Far too many Animal Crossing Amiibos


How on earth did I end up with eight Animal Crossing Amiibo? Mr Resitti was upstairs when the picture was taken, in case you wondered. What was going through my mind as I clicked them into my Amazon shopping basket, these little statues that served no purpose, who’s only function was to sit on a shelf gathering dust. OK, so occasionally me and my son used them in Mario Maker, but these cheery little souls have added absolutely no tangible value to my life whatsover. So what on earth was I thinking?

Animal Crossing was a Nintendo franchise that always passed me by. I was aware of the Gamecube version but thought it too cute to be of interest to me, and I only owned a Wii quite late in it’s life, mostly so I could play Skyward Sword and Mario Galaxy. Then along came the 3DS, and with (at the time) a seven year old daughter I thought it might be a nice game for us to play together. We’d start a community, I’d be the Mayor, and she could have a little house of her own.

We loaded it up and went through the process of setting up our town. For reasons that totally escape me, we named it ‘ApplePie’, absolutely no idea why. It was probably some little in-joke on the day we started. It suggests more than anything that it’s what we had for pudding at tea. But the name stuck, and we moved around town and got to know the animals we shared a space with.

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Our firm favourite soon became Tucker. What did we like about him? Mostly the fact that he kept on calling us ‘Fuzzers’. We found this hilarious, and even to this day when texting each other we use it as a term of endearment. There was Mott, a rather surly lion, and a parrot who’s name escapes me who had an alarming amount of weight lifting equipment in his house.

I wasted hours on 3DS Animal Crossing. Not as much as some, but enough for it to start to take up a sizeable chunk of my free time. I would spend evenings digging up fossils. I would spend hours on the island catching exotic fish, enjoying Kapp’n song on the journey over. I even used to take my console in the toilets at work to check on turnip prices during the day, sneaking away from my day job for virtual toil.

Then, as with most games, my interest waned. I used to check in occasionally, Isabelle giving me a hard time on the start up screen for being a stranger. And then, I just stopped visiting entirely. A couple of months ago, out of curiosity, I checked in after a five year absence, and ApplePie was a mess, a glimpse of post-Brexit Britain. The weeds were waist high, and most of my favourite villagers were long gone, escaping town for pastures new where the Mayor checks in. I wandered round this desolute ruin and switched off, never to return.

Back to the Amiibo. They were cheap on Amazon. I guess Nintendo made too many of them and they needed shifting. They were on for about a fiver each, and in a fit of madness I bought all these. A fever came over me and I kept on clicking. My Amazon orders are sent to my wife’s office, so over a number of days she sat there bemused as these little statues kept tumbling out of parcels.

We used them for Christmas presents for our children. To be fair, they loved them, but once opened they went on the shelf with all the other Amiibo. Other? Yes, it won’t surprise you that these are the drop in the Amiibo ocean. I’d say we have a good 25, and whilst they do all look very nice, they serve little to no purpose.

Animal Crossing, game and Amiibo, have cost me about £80. The other Amiibo a good £250, at least. A sobering thought that I could have bought my mortgage down by nearly a month if I’d resisted the purchase. But I didn’t, and there they sit, on a shelf, reminding me daily how I really shouldn’t be allowed the Amazon app on my phone.

Banjo Kazooie Totaku Figurine


As a child, I was a huge fan of the Spectrum games published and made by Ultimate. Atic Atac was my favourite, which was nothing more than a simple maze game, somehow made more compelling by the fact you felt you might actually be able to finish it. It had a health system which slowly depleted as you ran around, looking for pieces of a key.  Picking up pieces of food from the floor gave you a little boost, and you always felt that a spare chicken leg or bowl of cream was just the other side of the door.

Something Ultimate games had in spades was personality. Even the little spaceman of Jetpac felt like a real little guy, let alone their signature character Sabreman. When their Spectrum days were over, they jumped ship to Nintendo, changed their name to Rare, and with the odd misfire here and there carried on making amazing games.

I got my N64 relatively late, and apart from the packaged Mario the first two games I got were both Rarewhere – Goldeneye, and Banjo Kazooie. The former is great, but the latter I think is the greatest game to grace that console. From the moment i started to play I could see the lineage back to the Spectrum experience, with its blend of British humour, challenging puzzles, and wonderful graphics.

And incredible music. Composer Grant Kirkhope really excels himself, every section of every level containing excellent themes. I loved the way they merged into each other as you moved around the worlds, matched beautifully alongside the grunts, whistles and bellows that replaced speech. The worlds as well are incredibly varied, much more so than Mario64, packed with things to do, people to see, challenges to face.

I never finished Banjo Kazooie. Rather annoyingly, I let a visiting niece lose on my N64 one day and she somehow managed to delete a 50 hour save file, so I had to start again which killed the momentum. I got to the board game but never managed to take down Gruntilda.

Fast forward to 2019 and the bear and bird are still very much part of my life. I replayed it about 7 years ago on Xbox, and my son and daughter sat and watched and started their own saves. Later, in a playground, I noticed that they were playing at being Banjo Kazooie, which was hilarious to watch. Once, my son ran up to another child he didn’t know and shouted, ‘I’ll be Banjo! You can be Mumbo!’ and ran off, leaving a rather confused kid following in his wake.

So the figure in question was a Christmas present for my son this year. He went absolutely crazy when he opened it, eyes wide, and couldn’t wait to stick it with his Amiibo. I got the sequel game when it came out but it never grabbed me the same way, nor did Nuts and Bolts, but the original is an classic and in my top five video games of all time. I have purchased it three times over the years – on the N64, XBox, and part of the Rare Replay package. So I’d say about £90 has been handed over to Rare for my bird and bear habit, which is not a problem.

Zzap!64 Annual 2019 Kickstarter


As a British child of the 1980’s, most of my computer buddies owned a ZX Spectrum. There were a few who had a Commodore 64, who usually lived in a big detached house with a father who got the train into town at dawn and returned after Eastenders. It did seem like a rich kids toy, but I don’t remember being remotely jealous of those with the computer with better sound. And better graphics. Oh, and a proper keyboard. Ok, maybe I was a little bit jealous.

A good friend of mine called Neil owned a Commodore, and I used to go round his house during the holidays to play. My main memory is of playing the awesome Uridium, a stylish scrolling shooter that looked utterly wonderful, ships smoothly gliding across the screen in a way that made my Speccy look a bit useless. The ship even had a little shadow. I have no memory of Neil ever coming round to play on my 48K marvel, which I guess says something.

I know far more about the Commodore 64 than I should, due to the fact that despite never owning one, I used to buy a magazine dedicated to it. I was an avid consumer of Crash, produced by the publisher Newsfield. I’ve talked here about LM, their misguided attempt at a lifestyle magazine. When I discovered they were branching out into a sister publication called Zzap!64 I decided to buy the first issue, and continued to do so for a number of years.

Zzap!64 had a noticeably different feel to Crash. It felt more rebellious, taking every opportunity to have a pot-shot at its rubber keyboarded rival. It also pushed the writers to showcase their personalities, making their character an integral part of the magazine. In Crash, the reviewing and editorial team were largely anonymous, but at Zzap!64 the team were presented at every opportunity.

The magazine lasted a surprisingly long line, right up to its 90th issue in 1992. Recently, publisher Fusion Retro Books have launched successful Kickstarter projects to produce annuals of both Crash, and Zzap!64, and for both of these I decided to make a contribution and get on board.

I love a good Kickstarter, providing they are of a low value and come with some cool bits and bobs. This particular campaign came with a couple of stretch perks, and as part of my payment I ordered a rather fetching Zzap!64 mug, which sits very nicely with the mug I got with the Crash Kickstarter.


The annual itself is excellent. The original team have contributed, including most of the top brass at Newsfield. The cover by artist Oliver Frey is superb. To be honest, without his involvement the whole exercise would be pointless, and the artwork inside is also of a high quality. I enjoyed the retro features the most. What interests me is what these people have done since the 1980’s, so how their life has panned out since then. There is a great article about someone who won a competition to appear on an original cover, and a feature on musician Rob Hubbard. I also enjoyed the article on games that never saw the light of day, particularly the mention of Psyclapse and Bandersnatch, very topical at the time of writing.


It also surprised me how many people are still actively involved in the production of new games for the system. The same is true of the ZX Spectrum. I’m not quite sure why anyone would be bothered to play them, let alone spend the time coding games, but people do and there is a large community avidly consuming fresh product. The reviews themselves I found less interesting, to be honest, but I appreciate their inclusion, as they show how much interest still remains in this clunky beige box.

I spent forty three pounds on this Kickstarter. Rumour has it they are going for it again this year, and I dare say I’ll chip in. Back in the 80’s I would have spent another twenty quid on the magazine. The annual feels fresh, even though its based on nostalgia. This shows the skill of the publisher. It could have been a wallow in the past, a cheap rememberance of a supposed golden era, but it is so much better than that. Love and effort has been poured into this annual, which is what makes it such a quality item.

Galaxy Invader 1000 – from CGL

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Some Christmas presents stick in the mind. The Emu puppet I got in 1976. The Pocketeers that used to clutter the bottom of my stocking. And my first ever ‘video games console’ – the Galaxy Invader 1000 I got in 1981.

What was great about this present was that I had absolutely no idea I was getting it. I was 11, and completely lost my mind. My parents have a photograph of me at the moment I’d ripped off the wrapping paper, and there is a look on my face similar to the expression you’d see on a photo taken much later when I first held my baby daughter. It is a mixture of surprise, joy, and utter delight.

I played it most of that Christmas Day, and well into the year. I have recently played Red Dead Redemption 2 on my Playstation 4, and despite following up every side quest, hunting down legendary animals, even looking for those damn playing cards, I’d guess that I’ve played Galaxy Invader 1000 more. I used to be able to beat the game every time I played, even on level 3. At the end of term when we were allowed to bring in games, I took this to showcase amongst my peers.

By this time, my friends were starting to get home computers, and weren’t that interested. Adam up the road even had an Atari console you could plug into the telly, making him a God amongst men. Soon enough, even my household were proud owners of a ZX Spectrum, and Galaxy Invader 1000 was consigned to history.

But not thrown away. It has survived, and now sits in a box in my loft, with other keepsakes. It’s the sort of thing you move aside when looking for something else. So last night I got it out of the box, put fresh batteries in, and was amazed to see that it still works.


It was incredible to hear those sounds again, so familar after all these years. The way it plays a slightly longer tune each time to lose a life. The sound of the red UFO passing overhead. Even the feeling of depressing the fire button. It was as comforting as the noise Pac Man makes. I showed it my son, who was interested for about 30 seconds, before going back to Smash Bros. on the Switch.

I didn’t pay for this. My parents did. But I certainly got value for money out of the Galaxy Invader 1000. I would estimate its the video game I’ve played the most, and that’s saying something. It’s funny how something so simplistic can give so much pleasure, and how pathetically drab it looks now.


Head Over Heels for the ZX Spectrum


By 1987 the ZX Spectrum was more or less on its last legs, as was my love for it. I was getting older, a 16 year old with a larger appetite for music than chasing pixels round a screen. I still bought magazines about games, purchasing Spectrum title Crash more out of habit, but rarely bought or played anything.

But then along came Head Over Heels, one of the most celebrated games of the machine’s era. It’s not particularly original – the ‘Filmation’ style had been around since Ultimate’s Knight Lore – but the introduction of two characters with different abilities was innovative for its time.

The game was devised by the pairing of Ritman and Drummond, two veteran programmers who had an extensive back catalogue of wonderful games. The two characters were Head, and of course Heels, spies from the planet Freedom. Their mission was to escape and defeat some evil ruler taking over other planets.

To say I saw little of the end of the game would be a gross understatement. I did however see a lot of the first few levels. It was very rare that a Spectrum game gave you the ability to save so if you lost all your lives you had to start the game over from the beginning. Worse was when things were going swimmingly and you had to switch off the machine for some reason. I once had three pieces of the Sabre Wulf amulet and had to switch off to go to visit my grandparents. I never achieved such progress again.

I would estimate that I’ve seen the first level of Manic Miner 1,000 times, the second 800 times, the third 600, and so on into a reductive number of encounters the higher the level up to about level 14. Watching a walkthrough of the game on Youtube opens up all its exotic later levels, places I’ve never visited before. It’s like being played songs by your favourite band you’ve never heard.

The lack of a save function was particularly frustrating on Head over Heels. I managed to unite the pair, but didn’t get much further after that. The game was hard and I had little patience. The opening screen is as familiar to me as the opening swirl of Ghost Town or the cartoon titles of Grange Hill, such is the frequency by which I’ve encountered them.

Needless to say Head Over Heels was a Crash Smash, awarded 97%, quite an accolade. It has been given an HD make-over and can be played today without waiting five minutes for it to load. To me, it marks my last hurrah with my Spectrum, a very special machine which I’m sure will get another mention in this blog at some point.

Head over Heels cost me about £7.99. I spent hundreds on games, some good, some bad. But few as excellent as this one.