Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story Review - Screenshot 1 of 5

Following on from critically acclaimed titles like Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration and The Making of Karateka, Digital Eclipse has now turned its attention to one of the UK's most unique developers with its latest 'interactive documentary' Llamasoft - The Jeff Minter Story.

For most people in the US, the name Jeff Minter will likely be associated with the game Tempest 2000 for the Atari Jaguar or early successes like Gridrunner. However, in Britain, Europe, and Australia, he has amassed a sizeable cult following for a huge library of other arcade-style experiences โ€” many of which were distributed for microcomputers and feature animals such as llamas, camels, and sheep.

This new 'interactive documentary', therefore, aims to be both an introduction to his wider work, as well as a satisfying retrospective for those who've already poured more hours into games like Sheep in Space and Revenge of the Mutant Camels on the Commodore 64 than they'd care to admit. This, of course, begs the question: does it stick the landing?

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Well, judging from our time with the game, we'd answer emphatically 'Yes!'.

With Llamasoft - The Jeff Minter Story, Digital Eclipse's Gold Masters series has once again proven itself to be the gold standard for video game compilations, managing to present these games in a way where they still feel as fresh and as vital as ever.

The collection, in total, features 42 games spanning 8 machines such as the ZX81, VIC-20, ZX Spectrum, C64, Atari 800, Atari ST, Atari Jaguar, and even the unreleased Konix Multisystem (a British games console that never saw the light of day). Each of these is available for the player to select from a straightforward list of all the available games, as well as an interactive timeline featuring additional materials such as news articles, concept art, design docs, photographs, documentary-style videos (which are provided courtesy of Heart of Neon), and 3D renders.

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It's a lot to get through but remarkably never feels too overwhelming. This is because of its sophisticated structure that manages to weave all of these materials together to tell a larger story about Minter's relationship with his fans, the game press, and the industry at large, as well as his evolution as an artist.

On initially jumping into the game, we half-expected that we might end up skipping over one or two titles at some point or another, particularly when got to some of Minter's more challenging work like 1985's Mama Llama for the Commodore 64 or his early titles for the ZX81. However, the game does its darndest to make you care about even the most crude and inaccessible titles included in the package, giving you all you need to know in the form of context and instructions to understand why these titles were significant in his career and what the original vision was.

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As such, we spent more time than we honestly expected playing through some of Minter's early games for the VIC-20 โ€” titles like Deflex V, City Bomb, and Abductor โ€” before even thinking of moving onto his more recognizable work like Attack of the Mutant Camels, Tempest 2000, and Llamatron: 2112.

All in all, we have very few complaints about Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story, with our only real criticisms being the lack of Tempest 3000 for the Nuon, which will inevitably disappoint some people, as well as a few other notable omissions/changes due to rights issues (such as Defender 2000 being absent and certain sound effects in Llamatron: 2112 being replaced).

We also would've liked to have seen Unity (the GameCube project Minter worked on with Lionhead) explored in a bit more detail too, given Digital Eclipse's incredible access, but we can understand why it wasn't necessarily a priority and are thankful that it was even mentioned at all.

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If you're someone who loves retro arcade-style games or just simply fancy learning more about one of the most eccentric and talented game makers the UK has ever produced, then Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story is another essential add to your Steam library.