Friday, 30 November 2012

Cassette 50 - nice watch, shame about the games


I've a feeling this post isn't going to be of much interest to many people (all together now - "So what's new?") but here lies an important life lesson - namely, if something sounds too good to be true, then it usually bloody well is.


During the home video games boom of the eighties, I was one of many proud owners of the good old rubber-keyed 48k Sinclair Spectrum. It seems primitive beyond belief now, of course, but the data that allowed you to play such enticing games as Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner was fed into the machine from...a cassette recorder. (Later Spectrum models had a built-in tape recorder, which looked more 'grimly functional' than the intended 'space age'.) The prices of games varied, but by and large, you could get a pretty servicable little game for around the £5.50 mark, whereas a new release would cost slightly more. Eventually, a few companies started putting out really good games at reduced prices - £1.99 or thereabouts - which were sold in newsagent's shops. The other way to get hold of games was to get a mate with access to a twin cassette deck to run you off a copy, and home-made compilations of as many games as you could cram onto a Woolworths C-90 became common playground currency.

History lesson aside, when I spotted the above advert in a newspaper or magazine (I forget which, it was a bloody long time ago), I was pretty excited. Fifty computer games on one cassette for a tenner - and a calculator watch? Amazing! So, after some begging and pleading, an order was placed, and the waiting began. When the much anticipated package arrived in the post, I was pleasantly surprised with the digital watch. I wore it to school and it attracted much admiration. It was smart, it was functional, it had a handy gadget that helped me through maths classes. I couldn't wait to check out the standard of the games on the cassette - all fifty of them!


Sadly, the watch turned out to be the most durable part of the deal. Had Cascade's marketing been entirely honest, they'd have marketed it in favour of the timepiece, with the fifty games thrown in as a freebie. How bad were these games? Well, the first one that loaded up was Muncher, and this was where the alarm bells started ringing. It was a PacMan clone. Everyone loves PacMan, yet this was one crappy-looking, rudimentary and migraine-inducing clone, rendered in BASIC and surprisingly difficult. "No matter", I thought, "things can only improve from here". Well, Spectrum Cross turned out to be a passable, if not outstanding, clone of Frogger, another arcade classic. Startrek was nothing of the sort. Then there was Maze Eater - holy crap, another bog-standard PacMan clone! And that was just about your lot. I don't think I even made it to the second side of the compilation.

Look at the graphics! Look! Bathe your eyes in SHIT!

I have since found out (thank you, internet) that the authors behind these games were, surprise, surprise, anonymous bedroom programmers who were paid a mere £10 for their efforts, and the company responsible held onto the rights. To be brutally honest, in a lot of cases they were overpaid!


More about Cassette 50 can be seen and heard here. (Warning - contains strong language!)
And there's a photo of the watch here.

2 comments:

  1. It was a craze that passed me by, I'm glad to say.

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  2. Didn't pass me by - still loving my games now (it's about 6% behind comics in the overall "interest" ratings). Just spent the last hour playing Smash TV, as it happens.

    Happily enough, I wasn't around to get sucked in by Cassette 50's bogus claims, only managing to catch the last couple of years of Spectrum games (Captain Dynamo remains an all-time favourite).

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