Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Welcome to Mastertronic Chronicles!

Welcome to my new blog, documenting my attempts to collect a set of Mastertronic budget games for the Commodore 64 home computer.

This blog came about because I was looking to build an interesting collection of games at a relatively low price, one that wouldn’t take up too much room and would look cool on a shelf (or two) in my games room. A collection of budget 8-bit computer games fitted the bill perfectly as the tape boxes are small, the artwork has a nice consistent theme to it and these games can usually be picked up for no more than a couple of pounds each from Ebay and other retro game suppliers.

So why Mastertronic? Well, it was actually due to a coincidence of seemingly unrelated events that all occurred during the last month or so...

In February I hosted a Q&A with Codemasters founder David Darling at the GEEK 2012 Expo, and while researching David’s history in the industry I happened upon Anthony Guter’s History of Mastertronic. This mentioned the early success of the games David and his brother Richard produced for Mastertronic that ultimately led to them forming Codemasters.

A couple of weeks later I received my copy of Retro Gamer magazine’s landmark 100th edition through the post, and bundled with it was a reprint of the very first issue of the magazine. In that issue was an overview of Mastertronic (pulled primarily from Anthony’s aforementioned site) which again proved to be interesting reading.

More recently still, I was browsing Ebay listings and happened upon a large bundle of 60 of the earlier Mastertronic games (which I ultimately decided not to bid on due to all the duplicates) that appealed to me because of their iconic grid-style packaging.

Ebay Bundle Inspiration

On top of all the above is the nostalgia factor – like most people that grew up during the 80’s home computer boom, I have fond memories of walking into a local newsagents or supermarket and browsing the racks of budget games trying to decide which title to spend my pocket money on with only the cover art and a couple of grainy screenshots to guide me...

So the seeds were sown. A little more investigation revealed that while many Mastertronic games were rightly written off as a load of rubbish (the company was nicknamed ‘Masterchronic’ amongst my school friends back in the day) there were some genuine classics amongst them and the company gave early opportunities to many great game programmers and musicians. I wondered to myself how many of these games were actually worth their nominal asking price of £1.99, so my aim became not just to collect all these games, but play each one and give some short critique in the form of YouTube videos.

Going for a full set of games covering all systems would be very hard work, so I’m focussed on the Commodore 64 releases because that was my 8-bit computer of choice back in the 80’s, and is a system I own today too. I’ve decided to only collect the games that specifically mention the name Mastertronic on the cover, as the company had a number of ‘imprint’ labels to re-release games from the likes of U.S. Gold and Hewson. Excluding these, there are still over 200 games for the C64 according to the list I’ve compiled, and of course there may be omissions so the final collection may be bigger than that.

Finally there is the issue of cost. In order to stop myself just buying as many games as possible straight away and to make things a bit more interesting, I’ve decided that as I accumulate the games I will try to maintain an average game price of no more than £1.99, which was what the majority of the titles originally sold for. This average price will include postage costs, which means I will need to try and pick up bulk lots off Ebay, trade on gaming forums and scour charity shops and car boot sales to try and keep below the threshold.

All in all it should be a fun, inexpensive and educational journey and I hope you’ll enjoy following my progress!

1 comment:

  1. Just read this, did you manage to collect them all ?