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.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The latest Psytronik news for February 2013


Firstly, a mahoosive apology for the lack of blog updates since March (!) 2012.  I must have fallen through a time / space / beer vortex to suddenly end up in 2013 without having put finger to keyboard to update all you awesome beings on what has been happening in the world of Psytronik Software.  Sorry about that chums & chumettes - life managed to get in the way of my retro shenanigans for a while, but fear not, there has been plenty of cool stuff happening on the Psytronik front recently, so without further agadoo, here's what's been going down in my retrotown!

No news is good news!

Well, kind of!  The first main change for the Psytronik website in 2013 is that I've decided to remove the news section from the site.  The reason for this decision is that from now on I will be featuring all the latest Psytronik news in this here blog.  This means that you will get a lot more blog updates from now on and the main site will no longer feature an oft-neglected news page.  So it's a win-win for all you lovely retro people out there (and a bit less work for little old me - *grin!*)

Psytronik C64 releases now on iPhone / iPad!

The good news for all you owners of new-fangled iPhone / iPad devices is that you can now enjoy Psytronik C64 goodliness on your shiny tech thanks to our friends at Manomio.  All you need to do is grab yourself a copy of the C64 Emulator from the App Store and you will straight away be able to play Psytronik / RGCD releases like Sub Hunter, Get 'Em Deluxe and Green / Redrunner for FREE!  A brand-new Jon Wells Psytronik bundle is also available to buy featuring FIVE full games!  The pack contains Sceptre of Baghdad, Blitz 2000, Shaolin+, Blitz 3000 and Escape from Arth (2008 Special Edition) - all for just 69p in total!  BARG!

Sceptre of Baghdad running on the iPad?  You betcha!

Three new C64 releases for February 2013!

The New Year has got off to a great start here at the Psytronik HQ as there are THREE new C64 releases available to order in the RetroStore.  First up is a C64 version of the Jon Wells compilation I mentioned above.  To tie-in with the release of the first Psytronik iPhone / iPad bundle I have also made the same games available on C64 floppy disk presented in the usual high-quality glossy Psytronik packaging that you know and love.  Jon Wells C64 Classix Vol.1 features Sceptre of Baghdad, Blitz 2000, Shaolin+, Blitz 3000 and Escape from Arth (2008 Special Edition) and is NOW AVAILABLE from the Binary Zone RetroStore!

Clicky the piccy above to order yourself some Jon Wells C64 Classix!

And that's not all!  Georg Rottensteiner & Trevor Storey (the heroes that brought you the 2012 mega-hit SOULLESS) have been busy beavering away on another great C64 game.  GUNS 'N' GHOSTS is a spooky arcade platform shooter for one or two players (it's kind of a cross between Ghosts 'n' Goblins & Bubble Bobble with a bit of Nemesis the Warlock thrown in the mix!)  With 72 screens to clear there's plenty of zombie blasting action to be had and the game features the usual excellent high-quality coding and graphics from Trev & Georg with thumping soundtracks courtesy of Richard Bayliss.  You can now Pre-order Guns 'n' Ghosts the game on C64 tape and disk from the BZ RetroStore, a digital download version will become available when the game is released in February and the C64 cartridge version is being handled by our friends over at RCGD.

If there's something strange, in your neighbourhood .. Shoot it!

And to round off our hat-trick of releases for February we have one more treat for all you C64 gamers out there.  The superbly crafted ASSEMBLOIDS  is now available from Psytronik (as an exclusive tape-only release) and RGCD on C64 cartridge!  The game is an excellent conversion of the PC flash game 'Quartet' and features polished presentation, gorgeous graphics and splendid sonics.  Head on over to the BZ Retrostore to grab the tape version or over to RGCD for the cartridge version.

Darn fine puzzling fun to be had with ASSEMBLOIDS!

That all for now, thanks for reading - see you, IN THE FUTURE!

Kenz / (24/01/2013)