One of the benefits of growing up with older cousins was the hand-me-downs that you’d get, and the first time I benefited from that in a gaming sense was when I was given a Commodore 64 in 1994. My cousins were teenagers, and they’d made the switch up to the Mega Drive and SNES, so the trusty breadbin went to me. For the most part, the games they gave me were exactly what you’d expect – lots of sports stuff, TV and film licences like Ghostbusters and Knightmare, and of course arcade conversions like Space Harrier, Double Dragon and Paperboy. But like me, one or the other had an eye for silly concepts, though this didn’t always work out as the presence of Bionic Granny proves.
One of the other things I got a lot of was Commodore Format Power Pack tapes, and I like to imagine that my cousin saw Sheep In Space and Attack Of The Mutant Camels on the cover one month and decided it was an instant purchase. It was certainly an eye opener for me. I didn’t know that it was a lot like The Empire Strikes Back as a kid, but then I’d also never seen a Star Wars film at that point anyway. The silly name drew me in, and the simple shoot-’em-up gameplay kept me going when a lot of the stuff I got for the computer was just a bit over my head.
I won’t pretend that I was a Jeff Minter devotee from there on – I was seven, after all – but it was my first encounter with a formula that has kept me coming back to his work for decades since. Good shooting and some references to ungulates, that’s all I need. I played the free Java trial of Gridrunner++ to death as a teenager, and hoped that Unity would be a GameCube exclusive I’d be recommending to all my friends. I even broke my own rules about not buying digital-only releases to pick up Space Giraffe and TxK. So today, I look back at that tape with a great deal of fondness.