Coke Trucks

This week after an enforced break due to work commitments and a bout of Bear Flu, the Retro Bear takes on a voyage of gaming discovery, which will probably run into another couple of columns…..

Originally Posted to on September 21st 2010

I thought that this week it might be a good idea to do a spot of reminiscing and hark back to when I first discovered computer games. Yes, the days when chicken really did taste like chicken, cans of coke were 25p from the shop on the way home from school and smoking a cigarette on the sly seemed like you were doing something incredibly naughty. How times have changed – chicken now tastes like water flavoured chicken, I haven’t bought a can of coke in years and after dropping a packet of 20 in the street the other night, realising 10 minutes later what I’d done and retracing my steps, found them on the floor unopened.

My childhood has a lot to thank gaming for. I don’t know what would have happened if I’d been born 10 years earlier and been brought up on Space Hoppers. The late 70′s and early 80′s were the first boom period for gaming and I was right in the middle of it. The trusty old wooden Atari VCS was entrusted onto me at an early age and I still have fond memories of getting a blister on the inside of my thumb from too much Space Invaders (wittily referred to as Atari Thumb by my mother) or finally reaching the 40,000 point barrier on Frostbite.

Commodore C16

The little seen C16 - you got one of these if you couldn't afford a C64

My mate Andy introduced me to his VIC-20 and the game Carnival which was nothing more than a shooting gallery, with ducks and things. How we whiled away the hours playing that. We probably played more games but that one sticks out more than any other. Alternatively, across the road, I was happily playing on another friends C64, insisting on playing only Ocean Software games so I could sit and listen to the Ocean Loader tune as the game fired up. Another friend had a C16 which is the only time I have ever seen or played on it. I wasn’t impressed – Footballer of The Year had graphics and actual game play on the C64 but with the C16 version you pressed the space bar and it told you what happened. Ikari Warriors also looked a bit tame compared to the other 8 bit versions.

I had my first taste of playing an actual arcade cabinet on a trip to Blackpool on my 11th birthday, despite my local chippy having Pengo permanently housed there. My Dad wouldn’t let me play on it, saying they’re a waste of money. The first game I did play was the vector graphics version of The Empire Strikes Back. I had no idea what to do and the 20p credit vanished into thin air. Years later on the Amiga version or Star Wars I had my revenge, though I have never played that version of Empire since (I did own the Atari VCS Empire game and was rather good at it, though there was no end to the game and it just continuously looped).

The Atari VCS was gathering dust and was sold to a guy I knew at school. He then promptly had it stolen. I even spent the horrendous sum of £8.99 in Toys’R’Us on the Atari VCS version of Kung Fu Master shortly before I sold it. My family then invested in an Amiga for “Educational Purposes”. Yeah.. Right. Many the night you’d find my Dad in front of it playing Gettysburg or E-Motion. To fill the gap, my mate Andy had a C64 and we spent many nights playing Mike Read’s Pop Quiz. It seemed the only country and western question that ever came up was “Who sang Rhinestone Cowboy?”. This then became a running joke for many years and caused copious laughter whenever we heard it playing.

While my other friends were playing on Master System’s and Megadrive’s, and shortly after Super Nintendo’s, I was stuck with a 16 bit home computer that nobody else seemed to own. A guy at school I had known of years also had an Amiga, but everyone else owned an Atari ST. Within 12 months the ST numbers had dwindled and 5 of us from school even started an Amiga club. That lasted all of two weekends until we found something else better to do.

Kick Off 2

1-0 to the Retro Bear

On week nights Andy would pop round to play Kick Off 2 and it was there that I began to experience what I can only presume most gamers suffer from – Game Rage. For weeks he couldn’t beat me, then all of a sudden he went on a 30+ match winning streak that I couldn’t bear. It was pure torture, and he being a smug bastard didn’t help either. This was the man who on a first date with a girl took her to a snooker hall to play pool. When I asked him how it went he turned to me, raised hands in the air to signal holding a trophy and triumphantly said “6 – 1”. And yes dear reader, they did end up marrying each other. Then again, me and he were always at our most intense when playing games – snooker, pool, cards, video games – it was always the same.

Away from home consoles, I dabbled a bit more in arcade games. However my short comings as a gamer (which I still have today – I was up most of last night swearing at Stuntman on the PS2) were always evident and it was painfully obvious to anyone with one eye that I was actually shit. It didn’t deter me though as I continued to pump 20p’s into the likes of Outrun, Space Harrier (the big hydraulic version), Operation Wolf, The Simpsons and Konami’s 4 player Turtles game. Yes I was shit at them, but that didn’t stop me loving being there playing them.

I’ll leave you this week with my own memory of Wrestle War, which ended up being converted to the Sega Megadrive. For weeks on end Andy would accompany me to the local cinema where, before going to watch a film with a large drink and a bucket of buttered popcorn (the best sort which you can’t buy now because of cholesterol or something), I would sweat my ass off trying to beat this game. I think it was round 6 before you got to the copyright dodging Bulk Logan character. I was that good I even had people standing watching me. Sweat pouring down my face in buckets, I felt like a gaming god. True, I never did beat the game but I gave it my all.

Wrestle War

It's Time To Rumble....


Some might say a tale of blood, sweat and joysticks. Some might say you sad bastard, get a life. I’ll leave it to you to decide.

Next week – the advent of consoles bring some exciting times, more tales of game rage and a tale of 2 guys, 2 guns and some zombies.

Til then – keep it real

PS. I promised a game review at the end of my last column. So here it is – Stuntman (PS2) : Its shit!