Lyonsden Blog

Category - Gaming

Xeno Crisis Review

Xeno Crisis Game

Xeno Crisis, a brand new Sega Mega Drive game – on a cart no less – is finally here! It’s been almost exactly two years since I originally backed it and a year beyond it’s originally projected completion time. In fact this had long been the second oldest unfulfilled pledge on my Kickstarter account. (The oldest being Xydonia which I backed way back in 2016, now two years behind schedule). But now it’s here in the flesh all that waiting has finally paid off.

Just like with Tanglewood, the moment I saw the Xeno Crisis project on Kickstarter I backed it instantly. I have a huge soft spot for the Mega Drive even if it was a direct competitor to the Amiga.

The game arrived yesterday in a pretty nondescript cardboard box. As soon as I saw the name ‘Bitmap Bureau’ on the address label I was pretty sure what would be inside and I was not disappointed.

 

Physical Presentation

Just like Tanglewood, Bitmap Bureau has taken the safe option of not slapping a Sega Mega Drive logo on the cover. However what they have done instead is create an almost identical logo with their own name in it. Basically the box looks exactly how you would expect any self respecting 90’s Mega Drive game to appear, even down to the retail hanger on the top.

 

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Opening the case up reveals the cartridge in all its glory along with a beautifully made full colour instruction manual.

 

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Instruction Manual

The 20 page booklet starts out by setting the scene and then shows the two control schemes on offer for 3 and 6-button controllers. It then goes on to portray some of the enemies you will encounter along with weapons, equipment and pick-ups you will come across. Finally it describes the different areas you will explore, the hostages you need to set free and some advanced playing tips. Pretty essential reading really and it’s packed with colourful in-game images that makes it a pleasure to read. If only all games still came with manuals like this!

 

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Compatibility

Although I own an original Sega Mega Drive and Mega Drive II console, the console I actually use most of the time is an AtGames Flashback HD. I know these AtGames clones get a lot of stick online but personally I think it’s a great piece of kit for the money, especially for a casual owner like myself. It has super crisp HDMI out, wireless pads, a proper cartridge slot and it also allows game save states which are a godsend these days. I do occasionally experience the odd minor sound glitch or stutter in some games but never anything that spoils my enjoyment.

 

Xeno Crisis

Xeno Crisis installed on my AT Games Mega Drive Clone (sorry about the reflections)

 

I remember reading a blog post about how they extensively tested Xeno Crisis on this system and many other clones. I’m happy to report that it has performed flawlessly so far. I’m actually thinking about buying an Analogue Mega Sg in the not too distant future so it’s good to know the game has been tested on a wide variety of both old and new hardware.

 

Getting Started

On first starting the game you’re presented with a cool little intro that features a number of static images with some text that rolls in along the bottom helping to set the scene. The story, in a nutshell, is that you’ve received a distress call from a research facility on Io after an alien attack. It’s your job to rescue survivors and deal with the alien threat.

 

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After the intro you reach the title screen from where you can select a 1 or 2 player game, access the options and select your character. The game defaults to ‘Hard’ difficulty but I found this to be too punishing and quickly swallowed my pride and stuck it on ‘Easy’. You can easily tell what difficulty is selected as the entire title screen changes colour. Red for Hard and Green for Easy – a nice touch.

 

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Once you’ve made your selections it’s on to the game proper. It starts very dramatically with your dropship briefly touching down in front of the airlock before leaving you all alone to carry out your mission. This is all slickly animated in a style that you only get on a 16-bit machine. It’s very well done and really gets you pumped for the mission ahead.

 

Xeno Crisis Dropship

The Dropship landing on Io

 

This game is basically a proper old-school arena shoot em up. Each room or arena is randomly selected so each play through will be slightly different. Once you enter the first room there will be a number of enemies to despatch before an exit will appear and you can move onto the next. Occasionally more than one exit will appear giving you a choice of where to go.

 

 

The Controls

The controls do take a little bit of getting used to. It’s what we would now call a ‘twin stick shooter’ with one stick controlling movement and another controlling the direction in which you shoot. However the Sega controllers only have one D-pad so a compromise has to be made. Basically the D-pad moves your character around while the ABXY buttons control your 8-way firing direction. Additionally you can also use C to do an evasive roll and Z to chuck a grenade. Finally you can use the mode button to discard your current weapon pick-up in case it’s not suited for the job in hand. This returns you to your default assault rifle.

I found the 8-way firing using the ABXY buttons took a lot of getting used to. This lead to a lot of unnecessary deaths whilst I was fumbling to press the correct directional button. You can play the game on a 3 button controller too but I don’t own one so have been unable to test how it plays with this type of pad.

 

 

Gameplay

There’s a wide variety of enemies to tackle with some shuffling around slowly while others home in on your position. Some remain stationary and will either act as a gun turret or explode if you get too close. Others will just burst through the floor unexpectedly and try to shoot you. You simply can’t afford to stay still at all and need to constantly be on the lookout for new enemies appearing from all sides of the screen.

Your standard assault rifle has a very limited ammo supply so if you constantly spray bullets everywhere you will quickly run out. You also have a very limited supply of grenades that you can use to get out of a tight spot. Thankfully ammo crates appear at random locations on the screen and you need to ensure you get to them as soon as possible. Occasionally a new weapon will appear and if you manage to pick it up it will give you increased fire-power and unlimited ammo for around 20 seconds. There are 10 different weapons in the game including lasers, shotguns, flame-throwers and even a BFG.

Sometimes you will encounter a room with hostages in – you free them by walking up to them and bag yourself a bonus for doing so. There are also a variety of pick-ups that can improve your chances of survival. These range from things like med-kits and ammo to security cards to open doors and dog-tags. Dog-tags are a form of currency which you can spend at the end of each stage to upgrade your gear. Upgrades include health boosts, weapon power-up’s, increased ammo capacity, speed-ups (to run faster and roll further), a gas mask and finally an Elixir which is basically an extra ‘continue’.

 

The first boss fight

 

There are 7 different areas in the game including ‘The Perimeter’ where you start plus a forest and lab area and several more. Each area has a distinct graphical style and enemy type so it’s always exciting to see what the next area has in store for you.

An area consists of several interconnecting rooms. Once you’ve cleared enough rooms you will face a boss fight. These are suitability epic battles with impressive full-screen animated monsters that need blasting to smithereens. There will usually be waves of additional smaller enemies to deal with as well so expect to die frequently until you’ve worked out the best strategy to deal with them.

 

Continue Game

Continues use up your Elixir’s

 

When you die you get the option to continue from where you left off by using one of the 3 elixirs you started out with. You can buy additional elixirs after clearing a stage by spending dog-tags though they are quite pricey. Alternatively you can spend the tags on better weapons and more health making death less likely in the first place. Decisions, decisions.

 

Xeno Crisis Game Over Screen

Sooner or later you’ll end up on this “Game Over” screen

 

Verdict

I’ve not had the game long enough to finish it yet but everything I’ve witnessed so far during my play-throughs has been terrific. The graphics are superb and easily rank amongst the best I’ve seen on the Mega Drive. The main character is very detailed and has plenty of animations bringing them to life. Likewise there is a diverse range of enemy types and they are all superbly realised in-game. The variety of guns is equally impressive and they have suitably meaty sound effects to accompany them.

The thumping soundtrack is also exceptionally good and again is amongst the best on the system and suits the game perfectly. I received the digital soundtrack with the game and it’s well worth a play, especially if you like Chip/Synthwave music.

It’s not an easy game, even when played in ‘easy’ mode, there’s so much going on and so many buttons to use that it can often feel a little overwhelming at first. However once you’ve put some time in you can feel yourself improving and you get a little further on each play through. Basically you need to ‘git gud’ as they say these days.

The overall presentation in general is of an extremely high quality indeed and it’s abundantly clear that this has been a labour of love from start to finish. Xeno Crisis is a superb game and I have no hesitation in recommending this to any retro gaming enthusiast and I would consider this an essential purchase if you’re a Mega Drive fan.

Hopefully the success of both Xeno Crisis and Tanglewood will be enough to spur other developers on to create more new physical cartridge releases for the Mega Drive. I certainly hope so anyway and look forward to what the future may bring.

Amiga Future #141 – November/December edition out now.

Amiga Future #141

The latest issue of Amiga Future (Amiga Future #141) arrived through the post a couple of days ago. It’s another great issue packed with interesting Amiga related content, especially the in depth look at the new Vampire 4 ‘standalone’ hardware that’s featured on the cover.

 

Amiga Future #141

Amiga Future #141 Front Cover

 

Inside Amiga Future #141 there’s several game reviews but it’s the software and hardware reviews that are the stand-out content for me this time around. In addition to the Vampire V4 hardware there’s also a look at the TerribleFire 328 and 330. Software wise there’s Amiga Forever 8 and now that’s it’s finally here, IBrowse 2.5!

Remember AmigaAMP? If you were an Amiga user in the 90’s then you should do. For me it represented my first foray into the world of MP3’s. Anyway this stalwart of Amiga software has just seen an update to v3.25 and is reviewed inside the magazine.

 

Amiga Future #141

Amiga Future #141 Index

 

I have to be honest and report that I’m disappointed by the cover CD on this occasion. The featured software is basically a Backgammon game along with some card games and a few utilities. Not a big fan of either games so this definitely didn’t float my boat. Hopefully the disc will be better in the next issue… it’s an extra €2.90 per issue and sometimes I do feel it’s not worth it.

Below is a little peak at some of the stuff inside Amiga Future #141. If you’d like to purchase a copy then do please take a look here and support what is now the last remaining commercially printed Amiga magazine!

 

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Never come across Amiga Future magazine before? Perhaps you’d care to take a look at some of my other Amiga Future magazine previews here.

 

 

A look at the new Zzap! 64 2020 Annual

Zzap! 64 2020 Annual

Who’d have thought back in the 80’s that in the far off future of 2020 we’d be getting a new Zzap! 64 annual for Christmas? But that’s exactly what’s happening here as I’ve just received my brand new Zzap 64 2020 Annual through the post following another successful Kickstarter campaign.

 

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This time around (they released a Zzap! 64 annual last year too) there were plenty of stretch goals that has resulted in a lot of extra goodies to enjoy besides just the annual.

 

Zzap 64 2020 Annual

Zzap 64 2020 Annual Goodies

 

Along with the Annual, for £22 I also received an A3 Tir Na Nog map/poster, an A5 50 page Fusion 64 magazine & collectors card, a Zzap! 64 keyring plus a Zzap! 64 2020 calendar. Didn’t he do well as Bruce Forsyth would have said.

 

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Below is a little peek at the contents page so you can get an idea of exactly what’s inside the annual this year.

 

Zzap! 64 2020 Annual

Zzap! 64 2020 Annual Contents Page

 

As you can see it covers a broad range of C64 topics from past to present including Perifractics ‘Brixty-Four’ off his youtube channel and none other than Vinny Mainolfi creator of the extremely awesome Freeze 64 magazine.

 

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If you’d like to get hold of your own copy (and if you like the C64 then you really should) you can buy the annual directly from the Fusion Retro Books website for £15. Please bear in mind that you won’t get all the extras described above as these were only for those who backed the Kickstarter campaign.

Moonmist by Infocom – Classic C64 Purchase

Infocom Moonmist

My Infocom collection continues to grow and this time it’s thanks to the greybox release of ‘Moonmist’. It’s a lovely addition to my collection and has been well looked after by its previous owner. It came complete with all the extra ‘feelies’ and paperwork inside the box.

 

Infocom Moonmist

Infocom Moonmist back cover

 

Infocom have classified this particular release as being of an ‘Introductory Level’ which basically means it’s one of their easier titles. Not that I’m expecting it to be any kind of a walk in the park. As I’ve come to expect now, the disk still loads just fine, despite it’s advancing age.

 

Infocom Moonmist

Infocom Moonmist running on my Commodore 64

 

 

Moonmist ‘Feelies’

As always with Infocom games, a big part of their appeal is the extras (feelies) tucked inside the box, all of which came as standard.

 

Infocom Moonmist

Infocom Moonmist box contents

 

Moonmist is no exception here with lots of extra goodies inside the box. First we have the ‘Legendary Ghosts of Cornwall’ book which forms part of the front inside cover. This sets the scene for our spooky adventure and also gives a few tips on how to play the game.

 

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Then we have two letters sent to you from you friend Tamara which also help set the scene. Next up is the Tresyllian Castle Visitor Guide which includes a handy map of the castle. There’s also an Infocom Passport (which is basically a product catalogue), disk loading instructions, registration card and of course the game itself on a 5.25″ floppy.

 

 

Infocom Moonmist

Infocom Moonmist Goodies

 

Oh and one other thing too – an iron on transfer of the Moonmist logo! I bet when they were putting that in the box they never envisaged someone excitedly opening it up 35 years later. Needless to say I won’t be putting an iron anywhere near it!

If you enjoyed looking at this page then here’s a look at some of the other Infocom games in my collection that I’ve posted about.

Retro Gamer Magazine #200 with Turrican CD!

Another absolutely brilliant couple of freebies with this months Retro Gamer magazine. First off there’s the A2 colour poster which contains the full image used on the front cover of this special 200th issue of the magazine. It’s like ‘Where’s Wally?’ only for retro geeks! I challenge you to find the C64 and Amiga 500 hidden in the poster!

 

Retro Gamer Turrican

Retro Gamer Issue 200 Cover

 

Secondly there’s an amazing Turrican soundtrack CD included, featuring 14 music tracks from the game.

 

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But these aren’t straight rips from the game, oh no. The first 8 tracks have been performed by a full orchestra and sound phenomenal. The final 6 tracks are remixed studio versions of the game tracks which sound terrific too. I’ve listened to this CD twice already now it’s that good. In fact I’d say the CD is worth the price of the magazine alone!

 

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There’s loads of great content in this months issue but I especially enjoyed the trip through the decades of gaming starting in the 70’s passing through the 80’s and ending in the 90’s. Plenty of coverage of both 8 and 16-bit Commodore machines too. I’d say this months edition is definitely worth a buy, even if it’s just for that epic poster and the Turrican CD!

More Commodore Magazines (on DVD in PDF format)

I posted about these magazine ‘compilations’ a while ago when I bought this bunch of Amiga ones off eBay. Well I was browsing again a few days ago and noticed the seller is selling some different Commodore magazines now so I bought a bunch more. Here they are:

 

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Here’s a look at the very first edition cover for each of the 5 magazines.

 

First Edition Covers!

 

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As with the last batch I bought, the presentation of these discs is first rate with nicely designed colour prints on the front of each DVD.

Unfortunately I discovered a few problems with two of the collections this time around. The first and least problematic was the source quality of the magazines used for the Zzap!64 collection. The pages were grubby and full of creases as you can clearly see in the Zzap! cover shown above. It’s a shame they weren’t able to procure better condition magazines for scanning. However the pages were still readable and given how old the source material is I can overlook some ropey quality issues here and there.

However with the Amiga Power collection there was a much bigger and unforgivable issue. Basically the magazine pages have been scanned at far too low a resolution. In some cases an entire magazine has been crammed into a 2mb PDF! This has rendered text unreadable on many of the pages as you can see with the excerpt of a Rainbow Islands review below.

 

Lousy scan quality – review text is unreadable!

 

As you can see the quality is simply unacceptable. Give the seller his due, he refunded me within minutes of contacting him about the issue and pledged to look into the problem and try to locate some better scans.

I’d definitely avoid the Amiga Power collection then but the rest are all recommended if you want to add these classic magazines to your collection.

The seller’s name is ‘another-world-games‘ if you fancy having a look at what they offer for yourself.

CDTV Disc Reference Guide Book Review

CDTV Disc Reference Guide

The CDTV Disc Reference Guide Book is a brand new title that has just been published by Castle Books. It’s been created by AmigaJay, the same guy who was behind the CD32 Scene magazines and ‘CD32 and Beer’ compilation CD’s.

The description on the back of the book goes as follows:

A comprehensive guide to Commodore CDTV software titles.

Over 190 titles fully catalogued, with screenshots and box-art, (over 850 images in total) with lots of other information on each disc, a perfect guide for collectors and owners alike.

Features of the book;

Each disc is catalogued into one of the six original categories, easily identifiable by the colour band on each page.

Biggest round-up of cancelled CDTV titles, over 130 in total!

New wave section, find out what new software has been available to buy for your CDTV in the last few years.

Did these games really come out in ‘Did They or Didn’t They?’

CDTV Stats

The book is A5 in size and has been produced in full colour and runs to 200 pages. The pages are thick and glossy making it around 10mm thick with quite a heft to it. It costs £19.99 plus £3.50 postage and packaging so £23.49 all in.

 

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A look inside the book

 

The book covers every single disc ever produced for the CDTV whether it be a PD release, encyclopaedia or game. All the discs are helpfully slotted into one of 6 main categories:

  • Arts and Leisure
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Music
  • Productivity
  • Reference

 

CDTV Disc Reference Guide

List of disc categories

 

There are also a couple of other categories for ‘Cancelled Titles’ and ‘New Wave’. The latter covers present day releases for the system such as PowerGlove Reloaded.

These colour co-ordinated categories are printed across the top of each page and are visible on the fore edge of the book. Titles are also arranged in alphabetical order within each category meaning you can easily track down ‘Lemmings’ in the ‘Entertainment’ section for example. Which is just as well because there is no index included within the book.

The vast majority of CDTV releases get their own page in the book barring a few exceptions. These exceptions are mostly stuff like yearly encyclopaedia updates and PD collections which are grouped together on a single page.

 

How CDTV titles are presented

 

Barring the exceptions mentioned above, each release is presented in the same format as shown below. There’s a photo of both the front and back of the CD packaging along with another of the disc itself. There’s also a couple of screenshots, usually featuring the title screen and the game or software in action. Other information provided includes the year of release, cost, languages, whether it was exclusive to the CDTV and if not, how it differed from the stock Amiga 500 version.

 

CDTV Disc Reference Guide

Example of how each CDTV title is featured in the guide.

 

The part I found most useful was the little rating box at the end. Every release has been rated from A to F and is accompanied by what I can best describe as a ‘micro review’. It’s hardly comprehensive but it gives you a fair indication about whether a particular release is worth tracking down or not.

 

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The book contains 200 pages and as most of the 190+ titles it covers get their own page this leaves some pages free for other content. Consequently there’s a few additional sections at the end of the book, detailed below.

  • Cancelled Titles – lists all the games that never quite made it to release along with the reasons why (if known). Sadly there’s quite a lot of games in this section.
  • Did they or didn’t they? – delves into a handful of mysterious releases that were advertised but the author was unable to track down.
  • CDTV Stats – provides information such as ‘least/most expensive release’ and ‘disc with least/most amount of content on it’ amongst various other things.

 

Worth a buy?

 

As a recent buyer of a CD32 console (most CDTV titles will work on a CD32) I’ve found this book to be quite a valuable resource . By referring to this guide I’m able to quickly see what titles are available and whether they were actually any good (I only collect stuff I will actually play/use).

The included images of packaging makes it much easier to spot them when ‘shopping’ and helps ensure you don’t buy something with dodgy home-made covers for example.

Personally I would have much preferred for it to come spiral bound so the pages could be opened easier and the book laid flat. Presumably that would have added to the cost though. However that’s just a minor niggle, it’s definitely usable as it stands.

It’s not something you are likely to sit down and read at length, it is a reference guide after all, but the content is interesting, useful and well presented. I’d say this was a recommended purchase for anyone who owns or is thinking about getting either a CDTV or CD32 system.

If you’re interested in picking up a copy you can do so by visiting this website.

Retro Acrylic LED Signs

Retro Acrylic LED Signs

So I was indulging in one of my favourite pastimes recently… idly browsing through retro stuff on eBay (or junk as my wife calls it). I came across these cool looking retro acrylic LED signs that I thought would look great in my man cave. The seller offers a wide range of designs to choose from. After much oohing and aahing I settled on a really geeky and detailed C64 Circuit board design and a fairly plain Amiga one.

 

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There’s a range of colours to choose from including white, green, blue and red. The colours are fixed and do not change although that would be a great feature if it was offered. I opted for blue and red. The signs arrived a couple of days later with each comprising three separate components which you assemble yourself.

 

Sign Components…

 

Firstly there’s the acrylic sign itself which is 210mm long, 148mm tall and about 4mm thick. It’s basically the same size as an A5 piece of paper. Then there’s the wooden base with the LED’s in it which is a little longer in length and about 50mm wide. The sign simply slots into it and can easily be removed if necessary. Finally there’s a USB power cable which is about 1m long and has a round male plug one end and a standard USB connection at the other.

The base of the sign is constructed from two pine wood strips glued together. They’ve been well finished with nice rounded corners and edges so no danger of getting splinters. Personally I would have preferred the option of a hardwood base but that’s just nit-picking.

 

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USB Power Cable

 

There’s some kind of circuitry within the USB adapter which makes the plug quite long and the plastic casing feels a little flimsy as a result. I’ve had no issues with it but I’d imagine you need to be careful not to put any sideways pressure on it or it may damage the solder joints. The signs are advertised as being 12v so I’m assuming the circuitry is required to step up the voltage from USB’s normal 5V.

 

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The signs illuminate pretty well even in a well lit room. The LED lights shine up through the acrylic plate and refract through the etched design very effectively.

 

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However dim the lights or use them in a dark room and they really come into their own. Both colours offer a significant glow around them in addition to illuminating the design. The blue is noticeably brighter than the red as you might expect with the latter being much more subdued. I actually found the blue to be too bright to use in a dark room if it was anywhere in my field of vision. However the red was easy on the eyes and created a nice warm glow.

 

Signs in a room with lights dimmed…

 

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Signs in darkened room…

 

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As I mentioned earlier you can remove the signs from their base easily. So, if you’ve bought more than one you can swap them around to see which sign looks best with which colour. Fingerprints become very visible on the surface of the plates though so it’s best to use gloves or handle them from the edges only.

 

In conclusion…

 

These retro acrylic LED signs cost £23 including postage within the UK and are available from this seller. All things considered I think this is a fair price considering what you’re getting. They do look a little ‘functional’ in daylight but once the lights go down they look amazing and really add an interesting focal point to your man cave/office/study/games room.

I do have reservations about the robustness of the USB plug but hopefully it will be fine. I have them plugged into Alexa controlled sockets so they shouldn’t really see much wear and tear. However if anything untoward happens to them I will update this article.

Amiga User 8 – Special Edition

Amiga User 8

This delivery of Amiga User 8 came as a welcome surprise, especially considering that I only received issue 7 a couple of weeks ago! This is actually a special edition issue of the magazine created specifically for the recent Amiga34 party which took place in Neuss, Germany.

 

Amiga User 8

Amiga User 8 Cover

 

Because the magazine was intended to be sold at the event in Germany it is presented in dual languages. The first half of the magazine is in English and the latter half in German. It’s also not as thick as regular issues, weighing in at 40 pages so in reality there’s only 25% of the usual amount of content. However it makes up for this by the addition of several other goodies bundled with it.

 

Amiga User 8 Bundle

Amiga User 8 Bundle

 

Amiga User 8

Amiga User 8 Goodies

 

Extras included with this issue:

  • Amiga User lanyard
  • Amiga User bookmark
  • Cover CD in professionally produced DVD case
  • Ten very cool looking professionally printed multi-colour Amiga disk labels
  • A 3.5″ Rescue floppy disk for booting your Amiga in the event of HD trouble.

 

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So what’s actually in Amiga User 8 then? Well it’s clear that this issue was designed as a ‘taster’ to introduce new readers or lapsed Amiga users to the fold. Consequently the content matter reflects this.  There are articles looking at the alternatives to using physical floppy disks, including a great guide to installing and configuring WHDLoad for new users. There is also a comprehensive guide on how to setup a Hard Drive and install workbench on it. The guide continues with tips for formatting floppies to transfer files from a PC and also for updating key parts of the OS like the Installer. Finally there is a guide for creating your own workbench icons.

 

Cover CD

 

The cover CD itself contains dozens if not hundreds of utilities and applications that you can install on your Amiga. Programs such as Directory Opus, MUI and CyberView. Of course most of these are readily available to download off Aminet or around the web but it’s still convenient to have them collected together.

 

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All of the applications and resources referred to in the magazine are included on the CD too which I find very useful. Besides the practicalities, there’s also the fun of rummaging around the disc to see what’s on there. Maybe uncovering a few surprises or jogging a few memories along the way. It all adds to the nostalgia which is a big part of what the retro scene is all about.

 

Cover CD Contents

Cover CD Contents

 

If you fancy getting hold of your own copy take a look at the amiga.net.pl website. Amiga User is produced in Poland but the English is excellent. I don’t speak much German so I can’t comment on the quality of that aspect. Delivery to the UK only takes a week or so. If you’d rather get a digital version they offer that option too.

If you’d like to take a look at some of my previous previews of the magazine then please click here.

Amiga User 7

Amiga User 7

Another new retro computing magazine was delivered through my door this week. This time it was the turn of Amiga User 7, making it’s second appearance of the year and crammed full of interesting Amiga content.

As I’ve said before, this is definitely a magazine devoted to the Amiga enthusiast rather than gamers. There’s a strong focus on hardware and software applications along with guides and tutorials to follow. More of a reference source than a typical magazine and well worth picking up if you are a ‘tinkerer’ like myself.

In this issue there’s a look at configuring next-gen Amiga OS’s MorphOS and AROS. A review of GoADF! 2019 plus articles delving into aspects of Dopus 5, ImageFX and even ShapeShifter!

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Here’s a peek at the contents page so you can see what else is covered in this issue.

 

Amiga User 7 Index

Amiga User 7 Contents

 

If you fancy getting hold of your own copy take a look at the amiga.net.pl website. Amiga User is produced in Poland but the English is excellent. Delivery to the UK only takes a week or so. If you’d rather get a digital version they offer that option too.

If you’d like to take a look at some of my previous previews of the magazine then please click here.

Freeze 64 Issue 31 Fanzine is out now

Freeze 64 Issue 31

It’s amazing how time appears to move faster the older you get. I remember waiting for the next issue of Zzap! 64 to appear in my local newsagent as a teenager and it felt like an eternity! Yet here I am sitting down with Freeze 64 Issue 31 but it only feels like a week ago I was reading issue 30!

 

Freeze 64 Issue 31

Freeze 64 Issue 31 comes with a cool Zybex sticker and a gift subscription order form to give to your significant other.

 

This issue does away with the usual collectors card in favour of a sticker instead. I love stickers so this is a good thing in my book. I’d be more than happy for this to continue in the future. Even though I’ve got an existing subscription to the mag I’ll still put that gift subscription leaflet to good use too. 😉

 

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So what’s in this months issue then?  Well the featured game and interview is Zybex and its’ programmers Kevin Franklin and Adam Gilmore. There’s also some cool level skipping cheats and pokes for a whole host of C64 games. A suitably icky sounding game, MaggotMania features in the Mouldy Cupboard section. Regular sections Zzapback!, Secret Squirrel and My C64 Heaven are all present and correct too. It’s probably no longer a surprise that Badlands is the featured game in the ‘The Diary of…’ series…

 

Freeze 64 Issue 31

Here’s a peek at the contents page of this issue.

 

If you fancy your own copy then head over to the Freeze64 website and show your support by purchasing this issue.

Here’s a link to my previews of several earlier editions of Freeze64 if you’d like to check out what you’ve been missing!

Cassette Deck Maintenance: Demagnetising a Tape Head

Binatone Data Recorder - Demagnetising Tape head

In addition to regular cleaning another vital part of keeping your cassette deck running smoothly is demagnetising the tape head. This applies to both computer cassette decks and Hi-Fi ones. Over time a residual magnetic field can build up on the head. Not only can this adversely affect playback (more noise and loss of high end response) but it can also degrade the quality of any tape passing over it.

A cassette tape is basically a strip of thin plastic coated with a ferrous material. Music (or data in the case of a computer tape) is recorded onto it by using an electro-magnet to magnetise the tape surface to varying degrees. A tape can be erased by placing a strong magnet near it so even a weakly magnetised head will, over time, slowly erase any recordings passing over it. The more you play a tape on a deck with a magnetised head, the greater the cumulative effect will be.

TDK HD-01 Tape Head Demagnetiser

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So what can you do about it? Well thankfully there are a number of different ways you can demagnetise tape heads. Popular methods include a mains powered electro-magnetic wand and those cheap cleaning cassettes that contain a rotating magnet on a little disc. In the past I relied on an the latter; an old Maxell cleaner/demagnetising cassette. However just recently I stumbled across this TDK one advertised as ‘New Old Stock’. I’ve always trusted TDK as a brand, they make good quality products and know their stuff. It was a little on the expensive side due to me needing to pay shipping and import taxes from the US but I felt it was worth it.

 

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Although the box it came in was very tatty, the contents were like new. Inside there was a small instruction manual and the demagnetiser itself. The device is powered by a small 1.5V lithium battery which should be good for 500 uses according to the instructions.

Naturally I had to install a new battery before I could get it to work. The rear of the instruction manual is stamped with the year 1978 so this little gadget is now over 40 years old! Thankfully it takes a standard size A76/LR44 button cell battery that is still readily available.

 

How does it work? – Demagnetising the tape heads

So how do you use it? Well it really couldn’t be any simpler. You basically pop it into your cassette player and press play! There’s a small plastic micro-switch above the play head that is activated by the motion of play head moving upwards when you press the play button. A red LED illuminates at the centre of the cassette to demonstrate that it’s working and that’s it, job done! When activated the circuitry inside the demagnetiser generates a pulse signal which demagnetises the play head in a matter of seconds.

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There’s a little more to the process than that if you are using the device in a cassette deck that doesn’t have a mechanical play button. The device won’t work until the play button is pressed so if you have a deck that won’t allow you to press play whilst powered off then you need to take a few precautions. This is because of the strong signal it outputs which can damage amplifiers and headphones if you don’t make sure to fully turn down any volume controls first. My Hi-Fi has a fully electronic transport mechanism so I have to be careful when using it on that device for example.

 

Commodore C2N - Demagnetising Tape head

Commodore C2N – Demagnetising the tape head in progress!

 

Thankfully most older devices have fully manual play buttons and need no such precautions. With devices like the Commodore C2N Datasette I can simply pop the cassette in, press play and the get the job done in seconds. I would imagine virtually all Walkmans would be equally simple to work with.

The manual recommends demagnetising your tape head every 30 hours of playing time. Therefore, how often you need to do this will depend on what sort of tapes you are playing and how often you play them. For my Hi-Fi deck regularly playing C60 and C90 tapes this could be as often as once a fortnight. For my computer decks playing relatively short C15 tapes much less frequently, once every 6 months would be more appropriate.

Despite the cost I think the device is totally worth my time and money. Given how precious some of my old cassette tapes and games are to me, anything I can do to help prolong their lifespan is worth doing in my book.