B is for…Bomb Jack

My A-Z of Arcade Games. .
On the matter of Bomb Jack and light fingerings

You can read the genesis of this A-Z here.

Now onto B!

There were a few contenders here, and when it came down to it I ended with a top 3 that I found it hard to separate. All games that I love for different reasons, games that I remember feeding endless 20 cent coins into, coins that I tended to steal from my mum’s purse.

The memories associated with these games are not necessarily what I was playing, but where. I grew up in Secunda in what is now Mpumalanga in South Africa, and after a few years living in a trailer we moved to this house below. Its changed very little in 30 years, and was not far from what we called ‘The Palm Trees Shops’. Named so because there were a load of palm trees around the car park there. It was at that small complex that we played most of our games in the eighties. Whether on the way back from school or because I had been sent to the shops, or simply because I had a few Rand to spend, that is where we tended to end up.

But that was not the case for these 3 games. Oh no, for these beauties we had to travel. We would get on our bikes and head across town to Fotis cafe (I think that was the name), and it was there that I recall playing these 3.

Bomb Jack, Bubble Bobble, and Bermuda Triangle.

They were all amazing for different reasons, and having played all 3 today they still are. Bermuda Triangle and Bubble Bobble offered simultaneous 2 player – so that was a great shared experience, whilst Bomb Jack was a single player.

Bermuda Triangle.

Bermuda Triangle was a shooter, standard fare in many ways, though a bit different in that you would scroll both up and down the screen as you progressed, whilst upgrading speed and weapons as many of the flight shooters did – and still do. There was also a time travel element – though this served to mostly offer new environments and enemies – with no real explanation. I made little sense but it was a lot of fun.

Bubble Bobble involved collecting things and popping bubbles and capturing enemies, and Bomb Jack was all about capturing…well, bombs…You would fly around the screen, leaping and floating with all manner of mechanical creatures trying to kill you.

So none of them made a lot of sense, so what , that wasn’t really the point. What mattered was progressing further, clearing more levels, attaining higher scores. This mattered. A lot.

They were more fun though because we were on other peoples turf. Hit a high score and unseat the local champ I you felt like the king of the fucking world as I typed MIC next to the new high score. You knew that some local kid would be along at some point, and pick up that gauntlet, knowing we had been over and messed about on his patch.

Hell, we might as well as fingered his sister so personal was it. (We only went as far as discussing light fingering back then as we were still rather young.) Not that any of us had partaken in such things, but we’d heard about it. From the older kids.


I chose Bomb Jack as number one because I remember one of the lads that used to be rather good at it, and he was a real Dick. Vincent. There was this back and forth, month after month, with my mate Granville ending up being his Bomb Jack nemesis. Vincent did end up being the winner I think, and then one day the machine was just gone – and that was it, challenge over.

Curiously they never actually bumped into each other at the machine, though if I recall correctly I think Granville did actually finger his sister in later years.

Funny how life works out isn’t it.

Bomb Jack
Bermuda Triangle

A is for Altered Beast

My A-Z of Arcade Games.

Games have been, and continue to be, a big part of my life.

Atari, Xbox, Nintendo, Playstation, Civilization, Oddworld…oh the things that spring to mind that could fill endless blogs, and for almost as far back as I can recall there has been something pinging away as a soundtrack to my life.

In the early days that soundtrack was a blissful 8-Bit, and so, for the next 26 posts, I am going to explore an A-Z of those early games that I continue to play today, and the memories that accompany them.

I have the pleasure of owning an arcade machine, and inside it sits a rather old laptop. And on that laptop sit about 4000 games, stretching back nearly 50 years.

Ready for A?

Well without a doubt the game that stood out for me was ALTERED BEAST! It was a side scrolling monster horror kinda vibe with a Greek god thing going on, and you played a loin cloth wearing chap who would transform to a variety of curious overpowered creatures as you punch and kick your way through the levels. It was almost impossible to defeat as you progressed through the levels, unless of course you pumped in coin after coin…

What makes this so special though was where and when I played it. I grew up in South Africa you seem, and I played it on a trip with my friend’s family to Sun City. Sun City was this entertainment and holiday paradise set up to allow international acts to bypass the international restrictions associated with anti apartheid bans. Or that is how I remember it, I don’t plan on doing too much research here, we all know how the truth can spoil a good story.

I remember it like it was yesterday, me and Granville pumping in 20cent coins and pressing ‘continue’ in an attempt to progress further and further. The levels became more and more ludicrous, the enemies more difficult, and by the time we realised we were never going to defeat the game the money had ran out. But god what a glorious failure it seemed at the time. Nearly 40 years later I remember it more clearly than the birth of my kids. Seriously…

A notable mention must also go to Amidar, which I played in Durban in 1982 at the age of 11 on our first holiday down to the coast. It was hard, despite seemingly simple demands of moving your character over a series of lines to enclose squares to clear the level. Again, such insanely vivid memories still from 4 decades ago, and the smell of beach ball plastic still reminds me of that holiday. Take a kid from Hull to Africa and show him the Indian Ocean and those kind of things stick with you forever. I still find it impossible to this day, and when I pressed start earlier today so many memories came flooding back.

Oh and god this one…it very nearly won top slot. It was a close call.


The endless hours me, Granville and Mouse spent playing this at Fotis Cafe in Secunda. The TV show was out at the time, remember that? Stringfellow Hawk (Jan Michal Vincent) tearing up the skies and defeating all manner of Foe in his helicopter. So very badass. And at the end of the show Stringfellow Hawk would often be seen playing the strings of his cello on the edge of a lake as a Hawk flew by. I kid you fucking not. Literally stringfellow hawk being a fellow playing strings to a hawk.

Oh and don’t forget Afterburner. But Ill shut up now. But you remember it right?

And I know I didn’t mention Asteroids. It deserves a place right? Well not with me. It is a game I found so difficult that even no I cannot bring myself to play it. From the off you know you are doomed, and I could never get into it because it offered me no hope at all. So I simply declined to allow it to tempt me, because it was better than me. I know that.

Good times indeed!