RISC World

Retro Fever

David Bradforth takes a look at some of the recent deluge of retro magazines hitting the games market

Over the last twelve months the retro games scene has changed considerably, particularly if your focus on the retro scene is through the magazines available supporting your interests. One of the biggest changes has been the departure of Live Publishing as a company, falling victim to the changing economy and the subsequent relaunch of Retro Gamer through Bournemouth based newcomer Imagine Publishing.


In the time that it took for the magazine to be relaunched, the freelancers of Retro Gamer (as it was) clubbed together to produce Retro Survival magazine. Supplied on CD-ROM, and subtitled 'the Payback issue', Retro Survival brings together the majority of the articles that were destined for Live Publishing's issue 19 of Retro Gamer alongside a mixture of multimedia elements that can best be surfed through a web browser.

The opening page of 'Retro Survival' magazine

The interface reminded me of Foundation RISC User in many ways; although I didn't like the need to click through the pages to navigate your way through an article. Each page is often too big to fit on an A4 page when printed and in instances like that it's much more convenient to simply print pages of text from a site than print multiple pages with the last one ending half way up the page.

The content appealed to me in some ways, but not so much in others. However I think that's the same regardless of the type of magazine you're reading. Not everything will appeal to the entire audience for which it's intended.

The Retro Gamer Story is a fascinating look through the history of the magazine, through the eyes of one of the freelancers. I'm convinced, even today, that a true insider look at the development of Retro Gamer magazine would be a fascinating incite into how a magazine is developed and how it became the success it was. The first issue of Retro Gamer did, for a long time, sell for stupid amounts of money on eBay because it was so heavily in demand - with copies going for over £80.

The Retro Gamer story

Back to the 80s walks you through 1985 taking note of key software and hardware developments. The introduction of the Lenslok with the Spectrum version of Elite made news, because of the plain idiocy of the protection system devised. If you were wearing glasses, as this RISC World writer does, the complications in finding your way through that device certainly made for an interesting gaming experience. If you could ever find your way into the game, that is...

The Desert Island Disks feature was certainly one of the more interesting parts of Retro Gamer as was. Through this popular series, Paul Drury would take the reader through the items key players on the retro scene would themselves take onto a desert island. It certainly made for interesting reading, and given the nature of Retro Survival the tables were turned so that Paul Drury became the interviewee rather than interviewer.

There's a large section dedicated to the Vectrex with a detailed history, some of the best games, the homebrew scene, interviews and an archive of vectrex material. Some of the most interesting material in this article is located within the archive - from box to advert shots, to audio files of former Vectrex employees talking through their time on the scene. There are even video of a games author playing his own game.

Sierra's Leisure Suit Larry series was one of the first to offend many. As an adult adventure game, it was developed by Al Lowe as an evolution of a Sierra text adventure entitled 'Soft Porn'. Essentially it puts you in control of Larry Laffer, quite frankly a complete loser, and has you guiding him around the secrets of his world. The large feature on Leisure Suit Larry has been reproduced in the new issue 19 of Retro Gamer; and the end result is certainly quite pleasing to the eyes. It consists of three components - an interview with Al Lowe; the history of Sierra Entertainment (as it became) and a guide through the various Leisure Suit Larry games. Except for the most recent. Because it's pretty awful.

The articles featured in Retro Survival continue along a similar trend; there's literally something for everybody from spoof adverts to the chance to win some real retro kit; and given that the magazine costs £6 including postage there's a lot of material for very little money. It's a shame that it doesn't print out so well.


Retro Player was released at the Classic Gaming Expo in August last year. Using content from Retro Gamerand GamesTM magazines. It was supplied to all visitors as a show guide that they can read on the train ride home. It included a superb selection of features covering all aspects of retro gaming, the feedback was mostly positive.

The cover for issue 1 of Retro Player

Articles in the magazine included:

  • A roundup of what happened at last year's show.
  • An interview with the organisers.
  • The Wisdom of Matthew Smith.
  • A guide to building arcade cabs for use in the home.
  • A Repton Retrospective (by Richard Hallas).
  • An exploration of the sound chip used within the Commodore.
  • Homage to the VIC20.
  • Using the VICE emulator (on an Iyonix PC).
  • Skool Daze - a review of the ultimate retro game.
  • Radiant Silvergun - another retro review.
  • A look at the Studio Classics released by Fox.
  • And a selection of Acorn Retro Advertisements - which had to be done.

The magazine wasn't without its problems - there were a number of errors introduced by the printer, and the transition from colour into mono didn't work well for a number of the pages - but it's still a nice little magazine. I've got a few available still, and am prepared to supply them at £1 plus postage - email me for details.


Retro Fusion issue 0 - this is the sampler issue, with the hope
being that a commercial launch can be achieved shortly.

Shortly after Retro Player was released, I got an email from one of the fanzines who had been represented at the CGEUK show. They didn't like Retro Player, so I asked them what they'd have done better. The result of which was a meeting at which a plan was set to reformat that title and relaunch it in bigger and better form to incorporate Retro Player as well.

Things, in that respect, fell apart, but one of the main contributors to that project - Chris Wilkins / Boyo - emailed me to ask if we were still in a position to work together; and I could see no reason why not. What I offered was support in making sure that the project would come together - particularly when it came to dealing with the printers.

In literally six weeks Retro Fusion came together. As a full colour, 32 page, magazine printed on high quality gloss paper it immediately felt good from the moment I opened my archive package. The contents are a credit to the team responsible, including:

  • A history of Street Fighter
  • Review of the Back in Time event, and accompanying DVD
  • The C64 DTV is reviewed
  • Remember the Sam Coupe? It's profiled here, and makes for fascinating reading.
  • Jon Hare of Sensible Software provides talk about the games industry
  • And much more!

There's a lot more to it, and in the space of 32 pages we've put together a magazine that seems to have a lot of supporters. But we'd like to know what other people think - particularly what aspects of the Acorn market do you feel need coverage within a Retro magazine; and what aspects of 'Retro' in general interest you the most.

If you're curious, take a look at the Retro Fusion website - you can buy the magazine through the site and let other RISC World readers know what you think!

You could even win a free copy by entering our RISCWorld competition, just take a look at the competition page to find out more.

David Bradforth