Friday, July 29, 2011

Batch 13 : A Bakers dozen and a bit more !

Mmm ... A Bakers dozen ! I could quite easily chomp away at a Cream Cake or some fresh Bread from a Bakery right now, but instead, I'll put that thought on hold and present a whopper of batch this time. We have 23 titles here with a couple of rare ones, Starace from 1984 and Beach Head II on the Americana sub-label. If I have not already mentioned before, Mastertronic had sub-labels and as in this batch : Americana, Bulldog and Rack It !

Americana ::
Beach Head II and Go For the Gold.

Bulldog ::
Destructo, Feud and Shard or Inovar.

Entertainment USA ::
Las Vegas Video Poker and Street Surfer.

Mastertronic Added Dimension :: 
Action Force, Kromazone and Strike.

Mastertronic ::
Bionic Granny / Jungle Story, Dynamix, Kentilla, Knight Tyme, Nonterraqueous, Pulsoids, Sailing and Starace.

Mastertronic Plus ::
Barry McGuigan World Championship Boxing, Tetris and Xenon.

Rack It ::
Battle Valley and Supercup Football.

The Grand Total of Tapes collected so far is ... 135 ! 

If you live in the United Kingdom you might have seen the adverts for a supermarket called Morrisons and term - " Price Crunch ". Well, three Mastertronic Titles for £3.99 from the 1980's or even early 1990's must have been a bargain then. It also goes to show, how long Morrisons have been around for.

Again, this pack was sealed and dutifully opened, so that the games could be tested and played. Kentilla is a cool graphic adventure game, Pulsoids is a breakout clone and Nonterraqueous is a nice little shoot'em up.

Now, moving onto the subject of the Americana Label. Whilst trying to load both Beach Head II and Go For the Gold, I ran into problems, where the tape either seized or encountered some sort of load error. Though, you must forgive the fact that it is truly amazing that any computer game tape would last over 20 years and still load. Of course, if the Tape or Disk was stored in the right conditions, then perhaps and in pretty much a high percentage that I have tested, has. Perhaps I have this paranoid thought or feeling, that the next Americana Tape will have the same problem. Although, perhaps a bad batch of Tapes were used during duplication ?

Pending and coming soon ... Batch 14 !

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Batch 12 : Some of us are sealed ...

Rolling up to a nice little batch here with a sealed collection of games, which I understandably opened and tested all the same. To some of you, this might sound crazy, but to me it's magnetic media that has been stored and never used ... So, it needs to be loaded and played ! Some collectors daren't open an item for devaluing it, but if an item is kept in a good condtion, then to me it's perfectly fine to use it ! Also, thank goodness for Emulation, for most of and pretty much 100% of the collectable titles, will already be available in the Commodore archives, as would most other formats, like the ZX Spectrum.

In this sealed pack we have : Werewolves of London, Revenge II and Crazy Comets !

And to now the wonders of this Batch ...

Mastertronic ::
The Captive, Lazer Wheel, Revenge II and Werewolves of London.

Mastertronic Plus ::
Knight Games, Psycho Hopper and Transformers.

Ricochet ::
Crazy Comets

A nice batch with a variation of genres. Now, Batch 13 will be an interesting one with 10+ titles and one *rare* re-release ...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rare as ... Pigs in Space ?

Do you remember the Muppets and the sketch mini-series called - " Pigs in Space " ? Well, this really hasn't got anything to do with it, unless you truly want it to be !

" Pigs in Space " is a game that appears to have been released by Mastertronic in April 1984. Although, at a first glance, it does bear the uncanny resemblence of Pooyan from Datasoft.

Pigs in Space from Mastertronic

Pooyan from Datasoft 

Now, the Pigs in Space screenshot was actually taken from my original copy of Pigs in Space from Advanced Computer Entertainment ( ACE ). The Pooyan screenshot was taken from a .D64 image in the Public Domain, GameBase64 : [ ]. So, let's look at my original ACE Tape and Inlay :

ACE - Pigs in Space ( Tape )

ACE - Pigs in Space ( Inlay )

I personally haven't seen a single copy of Pigs in Space by Mastertronic and to be honest I didn't and partly don't, actually believe that it exists. There is some guessing that back in 1984, the Mastertronic game was pulled due to it being too similar as Pooyan. A bit like Great Giana Sisters being the same as Super Mario or Mario. Now, if the game did actually exist, it would be in the Commodore Game Archives wouldn't it ? There is some form of evidence that game does exist, but in a form of a Photo :

 The above Photo was sourced from the following Lemon 64 Forum :

If this is the official Mastertronic release, it should carry the hallmarks of the Loader similar to the ACE version of Pigs in Space :

Instead of the ACE logo, it would have the Mastertronic one. Also, more than likely with a good hunch of the programmers being, Richard and David Darling. The wonder boys responsible for some of the earlier Mastertronic games, then moving onto Codemasters.

For something even more spooky or strange, take a look at the ACE Inlay and then the Mastertronic one. They are pretty much the same, now we know that a company called Words and Pictures did all the Inlay artwork for Mastertronic, but which one came first ? ACE or Mastertronic ?

Pigs in Space could be labelled as one of the worst games ever, but if the original Mastertronic version appeared on eBay with proof of it's authenticity, either a video of it running or some documention ... I bet it would sell for an obscene amount of money ! Not so long ago, there was a rare copy of a game called - " Danse Macabre " for the Commodore 64 on Disk that sold on eBay for 550 EUR ( £490 ). It had never appeared in the Public Domain, but now it suddenly has !

Coming soon ... Pending delivery ... Batch 12 !

Batch 11 : Just the Two of them !

Two more Tapes arrived on Friday whilst I was out for the day in Stratford-upon-Avon and enjoying Harry Potter 7 Part 2 in the afternoon. This batch has a Beat'em up and Sporting element.

Mastertronic ::

Mastertronic Plus ::
Double Dragon

So, as I was scanning the Inlays for these, I thought, I know, I'll scan both inside and outside of the Inlays. It's a bit of a rewind job, but it will only apply to Instructions and not for International language Instructions. Then again, I'll probably end up changing my mind, At least all of the Inlays would have been preserved.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Batch 10 : All By Itself !

Awe ! All by itself ! Little ol' Batch 10 ! However, I was expecting two other Tapes to arrive today, but only this one turned up. It is another Fruit Machine title, although quite different in presentation and style compared to Vegas Jackpot from 1984. Only five years separates these two games.

Mastertronic ::
Super Nudge 2000 ( Fruitbank ) 1989

Now, this neat game was coded by none other than Ashley Routledge & David Saunders ( Ash & Dave ) ( Digital Design ) famed for their cool Demos on Compunet and then Games into the mainstream. Other Games of theirs to look out for on Mastertronic : Gaplus and Dynamix. You can also find some of their other releases, both Demos and Games here : [ ] / [ ]

Pending delivery ... Batch 11 : Double Dragon and Hyperbowl ...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cataloguing, Scanning and .TAP Files ?

With any collection or collecting, there involves a process of counting, creating an inventory and to some extent, labeling. This sounds like a seemingly boring process, but can also prove fairly interesting and important process when it comes to adding and accounting for any item.

Cataloguing ::

In true, geek fashion, here is a screenshot of a sample from my Mastertronic Spreadsheet :

Although, there doesn't seem to be any such order, the Code number when on an Inlay or Game Title can always be put into numeric or alpha order. I have even gone to the extent of recording the Tape Counter and .TAP file for use with an Emulator or modern day SD Card Reader Cartridges, like the 1541 Ultimate II which has a marvellous piece of hardware that allows the Loading of a .TAP in real-time through a *real* Commodore 64 Computer. Simply amazing !

Scanning ::

Just to make the collecting process a little bit more special, I decided to Scan every Inlay. Although, it this has only applied to just the front Cover only. Eventually, all Inlays will have the main part cropped. As an example, let's take Milk Race :
The above image doesn't really reflect on the true size of the resolution and quality of the original scan. All of the Inlays are scanned at 300 dpi, croppped and rotated where needed. I usually leave a bit of space on the outer sections of scan, but this could quite easily be tidied up if need be.

The above image ( not true size ) of Milk Race, is the cropped version from the original Inlay. The dimensons were measured from the front usually seen through the Cassette / Tape Case.The dimensions for these are : 6.5 cm x 10.2 cm. A defined crop area was used in Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0 and moved over the desired area of Inlay, then cropped. A spot healing and smudge tool was then used as a final touch to clean up any areas that appeared to have blemishes or scratches.

TAP Files ::

Just to go that extra bit further, I decided to archive and collect all of the .TAP Files that are associated with the original Mastertronic release. These were sourced from a couple of websites that host a fair number of Titles : [ ] and [ ]. A TAP File is basically an audio dump from the original Tape, which has been digitally cleaned through an audio process, all ready for use with all or most Emulation programs and Hardware based products.

The above is just a sample of the .TAP Files are have in the archive and can be easily used, currently any such File is used with C64 Forever or Vice. Emulation is one the greatest way of reliving old software and systems, it's a preservation that should always be accepted and appreciated, as with anything historical.

Batch 9 and we've hit 100 !

Delivered this morning and a cause for celebration ... Batch 9's addition marks the collection at 100 Tapes now ! So, according to the Anthony Guter List of releases : [ ] ( Tape ), I have around 139 to go ! Nearly half way then, eh ?

Mastertronic Added Dimension ( M.A.D. ) ::

Mastertronic ::
Bosconian 87 and Pipeline 2 ( Super ) 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Incoming ... Batch 8 ?

I bet you are saying to yourselves, batch 8 ? Where are the previous ones ? Don't worry, this is a series of batched Tapes that have come in from an eBay, Online Purchase or Trade. This one in particular was a Trade from : [ ] Based in the United Kingdom, they carry a great amount of stock on all Platforms and Systems, both Hardware and Software. Why not check the site out ? :)

In no particular order ...

Plus ::
3D Pinball

Mastertronic Added Dimension ( M.A.D. ) ::
Angle Ball

Mastertronic ::
Make Music with Mistertronic, The Quest of the Holy Grail, Wing Commander, S.O.S. Kobyashi Naru, Starforce Nova and Venom.

Batch 9 coming soon ...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

So, where do I begin ? Well, from the start of course ! :)

I have very fond memories of the Mastertronic Label, specifically on the Commodore 64, the very computer that my father bought me from an Electrical Store called Rumbelows in Oxford, instead of a Sinclair ZX81 that I saw in an advert whilst reading a national Newspaper ( The Sun ironically ) and wanted so badly. To be honest and to this day, I am so glad the Commodore 64 was the Computer of choice.

Now, I could dive straight in and cover the complete history of Mastertronic from start to finish, but in this instance I am going to blog my progress whilst trying to collect ... All Things Mastertronic ! Well, on Tape to start with or at the very least ! :)

My first memory and purchase of a Mastertronic Game, was back in the 1980's, around 1984. There was I, a mere teenager with two english pounds in hand with the tough choice of which game to buy. The computer game stores that I mostly visited were, W H Smith or sometimes Boots. The first two Games that come to mind were, Hektik ( Space Panic Clone ) and Munch Mania ( Pac-Man Clone ). Both were addictive and well worth the money spent on them, way back then.

The passion of Mastertronic was kickstarted again during an eBay bundle that I won as a buy-it-now back in March 2011. Amongst the various Tapes were of course, Mastertronic Titles. Don't worry if I mention Mastertronic alot, it's not quite tattooed on me yet ! ;) Now, this subset of Titles gave me an idea and that was to collect as many as possible or even the complete set, even if it takes a while, years or whatever.

The Tapes above, are a mixture of the first eBay bundle and early start wins, to the extent to which it has grown to now, currently 87 Tapes. These are mostly in good condition and working order. The only slight let down, is that some of the cases are cracked. Hopefuly, these will be replaced over time, so from a presentation point of view, they'll look good as new or near to, when they first placed on a shelf in a computer store.

The collective list at present, but not in alphabetical order :

Mastertronic ::
Bionic Granny, Hektik, Munch Mania, Duck Shoot, BMX Racers, Kane, City Fighter, One Man and His Droid, Spectipede, Hunter Patrol, Jungle Story, Kikstart, Squrim, Space Walk, Formula 1 Simulator, Finders Keepers, Magic Carpet, Phantom of the Asteroids, Excaliba, Space Hunter, Action Biker, The Human Race, Big Mac, Spooks, 1985, Skyjet, Challenger, Chiller, Vegas Jackpot, Sub Hunt, Video Meanies, The Curse of Sherwood, Kikstart 2, Motorbike Madness, Storm, BMX Trials, Speed King, Hollywood or Bust, Back to Reality, Milk Race, Kane 2,Hacker II - The Doomsday Papers, Gaplus, Masterchess, Pulse Warrior, Night Racer, Scout, Agent X II, Dark Star, Mind Control, Mega Play Volume 1.

Plus / 299 ::
Rescue on Fractalus, Continental Circus, Advanced Basketball Simulator, Silkworm, T-Bird, John Barrington Squash, Protector, Side Winder II, Election Game, Micro Mouse.

MAD ::
The Last V8, Master of Magic, Rockford, Voidrunner, Con-Quest, Countdown to Meltdown, Energy Warrior / Molecule Man, Flash Gordon, Motos, Hero of the Golden, Talisman, 180, Manic Miner.

Master Vision ::
Se-Kaa of Assiah

Entertainment USA ::
Ninja, Bump Set Spike, Panther, L.A. SWAT, Cage Match.

Ricochet ::
Jet Set Willy - The Final Frontier, Rebel, Rock 'n' Bolt, Little Computer People, The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole, Bazooka Bill, Ghostbusters, Knuckle Busters, FA Cup Football, Way of the Exploding Fist.

And currently, in the next few days ...

Pending Delivery ::
SOS,  Kobyashi Naru, Quest For The Holy Grail, Venom, Make Music With Mistertronic, 3D Pinball, Starforce Nova and Wing Commander.

Most of the collection is built up from eBay, Trades and Online Retro Computer Stores. As most collectors will agree, it's hard to resist the temptation to buy a lot of additions and at the same time trying not to go over the top in trying to complete a collection too soon and too quick. You'll be surprised how prices differ from place to place, but of course if one seller or shop has an item you require, then it's up to you to make that choice.

Hopefully, over the next few posts, I will be able to share some more fond memories of Mastertronic and other bits of information along the way. All, sources will be credited of course. So, here's to the next batch ...