Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story Review (PS5)


Part of its lovingly curated Gold Master Series, Digital Eclipse’s exploration of Llamasoft is a comprehensive and fascinating package. Essentially an interactive museum, Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story presents documentary snippets, archival materials, and, most importantly, the games.

A truly singular voice, Minter has been cranking out psychedelic bullet hells and light synthesisers since the birth of console gaming. The legacy of his chaotic, yet rhythmic audio-visual style can be seen throughout indie development even to this day.

The compendium divides Jeff’s journey into four eras, the events of which are spread across aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-navigate timelines. Each point on a timeline contains a game, documentary segment, pristine high-res photo, or 3D model to peruse. There are handwritten notebooks offering a glimpse at Minter’s vision of game design and most materials are accompanied by a quote from Yak himself. These items offer intriguing insight into the struggles of indie game development in those tumultuous early days, while still keeping the spotlight firmly on Jeff’s place in it all.

As for the games themselves, they begin with vibrant spins on existing properties (Defenda, Centipede) and quickly transition to bonkers explosions of colour and sound. Mechanically, Llamasoft always tried to build on existing trends, but aesthetically, these games are pure Jeff. The light synthesisers (which power the menu backdrops) are still capable of eating hours of time, while the curios (anything with ‘Camel’ in the title, really) will have you frustrated and intoxicated in equal measure.

It’s unfortunate that Llamasoft’s newer titles are not included, with the exception of an excellent Gridrunner update. Thankfully, we do get a crisp version of Jeff’s enduring masterpiece, Tempest 2000.

Much like last year’s The Making of Karateka, Digital Eclipse’s format sets a high standard for retro collections going forward. It’s made the story of these games accessible to all audiences. As a portrait of Jeff, it’s a heartwarming and educational depiction of a personality every gamer should know about.

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