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Category: Gaming (Page 2 of 2)

Speccy!

A few weeks ago I bought an untested, loft-find ZX Spectrum+ from eBay. This is the first model of computer I owned, and I still remember the endless hours I devoted to fiddling with it and playing the simple games it could run. It taught me to code, too. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Spectrum+ was my best friend when I was a kid.

Anyhow, the untested loft buy didn’t work. Quelle surprise. But Speccies are pretty easy to fix; even my limited knowledge and rudimentary soldering skills can deal with a machine this basic, surely?

Turns out that I was right. First problem was that the power supply was shot. A modern PSU with the right pinout, voltage etc cost me about eight quid. With that in place, the machine powered up just fine. But the keyboard didn’t work. OK, so I replaced the membrane. Still no joy. After a certain amount of swearing it turned out I had neglected to reconnect both of the ribbon cables properly. Hook those back up … and everything works except the sodding Enter key. Which is a bit crucial, really.

So, after taking the keyboard apart again, I found that the rubber mat which presses down onto the membrane had lost rigidity under the Enter key and wasn’t quite making proper contact. A couple of small stickers to shim out the difference and … we have a working Speccy!

A bit of a scrub later, and I reckon it’s come up lovely.

Yes, I know. It’s no Amiga, or ST, or even C64. And yes, I do own examples of all of those machines. But the humble Speccy was my first love, and it’s wonderful to own a working one again. No, you have something in your eye.

Tricked out Atari

Here’s my now fully tricked out Atari ST:

It’s a 520STE upgraded with 4MB RAM and TOS 1.62. It has an HXC floppy emulator (for loading disk images from a USB thumb drive), an adaptor to allow for a modern-ish USB mouse rather than those horrible bricks from back in the day, and best of all an UltraSatan, courtesy of the magnificent Lotharek.

I do own rarer or more collectible retro machines, but the ST is a bit special. I’ve deliberately kept it very close to how the the original machine would have been in the 90s, just adding a few useful modern conveniences here and there rather than going overboard on the upgrades.

When I was a kid with a Spectrum+, it was the Atari ST that I drooled over rather than the Amiga, for some reason. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Amiga very much. I own two of them. And yes, I know that the Amiga was technically superior to the ST. But there was something about those old Silica Shop adverts that made the ST seem like this whole other world of possibilities. And let’s be honest – it just looks way cooler than the Miggy. Look at the slant on those function keys; totally pointless, but so awesome.

Finally cleaned up the retro cupboard

It only took me two years to get round to it.

Cleaned up retro cupboard

Starting in the top left, we have a Gamecube (with 3x Wavebird receivers and a Gameboy Advance player), a PS1, a Dreamcast, a Megadrive 2, a Mega CD 2, a Neo Geo Pocket Colour, a PSP, an Atari 2600, a Saturn, and a PC Engine CoreGrafx. On the lower shelf we have a Cambridge Z88, an Atari STE (upgraded to 4MB RAM and with a Gotek USB disc emulator in place of its 3.5″ floppy drive), an Atari 65XE and a Sinclair QL. I also have an Amiga 1200 that normally sits behind the QL, but that’s currently off with Mutant Caterpillar Games being recapped and having some dodgy soldering around the mouse port sorted out.

Because I’m a self-indulgent nerd, I also just ordered an UltraSatan for the STE. I am unreasonably excited for its arrival. There’s a whole world of STE homebrew stuff out there that requires a hard drive. I can’t wait to go delving into it.

Sekiro is absolutely kicking my arse

I’m a relatively recent convert to From Software’s oeuvre. I tried Dark Souls back in the PS3 era, and I remember getting as far as the Capra Demon and then basically thinking “well, fuck THAT”. It wasn’t until last year, when I disappeared down a Bloodborne-shaped rabbit hole for about four months, that the brutal-instant-death-as-education gameplay loop that is Miyazaki’s calling card clicked with me.

I finished Bloodborne, loved every minute of it, and went on to play, finish and adore Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3 too (we don’t talk about Dark Souls 2). I’m no onebro, but I’m good enough to acclimatise to the difficulty, get through to the end, and appreciate these games as the peerless works of genius that they are.

Or so I thought. Enter Sekiro.

See, my Soulsborne play style is very much focused on dex and stamina; dancing around waiting for an opening, then getting in, doing some damage with a fast weapon, and getting out again before the next attack. It worked great for Bloodborne, and well enough for Souls 1 and 3. It didn’t matter that I sucked at parrying.

Sekiro doesn’t work like that, at all. Sekiro is all about parrying. Split second timing. Carefully watching the tells. You can’t dance around health-chipping the bosses in Sekiro. You have to out-fence them.

This I cannot do. I try and try and try but I just can’t get the timing, or maybe now I’m getting older my reactions just aren’t quick enough any more. Either way, it’s just not happening for me.

But that’s OK. I have a huge backlog of games. I’m going to play Far Cry 5 and Divinity, and then come back to Sekiro later. Maybe, as with Dark Souls, the penny will drop second time around.

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