Sunday, 10 December 2017

Hidden rant by Richard Aplin buried deep within Shinobi

You've probably heard about or seen this hidden rant by Richard Aplin buried deep within the Amstrad CPC version of Shinobi, well if not, here it is, after a bit of tidying... 

Ok, now all that game rubbish is out of the way, I would like to begin the customary rant, which programmers often put in their code. It is at the moment 04:04:38 on 04/06/89. It is, if you were wondering, very early on a Sunday morning, and I am sitting here in a totally empty office in the centre of Bristol, (13 Small St, if you want to pop in and say hello!) and I am in raptures at the moment listening to the utterly, ridiculously excellent album 'The Wall' by the utterly, ridiculously excellent Pink Floyd. (It's just got to the classic 'How can ye have any pudding if ye don't eat yer meat?' bit!)I am, as if you cared, Richard Aplin, Project Manager (and the person who gets to rush in at the last moment and finish/rewrite games when someone else screws them up totally and then buggers off leaving us well and truly up the proverbial creek without the proverbial wooden implement. (YES ROB! YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!) I had the misfortune to be left with the task of rewriting this from scratch! Fortunately, I have just (last week!) got a PDS development system together (as any programmer will tell you, it is the ant's elbows for writing games on) and I am sitting here typing this on my PC (with 32mb hard disk), safe in the knowledge that it will assemble all 150k of the source in the blink of an eyelid! (well, 5.2 seconds anyway) Right, enough of that rubbish, as the album has just started on 'Goodbye Blue Sky'.. another of my favourite tracks. Sing along if you know the words.... 'Oooooooooh.. Ooooooooh...D-d-d-did you see the frightened ones.. D-d-d-did you ever hear the falling bombs.. D-d-d-did you ever wonder why you had to run for shelter when the promise of a brave new world unfurled beneath the clear blue skyyyyy...' ..Ecstasy!!! Anyway, I want to get this bloody game finished before 6am, so I can get a couple of hours' kip and then go to the Commodore show in London.. But if I keep typing this it's not going to happen! Mind you, I've just done the speech for the 6128 version, and all I've got left to do is play with the map editor (runs on an Amiga) and get rid of some of the crap left on the map of mission 3, level 3. I might even try and get some memory back so I can do a high-score table... but there's little chance of that I'm afraid.. according to this excellent assembler, I've only got $74 bytes left before my code runs over the start of the sprites.. which would cause nice big crashipoos! Pity the bloody 464 is so underpowered memory-wise. Anyway, next on the agenda after this damn game is Double Dragon 1.. then Double Dragon 2! (Aaargh!) Anyway, due the the immense complexity of the Artificial Intelligence in those two, Virgin have agreed to a 6128-only game!!!! YAHOO!!(Types happily as The Wall rolls on into 'One Of My Turns') Incidentally, did you ever see my best game.. 'Fly Spy' from Mastertronic? I spent AGES on that game, and I was well chuffed with it.. pity it didn't sell that well... ('Go up to the bedroom in the suitcase on the left you'll find my favourite AXE!'-classic line by Roger Waters!) Anyway, I really AM getting bored with typing all this crap for you to read.. so I'll get on with finishing the game, and who knows? Maybe I'll carry on with this later! Bye for now!!(current time 04:27:01 on 04/06/89) .......... Okay!! Back again! It's now 08:24:03 on 04/06/89 and I'm getting a bit tired! (In case you were wondering about the strange format for the time/date: in PDS if you press CTRL and ENTER then it automatically inserts the current date/time wherever you are typing - Useless but fun!) Right! I've just finished all the alterations to the backgrounds and maps and things.. and I just exercised a bit of sadism with the ninja positioning on mission 3 level 3! (Putting in the baddies is all just a case of playing with numbers which determine what baddies start where and what they are doing. It is VERY boring, but then so would be the game if I didn't do it!) You know, It's just occurred to me that the deep freudian reason for me typing all this crap for the one or two people who will actually hack the game and happen to notice this.. the reason I'm doing it is to vent my frustration.. (cor blimeymissus!) at never being asked to do one of those daft writeups for a magazine about 'my work in progress'!! Childish and petty really.. but then that's just the kinda guy I am! If(* EGO TRIP ALERT*) you were wondering.. I'm the grand old age of 19 (20 on 6th December!Send me a prezzy!), well into music, Wimpeys, Fags (It's my ambition to be the first person to have my lungs used tocover roads when I die..... thinkabout it you slow-witted person!), Diet Coke (In this coding session alone - 3pm Sat. to now - I can see 12 empty cans lying about!), Alcohol (Oh joyous youth! When I'm older my liver will never speak to me again!) Particularly favoured brews include: Guinness, Newcastle Brown (tits oot fer th' lads!), Ruddles County, San Miguel.. in fact.. now I mention it.. I like LOADSABEER! Anyway.. on with my ego trip.. and why not? It's my keyboard and if I want to fill up your memory with text, then I will! Well, it looks very much like my pretensions to visit the Commodore (or is it commode?) show are well and truly buggered, as it's now (pauses to press CTRL and ENTER) 08:37:58 on 04/06/89.. hang on!! 08:37? Is it fuck! It's 08:50! My real-time clock is buggered! Well, serves me right for buying an Amstrad PC1512! Maybe it should be called an Unreal-time clock... Hang on a min.. I'll just assemble this junk and see how much of your ram I've ranted my way through so far.. Bugger me! 5494 bytes! Doesn't ram fly when you're having fun! Well, my Floyd Collection is exhausted for the night (i.e. I've listened to 'The Wall'(There'll be nobody home), 'Animals'(baaaahh!), 'Dark Side of the Moon'(There is no dark side of the moon.. as a matter of fact it's all dark), 'Wish you were here'(We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl), 'Atom Heart Mother'(You name it!), 'Relics' (biiiiike!), 'Final Cut'(Not that keen on that one actually... sorry Roger), and The Wall(again!) about 4 times each.. I'm exhausted for the DECADE (have to start Double-bloody-Dragon on Monday!), and the Binary Design Bristol Office Fridge is devoid of Diet Coke!! .. definitely time to call it a weekend (weekend? Ha!! I laugh in the face of having a social life! I tweak the nose of hobbies! I kick the shins of spare time! ... ohhhhhh GOD!) and time to go back to my flat and listen to some Talking Heads while drifting off to sleep at the same time as everyone else wakes up and says things like 'ohhhh god.. what DID I drink last night?' In fact, just to celebrate finishing Shinobyl (the office pet name!) I might even treat myself to having a TOASTED CHEESE SANDWICH! (if I can be bothered to make it) Oh fuck this, I'm off... Well, goodbye, I hope you like the game as much as I... enjoyed typing this text, and have a nice life. Oh, by the way, pop in and see me some time if you are passing through Bristol! Seeya, Richard 'Mad as a hatter' Aplin. Hello again! I'm BACK! It's now 17:46:40 on 05/06/89 and after having a severe sleep yesterday (and I did have that cheese sandwich!) I thought you might appreciate it a bit if I put on some 'frills' today. Well, having spend an hour squeezing a few more bytes out of the memory (I copied some code that was only used sometimes into a bit of spare space on the end of the screen ram!), I wrote you a silly little 'end of game' thing, and did a high score table. I was quite pleased with the hi-scores, as they only took just under an hour to write & debug! These were done with the aid of aural stimulation (cor blimey missus! Pt.II) from TheThe's rather nice new album 'Mind Bomb'. It's really good, but a bit more commercially minded than 'Infected' (their previous masterpiece). I had a bit of a Floyd Overdose (if that is possible!) yesterday, so it's been TheThe and Talking Heads today. Oh yes.. I also put on a cheat mode! Not a very good one, only infinite lives, but at least it's a bit of a challenge to find! What do you mean? No, of course, I'm not going to tell you what it is!! Anyway, according to a mate, the Commodore show was ok-ish, but he said there were LOADS of crackers wondering about, blatantly showing off. Well, my views of people who crack and copy games is my own business, and you probably wouldn't be interested anyway. You are most probably hacking this game to cheat, as the Amstrad scene has little piracy (am I joking?!?), and as it looks very much like this game will have no disk protection (sob!), there is nothing to crack! On the nice game front, (I'm an Amiga freak really - I've got two Amiga's, this PCI'mm typing on, a CPC464+drives, a commodore 64, and assorted other bits) Forgotten Worlds looks like a nice amiga game.. good parallax. In case you were wondering (I know you weren't!) I have done games on this, the 64, the Amiga, and I've tinkered with the ST and speccy (two very similar machines!) Well, I haven't got properly drunk for AGES (what with finishing this), so I'll just dump this code out, run off 3 copies to send to Sales Curve tomorrow, and be off, or, as Biffa Bacon (VIZ READER!) would say: 'Ga'n oot doon pub' (attempts Geordie accent and fails as miserably as southerners usually do) Bye!! Hello (again!) It's now (..wait for it!) 15:21:17 on 02/08/89.. nearly three months later! I've been slaving away on Double Dragon for a while now and Ian Mathias at Virgin has just given me the FINAL (at last) list of changes for Shinobyl. So, I'm just about to dredge through all my old code and do them. Then, I'll send it off and NEVER SEE IT AGAIN! (well, that is until I have to do the Disk & Tape masters) Quite a bit has happened since I last typed something here... I bought a Video Walkman (brilliant toy!) I've done most of Double Dragon 1 (I love having 128k and a disk drive to play with!) I went to Paris for the Bastille Day bicentenary (lots of fun but expensive) and now I've caught some nasty disease and I feel like hell. Anyway, dear ol' CPC owner, I do it all for you! Well, I'd better bugger off and do these changes or it'll never be done in time for the post. Ok.. now they're done. Andy Green from Virgin has just rung up and asked for a 1-level demo version for some magazine or other. Presumably it's for the excellent Amstrad Action, who just happen to live just down the road in Bath. Well, I don't know at the mo' whether it'll ever actually happen.. only you will know that!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Brian Cox - London 2017


I was lucky enough to attend the IP EXPO last month and recorded this video of Brian Cox, the Universe and where technology and data are going, I've tried my best to remove all the background noise, and I'm sure you will really enjoy this video. It was a great venue and even better day out, as usual, any feedback in the comments below and let us know what you thought of it.


Monday, 6 March 2017

Technology will save us!

Pick up any newspaper or tune into any tv news channel and you'll hear all sorts of jargon sprinkled with spectacular unfounded statistics about how computers will one day take over the world.

This, for the most part, appears to capture and easily bind the audience in these sensational stories about the future use of computers. We read of them playing chess, choosing emotionally engaging music, passing the Turing test (not the best way to test computers in 2017) and provide electrical pulses to robotic fingertips that can be sent to the human brain, and the impression is given that electronic machines are ready to take over. In all of the this, the cautious qualifications of the experienced appear to be ignored in favour of those who have never experienced the struggles and difficulty presented by the use of computers. They, at least, have painstakingly learned that computers are no substitute for human thought: in fact, that preparing to put work on to a computer at the levels needed just to run write a Windows kernel, especially when considering the vast levels of backwards compatibility is one of the most mind-stretching exercises that anyone could ever be asked to do.

The key to the whole subject is that if we do not know how to perform a certain calculation or analytical process, then the computer cannot tell us how to do so. Unfortunately, we have to tell it. The problem is that the sci-fi element has been massively oversold throughout the years, unfortunately the obvious has been thrown out the window, namely that the computer is just a tool to do the job, albeit a very powerful tool, in a world where its effectiveness depends largely on the skill, experience and people who control its use.

The public image of machines and computers is an electronic brain outlined by an incomprehensible science. The cold hard truth is that these are simple machines, a group of simple machines if you prefer, whose actions are coordinated by a central automatic control. They can provide simple logical processes, they take in information and process it, store the information and then pass on the results. The program of instructions remains in the computer while it carries out the task and is replaced by a different set of programmes when a different job is needed.

A computer without a program is like a CD player without a CD. Thus, the modern computer can be used in regards to automation, mechanical aid, faster calculations, handling data for science, industry and commerce.      

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Star Trek: Lightspeed update

Star Trek: LightSpeed

Game development Stardate – Part 1 (-305854.8007039574)

Game Story:

This will be a sweeping adventure through space and play out like an episode of Star Trek. Throughout the game, you'll upgrade your ship to its former glory, engage in turn-based combat, earn new experimental upgrades, and prevent the Federation from destruction. You’ll need to navigate the Alpha Quadrant, meet with new life forms and solve a variety of political disputes.

Turn based system:

You start in a defensive stance, but you can use multiple actions in one turn, if you’re feeling brave, you can opt to miss a turn, this is a highly risky move, but should your shields hold, this builds up, even more, power, nine times out of ten, this will deal a deadly blow to an enemy vessel. Mess this up, though, and you’ll damn near lose everything. You won’t go back to the start, but you will have to go back to the last saved waypoint losing any upgrades you acquired during that mission.

Every time you defeat an enemy ship, you can choose to salvage crew and use ship for parts, destroy the enemy ship or let them go. The latter can be used as a bargaining chip should you run amuck with a sworn enemy of theirs, you can call upon them to help out, but this is not guaranteed. This can prove especially useful against tougher ships or more than one opponent.


This game will play out as the original series, each character including Kirk will become stronger and more proficient in their respective roles, and the more you progress. For example; Spock will give you logical explanations and differing levels of advice, but you will only be able to use the abilities of each character once for each section, if you proceed through a section without aid, the crew carries over an extra turn for the next section, but no more than two. Using the computer to scan or for advice is also classed as a move within each turn.

Game progress:

Unfortunately, I’m starting with zero game programming skills. I’ve been given lots of tips and advice on how to get started, but now have to decide on what programming language I will need to use in order to get there. I believe the code will need to be as tight as possible and 128K only in design. My first job will be to learn as much as possible over the next three to six months, sorry but this will be a long drawn out process. However, in between, I will draw out all of the graphics needed for the game, this bit I should be able to do on my own, hopefully.

So far it looks as though my head is leaning towards learning to program in ASM, harder I’m told, but I feel that long term, this will give me more control. I’m also a bit apprehensive about asking questions, feels a little embarrassing, but you know what, people have been really helpful, can’t believe it.

Next update in two weeks from now, until then… "second star to the right, and straight on till morning".

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Lightspeed: How can I make this game happen?

MODE 0 graphics showing how things might play out... 
For as long as I can remember, the Amstrad CPC was starved of a decent Star Trek game, we had a few games trickle through, but nothing that set the pulse racing. I believe I have a really good idea for a Star Trek game on the CPC, it would probably need 128K of memory, a starfield effect similar to that used in 'Tin Tin on the Moon' during the rocket ship sequence, but without the need to actually move the ship from side to side, just give the illusion that the ship is moving forward. The game would actually play out similar to a JRPG, you would make your way to a location or planet, and battle Star Trek aliens on your way to seek out new worlds and civilisations. Once you reach a certain point, you would then battle an even bigger enemy. The bad news is, you would start out in a massive battle, that would see your ship damaged and limping away for survival and much-needed repair.

Action panel to help you throughout your mission... 
As you progress, so do opportunities to repair, level up and buy new items, such as food for the crew, away missions and more, for a bit of fun. As you can see from the above panel, torpedo's, phasers, evade and shields would help you to stay alive, with the scan option providing valuable information about the enemy and objects you come across, especially useful in detecting a Klingon warbird that might be cloaked. The teleport option, if online can be used to take over an enemy ship, salvage, capture or use for parts where compatible, this can technique would be used in battle, once an enemy ship falls below a certain percentage. I think the unique thing about this game is that each level would play out like a tv episode.

Where I'm at so far:

It really is early days, I'm just playing around with graphics. I really want to do this for the CPC, despite being told that I should use GameMaker and other such PC tools to bring the idea to a bigger audience. I've already looked at some of the programming tutorials in old Amstrad books and magazines, and at this point, it looks fairly daunting. So for now, I'm thinking I need to do more research, stick with these books for some time and practice as much as possible where time permits.

I dabbled back in the day, but this never came to anything serious, instead I played games more than I care to admit if my parents knew how much effort I put into gaming vs homework, they'd have disowned me. So far, this has been a solo effort with help from my wife, and honestly, I'm not even sure how much help I can get from other people. Hopefully, someone out there will take pity on my efforts thus far and give me some guidance on the best way to get started. My hope would be to one day turn my idea into a prototype of sorts.

A question to the Amstrad community? 

What are the best tools, books and emulation I should use? I've purchased loads of books over the years, especially geared towards programming new games on the CPC, and I've tried to believe me, but these lines of code are somebody else's blood, sweat and tears, helpful none the less, but the dream for me is to ultimately play something the likes never experienced on the CPC before. I know there are quite a few tools available for the ZX Speccy, I bought one of 'em, 'The shoot-em-up construction kit' but is there anything worthwhile on the Amstrad CPC?
I was hurtling through the cosmos one day, in the merry old... De, dum, de, dee 

Maybe you could help? 

Please let me know your thoughts? By all means get in touch, I'm all ears. If you've programmed a game on the CPC and wouldn't mind providing me with a guide as to how best to approach this, then I would be eternally grateful, maybe share your story? 

For those interested in making a game on the CPC, I will try to collate as much information as possible and share within these pages or by raising the subject using Amstrad CPC communty forums... Wish me luck and thanks for reading.


Friday, 3 February 2017


Here we have a bullet hell shooter for the humble CPC, it's been in development for quite some time, it features full-screen scrolling, up to 256 enemy bullets on screen at any one time and works across all CPC model of computers.

What does it handle like?

You can shoot in two different directions using a separate left or right key configuration, it works really well and independent of moving the character left or right in the traditional sense. Holding down the fire button slows character movement to a snail's pace, making it next to impossible to keep your finger pressed on the trigger, as you need to move quickly when faced with a certain type of enemy, especially when embroiled in a boss fight. It doesn't help things when needle-like bullets fly all over the place, I can't even tell if I'm being hit half the time and the player character is far too big to manoeuvre out of the way. You'll be seeing the "you're dead again" screen a lot, I mean jeez, the difficulty feels completely ridiculous, if you thought Dynamic games were difficult back in the day, then this one makes 'em feel easy in comparison.

How does it look?

Enemy sprites look alright, there's definitely a variety on display, in fact on one of the boss levels, a submarine races into view, it almost takes up the entire bottom half of the screen, it looks really good, especially as the animation shows the damage model increase the more you hit the target. The graphics are well defined, but at the same time look and feel a bit messy. Unfortunately, the game suffers from chronic slowdown as the screen fills up, but despite this, the pace still remains respectable. It is difficult to tell if I'm actually hitting the bad guys or not, the game just gives me the impression that bullets are passing through enemy objects.

Music and sound?

Music just sounds like pots and pans banging together on a loop, I'm not even sure I could hear the in-game sound effects.

Good, bad or ugly?

My expectation was high, screenshots looked terrific. A horizontal bullet hell shooter on the CPC for the first time. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed quickly after my twentieth death inside of ten minutes of play. Never in the history of the CPC has such a great looking shooter been so unplayable due to difficulty. Whilst the game looks promising from the outset, it delivers an utterly dismal playing experience.

This is more of a tour de force in graphics than a game, a technical demo at best, with interactive elements thrown in for good measure. Kudos to the programmers for all the technical and visual splendour, but let's hope the creative juices behind this can give us something more in the playability department for the next game.

Despite everything above, we still have to remember that this is a new game, running on an Amstrad CPC in 2017 and for that, I should be thankful.

The game can be downloaded here:

8-Bit Game Sales 1980's

If you dig through old ZX Spectrum, Commodore and Amstrad magazines, you'll find interviews and a whole treasure trove of information from our long lost almost forgotten past. It's slow going, plod like almost, but every once in a while you might come across something that you've never seen or heard of before, things that can't be found on the internet. For example; I've searched high and low on the internet for information about old game sales i.e. Units sold for my favourite 8-bit games, across many formats, but unfortunately this consistently turns up nowt.

However, this hasn't deterred me, my mission is to seek out old information pertaining to these forgotten classics, the information is out there, but mixed up in a mass of detail. I'm quietly convinced this slug like approach has legs, heck I've even approached ex-programmers in a bid to find out as much information as humanly possible.

With that in mind, this is what I've uncovered thus far, after just a few hours or more of reading through old articles, especially from Mastertronic and U.S.GOLD, I believe I'm starting to get somewhere, but it does feel like I've only just scratched the surface.

I was surprised to see Matchday from Ocean software had only sold 60,000 units, with Beach Head lagging behind budget games such as BMX Racers (written by the David Darling, Richard Darling) and Squirm. As I read more into it, Squirm had actually sold more games on the C16 than on the C64, around 80,000 to be precise, with Mastertronic claiming that the first eight or nine games they released for the C64 sold around 50,000 on average. I already knew about Outrun, U.S.GOLD weren't shy about advertising the fact and I was kind of aware that Heroes did well too. The Way of the Exploding Fist appears to have shifted quite a few units as well, but this one is a little confusing as I've seen the game released under a few different labels including Melbourne House and Richochet, a subsidiary of Mastertronic. 

Wish me luck... Hopefully, I'll have more information to share shortly, by all means, contact me if you can shed any light on game units sold. 


Thursday, 2 February 2017

How about a new Dizzy arcade adventure?

How a new Dizzy game might look on the Amstrad CPC...
I’ve always thought that the Dizzy series, when taken in its entirety, is as wonderful, wacky and varied as anything you see in a Sonic or Mario adventure. But our egg-headed friend desperately needs a comeback, and a Mario game mixed with the speed of a Sonic adventure might just be the ticket to bring Dizzy kicking and screaming back from the success of the 80's. Dizzy is a sleeping giant; why can't Codies see this? He should be up there with Sonic and Mario in terms of brand and mascot; it's almost criminal to keep him under wraps like this.

Now for the weird part...

He could be revived on the Amstrad CPC, the true home of Dizzy. He could use the Amstrad’s hardware scroll, as seen in Killer Cobra - look at the speed that game runs at! Now just imagine replacing the main sprite with an egg, then force upon him the laws of gravity, stick a rocket up his arse and watch him go. I can just see him now, rolling, bouncing and jumping to collect items, just as we see in a Sonic or Mario game, only this time in Dizzy's world, accompanied by family, friends and fellow egg heads, he could even fire yoke!

Why limit things to 64K? All of the game music and sounds effects from the previous series could be introduced; the smoother R3 techniques, as described above, to accompany the wrapped R12 and R13 scroll, could also be included, this would basically reduce the CRTC char by half. In other words, you can tweak the 6845 video registers, I've never done it, but apparently it's easily done and there are lots of examples, that have already been put together, of code where you can grab and drop the scroll routine into emulation and see it play out before your very eyes, I’ve seen it first hand. Richard Aplin (Fly Spy and Shinobi programmer) recently commented on a Killer Cobra YouTube video uploaded by Xyphoe. In the comments section, Aplin explains that the scroll is easy, but the sprite placement is where things prove tricky.

In my book, speed is power, no matter how badly conceived, and Killer Cobra goes like the clappers, clearly demonstrating that the hardware scrolling could be more than a match for a game where speed is the essence. But who knew a machine from 1984 harnessed this ability? The programmers of Killer Cobra, that's who?

This would surely make a great crowd funder?

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Save our Amstrad!

Blimey! I'm back again, with yet another potential divisive subject. You know me, I'm a plain speaker, none of this sensitive protective rubbish, so with that in mind, I’ll move elegantly on. Every system has its fair share of crap games, but in 2016 the Amstrad CPC massively stole the crown! It was a great year in terms of content, nearly every genre of game was released for the CPC, but by god the majority were dreadful. This is partly due to the CPC RetroDev competition that runs each year, now in its fourth year. People are given a set number of days to go away and program the next killer game for the CPC; some are really good and impress me no end, but the majority play like dogshit!

Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying the CPC's renaissance, but 2016 was both a good and bad year for the CPC. There were some truly great games the likes of Magica, Defence, Vector Vaults, Dooms Day Lost Echoes and Outlaws, which I urge people to play if they haven't already - some true greats there! Unfortunately, there's also been a mountain of what I can only describe as "unfinished crap"! Having to sift through these games only to realise half of them are broken or unfinished, is a real kick in the teeth, and I can't help but feel that these half-hearted attempts could have been so much more with a bit more perseverance and pride. As things stand, these games have just served to alienate me and it's my belief that it will only serve to further hurt the CPC's already tarnished reputation. Therefore, I command you to stop! We don't need amateurs adding even more under performing tripe to an ever increasing back catalogue of games.

I'm reaching to the back of my throat at all these people waxing lyrical about how great it is to receive any quality of new games for the CPC, pandering to amateur programmers out of desperation for new software. It's embarrassing to see it play out. No matter how crap the idea or game, the programmer is a hero who can do no wrong. Oh, c'mon! Half the ideas and games in 2016 were complete balls!

We need quality over quantity:

After playing the excellent remake of R-Type (a big brave heavyweight of a game for the CPC) and other greats such as Bubble Bobble 4 CPC, Orion Prime, Lost Echoes, Sub Hunter and the awesome Star Sabre, I had massive high hopes for the future of the CPC and the quality of games I might see over the coming weeks, months and years. It seems to me, looking back over 2016, the opposite was true? Standards appear to have slipped and people are now just releasing any old crap and in many cases, the first idea that pops into their heads. I blame CES and its piss poor entry level standards! For example, you wouldn't hope to publish a book with chapters full of grammatical errors or without a cohesive plotline. Seriously, I’m not trying to have a go at people who take hours out of their own time, but it’s just massively frustrating. Surely there’s still such a thing as pride, I mean why release something that is bug infested and completely unfinishable? We need standards FFS!

Your CPC still needs you!

I don't want to sound toxic, but I'm no lap dog either. Why should new games, and programmers, be immune to criticism? Bad games give the CPC a bad reputation! It should be CPC first, community second, programmer last. Take the new CPC Super Mario game, currently in the pipeline at the moment, it doesn't appear to feature smooth scrolling, instead, it uses a horrible push scroll similar to Ghost n Goblins from Elite. I would be mortified to see one of my favourite games of all time butchered in this way, it would be computer and video game Armageddon, and a massive embarrassment to the system. It's like treading on eggshells within the CPC community, frowned upon at times if someone has an opinion, "don't say anything negative". But sometimes constructive criticism is good and there for a reason.

A Mario game for the CPC that doesn't scroll... That's bonkers! 
As a passionate member of the CPC community, is it so wrong to feel frustrated after having been excited about a project you really wanted to see translate well to our beloved CPC, only to see those hopes dashed so early on in a project through bad decision making? It's hardly a case of newbie programmers being alone. We have a thriving CPC community full of people who are willing to help at the drop of a hat, bounce ideas off and help test the work as it is in progress. Prelude to Chaos is a fantastic example, and a very good game because of it.

It would be good if these competitions, and the CPC community as a whole, agreed on some sort of standard. I didn't have a problem with CPC development before the CES competitions, so I do believe a few ground rules would benefit everyone. As I was saying, it's the people who make this community, the Amstrad CPC is for you! No one person owns it, so everyone should be able to have their say. The Amstrad CPC would be nothing without those who dedicate their time to building new software, hardware and more importantly games. This also extends to the people who promote and support the machine through blogs, websites, social media and video, but more importantly, the people who continue to remember such a great machine through its continual use.

Programming is a technical skill as opposed to a creative one, by all means, use it as a vehicle to learn Z80 and the CPC's architecture, but please don't allow people to butcher Mario and other new games on the CPC. It was bad enough with U.S.GOLD, they ruined nearly every one of my favourite arcade games on the CPC, so I'd hate the same to be true of CPC Mario and other new adventures. So c'mon guys, think big, think like Easter Egg!

Below are some of the biggest turkeys released for the Amstrad CPC in 2016… Truly shocking!

Space War

If there's a worse game on the CPC (contender possibly Home Runner) I never wanna play it. This is dreadful, what on earth was the programmer thinking? Why would anyone think that people would want to see an awful game such as this?! You can basically stand in one position and shoot everything without harm... Totally useless experience, I want a refund for the time spent playing this.

The Last Fighter

I can't believe the IK+ background has been ripped and added into this miserable piece of sick! The fighters look disabled, punch like Joe Bugner and move like their legs have been chopped off at the knees. Character sizes are stupidly small, there's no gameplay or addictive qualities at all. In the words of Lord Alan Sugar "You're fired!"

The Legend of Anubis

I'm reaching that point where I'm thinking about killing myself now. Eight screens of slow, treacle like movement with crippled graphics. There's nothing legendary here, in fact, the main sprite is so fat, the game should have been renamed 'fat bastard'. Well done to the programmer for trying, but no thanks!

Project X

The graphics flicker a bit, but on the whole, I quite like the look and feel, but that is sadly where the dream ends. Is this game even finished? I mean bullets pass through you, objects pass through you and there's no gameplay to draw me in. Is this just a preview, because as things stand it's a massive turkey? If he climbed that ladder any more slowly, i'd ~#T:H$" up!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Paperboy was First Class!

I first saw Paperboy on the telly, the show was called 'First Class'. I'd get home from school and tune in on the dot at 5:45 to the BBC to watch it, it was basically a quiz show for kids, but with video game challenges tacked on for good measure. I remember the host 'Debbie Greenwood' she would talk to a computer system called 'Eugene' and he'd respond back to her with on-screen text. If you were lucky enough, you had the chance to win an Archimedes computer for your school, the computer I always wanted, but could never afford.

They also featured games such as 720, specifically the downhill skate park section, it was fast and furious, the host Debbie would comment in the background as the contestant progressed, you basically had to take it steady, tight corners came out of nowhere, later levels included water hazards and big air, it was a great game, but I remember being on the edge of my seat, almost willing the player across the finish line, kudos when a contestant pulled it off, especially with thousands of other kids watching.

The Paperboy rounds were more of the same stuff, I remember watching and thinking that I had to get my hands on this game, to me it was everything I'd come to love about video games and more, my 1980's obsession for anything from across the pond was almost complete. It was definitely a tough challenge for contestants, but sadly I never got to experience the arcade version of Paperboy, I saw people playing on it, but unfortunately I ran out of time on several occasions and we had to leave.  

I did, however, play it on the Amstrad CPC a few months later, it was a very good conversion, but it sadly lacked sound. It wasn't until the emergence of Mame, that I properly experienced what the kids of that tv show had experienced a decade before, only years later on my PC. I played the Mame version for hours on end, starting as you do on Monday's and worked my way through the week collecting bundles of papers, breaking windows, avoiding street drains, nut jobs with lawnmowers in the hope of keeping my subscriptions. Definitely my kind of neighbourhood, I'd have lived there given the chance.  

Last month, I finally tracked down a full standing Paperboy cabinet, it was a free to play model and I literally poured several hours into it, it felt about ten times better than the Amstrad CPC version I played in the 1980's, with fantastic sound and speed, I really loved it, could have kicked myself for missing out on this the first time around, would have taken it home if I had the space.       


Friday, 13 January 2017

Ninja Games - Amstrad CPC

I was obsessed with Ninja films back in the day, Revenge of the Ninja, Enter the Ninja, American Ninja, you name it, I've seen 'em all, back to back on several occasions. As you can imagine, I collected and played anything and everything with Ninja in the title for my Amstrad CPC computer. I doubt I've missed any off the list, but if it didn't have Ninja in the title, it can do one, and that goes for those pesky Teenage Mutant Hero turtles! I also wanted to include Way of the Tiger and Avenger from Gremlin Graphics, but they failed miserably and were disqualified for lacking the word Ninja. It's not the end of the world, as some of the below games were absolutely brilliant!    

Bionic Ninja - Released 1989: Code and Graphics by Brian Cross

I played this quite late in the CPC's life, it was a side-scrolling affair, budget from memory, but it definitely entertained me for a few evenings. I probably wouldn't play it today, but back in the day, things were more forgiving, not quite the Ninja punch I was hoping for, but at the measly price of £1.99, this was an absolute thrill.

Ninja Commando - Released 1989: Code and Graphics by Brian Cross

Complete garbage by today's standards, but I played this until the end, not a great game, but not a terrible game either. There's so much wrong with the animation, level design and controls that I'd need to write a book on it, but at £1.99, it was perfectly acceptable back in the day. Very similar to Bionic Ninja, maybe a slightly better game in some respects, but nothing to write home about.

Ninja - Released 1987: Code by Brian Beuken

Loved it, mad for it! Can you believe this costs only £1.99, this smashes most full price efforts in regards to exploration and replay value? The graphics were half decent, the screen was nice and big and the quest was set at just the right difficulty, bloody good ninja game from Mastertronic, one of their best games.

Ninja Warriors - Released 1989: Code by Nigel Brown 

Great on other systems, but on the CPC yet another full priced turkey. Looked good, even scrolled smoothly, but then it all went down the pan in the playability department. Shocking as I really like this game in the arcade, another game butchered to death by bad programmers on our beloved CPC.

Ninja Massacre - Released 1989: Code and Graphics by Adam Waring

Codemasters could do no wrong with me, (Transmuter never happened) this safe, but mediocre Gauntlet clone is actually quite playable, and as usual, that for me is where things count the most. The graphics are nothing special, but you can definitely progress thanks to tight controls and a good difficulty level.

Ninja Hamster - Released 1987: Code by Gary Thomlinson

Biggest load of crap I've ever played, I really looked forward to this game, it looked quite funny from the adverts, and I couldn't wait to try it out for myself. I'm not sure what it played like on other systems, but on the CPC it went straight into the bin, the best place for it. Complete waste of a tape!

Ninja Master - Released 1986: Code by Michel Nass

It was a travesty of the highest degree, shouldn't have worked in the slightest, but I found myself digging it out for just one more go, deflecting all manner of weapons and objects was actually kinda fun. I would never recommend it, in fact, I'm almost embarrassed I even played it, only for those who like their punishment.

The Last Ninja 2 - Released in 1988: Code by Mev Dinc 

A blatant Speccy port that ruined what could have been a fantastic experience on the CPC. In fact, this is the type of game that was made for the CPC! Sadly, those greedy little bastards at System 3 thought they knew better. I've played it, completed it as well, but this is best played on the C64, the best thing you can do with the CPC version is steer clear unless you're thinking of a remake of course ;-)

Dragon Ninja - Released in 1988: Code by James Higgins

Despite the predictable end of level baddies, this is probably my favourite Ninja game of the lot. It has everything, great scrolling, great graphics and loads of enemies on screen at once. The title screen and music are absolutely brilliant and the programmers included speech in the 128K version. Sadly it doesn't feature in-game music, but it just goes to show what can be achieved on the humble CPC.

Ninja Scooter Simulator - Released 1987: Code by Probe Software

This one plays a blinder and at a blistering pace. I prefer Metro Cross, but this still manages to impress me, especially when you consider the price difference back then. It's got nothing to do with fighting or the ancient arts, what we have here is just a good old fashion fun racing game, but ninja powered.

BMX Ninja - Released 1988: Code by Richard Stevenson

The biggest pile of horse manure the world has ever seen, makes Rick the Roadie look and feel amazing in comparison. Hopefully the programmer of this abysmal game wasn't let loose on anything else. If you ever see this game, run, run for the hills, it's that awful.

Ninja Spirit - Released 1990: Code by Jonathan Court

Horrible messy ill thought out graphics don't deter from what lies beneath, great gameplay. The controls are tight, the scroll is decent enough and the gameplay follows that of the arcade version very closely. If you can beat the arcade version, this is pretty much the same, all the moves and techniques work here to, not a sizzler, but defiantly worth a look if platforming and fighting is your sort of thing.

International Ninja Rabbits - Released 1991: Code by Microvalue 

The less said about this the better! 

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Vindicators with chips!

In the 1980's, My local fish & chip joint held a striking resemblance to a small arcade hall, I'd never seen anything quite like it, without fail they'd always have the latest and greatest arcade games, it was incredible, absolutely amazing! I spent a ridiculous amount of time there, I'd walk in after a few weeks of not going and be like "will you look at that!", new arcade machines everywhere. The food counter was on the left, but the main reason for the majority of my visits was to play on their growing collection of arcade games. The machines were badly, but tightly packed into this tiny right-hand corner of the restaurant. It was a dream come true though, I remember they'd get packed to the rafters, especially after school, sometimes I just went to watch how other people played and completed these games.

Throughout the years, this is where I played classics such as Kung Fu Master, R-Type, Bubble Bobble, 1943, Outrun, UN Squadron, Pit Fighter, Bionic Commando and many more, I was always desperate to go back, and for a long time, it was the only source of access I had to these great games. The game I remember the most was definitely Vindicators from Tengen, it was absolutely mental, you would just jump in with another random player, or play with friends. The arcade cabinet was a heavy unit, with massive tank tracks at the base, can't even imagine how they got it in there, bulky as hell to say the least, but it looked amazing, elegant and from the future. I can't tell you how many coins we sunk into this machine, you could have two people controlling their own tank at once, it felt incredible, with a massive screen, fantastic music and brilliant graphics. You basically had to move up the screen, a traditional approach back then, blasting the enemy tanks and turrets as you pushed forward, whilst trying to pocket as many upgrades as possible. If you made it to the end, you then faced a boss battle, which entailed taking out the core power to reach the next base.

That chippy might as well have been my home during those 1980's summer months, I did eventually complete it, in fact I completed nearly all their games, must have cost me a small fortune the more I think about it, but massively worth it. The sheer scale of Vindicators environment and attention to detail seriously left me dumbfounded, I would often imagine what it would be like to play it on a home computer. It wasn't long after that I found myself reading a copy of Amstrad Action, where they mentioned in a preview section that Vindicators was coming to my favourite 8bit computer, the Amstrad CPC. It was a frustrating wait until it finally arrived, a massive part of me felt they'd neglect to include a decent CPC version, but when I finally loaded it up, the loading screen, music and level design looked near identical, well in the sense that it was everything you could hope for on an 8bit. The programmers on this occasion had really outdone themselves, don't ask me how, but I wasn't expecting a masterpiece such as this in the slightest. ACE, the Games Machine, Computer & Video Games and my old favourite Amstrad Action magazine drooled all over it, I recall reading all the reviews, sometimes over and over, a few reviewers moaned about the controls, but I never had an issue with them, in fact I thought it was very innovative in the way the programming team translated the control scheme to my humble Amstrad CPC, loved everything about the game, just couldn't get enough of it.

Back to 2017, the Fish & Chip shop is long gone, I miss those days, but I also miss playing on the arcade version of Vindicators and visiting to see the latest arcade games. A while back I managed to secure a copy for my PS2, it came bundled with the Midway Arcade Classics Collection, it was simply brilliant, took me right back, but as you can imagine, it was no substitute for the real thing. Still, beggars can't be choosers, so thank god I have this and the CPC version, in fact, I'm still guilty of playing this beauty of a game on the CPC, I just love it, it showed me that the CPC was a very capable machine in the right hands, I don't know who the programmers are, but I'd just like to thank you guys for the maximum effort you put into making this conversation great, it would have been soul destroying to have received yet another piss poor effort of my favourite coin-op game, jobs a good 'en, can't thank you enough.

The price of U.S.GOLD

Everyone needs a shiny new game to play on Christmas Day, right? But what happened if that game was a U.S.GOLD title?

U.S.GOLD had a bit of an up and down relationship with Amstrad CPC owners. Most of their games felt like quick, dirty cash-in's, with big, bright, colourful graphics, broken controls; worse still, some of their games were riddled with bugs.

I'm not sure how you guys feel about it, but for me, playing the vast majority of their games on the Amstrad CPC felt like I was wading through treacle. I felt screwed over on many occasions, but didn't seem to learn my lesson. I'd fall for the same marketing candy time and time again, with the promise that this time, their new game for the Amstrad would be amazeballs! I think the final straw came with the title California Games, the Amstrad version was crap, I suspected nearly every single publisher after that, with the exception of Ocean, I kinda half trusted those guys. Just play California Games on the CPC and then compare with the Speccy and C64 version, it felt like a completely different experience, gone were all the cool sound effects and excellent music, replaced instead with complete silence and cut down graphics. It wasn't a complete disaster, despite feeling like it, let's not pull any punches, most of their games were crap, but a tiny minority, for some unknown reason were simply brilliant - Gauntlet 1 and 2, Rygar, Beach Head, Forgotten Worlds, Bruce Lee, Tapper and the excellent Goonies. But when you compared the average title to the other systems and then consider the abomination that was OutRun, not just on the Amstrad, but several systems including the ST and Amiga, you can't help but feel that U.S.GOLD didn't give a damn about CPC gaming enthusiasts or gaming in general. These bastards were out to fleece kids, and in my book, that's up there with Michael Jackson's sleepovers.

I think it was a very similar experience if you owned an Amiga. This was another computer treated as badly as the CPC, the owners of both systems appeared to receive a bum deal from U.S.GOLD, especially the Amiga, what with all those pesky games ported straight from the ST. I wonder if U.S.GOLD had a quality control department for the Amstrad or any other computer outside the C64?

I begrudgingly mentioned OutRun, in fact it still hurts thinking about it "Oooooh, the pain, the pain!" Surprise, surprise! That was the only item on Christmas day that turned out to be a complete bag of shit! What's also a kicker, is that I couldn't even complain, at the time we didn't have that much money, my mum had worked so hard to buy presents for me, I just would have come across as massively ungrateful, and my dad would have probably boxed me around the ears for complaining. I wager U.S.GOLD probably knew this, in fact they were probably banking on it, I never heard a single story about people returning that crappy Outrun game? On that bombshell, I never trusted them again, in fact I only ever acquired their plunder for the Amstrad CPC from the local car boot.

Now don't go thinking I hate U.S.GOLD, I have a Facebook Page that celebrates them. This is just a personal grudge, back from the standpoint of being an eleven year old kid, bitterly sore against the poor quality of titles they released for my beloved CPC. It was a completely different story on the C64, for instance, on the C64 I loved Impossible Mission, California Games, OutRun, Turbo Outrun, Last Duel, Spy hunter and DropZone to name but a few. It was a similar story on the Speccy, and as much as people slag off the rubber key'd version of Outrun, I thought it played a damn near authentic game, especially on a 128K machine. In fact when I think back, it was a bloody marvelous achievement, car spun on impact, flipped through the air like a Ferrari possessed, and the programming team included identifiable arcade music. I just didn't feel the same way about this game or many others produced by U.S.Gold for the Amstrad.

Sure, we all went gaga over Gauntlet 1 and 2, (Programmed by Gremlin, I later found out) but can you think of many others? They also ruined two of my favourite arcade games ever, with their piss poor conversions of Rolling Thunder and Final fight!

In closing, they never managed to utilise the CPC to its full potential, they got somewhere near with the Speccy and C64, but even that's debatable when you see what's being released for all three 8bits today. The Amiga and ST never escaped unscathed either, I feel as though U.S.GOLD plagued those poor systems with poor arcade translations as well. I suppose the clues were there quite early on, If World Cup Carnival wasn't insult enough, I'm a fool for buying the bug riddled Leaderboard on the Amstrad CPC.

U.S.GOLD WERE MASSIVE BASTARDS (at least where the Amstrad CPC was concerned)!!!

Monday, 2 January 2017

Great Fighting Games!

It`s time to roll up your sleeves and fight for your life! Grab those nunchucks, tighten that belt and get your shuriken death stars at the ready.

Meanwhile, back on earth, this article celebrates all those weird and wonderful fighting classics, powered by pixel push and 3D technology! So kick back, grab a slice of pizza and in no particular order... kick some ass!

If I missed off your favourite fighter, it's probably because I never played it, but please comment and recommend all the same. I'm always looking for a good scrap.

Virtua fighter 2, Arcade and Saturn, released 1994

The Sega Saturn was butchered by the Playstation, but VF2 (Both coin-op and Saturn version) were the highlight of the 90s 3D proving grounds. Virtua Fighter 2 doesn't get boring, you just improve, with the fight becoming more tactical the further you progress. Master one character and it's back to basics for the next. Virtua Fighter 2 came with a decent roster of fighters, intuitive tactile controls, plenty of secrets to unlock and a two player mode to increase the madness. Even if Sega's console isn't to your tastes, the action, and deep involving gameplay should be.

Utterly compelling. Better than any other fighter on the Sega Saturn. Very tough for button mashers!

Double Dragon, Arcade, 1987

One of the first scrolling fight games ingrained in the memories of 40-somethings everywhere. Still looks great, plays even better with two players. Double Dragon overflowed with untold hours of action, so don't let anyone tell you it's time to move on, this is an aged but respected fighting game, that still offers unlimited fun.

Legendary side scrolling beat 'em-up full of loonies and great arcade action. Excellent stuff!

Shenmue Series, Dreamcast, 2000

A technical marvel that included real-time weather, transitions from day and night, held together by a stunningly interactive environment. The game might have have been a bit on the slow side, but the thrill of seeing a perfectly-realised recreation of Japan never leaves you. In Shenmue, everything is fair game, breakable environments, life and death decisions, working at the docks and memorable fighting. Shenmue is a tale of revenge and survival, with the second game improving over the first. Shenmue 3, some fifteen years late, is also imminent.

Shenmue: the time is right for Ryo Hazuki... If you've never experienced Shenmue, you're missing out.

Street Fighter 2, Arcade, 1992

King of the arcades. King of consoles. King of your games collection. It popularised modern fighting games and had more to learn than the twelve stages of Wing Chun. Dirty and dangerous when you needed it most. Just like in real life, he who trains the hardest normally wins, no button mashers allowed, you will be forcibly removed. Yoshiki Okamoto the brainchild behind Final Fight and 1942, excels here and for a while, this gave way to one of the biggest schoolyard arguments ever, "Was Street Fighter 2 better on the Super Nintendo or Sega Megadrive?".

The first Street Fighter bordered on naff! Street Fighter 2 showed us how to fight. 

Battletoads, NES,

Who needs Ninja Turtles, this is one of the greatest beat 'em ups to ever appear on a console. Short, sharp and punchy, just like they should be. There's many a walloping you'll need to dish out until the final showdown, but this is easily one of the best two-player side-scrolling beat 'em ups to grace a console. I still can't believe all this is happening on the NES.

Is there a better fighter on the NES? Probably... Yes! But I haven't played it. 

The Way of the Exploding Fist, C64, CPC, Speccy, 1987

This one needs no introduction, feels ridiculous even mentioning it, but here it is, eighties computer combat executed perfectly. It was the closest you could get to the real thing, without a prolonged trip to the hospital. Amstrad, Speccy and C64 all delivered the same fight, but the C64 had a slight edge in the graphics and sound. Never the less, a positive step for the genre and a game I'll never forget.

This is probably where it all started for me, I played Karate Champ years later, but this is better.  

Barbarian, Palace Software, all major formats. 

When creator Steve Brown watched Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer and Red Sonja, it hit him suddenly, sword fighting games were crap! The same team of people who brought us Cauldron and The Sacred Armour of Antiriad were quickly enlisted, unknowingly they would beaver away at what would become quickly become one of the best hack n' slash games of the eighties. Steve hired the best muscles from Brussels, a scantily clad glamour model, Maria Whittaker from Middlesex and one of the biggest battles of controversy the video games market had ever seen. One reporter described Barbarian as "Exploding Fist with swords". But the technical differences were worlds apart. For example; all the moves were taken from Conan the movie, freeze framed and traced carefully onto gridded paper before being painstakingly converted pixel by pixel onto our small home computer screens. All this came with over forty frames of animation during each level, with upwards of ten or so moves in-game. For those who've never heard of it, think Mortal Kombat, decapitation and finishing moves.  

Barbarian changed everything, for the first time on a computer screen we had freeze framed animation from a movie.  
IK+, system 3

Archer McLean and Rob Hubbard paired up to create one of the most iconic karate games to grace a computer screen. We now had three players battling simultaneously for that elusive black belt. Moves included head butts, split jumps and rolling back flips. That wasn't all, there's also a bonus round which rewarded the player with extra points, essentially fast tracking the player, if he or she deflected all the bouncing balls. Each fighter is graded exactly the same, in other words, the best player really did win.

Three fighters, beautiful graphics and a killer soundtrack, with even better gameplay.  

Mortal Kombat 2, 1993

The moans, groans and commentary still resonate today. Combat feels stiffer than I remember, but the impact and on-screen brutality is still a bloodbath. Mastery of all the characters and signature moves stays with you, but at a cost... Nightmares! Everyone is here, Johny Cage, Scorpion and a few new additions to tear things up. Mortal Kombat 2 is flawless! Probably the best fighter ever...

Tekken 3, Namco, PS1

This has to be one of the best fighting games ever released for the Playstation! This is not about button mashing, but mastering button combo's, in Tekken, he or she with the best memory usually wins. You're looking at hours upon hours for true mastery as there's some massively long button presses that almost guarantee you won't get whooped. There's plenty of modes thrown in to help get you there, Tekken 3 provides an Arcade mode, Survival mode and Force mode (The latter a take on Final Fight). Tekken 3 is fast paced, great to look at and highly punishing, especially against friends, the music is outstanding, crazy almost. Tekken 3 is the reason I bought a PS1.

Chicken! Who doesn't love chicken? 
Soulcalibur, Dreamcast

Soulcalibur is like a punch you didn't see coming, the type that flawed Sonny Liston, it's that damn good! Namco really knew how to wow Dreamcast owners, this is surely one of the best fighters ever made, a flagship title for the Dreamcast? Forget decapitations, blood or missing limbs, this is less about gimmicks and more about pure combat and supreme control. A great two player game!

Worth a mention:

Marvel vs Capcom 2, King of Fighters, Dead or Alive 2, SmackDown, Streets of Rage 2, Shinobi, Karate Champ, Fatal Fury, Final Fight, Street Fighter 3rd Strike, Teenage Ninja Hero Turtles and Renegade. Seriously, I've played so many, memory fades me.


Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year!

It truly has been a bizarre and awful year, especially for the rich and famous, it was a huge loss when we lost Bowie, Prince and then George Michael, but just when you think, it couldn't possibly get any worse, Princess Leia only goes and suffers a massive heart attack on her flight home! If it wasn't for the superb retro releases of 2016, I wouldn't have hesitated to file this terrible year into the 'Do not open box' the one found in the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.


Friday, 16 December 2016

Super Mario Run - iOS

Ouch! £7.99. FFS! Screw you Nintendo! That's bloody expensive, but take my money you dirty rotten scoundrels. But know this, I'll forever hold a grudge against you.

It's quite sickening what Nintendo have gone and done here, they've given us the first few levels for free, hooked me in, and then fleeced me of £7.99 of hard earned sterling. I'm already addicted (business as usual Nintendo)! The lure and temptation are too much with the first four levels being bloody brilliant, easy to control and capture you from the start. I'm enjoying it, but that price has left a bitter sickness deep within.

The world tour mode, the only one I've discovered thus far, appears to consist of only six measly worlds, with four sections within each and the "end level" boss at the end of each section. The first world is easily pushed aside but does enough to prepare you for the trials that lie ahead. The second world reminds me why I hate Mario games; it's not because they're rubbish, it's because I'm crap at all of 'em. I get the feeling that a seasoned Mario enthusiast like my sister would whizz through this experience in a heartbeat. I normally get about halfway through and end up giving up, I've tried 'em all, Super Mario Bros, World, 64 and Galaxy, but I lose interest as the game usually becomes way too difficult for me to persevere with. In Super Mario Run, the difficulty is pitched just about perfect, I'm still struggling, but more determined than ever to complete this now, I'm giving it every ounce of concentration, and despite my platform inadequacies, I'm strangely loving it. You know what, Super Mario Run has definitely put a smile on my face, even my wife gave it a passing glance.

I should probably mention Toad Rally, a daily occurrence where you race off against all the colourful characters throughout Nintendo's empire, but when I say race, it's more of a side-scrolling affair, Track n field if you like, only collecting coins in style, building up a toad fan base using a weird kudos system, and then housing them within the castle grounds. I'm sure there's more to it, but for me, at this moment, it's all about completing the world tour.

Don't hate on me for saying this, but at times, it feels like Nintendo have borrowed a few playing elements from Sonic, all the sliding around, quick time running jumps and being catapulted through the air whilst trying to collect coins is great, but strangely familiar to Sega's offering, only better. The airship level on world 4-4, quite literally tested my platforming skills beyond their crappy capabilities, by sheer luck, not through determination, somehow I made it through, and by some stroke of wizardry, I continue to advance.

In a nutshell, it's gorgeous, fun, but somewhat limited in regards to content, but who knows, that could be remedied in the next update? I haven't noticed any lag, issues with 'internet always on' or reliability. I'd just like to clear one thing up, though, it's definitely not worth the asking price, and I'm quietly convinced I've played better, more in depth games from the App Store for half the cost, but equally it's definitely something to celebrate, what with it being Nintendo's first foray into mobile gaming.

First-day target score, reach world five!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Amstrad CPC 8-bit exclusive games

Have you ever wondered what Amstrad CPC games were exclusive to the Amstrad CPC? The list below is what I know of, some of the games below are truly awful, but then again, there's quite a few games I wouldn't have missed for the world. This is by no means a definitive list of exclusives, and in most cases, you can find these games on the Amiga, ST and Consoles, but you won't find 'em on the ZX Spectrum or C64 (That's if I've done my homework correctly). 

There's some real classic amongst this lot, Bumpy is brilliant, as is Bactron and D.Day is a masterclass in arcade strategy. I also found a game I never knew existed in 'Dempsey and Makepeace' a classic cop series set in the 80s. But the jewel in the crown for me is Get Dexter. Star Driver needs to be checked out if you've never played it, it scrolls along like a mode 7 game, the scrolling technique from the SNES, and if you think you're ready for a challenge, try Builderland, it needs fast reflexes and a cool head. 

Hope you enjoy...

Bumpys arcade phantasy
Baby Jo
Jim Power
Grand Prix 500 2
3D Boxing
3D Stunt Rider
Atomic Driver
Star Driver
Master of Space
Best of the Best
Billy 2
Bunny Bricks
Classic Invaders
Crazy Shot
Dark Century
Dempsey and Makepeace
Eagles Rider
Galactic Conquerer
Get Dexter
Get Dexter 2
Golden Eagle
Hold up
Iron Trackers
No Exit
Panza Kick Boxing
Pinball Magic
Prehistoric 2
Shanghai Karate
Shufflepuck cafe
Sorcery +
Star Trap
Super Skweek
Teenage Queen
Tennis Cup
Titus the Fox
West Phaser
Windsurf Willy
Xyphoe Fantasy
Zap T Balls

Sunday, 20 November 2016

CPC Retro Gaming

New games continually arriving for the Amstrad CPC... 
I’ve been playing quite a lot of Amstrad CPC games of late, it's quite easy to forget about the commercial world of gaming if you allow retro gaming to take over. Recently there's been all sorts of 8-bit competitions and some seriously good games have come out the other end. The library of new games and projects in the pipeline is phenomenal, for example, I'm playing Magica and Doomsday Lost Echoes on the CPC at the moment, with the classic Amiga game Pinball Dreams arriving shortly. I haven't even mentioned the new games I'm playing on my other retro systems, but what a fantastic problem to have, seriously though I can't keep up. I have Uncharted 4 and the new Tomb Raider just sitting idle on the shelf gathering dust, nowhere near enough hours in the day to play 'em all.  

My Amstrad CPC in 2016 has a wad of original titles, on par and exceeding in most cases the stuff I owned as a kid. I've purchased quite a few of these new games, in boxes with beautiful covers and well put together manuals, way too many to mention. I've also just finished playing another great game on the CPC called 'Golden Tail' an interesting game from Juan J. Martínez. There's plenty more I'm yet to play, but tThe internet and forums are rammed with people keeping these old computers alive, there's the CPC WIKI, brimming with games, emulators and all things CPC and If you're after reviews, then just check out cpc game reviews

I can't wait for 2017, maybe next year will bring us even more classic games, and break down barriers thought impossible, fingers crossed, we might even get to play a rewrite of Outrun for our CPC ;-)


Saturday, 19 November 2016

SNES Classic Console

What's next for Nintendo? The NES Classic has sold out! More have been promised and I've already seen them selling on eBay for crazy prices. Here's the thing, I wager Nintendo are already considering a Super Nintendo classic console, with thirty maybe more great games. Here're fifteen of my own personal must-have games to be included with the system.

Star Fox, Super Star Wars, Mario Kart, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario World, Axelay, Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Chrono Trigger, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, Secret of Mana, Earthworm Jim 2 and Contra III: The Alien Wars.

There's much more I'd like to see, but Nintendo can be a bit stingy when it comes to their back catalogue of games, especially the Super Nintendo, you can see this play out with their current availability and pricing structure within the WiiU and 3DS virtual console, so not holding my breath.

Which games would you choose? 

Thursday, 17 November 2016


I first played HotShot in 1998, it was a demo that came bundled on cassette with the latest issue of Amstrad Action! I loved it so much, but I was never able to fully experience the game in its entirety. I looked everywhere, but nobody stocked the game, even tried to get it on mail order, but that attempt failed miserably, instead they sent me a copy of Karnov, and I never bothered with mail order again! Strangely, I never to played it under emulation, but now in 2016, I've finally tracked it down, thanks to eBay and it's every bit as challenging as I remember.

This is Pinball, Arkanoid and Pong all mashed into one, it feels futuristic and there's a fantastic two player option. No time to spare, I need to get back to being a crack shot!

What the press thought!


Monday, 14 November 2016

TANGLEWOOD: An original game for the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive

A brand new and original game for the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive, to be released on cartridge in winter 2017!

About this project 

Tanglewood is a brand new and original game for the SEGA Mega Drive, to be released in physical cartridge form in winter 2017.

Set in the realm of Tanglewood, the game follows a young creature, Nymn, separated from the pack after the sun sets. Unable to get back to the safety of the family's underground home, Nymn must find a way to survive the night terrors and get to morning. Tanglewood’s world is a dangerous one after dark; guiding Nymn you must use your skills of evasion, traps and trickery to defeat predators.


'All in one' Consoles, some random thoughts...

I’m sitting here staring at a blank white Microsoft Word background. My head is swimming with random retro thoughts, however, I haven’t got a clue where I’m gonna go with this, but I'll give it a shot. 

I've currently been thinking about all these new remakes i.e. The NES, Megadrive and five hundred other devices that are currently available or incoming. Initially, I was really excited by it all, but in essence, these are just more lumps of plastic that I’ve already collected. In 2016, shouldn't we be able to play all our favourite games on a single platform?

For sure we have the PC and Raspberry Pie, but I’m thinking more along the lines of a SEGA console that plays all SEGA games, for example; SMS, Megadrive, Game Gear, 32X, Saturn, and Dreamcast all in one lovely lump of Japanese plastic. The same goes for Nintendo, Atari and any other console manufacturer, sick of the prospect of buying yet another lump of plastic and feeling restricted to only one genre of console.

I did warn you it would be random, I’m not even sure if the technology is available, despite living in 2016? In theory, it wouldn’t need anything more powerful than a Dreamcast, with multiple slots and a GD-ROM drive; essentially it would be yesterday’s tech at rock bottom prices, with full compatibility with all regions of games and support for enhanced carts. I know we have the Retron 5, but it just doesn’t feel like enough, I wanna play my 32X and Game Gear all in one place.

It would also need to include support for an SD slot and all the original gamepads and peripherals, which would include a light gun conversion, with a Wii-like gun that would work on LCD TV’s; a keyboard for games such as ‘Typing of the Dead’ would also be beneficial. Would it really be that difficult for the creative juices of SEGA and Nintendo to come up with such a thing instead of drip feeding retro gaming enthusiasts with one iteration at a time?