Welcome to the Popular Memory Archive
Welcome to the Play It Again project.
Play It Again is an ARC Linkage project researching the history and preservation needs of 1990s digital games in Australia.
Digital games make up a significant but little known chapter in the history of the moving image in Australia. This site aims to exhibit some of the significant local games of the 1980s and 1990s era, and collect documentation in order to remember early games through popular memory.
This site features a curated exhibition of information on 50 Australian and New Zealand games from the 1980s and the creators and companies behind them – and we are in the process of adding 50 Australian games from the 1990s.
Help us to build a database of information about Australia’s early videogame history: please add your comments on the games and companies, and contribute your memories and artefacts to the site.
Our aim is to record a history of games production and reception so we want to capture your experiences of playing the games, making games, modding, hosting LANS, and all aspects of local Australian game culture.
The Popular Memory Archive is supported by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). Your contributions will help build a history of Australian videogames as experienced by those who played their way through the era.
The Popular Memory Archive has been developed by Helen Stuckey , Denise De Vries, Melanie Swalwell and Angela Ndalianis, and is a collaboration of Swinburne and RMIT Universities, ACMI and AARNET. The site will run for a period of 18 months and then will be archived at the Internet Archive and ACMI, so the contributions can be of benefit to future researchers.
Please browse our site and help us build a database of information about 1990s computer games to assist game history researchers, now and in the future.
Play it Again: Preserving Australian Video Game History of the 1990s is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects funding scheme (project LP180100104). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Australian Government or Australian Research Council.
Latest Blog Posts
I recall distinctly when the first Famicom (Japan version of the NES) arrived at Melbourne House/BEAM. Fred Milgrom had directed them to reverse engineer it. Nintendo, at that stage, wanted a significant fortune and your first-born child for the rights to program games for it – and Fred wasn’t going down that pathway. The Famicom was actually a 6502-based machine. I was a 6502 guy (as opposed to the Z80 people). It’s not that I really wanted to program the machine, but more that I realised that if it was any good, then I’d have an easy time of it. Little did I know.
How Nintendo threatened to destroy the early Australian Game industry and Beam Software became an accredited developer for the NES. In 1983, when the Famicom was first released in Japan, Beam Software co-founder and CEO Alfred Milgrom travelled to Japan and acquired some machines. He brought them back to the South Melbourne offices of Beam where Adrian Thewlis, disassembled them.
The NES arrived in Australia around July 1987 to a lacklustre reception. Mattel had prepared for the levels of success seen in Japan and the USA – including the pre-ordering of tens of thousands of units. But its marketing of the console as a toy, rather than a video game, saw the console straggle behind its major competitors.
“1986” is a challenging Donkey Kong clone. You have to attempt to get through the screens by climbing ladders in a maze, avoiding hazards and racing the clock.
“Afos” is an arcade-style centipede game. It is a very funny game that looks like a clone of “TRON” or “Centipede”.
“Arnie’s America’s Cup Challenge”, the Official America’s Cup Sailing Simulation computer game, was developed for the Commodore 64/128 and the Amstrad. Being a simulation game, it offers you a chance to race the actual 24.3 mile course off the coast of Perth, Western Australia.
“Asterix and the Magic Cauldron” is based on the characters and the world of the “Asterix” comic books. The aim of the game is to take Asterix and Obelix on a journey to collect all seven pieces of Getafix’s broken cauldron. Asterix needs to carry food, for Obelix to follow him.
“Astro” is a quality arcade game that faithfully reproduces the (then) popular arcade game “Asteroids”.
A compendium of different games, it includes a boomerang throw, a bellywack competition, an Aussie Rules football punting game, a dry boat race and the infamous skeet shoot. In the skeet shoot game, you have to hit an empty beer can thrown from a moving ute. Success results in the dog, who is riding shotgun in the ute, chundering
“Battlefront: Corps Level Command in World War II” is a turn-based strategy/war simulation game. A recreation of the land battles of World War II, it offers the following scenarios: Crete (1941), Stalingrad (1942), Saipan (1944) and Bastogne (1944-5). It includes a complete scenario editor, which is unusual in that it enables creation of new terrain types, and can even be invoked mid-game.
Bunyip Adventure” is a conventional text adventure that is set in outback Australia. The top half of the screen displays your current static position. The bottom half logs dynamic events. The aim is to catch the Bunyip, a creature for Australian Aboriginal mythology that lives in the still water of a billabong. The game features a host of other references to Australian flora, fauna and folklore:
“Burglar Bill” is a level-based “Jet Set Willy” style game,based on “Manic Miner”, for the Spectrum. Burglar Bill breaks into a haunted mansion that is filled with monsters and traps. You have to guide Burglar Bill through the mansion’s many cellars, collecting treasures as he goes through the rooms. Each room is guarded by a monster and contains poison-tipped objects.
“Carriers at War 1941-1945: Fleet Carrier Operations in the Pacific” is a war simulation (wargame). In the game, you take on the role of the task force commander in the Pacific theatre, during World War II. In the six simulated conflicts, you can play as both the U.S. and the Japanese Empire. Included scenarios are Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, Midway, Eastern Solomons, Santa Cruz and Philippine Sea.
Passfield was in year 9 at school and spent his time playing “Pengo”at the tiny local arcade. He loved playing the game but it cost 20c a play so he thought he would have a go writing a version that he could play for free on the Microbee at home. He spent weeks programming it getting it working just right. It was not an exact copy of the arcade game as he changed the levels about and added his own embellishments to the gameplay.
“City Lander” is an arcade action game. To score points, you have to land the spacecraft in the underground city on landing pads.
Conflict” is a company-level simulation of a battle between a modern combined arms force and a well equipped rebel force.
“Demon Stalkers” is an action RPG / editor – construction set game. It is essentially a “Gauntlet” clone. You must travel through ninety-nine mazes before meeting the final demon. The game features different enemies as you progress through the mazes, with clues to progression built in.
“Dinky Kong” is a “Donkey Kong” clone, written by Mark Sibly during his school days. It has 10 Levels, all in 3.5KB. Sibly did the cover artwork using Letraset, and his father got copies of the cover art printed, to go inside the plastic bag.
“Angry Angelo has raided Antonio’s Donut Factory sending the entire complex amuck! Donuts have come alive and are jumping around in wild frenzies. Machines have gone out of control throwing cooking fat, dough and icing sugar everywhere. You must help poor Antonio climb ladders, jump platforms and ride elevators to reach the top floor and shut down the factory’s power generator which will restore law and order.”
This is an arcade game that is bound to make anyone smile. You are a knight flying on a magic emu and you joust with the dreaded vulture knights. You flap your emu’s wings to fly and you must pounce upon a vulture knight from above face-on. He turns into an egg. If you don’t eat the egg, it hatches and turns into a more cunning knight.
“Fire King” is an action role-playing video game. It was developed by Micro Forte and distributed by SSG in 1988 for the Commodore 64/128 and DOS. It was sequel to Micro Forte’s adventure game of the same style “Demon Stalkers: The Raid on Doomfane“. “Fire King” has been compared to Gauntlet, with its top-down view and endless enemies spawning from monster generators, but differs in that it contains more plot and puzzles than the typical hack and slash game.
“Fire-Brigade: The Battle for Kiev 1943” is a strategy/historical battle, turn-based, tactical game. It is set in the 1943 conflict between the Soviet tank division and German elite Panzer Korps known as the ‘Fire Brigade’. You can play as the Soviets or as the Germans, and you can play against the AI or against another player over the network. The option to play over a network made the game innovative for its time.
“Goldfields” is a simulation of a nineteenth century gold rush. It is designed to give students a “feel” for the social history of the gold rushes. As a player, you are a recent, penniless arrival to Suze Port. To succeed in the game, you must survive the long and dangerous walk to the gold fields and then you have to become wealthy within one year.
“H.U.R.G., High-Level User-Friendly Real-Time Games Designer”, is a program that enables you to create games. It is a menu-driven program, which was relatively new at that time, and it enables people with little or no programming knowledge to make their own games.
“Halloween Harry”, according to creator John Passfield’s blog, was ‘inspired by “Ghostbusters”‘. The game is set in the 21st century, and features Harry, a ghost hunter, facing off against all sorts of evil across 13 levels. Essentially, it is a platform shooter with some puzzle-solving elements, set on a single screen.
Your home planet is a peaceful world that possesses a unique technology, a perpetual energy generator that is pollution free. It powers the whole planet and is the only major energy source used. The key to it is an energy crystal that was devised some hundreds of years ago by your ancestors. Unfortunately, the secret died with them, although the crystal will last forever. The crystal has been stolen by an envious race of Metroids, who have taken it home with them. Intelligence reports state they have disassembled the crystal into its 5 component parts and hidden each beneath a different planet in their solar system.
“Horace Goes Skiing”, released in 1982, was a spin-off from the successful “Hungry Horace”. “Horace Goes Skiing” is initially similar to the arcade game “Frogger”. In this instance, Horace has to negotiate a busy and dangerous road, in order to get to the ski shop, to rent a pair of skis.
“Hungry Horace” was programmed by William Tang, but Alfred Milgrom contributed to the design of the inimitable Horace, a character created using minimum grid available. Milgrom sent a copy of the game to Psion Software in the UK. It was Psion’s close relationship with Sinclair Research which saw the Horace Games packaged with ZX Spectrum making it one of the first home computer game experiences for many people.
In “Hoards of the Deep Realm”, you are the hero who must retrieve stolen treasures hoarded in the underground caverns of the Deep Realm. During play, you must dodge and out-manoeuvre the fiery wraiths that guard these treasures
Matthew Hall‘s Microbee adventure game the “Jewels of Sancara Island” had survived the last thirty or so years as a Turbo Pascal listing has been resurrected by Alan Laughton from the Microbee Software Preservation Project. Hall was 12 years old when he wrote “Jewels of Sancara Island” at a school computer course. He used as his guide the book “Creating Adventures on your Commodore 64”. He explains “it was an adventure game, following the standard themes of the time. You wash up on a mysterious island. You have to find the jewels of Sancara Island and escape!”.
“Laser Hawk” is a “Scramble” clone. It was inspired by “Tail of Beta Lyrae”. The game has 5 stages, and at the end of each stage a command center must be destroyed (earning an extra helicopter). These are the headquarters of rival computer companies of the time, namely Apple, Amstrad, BBC, Commodore and Spectrum.
“Melbourne Draw” is one of a couple of graphics toolkits that were created for the ZX Spectrum in the early 1980s. It was launched to widespread publicity, with “Crash” magazine saying that ‘”Melbourne Draw” stands out clearly as a professional tool”.
“Moonbase Alpha” is a graphic adventure game with speech samples. It is one of only two sc-3000 titles to feature digitised speech.
“Necromancer 2” is an isometric arcade adventure. It is a clone of Ultimate’s classic 3D games, such as “Knightlore”. The game runs on C64 and also runs on a Vic 20. It was, during its day, an advanced amateur game, being an isometric 3D game.
The goal of the game is simple: you slide blocks into a pattern, as shown in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. You can only move the blocks you are standing on, and you can only jump onto other blocks that you are directly next to. Fruit will appear as bonuses, and monsters will try to kill you or slide the blocks around, slowing your progress.
“One Day Cricket” is a game for 2 to 22 players It is a sports simulation game, with New Zealand versing Australia in One Day International Cricket. The game has the Australian and New Zealand teams built in, or if you choose, you can make your own teams up.
The tastefully named “Penetrator” was one of Beam Software’s earliest games. Designed for the ZX Spectrum by Philip Mitchell and Veronika Megler the game is a clone of Konami’s popular 1981 arcade game “Scramble”. A sideways scrolling shooter “Penetrator” recreates “Scramble”’s challenges of flying and shooting…
“Pieces of Eight” is designed as an individual or small-group manageable, language-based, educational courseware package. The program, when operating with a small group, promotes dynamic, collaborative interaction and co-operation. Using the software makes students apply a broad range of problem-solving techniques and logical-thinking skills.
“Raft-Away River” is an adventure simulation game for two to six players. It is designed to encourage the social skills of effective communication, co-operative behaviour, and problem solving as a group. It also stimulates reading, comprehension and the interpretation of pictorial information.
“Reach for the Stars: The Conquest of the Galaxy” is a turn-based, strategy / war simulation game. It is regarded as one of the first and best 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) games. The game was created and distributed by SSG Strategic Studies Group Pty Ltd.
“Rock’n Wrestle” (known as “Bop’n Wrestle” in the US) was one of the first games to have 3D movement through space. The game allowed for single or dual player modes, using the joystick or the keyboard supporting twenty-four wrestling manoeuvres.
Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo”, is based on a successful comic book by Stan Sakai. The hero is an anthropomorphic rabbit named Miyamoto Usagi, living in seventeenth-century Japan. Usagi is a masterless samurai (a ronin), who wanders the land, occasionally taking up work as a bodyguard.
“Sherlock” is a 1984 text adventure developed by Philip Mitchell and Beam Software. It was published by Melbourne House. The game is based on the famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books featuring the super sleuth Sherlock Holmes, fiction’s most famous detective. You take the role of Holmes, assisted by Dr. Watson.
“ShootOut” is an arcade-style, shoot’em up game. You have to shoot the baddies as they appear from the buildings of the western town. Be careful not to miss, as you will shoot up the town.
“Sir Roderick’s Quest” is a graphic adventure. It has been compared to similar games such as “Sceptre of Baghdad”, “Spellbound” and “Stormbringer”. You have to guide Sir Roderick through the castle, collecting the seven golden objects and returning them to the throne room.
“Sirius 7” is a horizontally-scrolling shoot ’em up game.
“Sail the Endeavour” is an educational maths game that mixes in some geography as well, as you sail the “Endeavour” using angles, map scales, etc
“Smurfs” is a platform game in which you use the joystick in Port 2, with fire to jump over prickles, avoid eggs, and to reach Smurfette at the end level. There are three stages – horizontally scrolling, vertically scrolling, and a flick-screen stage. The gameplay is quite a difficult challenge.
In “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, you play the part of an old man who is blessed with the King’s magic powers. The reason for this is that the King wants you to free the land from the forces of darkness.
“Splat” is a “Frogger” clone.
“The Dark Heart of Uukrul” is a first-person perspective, turned-based role-playing game (RPG), where you take control of a party of four specifically-classed adventurers: a fighter, a paladin, a priest, and a magician.
“The Hobbit” was one of the first major games produced in Australia, and is considered a classic text adventure. In 1985, it was voted number 1 in Sinclair User’s ‘Top 50 Spectrum Software Classics’.
“The Way of the Exploding Fist” was one of Beam Software’s best-selling games, and reached number one in Europe. It was one of the first ‘beat-‘em-up’ games for the home computer and the first multi-move beat em up. Jordan Mechner’s “Karateka”(1984) which came out just before “The Way of the Exploding Fist” was basically punch and kick. The game offered an unprecedented sixteen karate moves, which allows for strategic game playing and complexity.
“Trojans” is an arcade-style game, loosely descended from “Pac- Man”. You have to shoot the ice cubes at the ghosts, as you negotiate the maze in this game.
“Vortex Blaster” is a shoot ’em up game with speech. It is one of only two Sega SC-3000 games to feature digitised speech.
The first “Warlords” was created in 1989 by Steven Fawkner, and published by Strategic Studies Group (SSG). “Warlords” is a fantasy based war-game written by Steve Fawkner. It was the first game he published commercially.
The original Shadowrun game design concept was developed by Gregg Barnett. It was very forward thinking according to Shadowrun map designer Justin Halliday but also rather technically infeasible. The games design document promised the feel of a 3D world. Halliday explains “It envisaged this beautiful isometric game on the SNES with forced perspective where you could move your character between foreground and background objects.” None of which had previously been done on the SNES.
Aussie Rules Footy was the first Australian Rules Football (AFL) game for console (1). It was developed by Beam Software and published under their Laser Beam Entertainment identity that Fred Milgrom created to publish Nintendo games locally. The game was only released in Australia.
Bad Street Brawler is a game title familiar to many for its celebrated place on “worst videogame ever” lists and its canonical status as one of only two games ever designed specifically for use with the infamous Mattel Power Glove for the NES. But its real story is that of Beam Software’s quest to develop for Nintendo in the late 1980s.
Released in 1992, International Cricket is the second of the Australian Sports Games Beam Software self published in Australia for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES ) through their publishing arm Laser Beam Entertainment. It followed on from Aussie Rules Footy in 1991.
The genesis of Nightshade according to designer Pauli Kidd is that the higher-ups at Australia’s Beam Software wanted a “graphic adventure game that would be a whodunit” The game designed by Beam Software is described by GameSetWatch writer Todd Cioleyk as “offbeat superhero” a precursor to genre popularised in movies such as “The Tick or Mystery Men” (Cioleyk, 2007).
Stargate for the SNES is a licenced videogame tie-in for the 1994 movie of the same name starring Kurt Russel and James Spader. The game is a 2D action side-scrolling platformer where the player controls Colonel Jack O’Neil (the action hero played by Kurt Russel in the film).
“It recreates cricket almost perfectly , whether that is good or bad depends if you like cricket or not. It’s an excellent sports sim but lacks any arcade style fun.” (“Super International Cricket Review”., Total! Magazine , Issue 43, July 95, pages 34-35).
This summary by UK games magazine Total! provides a sense of the challenge of making a cricket videogame.
A rail-shooter The Punisher is relentless in its delivery of this sole arcade style mechanism. There are a lot of levels, but the game play is consistently “shoot it all”. The Punisher is an example of the kind of licensed title that underpinned that Australian Games Industry of the era when small local development teams met publisher demands of tight budgets and timelines to deliver games that kept players busy and the cash flowing.