By GameCentral - 23rd April, 2012

Games Inbox: Spectrum memories, FEZ discovery, and Portal 2

Today's evening Inbox has proof that not all gamers are evil incarnate, as one reader recommends a special Sharpe-inspired edition of Mount & Blade. To add your own comments email us at

Full Spectrum Birthday Full Spectrum Birthday

The weird old days
I love it that Google recognised the 30th birthday of the ZX Sinclair Spectrum today with a special doodle. This humble machine was many people's introduction to gaming, and I still remember the first time I saw Manic Miner, mouth ajar.

It's easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses, as there were obviously many things with Speccy games that we simply wouldn't accept nowadays, but the one thing I think we've lost is the sense that a game can be literally about anything.

Xbox Live's indie scene represents the closest approximation of the pioneering spirit back then, but it remains a shame to me that the full price market is so imagination free in comparison. Clearly this is a complicated situation, as by and large companies produce what sells, but I miss the surrealness of the 'olden days'.

Not wanting to sound overly sycophantic, but I'm very grateful to GC for flagging up many slightly obscurer games over the years that were worthy of attention.

30 years ago yesterday
I can't believe the ZX Spectrum turned 30 today. It just seems like yesterday I was waiting patiently 15 minutes for Daley Thompson's Super-Test to load, and then when it finished it had crashed! Ah the good old days! There were so many great games on the Speccy like Jet Set Willy, Manic Miner, Monty Mole, Jack The Nipper, Knight Lore, Chuckie Egg, Elite, The Great Escape, Back To Skool, Where Time Stood Still along with many others, in what was a golden era of gaming.

It was the Speccy that shaped my life as a gamer, after being blown away by an Atari console that my dad bought before it, and my love of gaming has endured ever since. I think I'll have a game of Manic Miner on the ZX Spectrum Elite Collection on my iPhone tonight in celebration. Happy birthday ZX Spectrum, thanks for the memories.
Cubes (PSN ID), Cubes73 (Steam, OnLive, IDs)

The good gamer
There's been a lot of bad press lately about gaming and gamers, perhaps it is time we look at the positive side.

An online campaign started by a well known online gamer known as 'Athene' (real name Chiren) is attempting to raise and awareness and money for the crisis currently happening in the horn of Africa caused by famine and drought. Athene is personally on a hunger strike - on his 8th day (started on the 14th of April) - until the mainstream media cover the crisis, continuing to stream every day online in an attempt to raise money for the cause.

Currently the gaming community has raised over $372,000 and is well on target to hit their $1,000,000 goal. Athene is getting huge support from online gaming communities with his streams attracting upwards of 30,000 people.

The campaign is called Operation ShareCraft, more information can be found here. Hoping to raise awareness to the cause and shed a better light on gamers and the community in general. Thank You for taking your time to read this mail and hopefully this will inspire you to create an article on the subject.
Paul Cuthbert

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

Sharpe's Warband
Just a heads up for anyone that's watched Sharpe on TV and thought that it might make a good game, or if you've played Empire: Total War and wanted to be down on the battlefield waggling a bayonet at an enemy flautist (not sure why people pick that class, but there are always a couple) whilst dodging grapeshot: Mount & Blade Warband: Napoleonic Wars has been released on PC!

It's multiplayer downloadable content which requires Warband to play and is the result of that rare-but-great phenomena: a popular mod being turned into an official release. Basically, you get 100 people on each team, give them muskets, swords, horses and cannons and chuck them into a 19th century village. It may not be cool, but it is spiffing good fun.

For enthusiasts, the community have set up servers where they have proper line battles, with formations and everything.  The majority of servers are nice and casual though. The trailer should give you an immediate idea of whether or not you'd like it.
Mr Understanding
PS: Warband is on sale for £4 on Steam until the 23rd, which is probably too late. But is £15 really a lot of money for the single greatest game ever made (alright, it's a bit of a love it/hate it Marmite type game, but it's definitely worth checking out)

Perfect timing
By sheer coincidence I started playing the Metroid Prime Trilogy (Wii versions) earlier last week, when all of a sudden the Inbox is filled with terrifying stories about the games’ ultra hard boss battles. I think it’s fate that I start playing them for the first time now, I’ve read everyone’s tips and comments with much appreciation, and can only hope the Wii-remote’s extra accuracy slackens the difficulty (although I’ve read the games have been tweaked ever so slightly anyway). Cracking game so far, can’t believe I’ve waited this long to start!

Mr Portal 2
I love Portal 2. It's the only game I'd marry if I could (and I'm already married). Needless to say, the next batch of downloadable content can't come quick enough for me. To tide me over while I'm waiting, I recently downloaded Still Alive as I only had the retail version of Portal on The Orange Box (which I sold) and, besides, the lure of 14 new challenge maps finally proved too irresistible.
The thing is, I've now become obsessed almost to the point of distraction with acquiring the gold medals for least portals on these challenge maps. Some I've managed to figure out for myself. Others have had me literally chewing the controller in frustrated bafflement. All have involved countless hours of head-scratching. And it is to my eternal disgust and shame that I have to say I've looked at some of the solutions online (mostly on YouTube).
Ordinarily, I'd really hate myself for cheating but in the case of this game I feel strangely vindicated because I know that some of these solutions would never have occurred to me in a million years. Which begs the question - how did other people solve them? Do they have some sort of insider knowledge? I'm no slouch when it comes to playing Portal, I've been playing it since 2007 and like to think I'm pretty adept but, honestly, some of these solutions are so cryptic and unapparent that I have a hard time comprehending how they occurred to others. Nevertheless, I doff my cap in their general direction, if only for saving me a lot of sleepless nights.
Anyway, I'd like to know how other GC readers feel about cheating. Does what I've done constitute cheating? Or does that only apply if you enter a code for, say, invincibility or infinite ammo? Oh, and if any of the YouTube video posters are reading and can offer insights into the thinking processes that led them to arrive at their solutions I'd love to hear them.
Right then. Ten challenge maps, ten gold medals... four to go.
Karl S  

You don't have to like them
This weekend's feature by Joseph Dowland made for an interesting read and got me thinking about some of the points raised. For me there is an important distinction between liking and respecting an artist. I can think of a number of people who I dislike or who have expressed opinions I disagree with yet I can still respect their work and what they create.

To be honest it is easier to think of examples within the music and TV/movie rather than the video game industry due to the relative anonymity of the people behind most games but it would take a lot more than the comments made by Phil Fish for me to miss out on a game that the creator has obviously taken a great deal of care with.

Existing theory
Great reader feature on Saturday - really interesting point of view about the role of the artist. Personally I haven't made up my mind, but readers may be interested in this very famous (and mercifully short) essay written in 1967 [warning: PDF] by Roland Barthes that helped bring about theories of art standing apart from its creator.

FEZs are cool
I just want to say that I'm sorry I missed the Hot Topic this weekend. I really wanted to write in but life got in the way. I'm not going to cheat by writing a Hot Topic letter now because it wouldn't be fair on those people who did get their posts in on time. However, I would like to thank you and the great bunch of GC readers for alerting me to so many unforgettable games.
Gill C.
PS: After reading your review of FEZ, I downloaded the demo and, yes, you've done it again.  I'm definitely going to buy the full game, I love it and it will be a great antidote to the stress occasioned by another game I've been playing a lot of recently.

Inbox also-rans
Watching the latest trailer for Prometheus… [snip - GC].

GC: As a warning to all we're trying to avoid spoilers for the film so will not be reading any letters sent in that mention it, whether they actually contain spoilers or not.

Well, after 160 hours of Dark Souls, level 161 and halfway through my third playthrough and smashing most bosses that I come up against with my crazy sorcery skills. I think I can categorically say it's pretty easy now to be honest! Hey, listen I've put in the hard work and effort to use that line so I deserve it!

Yes, you can play PS one games on the PS Vita via remote play and it works very well. if you are looking for role-playing games Xenosaga is always a worthwhile. It’s on the US store and is awesome and Legend Of Dragoon has recently been released which is worth a punt on as it’s done by most of team that would ultimately make ICO and Shadow Of The Colossus and eventually finish The Last Guardian.
Simon Holmes

Been reading since the days of Digi and saw this article on the very good Game Asylum. It's a bit of a retrospective of the classic Teletext service and the snakes still make me laugh to this day. On an unrelated note, recently finished ICO. Reminds me so much of the first time I played Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. Wonderful, wonderful game.

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear twice daily, every weekday morning and afternoon. Letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word 4Player viewer features at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

  • to Metro and share on:
  • Photo of Floyd 83
    9:18 PM on 4/23/2012

    Floyd 83

    Kudos to Nick for citing The Death of the Author by Barthes. It's always the theory that comes to my mind when disucssing a creator's intentions (which he obviously argues are completely irrelevant once a work is released to the world of interpretation).

    The Fez debacle might not have as much to do with what the author's intentions were with respect to his work but it nonetheless encourages reflection on the relationship between artist and work.

    I remember my literary theory class taking an interest in how Roland Barthes died (from his injuries after being run over by a van). The class got carried away dicussing the death of the author of The Death of the Author.

  • Photo of Hitman4hire007
    8:15 PM on 4/23/2012


    sinclair 5....nuff said.

  • Photo of Stickle Brick
    7:44 PM on 4/23/2012

    Stickle Brick

    Can totally understand the comment on Prometheus I'm on a total news blackout too. Such high hopes for that film. Imagine if it turns out as good as Alien and Blade Runner...

  • Photo of Maladjustedduck
    6:42 PM on 4/23/2012


    I regard playing Dark Souls with my eyes open as cheating.

  • Photo of dabomb1975
    6:22 PM on 4/23/2012


    I also hate cheating, but not sure if I'm a total thicko, there is no way that I could have completed portal 2 without a guide. Some of the later levels gave me complete brain ache. Does this mean I'm a bad person?

  • Photo of TheRunawayTrain
    5:54 PM on 4/23/2012


    @Karl S, my take on cheating is (bearing in mind I usually play games on 'Normal' difficulty), I try and beat the game with no form of cheating. If I get stuck, I leave the game for a bit and have a really good think about why. Usually I can get past whatever it is, boss/puzzle etc. in the end with a better strategy. Once the game is legitimately completed, it's a free for all on subsequent plays with guides etc. Let's face it, developers put deliberately tough/obscure things in games, where you have to do all sorts of odd things in the right sequence to get them. I never would have found Knights Of The Round in FF7, or Tonberry in FF8 without guides on second playthroughs. Would anyone? To me it sounds as though you have already BEATEN the game and are now just trying to MASTER it, with some assistance. I'd say conscience clear for you on that.

    The only time a game ever completely beat me and I had to cheat was the infamous headbutting goat bit in the original Broken Sword. I would never have worked it out without cheating, and I'm still annoyed about it years later!

  • Photo of Petch1984
    5:47 PM on 4/23/2012


    I got given a second hand Spectrum and a big bag of games (cassettes). I was still discovering great games in the bag almost a year on.. the thrill of the unknown..will it be a classic or will it even load?

    I can barely remember the games now though as a was 4 or 5 at the time but I loved the Hunchback games and also the Spectrum's Gauntlet.

  • Photo of JonnyC
    5:29 PM on 4/23/2012


    Funny enough I was playing R-type spectrum version last night. What a great conversion that was with its big colourful sprites and today I am going have a little go on a few classics. Back to Skool, Roller Coaster, Sabre Wolf, B atty and many more. Thanks to Google for reminding me. I just Lost to Ritman Rovers 2-1. Ocean Blues couldn't handle the pace. (Metro wouldn't let me use the word B atty?).

  • Photo of Perksurx
    5:28 PM on 4/23/2012


    I have to agree with The_Deleted's view's about GAMEstation's 'new' prices; my local GAME has Duke Nukem Forever secondhand for nearly fifteen quid! Latest releases all WELL over £50!

    "Hello? GAMEstation? It's the internet calling...what's that? You'll call me back later as you're too busy digging your own grave right now..."

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