Monday 18 March 2024

Llmasoft: The Jeff Minter Story Review (Switch)


When Digital Eclipse first announced its plan to release interactive documentaries it seemed like an interesting prospect. The first release in the series looked at Karateka and one of the main issues we had was the lack of games included. We are glad to see that isn’t the case this time around and we can’t think of a better company to look at for this kind of release.

Jeff Minter already has a presence on the Switch due to Atari’s recent strategy of utilising its back catalogue to release new games. Tempest 4000 and Akka Arrh are both examples of Minters work, and we’d recommend both if you get with the psychedelic style on display here.

The documentary elements of this are exhaustive. Spanning from 1981 to 1994, there are numerous videos, spec documents, pictures, concept art and inputs from Minter himself. It’s all arranged into four separate timelines and easy to move through. The interviews with Minter are a particular highlight with him always coming across with great insight and in an entertaining way.

All these elements combined will give you an excellent understanding of how everything came together through this period. The few games not playable on the collection through these periods are also lightly touched upon but it would have been nice to have a bit more about some of them even if they aren’t available to play.

There are a lot of games here though, and they cross many classic systems from Atari 8-bit, C64, Vic-20 to the Atari St and Atari Jaguar. Multiple versions of each game are also present so in terms of what is here its exhaustive. A lot of the games are also great. If you are into retro games and if you’ve not played Grid Runner or Attack of the Mutant Camels, then you are in for a treat. It’s nice to have some of the games that weren’t as well received as well so you can get a full overview if Minter’s back catalogue. Just get ready for a lot of weirdness and Llamas.

There’s a visually enhanced exclusive version of Gridrunner  included as well which is based on the C64 version of the game. This will be one of the main reasons for fans to pick up the collection and plays as crazily as the original. This coupled with the fact Tempest 2000 is here gives you more than enough to play even if you can’t get on with some of the earlier games.

Tempest 2000 itself brings up a slight issue though. People who are likely to buy this will no doubt also be interested in the Atari 50 collection. Tempest 2000 is also on that and this potentially takes away one of the main reason to get this. Having the Gridrunner upgrade here along with some of Jeff’s over classics is awesome, but we felt it could have done with at least one more big exclusive. Something super obscure like Tempest 3000 would have made this utterly essential, no matter how difficult it may have been to get working properly.

It's difficult with collections like this not to look to omissions even when there is such a sizable chunk of Minters back catalogue here to play. The biggest omission is of course the fact that the documentary stops at 1994. This means all of Minters later games aren’t included which is a real shame. Adding a Space Giraffe or later releases of Grid Runner would have really rounded the collection off perfectly. There’s also a lack of certain licensed games such as Defender 2000 on the Jaguar. But there is a lot of stuff here, so we are being picky.

Overall, This collection does an excellent job of getting across the work of Minter and it’s a joy to dive into and explore. Omissions aside, you’ve got one of the best games ever in Tempest 2000, and a great upgrade to Gridrunner backed with some excellent retro classics. The archive materials are flawless, and we can’t think of anyone more worthy than Minter to have been given this sort of treatment. Essential for retro gaming fans, but it still could have been even more.

Overall 8/10

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