Phantoms of the Asteroid (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , ,


Never before has a game suffered from such an identity crisis. If you bought this game, the cover picture told you it was Phantom of the Asteroids. But when you got to the loading screen, it had become Phantom of the Asteroid. Then, once it had loaded, the title screen said it was Phantoms of the Asteroid!

So, which was it? Well, given that you were on an asteroid and there were phantoms, I would say it should have been Phantoms of the Asteroid. That's what I've always called it, anyway.


I'm-a-livin' in a box... I'm-a-livin' in a laser-edged box...

Phantoms opens with an excellent, rousing and energetic Rob Hubbard track, which just gets you in the mood for a fast-paced spacey shoot 'em up. Which, erm, you don't get. Instead, it's more of a leisurely exploration game.

Actually, it's not that leisurely. Granted, you move around the gigantic asteroid at a slow pace, but the phantoms appear very often indeed, so you'll have to keep your finger on your laser trigger or you won't be getting off the thing alive. Or dead, actually.

There's a reason why you're on this asteroid, though, besides just having a bit of a look around. It's actually on a collision course with Earth, and that wouldn't be good. So it's your job to stop it.


Ahhhh... precious fuel.

It should be easy enough... just float about the inner passages of the asteroid, collect the 36 uranium cubes that are known to be located within, combine them and get out of there before the thing blows to smithereens. Nothing to it.

The thing is, this asteroid is home to thousands of phantoms. And they're pretty clever beings, intent on taking over the Earth (although they can't be that clever, because if their asteroid hits Earth, both will be destroyed. Ummm.). The asteroid is riddled with deadly laser gates which hinder your progress. In fact, they're worse than that... touch any of them, just once, and you're dead, and all Earth's hope is gone.

That makes Phantoms of the Asteroid a very difficult game. It's absolutely huge, which makes it a bit unfair that you can lose it all with one miscalculation. You've got a lot to keep an eye on besides that; fuel, energy and oxygen are all depleting constantly and must be topped up, if you can find any of those things lying around.


That would be my first uranium cube, if it wasn't for that massive wall in the way...

It's funny, because there's a lot of emptiness in this game, with large spells where you're flying around empty caverns with just occasional phantoms for company. You could say that would make for a boring game, but I think it actually adds loads to the atmosphere. It feels like you're in a desolate place, which is how it should be.

For £1.99, it's impossible to argue with the value that Phantoms of the Asteroid provided. It's an enormous challenge, truly living up to both of those words. If you've ever completed it without cheating, I salute you.

Flash Gordon (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , ,


You know, I'm amazed that I've never played this game before. It got an awesome review in ZZAP! 64, and I actually had a tape full of games that had this on, but I just never bothered with it. Silly me. Time to put that right, eh?

Flash Gordon was released under Mastertronic's Mastertronic Added Dimension (M.A.D.) arm, which added an extra pound to the asking price but promised extra quality and scope with the games. It didn't always work like that.

However, as the budget market grew the companies were able to spend money on licenses. Not necessarily on things like massive arcade games... it wouldn't make sense to release those on a budget label, even at £2.99. Lesser-known arcade games were targets, though, with Motos getting a successful release on the M.A.D. label and
Peter Packrat coming out via Silverbird, just as examples.


OK, according to this map, we should be... somewhere. Hmmm.

So was the money well spent on the Flash Gordon license money well spent? Let's evaluate.

The game is split into three levels. The first sees Flash stranded in the jungles of Mongo, having crash-landed his ship. Crash-landed? Surely it's just crashed? It's like when you're on a plane and they say "in the event of a landing on water". If you come down where you don't expect it, it's just a crash.

Anyway. Flash is trying to find and defeat the evil Ming the Merciless, and being stuck in a dense jungle isn't doing his cause any good. Flash has to find his way out, which might be easier if he wasn't being assaulted by the jungle's inhabitants, who are miffed at the intrusion of this odd-looking character. In true heroic style, Flash can make his way past these denizens by blowing them to bits with his trusty laser pistol.


You just don't mess with Flash Gordon.

It's a right trail to get through the jungle, which is unfortunate because, as we all know, he only has twenty-four hours to save the Earth. There are pathways leading in all directions, with danger at every turn. Eventually though, Flash will find the exit. It's guarded by a ferocious tiger, but that's no bother at all to a man like Flash Gordon.

On emerging from the jungle, Flash bumps into Prince Barin. Barin works for Ming, but he's an honourable man and a sound thrashing from Flash sees Barin respecting Gordon and becoming his ally. Handy.

All that remains is for Flash to make his way through a deadly minefield on his bike, where he'll surely find Ming and defeat him. Winged guards attempt to destroy Flash, but they can be taken out with a well-aimed laser blast. As can Ming, once you finally encounter him. Pity... surely you should have got the chance to impale him on a big spike?


Is that... is that... Brian Blessed?

Flash Gordon is a top-quality effort for a budget game. Each of the three sections has its faults, but they're all good fun. I struggled a lot with the jungle level, which reminded me of Ocean's Platoon in design but not execution. I whupped Barin's ass convincingly... it's not the greatest beat 'em up ever, but it breaks up the other two levels nicely. I was then put firmly in my place by the Hawkmen, the bastards. That bike level is really hard.

Put together as one release at £2.99, Flash Gordon is a great deal. I do wish that I'd given it more of a shot back in the day, although it's much easier to say that in hindsight... without the aid of trainers and cracks I might never have made it past the jungle! Mastertronic did Flash proud with this one.

Ninja (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , ,


Everybody loves games with ninjas in them, don't they? All that kicking and punching and leaping about and throwing stars and stuff... it's great fun. Tends to be a bit painful, though, so it's just as well that people make ninja videogames. We can all live out our black-clad stealth-killing fantasies from our own sofas. Great!

Ninja games have been commonplace for years now, and they still continue to be popular. In fact, they have legions of rabid fans (or fanboys) - just witness the howls of outrage at IGN's 3 out of 10 review of Ninja Gaiden 3 for instance. So Ninja games have moved on in the last thirty years or so, but sometimes simple is best. Let's take a trip back in time to a ninja game that was so simple, it was simply called... Ninja.


Do you know, it's only right now, just this minute, as I was editing this picture, that I realised that graphic is probably meant to be a defeated enemy lying on his back. I always thought they turned into pillows when you defeated them. Yes, I know that's stupid, but I did think that.

For some reason, Ninja was released using Mastertronic's Entertainment USA label. I never really thought of ninjas as being synonymous with America, but there you go. I guess they wanted to link it to American ninja movies, or something.

Your quest is to rescue Princess Di-Di (yes, really), who is held captive in the Palace of Pearls. you'd have thought she'd have liked it there, wouldn't you? Anyway whether it's against her wishes or not, you're there to go and drag her out. You have to collect idols to take to her on the way up, too. She sounds like more trouble than she's worth, this Di-Di.

Being that she's a princess and is held captive, the road to rescue is not an easy one. It's not enough that she's held in a tower (a tower without a single staircase, at that), each floor is populated with martial artists of various levels of ability. These range from thugs to karateka to evil ninja. You're going to have to dispatch pretty much all of them if you want to get the girl.


Come ooooon. Get yerself over here and get on the end of that!

Combat is fairly simple. The protagonists move towards each other, and then unleash a barrage of kicks and punches. The one that runs out of energy first falls to the floor. The other is victorious! The trouble is, any energy you've lost stays lost, until you find an idol. Better hope that watching Game of Death before setting off will hold you in good stead, then...

The martial artists in this temple are a messy bunch. As you wander around, shuriken and kunai litter the floors. You can pick these up and use them against their former owners, making life just that little bit easier. See, if they hadn't kept the princess holed up on the top floor, she'd probably have cleaned that lot up. That'll teach them.


It's all over for our ninja friend. Poor Princess Di-Di.

Ninja is a game that has many flaws. For instance, you might jump up a floor and land on one side of a hole with a number of enemies on the other side. They won't jump across the hole to get you, so you'll have to go after them yourself. And when you jump over, you'll probably die. Bit annoying, that.

For all that, and its atrocious reception in ZZAP! 64 (it managed a mighty 25% in its review), there's something endearing and quite addictive about Ninja. It might look rubbish and be nowhere near as ambitious as the likes of The Last Ninja, but it's always entertaining to put on for a quick blast. I've read that it's easy, but I've never completed it, not yet anyway. Maybe I'll have another go when all my writing is finished for the day, and see if I can finally crack it...

Pippo (ZX Spectrum)

by PaulEMoz in , ,


Right, time to venture completely into the unknown. I've known people with Spectrums and played a fair few of the more well-known games on that machine, but to pick my Spectrum games for today I just searched World of Spectrum and picked at random. One of the games that hit lucky was called Pippo.


Money, money, money... must be funny... in a rich man's world.

My face fell a bit, though, when I read that it was a puzzle game. Not exactly the way I want to spend any time off, playing puzzle games. Still, I was committed, so I loaded it up anyway.

It turns out that Pippo is essentially a 2-D Q*Bert clone. That doesn't help much though... I hate Q*Bert as well! In Pippo, you play an odd, fat character, who must hop about the game board, changing the colour of the tiles. There's no reason given for this, that's just what you do.


Isn't it really annoying when you die in a game and it's your own stupid fault?

Naturally, the boards have inhabitants, and they're dead set on stopping you in your tracks. I say that... they're not that dead set; they just potter about on their little paths, seemingly oblivious as to your presence unless you happen to blunder right into them. And they're all a bit odd... numbers, dollar signs and the like are the order of the day.

If you do happen to find them too offensive to actually share space with, an energy pill appears at times which, if collected, turns the enemies into springs (of course) which you can remove just by bouncing over them. Hurray for odd items that give you supreme power!


It's a numbers game.

That makes Pippo a bit easier and less frustrating than Q*Bert, but on the other hand, it's not terribly exciting, either. It does have some nice touches... the music was better than I'd expected, and there's a sampled (if slightly garbled) scream if you happen to fall off the game world. Pippo is quite good fun and a nice enough diversion. I'll consider myself a little more enlightened today.

Kikstart 2 (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,


Wooooo! Kick Start! Peter Purves and a load of dirty schoolkids, what fun! Erm... hang on a minute...

Actually, that's not what I'm here to talk about. Instead, I'm going to talk about Mastertronic's classic Commodore 64 game, Kikstart 2.


Brmmm, brmmm, look at me go! Oh, wait... is that you finishing?

But why, you might be asking, am I not going to talk about the first Kikstart game? Well, to be honest, I hated it. I played it a few times, and I was absolutely sick of seeing my rider lie flat and fall to the ground with that "Weeeeooooooooo" noise. SO. IRRITATING!

For some reason, though, I gave Kikstart 2 a good go, and I did actually get into it. It was like Dropzone for me, in that regard, in that I repeatedly went back to a game that routinely kicked my arse and eventually got the better of it.

"http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v718/PaulEMoz/Kikstart2.jpg">
Fire + bike full of fuel = not finishing the race.

Kikstart 2, then, is a motorbike trials game. You're given a multitude of courses to choose from, and you must select five to race over, Your times are added together at the end, and the competitor with the fastest combined time wins.

Sounds simple, but it is a trials game as well as a race game, which means that setting any kind of competitive time is far from straightforward. You can't just zoom across every obstacle at top speed. You have to figure each one out and take it appropriately, whether that's by wheeling, jumping, or going fast or slow. It's not just a trial, it's trial-and-error.


You shouldn't lose your head when racing.

Once you learn how to take each obstacle, you can focus on putting some decent times on the board. But with twenty-four courses to blunder through, there's a lot of learning and falling to be done. Even if you manage to master them all, there's a contruction kit for unlimited kikstarting. And of course, there's the split-screen two-player mode for added fun.

The Kikstart games paved the way for tons of other games, right up to current daddies like Trials HD. I have to say, I absolutely hate Trials. I couldn't even get past the tutorial in it. I find all those games to be too much like puzzle games, rather than racers. That makes it all the stranger that I like Kikstart 2. It was a great game then, and it hasn't really lost anything in all these years.

Kikstart 2 (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,


Wooooo! Kick Start! Peter Purves and a load of dirty schoolkids, what fun! Erm... hang on a minute...

Actually, that's not what I'm here to talk about. Instead, I'm going to talk about Mastertronic's classic Commodore 64 game, Kikstart 2.


Brmmm, brmmm, look at me go! Oh, wait... is that you finishing?

But why, you might be asking, am I not going to talk about the first Kikstart game? Well, to be honest, I hated it. I played it a few times, and I was absolutely sick of seeing my rider lie flat and fall to the ground with that "Weeeeooooooooo" noise. SO. IRRITATING!

For some reason, though, I gave Kikstart 2 a good go, and I did actually get into it. It was like Dropzone for me, in that regard, in that I repeatedly went back to a game that routinely kicked my arse and eventually got the better of it.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v718/PaulEMoz/Kikstart2.jpg">
Fire + bike full of fuel = not finishing the race.

Kikstart 2, then, is a motorbike trials game. You're given a multitude of courses to choose from, and you must select five to race over, Your times are added together at the end, and the competitor with the fastest combined time wins.

Sounds simple, but it is a trials game as well as a race game, which means that setting any kind of competitive time is far from straightforward. You can't just zoom across every obstacle at top speed. You have to figure each one out and take it appropriately, whether that's by wheeling, jumping, or going fast or slow. It's not just a trial, it's trial-and-error.


You shouldn't lose your head when racing.

Once you learn how to take each obstacle, you can focus on putting some decent times on the board. But with twenty-four courses to blunder through, there's a lot of learning and falling to be done. Even if you manage to master them all, there's a contruction kit for unlimited kikstarting. And of course, there's the split-screen two-player mode for added fun.

The Kikstart games paved the way for tons of other games, right up to current daddies like Trials HD. I have to say, I absolutely hate Trials. I couldn't even get past the tutorial in it. I find all those games to be too much like puzzle games, rather than racers. That makes it all the stranger that I like Kikstart 2. It was a great game then, and it hasn't really lost anything in all these years.

Budget Day 2012.

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,




Hello everyone, and welcome to Budget Day 2012! The house is in session, once again!

Yes, carrying on from last year and therefore possibly making this an annual event, I've taken the day off work to write about 8-bit budget games. And what are these things, you might ask, if you're less than thirty years old and weren't here last year? Well, back in the Eighties you had a couple of price tiers for games. Full-priced games generally sold for between £7.95 and £9.99. Budget games were aimed at taking your pocket money, and cost £1.99 or £2.99.

At first, the budget market relied solely on efforts from bedroom programmers, buying them up cheaply and hoping to make a killing. And this, they often did. But after a while, when the market was much larger, companies that specialised in budget releases would buy up older games and re-release them at budget prices.

It was a good strategy, giving older games a new lease of life as young gamers that hadn't been able to afford games first time around bolstered their collections. The bigger companies, such as Ocean and U.S. Gold, even set up their own budget companies to reissue their own oldies.

I must have owned tons of budget games in my time, both original games and re-releases. For this exercise, though, I intend to focus solely on originals if possible. There was a certain spirit and charm to many budget games that was often lacking in full-priced efforts, even if the games weren't all that good. I'm going to play some games that were favourites of mine in the past, and some that I've never played before. Hopefully it'll be fun, and will keep our minds distracted from that other Budget that's going on today.

Budget Day is looking good!

by PaulEMoz in , ,


You might think that it's easy to write a games blog. Just play a bit, take a few screenshots maybe, then chuck a few words down. Piece of piss.

It's not as simple as that. At least, I don't think it is. And when you're writing something that's themed, there's a hell of a lot of prep work to be done. That's why this blog has been a bit quiet lately... I've been doing prep work for Budget Day.

The news is that I've narrowed down my list to sixteen possible games for next Wednesday. I'd be surprised if I manage to play and write about them all, but it's a goal to aim for. And of course, they're all budget games from the 8-bit days.

So, get yourself ready for Wednesday. Ignore the Government's depressing waffle, forget about the fact you're going to be even worse off financially than ever... let me lighten the day a little with some proper blasts from the past. It should be fun.

March 21st - Budget Day 2012

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,


Last year, you might remember, I attempted to alleviate the misery of the Government squeezing our finances by taking the day off and spending it writing about 8-bit budget games. And it seemed to be quite popular... so much so that I'm doing it again this year! So on Wednesday 21st March 2012, there will be another A Gamer Forever Voyaging Budget Day!

On the last budget day, I managed to play and write about nine games in total. Not bad, but I'd like to beat that this time around... at least make it into double figures, anyway.

I've got a shortlist of potential games, although to be honest, the word "shortlist" seems a bit misplaced. The reason? The list currently has 108 games on it. Yeah... not much chance of getting through all them.

So between now and then, I'm cherry-picking titles for consideration. Ideally, I want that list down to about 20. And I want you to help. Yes, really! See that poll to the right? All you have to do is vote for the games on the list that you'd like me to write about on March 21st. The three that get the most votes will become part of my Budget Day... so get voting!

Have I Still Got It? Number 1 - The Human Race (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,


I've been asked many times if I'd incorporate video into my blog, and I've always thought that it's a good idea in principle, as long as it fits in OK. I've added a few representative gameplay videos lately... I think this is a good idea, although they aren't getting a lot of views. I still think it's better to have them than not... I won't be commentating on them, I prefer to do that through the writing. But sometimes, watching a game in action can be a better memory jog for someone. So they're staying, although I might try and find ways to make them more interesting (all suggestions welcome!).

Another idea I had was to start a new series, called Have I Still Got It?, where I play a game I used to love and be really good at many years ago, and see if I've still got the skillz. I figure that might be a slightly more interesting angle, although I doubt, given my time constraints, that I'll be doing it on a regular basis!

The first game I'm having a go at for this feature is one I've written about before... The Human Race.

I'm not going to go into the game too much... I did that last time. I used to play it so much though... mostly because each level had its own astonishing Rob Hubbard tune. I couldn't get enough of them, and the only way to really listen to them properly was to play the game, and I suppose that was what spurred me on. It got to the point where I could easily complete the game on a single life, which goes to show how often I played it just for that music!

The game itself was a good un, to my mind, and well worth the £1.99, even though it only had five screens. But almost everybody else I've talked to and that knows about the game seems to think it's really difficult! That being the case, it seemed like the ideal candidate for an experimental feature. But the question is... have I still got it? Well, watch the video and find out!


The Human Race - have I still got it?

Chiller (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,


Here's a game that I remember a mate owning but that I never played, simply because I didn't have a Commodore 64 then. It must have been one of Mastertronic's earlier C64 games, and it was programmed by the Darling Brothers, who went on to become Codemasters...


Coz this is Chiller... Chiller night... what?

Apparently they weren't code masters when they programmed this... the emulator version spends a lot of time slagging them off for releasing a broken game that was impossible to complete, and goes into detail about how the cracker had to rewrite the game to make it doable!

It's typical early-years Commodore 64 fare... a simple platformer split into a few screens, where you have to collect everything on one screen in order to progress to the next. You can actually tell it's pretty much a bridge from the Vic 20 or C-16 to the C64. And if you haven't guessed, it's loosely (cough!) based on Michael Jackson's Thriller video...


This film must be rubbish, there's nobody here!

Chiller a very colourful game... almost too colourful... but it's not exactly thrilling, being a fairly slow-moving effort where you just wait for things to pass before collecting the crosses you need. You do have an energy limit which forces some urgency, but completing the task at hand is not really much fun. Still, in those early days I'm sure it kept a fair few people happy for their £1.99.

The Human Race (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,


The Human Race is a game that I bought on a whim one day, played to death and loved... only to find that hardly anybody else seems to have heard of it!

Based upon the evolution of man, it's a five-screen game that mixes up a few game styles as you aim to progress from dopey caveman to stylin' sophisticate. There are many obstacles in the way, from dinosaurs early on (yeah, OK), to massive lava-spewing volcanos, crocodiles, giant spiders and finally Fate himself.


Level two, and it's getting a bit hot underfoot...

Each screen was quite difficult in its own right, but once you'd worked it out it was likely that you'd complete it nine times out of ten (although the final level, the race against Fate, was a bit trickier). Graphically it was a bit of a mixed bag, although still quite nice for a budget game. The music, though, was amazing. There was a different Rob Hubbard tune for every screen, and each one was absolutely superb and well-suited to the level.


If I saw a spider that big, I wouldn't make it until tomorrow, never mind another 25,000 years.

With no ZZAP! 64 review of this game, I'm not sure what prompted me to buy it, but I never regretted it. I completed it loads of times, and kept enjoying it, although a large part of playing it again and again was to listen to the music. Funnily enough, though, any time I've asked anyone else to play it, they've found it incredibly difficult and hated it. Even the person that cracked it for use with an emulator built in a scrolling message saying the game is rubbish and far too hard!


Level five, the race against Fate. I really don't see what's so tricky.

I'm not having that, and I'm going to share the love a bit today. For me, The Human Race kept me entertained for the entire life of my C64 and beyond. I know it's not the best game ever, I wouldn't claim that, but I've always enjoyed it and for me it was a fantastic use of £1.99, It's a game that I still fire up now and again, even today. And I still manage to complete it.

Action Biker (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,


I reckon that if you ever played Action Biker back in the day, then you can still hum or whistle the music. Altogether now: do-dee-dooo, do-do-dee-doooo...

Lovely, catchy little tune aside, Action Biker (subtitled Clumsy Colin after a marketing deal with KP Skips!) saw you riding a motorbike around town with no real objective other than to pick up an item before time ran out. The quicker you found the next item the higher your score, providing the only real incentive to get a move on.


The last item picked up was a crash helmet. Just as well, if you're going to go dicking around on a building site...

Some of the items would prove useful in extending your game, such as a bigger fuel tank, and you could get items such as turbo boost which could help you complete the race course more quickly. And there were some memorable locations to explore, such as the building site or rollercoaster.

Action Biker was a great Sunday afternoon game, very chilled out and relaxed as you pootled around town. There was no great sense of urgency, even though you had a limitation on your fuel, and the laid-back soundtrack contributed further to that. It never got the heart racing, but Action Biker always left you with a little smile on your face.

Star Farce (ZX Spectrum)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,


I never had a Spectrum... I've mentioned that before... so I don't have a particularly wide knowledge of Spectrum games. A lot of the games I'll play today, I won't have played before. I'm quite looking forward to that... for all the Spectrum was maligned by a large section of Commodore 64 owners (and vice versa, of course), there's no doubt the Spectrum was home to a lot of quality games.

I picked this one because I love the arcade game Star Force. Still, I was a bit wary... would this be a total pisstake? I really didn't know how it would work out.

It turns out that Star Farce is a really good vertically-scrolling shooter. The reason for the name lies in the amusing plot... aliens have been trying to make contact with Earth for years, but every time they do, paranoid Earthlings send out waves of attack craft to wipe out these "aggressors". The Universe is collectively sick of this, and to put a stop to it (and to save those that are left), they've sent in a fighter pilot to destroy Earth's resources and attack craft, and all its inhabitants while they're at it. You are that fighter pilot.


Kapow-pow-pow-pow-pow! Take that, evil Earth scum!

I was amazed by Star Farce. For just £1.99, this would have been amazing value. The graphics are really great, being detailed and colourful. Pretty much everything you see is destructible... it felt fantastic to shoot a power generator and see it set off a chain reaction that destroyed everything connected to it.

There are loads of other tricks and surprises, too, one of which sees you going under the planet's surface to tackle a mothership. You also get loads of options before you even start playing the game. Star Farce is one of the most full-featured and entertaining shmups I've seen on either Spectrum or C64, which makes the price all the more surprising. The only quibble I really had was with the firing rate of the ship. Other than that, I had a really great time with it, and quite fancy another go now...

It's Budget Day!

by PaulEMoz in , , ,


Morning all, and welcome to Budget Day, where I will spend my day wearing rose-tinted glasses and posting about cheapo games from bygone days.


The Chancellor of the Exchequer can only DREAM of owning a budget bag like that.

So, what exactly is or was a budget game? These days, if a console game is released with a price tag of £19.99, it's considered a budget game. £19.99! My kids don't get anywhere near that much a week in pocket money... whose budget exactly is that?

Games originally cost upwards of £5.95... not too bad in today's prices, but still a fair sum to the kids of the early Eighties. It took companies like Mastertronic and Firebird to introduce a second tier of pricing that appealed to those with less disposable income. Firebird originally offered games for £2.50... much more affordable, as one or two weeks' pocket money would be enough to grab yourself some gaming goodness.

It was when Mastertronic introduced their classic £1.99 range that pocket money gaming really took off. No longer did you have to trail into the city (costing extra valuable money) in order to buy a game... you could find the distinctive Mastertronic packaging in newsagents, petrol stations... shops where kids would be dragged in by the mothers, and displayed prominently, in the chance that mam might be badgered into buying Little Johnny a gaming treat.

It really worked, too. Anybody with a computer owned at least one game with that classic black and red packaging. Firebird soon reduced their games to £1.99, with their own packaging standing out, too. They were happy times, with loads of new titles released, and kids buying them in droves.

The quality wasn't always there, of course. These companies, particularly in the beginning, were outlets for the bedroom coders. And whilst some of those programmers were good and would go on to greater things, if your game actually worked there was a fair chance it would be published, often to the disappointment of children across the country!

Things eventually spiralled out of control, with more and more budget companies springing up and Mastertronic and Firebird introducing range after range, at differing prices. The "golden era" of budget games had passed, probably in tandem with computer owners growing up. For a while, though, it had been one of the most exciting times in the growth of home gaming.

March 23rd is Budget Day!

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,


Awwww, come on... that's boring!

It's going to be horrible, isn't it? Another Government stooge standing in front of a lot of rowdy blokes (and women), telling them how much they're going to screw everyone (but themselves) for in the coming year.

Well, I'm going to try and lighten things a little. All day (or as much as is humanly possible) it will be Budget Day with A Gamer Forever Voyaging. I am going to be playing and writing about budget games on the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. If you loved your Mastertronic and Firebird games, this will be the place to visit.

My intention is to do budget-sized articles... two or three paragraphs, so that I can fit more in. The intention is to cover lots of games so that I can bring many a nostalgic smile to faces. And in keeping with the saving money thing... I will be interspersing them with tweets of links to games that I consider to be good bargains. So if you don't follow me on Twitter, now might be a good time to start.

I'm looking forward to it. I've got a huge list of games picked out... let's see which ones I get to...

PLATFORMANCE: Castle Pain (XBLA Indie Games)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,


I've got loads of games still unplayed, and yet I can't help buying more, whether it's a full-priced retail release in a sale, something reduced on Steam or GOG, or a 70p cheapie on XBLA's Indie Games. PLATFORMANCE: Castle Pain is one from the latter category, snapped up on a whim after a quick go of the demo. Yep, it's another 80 pointer.

I'll be honest, the main reason I tried this was because I thought the main character reminded me of a character from a Mastertronic game. Points awarded to anyone on the same wavelength that can tell me which game, but no prizes. Sorry.


Jesus! A ghost! And the reason the game is forced to be played as a speed run. The bastard.

PLATFORMANCE: Castle Pain is... drumroll... a platform game! Noooooo! Really? OK, so far, so obvious. It's a bit different to the norm, though. If you've trawled much of the internet for games-related stuff, you've probably seen sites devoted to speed runs on various games (Super Mario games being very popular for this). Well, PLATFORMANCE is a game that is designed to be played as a speed run. In fact, you have no choice in the matter.

As such, it's really good fun. It's hard, at least to me... in fact, there's a point I'm stuck at. The word "pain" in the title is quite apt, both for the player and the main character's many violent deaths. So I've never actually completed it yet. And it's not a long game... research has shown that you should be completing it in five minutes or less.


And that, right there, is the entire game. How quickly can you finish it?

Five minutes? So why should you buy it then? Well, I certainly can see it as being a game you'd play repeatedly after completion. With it being a speed run, you'll constantly be trying to shave seconds off your best time. And there are different difficulty levels to try, adding to the enjoyment/frustration. Yes, you'll get frustrated, but in that classic 8-bit "should have made that pixel-perfect jump" way.

PLATFORMANCE: Castle Pain is a charming little game. It's got 1985 written all over it (even down to not having online leaderboards, sadly), but turning it into a speed run changes the dynamic into something approaching the present day, and fun is fun, whatever era it comes from. It might be a Mastertronic game at a sub-Mastertronic price, but it's no less worthy for it and will have you shouting abuse at the tell for many an hour.