Mega Games was infamously a batch of very exciting games that were once in production for the c64 and Spectrum, and were said by the press (and of course Imagine themselves) to be very ahead of their time, with some incredible features. Imagine Software pushed the boat out with this one, but unfortunately it hit an iceberg pretty rapidly and sank without trace (or became one with Ocean, same thing I guess! ;) )
None of the 6 planned games were released. Two of the main games proposed and advertised a lot in the press at the time (see gallery below) were:
- Bandersnatch (World of Spectrum page) – John Gibson & Ian Wetherburn – Spectrum with extra hardware
- Psyclapse (See separate GTW64 entry) – Eugene Evans & Jake Glover – C64 with extra hardware. Graphics by Dawn Jones and possibly Ally Noble too.
Although neither got finished and only probably to around 30-50% completion status, they left their mark. Additionally there were two other titles in development, which very little focus was put upon:
- Hero – programmed by John Heap (Spectrum) and Dave Colclough (C64) – A game we know very little about (See GTW64 entry)
- Star Traders – programmed by Marc Dawson (C64) and Daryl Dennis (Spectrum) (See GTW64 entry)
Both games were started at the same time. Neither of these games had correct titles only working titles. The 5th and 6th games in the series are currently unknown, and hopefully some names will be produced soon to complete the story.
So what was so special about these games, and why did it eventually result in the ultimate demise of Imagine Sofware?
At the time, Imagine was enjoying huge sales and success, and expanding at a rate of knots. Unfortunately Imagine felt at the time that they were being damaged badly by piracy, and as a preventative measure, came up with the idea of the Mega Games series, which would require an additional piece of hardware attached to the machine to play the game.
The additional piece of hardware was essentially a glorified RAM expansion pack, very similiar to what MikroGen released later (and which ironically contributed to their downfall). Although the idea was pretty good with the ability to provide vastly improved graphics and sizable games, the price of RAM was very expensive – and would have made a purchase around £40-60. Of course, this was far too much for those used to spending around £6-10 for a C64/Spectrum game back then.
It has been suggested that the idea was the brain child of Mark Butler, and Bruce Everiss had tried to stop the idea – suggesting it was crazy and would never work. But it was decided to press on, and the entire meltdown of the company was covered by BBC documentary Commercial Breaks.
After not being able to pay various companies whom it owed money, Imagine went under and the name (and some of its assets) were brought by Ocean Software, who continued to use the name right up until around 1990.
The Mega Games themselves were never properly finished, though many ideas were taken onto other future games done by Denton Designs and Psygnosis (a company who’s name was based from Psyclapse – Psygnosis originally being called Psyclapse). Looking at Gift of the Gods, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Bratacus will show pretty much many ideas mean’t for both Bandersnatch and Psyclapse.
Bratacus in particular was essentially Bandersnatch patched up and finished off on the Amiga/ST as Psygnosis’ first ever release (and is is apparently actually a mix of the two original Mega Games).
In recent times, the Mega Games has provided a fascinating story of the rapid rise and fall of a games company in the early 80’s. Not only that, there is increased interest in the games that never quite made it and a lot of hope in recovering them in their final state. Although Bandersnatch seems all but lost, with John Gibson no longer having any materials – Ally Nobel offers hope that she still has all the logos and sprites on sketch paper in her attic … and of course Psyclapse and Star Raiders are known to have materials in existance which GTW64 is aiming to bring to the forefront.
Hopefully in time we’ll be able to find everything that there is to find and document about the series, and close the case on this one.
Contributions: Marc Dawson, Peter Weighill, Angelo from brataccas.net, Dawn Jones, John Gibson, Ross Sillifant