Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story Review

Release Date
March 13, 2024
Developed By
Digital Eclipse
Published By
Digital Eclipse
Genre
Compilation
Consoles
PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch, Steam

With his penchant for psychedelic action-packed games, Jeff Minter has become a renown game designer with a distinctive style. As the second entry in the Gold Master Series, Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story is the latest Digital Eclipse compilation. Digital Eclipse not only provides opportunities to experience hard-to-access titles, but they also provide a comprehensive look into video game development and the personalities thereof. Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter story is no exception, and its bizarre worlds full of colorful critters provide a wonderful experience. 

Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story’s three major components are the historical timeline, the playable games, and the full list of Llamasoft’s titles. The timeline allows players to scroll through four eras across the ‘80s and ‘90s, and it organizes everything in a clear, concise way that is easy to read. Players can explore plenty of assets such as photos, anecdotes, rotable props, and even videos. Some historical artifacts like grid paper doodles and show booth photos are particularly fascinating deep dives into Llamasoft’s history. Another noteworthy inclusion is the multiple documentary videos. One discusses the Look of Llamasoft, which delves into the inspiration behind Jeff Minter’s visual motifs and how playing his games is like looking into his mind. The timeline’s sheer quantity and quality live up to previous Digital Eclipse releases like Atari 50: The Anniversary Collection and the Making of Karateka

The game features plenty of noteworthy titles that everyone can enjoy. Players can either jump right into a game from the timeline or access a list that includes over 40 games spanning the Commodore 64, the ZX Spectrum, Atari 8-bit, and other platforms. The playables cover a wide array of action-packed games. There are plenty of arcade-like shooters that often take place on a single screen or scroll horizontally. A few noteworthy shooters are Laser Zone, Voidrunner, and Super Gridrunner. Furthermore, Hover Bovver is an incredibly amusing single-screen arcade-like game. It involves using a stolen lawnmower to clear flowers on a screen, and it provides a laugh-filled challenge despite its funky inertia. Headbanger’s Heaven may initially feel like Game and Watch Helmet, but the ability to tank falling objects for more score bonuses leads to a captivating risk and reward flow. Its attract screen also features some particularly wacky writing. Other fantastic inclusions are Psychedelia and Colourspace, which are visualization programs that feature plenty of opportunities to draw and tinker with options to set up a lightshow. 

The playable game list is staggering even though a few games are actually multiple versions across different platforms. It is fascinating comparing how a game runs on the Commodore VIC-20 to the Commodore 64. In some cases, the VIC-20 version can actually be more impactful despite not being on more technically advanced hardware. Hellgate’s soundscape feels punchier compared to its Commodore 64 counterpart. Although many of these games are easy to pick up and play, Mama Llama and Iridis Alpha have a steep learning curve with their involved mechanics and dense play fields. 

The collection also boosts convenience and accessibility. As many of these games were released on computer-based platforms, they did not necessarily include controller support. The game maps inputs to the controller in a natural way, and the heads-up display always shows buttons’ actions before each game begins. Some of the games’ menus could have been clunky, but Digital Eclipse ensured that these menus just simply work. Per the norm, the collection also supports rewinding, and the vast majority of games feature save state functionality as well. Certain playables are also unique time stamps that are not otherwise easily playable. Attack of the Mutant Camels ’89 was built for the unreleased Konix system, and it is a unique opportunity to experience some funky rainbow-themed shooting action. The parody-like Llamatron 2112 was originally shareware, but it is a fun twist on Robotron with plenty of critters and additional tricks. 

In general, Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story is nearly impeccable as a way to experience video game history and Jeff Minter’s unique blend of psychedelia and action. One nitpicky criticism is perhaps that the collection primarily focuses on his 80s material and doesn’t include much of his later work. Fortunately, the development timeline does mention games and platforms, so players can track releases down on other storefronts. The collection also attaches warning labels to games with poignant flashing effects, and the default display filters also help mitigate these flashing effects as well. As a minor note, the collection generally does not provide additional tips or hints, so it is up to players to read the in-game scanned manuals and experiment. Fortunately, the instruction manuals are chock full of humor and the scans are high quality. For those interested in video game history, one really cannot go wrong with Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story as it transcends being a mere game compilation. With its extensive timelines and game library, everyone will undoubtedly find something to love.

Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story Review
Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story
Llamsoft: The Jeff Minter Story is a must-have for any enthusiast of game history and psychedelic action. Digital Eclipse has once again knocked it out of the park with a comprehensive selection of games, a brisk interface, and plenty of media to browse.
Pros
Snappy user interface
Convenient input mapping
Extensive selection of titles
Comprehensive timelines
Cons
Contains few post '80s playables
5
Score