Attack of the Flickering Skeletons by Stuart Ashen [Book Review]

Attack of the Flickering Skeletons - cover

Not too long ago, I reviewed Stuart Ashen’s book Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of – a book which probably should carry a government health warning for its embarrassing tendency to make you uncontrollably laugh out loud in public. Now he’s back with more of the same in the intruiguingly (if long-winded) titled Attack of the Flickering Skeletons: More Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.

Quite sensibly working on the premise of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the book mostly provides more of the same. Pretty much the same rules are applied when it comes to game selection (none of the usual suspects like ET or C64 Chase HQ, computers only; no consoles) but (perhaps depressingly) this still leaves a very broad selection of games from which to choose.

The format, too, is on the same lines. Ashen reviews a number of games in his own inimitable style, pointing out why they were so bad and generally giving them the mockery they deserve. This is backed up with full colour pages containing lots of images, making the book visually appealing, as well as funny. To give Ashen a break (and presumably allow him to go off and play something half decent), there are also occasional contributions from other gaming people (such as fellow YouTubers or former game developers). And just in case you think Ashen is unfairly picking on certain games, he also includes some review scores, showing his views were also shared by professional reviewers at the time the games were released.

On the whole, this format works well. The book looks good, there’s a varied selection of games across multiple systems (8 and 16 bit) and the short, pithy entries are very readable. Ashen has a way with words and manages to write about some fairly mundane things in a funny and engaging way…

…And yet, despite all these positives, I didn’t enjoy Flickering Skeletons anywhere near as much as the first book, and I’m not really sure why. Possibly it’s because I read both books fairly close together so maybe I’d just had enough by that point and should have left a longer gap before reading the sequel. Possibly it’s because I was more familiar with Ashen’s style so wasn’t caught quite so unawares by his sometimes wacky, sometimes wry observations, meaning they elicited fewer belly laughs. Possibly it’s because you could argue that this book is essentially “The Second Most Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of” and the titles that really deserved ridicule had already received their comeuppance in the first book (although given how much dross was released, this is probably not the strongest argument!)

Don’t get me wrong: Flickering Skeletons is not a bad book by any means; in fact it’s a great one. It’s just that the bar was set so high by the first book that it was always going to be a tough ask to follow it up. It’s not that I didn’t find it funny – I smiled and sniggered my way through it; I read out occasional short snippets to Mrs RetroReactiv8 and even she (as a non-gamer) smiled at some of the absurdities. But there’s the thing: I only smiled and sniggered; with the first book I frequently laughed out loud. I only read occasional snippets to Mrs RR8; with the previous book I read whole chunks or even complete entries. Somehow, it just felt a little bit less than the first one in every department.

Do I regret buying it? Not for a second. Would I recommend it for purchase? Absolutely. Just be aware that (for whatever reason) you might not find it quite as hilarious as the first entry. If you bear that in mind, you’ll be fine. And just to emphasise the point that this is not even close to being a bad book: if a third title in the series were to be announced, I would pre-order it like a shot.

Attack of the Flickering Skeletons is available from Amazon for around £8 (hardback) or £6 (Kindle).

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Galencia (PC/Steam) review

Galencia title screen

If you’re plugged into the world of the C64, you’ve probably been hearing quite a bit of buzz recently around Galencia, a Galaxians-inspired game from Jason Aldred. The game received a physical release for the original hardware, but for those of us who no longer have a C64, it’s now available for PC via Steam – the first C64 game to be released on the platform!

It’s hard to imagine that anyone reading this blog won’t be familiar with Galaxians, but just in case, I’ll go through the basics. Based on the early 80s arcade game, it’s best described as What Space Invaders Did Next. The screen fills with alien invaders who fly on from the side. However, instead of moving their way from side to side down the screen, some of these aliens peel off and fly around whilst taking potshots at you. This instantly makes them more dangerous: their flight paths can be unpredictable and hitting a moving target is inevitably harder than hitting a static/slow-moving one. This, then, is the basis for Galencia.

There are two important things to say about Galencia from the outset. Firstly (and most critically), it’s a great game, highly polished and very addictive. Secondly, it is essentially a new C64 version of Galaxians. All the gameplay elements you’d expect (swooping aliens, tractor beam aliens who can capture your ship, double ship bonus if you free a trapped ship) are present and correct. Beyond a bit of spit and polish here and there, it’s an update, not a reboot. If you come to it expecting a solid version of Galaxians complete with retro graphics and sound, you’ll not be disappointed; if you’re looking for a major overhaul (along the lines of Space Invaders Infinite), then it might not be the game for you.

Right, that’s the managing expectation stuff done, so let’s get on with the review.

The bottom line is Galencia is good; very good. The graphics are generally a decent size and full of character, capturing the look and feel of the original, whilst bringing in plenty of new design elements. There’s nice variety between different types and more are introduced as the game progresses (my favourites so far are the ones that look like flying skulls). They are well-animated although there have been times when I’ve felt they were perhaps on the small side, making them trickier to hit. The chatty “mission control” head that talks to your pilot via speech bubbles is a nice extra graphical touch that adds to the game’s character.

Sound is equally 8 bit, but that’s not a criticism from me. A great chip tune accompanies the action, with sound effects fairly minimal, but effective. In these days of overblown full, orchestral scores and sound effects loud enough to damage your walls, it’s good to get back to basics with a catchy chip tune and limited effects.

So far, it’s all been good news, but I’ve saved the best until last: the gameplay is spot-on. It’s surprising how much the simple act of adding swooping aliens and a tractor beam adds to the Space Invaders formula and it’s been perfectly implemented here. The game is certainly challenging, but it never feels unfair. When you die, it’s your fault: you didn’t move fast enough, you crashed into an alien or a bullet; it’s not because the game has “cheated”. As such (unlike many modern games where you get an achievement just for starting the game), it feels like a real success when you get onto the high score table or beat your own best score. It also feels incredibly tense as aliens are unpredictable and so no two games are ever the same. It’s not unusual for me to come away from Galencia with sweaty palms – more so than when I’ve played a “proper” horror game like Resident Evil. When you’re down to your last life, desperately hanging on to get to the next level/beat your high score/secure an extra life, it’s surprising how tense the game can be.

Because the gameplay has been so well implemented, it’s also lost none of the addictive qualities Galaxians introduced all those years ago. Games (at least when I play it!) tend to be fairly short. This makes it perfect for gaming when you don’t have a lot of time. Except it’s not, because there’s no such things as “a few quick games” as far as Galencia is concerned. As soon as you lose your last life, you check your score, find it wanting and instantly hitting Fire to have another go. As with all the best games, it’s not unusual to sit down to play for “just 10 minutes” before looking at the clock to realise over an hour has passed.

If there are criticisms, they are small ones. As far as I can see, the game can’t be run full screen, but runs in a small(ish) window. Presumably this is because it’s running on Steam via a modified version of the Vice 64 emulator. Secondly, controller support is very limited. It doesn’t work with my Xbox 360 controller (which is supported by most Steam games) and the only option is to use the keyboard. That said, whilst controller support might be nice, using the keyboard is more authentic, so will appeal to purists.

[Quick update: You can safely ignore these minor quibbles. A couple of hours after posting this review, the game’s programmer, Jason Aldred got in touch to say that pressing Alt & Enter will toggle full-screen mode on and off, whilst pressing J or K will select Joystick or Keyboard control, so it now works fine with my Xbox 360 controller (although actually, this has just proved that I prefer the keyboard input anyway!)]

Best of all, Galencia is stupidly cheap – less than £3 for a superb version of Galaxians – it’s a game that will offer hours and hours of fun and has endless replay value, thanks to the score-chasing objective of the game. My only real concern for Galencia (on Steam) is that modern gamers will dismiss it based on the screenshots or ignore it as “old-fashioned and boring”. If you’re a retro gamer on the lookout for a new version of classic game, thought, it’s definitely one to consider.

It’s probably my favourite C64 version of Galaxians apart from Galaxi-i-Birds. High praise indeed!

Horizon Chase Turbo (PC) Review

Horizon Chase Turbo - title

I love most game genres, but if I had to choose, racing games would top the list. Outrun (arcade) and Turbo Outrun (C64) are two of my favourite games, with the excellent Lotus series (Amiga) not far behind.

Recently, though, there’s been a dearth of old-style racers. The genre has changed and, in my view, not for the better. There’s much more of a focus on realism: damage to cars (with resulting impact on performance) and endless tinkering with settings to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of a car are staples of the modern racer. Whilst I can certainly appreciate the realism of (say) the Gran Turismo or F1 games, they’re not my thing. I’m a speed freak (at least in computer games!) I just want to hop into a car and race around the track as fast as I can, getting that burst of adrenaline as I burn past the opposition.

Step forwards Horizon Chase Turbo for PC, an unapologetic 80s/90s racer in the Outrun or Lotus mould. Like me, the developers have a pretty clear idea that speed makes a good racing game, not endless tinkering with your fuel injection pipes!

No, the goal in Horizon Chase Turbo is to get in a car, drive fast and compete in a series of races around the world against other drivers. Finish in the top 5 in any race and you can progress to the next, although there are additional bonuses to be had (including new cars and upgrades) for finishing first or collecting the tokens that lie around on the track. It’s instantly accessible and it’s fun. In other words, it’s everything I think a racing game should be!

The graphics have an appealing, colourful style that, like the game itself, isn’t constrained by realism. The cars look fantastic and there’s a definite retro vibe going on with the background scenery and roadside furniture, giving the game a strong visual appeal. The music (by industry veteran Barry Leitch) is superb, again aping the retro tunes of 80s/90s racers, and really adding to the atmosphere. There’s not quite anything on a par with Magical Sound Shower, but it’s a close run thing. If there’s a slight criticism, it’s that some of the sound effects (particularly engine roars and squealing tyres) could do with beefing up a little.

Crucially, Horizon Chase Turbo is fast. The scenery flashes by and it’s really satisfying to roar past other cars, leaving them for dust. The difficulty level is very well-managed too. Early tracks consist of long, straight stretches, giving you chance to get used to the speed and the handling of the car, before later tracks introduce more corners. Even when the tracks get trickier, the designers have still thrown in the odd easier one, giving you a bit of respite from the motoring mayhem. It’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into getting the track design right and it really pays off. I’ve never once felt that a track was nasty or designed to catch me out. Yes, there are some tricky sections (rapid left/right turns in quick succession), but learning how to navigate these successfully is part of the game’s learning curve.

When it comes to realism, Horizon Chase Turbo gives it the day off. If you crash into another car or a roadside sign, you just lose some speed. Even a high speed collision with a roadside obstacle only results in your car momentarily flipping over, before landing on all 4 wheels and letting you continue (hint: a quick hit of the Nitro button can help you get back up to speed quickly after a big collision to prevent you from losing too many places). Cars suffer no damage or ill-effects from collisions, and continue to operate at peak performance, no matter how many times you crash.

If there’s a criticism about the game’s difficulty level, it comes with the AI of the computer controlled cars. Sometimes they do seem to gang up on you, sticking together in packs, making it really difficult to overtake them without a collision (thus losing ground on the race leaders). If you come across one of these groups on a series of corners, getting past them can be really problematic and is probably the game’s biggest single source of frustration. But then that’s not just an issue with Horizon Chase Turbo – I can remember exactly the same frustration with the computer controlled cars in Pitstop II, way back in the mid 80s!

The other disappointment is that, although there is a multiplayer mode, it only supports local play with no multiplayer support. Although it might be surprising to hear me say this (since I’ve written before about how I’m not much of an online gamer), I really think this is a missed opportunity. This is one of those games that really would have benefitted from the ability to race against players from across the world. Sadly, since none of my gaming friends live close enough to pop over for a quick race, the local multiplayer option is all but useless and I am forever doomed just to play with myself (fnarr! fnarr! etc.)

Don’t let the price put you off – As Steam games go, it’s not the cheapest (around £15) because it’s worth every penny. The two single player game modes offer plenty of challenge, and even when you’d unlocked all the tracks, there’s still the challenging of finishing first in all races, collecting all the tokens or just beating your own best times. I actually went onto Steam to buy a different racing game (that was less than half the price), but this one came up in my “You might also like” box. A quick bit of research suggested this might be more my cup of tea than the one I first looked at, so I bought it and haven’t regretted it for a minute.

Horizon Chase Turbo is a love letter to the old-school racers of the 80s and 90s. It’s fast, frenetic, instantly accessible and completely brilliant. It wears its influences on its sleeve and is totally, utterly unrealistic and I just love it all the more for that. If Outrun and Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge had a baby, it might just look like this.

 

 

 

The Good, The Bad and the Mediocre

When it comes to reviewing old games on retrogaming blogs, things tend to fall into two camps, focussing on the really good games or the really bad ones. RetroReactiv8 is no exception to this. Although I mostly try and focus on the positive side of retrogaming, I do occasionally venture into stinker territory and highlight really bad or particularly disappointing games.

And therein lies a bit of a problem. If you knew nothing about retrogaming and read many of these blogs, you’d assume that every game in the 80s was either utterly brilliant or completely crap. The truth, of course, is that the vast majority were just mediocre – the only reason that we don’t remember them or talk about them is because so many were instantly forgettable.

This was brought home to me recently when I was looking at some of the compilations available for the C64 Mini from the excellent Freeze 64 website. Some of these are collections from particular publishers (Ocean, Interceptor Software, Super Soft etc.). As I was looking through these collections, there were so many titles that either I couldn’t remember at all or which only vaguely rang a bell – even those by big name publishers like US Gold. Some were games that I’d never actually owned or played, so that could be forgiven; others were titles that I did know about back in the day, but which were so “meh” I’d dismissed all memory of them.

So being the keen, investigative blog that RetroReactiv8 is, I decided to do a bit of research. I took three well-known 80s publishers (US Gold, Melbourne House and Ocean), looked at the games that were on the Freeze64 compilations and cross-referenced these with their original Zzap!64 scores (look, I was bored and don’t particularly like football, OK?)

Here’s what I found.

Of the 34 US Gold games available from Freeze 64 that Zzap! reviewed, the average score was 54%. Only 2 games got above 90% and only 6 were ranked at 80%+. Equally, though, only 6 titles featured in what I would call the truly awful range (0-30%). So, only 12/34 were either really good or really bad. However, 17 (50%) secured a spot in the mediocrity range (41-70%). (The remaining titles scored either 30-40% or 70-80% in case you think my maths is a bit out!)

Melbourne House proved even better at being mediocre. Of the 21 titles on their compilation that Zzap! reviewed, only 4 were real stinkers (although Inspector Gadget gets the distinction of being the worst game – just 9%, lower even than US Gold’s infamous World Cup Carnival). Just two titles were ranked at 80% or above, whilst 12 (57%) fell into that “mediocre” bracket.

See what I’m saying?

Only Ocean – arguably the biggest publisher by the end of the 8 bit era – bucked this trend. It had a marginally higher rating of excellent games (39%) to mediocre ones (32%) and managed to secure 6 games in the top 91-100% bracket. Even so, to have over a third of your output rated as “mediocre” still supports the idea that, like modern systems, the C64 suffered from a ton of shovel ware.

Of course, this is a hugely unscientific post: it’s based on only a small percentage of the overall output of each of these publishers, so a more thorough study of all of their games (which I really can’t be bothered doing!) might reveal this blog post to be a lie. Even so, it shows what selective memory we have when it comes to retrogaming. The really great stuff and the really bad stuff sticks in our mind; but these games were actually in the minority when stacked against most releases, which were just instantly forgettable. Not good enough to be remembered; not bad enough to be infamous.

So there we go: Mediocre games never die. They were just lying, waiting to be reborn on the C64 Mini!

Book Preview: 8 Bit on a Budget by Kieren Hawken

On RetroReactiv8, I tend to focus on reviews (either of old games or new retro-related products.), rather than highlighting upcoming products. Occasionally, though, I like to get behind projects I think look interesting – the excellent Hyper Sentinel was one; the (hopefully) forthcoming book Virtual Cities another.

8 Bit on a Budget, written by regular Retro Gamer contributor Kieren Hawken is the latest to catch my eye. It’s a book that celebrates the best of budget label releases – that phenomenon of the mid-late 80s where games were suddenly available at pocket money prices. Of course, many budget games were awful (Bionic Granny – I’m looking at you), but a significant number – whether original releases (Dizzy, Thrust) or re-releases of previously full priced (Bubble Bobble, Cybernoid) titles were excellent – better than some full-priced games

The book is being published by Unbound, which operates on a crowd-funding model. In order to guarantee a minimum number of pre-orders, people interested in the title can pledge their support. Once the funding target is reached, the book will be published.

You can find out more on the Unbound website. The campaign seems to be struggling a little at the moment – it’s been stuck on about 5% for a while now – so if you think this sounds like a book for you, why not pledge your support and promote it a bit on your own blogs or social media channels?

Bounder [Game Review]

Bounder title

Bounder was not a game I played much in its original C64 incarnation. I think I did eventually own it, but by that time I had so many games that I only ever really played a handful of my favourites. As such, I came to this new mobile version of Bounder with a fresh eye.

For those of you who don’t know, you must guide a tennis ball through a maze of tiles, gaps and other hazards to the goal at the end of the level. As the ball bounces, you have to time connecting with solid surfaces to enable you to clear any gaps between tiles, and this is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. There are bonus tiles scattered around (often in awkward places), which reward you with things like points or extra lives when you jump on them and this provides an added risk-reward mechanism.

The first thing to note is that this is a complete recreation of the original game for modern platforms, rather than an emulated version. On the whole, this is a good thing. It means that the game avoids any of the lag or glitches of emulation, and it runs smoothly on my Android device with no issues. There are times when it is perhaps a little too faithful, and incorporating a more modern approach might have been beneficial – more on this later.

Bounder certainly doesn’t skimp when it comes to the presentation. There are three versions supplied, all available from the start: the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and Spectrum games. If you could say nothing else nice about Bounder, the developer should be applauded for avoiding use of in-app purchase or forcing the player to unlock the different versions by completing particular challenges or milestones.

To get a sense of how faithful the game is, I loaded up the old C64 version and compared the opening levels with this new version. I was impressed. As far as my (untrained) eye can tell, the graphics and level design are spot-on. I assume it’s the same with the others, although to be honest, I mainly stick to the C64 game because (all bias aside), it’s the best. The colour scheme of the Amstrad version is a little too garish for my taste, whilst the monochrome Spectrum version looks good but can make it tricky to spot the surfaces which can be bounced on safely.

Bounder C64

The graphics on the whole are functional and serviceable, rather than impressive (as was the case with the original). It can initially be a little tricky to distinguish solid platforms from steep (and deadly) drops and early games involve a certain level of trial and error. You’ll soon learn, however, that patience is a definite virtue when it comes to playing Bounder.

Sound is excellent and will particularly be appreciated by those of us brought up in the 8 bit era of chip tunes. The bouncy, fun tune that accompanies the game is perfectly suited to the action and will soon get into your head and you’ll find yourself humming it at all sorts of odd times.

As previously mentioned, the game is a very faithful recreation and that this is something of a double-edged sword. Like the original, the gameplay is rock hard. There’s a lot of trial and error involved; you will die frequently and quickly (there’s a reason you get more than the usual 3 lives and can pick up extra ones) and Bounder makes no concessions to modern gaming sensibilities by easing up. Bounder is one tough game and there are times when the balance between challenge and frustration tips too far in the direction of the latter. Practice and patience do pay off though: every time you play, you get just that little bit further and, because it is so challenging, you feel a much greater sense of achievement when you finally complete a level. However, the very high difficulty level has the potential to put people off before they’ve really got to grips with it. This is one of the areas where the game is just a little too faithful – toning down the difficulty (or at least offering different levels of difficulty) might have made the game more accessible for casual/non-retro gamers.

The other area where the game is a little too faithful is in the use of level password codes, allowing you to skip levels already completed. I am King of the Wrongly Written Level Password. If there is a letter I can miss out or transpose, then trust me, I will. Whilst it would have been a diversion from the original, allowing you to choose your starting point from a level map would have been a more user-friendly approach.

Finally, we have to address the bane of mobile gaming: the controls. Here it’s a case of The Good(ish), The Bad(ish), and the Ugly. Taking them in reverse order, the Ugly is the virtual joystick (the default option). For a game that requires such precise control, it’s just not responsive enough and, despite being transparent, can make it difficult to see some hazards. Swipe controls are better, but I still didn’t find them responsive enough and found myself frequently dying because of that, rather than through my own ineptitude (although I did die plenty of times because of that too!)

The big surprise is the Tilt controls. With a bit of practice, these give you that fine level of control that you need. It’s still not perfect and it’s too easy to die because you tilted your phone just a bit too far, but I found it’s the one that works best. Even so, it would be nice to see the developer add support for a Bluetooth controller in a later version. For this reason it’s likely that the planned Switch or PS Vita versions will be even better, thanks to the physical controller.

Bounder is available in two versions: a free, ad-supported version and a paid-for (£2.49) version that gets rid of the ads and has more levels. At that price, it’s a great buy that offers a massive amount of challenge. It’s not a game you’re likely to play in long spells (at least not without throwing your phone out of the window in frustration), but its addictive nature makes sure you’ll keep coming back. On the strength of this, I can only hope that the developer tackles some more of Gremlin’s back catalogue.

This recommendation does come with a small caveat as the unforgiving gameplay will not be to everyone’s tastes. I’d suggest downloading the free version and giving it a fair go (that means you will need to practice and be patient!). If you like that, the small price to upgrade to the full version is more than justified. If you don’t, at least you’ve had a brief history lesson and learned how tough games used to be before infinite lives and regular save points!

Note: a free, full, unlocked copy of the Android version was provided by the developer for review purposes. As per RetroReactiv8’s Review Policy, this has in no way influenced the content of the review

 

 

Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of by Stuart Ashen [Book Review]

Terrible Old Games

I don’t know about you, but writing a bad review always seems so much easier and more fun than writing a good one. I’m not a nasty person (honestly!), but it is a lot simpler to heap ridicule on something truly awful than to write a more balanced review about something that is good (or even just mediocre). It’s a shame really, as no-one ever sets out to release a poor game (except perhaps US Gold with World Cup Carnival) and ridiculing their efforts does sometimes seem a little harsh.

That aside, I suspect that Stuart Ashen, author of Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of, would agree that bad reviews are fun to write. After all, he’s managed to get two books out of it.

When I first got hold of the book, I was a little concerned. The book is pretty small (about the size of a Mr. Man book) and I was worried that the actual coverage of the games was going to be pretty superficial. This volume, however, proves that size isn’t everything, it gives a decent amount of in-depth coverage to each game, with typically 3-4 pages devoted to each one. Each entry is also well-illustrated, with several full colour images for every game featured, usually accompanied by an amusing caption. It’s a really well put together book, visually appealing and well-written.

The selection of titles is impressive. Ashen has deliberately avoided the usual suspects (ET on the Atari, Superman on the Nintendo) and cast his net wider. Most of the games featured are from the popular 8 and 16 bit systems (C64, Spectrum Amiga, Atari ST), although a few titles from more minor systems are included (Dragon 32, Oric etc.) Some will be disappointed that the book only covers actual computers (automatically excluding bad console games), but since this is my own gaming heritage, I preferred this approach.

Each entry contains Ashen’s own musings on his experience (either at the time of release or subsequently) of playing the game, together with his observations on just how bad it is. To say that these are funny is something of an understatement. He has a brilliant turn of phrase and, as the mood takes him, can be funny, absurd and sarcastic about the titles he has selected. Moreover, despite the book’s subject matter, it never feels nasty or mean-spirited. Whilst Ashen certainly makes it clear just how bad some of these titles are, there’s always a sense that he retains an underlying fondness for them on certain levels, despite their awfulness.

When I say this book is funny, I really, REALLY mean it. Frankly, it should come with a government health warning not to read it in public for fear of embarrassing yourself. It didn’t just make me laugh out loud, there were several times when I could actually hardly breathe for laughing so much. The humour is also pretty universal. Whilst it’s obviously going to appeal mainly to gamers, you don’t have to be one to find the book funny. I read several passages to Mrs. RetroReactiv8 (who has never played a computer game in her life) and they made her laugh out loud too. Just taking one random example, I defy anyone to read the Highlander review and not find it funny.

Interspersed amongst the entries are a number of articles written by other contributors, recalling the games they most regretted buying. The range of authors is decent, including both people with the industry (Jeff Minter, Violet Berlin) and ordinary gamers. However, these entries are actually rather variable in quality, and none are as good as the main entries. I’d much rather have read more of Ashen’s own reviews than some of these guest articles. In fact, I felt they worked to the detriment of the book, breaking the flow that Ashen has created with unwanted musings. It’s also true that I felt that the book fizzled out a little towards the end, with some of the later entries producing smiles rather than belly laughs, this is a minor quibble.

Ashen might be an expert on terrible old games, but he’s also a dab hand at writing excellent new books. I’ve already got the sequel (the brilliantly named Attack of the Flickering Skeletons) and will no doubt soon be annoying Mrs. RetroReactiv8 all over again, by laughing out loud and reading out random passages to her, whilst struggling to breathe!