Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Correction - Retro Gamer

Issue 58 - p.18

Finder's Keepers was not the first, or even one of the first, games released by Mastertronic. It was one of the first, if not the first, game released under the MAD label - Mastertronic Added Dimension. These were games that broke the £1.99 that all previous Mastertronic games had been released as, making the leap to £2.99.

The first Mastertronic games were real shockers - along the lines of Alcatraz Harry. I originally thought that Mad Martha was one of these, but I remembered while typing this that it was Mikro-Gen who bore the responsibility for that, but managed to redeem themselves with the game Automania and the following excellent Wally sequels including Pyjamarama and Everyone's a Wally.

As a side note, Everyone's a Wally came with a pop music recording on the B Side of the tape, which I remember liking a lot at the time. After a bit of a search, it was by someone called Mike Berry.

Mastertronic also improved over time, releasing games like Agent X and Nonterraqueous on the Spectrum and Chiller on the C64, these, amongst others, were excellent and still sold at the £1.99 price tag. I also have very fond memories of Human Race - really hard game, but great music (by the legendary Rob Hubbard). The MAD label had it fair share of rather good games like Amaurote which was really good on the Spectrum 128K; one of the few games, along with sequels to Finder's Keepers, with added content for the larger memoried machine. (Unfortunately, it also had The Last V8 on the C64, which I still cannot control to this day - excellent voice sound sampling and music though).

Codemasters started with £1.99 games too. Yeah, the company we always hear about with the two Darling brothers coding in their garage - with only their middle-class parents to pay for the expensive initial setup. Anyone with a detached house, garage and a few tens of thousands of pounds of disposable income could have done it really. Not to take away what they have accomplished; but a supportive family and the initial cash is not available to everyone with the same dream.

Mastertronic did an awful lot to change the distribution of games; they sold them in local newsagents, for example. Even the boarded-up, shitty, vandalised newsagent with 'Punks Not Dead' sprayed on the side of it that sat across from our family flat where I grew up. It made them more accessible to people who would previously have not considered buying a computer game - especially with the price. Initially no-one who knew anything about computer games went anywhere near them as we knew how bad they were; but they were bought by Mums, Dads and other nice folks as a gift for their growing nerd at home. Usually it was a "Uh oh, I'd better look happy and play it for a while till I get that look of gratified misunderstanding as they watch it over my shoulder." Most of the time they left before it had finished loading from the tape - took a while in those days. The upshot was that they sold so many crap games that Mastertronic became very well known with lots of money at their disposal and better games were released; so we have to really thank all those people who we thought were too stupid to know the games were rubbish as we ended up with a lot of cheap, decent games because of them. Life's like that.

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