Wednesday, 21 December 2011

That was the year that was ... 2011!

Greetings Programs!

Well, now that 2011 has been stuffed into the bin with all the Chrissy wrapping paper and turkey leftovers and I'd like to start this blog entry by sending a massive THANK YOU to everyone who has helped and supported Psytronik Software in 2011. I'm hugely grateful to everyone who has written or helped out with a Psytronik release, and of course, to everyone who bought a Psytronik game this year ... It takes a whopping amount of my (very limited!) spare time to run Psytronik Software but I don't mind as it's just so darned satisfying to see a release come together and appear in the BZ store in all it's lovingly packaged glory. It's also great fun putting together packages for eager retro fans as I know how cool it is to receive a shiny new game for your fave computer, rip off the shrink-wrapping and load it for some retro gaming fun!

Anyway, that's quite enough back-slapping and hugging for now. Now lets take a look at the Psytronik releases from 2011 complete with thoughts and musings about each one plucked directly from my addled brain type device:-

1,000 Kung-Fu Maniacs (C64) (12th Feb)

The first Psytronik release to bolt out of the starting gate for 2011 was the amusing Alf Yngve beat 'em up romp 1,000 Kung-Fu Maniacs. Once again Alf managed to push SEUCK in all sorts of directions that it wasn't designed to go and using cunning design and some ingenius tricks he actually managed to coax a scrolling beat 'em up out of an editor designed for shoot 'em ups! The combination of wacky storyline, tongue in cheek humour and cartoony graphics resulted in a pretty darned nifty release. Richard Bayliss also assisted by bolting on a new front-end and plumbing in some in-game power-ups and the cream on this particularly yummy cake were the oriental soundtracks that were specially composed for the game by Jon Wells. My only teeny niggly regret with this release is I didn't have the chance at the time to do a loading bitmap for the game - but I made up for this when the sequel to this game came along, but more about that later in this blog entry!

Sub Hunter (Amstrad CPC) (13th Feb)

The incredible Amstrad CPC conversion of Sub Hunter was one of my favourite Psytronik releases in 2011. I've always had a soft spot for the Amstrad CPC computer so I was really pleased to be able to release some Amstrad games thanks to the awesome skills of CPC programmer Paul Kooistra. I had a great time working with Paul during the development of Sub Hunter and was absolutely blown away by the quality of the completed game. Paul had managed to squeeze almost every single feature from the C64 game into the Amstrad version (including that stunning parallax scrolling) - and in some places he even managed to IMPROVE on the original C64 game! Herve Monchatre also did a superb job in converting the music from the C64 version onto the Amstrad. And the amazing thing about the CPC version of Sub Hunter? It was all crammed into just 64K!

AutoCross Racing (PC) (13th Feb)

AutoCross Racing is a fun PC release for Psytronik that came together REALLY quickly! I'm a huge fan of top-down racing games (I used to play loads of them on the Amiga) and as soon as I saw footage of the game in action I knew it would make a great Psytronik release - and I wasn't wrong, the actual game itself is a total hoot to play and is jam-packed with neat options. The game was produced for the PC by Kevin Murphy who I already knew from the C64 game Flubble & Squij - that very nearly got a Psytronik release back in the 1990s. Anyway, it took just over a week from seeing a video of the game to having a fully packaged Psytronik version of the game ready to go! Mat 'Preferred Image' Recardo also helped out with this release by rendering some action-packed artwork that was used for the packaging.

Sheepoid (C64) (1st June)

Sheepoid is a psychedelic shooter from Richard Bayliss in which you control two Sheepoid units defending the universe from a variety of weird and wonderful attackers from the beyond the Neon Vortex ... Or something! The game was inspired by Lazer Zone - by the hairy hero Jeff Minter and I thought it would be good fun to release the game in some rather colourful Psytronik packaging at the RetroVision event ... And it was at RV that I finally got to meet Richard in person for the first time ever - and a jolly nice chap he is too. STE'86 (Steve Day) delivered a gorgeous loading bitmap and Mat Recardo produced the superb cover design. This was based on artwork by Alf Yngve that was originally produced for a Jeff Minter themed edition of my old Commodore Zone mag that was never produced in the end. It was just a shame Jeff himself didn't turn up to the event to see the game ... Baaa!

Hyper Viper (C64) (24th June)

This was the debut release from programmer Jamie Howard. The game is a nice conversion of the original MSX version and not only featured everything from the original game but also included additional features as well. This was an interesting release for Psytronik as it was the first game to feature properly licensed music (the title tune is a cover of AM180 - as featured in the movie 28 Days Later). STE'86 produced a jolly loading screen for the game and Smila produced the eye-catching box art. All in all, a fun retro-style release and a great debut title from Jamie. I just hope he gets around to completing his C64 conversion of the MSX game Polar Star as that looked absolutely belting!

Shoot 'Em Up Destruction Set 2 (C64) (9th November)

Here's another of my fave Psytronik releases from 2011. As Alf Yngve is so darned prolific it can be tricky keeping up with all the cool C64 titles he keeps producing so I came up with the idea of releasing another compilation of his games - which is a great way to quickly get a bevy of his titles into the Psytronik range (and to offer extra value for money for all you lovely retro fiends!) I then thought it would be cool to make the compilation a sequel to the first SEUDS compilation - and to present the games with similar artwork to the original. For SEUDS 2 I chose two unreleased games from the Psytronik back-catalogue (Bloodwheels & Trojahn), a recent side-ways scrolling shooter (Super Tau-Zeta) and the brand new game 2,000 Kung-Fu Maniacs. Richard Bayliss did an absolutely superb job enhancing the games with power-ups, special effects, new front-end presentation and music etc., I worked with STE'86 on the loading screens (we produced two bitmaps each) and I also produced logos for 2,000 KFM, Bloodwheels & Trojahn. Interestingly, Alf was so impressed with the bitmap that Steve produced for Trojahn that he revamped the game completely to bring it up to a similar standard. I'm also very pleased that I got to make up for my lack of input on 1,000 Kung-Fu Maniacs by producing the loading screen and front-end logo for its sequel. As well as handling all the tape masters for SEUDS 2, Richard also worked wonders with the disk menu - which was done in the same style as the original SEUDS menu but with a re-worked bitmap screen ... And if all that wasn't enough, SEUDS 2 also featured a complete extra game as well - the excellent Forbidden Forest inspired game Forgotten Forest ... Bonus!

Oracle III (C64) (18th December)

The final Psytronik release for 2011 which just managed to get into the BZ store before the end of the year (albeit on a pre-order basis) was ORACLE III. This was one of those releases that started off simply enough with the idea to release a previously unreleased - but completed - puzzle game on the Psytronik label. It then got totally more elaborate with brand new ambient soundtracks being composed for the game, a soundtrack CD being bundled in with it (featuring recordings done from the composers own SID chip) and the whole thing being re-compressed to use less disk-space (oh, and the Psytronik logo was bolted onto the loading screen as well). Mat Recardo once again came up trumps (chortle!) with some excellent rendered cover-art that nicely depicted the in-game action. Oracle III was a great way to round off 2011 and it was great to add a different style of game to the Psytronik catalogue.


In last blog entry I mentioned that Psytronik was going to be exhibiting at the REPLAY EXPO in Blackpool ... I bet you are all BUSTING to know how I got on at the show aren't you? Well, here's how it all went ... I was initially unsure as to whether I would attend the 2011 show as it would involve a 300 mile round-trip and it was all a bit of an unknown for me as I missed the first REPLAY show in 2010. I received a nice call from Dave Moore (one of the show organisers) that convinced me I should come along and everything else seemed to click into place at just the right time. On the Friday before the event I loaded up my mighty silver Mondeo and set a course for Blackpool. The Journey to the event was actually easy-peasy. I'm not usually a fan of the M6 but once you get past Birmingham it's plain-sailing all the way to Blackpool. 157 miles later (I know it was that far as I reset my mileometer just as I set off) I was standing outside the Norbreck Castle - the venue for REPLAY! I had a quick recce of the place to get my bearings and chatted to a few familar faces before I checked in at my hotel - the lovely Poldhu - which is literally 100 yards away from the venue. I then headed back to the Norbreck and bumped into Vintage Matt from RetroVision and somehow accidentally (heh!) ended up in a pub type environment with lots of the RV peeps - and a very nice evening of stout imbibing and pub japes ensued followed by a tasty CURRY. I had arrived!

The Specadore 64 got a lot of attention at REPLAY!

Saturday!! After nomming a tasty cooked brekkie at the Poldhu Hotel (served up by the Yoda-esque lady there) I headed to the Norbreck to set up my Psytronik table. I was situated next to my good chum Jason 'TMR' Kelk (he of the Retro Gamer Homebrew section fame) so it was great to be able to have a natter with him. I took a slightly scaled-down setup to REPLAY as I wasn't sure how much room I would have - so I only had two systems to set up. The first of which was the crowd-pleasing SPECADORE 64 - which is always popular at these events - and the second system was my shiny new COMMODORE 64x - which is the new PC-in-a-C64-style-case ... I planned to run emulators and Psytronik promo videos on the C64x, as well as the PC remake of Armalyte - which is awesome being played with a retro style joystick (a USB Competition Pro) running on a C64 style PC! The Specadore 64 featured the recently-released conversion of Prince of Persia running from an EasyFlash cart that I had literally received a few days before the event. This gave people the chance to play the stunning C64 conversion of the game on REAL hardware. I also demonstrated some new Psytronik releases including SEUDS 2 - with 2,000 Kung-Fu Maniacs being a highlight as it caused much mirth with its amusing power-ups (poodle attack!) The Psytronik stand was in the entrance area of the event (not in the main hall) so everyone attending REPLAY would have to pass me at some point! This meant there were plenty of people throughout the day going past so I had lots of interest in the Psytronik goodies that were on display. I ventured into the main hall at various times throughout the day and was blown away by the size of the event. It ... was ... HUGE! I've attended a LOT of retro events in the past but this was easily the biggest I've ever seen - a mindscrambling array of arcade cabs, retro & modern systems and pinball machines were available to be played on (if you could figure out how to get the freeplay arcade cabs to start!), there were impressive stands set up by various sponsors and retro selling peeps, HUGE screens showing what was going on, lots of Cosplayers, boothbabes and various heroes from the retro scene (Jeff Minter!! Oli Frey!!), it really was an incredible sight - it wasn't like any other retro event I'd been to, it was a proper EXPO! In the evening I headed along to an aftershow gig at another hotel that featured SID 80's (minus MadFiddler, sadly). Unfortunately, this was hampered by a massively overlong quiz, hugely expensive drinks and awful acoustics. The day was rounded off with a bazillion mile walk into town with various peeps to a restaurant that didn't exist. So an emergency kebab was duly purchased while we were amused at the shouty drunken antics of the skimpily dressed girls in the middle of Blackpool on a freezing Saturday night in November. And a classy bunch they certainly were! ;)

Me 'n' Yak!

Sunday!! Hangover part 2, and a room smelling of cold kebab (it was cold when I ate the bloody thing!) Another lovely cooked brekkie was served up by Mrs Yoda - I loved the way I came down to brekkie and she shuffled next door to bring it to me, already prepared! And as it was beautifully sunny outside I had a nice walk along the sea-front to clear my head and enjoyed some moments of zen-like calm before heading over to the Norbreck for REPLAY DAY 2! My second day at REPLAY started out pretty much the same as the first - but I was determined to PLAY MORE GAMES so did spend a lot more time in the main hall on Sunday. I also recruited Vintage Matt to be my camera co-pilot at one point and we went on a most excellent mission to get photographed with as many cosplayers and girls on the stands as possible. Our mission was very successful I'm pleased to say! All in all, I really enjoyed my time at REPLAY. As well as being a cracking event I knew loads of people there so there was always someone I could chat to and everyone else I met was friendly and seemed to be having a good time. One thing that amused me about the Psytronik stand was that a lot of people didn't actually notice the C64x as at a glance it looks just like and old breadbin style C64 - the Specadore 64 got a LOT more attention than the latest addition to the Commodore range ... ! There wasn't really much about REPLAY that I *didn't* like. I did notice an odd musty pong in one of the side-rooms near to where the talks were being held (a few people noticed this, apparently), the after-show gig on Saturday was a bit naff - although we did our best to liven that up with some incredible "free-form darncing" - Ben Daglish was most impressed with our efforts! I couldn't get a look-in on the Pinball machines - they were in constant use each time I went past them - and quite a few of the arcade machines seem to require some magical trickery to get them going, but these are minor niggles only and didn't spoil my enjoyment of the event one iota.

Me - In my natural environment. :)

And that pretty much sums it up for REPLAY. Would I go again? Definitely! I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and it was definitely worth the 300 mile round-trip. A massive YO! to all the people I met and spoke to at the event (far too many to list here), I look forward to seeing you all again in 2012! You can view a selection of photos I took at the event by clicking the link below:-

Thanks for reading!

Kenz /