I can say with some certainty, and perhaps a little bit of bias, that retro gaming is a great pastime to be part of. Why? Because of retro gamers themselves.
Certain retro gamers inspire others in various ways, some by having large collections, some by having rare items but none more than the retro gamers that inspire by sheer enthusiasm alone. One such enthusiastic collector is 44 year old Adrian Grubb, who has chosen not to use a scattergun approach to collecting but to concentrate on one facet. Indeed, one character from gaming in his childhood.
Back in 1982, a certain Matthew Smith was set to unleash one of the most famous gaming characters of all time onto an unsuspecting public from his family’s semi detached house in Liverpool. That character was Miner Willy in his first game; Manic Miner on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. The game was colourful, fun and ultimately genre defining, paving the way for the modern platformer. It broke the mold and gaming was never quite the same after it’s release.
Adrian has his own reasons for collecting games and merchandise featuring the poor henpecked Willy and many of these go back to his pre-gaming childhood and his family’s ties to mining. His parents were keen collectors so it comes as no surprise that he also has the bug. His obsession for Willy related games and merchandise is a surprisingly new one though, with him revisiting his old childhood favourite in 2014 with the purchase of a CPC version of Manic Miner, which quickly expanded into the collection we can see below.
The following is the story of Adrian’s Miner Willy collection in his own words:
For the first thirty years of my life my parents had a coal fire, in fact they still have. I actually enjoyed fetching the lumps of coal in and making a fire, managed to set the chimney alight once, too.
My Grandad Moore was a real miner and was killed in a tragic accident down the pit when my Mum was still a teenager.
And a relative was a miner for a number of years before being made redundant, he gave us an unused sledgehammer of the type used at the pit.
But, the main event for me was a school trip to Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum while I was a pupil at Weddington Middle School. It was the highlight of that years class project on the history of mining. We were shown a film beforehand explaining how the industry worked, but it was donning the heavy miner’s helmet and chunky belt with battery pack that excited me, I was a proper miner minor.
Descending 700 feet down the Winstanley shaft in the metal cage, my ears popping. was exhilarating. Our underground guide was explaining to the class what the various historical displays down there signified, but I was already trotting off into the darkness on my own. I couldn’t wait to see what lay round the next corner, felt like an intrepid explorer as I illuminated the walls and objects with my lamp. It was such a strange atmosphere, the ground underfoot was dusty, the air so still and warm, and when you talked your words didn’t carry or echo, everything deadened by being so deep underground – and I loved it.
Years later I had, shall we say ‘relationship’ links with Sheffield (Yorkshire mines), and later Kingston Upon Thames, so Surbiton figured too.
Is this why I met, married and moved to Leeds to live with a genuine Yorkshire lass? Was the Hand of Destiny guiding me to an area at one time famed for its thriving coal industry?
Part 2 – the Willy years
We received our first rubber-key Spectrum as a joint present for Christmas ’84. Games were purchased whenever we had enough pooled, saved pocket money (or could beg enough) to do so. At school I heard many excited chatterings about a game called Manic Miner. Intrigued by all the fuss, I obtained some pennies, trotted off to Woolworth’s and returned home triumphantly clutching a copy of the Software Projects ‘mutant telephone’ release. I’ll admit I didn’t actually do that well on Miner back in the day. My apologies for sounding big-headed but I was a pretty damn good games player back then, so this was a source of great frustration.
I later tried to use the Boot cheat and couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t work – how was I to know there was a Bug-Byte version? Well, apart from the fact the mag that published it stated it would only work on the Bug-Byte version! Anyhoo, my copy of Miner later vanished though I’m not at liberty to disclose exactly ‘who’ vanished it!
A friend bought Jet Set Willy and I remember playing that a lot in 1984 on his Spectrum. I eventually acquired that copy, minus inlay, when we bought my friends Spectrum and games to replace our broken (again) one, another victim of the repeated insertion and pulling out of the power lead. Manic Miner may have ‘walked’ but I still have that well-used copy of JSW.
That rubber-key Spectrum eventually broke and was replaced by a newly-released +2. This was in turn replaced by a Commodore Amiga and a CD32, PlayStations and a PS2 all had their day. I’m a hoarder, could never throw anything away, so the plethora of Spectrum games and magazines we’d amassed over the years sat in drawers taking up valuable space. Seeing them from time to time meant the desire to play them again some day never went away, the happy memories burned brightly.
Back in the 90’s all my wages went on vintage Star Wars and space toys. There was a sprinkling of vintage computers also and these were squirrelled away in my parents attic. Space toys continued to rule, though on a smaller scale, until 2014 when suddenly the desire to own a working Spectrum was too strong to ignore. I won a modified motherboard on ebay and put it inside an empty case also sourced there. A new keyboard membrane replaced the crunchy one I got with the case. A tape recorder and PSU joined them and, using our old leads, I was all set to go. I bought a couple of games from ebay then later joined a Facebook Group, Sinclair For Sale, to hopefully help me replace more games that had been ‘lost’ over the years. Thought I might also add the odd title I’d missed out on as a teenager, or had only on pirate compilations. Perhaps offload some we’d bought that we’d never really enjoyed?
And then it struck – I wanted, nay, NEEDED a copy of either Manic Miner or JSW, it just sort of popped into my head and wouldn’t let go, like a rabid brain worm! The first JSW to be bought by me, from microsprout0161 on ebay, was a strange one really, the final Spectrum release of JSW, a Mastertronic Ricochet Flippy tape.
So, my obsession officially started on December 18th, 2014, and I can’t see it ending any time soon. The collector’s mentality I inherited from my parents has proved impossible to shake… perhaps I don’t really want to be free :p
Oddities and rarities
The Hudson Soft Bee Card for the MSX is obviously a Japanese release. This card was bought for Adrian by his Brother and appears to be a lot harder to come by than the one BeePack. The BeePack sells for £200.
Two of this tasty trio of JSWs are still sealed. The unsealed one has been signed by Matt Smith himself, although Adrian has never actually met him in person. The sealed one on the left was purchased recently, the one on the right means a lot to Adrian as it was a gift from his Wife for Valentine’s 2015.
Adrians latest re-patriation is this German Bug-Byte first release Manic Miner. A great acquisition, especially one such as this with the earliest label and in near-mint condition. But, this copy literally has that little bit extra. The small orange sticker in the bottom corner of the case front reveals all. It reads ‘Inliegend Deutsche Beschreibung’ which translates to Enclosed German Description, according to Google. The ‘description’ is an extra, loose printed sheet inside, all in German and something Adrian was unaware even existed. One side of the sheet highlights the game features and tells the backstory which continues onto the rear. Apparently, Willie (not Willy) is a ‘gold grabber’ who leaves a saloon in Tombstone Village, falls down a mineshaft and discovers the caverns. Well, who knew? Following this ‘variation’ of the story are the keys required to play the game and finally a list of other titles that are available through the ISS, located in Ottobrunn. ISS apparently stands for Individual Software Service, although research suggests Individual Support Services. The list consists of titles from various software houses, games such as Adventure B: Inca Curse, Arcadia and Ah Diddums. We assume the ISS imported standard British releases for the German market and added a translation sheet. It has the duller brown background version of cover and a Photo Porst non-price label affixed to the back of the case.
A trio of titles all signed by author Steve Wetherill.
In Adrian’s own words:
Here we have certainly the most bizarre cover ever to feature on a release of Jet Set Willy! Is that a robot giraffe overlooking some sort of futuristic weapon? What on earth has that got to do with anything? I knew very little about this release so, after it arrived this morning, I grabbed my cyber shovel and went digging around t’Internet. It wasn’t easy, little to no information was available, but here’s what I uncovered. It seems that MSA 053, Jet Set Willy, was published for the MSX by Armati in Italy only, one of a series of games for the machine with odd artwork – their release of Ghostbusters has two spacecraft on the cover! Each came in a clam case and I’m assuming were unofficial releases, no mention of Software Projects anywhere. It did originally come with a code sheet, so I’m pretty sure a copy of the official release of MSX Jet Set Willy is on the cassette. The set of codes were missing from the one I received but I was fully aware of this when I bought it – sometimes it’s better to have incomplete than not to have at all, and this is a rare item. I unearthed a photo of an example someone once had for sale in Italy. I checked this against the sheet from my Software Projects JSW for the MSX – a perfect match code-wise. So, if I ever load this I can play it. I think one word sums this release up – weird… and in being so makes a perfect addition to Willy’s world.
Original post can be found at Retro Games Collector
Focussed Collecting – Adrian Grubbs Miner Willy Collection