Thursday 17 December 2015

2015 - The end of Psytronik? Or just the beginning?

Greetings Retro Chums!

Well, it must be said it's been an embarrasingly long time since I put finger to keyboard in order to update the Psytronik blog - almost TWO ENTIRE YEARS in fact!  Oh dear.  Fear not my friends, I'm alive and well and the cogs of the mighty Psytronik machine continue to turn, albeit at a slightly slower pace nowadays.  The reason for the lack of Blog posts and updates is all down to a lack of time on my part.

Basically, everything to do with Psytronik has to take place in my extremely limited spare time, so I'd rather dedicate that time to actually working on developing new Psytronik releases rather than spending time writing about them.  Interestingly, these sentiments are mirrored in this interesting and RARE (heh!) interview with Tim Stamper that appeared online in August 2015.

2015 has been an incredibly difficult year for Psytronik for one reason or another.  I've been hit with setback after setback, each one seemingly more insurmountable than the last.  But despite all this I've somehow managed to overcome each obstacle in turn and Psytronik still lives on as we march relentlessly on into 2016.  So to bring you up to speed I'll detail the lows and highs of the last year along with a retrospective look at the Psytronik releases for 2015 and a look ahead to what will be happening in 2016!

Let's start things off with the low-lights before we get to the good stuff.  The first massive obstacle that was thrown at me in 2015 was when the Binary Zone RetroStore ground to a stop in January 2015.  I suddenly started receiving a lot of worrying emails with the heading ALERT: PayPal Express Checkout Error which made me realise something had gone very wrong with the store.  It turns out PayPal had implemented a change in their payment system that required me to update the store software.  Not a huge problem you may think, just update the store and then business as usual ...  But this was not to be.  Despite all my best efforts and a LOT of headscratching the store software would NOT accept the update.  Even though the store itself updated with no problems it just flatly refused to import the original store database with all the customer details, past order info etc. etc.  After a while I then realised the only way to get around this would be to start again.  From scratch.  Completely.  Aaaargh!  So I duly installed the very latest store software and then began the arduous task of keying in every single Binary Zone / Psytronik product all over again.  Despite this being a huge incovenience (thanks a bunch, PayPal) it did give me the opportunity to have a good old clearout in the store and to also ensure all the relevent pictures / links / videos were working.  The store initially fell on it's ar*e on January 13th 2015 and I received the first order from the new store on Feb 5th 2015 so that's not a bad amount of down-time considering the size and complexity of the RetroStore.

With the Binary Zone store now up-and-running again it was the turn of the main Psytronik site to crash and burn in a scene reminiscent of the spectacular opening frames of the Terminal Man comic strip (Techno-Trivia: I actually own the original Oli Frey painting of this page which is currently hanging proudly on my lounge wall):-

The Arcadia crashes and burns in the Terminal Man comic
in a style similar to the Psytronik website in 2015!

It turned out the old Psytronik site framework I was using had "issues" and the only way to get around these problems was to rebuild the whole site.  From scratch.  Completely.  Aaaargh Pt II!  So yet again I had to laboriously recreate an entire website due to no fault of my own.  And yet again I used the opportunity to tidy up all the code on the site and to make sure all the relevant pics / links / videos were all up-to-date and functional.  This wasn't quite as urgent a task as the Binary Zone RetroStore as a placeholder page pointed people in the direction of all the Psytronik games in the BZ store so I took my time rebuilding the site.  The new Psytronik site is now fully operational and can be reached via the original URL or the new URL

The new, improved and fully operational Psytronik website
(Check out the snazzy fading banner / logo on the new site!)

The next spanner thrown in the works came in the form of the changes to the UK VAT laws regarding the purchase of digital downloads.  Digital downloads have always been a bit of a problem for me as my store software can't handle digital purchases automatically - so each time I received an order for a download I had to manually send the purchaser a link with the download.  Unfortunately, if I was away from my computer for whatever reason then there was a delay before the download link was sent out - which isn't good in this modern day and age when people are used to the download arriving straight away once they have made their purchase.  So as soon as these new fangled VAT changes were announced I decided to not get involved in the resulting admin nightmare and scrapped the digital downloads completely.  Ho hum.

The fourth (and thankfully final) setback of 2015 was when I attempted to re-stock the 5.25" disk cases that I use for the Psytronik Premium Range.  If you've followed the Psytronik blog in the past you will know what a struggle I had obtaining these cases (you can read the whole story HERE).  So you can imagine my dismay when I discovered that the company that manufactured the cases I use for the C64 disk releases had gone into liquidation and was dissolved in October 2014!  Aaaargh Pt III!  As they were the ONLY suppliers of these cases it pretty much meant the end of the Premium range.  As I had a limited amount of the cases remaining it meant I could keep Premium range running for a short time but now only a few Premium titles remain in stock and they won't be around for much longer.  So an alternative way of packaging disks had to be found (yet again!) - and the solution came in the form of A5 sized plastic cases, that were quite similar to the Premium cases - only slightly thinner and a bit taller.  This meant a redesign of the Psytronik disk artwork template to accommodate the new cases - and the result was the Premium+ range.  Three new releases are now available in the new style packaging, with another four to follow early in 2016.  Click HERE for details about the new Premium+ range.

Note for Premium Disk fans:  During the rebuild of the Psytronik site I bolted on a new INLAYS section that contains hi-res downloadable inlays for most of the original Premium Range titles.  This means that if you buy the budget disk from the BZ store, supply your own 5.25" case and print out the inlay you can make your very own Premium Edition of the game!

Despite 2015 being an incredibly difficult year for Psytronik it wasn't all doom and gloom however.  I still somehow managed to release five new titles for the Commodore 64 - which is the same number as releases I managed in the relatively trouble-free 2014.  So now let's take a look back at the year that was 2015 ... !

Rocket Smash EX

(Released on Feb 4th 2015)

Psytronik rocketed (heh!) into action in 2015 with some shooty fun in the form of Rocket Smash EX. Based on one of the ultimate jetpacking games known to man (if you know what I mean) the idea of the game is to assemble and fuel up your rocket ship while avoiding meanies that roam around each level.  Featuring excellent detailed graphics, catchy soundtracks, digitised speech and super-smooth gameplay this was a nice way to start the year - and was also the debut release for the new and improved Binary Zone RetroStore (for techno-buffs who are listening) and also the last game to be released in the original Premium Range.

Kung-Fu Maniacs Trilogy

(Released 2nd June 2015)

I'm a big fan of the Kung-Fu Maniacs games by Alf Yngve, they're packed with beat 'em up ACTION and a wry sense of humour to boot.  I wanted to do something special with their release on the C64 and what better way than to make them one of the debut releases in the new Premium+ range.  The larger plastic cases were perfect to showcase the fantastic Oliver Frey artwork that adorned the cover.  The compilation features all three Kung-Fu Maniacs games (the third of which is a two-parter complete with intro and end sequences!)  Richard Bayliss and Jon Wells provide the suitably oriental tunes that accompany each game and bitmap loading pics were pixelled for this release by Carl 'Mase' Mason and little old me.

(Released 2nd June 2015)

The second in the June release triple-whammy was the super-slick puzzler Gravitrix from Nils Hammerich.  Featuring a massive 120 levels to solve and some very smart visuals and sonics this was a very nice addition to the new Psytronik Premium+ range.  The artwork produced for the RGCD cartridge release was re-worked for the disk release and worked very nicely in the new taller plastic disk cases.


(Released 2nd June 2015)

The third C64 release in a very prolific month for Psytronik came in the form of X-Force from Richard Bayliss.  I was very impressed with this sideways scrolling shoot 'em up that from Richard and thought it was definitely worthy of a release on the Psytronik label.  The final release actually features THREE different versions of the game - a version with atmospheric soundtracks by FeekZoid, a slightly revamped version with pumping trance soundtracks from Richard and a 'crazy hack' edition that allows you to muck around with the game 'til your heart's content.  The cream on this particularly tasty cake came in the form of the stunning cover art from Oliver Frey.  Originally
featured in the ZX Spectrum game Delta Charge the shooty sci-fi action depicted in the artwork was perfect for the game and rounded off the package very nicely.  Carl Mason also supplied a new loading bitmap for the game based on the Oli Frey artwork and did a superb job converting the original pic into C64 pixels.  Top stuff!

Knight 'n' Grail Ultimate Edition

(Released 2nd November 2015)

2015 was rounded off in style with the release of the Knight 'n' Grail Ultimate Edition box set.  Knight 'n' Grail is one of my favourite ever Psytronik releases and is a game I always thought was worthy of more than just the standard disk release.  After a lot of work putting together the contents of the box set (it took a whole year to produce the huge map for the game alone!) I was very pleased with how the final package turned out.  It includes a soundtrack CD that contains all the music by Hans Axelsson from the games Knight 'n' Grail and Fairy Well along with a selection of preview tracks and 'musical sketches' to show how the C64 soundtracks evolved.  You also get some bonus tracks in the form of C64 demo tunes produced in the days when Hans was also known as TDM / Triad.  The box set also contains a stunning super-glossy A3 poster of the amazing artwork by Hakon 'Archmage' Repstad, a selection stickers, a neat pin badge and a double-sided KnG key-ring.  Packaged in a sturdy box with eye-catching front and rear stickers this is a must-have item for fans of Knight 'n' Grail.  Don't worry if you already own the game, it's available as an UPGRADE kit that features all the box-set goodies minus the actual game itself!  Only 100 of these LIMITED EDITION box sets have been produced so make sure you order yours before they are all snapped up!

So what does 2016 have in store for Psytronik Software?  Lots of great new releases, that's what! There were a few games that didn't quite make it out in 2015 so they will be available to order early in 2016 instead.  The first four releases for 2016 will be Super Carling the Spider, Jam It and Honey Bee for the C64, available on tape, budget disk and as Premium+ releases and Majesty of Sprites for the C16 + Plus/4 which will be available as a budget disk and Premium+ edition.  You will also be able to order the Premium+ version of Knight 'n' Grail on it's own - which will increase the Premium+ range to 8 releases in total!  I'm also pleased to announce the fantasic new C64 game HESSIAN by Cadaver (of Metal Warrior fame) will be getting a physical disk release from Psytronik in 2016.  I was so impressed with this game I'm even considering giving it the ULTIMATE EDITION box set treatment.  Trevor 'Smila' Storey has already produced some stunning artwork for the game which would look great as a poster - and as the game features some fantastic soundtracks then a soundtrack CD will definitely be happening.  The nifty arcade adventure EYE OF THE GODS will also be released for the C64 in 2016, sporting great artwork once again by Smila.  There's all this and MORE to look forward to in 2016 so please keep an eye on for updates.

And that's it for now!  A big thank you to everybody who has supported Psytronik in 2015 and for all your patience while waiting for the problems with the websites to be ironed out.  I'll TRY to update this blog more regularly but I won't make any promises as, like I said at the beginning, I'd rather spend my time actually working on new Psytronik releases, rather than writing about them.

Have fun, keep it RETRO and I'll see you all ... IN THE FUTURE!

Kenz / Psytronik 17/12/15

Sunday 12 January 2014

Psytronik Software - The 20 Year Celebration CDs!

Firstly, HAPPY NEW YEAR to all you lovely retro people out there!

To mark the 20th anniversary of Psytronik Software in 2013 I decided to put together a soundtrack CD featuring music from various Psytronik releases spanning the 20 year history of the software label.  While I was compiling a list of tracks to include on the CD I then had the idea to include the One Man & His Mic Psytronik Software Special podcast show on a second disk - which not only features tunes and remixes from various Psytronik titles but also includes waffle from little old me giving tasty titbits of info about each release.

Devoting the second CD to the 80 minute podcast show made choosing tracks for CD1 a little more difficult as I was determined not to replicate any tunes from CD2 on CD1 - which means you get 2 CDs filled with completely different tracks from lots of Psytronik titles.  And now for your entertainment and enjoyment I will detail all the tracks I specially selected for CD1 and will regail you with facts and trivia about the recordings I did for this special CD set.

01. Sceptre of Baghdad - In-Game (FeekZoid).

As CD2 features a superb REMIX of the Sceptre in-game tune I thought it would be nice to open CD1 with the original SID tune from the game.  I originally made this recording for The Epic Themes 2 CD (available from Binary Zone) but for this CD set I remastered the track and carefully went through the whole tune to eliminate any clicks, pops or filter clunks present in the original recording, leaving a smooth and crystal clear sounding recording.

02. Archetype - In-Game (FeekZoid).

This is a brand-new recording made using an 8580 SID chip (present in the newer C64C models).  I'm going through a phase of really liking the 8580 SID sound after hearing the recordings done by PVCF from his very own 8580 SID chip (I can heartily recommend his CD - My number is C64 - available from Binary Zone!)  Anyway, I listened to Archetype played through an 8580 chip and was impressed with the crisp, clean sound so that's the version I have featured on this CD.

03. PsykoZone - In-Game (Matt Simmonds).

I decided to include the cool in-game theme from PsykoZone on this CD as I am a huge fan of the Streethawk theme (which this is a cover of).  I also thought it would be nice to include this track as the (tricky!) game doesn't include a pause-mode so a lot of people may not have heard the track all the way through!  Techno-Trivia: An early release version of PsykoZone contained a shorter version of this track but this CD features the complete extended version from the final version of the game.

04. Sub Hunter - Loader (Maniacs of Noise).

The Maniacs of Noise produced a wonderful selection of soundtracks for this extremely popular C64 release so I was spoiled for choice for which tune to include.  As the title-tune for the game is featured on CD2 I decided to feature the loading tune on CD1.

05. Escape from Arth - Loader (Richard Bayliss).

Richard Bayliss has composed many fantastic tracks for Psytronik releases in the past so I wanted to highlight some of his work on this CD.  I really like his pounding loader theme for this game and recorded the tune from an 8580 SID to really emphasize the cool throbbing bass in the track.

06. Mayhem in Monsterland - Intro (Steve Rowlands).

Some classic bouncy SID music from Steve Rowlands here.  I thought it would be nice to include some C64 music from the game on CD1 as CD2 contains a rare track from an unreleased PC version of the game.

07. Joe Gunn - Title (Laxity).

This was an easy choice!  As CD2 contains the in-game theme from the game I decided to record the title tune for CD1.  I do like the Rob Hubbard-esque sounds that Laxity featured in the Joe Gunn C64 themes.

08. The Last Amazon - Intro (Tonka).

Here we have another brand-new recording done using an 8580 SID chip.  With this recording you can really here all the detail Tonka packed into his Matt Gray-esque intro theme - I love the sound effects in the atmospheric track that include jungle sounds, explosions and gunfire.

09. Knight 'n' Grail - Title / End (Hans Axelsson).

This is another popular Psytronik release and for CD1 I wanted to include a medley of tracks recorded from a real SID chip.  I decided to use the 8580 SID for these recordings as I figured a lot of people who had played the game on a real C64 would be used to hearing the soundtracks played from the more recent C64C model.  The 8580 filters work really well with this track - I just love that squidgy Ghosts 'n' Goblins style bassline!

10. The Wild Bunch - Title (Jon Wells).

Jon Wells delivered a superb suite of rootin' tootin' tunes for this release and did a great job in updating the beepy Spectrum music for the fantastic C64 release of this game.  The Wild Bunch was actually one of the first ZX Spectrum games I owned so I get very nostalgic when I play this game - which is why I'm very proud that it is now part of the Psytronik range.  I also had a great time making the cassette inlays for the C64 in authentic Firebird Software style.  The resulting C64 tape inlay is reversible so you get the 'classic' style inlay along with the more 'modern' Firebird style!

11. Oracle III - Perplexed Oracle (Tufan Uysal).

I love the soundtracks for this game - a great selection of ambient and atmospheric tracks that suit this puzzle game perfectly.  This is one of the tunes recorded by Tufan Uysal directly from his very own 8580 SID chip - so you can hear the tune exactly how the original musician intended it to be heard!

12. 2,000 Kung Fu Maniacs - Loader (Richard Bayliss).

I was really pleased with the quality of the games featured on the second Shoot 'Em Up Destruction Set compilation.  Once again Alf Yngve pushed the SEUCK editor way above and beyond it's usual constraints and Richard Bayliss delivered a belting selection of soundtracks for the releases featured in the pack.  For this CD I chose to record the loading tune from 2,000 Kung Fu Maniacs as I really like this catchy and bouncy oriental track.

13. Super Tau Zeta - Title (Richard Bayliss).

I couldn't resist sneaking another tune from SEUDS2 onto this CD as I love this massive powerhouse of a title tune from Richard.  Matt Gray-esque wibbles feature in this soundscape that evokes classic shoot 'em ups from yesteryear!

14. Soulless - In-Game (Mikkel Hastrup).

This track was originally recorded for the Soulless companion CD-ROM (and a rare promo audio CD) and is the FULL in-game tune from the game. Mikkel composed an excellent selection of soundtracks for Soulless and for this CD I chose the in-game tune that accompanies you on your quest.  It's a catchy, playful and atmospheric tune that drives you on while remaining unobtrusive while you play.  Great stuff!

15. Redrunner - Title (Glenn Rune Gallefoss).

As this tune begins with sampled speech I had to record this old-skool stylie from an original 6581 SID chip.  The tune is a superb swirly echoey piece from Glenn with a really catchy hook to it - but don't take my word for it, listen to it with your ears!

16. Assembloids - Title (Owen Crowley).

There was only one way to record the quirky title track from this game - only the 8580 SID can clearly perform the intricate sounds featured in the title tune!  I was very pleased with the resulting recording which successfully captures the original theme in all it's detail.  Techno-Trivia:-  This unusual title tune is actually a very accurate conversion of the music from the original PC game 'Quartet' - which you can play online HERE.

17. Guns 'n' Ghosts - Loader (Richard Bayliss).

Once again Richard Bayliss has donned his Matt Gray hat for this fabulous loading theme from the tape version of the game.  I decided to include this track as it's not featured on the disk version so a lot of people may have missed hearing this one.

18. Sir Ababol - Loader (Linus).

I really like the Mojon Twins compilation that was released by Psytronik, it was a fun release to work on (I designed the tape / disk / cartridge artwork) and the games featured in the pack are great quality.  For this CD I chose to record one of the loader tunes from Sir Ababol, a medieval tune featuring soft bass and pleasant harpsichord style sounds.

19. Cops - The Final Chapter - Title (Richard Bayliss).

Yet another belting title track from Richard Bayliss here.  The punchy tune jumps straight into action with police sirens and dynamic sounds with a propulsive main theme.  The Ultimate Cops compilation was one of my favourite releases for 2013 as it featured stunning artwork by Oliver Frey - and it has always been one of my ambitions to feature Oli Frey artwork in a Psytronik release!

20. Super Carling the Spider - In-Game (Joe Dixon).

Here's your chance to hear a sneaky peek from a 2014 Psytronik Release.  Joe Dixon has been busy updating his popular VIC-20 release Carling the Spider for the C64 and has not only retained all the playability from the original release but has improved on the original game as well!  Joe has composed the soundtracks for the game himself and this is the impressive in-game theme from the as-yet-unreleased C64 version of the game.

21. The Vice Squad - Montage (Linus).

I love the Tim Follin-esque soundtracks that Linus composed for The Vice Squad!  So much so I couldn't decide which track to include on the CD, so I went for a montage instead.  The resulting track includes the title, in-game and game over tunes from the game - a great way to round off the CD!

CD2 - One Man & His Mic - The Psytronik Software Special.

This CD features the full 80 minute podcast show that I devoted to Psytronik Software and produced in January 2011.  The CD contains music from various Psytronik releases from Sceptre of Baghdad up to and and including Hyper Viper.  This CD is different to CD1 as it contains a number of cool Psytronik game music remixes, tunes inspired by Psytronik games along with music recorded from various computer systems including the C64, Commodore Plus/4, Amstrad CPC and PC!

The CD has been pressed using the original WAV recording I made of the show so it is actually better quality than the original mp3 podcast show.  I have also added CD track indexes so you can now skip straight to each tune featured in the show.

There's no need for me to detail the tunes on this CD as you can hear me talk about each track on the CD itself using my actual voice!!  Here's a list of the tracks featured on CD2:-

01. Sceptre of Baghdad Intro (DJ Skitz)
02. The Sceptre of Nu Baghdad (Kate Z)
03. Archetype - FZ vs JMJ Remix (FeekZoid)
04. Nukenin & The Ronin Title (TMR) [C64]
05. PsykoZone Intro (FeekZoid) [C64]
06. Sub Hunter Title (Maniacs of Noise) [C64]
07. Escape from Arth Title (FeekZoid) [C64]
08. Mayhem in Monsterland Title (Tonka) [PC]
09. Creatures Remix (Infamous)
10. Creatures 2 Redux (Infamous)
11. Joe Gunn in-game (Laxity) [C64]
12. Armalyte Loader (Martin Walker) [C64]
13. The Path Of Destiny - Knight 'n' Grail Subtune #2 (Project N.A.)
14. Knight 'n' Grail - Good Ending Orchestral Mix (Hans Axelsson)
15. The Last Amazon Title Tune (Richard Bayliss) [C64]
16. The Wild Bunch (Jon Wells) [C64]
17. Star Sabre In-Game Tune (Targhan) [Amstrad CPC]
18. Armalyte PC Title Tune (Infamous) [PC]
19. Adventures in Time (Luca / Fire) [Plus/4]
20. City Bomber - KateZoid Fusion Mix (Kate Z)
21. Sub Hunter CPC (Herve Monchatre) [Amstrad CPC]
22. HyperViper (Jamie Howard) [C64]
23. Sceptre of Baghdad Outro (DJ Skitz)

The 2CD set is presented with professionally printed full colour artwork featuring a montage I designed to celebrate 20 years of Psytronik releases (with a nice '20 Years' logo by Smila!)  The CD contains a reversible front inlay containing game artwork on one side and loading screens from various Psytronik releases on the reverse.  The CDs feature full-colour on-body artwork and the packaging is rounded off with a card obi-strip.

The Psytronik Software 20 Years 2CD set is now available in the Binary Zone Retro Store.

Thanks for reading, see you IN THE FUTURE!

Kenz / Psytronik 9/1/2014

Monday 26 August 2013

Flubble & Squij - Scratching a 20-year old itch!

Greetings fellow Retronauts!

As part of the Psytronik Software 20 Year celebrations I have recently dusted off and released a game that has been languishing in the not-quite-properly-released void since around 1994.  The game is a C64 title called Flubble & Squij - a cutesy arcade platformer that was originally produced by Damian Steele & Kevin Murphy back in the day - and then a modified version was produced by Jon Wells for the Psytronik release - which never quite happened.  Want to know how come?  Then read on!

When Flubble & Squij was initially submitted to Psytronik Software I was impressed with the game with it's fast, smooth gameplay and cute graphics.  The only problem with this version was that the music for the game was made up of the demo songs from the Ubik's Music editor - which may have caused problems with them being featured in a commercial release.

To get around this problem I asked Jon Wells if he could install soundtracks by FeekZoid into the game.  This led to the idea of enhancing the game slightly for the Psytronik release.  Jon added some raster splits to the game to give the levels more colours, altered the main Flubble sprite to make him look more like a dragon and changed some of the in-game sprites.

The problem with the revised version of the game is that some of the cuteness of the original was lost somewhere along the way.  This wasn't helped by the choice of in-game tune which was a tad surreal sounding!  I ended up being torn as which version I actually preferred as I liked the overall cleaner look of the original version, but Jon had also done some nice work with the enhanced version - and had also produced artwork for the Psytronik release of the game featuring the new dragon style Flubble character.

The unused Flubble & Squij artwork by Jon Wells

The result of this dilemma left poor little Flubble in limbo - and while all this to-ing and fro-ing was happening back in 1994 all wasn't going well for Psytronik.  The release of the third Psytronik title The Shoot 'Em Destruction Set was, to be quite honest, pretty disastrous.  Despite an excellent review in Commodore Format (earning the release a very respectable 90%) the compilation literally only sold a handful of copies.  In fact, I can remember giving away more copies as compo prizes for a CF compo than I sold in the end.  As a result of this, coupled with the uncertainty of which version of Flubble to go with, Psytronik Software was laid to rest until it rose once again, like a great fiery Phoenix in 2008!

A mockup of how Flubble & Squij may have looked
if it was released by Psytronik in 1994

So where did this leave poor old Flubble?  I think by this time the game creators had given up on the game having a proper commercial release so instead the original version was released into the public domain as a Shareware title.  The enhanced version kind of vanished into obscurity ...  But for all these years Flubble has been niggling at the back of my mind.  In my opinion the game was definitely worthy of a proper release - and that's a fact I had not forgotten until ...

Flash forward to 2013!!

 Behold ... THE FUTURE!  This is where we live now ... (kinda)

And so here we are ... IN THE FUTURE!  After realising the Psytronik label has been kicking around for the last 20 years I had a think about things to do for the anniversary.  And that's when Flubble popped into my mind.  Now that I am able to do nice glossy colour artwork for Psytronik releases I thought it would be a cool idea to FINALLY give the game the properly packaged release it always deserved.  So I dug out the original two versions of the game and puzzled over which version should be released - and that's when I had a brainwave!  Why not release BOTH versions in the same package?!  So simple it's brilliant!  I sent the original version off to Richard Bayliss who concocted suitably jolly soundtracks for the game - replacing the old Ubik's Music that hampered the original release.  I also found the original artwork that Jon Wells produced for the Psytronik release.  I began work digitally restoring the artwork and produced a vectorized version to use for the packaging.

But that's when Flubble's journey took ANOTHER unexpected turn!  Realizing the original artwork was now looking a bit dated when compared to the more recent Psytronik releases I sent the pic to Trevor 'Smila' Storey to see if he could come up with something new.  The image he sent back was so darned cute it just HAD to be used!!  The only problem now was that I had already sent the original artwork to Carl 'Mase' Mason for him to base the loading bitmap on - and he had already almost finished the pic!  Luckily, he very kindly agreed to do a second bitmap screen, this time based on the new Smila design.  And this meant I had two lovely loading bitmaps, one for each version of the game!!

The never-released 1994 version of Flubble & Squij with the
'ermagherd, it has finally been released' 2013 version!

So with new artwork, new music, new loading screens and new tape masters + disk menu (expertly handled by Richard Bayliss) Flubble & Squij was FINALLY ready for a proper release after all these years - and the niggling itch at the back of my mind about not releasing it in the first place is now gone!

The original 1993 - 1994 Psytronik tape releases
along with the 2008 - 2013 new versions.

Flubble & Squij is now available in the Binary Zone RetroStore on C64 tape and disk!

Thanks for reading!

Kenz / (29/7/13)

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Psytronik Software supports 'Made in Creative UK'

An interesting initiative has recently been launched by Blitz Games Studios designed to raise awareness of the economic and cultural contribution of the UK games sector to the global games industry.

As both Binary Zone Interactive and Psytronik Software have been supporting the UK gaming scene for 20 years now we are more than happy to support this idea and have joined a growing number of software developers and publishers in this scheme.

You will see the Made in Creative UK logo appearing on various Psytronik releases in the future.  For more information and to see who else is supporting the scheme head on over to the Made in Creative UK website.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Psytronik @ Revival 2013

Greetings Retro Chums!

The first Retro event that I attended this year was the rather marvellous REVIVAL 2013, a two day Retrothon organised by my good chum Chris 'Boyo' Wilkins and Craig Turner from Turnarcades Custom Arcade Machines.  I had previously attended the 'Retro Ball' that was also organised by Chris which I thoroughly enjoyed so I was looking forward to seeing what Chris & Craig had cooked up for Revival 2013.

For more deets head over to

For the event I decided to take two complete systems to display on the Binary Zone / Psytronik stand.  The first of which is the much photographed / slightly controversial / often commented on SPECADORE 64 - Which is basically a C64C with a custom paint-job to make it look like a Sinclair machine.  The simple story behind this beastie is that the keys and case on my old C64C went a horrible yellow colour over time so I gave it a black re-spray, swapped over the keyboard for an original Breadbin C64 keyboard and even added a little raised 'Sinclair' logo (+ Speccy style colour stripes) to the case using a craft-knife and oodles of patience.

The mighty SPECADORE 64 - Behold its beauty!

The second machine I took along was the Commodore 64X - Which is one of those PC's-in-a-C64 style case courtesy of the now defunct Commodore USA.  As it's basically an all-in-one PC it's handy for running emulators along with PC remakes of retro games.  Playing the PC remake of Armalyte on a remake of the Commodore 64 using a USB remake of the Competition Pro joystick is a bit of a treat, I can tell ya!

Roll up!  Roll up!  Get yer retro goodies here!!

With the Kenzimobile loaded up with my kit and a box of Binary Zone / Psytronik stock I zzoomed along the M6 to sunny Wolverhampton.  It's actually quite a short journey from the Zone to the venue so I made good time getting there and was soon setting up my bits and bytes on the table that Chris had allocated for me.  The venue itself was great - lots of room and different areas to explore.  There were literally TONS of retro machines, arcade cabs and pinball machines already set up so I had some fun checking them out before the event properly began.

So many awesome arcade cabs to play!

One of the (many) highlights of Revival  2013 was seeing the Fix It Felix Jnr arcade cab that was right opposite my stand.  In fact, one of my favourite memories from Revival 2013 was watching a guy playing the game who was obviously completely smitten by the machine.  He was on it for AGES, then he was taking photos of it, and then he was on his phone to somebody excitedly telling them about it.  Bless!

I'm gonna WRECK IT!!

Other highlights of the weekend include chatting with various chums from the homebrew & retro scene including Boyo, Chris Abbott & Tanya (with their adopted Thing on a Spring), Steve 'STE'86' Day, Richard Bayliss, Jason Kelk, Andy from RCM, Stu from Ovine, Oliver Frey & Roger Kean, Max Hall & Jackie, the RV gang (including nudie Bane o_O!), the guys from OCEAN, the Cosplay girls (Amy & Georgie) and of course, everyone who came up to my stand to talk RETRO!

Some more of the attractions at Revival 2013! ;)

All in all, I really enjoyed my weekend at Revival.  It was well organised, the Retro Lords did a fine job compering and a nice touch was Craig going around asking the exhibitors if everything was okay and if they needed anything - it's the little things like that which make a difference!  The only slight downer was when I discovered my ZipStick joystick was missing from my stand on Sunday morning which meant nobody would be able to play on the Specadore that day - but the RCM chaps stepped in a lent me a joystick which solved that problem - and then, my joystick was actually returned to me later that day thanks to it having my name and details on a sticker on the bottom - nice one!

To get a taste of Revival 2013 have a look at the video below - you can see me at 2:53 giving a little wave to the camera and again at 4:23 having some fun with the Cosplay girls - *grin!*!

Thanks for reading!  See you ...  At a future Retro event, hopefully!

Kenz /

Monday 27 May 2013

ULTIMATE COPS - A new games compilation for the C64!

Greetings fellow Retronauts!

For this blog entry I will be focusing on a new game compilation for the C64 that is now almost ready for release.  ULTIMATE COPS will feature four complete COPS games by Alf Yngve - along with two bonus COPS games - one of which is a brand new release and one is a previously unreleased game.  Here's how this collection of games came about ...

They are the LAAAAW!

Back in the early 1990's Alf Yngve released a game for the C64 called COPS.  A slightly modified and improved version of the game (Cops V.2) followed soon after.   This game caught the attention of a lot of people with it's detailed and superbly animated sprites and nicely designed backgrounds.  After the release of Cops V.2, Alf was definitely 'one to watch' and he did not disappoint with his subsequent games that proved to be very popular and he was constatntly impressing gamers with his ability to think outside the confines of the SEUCK editor.

The original classic - now with a slick new front-end!

A sequel to COPS soon followed and continued the adventures of Mike 'Mad Dog' Mctavish and Singh 'Big Bang' Kapoor.  This time the Cops were taking a well earned vacation from all the crime in Euro-City - but crime never takes a holiday and soon our heroes found themselves battling villains at their holiday resort!  Holiday Cops features a slightly different graphical style to the original (including more nicely drawn locations) and some dangerous situations for the Cops including a tricky boat section!

Crime never takes a vacation - but fortunately,
neither do the COPS!

The third COPS game was produced at around the same time the first Jurassic Park movie was released.  In order to grab a slice of the dino-mania the movie generated at the time the game features a 'Dino-Land' section in the the game with assorted dinosaurs giving chase to the Cops!  Other locations include a bank vault and airport section.  This game was originally bundled with the Psytronik release of the Alf Yngve game Archetype and featured a new front added by the C64 demo crew Xentrix.

The previously unseen Cops III artwork - how much action in one pic?!

In 2012 Alf decided to produce his biggest and most ambitious COPS game yet.  COPS: The Final Chapter concludes the story of Mike 'Mad Dog' Mctavish and Singh 'Big Bang' Kapoor.  For the final part of the saga the Cops are brought out of retirement in order to rescue the kidnapped Pope (!) and take on a multitude of baddies along the way.  Alf really pulled out all the stops for this game which features separate (pseudo-interactive) intro and end sequences and some clever level designs including an amazing exploding bridge section!

Get to the CHOPPAH!

When Alf told me he was working on a fourth Cops game I thought it would be a nice idea to bundle all the Cops games together into one compilation - and that's when I came up with the idea for ULTIMATE COPS.  Rather than release the games in their original form the games have all been specially enhanced for this 2013 release.  The first two Cops games now feature brand-new front-end designs coded by Richard Bayliss with graphics by Steve 'STE'86' Day.  I decided to tackle the redesign for Cops III myself in order to move away from the (still impressive) demo-style front-end of the original release to a design that more closely matches the other games in the pack.

COPS III - Complete with new front-end and new soundtracks!  Rarr!

The artwork for the ULTIMATE COPS compilation is rather special - and there's a little story to how this came about.  A while ago I decided to digitally restore the cover of Zzap!64 issue 1 so I could hang a big print of the cover on my wall.  As part of this restoration process I managed to remove the text and Zzap! logo from the cover and painted in the missing sections on the picture underneath - which left a fully restored version of the Oliver Frey 'Elite' painting.  A few years later Oliver Frey and Roger Kean got to see my restored Elite picture and they were so impressed with my work they asked if they could sell it on in return for a royalty payment.  Rather than receive royalties I asked if I could use an existing Oliver Frey design as the artwork for a Psytronik release - and they agreed!

I was working on ULTIMATE COPS at the time and while I was perusing the various designs on Oliver's site I spotted the painting he had created for Chase HQ II (featured as the cover for Zzap! 64 issue #68).  I figured this would be PERFECT for ULTIMATE COPS as the game begins with you in the back of a red car shooting at motorbikes - and there's a helicopter later in the game.  Oliver & Roger sent me a gorgeous hi-res print to work with and I set to work fitting the artwork into the Psytronik template.  The pressure was on to create a logo that would compliment the amazing artwork, but I was happy with the first design I came up with and that's the one I went with in the end.

Oli Frey artwork on a Psytronik release!  Awesome!!

To round off the compilation brand new bitmap loading screens have been produced for the games.  Carl 'Mase' Mason has done a superb job with the new loading screens for Holiday Cops, Cops III and Cops:The Final Chapter - which is a stunning conversion of the Oli Frey cover artwork.

ULTIMATE COPS will be released on C64 tape, disk and as a DELUXE download in June 2013.

Thanks for reading, and remember, WINNERS DON'T DO DRUGS! (Er, unless you are Charlie Sheen).

Kenz /

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Jon Wells - C64 Classix available on tape, disk + digital download!

Greetings retro chums!

To tie in with the first bundle of Psytronik games to be released on the iPhone I also released a C64 disk version of the pack designed to be played on real C64 hardware.  Jon Wells C64 Classix (Volume 1) contains the full versions of Sceptre of Baghdad, Escape from Arth (the 2008 Special Edition), Blitz 2000, Blitz 3000 and a specially enhanced version of Shaolin (now entitled Shaolin+, with revamped controls and a new end sequence).

The compilation was originally designed to be a DISK ONLY release as I didn't have bitmap loading screens for the tape versions.  That was until Carl Mason stepped in and offered to produce new loading screens for the games - and he did a stunning job with them too!

Hiyaa!  Bruise Lei prepares to open a can of whupass on the C64!

Having bitmap screens for all the games meant I could go ahead with a tape release as well and, thanks to the mastering skills of Richard Bayliss, the tape versions are now available!  Shaolin+ and the Blitz games also feature cool loading tunes plucked from the SID archives of FeekZoid.

The chances of anything coming from Mars ...
... Are NIL - if you bomb their colonies into oblivion!
And that's not all!  I'm also pleased to announce that the C64 version of the compilation is also now available as a DIGITAL DOWNLOAD!  The special download bundle includes the .tap (tape) versions (complete with the splendid new loading bitmaps and funky FeekZoid choons), .d64 (disk) versions and, due to popular demand, .prg versions of all the main game files - these can be run in devices like the IDE64 and other similar devices.

The tape, budget + premium disk and digital download versions of Jon Wells C64 Classix Vol.1 are NOW AVAILABLE from the Binary Zone RetroStore and will soon also be available for the C64 emulator on iOS devices courtesy of our friends at Manomio.