Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story review

Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story review

The newest high bar in digital preservation and storytelling, and it’s about a Jeff!

When the Atari 50th collection came out I said it was the bar to which all future collections will be judged. It was clearly the opening salvo to a concept that was to come from Digital Eclipse in the coming years. Last year was the first release in what they dubbed Gold Master Series and it was a remarkably in depth look at one very specific game, Karateka by Jordan Mechner, loaded with prototypes and historical documents to really give us everything we need to become an expert on the subject of Karateka. The developers are very careful not to refer to these as games because at the end of the day that’s not the point; these are expansive interactive documentaries and Digital Eclipse makes that mission statement as clear as ever with the second release in the series, Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story.

Jeff Minter wasn’t a big name in the US. His games weren’t found on the NES or the Genesis. Jeff was a European guy and he was a computer guy. The bulk of this collection’s games are on platforms like the C64s, ZX Spectrums, Atari 8 Bits, and Vic-20s. These are certainly not unheard of platforms on my shores but not anywhere near the level of what dedicated home consoles were doing in the early 80s. Computers were king in Europe and this set shows. Unfortunately I feel as though the content isn’t as hot as the Karateka package. I love the videos included but the complete package is lacking some of the documents, sketches, and prototypes that we found in the last edition. What is fun game-wise, and where the devs wanted to focus, is that we can truly watch Minter grow. He never moves away from making games that are just home versions of popular games at the time until MUCH later in his career, and even then he’s still just openly making his version of classic titles. But eventually there comes a time when he opens the floodgates and realizes that he just wants to make fun weird shit, and you gotta respect it. Sadly, like any set that focuses on multiple titles we see omissions for various reasons. There’s no Defender 2000 and that’s understandable, the publishers (Atari) don’t own it. And Nuon was a weird thing that would have been fun to see included but it’d be silly for me to think they just have an emulator for that lying around.

I can’t say that I find this set as enjoyable as the previous two documentary sets mostly because a lot of Jeff’s games just haven’t held up or just have had no impact on me since they were hits across the pond. What I can say though is that Minter is a fascinating man who has made what he wants, how he wants and nobody seems to hassle him or interfere with his cozy little British gaming life on a farm surrounded by animals. In the end, he beat the game of life and game development and unlocked the good ending.

This review is based on a Steam code for the game sent to SideQuesting by the publisher.