By far the most retro game to be shown today, possibly at the whole show, was Star Fire for the Commodore Pet, it looks like this.
Next up was the first Llamasoft hit, Grid Runner, a game that coined the Minter hallmark of vastly improving on existing games. Some would call this cloning, but they have not played them, the titles are improved to the point of being a whole new experience.
That brings us to the soap opera lite that is Attack of the Mutant Camels. It was a cartridge in the US based on Grid Runner with camels added in because they are almost as cool as llamas. The non-US version was a defender clone with large camels walking around. You had to shoot the poor defenseless camels, what a travesty. It was an homage to the Parker Brothers Atari 2600 Empire Strikes Back game. Instead of AT-ATs, you had giant camels. The Minter game was a lot better than the 2600 game, I had both at one time.
Then came Revenge of the Mutant Camels, another weird one where you helped the mutant camels rebel against their oppressors. If you are getting the idea that there was a lot of drugs done in the creation of these games, well, hold that thought until the colorspace part.
Moving on we come to Sheep in Space, a truly odd game among the odd games from Jeff Minter. It is a side scrolling shooter where you control an interstellar space sheep, possibly the first use of the paradigm in a game. You fly your sheep around shooting things and land on patches of grass to replenish your energy by eating said grass. Too much and you explode. Very odd.
Then came the music inspired light shows, you may be familiar with the genre from the XBox360's Neon, the latest one to be written by Jeff. The first was called Psychedelia, a colored cursor on the C64 that made an explosion of colored blocks and lights when you moved it around. Lets just say it was best appreciated on quasi-legal substances.
Psychedelia was followed up by Colourspace on the Atari 800. Colourspace was a much more advanced version of the same interactive trip toy, this one had actual graphics instead of colored cursor blocks, but was essentially the same concept.
Then it was back to games for Jeff Minter, and Llamatron 2112 was the result. Having wasted weeks on this myself, I can say without any question that it is, was, and will always be a great game. Pick up a copy of Steem or other Atari ST emulator and find a copy, you will be glad you did.
Llamatron was also one of the first shareware games, not crippleware, but true shareware. It had a lot of the funky graphics, aural pats on the back, and other such things that have defined Minter games since. It starts out like Robotron 2084 and doesn't look back.
You fight Coke cans, Zippy the Pinhead, Space Invaders, screaming Mandelbrot sets, pot plants and toilets. I can't recommend this enough, it is almost enough to tear me away from my Robotron 2084 machine. Almost.
Then came the Atari Jaguar games he did, Tempest 2000, VLM and Defender 2000. Tempest 2000 is possibly the best Jag game out there, and one of the first with a techno soundtrack. I also have a Tempest machine and Tempest 2000 is better than the original in almost every way. Seeing as how I am addicted to the original, this is again very high praise.
After that smash hit came VLM or Virtual Light Machine for the Jaguar CD. It was the first lightshow/trip toy/whatever that actually fed off the music. It was still interactive, you could influence the effects, but the big advance was that it reacted to the music as well.
That brings us to Defender 2000. If you have ever played it, you will know why I am skipping this entirely. Same with Tempest 3000 on the Nuon platform.
Next was a string of almosts for Jeff, Gridrunner++, a fun game that is well worth downloading the demo for, go check it out, but it never made the big time. Same with Unity (almost) from Lionhead. It was meant to combine the manic Minter games with the light synths of the past, hence the name Unity. It never went anywhere, but the concept lived on.
The thing that probably sold more than any other out there was Neon, the lightshow for the XBox360. It sold one for every 360 out there, so there are over 10 million copies of this floating now, probably more than everything else he has done combined. It doesn't run on Windows though, and we didn't see the copy that did when he changed screens. You didn't hear about it either.
That brings us to his latest magnum opus, not Opus the penguin, opus the word. It combines a modular lightsynth originally developed for the Gamecube with Tempest and a lot of drugs. Welcome to Space Giraffe, a game that Minter will ardently insist is not Tempest.
You can't really understand what this game is by simply looking at screen shots, it is Tempest 2000 with graphics done in exploding lightsynth fashion. Words, numbers and colors all float around and things congratulate or mock you depending on how you do. It all works out in the end though, and take my word for it, this game will be worth it. I didn't plan on owning any consoles until I saw this.
In general, Jeff Minter makes games, not stories. They are fast, fun and visually appealing. Nothing he does is comparable to anything I can think of, they are all unique in so many ways it is incredible. And it all comes from the mind of one man, the ideas, the play and the levels with names like "Stargate Basingstoke".µ
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