For months The Drisk aka Paul Driscoll of RGDS podcast fame (amongst other things) has been busily scanning his elusive copies of a short-lived, multi-format, weekly magazine by the name of Games-X. This was originally published between March 1991 and April 1992, it’s oft-touted USP being that its weekly issues would deliver the computer/console news, previews, reviews and features faster than any other magazine in the UK. Price point was another feather in its cap; ranging between 60 and 99 British pennies, several issues were even accompanied with a floppy cover disk containing Atari ST and Amiga game demos.
Despite these advantages – well, as a consequence of them really – Games-X wasn’t a massive success to say the least. It proved impossible for the contributors to adhere to such a pressured release schedule and keep the magazine afloat while charging so little for it. In contrast, its competitors were charging up to £4.99 per monthly issue. All of which explains why so few copies of Games-X can be spotted out in the wild today, and haven’t been available in digital format until now.
Speaking of which, Paul has done a fantastic job, laboriously converting each issue to comic book format, making them available for free online. While these have a .cbz extension, they can easily be opened with a compressed archive tool such as Winrar (to access the individual pages as .jpgs) or a PDF reader, offering the best of both worlds. These magazines weren’t lying around in his loft waiting to be re-discovered, he had to purchase them from eBay at his own expense to share with retro-gaming enthusiasts, which makes the gift even more impressive, and gratefully received. Cheers!
Games-X is no substitute for the edgy attitude and irreverence of Amiga Power, what with its overly polite, tame and politically correct tone and bizarre tendency to print articles on their side (something to do with cutting them out and keeping them in a binder apparently), yet the editorial staff did manage to secure regular interviews with a plethora of interesting developers. Often these would be people their rivals hadn’t approached, or if they had, hadn’t asked the right questions, or enough of them.
Something else that made Games-X stand out from the crowd was their news section, in that it would often include exclusive tidbits of information concerning upcoming games. I suspect this was due to the amiable relationship Games-X cultivated with developers and publishers; they trod carefully and aimed to be respectful at all times, even when a title wasn’t really worthy of their reverence.
One game that did deserve all the critic’s praise is RoboCod, a title Games-X teased in the news section of their 29th August – 4th September issue (no. 19). Vectordean’s ‘fish out of water’ James Pond sequel was in the early stages of its development cycle at this juncture so details were naturally thin on the ground. Nevertheless, Games-X did allude to one curious aspect of the Bond-RoboCop mash-up platformer that no-one else appears to have been privy to at the time; that the protagonist was to come equipped with a hammer weapon.
“Double Bubble Seven must once again thwart the evil Dr Maybe’s plans of World domination. This time the crazy quack has infiltrated a toy factory and planted devices in each of the toys – James Pond must defuse them.
FI5H scientists have designed an armour suit to enable Pond to breathe out of water – he is now RoboCod! A press of the fire button and his new shape stretches upwards. Another tap and he wallops his enemies with a mallet. At times in the game, RoboCod moves faster than Sonic!
The foe is completely crazy (sic). In particular, a comical bus that throws out little grannies at you. This is highly original platform fun.
The game is being produced by Chris Sorrel and Steve Bak (rest in peace) for Millennium, and is due to hit the streets in November, just in time for the Christmas stocking – write to Santa!”
Anyone who is familiar with the game will know that this element never materialised, suggesting that it was just a rumour with no substance. Except, many years later Chris himself confirmed in a fascinating interview with Codetapper that this wasn’t just some fluff the magazine pulled out of a hat to plug an empty gap in the news section.
You can imagine how this would have been tricky to implement alongside the telescopic midriff manoeuvre with only a single button joystick with which to work, so it made sense to plump for one capability or the other. In any case, the hero’s extendo-torso is what made him unique, so there’s no doubt Chris made the right decision. RoboCod would be a much more ‘me-too’ proposition without it.
In more recent RoboCod news, this month an ‘enhanced’ iteration was released for the Nintendo Switch courtesy of ‘West Coast’ (I think). YouTuber ‘GouldFish On Games’ has already recorded a fully narrated longplay of it, making him the first and only person to do so.
If you watch the playthrough and listen to his disillusioned commentary you’ll soon realise why I put the word enhanced in inverted commas. It’s depressing to witness how little care and attention has been devoted to converting the nigh-on perfect classic we remember so fondly from the Amiga’s heyday.
On a more positive note, Games-X awarded the original version five Xs out of a potential five, declaring RoboCod the ‘X-rated game of the week’. They had their heads screwed on the right way then! 😀