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?

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Tales in Tech History: Amstrad And The House Sugar Built

Amstrad once competed against the likes of Commodore and Sinclair Spectrum, and was a leading British tech star
Before he became a finger pointing “you’re fired” character on a television series, Sir Alan Sugar was the founder of a company called Amstrad.
Indeed, the Amstrad name is a contraction of Alan Michael Sugar Trading, and it is fair to say that the company has sold a wide range of tech products in its time.

Golden Era

Amstrad was founded back in the 1960s (1968 to be exact with the name AMS Trading) by then plain old Alan Sugar, an east end businessman and wheeler-dealer.
Sugar made his name by marketing and sourcing tech goods cheaply from the Far East, packing them up into useful devices, and making them affordable to the European consumer market.
amstrad-cpc464The company began life selling cheap hi-fi systems, amplifiers, televisions and even car stereo cassette players in 1970s.
But it was the 1980s that proved to be the company’s golden era, and Amstrad was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1980 and never looked back as growth skyrocketed.
During this decade it began supplying home computers such as the CPC 464 to European consumers and competed head to head with two of the biggest players of that time – Commodore and Sinclair Research.
Amstrad was also known  for its PCW range of home computers, which were essentially nothing more than a word processor, coupled with a printer.
sinclair-zx-spectrum-540x334Then in 1986 it purchased Sinclair and all its related products, including the ZX Spectrum, for just £5 million.
Alan Sugar’s business acumen was demonstrated as Amstrad more than recovered this outlay by selling off surplus Spectrum machines, as well the next generation ZX Spectrum +2 that came with a built-in tape drive and the ZX Spectrum +3 (with a built-in floppy disk drive).
In 1986 Amstrad also branched out into selling affordable personal computers running MS-DOS (with the GEM graphics interface), which proved to be highly popular and allowed Amstrad to capture a staggering 25 percent of the European computer market.
Amstrad later began supplying Windows-based computers, using 286 & 386 processor technology.
In 1989 a satellite television company called Sky launched in the United Kingdom, and from day one Amstrad was one of its main suppliers of set top boxes (alongside Pace Technology).
Read the full article at

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Twin Turbo V8

A good sense of speed in a driving game is one of the most vital ingredients, but is there such a thing as too fast?

Not many driving games on the Amstrad CPC move at a fair old lick, but Twin Turbo from Codemasters threw out the rule book, breaking the Z80 speed barrier for Amstrad racers. This game is frantic, nerve-shredding almost, where driving dangerously seems to be the norm.

Twin Turbo takes the traditional arcade concept where you race to the finish line over five stages. The car resembles a Ferrari, similar to the F40 seen in Turbo Outrun, only faster! The sense of speed is highly convincing, giving you the feeling that you are up against it, with other cars reacting to your movement. Every race feels dangerous, the pace is fast and weaving through traffic, negotiating corners and desperately trying to see over the brow of a hill requires massive concentration and good reflexes.

Unfortunately, accidents will happen, in fact, lots of crashes will happen, this is just as much about flooring the gas pedal as it is about learning the layout of the road. Driving without due care and attention will cause an incident at the most inconvenient times, with a spectacular crash that will cost you from winning the race, and it's this learning curve that lifts the game out of the ordinary.    

The constant supply of hills, dips and fast corners can prove a bit disorientating, but the ridiculous fast action keeps you at it. That's pretty much Twin Turbo in a nutshell. What? Do I like Twin Turbo? Well yeah, it's quite cool for an 8bit game. Even despite punching my keyboard for unavoidable crashes. It may not be perfect, but it certainly does its job. When it all comes together, it can be absolutely brilliant, crossing the finish line will have you punching the air.

Back in the day, this was high-speed racing on a budget, highly infuriating but always thrilling.     

Just bought Crazy Cars 3

I've always wanted to own this game on the Amstrad CPC, I own it on the Amiga and it's a great game, but unfortunately I'm looking for a replacement disk, as it no longer works. Despite loving this game on the Amiga, I really like the Amstrad CPC version, obviously, it pales in comparison, but I found it highly enjoyable none the less.

So a couple of days ago, I stumble across a copy of CC3 on disk for the CPC, manual, poster and all the gubbins included, with the box in almost perfect condition. I put three offers in before the seller finally settled on what I felt was a good deal for the both of us. Today the game arrived and it's in near perfect condition, I'm gobsmacked. It came bubble wrapped up to high heaven, so I carefully opened, slowly peeling back the layers and there it was, a thing of beauty that I'd been tracking down for almost twenty years, my Crazy cars collection is now complete.

The game is actually rather cool, ahead of its time almost, the story goes; you've just arrived in the USA, with your heart set on becoming the next Donald Trump. Unfortunately, your only real skills are street racing, and America is the number 1 place in the world for illegal underground highway activity. As chance would have it, you run into an old friend down on his luck, he offers to sell you his Lamborghini Diablo, you buy it at a rock bottom price, leaving you with only a few thousand dollars, with your sights set firmly on entering your first race.

Your car is equipped with a five-speed gearbox, super or regular tyres, night vision and a handy turbo button. There's also a vehicle class system that determines the performance of your car as you progress, the more you customise, the more this bumps up your class. There are fifteen races available in each division, but each comes with an entry fee and a prize if you win, just try not to damage your car.

To sum up, there are four divisions to race through, a garage where you can upgrade and repair your car, a betting system at the start of each race, police chasing you, tough competitors including a chap called 'Sal Capone' and lots of dirty tricks. But the greatest of all is that you can load or save progress.

It's not for everyone, it's insanely tough, you'll twat your Lambo loads when you first play, might be a bit serious for some, but I simply had to have it as there is nothing else like it on the CPC. CC3 owned the Amiga, and the experience comes across half decent on the Amstrad.


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

I thought The Real Driving Simulator was crap!

I'm not entirely convinced the first Gran Turismo was a great game. Phew! Glad I got that out of the way. It looked horrendous, cars were blocky as hell and the road and trackside objects would sometimes disappear, only to be replaced by clear blue sky. In fact, it was only during the super sharp replays that I thought "Wow! That's nay bad". Personally, I wasn't mightily impressed with this early form of 3D and I wonder if anyone else feel the same way? In my opinion it just wasn't kind to the eyes. I could see lots of clever things going on, but I couldn't get passed the 'Artex' like display. I didn't feel the horsepower either, it felt a bit 'pedestrian', I had a similar feeling with Porche Challenge, I guess I'm trying to say that I expected something zippier. I wasn't massively impressed with the car detail either, the car's you picked from the showroom look nothing like the actual car that lines up on the grid; to be honest, apart from the delicious replays, it just felt like a messy experience, mixed with bad sound effects and fantastic music.

For something that took five years to develop, it didn't feel like a finished product to me. I really wanted to like this game, but it's no fun racing around in family hatchbacks, or the equivalent to my father in law's S-Reg VW camper van. Petrol heads probably loved this sort of thing and I fully understand that I'm sitting firmly in the minority here, especially when you consider that GT went on to become Playstation's biggest selling title.

I think Kazunori Yamauchi's GT dream ultimately coexisted, competed and then blew away the then arcade culture, and ultimately set the wheels in motion for trends to come. Personally, I just didn't feel it. Crazy, I know, I've had this conversation many times; people think I'm joking; maybe I felt short changed or something. I bought GT half expecting an arcade experience, when in reality the clues were there, right in front of my face, loud and proud on the box: "Real Driving Simulator". I suppose the initial damage was already done the minute I played through the arcade mode, it was an absolute joke, a complete time waster, over in a flash. GT-Mode was your only viable option; the only true race and the place where you'd spend the next sixty or more hours. 

I remember the game started with a measly 10,000 credits and the best car you could hope to afford at this stage was the equivalent of an Aldi's shopping trolley. All the good stuff was locked away, with race payouts that left me feeling like climbing a mountain might have been easier. Worse still, the ridiculous price for some of the cars! Did anyone even unlock all of these high priced monsters? Talk about restricting progress, it was only my continued obsession with a pixelated DB7 that kept me going through this lacklustre experience.

Another thing that I find massively arrogant is that Polyphony continues to ignore requests for car model damage, which I find ridiculous when you consider the likes of Codemasters and Bizzare Creations have been smashing polygons together for as long as I can remember. The AI in the game was, and still is, laughable. The other cars stick to the track like a Scalextric and there's literally no change between the different versions; the menu and graphics constantly receive updates, but the game essentially remains the same, with a few extra tracks thrown in for good measure and let's not even debate the tedious licencing system!

I'm up for a challenge, mad for it, that's why I parted with my cash on day one, but the enormity of the challenge has to be an interesting one. To begin with, it didn't capture my interest in the same way Outrun, Burnout or MSR did. I'm up for realism, but not getting anywhere fast in a game that I felt encouraged me to drive badly, massively puts me off. It's not the simulators fault, or the programmers, they did everything asked of them, it's just not a great game and I found it boring!

Monday, 7 November 2016

PowerDrift 3DS

I'm sure gaming enthusiasts everywhere at one point or another have experienced the arcade behemoth that is Power Drift! In my humble opinion, it is still a great racing game, especially when you consider that it was released way back in 1988? I also had the Amstrad CPC version which turned out to be one of the best arcade conversions for the CPC. It looks a bit messy these days, but back then it felt just as fresh and in y' face as the arcade original. Seriously, it was like a roller coaster ride on steroids. I'm now playing the new 3DS port, which was released by Sega on their Classics Collection compilation, but I'm really struggling. Even on the lowest difficulty, I can't make it past the fifth stage, across any of the twenty-five different circuits. Thrilling and exciting this game might be, but far more difficult than I remember.

Lucky for SEGA fans, we now have a 3DS port, re-written and lovingly crafted in 3D. As with 'Outrun' released last year, SEGA has given things more than a lick of paint. The original was powered by Sega's Y-Board hardware, with sprite scaling the likes I'd never seen before. But here we have it running at sixty frames per second, with full-screen tilt and unbelievably tight controls, minus the crash and shunt of the arcade cabinet.  

Yu Suzuki's Powerdrift is fast, smooth, and powerful, just like he intended and each circuit boasts an incredible tune, in fact, it's some of Sega's finest work. If you can't get your hands on the arcade original or the Yu Suzuki Game Works - Dreamcast collection, this is definitely the next best thing.  

Saturday, 5 November 2016

SEGA, you had me at Turbo Outrun!

Most people associate gaming with kids' classics like Outrun, Space Harrier and Streets of Rage are games that have lived on and continue to live on through adults. Nowadays, it feels as if SEGA has tapped into this and is on a mission to re-release most of their prized possessions, such as PowerDrift, a perfect racer in which you race across all sorts of weird and wonderful structures, or the legendary Outrun, it took me years to properly master this Yu Suzuki classic, it was like no other racer in the world.

But it's the imminent arrival of Turbo Outrun that has me real excited, it's not quite "Outrun" I mean you can't really compare the two, for example, the sequel is more of an atmospheric hi-octane race, that transports the player through nearly every road-like extremity. Gone are the branching paths and selectable soundtracks, but it does have better graphics and more features, including upgrading your car between stages, and more importantly, you can go turbo!

I agree with gematsu's recent website article, they mentioned this about the upcoming 3DS version "the centrepiece title of the collection is Turbo Outrun, which was the number one most requested title from a survey."


For me, it's great to see Turbo Outrun making an appearance. I'm not gonna lie to you, I've been waiting for a good home conversion for as long as I can remember, the game has been crying out for a great port ever since the SEGA Saturn and Dreamcast arrived. Just look what SEGA achieved on the Saturn with Galaxy Force 2, Outrun, Space Harrier and Afterburner, arcade perfection, so why did they ignore Turbo Outrun?

SEGA, past master and kings of the arcade during the 80's and 90's, weren't responsible for the horrors of the home conversion. I originally owned it on the Amstrad CPC, it was a colourful and valiant attempt, but it just couldn't match the pace of the arcade original, the Atari ST version very nearly made it, but it was far too choppy and lacked the thrills of the arcade, the C64 probably felt the closest of the lot, but despite having a thumping great soundtrack, the poor graphics and loading times killed what should have been a fast-paced experience. I've heard about the FM Towns version, and it looks like I missed out, but failing that, I've never played anything that competed with the arcade original.

This new 3DS Turbo Outrun appears to have nailed it, from what I've seen and heard, the game looks awesome! And according to various reports, improves over the arcade original by running in a re-programmed 16:9 format whilst using 3D. Yes, that's correct, this is the arcade 
Turbo Out Run, not the SEGA Megadrive version. SEGA put a lot of effort into their last Outrun 3DS port, so I can't wait to see how this ends up.

I just have one question for SEGA, is it too much effort to release Turbo Outrun as a separate download?

Turbo Outrun on the 3DS includes the following new features: 

Interim Save: Can instantly save the game state anytime

Interim Load: Loads the above interim save

Replay: Records own gameplay for later viewing. Replays can be fast forwarded

Select Function: After each four stages, it will be possible to freely change the three-part upgrades

Difficulty: Choose from five difficulty level stars; this feature is new and did not exist in original version

Time Limit: Choose from five-time levels
BGM Version: Choose from 2 BGM order types; TYPE 1 starts with Shake the Street, TYPE 2 starts with Rush a Difficulty

Gear Type: Choose between Switch (tapping the Gear Change button will switch between High and Low) and Hold (press and hold Gear Change for Low, release for High) types

Screen Size: Choose between Normal (4:3, same as the original), Wide (Screen stretched to fit with 3DS’ upper screen), Full (Fills the entire upper screen), or Reduced (To give the situation of playing in arcades)

Cabinet Type: Cockpit re-enacts the red cabinet most common in Japan. Deluxe is a white cabinet, the same as the first OutRun. Upright is playing while standing. Cockpit (Moving Cockpit) is the same cabinet as Cockpit but will move based on steer movement like Deluxe.

Equaliser: Process the sounds played from the game

Environment Sounds: If set to “On”, it will play various sounds from other game cabinets, to give the feel of playing in arcades

Engine Volume: The volume for engine sound can be set in three levels

BGM Test: Can listen to the in-game music anytime

Friday, 4 November 2016


The SEGA Mega-CD was supposed to be the future of electronic entertainment, but what went wrong?

I don't recall that much excitement around the Mega-CD in the UK. However; I do recall being rightly pissed off with Sega for launching the Mega-CD a whole two years after it's initial launch in Japan. By the time I got mine, it was late October 1993... the UK launch price was way more expensive than originally anticipated, and the wait continued until I eventually raised the extra funds. I ended up with a Mega-CD MKII model, but happily handed over my hard earned cash, safe in the knowledge that SEGA couldn't possibly screw things up, in fact thinking about it now, "How did they?". SEGA had brand power, marketing might, and Megadrive established living room space "Surely failure was inconceivable?"

I completely forget how many months had flown by, all merges into one after a while, but I do recall being quietly convinced that sales were looking good. The magazines of the day, weren't spreading any real doom and gloom and I'd already purchased a few games 'Terminator' and 'Final Fight' safe in the knowledge that the Mega-CD had already sold thousands of units within no time at all, so WTF? Things felt kinda rosy to me. 
I was maybe a year into the life of my Mega-CD, and it appeared as though 3rd party developers were finally starting to gather steam. Good games were finally arriving, but they were becoming difficult to track down, and the likes of Kojima's Snatcher, Keio, Lords of Thunder, Lunar, Batman, Ecco and Sonic CD proved almost impossible to track down. 

I think it might have been a Saturday afternoon, I walked into the local video and games shop and searched the entire length but couldn't find the Mega-CD section. I asked the chap behind the counter, and he said that they'd stopped selling the system, games had pretty much dried up and nobody was buying the system anymore. I left thinking he must be mistaken, this was a SEGA console FFS! As the dust settled, then came the eventual realisation that SEGA wasn't at their best, the chap in the shop was right, the console had suffered from a distinct lack of games, some trickled through, but they weren't great. In fact, the games on offer were proving lacklustre at best, Tomcat Alley, The Smurfs and Sewer Shark, I mean cmon! If that wasn't bad enough, we also had to contend with a mountain of re-hashed crap from yesteryear consoles. I hadn't felt this fucking ripped off since buying a GX4000.  

In hindsight, the SEGA Mega-CD never stood a chance. SEGA were way too wrapped up clutching at FMV and didn't spend enough time or money on correctly marketing their vision. The high price probably didn't help either, and let's be honest, she wasn't much of a looker. I don't think anyone has ever completely nailed the reason it failed, but it seems to me as though SEGA's marketing team never fully understood their product, collectively displaying all the mechanics of a badly flushed toilet.  

As you've probably guessed, I wasn't a happy bunny. My Megadrive to Mega-CD wasn't the stepping stone or experience I'd hoped for, instead, early adopters, myself included had no choice but to sit there and watch SEGA not only kill off its multimedia revolution but to do so with an arrogant and complacent attitude, without the decency of offering up anything like the many gaming memories the Megadrive instilled. History only ever remembers the victor, the MEGA-CD wasn't a case of the Emperors new clothes, it was genuinely something different, felt innovative and in my humble opinion, a massively underrated bit of kit. It had the potential to be a great video games console, packed a punch with its CD-based storage, and the CPU was charged with enough umffph to get the job done. It would have been perfect for Guitar Hero, as the audio hardware rocked. And until this day, I’m still convinced we didn't hear or see the best of it. The Mega-CD could have easily turned out to be the real deal and was even voted 'Best New Peripheral by Electronic Gaming monthly.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Steve Jobs Knew Tim Cook Would Kill Apple’s Innovation By Focusing on Sales and Marketing

"Crook?" "Inventor?" "Innovator?" or "Bully?"...   

For those who don't have Linkedin, I've spared you the pain of signing up in the hope that you will read this damning article of Tim Cook. Completely unjustified in my opinion, I mean didn't Steve Jobs rip off Xerox, doesn't sound very innovative to me? In fact, if it wasn't for George Lucas and the divorce from his wife, he would never have sold Pixar to Jobs for five million dollars. People have short memories. I believe Jobs wrote the book on marketing and sales and was a visionary in regards to product placement in the world, but let's not talk as though he invented it.   
This article was written by QuHarrison Terry. You can follow the below link for more detail:
When we lose a great innovator or leader, there’s a big void that forms in all of us. This longing for what we lost causes us to become infatuated with finding “the next so and so” to fill their shoes--like the numerous players that have been called the next Michael Jordan, but haven’t lived up to the legacy.
Unfortunately, no matter how well that person can emulate their predecessor, it will never be the same. Innovation has to come from a place of hungry desire to change the world in your own way; not the way someone before you had laid out.
For this reason, innovation very often comes from the “little-guy” or “a nobody”--the person or team working out of their garage with the vision to change their industry and and the high aptitude for risk.
As companies form, take on capital, and begin growing into a large corporation, there are a lot of barriers which prevent them from taking those same risks. Whether it is a strict board of directors, poor company culture, or the fear of losing it all, established companies lack the ability to make risky, innovative moves.
In 2011, Apple lost more than Steve Jobs. They lost their unique, rebellious nature. With Steve in charge, they had a win-at-all-costs attitude, that went against business norms and the expectations of their investors and board. Similar to the Detroit Pistons Bad Boys in the late 80s, who were notorious for getting in fights during games but winning championships, Steve was set on changing the world and he didn’t care how it would get done.
One particular case is the time Steve gave Carly Fiorina and HP their own branded iPod, so that HP/Compaq computers would allow iTunes Music store to be the go to for media instead of Windows Media Player. Shortly thereafter, Apple upgraded to the next version of iPod, thus making HP’s version outdated.
With Tim Cook at the helm, we’ve seen Apple transform into a luxurious IoT jewelry store, essentially offering the world nice jewelry that connects to the internet. Tim is an operations and execution type guy. Obviously, he isn’t running Apple into the ground any time soon, being that they are the most profitable company in the US, but he doesn’t have the same rebellious attitude as Steve.
By letting systems for optimization and heavy focus on profits lead the company, a lot of the creativity dies. Instead, they are more focused on incremental improvements to their existing devices--adding a diamond here or there.
Since 2011, the iPhone’s design has changed once, the transition between 5 and 6. Yes, they’ve made it waterproof, eliminated the headphone jack, and upgraded the camera for the tenth time, but there is really no big innovation in that--just incremental improvements.
Motorola took the biggest risk, something we would’ve seen out of Jobs, with their creation of the modular phone: Moto Z. Motorola clearly beat Apple in phone innovation.
Although the Touch Bar in MacBook Pro looks promising, the entire device is far from innovative. By taking away the USB port and the SD card reader, we lose the fundamental capabilities we need to succeed.
How can Apple transition back to being the innovators?
Quite frankly, Apple’s time as the world’s foremost innovator may be over.
Steve Blank mentions in an article that as an operations-focused CEO, Tim Cook got rid of a lot of the chaos and turbulence in Apple and replaced it with process and structure. This is great for predictability (for the investors), but gives rise to the creative death spiral.
Steve Jobs knew this would happen when he appointed Tim Cook as CEO. In this video, Jobs talks about sales and marketing people taking over companies and pushing the creative, product oriented people out of the decision-making forums. He goes on to say, “As a result, the companies forget what it means to make great products.”
Realistically, they are missing the top-down mindset of creative chaos. The idea that you shouldn’t attack any problem with the same process you attacked the last problem. It’s about letting that chaos of ideas overwhelm your thoughts. Making connections between seemingly random things. And when you hit those roadblocks, controlling the situation by taking a break, trusting the chaotic approach, and not falling back into an old process.
Jobs loved to have walking meetings to hash out ideas and reclaim that creative flow.
You have a better chance at two balls colliding, by throwing a hundred of them down the stairs than you do by tossing one in the air and throwing another one at it. Innovation comes from making connections that don’t seem possible; by doubting the way something is currently done and replacing it with a new way.
These connections aren’t made through systematic processes. Innovation stems from controlled chaos. Einstein was famous for his messy desk covered in idea-filled papers...not an orderly notebook of theories.
The chaotic part of creativity can come from the influx of inspiration. Realizing the importance of external inspiration, I created Quick Theories--a brief, weekly newsletter of creative insights. So, if you feel like you can handle another stream of creative inspiration, you can sign up here: