When all else fails, close you eyes and think of Camels
At least you die happy
THE COMING OF THE JEFF MINTER GAMES by Stefan Posthuma
They're finally here!!!!!
YEAH!!! Finally, the flying sheep, bouncing llamas, floating
cows, rotating goats and other assorted video beasties have
reached the ST.
I can remember myself sitting behind a computer with only 3.5K
of RAM, 1760 bytes of screen memory and only one game worth
playing. The computer was the VIC 20 and the game was called
Gridrunner. Being an unique game programmed by an unique person,
it became a massive hit back then in the early 8-bit eras.
For those who do not know Gridrunner, it was an ultra fast 'n
furious zap-them-up with addictional qualities beyond the
reaches of insanity. It involved the player controlling a small
ship in the lower half of the screen, frantically blasting snakes
which would race across the screen at ludicrous speeds and
directions. Hitting a snake would cause it to split up,
cluttering the screen with all sorts of small snakes which would
drive you completely and thouroughly mad. Also, hitting a snake
element only once would cause it to transform into a bomb which
would them fall down. Then there was a rail gun moving across the
top line of the screen which would release a bomb when it was
straight above your ship.
Complete with ear-wrecking sound effects, Gridrunner was a
complete game in only 3.5K!!!!
Hours and hours I abused my joystick and sometimes I had to be
dragged from the screen with foam on my mouth to be carried to
school. In the middle of the night I would wake up my eyes
bloodshed from the Arcade Insanity Destruction Syndrome and I
just had to blast.
Then I learned to program myself. First in BASIC, later in
assembler. The first thing I did when I mastered assembler was
programming a Gridrunner clone called Alien Gate. It was even
faster and crazier than Gridrunner and it also was crammed into
3.5K. Later on I bought my 8Kb expansion module and programmed
Plasmiods, a follow-up to Alien Gate. Using the full 8K, it was
quite extensive and featured many levels with many extra's. But
Jeff Minter also created a Gridrunner followup called Matrix. It
was also completely insane and again I spent many hours on that
game. I was a true fan of Jeffs games. (3.5K, 8K...those were the
days of super-compact programming and counting bytes....)
By the way, I think Jeff has also invented the scrolling
message. There was one in Matrix, and he had one in all his other
games (as far as I can recollect) on the CMB-64. 'Sheep in Space'
featured a very long one. He also created the game with the
craziest name ever I believe. 'Metagalactic Llamas Battle at the
Edge of Time' it was called. (VIC-20, 3.5K)
The coming of the CBM-64 changed my life. Now I could program
and play games in SIXTY-FOUR KILOBYTES!!! And I did. Hades was
the first, to be followed by Scuttle, Clytron and ... Alien gate.
(Also programmed VIC-style, in about 4Kb!!)
Jeff Minter also was quite active on the 64 and he created
Gridrunner and Matrix. But those two were not as superbly insane
as on the VIC. But then he came with Attack of the Mutant Camels
and later on Revenge of the Mutant Camels. Now Revenge was a
true cult-game. It was the first 'real' Minter game. It featured
the player controlling a huge Mutant Camel who had to defend
itself from hordes of the craziest collection of aliens ever
featured in a video game. I mean there were aggressive meatballs,
skiing kangaroos, exploding baby-sheep ('through pastures blue',
one of the most difficult levels), flying eggs, spectrum
computers where the rubber keys would fall out, bouncing goats,
maniac joysticks, pacmen, cigarettes, telephone booths, chips
which would fire '0' and '1' sprites at you, tea-pots, flying
toilets and a lot more. 'Revenge of the Mutant Camels' was my
all-time favourite on the 64. Just hours of great-fun and absurd
but hard-core blasting. It was super.
'Revenge' was the first of a line of utterly weird games.
Programs like 'Ancipital', 'Batalyx', 'Mama Llama' and 'Sheep in
Space' kept me zapping and blasting for hours and hours.
Especially Ancipital with its unique gameplay was the best.
What makes the Minter games so special?
Well, he is a true and dedicated game programmer. Jeffs games
are complete. From intro to hi-score entry, his games are very
well programmed with a great attention to details. Even the
pause-screens are great to look at! (The one from 'Andes Attack'
features sprites and rasters!). And he is a very good programmer.
All his games feature dozens of sprites and still gameplay isn't
slowed down or anything. Rasters are all over the place as well
as the unique 'Yakky' sound effects. All his games are fast,
furious and come down to one thing: ultimate and hard-core
blasting until your eyes feel sore and you see pink sheep in your
Most of the games programmed by the (so-called) professional
software houses are the product of slick people in ties having
meetings about release dates, gameplay and design. Then they
instruct a programmer and he has to pull it off. So no time for a
nice high-score entry screen or a nice and variated intro or some
neat demos between levels.
But I think Jeff just programs a game with no-one on his back
and tries to make the best of it. When it works out, he sells it
for a very acceptable price. (£9,95 is very low for such high-
quality games). Also he has his own, unique style of programming.
I mean which other game has levels in which you have to collect
pink-floyd logo's and rescue falling Llama's? Which other game
calls you 'Earthslime' and lets you collect extra lives by
catching a hopping goat?
Yeah, and now you can play them on the ST. Both 'Andes Attack'
and 'Gridrunner' have been released and they are just amazing.
They are fully reviewed elsewhere in this issue, and I just have
to say that you have to BUY THEM NOW! They're fast, they're
colorful and just GREAT!
Loud knocking on my door disturbs my thoughts about camels. The
door swings open and a group of men with long hair, clad in furry
jackets with peace symbols on them, wearing sandals are standing
there, staring at my computer. I just broke my Gridrunner record
(516321) and the computer is displaying my 'ZZAPPPOZZAPPOBLAST!'
high-score entry. The leader (the one carrying the sheepy
earrings) slowly advances to my computer. Then he takes off his
glasses and polishes them carefully. After putting them on again
and studying the screen, he turns around and gestures to his
companions. They immediately burst out in loud chanting and all
bow to the floor. I think they are referring to mint sauce or
something but it completely baffles me. Then they turn around and
leave. When they are gone a sheep remains in my room, eying me
with large, ignorant eyes. I notice that it has a large 'radio-
active sign on its back. It bloats some and then starts munching
the covers of my bed. It has a collar with something written on
it. The collar it carries around its neck says: 'Gridrunner
Highscore Entry Idolatrizing Annual Herbal Tea Award'
Rumor has it that Jeff is planning on creating 'Attack of the
Mutant Camels. (Will this lead to 'Revenge of the Mutant
Camels'...PLEASE!!!). Boy, am I exited!! Also, I can't wait to
meet Jeff in July!! (Read the editorial)
ST zappers, the Minter games are here!!!
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.