I realise I’m probably the only person on the planet who listens to The Anvil on quite the regular basis but I can live with that.

Whilst I reckon The Damned Don’t Cry is far and away the strongest song on there, I’ve long had a love of Look What They’ve Done To Me. Amongst other things, it sits really nicely next to Ultravox’s Lament on a mixtape/playlist, tried and tested since the eighties and still works for me now.

Whilst I still struggle to listen to the third album, the Visage stuff from just before Steve Strange passed away is some remarkably excellent new romantic stuff and well worth a listen if you haven’t given it a go. Shameless Fashion especially is solid pop gold and every bit as strong a pop record as Fade To Grey and deserves to be remembered as such.

I’ve no shame in admitting that I bought Nonterraqueous because it had a really, really silly name.

Nonterraqueous. It’s a wonderfully videogame attempt at a Latin-esque wordmung, ‘not of the Earth or Sea’ the inlay proclaims with that sort of faux profundity we tend to imbue our most nonsensical of videogame things with.

‘Not of Earth or Sea’ Of air then? Or scones. Perhaps it’s made of scones. Whatever ‘it’ may be, is it a planet? A computer? A donkey. It doesn’t matter because just like many of the best pop songs can mean everything and nothing, who cares if Nonterraqueous is a nonsense? It’s a wonderful, intriguing, effective videogame name.

I’ve no shame in admitting I bought Nonterraqueous for its cover. A giant silver sphere smashes into an armed robot thing, exploding the robot’s chest as it does so. The word NONTERRAQUEOUS typed across it as if a bulletin, a report to someone, somewhere. To whom it may concern, the robot is smashed to pieces. Mission accomplished. Over.

Spheres are on of my favourite sci-fi/horror things anyway. The spiky blood siphoning of Phantasm’s spheres, the yeti controlling, window smashing Doctor Who variety (or the bonce hugging Shada variety), the Windsor Davies led Terrahawks variety. In videogames too, Equinox, Iridis Alpha’s Gilby, I’m easily pleased. Smash a sphere into a robot? Alright. This is acceptable.

I’ve no shame in admitting I bought Nonterraqueous because of the promise of over 1,000 screens. It’s 1985 and getting more than one still felt like a luxury. Of course, I had my doubts that they’d be 1,000 interesting screens. Still, worth a look.

I’ve no shame in admitting I bought Nonterraqueous because it cost 瞿1.99, the cheaper end of the videogame spectrum but not insignificant all the same when you’ve only a few quid to spend.

I’ve no shame in admitting it wasn’t the best game. It’s kinda obtuse, unfair and kills you on a whim. The thousands of locations? They’re pretty much indistinct. I could barely tell the difference between room 5 or room 16 or any other rooms. Playing it now and it’s vastly more unfair than I remembered it being and I remembered it being pretty unfair.

It’s been over thirty years since I first picked up Nonterraqueous, bought for all the reasons I listed above. Thirty and a bit years since I discovered it maybe wasn’t the best videogame ever made. I’m still pretty happy with my decision, with my reasons, to buy it. I still like it, unfair as it is.

Thirty years on and I still hold that each and every one of those reasons up there, separate or all together, are really good reasons to buy videogames. As anyone who’s eyeballed my Steam purchases at any point knows, I still do it. I still buy games because the accompanying art is cool, because it’s got a silly name, because it’s got a vague promise that verges on worthless but might be interesting, because it’s cheap. I buy games, often, because they’re there.

I dunno. I can see how being more discerning works for folks, I really can. It’s never going to work for me. I’ve forgotten plenty of really great games I’ve played over the years but I still remember Nonterraqueous, flaws and all. It’s one of many games that gave me a love for the slightly janky fringes of videogames, where maybe ideas outstrip talent, where maybe just thinking of something cool doesn’t mean it’ll end up cool but let’s do this anyway.

I love all that stuff, it’s the best thing about videogames as far as I’m concerned. You never quite know what you’re going to get but sometimes, you stumble upon something really, really great.

Sometimes, like with Nonterraqueous, you sort of don’t but it sticks around in your head, fondly, for years anyway because there’s more to a videogame than just how it looks or how it plays. Sometimes it’s just the right game at the right time and that’s okay.

A screenshot from Flynn: Son Of Crimson. It's some absolutely gorgeous pixel art! A cave scene with purple lightning bolts blocking the exits either side. A rotund knight with a big axe meanders across the floor as the player leaps through the air.

I’ve been reading a lot of nineties videogame mags these past few weeks and as anyone around at the time can confirm, there really is rather a fixation on things always pushing forward -on the next new thing – around that time.

I mean, videogames nearly always has a fixation on the new but the nineties were all that and more so. A decade where a game would get puzzling looks if it didn’t at least do something different.

To be honest, I found it exhausting then and I find it exhausting now. No wonder I meandered off for a bit to do just about anything else.

It's Flynn again. This is a forest scene, there's an Audrey-esque plant sitting atop a platform, a few gems, Flynn leaping through the air (again) and a big cute doggo.

One of the joys of the past decade, for me at least, has been watching originality become an almost useless metric as the sheer volume of games released pretty much guarantees that folks will be working on similar games in their respective genres.

To the surprise of no-one who thinks about this for even a cursory amount of time, this hasn’t come at the cost of exploring new things – we’re still making remarkable progress in that regard – instead it’s allowed folks to put their own personal (or impersonal!) stamp on things. It’s allowed players who enjoy certain genres to rarely find themselves short of different games to play in those genres.

It’s a ridiculously abundant time. I say it often but I really do feel rather spoiled by it all. It’s nice!

Flynn again. He's riding the doggo through a dungeon. Careful now!

I grabbed Flynn: Son Of Crimson on a whim. I can’t say I knew anything about it or that I even read the store page properly before grabbing it! I had fifteen quid left over from grabbing the eldest something, it looked kinda pretty, I figured “why not, eh” and *click* bought.

I don’t mean this in any derogatory sense whatsoever, it looked like a safe purchase. This sort of platformer usually is (and I should know because I keep buying the things).

There is always the platform game curse to consider – that perhaps there will be a point where the skill and effort the game requires is more than I can manage – but for the most part, I’ve usually had more than my money’s worth at that point anyway and there’s always another one to play.

It's Flynn! This one is a bit Dead Cells with how the platforming arrangement looks. Goblins galore here and one is even riding something or other that doesn't look too friendly. Flynn is still leaping! He likes leaping.

At the time of writing I’m around 30% in (according to the save data) and it hasn’t had me beat for skill yet. I’m not sure how much that is in time spent as I’m forever having to put games down for a bit to go and tend to the kids or whatever so time is pretty much meaningless to me by now. It’s a while, anyway.

Mind, I wouldn’t say the game has a difficulty curve as much as it’s just a bit all over the shop from stage to stage. Sometimes it can be a bit all over the shop within a single stage. The consistently wonderful art and all round polish hide a game that’s rougher round the edges than you’d perhaps expect. Certainly more than I expected at times.

Flynn again! He's not leaping this time! He's on a rope (they got him on a rope) over some lovely blue water. A winged beasty carries an explosive barrel above him.

Dips and spikes aside, if you’ve played a modern indie platformer that isn’t fixated on brutalising you then you’ll have a fairly good idea what to expect of Flynn.

A world map, the odd village or stop off hub to chill in, discreet stages with the usual sort of puzzle platforming trickery at play. Fiddle with switches to open doors, move platforms and all the usual stuff, all punctuated by the odd moment of not too strenuous combat. Hit things, get gems, find the odd secret pathway. You know the drill.

It is very much a “if you’ve played and liked something similar and fancy more of that sort of thing, here you go” kind of game. It’s pretty in the same way a fair amount of these games tend to be. No surprises, basically. Oh, and it has a big doggo that’s really cute. Or at least, you might find it cute. It’s not a cat so it does nothing for me. (Meanie – Ed)

In summary, it’s a genre piece and a perfectly fine one at that. I’m not sure I’ve got it in me to be especially excited over it but I have been comfortable with it. I’ve mainly been having a relaxed time with it, give or take the odd niggle with the odd level here and there, and most definitely don’t regret the almost random purchase.

That said, they should take the dog out and replace it with a really big cat (or a really small cat. Just less dog, more cat in general). Cats improve everything, especially videogames.

As usual, I’ve been playing on the PS4. Other formats are available.

The cover art for Doctor Who And The Mines Of Terror. It's a TARDIS.

CW: Gratuitous and explicit picture of a brain.

Whilst there’s far, far more famous examples of misfiring videogame adverts out there I can’t help but keep a special place in my heart for the Dr Who And The Mines Of Terror advert.

Not only is it the thing least like something from Dr Who, beating the Dapol Davros to the star prize, it’s absolutely nothing to do with the game either. And it’s a squidgy brain with a blood splat.

Even by the standards of videogames in the eighties – notorious for often painting a far more vivid picture than the videogame could manage* – it’s, erm, somewhat off on a tangent. A whole big ‘why’ of an advert.

On the other hand, it does rather stick in the memory so I guess that’s job done?

It's the advert for the videogame Dr Who And The Mines Of Terror. It's a close up photo of a squidgy brain, complete with bloodsplat, and the words "are you ready for brain to brain combat?"

*Although I disagree with this! I have an imagination and back then (and now) my brain was/is able to quite vividly fill in the blanks, more so than any box art can manage. I appreciate this isn’t possible for everyone though.

I don’t really like the whole “old games=hard” thing games has a tendency to default to assuming, mainly because there were a lot of old games and amongst them, a lot of kinds of old games. From the humble text adventure to the platformer to the shooter, difficulty and approachability tended to be rather all over the shop!

So, you know, not that different to now really. Saying old games were all hard is a bit like saying new ones are because Dark Souls exists. It’s silly.

That said, some of them are absolute monsters and I had forgotten quite how monstrous Space Cruiser was/is. My main recollections of the game shrouded in the mists of a lot of life having been lived since it sat in the cafe at the local swimming baths alongside Hunchback and Scramble, and I don’t think I ever really consciously paid it much attention on MAME in more recent years – not out of any particular dislike or concern, just I hadn’t really thought about it in a lifetime.

Partly out of necessity (a dude needs his old games) and partly after finally letting the wisdom of Yak from a few years back sink in after one of my more grumpy moments about the Arcade Archives range (“if we won’t pay a fiver for an arcade game, who will?” and as ever, man has a point), I’ve been grabbing some stuff from the all too tiny bunch of old games you can buy on the PS4 and trying to not just stick to another copy of Scramble or I, Robot either.

I definitely wish the games had more pleasing bezel artwork instead of whatever that is.

So yeah, that’s kinda meant if I’ve got a fiver spare or whatever, taking a punt on some half remembered thing because, well, why not? The worst a game can be is not to my tastes. As I’m going through a bit of a space shooty (and in particular, space shooty with a simple coloured scrolling pixel starfield if possible) phase I figured why not eh over Space Cruiser.

Oof. I know my reflexes and co-ordination are far from what they used to be but still, oof. I’m definitely spending more time losing lives than progressing on this one. Enjoying myself, mind!

I have no idea what the term du jour for this sort of thing is but it’s a bit Moon Cresta, even down to having a ship docking sequence. Think one screen at a time, bunch of aliens flying around in some formation – not rigid like Space Invaders, more chaotic like the latter parts of a Galaga stage. A very dawn of the eighties blast.

Coloured pixel starfields are the best starfields.

It’s got some lush presentation going on, some definite showy-offy bits. A short animated sequence of your spacecraft launching opens the game, your progress is marked in an on-screen map at key stages and my personal favourite thing – the colour cycling asteroid blasting stages that start off fairly reasonably paced but quickly descend into a glorious nightmare of, like, a whole few colours cycling pretty fast.

It’s as effective a simple trick here as it is in today’s games, though obviously needs a hefty epilepsy warning just in case.

There’s definitely the occasional thing here where I’m like “Ref! Ref! Come ‘ed, that was a foul, easy” (the first time I got wiped by the first stage’s high speed red ball, I swear I swore swears no-one should swear) but in space, no-one can hear you appeal to an imaginary referee so I just had to get on with it.

You can try Space Cruiser for yourself through MAME or on a bunch of consoles as a title in the arcade archives series. It’s pretty good.

Here’s me failing repeatedly to make any sort of decent progress. Like I say, this game is hard.

A screenshot from Catlateral Damage showing a cat paw lurching into the screen to trash a bacon sandwich.

Actually breaking off writing about something else here to quickly mention that Catlateral Damage, my favourite cat game that isn’t the wonderful Calico, gets a shiny remastered version launched today. Not only that but an already perfectly named game (Catlateral! Brilliant!) gets a variation on “Remastered” that puts Red Faction Guerilla’s awesome “Re-Mars-tered” to shame.

(And yes, I don’t trust anyone that doesn’t have a favourite cat game. I’ll even accept Artic’s Paws).

Catlateral Damage is a sandbox (litterbox) game where you get to pick one of many cats and do what cats do best – get the zoomies, push things off shelves onto the floor thus causing a massive mess and having a ball with the bog roll. Oh, and nap, obvs.

For anyone with a long enough memory, it’s more Off-Road Velociraptor Safari than Goat Simulator. – compact and focused on doing what it does well.

(Oh, and yeah, there’s a dedicated meow button because that’s important)

It’s great and out on just about most things today. A wonderful piece of family friendly silliness that I’ve adored for a fair few years now and I’m glad it’s getting another go round because it’s great.

GLOBAL CHAOS (in a very nineties, grainy, style)

In “videogames I haven’t thought about in years” corner, it strikes me that it took indie games approximately 30 years to reach the visual heights of the Archie/Amiga game, Top Banana.

It's Top Banana. A purple and black striped border surrounds a mass of digital detritus masquerading as a videogame in the best possible glitch-aesthetic.
all pics from Moby Games

Which would be less strange if Top Banana wasn’t an early footnote in indie game history courtesy of (latterly) Pom Pom’s Miles Visman.

Pom Pom, of course, being responsible for Mutant Storm and that – games which would have been a lot of people’s gateway back into the world of the super small team long before anyone had even considered thinking about making Braid or whatever the first indie game is this week.

Another pic. Same deal as the last but more.

Here’s the ever reliable HG 101 if you want to know more, though I disagree that “it’s just plain bad”. Personally, I prefer “difficult and before its time”. Also “looks astounding“.

GLOBAL CHAOS

Wading through some old Amiga mags at the moment and last night I ended up down one of my rabbit hole things, stumbled into this old piece (again) on why and how the Amiga version of SDI ended up with curiously defaced credits.

Picture, in your mind’s eye, 1987. A buoyant and flourishing games market on home computers such as the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga, with Activision extremely interested in exploiting it…

What begins as a bit of a “well, this is odd” ends on a bunch of lovely recollections on how things ended up as they did.

I recall reading all this a while back but it’s worth another kick round all the same.

Snip Snip is an occasional look at a magazine cutting from computer games past. Where necessary, names and addresses have been removed to protect the innocent.

A cutting from Amiga Power, I'll try and get round to transcribing it in a bit. In the meantime, sorry.
A passage from issue 1 of Amiga Power’s Gods review

I’ve been playing a bit of Gods (courtesy of the PS4 remake which is fine providing you stick to the original game art) in-between other things recently.

I can’t say I got on with a lot of Amiga era arcade adventures, as pretty as a lot of them are there’s a tendency towards showboating sprites and, well, slowness. Given I’m as ADHD up to the eyeballs as can be, this really can rub me the wrong way. So, you know, I tend to avoid them.

However, given I’m more at peace with myself these days I’ve been finding a fair bit of joy in the slowness of Gods. It is an achingly slow game, ponderous even, but that’s precisely why I’m enjoying it. That slowness gives it a curiously satisfying rhythm, one where it encourages you to be meticulous in examining the level around you in order to progress.

Anyway, I went to root out some reviews from the time and in any excuse to read some magazines, ended up browsing through the Amiga Power review. Nothing too exciting there but I did end up thinking about the box out describing what we’d now call “dynamic difficulty” or, in a post Left4Dead world, attribute it to a game director.

It’s not so much that Gods does this stuff but that videogames still find themselves in a position of explaining the exact same stuff in 2021.

Don’t misunderstand me here, I don’t think this is a problem! The audience for games is always going to consist of new people or folks who only normally tinker with one genre but they just couldn’t resist a particular game.

If anything I want us to keep getting better at explaining stuff. There’s a time and a place for videogames being for an incredibly specific, incredibly niche, audience. There’s a time and a place for them being absolutely opaque too.

Videogames can be remarkably insular and obtuse and there’s genre traits which seem mystifying to me still, never mind. Sometimes that’s an important part of what a videogame is!

For those moments where it’s not, I hope we’ll keep explaining stuff and making this stuff easier to grasp even if we’ve been doing it for 30 years.