Growing The 8-Bit Generation

source: 8bit generation

We initially backed Growing The 8-Bit Generation Kickstarter campaign not knowing its troubled past. We were drawn to it because of it’s proposed subject matter – a documentary about the start of the home computer industry, which was right up our alley. Rather than getting bogged down in the windy road of how this documentary came to be, we thought we would concentrate on what the 8-Bit Generation / Junk Food team have delivered, and boy is it good!



Like any documentary that delves into the history of a particular industry, it is the people that were there, recounting their experiences first-hand that is paramount to the success of telling such a story. Growing The 8-Bit Generation nails this part by featuring a roster of interviewees that reads like a computing and video gaming hall of fame, from Chuck Peddle, Al Charpentier, Bil Herd, Michael Tomczyk, Dave Rolfe, Richard Garriot, Jeff Minter, Andy Finkel, Lord British, Steve Wozniak, Nigel Searle, Chris Curry, John Grant, Nolan Bushnell, Al Alcorn to Joe Decuir and Leonard Tramiel among others. However, the biggest interviewee coup for the documentary was having the late and great, Jack Tramiel recount his days as the head of Commodore and his somewhat ruthless pursuit to build computers for the masses, not the classes – which he certainly did. It is staggering to think that the production team actually interviewed 64 key industry figures, not all appearing in this film, which means there will be future documentaries with the additional footage!



The best way to describe Growing The 8-Bit Generation is that it is a visual and aural representation of Brian Bagnell’s book, Commodore: A Company on the Edge. If you have read this book, you will recognise the interviewees and know the subject matter quite well. Having said that, if you haven’t read Brain’s book, you will learn how Commodore battled it out with Atari, Sinclair, Texas Instruments, Apple and Tandy to reign supreme in the home computer hardware market.




The documentary is given a sense of authority by having Bil Heard (former Commodore engineer) lending his voice as the narrator. There is also subtle chiptune background music which adds to the aural spectacle. If we were to be nitpicking (Ed: and we would hate to be!), we would have loved to have seen Bob Yannes (SID chip inventor) appear and perhaps someone from Amstrad, like Lord Sugar. Purists may argue that the documentary is too Commodore-centric, but you have to remember it was their MOS6502 microprocessor that gave birth to the home computing industry and it also had a profound impact on the video games console market.

What From Bedrooms To Billions documentary was to the history of home computer games development, Growing The 8-Bit Generation is to the history and evolution of home computer hardware – it is certainly compelling viewing!

NOTE: Retail availability of the documentary is yet to be confirmed. Keep an eye on the 8-Bit Generation site for more details.



Grow8Bit_ZXSpecimage source: 8-Bit Generation


The Mini Arcade By SuperGameCo

MiniArcade_GalagaHave you always wanted to make your own mini arcade tabletop machine? Are you a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) hack just like me? If you answered yes to both questions, then the SuperGameCo Mini Arcade may be just what you are looking for.

Made from bamboo panels that snap together, the Mini Arcade is a breeze to setup – if you prefer (Ed: are too lazy), SuperGameCo also offer the Mini Arcade in fully assembled form.



At the heart of the Mini Arcade is a very speedy Raspberry Pi 2 Model B computer, running Emulation Station. This ensures that the emulators and games run nice and smooth. We didn’t experience any slowdown during play – which was great. The 9″ LCD screen provides great resolution, but the marquee protrudes a tad too much which tends to get in the way if you are not sitting down low.



The control deck is made up of an 8-way Sanwa/Seimitsu arcade stick and 6 concave arcade buttons. These are complimented with a single player select button and an insert coin (credit) button on the left side of the unit to provide an authentic arcade feel when playing games via MAME.


Audio on the Mini Arcade is pumped through the front facing speakers via a stereo amplifier. We did find that the sound wasn’t as beefy as we would have liked, which took away a bit from the experience when playing shoot’em ups with booming explosions.



We found the Mini Arcade to be a breeze to operate and play games. The assembly was nice and easy, and once you are all setup, it is pretty straight forward to select your favourite old game and get all nostalgic. If you are struggling to find a Christmas present for your retro gaming partner, then the Mini Arcade may be a viable option.

– Clever snap-together kit (or you could opt for it to be fully assembled)
– Easy to get started playing games
– Latest Raspberry Pi 2 Model B internals
– Quality Sanwa/Seimitsu arcade joystick
– Inclusion of the Insert Coin button provides an authentic arcade feel
– Multiple interfaces (USB/RJ45) for additional connectivity

– Marquee is obtrusive when playing on the 9″ LCD display
– Button layout felt a tad cramped
– Sound is reasonable, but it needs to be meatier
– Insert coin button stickiness (may have just been our unit)
– Power supply cord was too short
– Graphics on the bamboo panels would be nice

The Mini Arcade product variants and prices can be found at the SuperGameCo store here.


First Impressions: Stern’s Game Of Thrones Pro Pinball Table

GoT_AlexBozAt the recent PAXAus, we were lucky enough to have two Game Of Thrones Pro Edition pinball machines placed in our Classic Gaming area (Ed: thanks to Scott Kellett and AMD). Having played the table and then watched other pinball wizards battling against ‘House Targaryen’ for a huge multi-billion score, we can safely say that we were quite impressed with Stern’s latest table.

Designed by legendary pinball guru Steve Ritchie, the Game Of Thrones Pro table is made for fast, furious and rewarding action (Ed: as a good pinball table should be!). The Pro table comes with great (superspeed) ramps and toys, like the battering ram sliding bash target and the Sword of Multiball to name just a few. As per tradition, there are electric gates (for those start bonuses to rack up your points) and three pop bumpers with LED lighting to get your hearts racing. Oh yeah, Sandor Clegane (aka: ‘The Hound’) lends his voice to narrate the action!

The aim of Game Of Thrones is to win the war for the Iron Throne. This is done by selecting one of six Houses of Westeros (Stark, Lannister, Greyjoy, Baratheon, Martell, Tyrell) to fight for. House Targaryen cannot be selected – you’ll face Daenerys, her army and her dragons in the last battle. Once you select your House, your goal is to conquer all other Houses standing in your way to the Iron Throne.

Every flip of the silver metal ball feels accurate. The ball remains true when hit, which makes aiming at targets that whole lot easier and very satisfying – perhaps being a fan of the HBO TV show helps here too! The layout of the Pro table draws you into play and the gameplay is so rewarding that you don’t even feel cheated by a lost ball. The two ramps are at perfect angles so that balls do not drain if you haven’t flipped hard enough to complete the shot. Even the Dragon Kickback is forgiving with the ball firing back at the right flipper – good for us middle-aged people with slower reactions! There is something second-nature-ish to playing this table, almost like your hands are an extension of this wonderful world of Fire and Ice!

Watching people play then return to the back of the line to play again was a resounding endorsement for Stern’s latest offering – this machine is an absolute winner! The table will please novice and pro pinball wizards alike – it has plenty of challenges no matter your experience. For all those pinball fence-sitters, do yourself a favour and drop a gold coin in the Game Of Thrones pinball machine, you won’t regret it! Game Of Thrones has translated perfectly to the realm of pinball. Get flippin’!

Game Of Thrones Pro ready for action!

Beautiful side art

Learn the rules!

The playfield (with glass removed!)

The Westeros Families

Swinging the Sword Of Mutliball!

Cash in your multipliers at the Iron Bank

Keep your wits about you – this dragon kicks back hard!

The ultimate goal – sitting on the Iron Throne

Weird and Retro‘s Aleks ‘Serblander‘ Svetislav gets flippin’ on GoT

Stacey ‘Dr Curlytek‘ Borg shows us all how it is done

For more details on the Game Of Thrones pinball machines (Pro, Premium and Limited Edition), go to the Stern site. If you want to get head start on your friends when battling it out on the Game Of Thrones Pro machine, grab the strategy guide right now!


Pastfinder: A Long Lost C64 Gem

Why has it taken me almost 30 years to discover and play Pastfinder? I mean, I love shoot’em ups, so this game should have been on my radar back in the 1980s. Anyway, it is never too late to enjoy a great game, and let me say from the outset, Pastfinder is a beauty.

What’s there not to like, you are thrown thousands of years into the future on a baron planet with high radiation, you have an awesomely powerful spacecraft (called a Leeper) that is able to walk the landscape (the articulating legs look great!) and fly high to blast enemies and also drop-off supplies to the bases that desperately need them.

Pastfinder is a classic vertical shmup with a twist (think of Zaxxon, but in a vertical attribution instead of isometric) – the clever gameplay of flying and walking the landscape to avoid obstacles, together with tight controls, makes this an absolute blast! Yep, that pun was fully intended! Play this now on your C64, you won’t regret it!



pastfinder_screen2image source: Lemon64


C64 Game Review: Rocket Smash Ex

Rocket_HDRGET READY Commander 64! Fly up, down, and all around, avoid the aliens or pew pew pew them with your screen penetrating laser! Scramble around the stage to collect rocket pieces to reassemble your rocket to freedom. But wait, there is more! Once the rocket is assembled, it will need to be fully fuelled (via dropped fuel cells) so you can make your escape and land on the next challenging stage!

To keep things interesting and to get the adrenaline pumping, you will need to get the objectives completed before your oxygen runs out. Alas, oxygen cells do fall from the top of the screen, so grab them to ensure you keep going, otherwise, it is curtains for Commander 64! Oh yeh, if you collide with an alien, it is instant death! Sounds all easy aye? With three difficulty levels, you will probably find yourself playing Rocket Smash Ex in either easy or normal mode. For those sadists among you, try the hard mode!

Enter the Charlie-Bravo-Mike system if you dare. Rocket Smash Ex is a frantic shoot’em-up come semi-puzzle-assembler where your twitch reflexes will be tested to the max. The control is sublime and feels second nature. The single screen gameplay is complimented by satisfying music (you’re feet will be tapping in no time) with awesome meaty sound effects. Rocket Smash Ex is exactly what your C64 is craving for – it is simply brilliant!

For more information on Rocket Smash Ex or to download the game, visit RGCD.




image source: RGCD

Old Games Revisited: World Games

WorldGamesGame: World Games
Genre: Sports / Events
Format: Commodore 64
Media: Tape or Disk
Year: 1986
Developer: Epyx
Publisher: Epyx

As the years roll on, there are video games that have aged well and others that have not. It is no secret that Epyx had the sporting events genre video games down pat. They had all the main seasons of the year covered in their sports games, from performing breathtaking Hot Dog Aerial manoeuvres in Winter Games, to throwing a Javelin across the field in Summer Games II. They didn’t just stop with Olympic events type games. Epyx branched out to street / sub-culture sporting events style games like California Games, which was yet another exemplary title to show off the Epyx sports games pedigree.



From all the great Epyx sports video games, one that has the most obscure and diverse events, is World Games. Don’t get me wrong, obscure does not mean it is terrible, it’s quite the opposite. The eight (8) sporting events take place across the world in their country of origin: Weightlifting – Snatch and Clean & Jerk (Russia), Slalom Skiing (France), Log Rolling (Canada), Cliff Diving (Mexico), Caber Toss (Scotland), Bull Riding (USA), Barrel Jumping (Germany) and Sumo Wrestling (Japan). Just like in previous games, World Games allows the player to compete in all events (sequentially), choosing some events or just one event. If you aren’t sure of your form, then the game does provide a practice facility. The playing mechanics may take some getting used to (pushing forward, pulling back), but persist and you will be richly rewarded.



The level of detail in Word Games is second to none, from the inhaling and exhaling weightlifter that grips the weight bar, to the brave cliff diver that waves at you after he nails his dive. The humorous touches when you stuff your event, like the caber hammering you into the ground, are a stroke of genius. Each event feels distinct and Epyx left no stone unturned on any of them – they are all visually impressive with well-developed play mechanics. You will experience frustration in playing some events (like the Caber Toss in Scotland and Bull Riding in the US), but as mentioned previously, persistence and timing are key to your success in obtaining a gold medal.



When it comes to crowning a gold medal winner, the developers at Epyx deserve the gong for creating sports games with great graphics, awesome sound and most importantly, loads of fun and playability. World Games is another title deserving of its entry in the sports games winner’s circle. Just like a fine wine, World Games has aged very well. Play on your own, or better still, grab a few mates and go for gold!


WG_Sumoimage source: C64-Wiki

Video Gaming Film Of The Year: From Bedrooms To Billions

From Bedrooms to Billions_TITLEDuring the pioneering days of video gaming and home computing, our industry may have been small when compared to Japan, the US and UK, but we were (and still are) proud of our gaming heritage – we will always be proud of John De Margheriti’s Micro Forté and Alfred Milgrom’s Melbourne House and Beam Software amongst the initial big industry players.

JEFF MINTERAs Australian gaming enthusiasts, we always paid attention to what was happening around the world, like we still do till this day. In the early 80s, when home computing took off in Australia, we were on a parallel with our gaming brethren in Europe and the United Kingdom, more so than Japan and the US.

IAN LIVINGSTONEWith our nascent video gaming magazine industry barely keeping up with our veracious appetite for gaming information, we turned our attention to the British media to satisfy our craving. Our newsstands were filled with brilliantly  written British magazines, from Crash and Zzap!64, to Zero, ST/Amiga Format and Computer & Video Games (to name a few!). These magazines were our only channel to what was going on in the home computing and gaming industry. The magazines introduced us to household British developers, bedroom coders, musicians, publishers and journalists, so it is satisfying to finally watch a film based on this history.

JULIAN RIGNALL 2From Bedrooms To Billions, the successful crowd-funded production, shows how the early UK games business began and evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry. The story is fused with interviews with key contributors that helped shape the video gaming industry – the enthusiasts, hobbyists, schools kids, bedroom coders, music maestros, journalists and entrepreneurs. Through these interviews, the film reveals the remarkable stories, struggles and successes of the people involved in the invention, creation and evolution of the UK video gaming business.


ROB HUBBARD 2From Bedroom To Billions connects us over here in Australia (or anywhere around the world for that matter) with the pioneers of the gaming industry, from the bedroom coders, developers and music maestros, to the journalists and publishers we grew up with in the late 70s, 80s and 90s. This documentary is essential viewing, either to reminisce, curate or just to learn how the UK video gaming industry went from nothing to a force to be reckoned with. If there was a category for a “Video Gaming Film Of The Year”, this film would win it hands down. We applaud you Anthony and Nicola Caulfield for a job well done.