all magazines and that the first that decided to publish the game had exclusivity.
- Hervé often drew a splash screen for the games, but it was removed during transcription to paper listing to save space in the
magazine columns. Fortunately, Luc and Hervé decided to sell their own compilations of their games. Versions distributed on
floppy disks incorporated the splach screen removed when published as listing. Unfortunately, all the games have not been
proposed in one of these compilations, like COLISEUM which you can admire a piece of the splach screen printed in the magazine
that published the listing. But obviously, this screen was removed in the version presented. No full version of this game was
found. There is two compilation volumes but a third was announced that never been released. It's a shame because BLACK SYSTEM
would certainly include a full version of COLISEUM.
- Luc Guillaume coded the CPC version of FIRE!, a commercial game published by New Deal Productions in 1990 and also available
on ST, Amiga and PC. Hervé Guillaume did not join this adventure. FIRE! has not been a real success. But it has to be said
it is not a wonderful game. It is not original, not surprising, the game is quickly boring regardless of the computer you play
on. On CPC, to add a black mark on its already sorry record, playability is heavy like a lot of BLACK SYSTEM game programs. This
defect can be excused when a game is available for free in a magazine but it is intolerable in commercial production.
- A "Genesis Software" copyright can be seen on the MEGAWAR main screen. No packaging or even advertising or magazine reviews has
been found. There is the presence of the game in an obscure compilation titled DOG FIGHT! and published by Ubi Soft grouping games
from Chip, Esat and Genesis Software. This looks like a tote to cheaply withdraw money using the game catalog of these small
publishing companies that the French giant just bought. Ironically, There is also FIRE! from New Deal Production. All this
mystery justifies the presence of MEGAWAR in the anthology.
- SKYWAR was announced for commercial release in 1990. The game is the subject of a preview in March in issue 43 of Amstar & CPC
magazine and is reviewed in the next issue. It reveals screenshots featuring a mysterious ACKERLIGHT label. Finally, the game will
never be commercially published and after two years of development it is distributed for free as listing in two parts in the
CPC-Info magazine. But as an aside, we lose the introduction we could see a screen in the review, certainly once again to save
- The "Tropic" label early appears in 1990 with games such as THE LAST RACE, COLISEUM or NINJA. We can assume a willingness to replace
a name a little bit underground like BLACK SYSTEM with a further consumer-oriented name in anticipation of the commercial edition of
future productions. But the games continue to be under BLACK SYSTEM copyright, the label that made them famous in France. Were Luc
and Hervé afraid to leave it or was it an awkward approach to ensure a transition? Only SKYWAR presents a Tropic Soft copyright
in 1992 without any mention of BLACK SYSTEM label. Finally, the BLACK SYSTEM label has never had logo while a mysterious palm
under a blazing sun highlights a name that was never effectively promoted.
- Luc Guillaume wrote a small program called COMPACT. This is a player to listen some tunes that he composed for games.
You can find it on side B of the second volume of the BLACK SYSTEM ANTHOLOGY.
- We find a huge influence of the Spanish game publisher Dinamic, especially GAME OVER, PHANTIS
GAME OVER 2 out of Spain) and the series consisting in ARMY MOVES and NAVY MOVES. The obvious efforts of
Luc Guillaume to develop its knowledge in creating shoot'em up and run'n gun games suggests that the duo always had the project
to design games taking recipe from those of the Spanish publisher.
BLACK SYSTEM games are numerous, but they are not all of equal quality. Some are even rather boring or frustrating and you
will not necessarily want to linger. But together, they are the promise of hours of discovery and exploration of colourful
productions, sometimes pleasant surprises.
From this observation was born the idea of establishing a compilation bringing together all the BLACK SYSTEM work. First,
it was therefore necessary to gather all the games and start looking for the cleanest possible versions without bugs,
including their splash screen and free of unwelcome trainer modes. And for that, there is only one website that has managed
to find all the games from Luc Hervé Guillaume and offer them for download, the excellent
CPC-Power held by Kukulcan
whose impressive work permits today the CPC scene to enjoy a huge database dedicated to our favourite machine.
But even if it is remarkable that no production has been lost over the years and that it was not necessary to waste time typing
the program for some of them, the versions available on CPC-Power did not meet all our demanding criteria. Kukulcan had already
made some changes on some titles such as NINJA in which he had fixed a graphic display bug, showing his interest in the
BLACK SYSTEM games. Contacted, he agreed to join the adventure to make the necessary corrections and thus improve the games on
its own website. Through this partnership, you can play MAGE on CPC 464 despite its BASIC 1.0 and SKYWAR has its
selection menu of the part to launch with active password. He compressed datas of each program too for the twenty seven games to
fit on two discs only. He optimized the game selection menu program and added a "Cat'Art". A big thanks to him because
without his help, this compilation would perhaps not have been possible.
Once the four DSK files constituting the compilation created, it was time to design the cover for each disk including the
inlay bringing some informations to understand the games. Creating a visual to illustrate all the games at once was a
lengthy but exciting and rewarding experience!
The creation of the BLACK SYSTEM ANTHOLOGY required deploying significant resources and we hope you will take as much
pleasure in the discovery as us creating it. Have a good time!
The cover uses the idea of a double box in 3" format which can be surprising. When both boxes are arranged side by side, a complete illustration appears.
Here are some pictures to give you an idea of the final result once everything printed, cut and assembled.
BRONZAGE ASSISTÉ PAR ORDINATEUR (Computer Assisted Tanning)
This game is a seasonal joke rather than a real video game since it was released Micro Mag magazine, August 1989.
The only breakout from Luc and Hervé Guillaume is quite entertaining even if it is only composed of a ten levels.
The game area is small but it is far from the number of bricks to destroy in the ARKANOID levels. Only negative
point, an adjustment period is necessary to get used to the location of the "racket". Held at arm's length by the
protagonist of the game, changing direction is unsettling.
Their first shoot'em up. Austere and lacking in variety with its game screen without background, it does not attract
the attention despite its vertical scrolling. BLACK SYSTEM will prefer horizontal shooters, except MEGAWAR.
This game consists in moving a viewfinder on the screen to snipe boats and planes. The response time and the number
of hits needed to destroy each enemy involve training and speed!
You are commissioned to go beat up a wizard too evil to suit the Kingdom monarchs. This run'n gun remembers those of
the Spanish publisher Dinamic. You must avoid obstacles and defeat lots of monsters. Difficult but not insurmountable.
Although the wizard at the end of the game will give you a lot of trouble.
39 darts to throw to score to the maximum. There are the traditional rules of the game in which you have to succeed in
placing shots closer to the centre, but not only if you want to blow up the score. You must aim for smaller boxes too,
ideally touching the centre of the target. To bring a little spice to a game that would otherwise be too simple on computer,
the hand holding the dart represented on the screen shakes, forcing you to anticipate your shots. It’s a very little but funny game.
Ten mazes await you where you need to collect all the fruits in a limited time to move to the next level. Of course, enemies
lurk and the slightest touch causes death. Fun even if the random movements of monsters are sometimes frustrating, making you
lose precious seconds helplessly.
Here we approach the simplicity but also the effectiveness of electronic games of the early 80s with Game & Watch Nintendo
are the most famous representatives. You pick up on the first screen a crystal that you have to forward to your ship, forcing
you to go through three screens where you will find monsters and obstacles. Once deposited the crystal, you must return to
the first screen to pick up another one. Repetitive but surprisingly addictive.
Armed with your axe, you must go through many screens and slay an evil dragon. All of this starts from a good idea. Unfortunately,
the endless stream of enemies that appear on each screen makes this game a tedious voyage and it is not uncommon to lose a
life approaching the edge of the screen, because you could not destroy a monster that has just arisen. This principle is
reflected in the classic EXOLON except that Raphael Cecco, the developer, had understood that it was important to set an
invisible limit on the screen of which no more monsters appear to avoid this inconvenience.
Inside you American fighter you must overcome a Japanese armada protected by its fighter fleet. The game ends with the battle
against a battleship heavily armed. Again quite short, this traditional shoot'em up is effective and enjoyable to play. The theme
is reminiscent of the excellent P47 THUNDERBOLT from Firebird, proportion wise. Some bonuses improve your weapons, others
must be avoided. It is a good point but the need to destroy the capsules instead of picking them is disconcerting.
You have to survive twenty screens avoiding monsters and obstacles. Created in 1988, LUBIX is one of the first titles from
BLACK SYSTEM, which explains its limited gameplay and its little detailed graphics. An archaeological piece of software.
The gameplay is once again limited and it is difficult to understand why the magus cannot borrow stairways and must use
teleporters. But the level design is, however, more substantial than the one in LUBIX, the player have to choose his path
to be at the right level to avoid monsters and obstacles. In the end, the whole is rather convincing for a game coded
using BASIC language.
This is perhaps the most ambitious shoot'em up from BLACK SYSTEM. Five levels with varied backgrounds sanctioned by the
confrontation with a boss always different, we feel that the duo sought to do their best for their only production that
have been commercially published, even if it was by an obscure company. However, the difficulty is Herculean with very
strange weapons as this one that pulls a laser from the sides of the vessel, but only one side at a time far too slowly
to be effective. Incidentally, the calligraphy of the title and the style of background and monsters clearly remember
XENON 2 from the Bitmap Brothers ...
Remembering COMBAT SCHOOL from Ocean, this game offers you to practice three different tests: pumps, shooting
and weights. Enjoyable for a few minutes, it is one of those games that tortured until failure poor joysticks. It loses
interest quickly. A curiosity for a kind of game long since disappeared.
Another classic run'n gun in which you lead a character to the final battle against two successive bosses, one half way and
the other at the end of the single level. The enemies invade the playing area, forcing you to move forward step by step
launching tons of shurikens. Once again we plague against energy lost with enemies arising when we arrived in screen edge
but we manage to progress with a little bit of perseverance.
Clone of GOOD MOON, this time you have to collect gold from a galleon you have to board up and drive it to your secret
island. Nothing new but it still works with new obstacles in the buccaneer world!
Or "Real Destruction of Iris". It is another very standard shoot'em up offering nice backgrounds and tons of merciless enemies to destroy.
Hey, you will take one more of these little run'n guns sweet tasting, a little stodgy but totally irresistible? Once again
tons of enemies to destroy ruthlessly hoping that the nine lives will be enough to survive the carnage and the inevitable
and frustrating contacts at screen edge.
A white screen, a skier speeding down a slope, more than a hundred of studs to cross and bonuses to collect to inflate
the score. It does not take long to challenge your reflexes. Be certain that your first part will be followed by several
others in a spirit of fair competition. As often, it is the simplicity that pays.
Taking advantage of the popularity of the fourteenth World Cup Soccer taking place in Italy of 1990, BLACK SYSTEM offers
in Amstar & CPC's words the first "penalties simulator." But we quickly get tired to only give a shooting direction and
hope the goal will take the other one.
Probably the most successful game from BLACK SYSTEM that signs here a production with a largest lifetime with its two parts,
the second being locked with a password given to the player at the end of the first one. We feel here all the admiration of
Luc and hervé for games from Dinamic. It is the same recipe from the one of the Spanish studio with a first part consisting
in a horizontal taking place in the air controlling a helicopter. The second part puts you in the shoes of a heavily armed
soldier that must cross a jungle facing legions of terrorist fighters and defeat the final boss to free a hostage.
Unfortunately, the bad gameplay is a shame as the level design requires in the contrary impeccable responsiveness. This
defect prevents the game to reach the level of the excellence of the Iberian editor. The action is involved if you do have
patience and perseverance. Fortunately SKYWAR was not commercially released as planned initially, its free distribution
leading to indulgence.
remembering sports games like SUMMER GAMES or WORLD GAMES, SPORT offers quite logically ask to compete in Olympic
trials that you chain one after the other. Unfortunately, it is quite poor. We feel that the will was not enough to
design a game in an unmastered style.
THE LAST RACE
You take control of a racing car on a straight line and you will have to avoid mines and enemies. With its beautiful
Sci-Fi style graphics and catchy idea of mass destruction promise, THE LAST RACE could compete with the best if it
was not necessary to survive to only three different kinds of attack. The presence of bonuses restores a little bit
of interest in a title that is still fun to play.
Here at last is a shoot'em up from BLACK SYSTEM based on an original idea. The enemy gauge progress every second on
your own energy gauge, reducing the capacity of your shield. Each time you touch an alien ship, it pushes back a
notch the enemy gauge, which does not give you back the energy lost. It is therefore vital to succeed hitting
continuously to slow the advance of the enemy gauge. Thus, you cannot survive zigzagging between opposing ships.
We must destroy them as much as possible! The idea has its limitations, but it is nice anyway to control the TWINS ship.
There is not much to say about this very standard shooter and you really have to be motivated to give it attention.
However, apart from its lack of originality, it remains an average production from BLACK SYSTEM.
A few months before starting the development of SKYWAR, BLACK SYSTEM makes a first test creating a game composed of
two independent parts. ZONE puts you at first in command of a jeep and you have to avoid obstacles while destroying
the enemy threat. In the second part, you control a warrior and you must cross a small number of screens, each
forcing him to face a particularly tough monster, certainly for artificially inflate the lifetime of the game.
Anyway, it is tough to control but interesting enough to enjoy it.
The disappearance of the group is perhaps explained by their difficulties to respect the demanding standards of commercial
productions. Discretion or failure to develop an easily identifiable label could explain it too. Was video game a hobby
they have moved away over the years? All this is speculation. What is sure is that there is now a range of games recognizable
signature and it is impossible to browse french CPC magazines of the time without seeing one of their programs.
BLACK SYSTEM memebers have been more prolific on CPC than most amateur and professional developers. Their games are far from blameless
but their free distribution appeals for clemency and many players retain fond memories of time spent typing Luc and Hervé
Guillaume programs to embark on new adventures.
They are little known outside France. Here's your chance to discover a pent of CPC French culture. Do
not hesitate to give a try to these games, if not all will have your favours, be assured that others will surprise you.