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Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story Review: Striking Gold Again

Platform reviewed: Nintendo Switch

Also on: Xbox Series X/S, PS4/PS5, Steam

Price: $29.99

As a student of history and a gamer who grew up in the late 70s and early 80s, “Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story” struck a chord with me. The depth of passion and research that Digital Eclipse pours into their interactive documentaries never fails to amaze me, and their latest work is no exception. This exploration of game development and its history was not only intriguing but also a journey that resonated with my own gaming history.

Despite having played some of their games, I must admit I was not very familiar with Llamasoft as a company or with Jeff and his journey. One aspect of these documentaries that I found particularly captivating is the interactive timeline. While you can jump straight into playing the games featured in the series, I found that exploring the timeline added a deeper layer to the experience. Witnessing the evolution of the games alongside the historical context truly deepened my appreciation for Jeff's achievements and the path he paved. 

Throughout the interactive timeline, I discovered rare notes Jeff made on various games, unique sketches of his ideas, and journal entries that have miraculously survived. These historical documents, not easily found elsewhere, provide a valuable glimpse into Jeff's creative process. Numerous interviews with Jeff provide insight into significant moments of his career and offer an in-depth look at the evolution of his games. Compiling these historical documents is no small feat, yet Digital Eclipse goes beyond merely assembling them. They weave a narrative highlighting how Jeff Minter's creativity was sustained by the unwavering support of his family. This storytelling approach, previously showcased in Digital Eclipse’s "The Making of Karateka," is effectively employed once again, demonstrating their commitment to preserving history and making it consumable in ways I haven’t seen before.

Selecting Jeff Minter as their subject was a smart decision, given his "rockstar-esque" persona. I was genuinely amazed to discover that at a computer fair in December of 1983, Jeff organized a high-score competition of Revenge of the Mutant Camels where the winner would have the opportunity to fly with him on a Concorde jet to Egypt and ride camels around the pyramids. It's astonishing to me that I wasn't familiar with Jeff Minter before, but gaming culture in the 80s was vastly different from what it is today. Although there was money to be made, it wasn't as prominently featured in mainstream media as it is now. Thanks to Digital Eclipse, these captivating stories can now be shared in a way that allows me to reflect on and truly appreciate them.

The library boasts an impressive collection of forty-three games. Some of the games have a variety of versions for different platforms, such as the Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore 64. I recommend exploring these games chronologically to fully appreciate the evolution of the games. For those eager to dive straight in, that's an option too. Jeff Minter's creations stand out for their uniqueness, with titles like Gridrunner and Tempest 2000 initially catching my attention, as I’m most familiar with those games. There’s even a remastered edition of Gridrunner that is a must-play. However, soon after digging into this documentary, I discovered other gems such as Headbangers Heaven, Rox, and Hover Bovver, which quickly became some of my favorites. But playing Attack of the Mutant Camels was probably my absolute favorite, which reminded me of the countless hours I spent on Empire Strikes Back for the Atari, sparking a sense of nostalgia and joy.

Final Grade: A+

Digital Eclipse has once again struck gold with their latest creation - an interactive history dedicated to the legendary developer, Jeff Minter. While simply compiling a list of his games would have been impressive enough, Digital Eclipse goes above and beyond by presenting a captivating narrative that delves into Minter's contributions to the gaming industry. Through their documentary-style approach, they not only preserve history but also highlight the significance of Minter's work.

For fans of gaming culture and history, this game is a must-have. It sets the gold standard for how preservation should be done, offering a unique and immersive experience that showcases the impact of one of the most fascinating developers in the industry.

Review code provided by PR for Digital Eclipse


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