December 2007 Archives

Captain's Log / star date 2007.1210

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Today I had arrive a classic Amiga game I was trying to score for ages. And not just any old game, but one that's definitely in my Top 10 of best Amiga games of all time (and probably not just my Top 10): Lotus Turbo Challenge 2!!

Lotus Turbo Challenge 2.jpgLotus Turbo Challenge 2_2.jpgLotus Turbo Challenge 2_3.jpg









From the very first hihat sounds of the intro until the congratulatory screen of the outro and (obviously) everything in between this has got to be one of the finest gaming experiences that the Amiga had to offer. I've spent hours and hours playing this game through countless times during the summer of 1992 and many times after that. The great thing is that Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 has stood the test of time really well. It still plays like a charm and looks great!

Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 is easily the best of the trilogy released by Gremlin in the early 90's. I already had parts 1 and 3 in my collection for a long time and just couldn't get my hands on part 2. Either the bids got really high, I'd just missed the auction or the manual or box was missing. You can imagine my surprise when I won this fine, boxed copy of the game for the opening bid of 99p! Just goes to show what great deals can be had sometimes when shopping around for retro goodies. Good times!

Captain's Log / star date 2007.1204

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This week I took the plunge and ordered the GP2X handheld. The what? Yes, well, you might be forgiven for never hearing about this cool little gizmo, because you won't find it in any of the high street shops. So what's so special about this handheld? Well, first of all it runs Linux and contrary to its closed competitors like the PSP and the Nintendo DS, the GP2X is completely open, using open standards, so anyone can freely develop for it, just like in the olden days on the Commodore 64 and Amiga.

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This in turn has resulted in a slew of fantastic homebrew apps being released for the GP2X, mainly consisting of emulators of vintage computers and consoles. Although there's some homebrew emulators available for the PSP and the DS, the GP2X was built for this very purpose of running your own code, and as such has become the handheld to have for retro gaming. Also it doesn't involve any firmware hacking, downgrading or other guarantee voiding operations to be able to install all these wonderful emulators as is the case with the afforementioned handhelds.

There are just too many cool features for me to go into properly right now, so I'll reserve that for an in-depth article when the GP2X arrives and when I've clocked some hours on it. For now, here's a bullet point list of the features that appeal the most to me:

  • 4:3 aspect ratio screen means retro emulator content fits perfectly on the screen, no zooming, stretching and messing about as is the case with a 16:9 screen.
  • Plays XviD and DivX avi's straight away up to a resolution of 720x480 without the need to re-encode your downloaded TV shows or movies first to a specific MPEG-4 subset as is required for the PSP and the iPod.
  • Has TV-Out! Hook it up to any nearby TV and enjoy Amiga, NES, SNES, Megadrive and much more games on the big screen. When you're done gaming you can watch a movie or TV show. A portable mini media center.
  • With the optional cradle you get an extra 4 USB ports so you can hook up keyboards, external USB drives for masses of extra storage and USB joysticks! Just hook up 2 joysticks and enjoy a round of Lotus Turbo Challenge II on your TV with a buddy!
  • Uses standard SD memory (and supports the newer, high capacity SDHC cards)
  • A portable, handheld Amiga!  ;-)

The GP2X certainly also has its downsides and the one I'm most concerned about is the need for 2 AA batteries, instead of a built-in rechargable battery. Sure you can plug in an AC adaptor when the batteries run out, but you need to recharge the AA batteries yourself using your own charger. The GP2X is not capable of recharging the batteries itself when the AC adaptor is plugged in. 

But overall the features overwhelmingly weigh in favour of the GP2X. The GP2X has been around for 2 years now and instead of fading into obscurity it has slowly been growing in popularity and gaining a foothold. In fact, the current version is a brand new revamp that features a nice white case, a touchscreen and improved controls!


Captain's Log / star date 2007.1203

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Got my hands on a 'new' couple of Amiga games these past few days. First off I finally managed to get a hold of LucasArts' graphical adventure Loom, complete with manuals, weave book and an audio cassette tape. Ever since my first encounter with Secret of Monkey Island I have had a fondness for all the point-and-click adventure games that came out of LucasArts. A shame really that they seem to have totally abandoned this fantastic genre. Loom was one of their earlier adventures which I'm looking forward to playing.

Loom - Packshot FrontLoom - Packshot BackLoom - Contents 1







Next up is the also classic It Came From The Desert from Cinemaware. Cinemaware had a great run of high quality Amiga games, all based on various movie themes. It Came From The Desert feels like one of those campy US horror/sci-fi flicks from the 1950's, involving you taking on huge ants attacking a small desert town. Sweet!

It Came From The Desert - Packshot FrontIt Came From The Desert - Packshot BackIt Came From The Desert - Contents 2






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