Game guide: playing Bruce Lee II on the Commodore 64

In 2015 Jonas Hultén released his Commodore 64 port of the MS Windows game Bruce Lee II, which itself was a public domain sequel to the Commodore 64 original Bruce Lee (and which was visually very similar to the original 8-bit style).

If you want to play his game—and you should, because it’s really good!—you can download it for free and play it both on the original computer or on a Commodore 64 emulator such as VICE.

This sequel follows the game play of the original version from 1984 faithfully—with a number of important deviations.

1. It’s harder.
2. No points.
3. A lot more extra lives (called Falls in the game).


The reason you can easily get extra lives is presumably because it is also very easy to lose them.

Is it wise to play the original first? I’d say yes, but that is because I liked version I a lot. It could be that you find the original too easy and that this would turn you off from the sequel. Note that Bruce Lee II is also very easy for a lot of its levels and to me that is part of the charm of the franchise—you get to properly explore stuff.

Part of the fun of the game is to figure out how everything works, but I decided to give those that are stuck in the first levels a leg up.

The best response to the previous paragraph is to stop reading here, because you know what follows, right? Spoilers! I will keep those to a minimum, though. I will explain the basic features of the game below and I cannot do that without spoiling some of the game for you. I will do this largely by discussing the first screen, meaning you still have dozens of screens to explore for yourself.

Is this a worthwhile trade-off? You have to decide for yourself.

Note that if you want to see more spoilers, you can find longplays on YouTube that show you how the entire game is played. These are important teaching tools for when you get stuck.

Bruce Lee II is a platform game in which you play the eponymous hero. Each room is a separate level where you need to locate and reach the exit, meaning there is no scrolling. Some rooms are reused. Some exits only open through actions taken in other rooms. Your goal is to play through all the rooms and destroy the wizard and in doing so free the princess.


The first room, shown here, is simultaneously the first, sixth and twelfth level. As you can see, there are three exits (all to the right), with the exit for the first level closed by a door and that of the sixth and twelfth level currently unreachable.

Your character can duck, climb, run, jump, punch and kick. Duck: joystick down. Climb: joystick up or down when on a climbable surface, like a ladder or a vine. Run: joystick left or right. Jump: joystick left+up, up, right+up. Punch: fire. Kick: left+fire and right+fire.

There are three recurring items in the game that trigger a reward:

– Small lanterns.
– Big lanterns.
– Horizontal bars.


When you clear a certain amount of small lanterns on a level, doors will open. Here is my first spoiler: if you clear both small lanterns in the first screen, you will unlock the door to the right.

There is no specific order in which you need to clear lanterns, but each exit requires that a specific amount of lanterns are cleared. Sometimes lanterns reveal an exit that allows you to enter another part of the same room.

Big lanterns give you an extra life, one for each lantern. Generally they are located near where you need them most, sometimes they are located after that point (in which case they help you replenish).

Horizontal bars need to be jumped into: doing so will activate a hitherto hidden feature. My second spoiler: if you jump towards the horizontal bar in room one, a ladder will appear that allows you to get onto the top platform of this screen. Horizontal bars can only be reached using an upwards jump.

Sometimes horizontal bars and small lanterns activate doors and other features in other rooms.

The game has active and passive security to stop you from progressing. Active security are the guards who try and attack you. These are largely inconsequential, because they are easy to avoid, but a guard may shove you into a passive security feature such as a spike pit, which may lead to instant death. The solution is to not stand still for long in areas where there are guards.

In a departure from the previous game, guards won’t follow you onto platforms. They may however start on platforms. A simple method to ensure you’re left alone by the guards is to make your way to the lowest platform you can reach, let the guards follow you there and then climb back up. Even something as simple as dangling from a ladder may make you unreachable to a guard. Bruce Lee doesn’t tire and can jump from any height without hurting himself.

Guards die after a few punches or kicks and will respawn after a while. Speaking of guards and respawing: sometimes you will respawn in exactly the spot where the guards tend to hang out. This can be … unpleasant. The trick is to move away immediately upon respawning. Even though you are stronger than the guards, you will still die if you get enough hits.

I won’t say much about passive security, but you should know that there are a few traps that respond to your presence but that do not adapt their response to your actions.

Vines, ladders and grates can be climbed. You will learn to recognize the patterns that make these things (they are not meant to be hidden per se). There is no rhyme nor reason to what is a background, a wall or a ladder.

Backgrounds sometimes turn out to be platforms. This is enough of a departure from the first game that I will allow myself a third spoiler: the trees in the first room can be stepped upon from the ladder that will appear if you jump into the horizontal bar in that same room. The other ‘hidden’ platforms you will have to find yourself by jumping onto everything you come across. I wish you lots of falls.


There are three levels that I am not sure I should warn you about, but I am going to anyway.

1. There is a level where a ladder is revealed by jumping around in the space where the ladder is hidden. I think this may be a bug (there are other bugs on that screen). You can recognize the area because it is one of the few dead ends in the game. Just explore everything.

2. There is a level that everybody calls difficult. I can tell you that it is doable. I will admit though that I studied a longplay on Youtube a couple of times before I beat it. Today this level hardly makes a dent in my falls (lives).

3. There is a level that not everybody calls difficult, but that in my case proved almost impossible. When I checked the longplays on Youtube, I noticed that players could do things on that level that I could not. So there’s that. I played (and finished) the game on a certain system with a certain emulator using certain settings; it may be that you come across problems that nobody else has encountered. Peeking at a walkthrough or using a cheat may then be the only way to finish the game. (But I managed to finish that level without cheats.)

Retro computing scene alive and kicking

It started with this 2014 Commodore 64 demo music by Pex “Mahoney” Tufvesson. If you were to follow that link (please come back!), you would hear an indiscriminate collection of bleeps and grunts. You will have to take my word for it that these bleeps and grunts are in some ways better than any assortment of bleeps and grunts that came before on this machine.

It was a bit like coming across a band that you had thought had split up in the nineties, but not only were they still together, they were producing some of their best music ever. Stumbling upon the retro computing scene was a very pleasant surprise.

And it turned out there was a lot more to it than late advances in SID programming technology (SID is the name of the sound chip in the Commodore 64).

Until then—then being a few weeks back—I had thought the retro scene was mostly about looking back – like in 2008 when Martijn Koch built this interpretation of the 1971 arcade game Computer Space – or about carefully preserving a couple of machines while spare parts were slowly dying out.

Turns out there is quite a bit more to it.

  • New Amigas are being made, specifically the X1000 and the X5000.
  • You can now buy generic computers (so-called FPGAs) which can then become whichever machine you like.
  • And of course there are software emulators.
  • The Commodore 64 demo scene still turns out dozens of demos a year.
  • Fresh games are being made.
  • 8-bit hackers give hour long talks on the Commodore 64’s hardware to packed rooms.
  • There are several retrogamers vodcasting on YouTube.
  • Last year the party for the Commodore Amiga’s 30th birthday in Amsterdam drew 400 people.
  • People still use their 8-bit and 16-bit computers for proper gaming.
  • Some musicians use double, triple or even more SIDS to make their chiptunes with the original hardware. (Bonus link uses one SID.)
  • A variant of the CPU of the C64 is still being made by one of its original creators.

You could consider the FPGAs as blank silicon upon which you imprint the hardware from a long ‘dead’ 8-bit or 16-bit computer by loading that design from an SD card. The Mist FPGA even has two Atari joystick ports, as were used on Atari and Commodore computers in the 1980s, and a MIDI interface. Quite frankly at about 250 euro (300+ if you want your computer preloaded), that’s a sexy bit of kit if you don’t mind me saying so.

Sometimes games programmers use their skills (and our modern knowledge of old computers) to right old wrongs. The 1984 port of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins arcade game did not contain all the elements of the original, so last year somebody turned that old port into a version that appears to have everything from the arcade game (see screenshot).


The Amiga’s birthday party wasn’t just held in Amsterdam, there were parties in Germany, the UK, Australia and USA (and more?).

So why are people still using these old machines and in some cases even returning to them? The reason is no doubt nostalgia. Computers back then were manageable. A single person could know what was going on in a MOS 6502 and share that information with others.

And also we now have the internet and we have development tools that we can use outside the target machine. I started coding a little in my Commodore 64 emulator, first using the slow BASIC language, then after I got frustrated switching to assembler (using JASM). If I were to do this programming on my old 64 (which is stashed away somewhere in the attic), that would be quite cumbersome. I’d have to save and load intermediate versions of my program from and to tape and that would take quite a while.

But I can now use my much faster Windows machine and the superior developer tools I have on it to do my coding; testing is just a matter of loading the result into my emulator.

What is more, groups of developers can use git repositories to share their code and chat rooms to talk to each other. Information not only gets stored inside programs, but gets shared between developers. (To be honest, both the 8-bit and the 16-bit computers had wonderful, dedicated magazines which also contained a lot of knowledge about how to develop for these devices, including the Dutch Amiga Magazine for which I wrote as a freelancer.)

Finally, knowledge gets added to. If you check the “8-bit hackers” link above, you can see at the start of the talk the difference between how well the Commodore 64 was understood at the beginning and at the end of its 10-year life (which, by the way, is an insanely long time for a single model to be produced).