Going South

by Paul Morrison


One of my favourite programmers on the Commodore 64 was someone who was probably under-appreciated by many.  I'm talking about Shaun Southern.

A very versatile programmer, Shaun Southern programmed for VIC-20, C16 and C64, before eventually moving on to the Amiga.  He released loads of games, usually under his Mr. Chip Software guise, and they covered a wide variety of genres.  Better still, most of them were budget games, making them easily accessible.

The first of his games that I (probably) played, unbeknownst to me, was one that so many people have played... Vegas Jackpot.  Fruit machine simulators at the time were strangely alluring.  I don't know if it was because games took ages to load so you felt you had to play them, but you'd sit there and hit F7 for absolutely ages, hoping to land a big (imaginary) score.  Strange.

Hurray! I'm in the moneeeeey... oh, wait, it wants me to gamble. It'll end in tears...

Hurray! I'm in the moneeeeey... oh, wait, it wants me to gamble. It'll end in tears...

Fortunately, later games were a bit more action-packed.  The two Kikstart games are classics, for instance, and put paid to untold hours as I tried to learn the strategies needed to get to the end of a course without falling off that damn bike.

Then there was P.O.D. (Proof of Destruction).  Another budget game, this was similar to Jeff Minter's Gridrunner (apparently completely by accident), although it had its own features and personality.  It was one of the best £1.99s I ever spent, being an absolutely frantic and very addictive shoot 'em up that I could never get enough of.

For some reason, this makes me want a boiled sweet.

For some reason, this makes me want a boiled sweet.

Eventually, the full-price market came calling.  Shaun had programmed a few racing games of differing styles, but went and did it again with Trailblazer, and again with its sequel, Cosmic Causeway.  These games saw you rolling a ball along a series of fast-moving pathways, avoiding obstacles at breakneck speed... or, more likely, not avoiding them!

Both of these games were very well-received, and again I played them for hours, trying and trying to get as far as I could, and usually failing.  To say they were challenging was an understatement!  But they managed to retain that crucial addictive element that kept you coming back for more.

Blazing a trail through the world of racing games.

Blazing a trail through the world of racing games.

As I've said before, tracking people down can be quite a tricky task.  I haven't found Shaun Southern yet, although I have found a website detailing a lot of the Magnetic Fields/Mr. Chip games in which all the descriptions appear to have been written by Shaun Southern.  Sadly there are no contact details though, but I'll certainly keep looking.  In the meantime, I fancy another blast on P.O.D....