Yes, I did blanch a little at the price as well! In a software market where games seem to settle on £2/£3 for budget, £7/£9 for normal games and £10 for compilations, this collection is so far out of normal pricing policy that something seemed afoot.
A few moments of investigative journalism revealed the answer - the collection had been prepared at the instigation of The Home Computer Club - a mail order discount club often advertising in the computer press - and that price was necessary so that the Club could offer a hefty discount to a more reasonable £15. In recognition of the unlikely other massive sales, Audiogenic are selling their copies by mail order only.
So, is it worth joining the Club to get a discount on this? My feeling is probably yes - I'm a member myself and do find it useful. Recently, for example, they had a special Software Invasion package (remember them?) complete with new game that I had not seen available anywhere else - sadly my copy had to be returned but I should be able to bring you a report next month.
On with the collection - the seven games included in the package are all enjoyable and, despite some cropping up on earlier Audiogenic compilations, six of them appear on disc for the first time. The games are:
Psycastria: Gary Partis' number one hit; the BBC version of Uridium that should delight all shoot-'em-up fans, myself included. This is the only game that has had an official disc release.
Ultron: An early work by Partis that offers Invader fans a challenge to their skills. I believe this is a version of Gorf, but this is dimming the memory, I'm afraid. Quite fun, but not earth-shaking.
Thunderstruck: Peter Scott's inimitable Spreco lost inside an eerie castle. One of the arcade adventure fans and a model of a game that combines large attractive sprites with amusing puzzles.
Contraption: Dave Mann's fairly manic platform game that, sadly, never seemed to get the attention I thought it deserved. Large wacky graphics and a compulsive tune that have served as model for several other platform games, most notably Tynesoft's Mouse Trap and Addictive Boffin.
Wizzy's Mansion: Before Jet Set Willy appeared on the Beeb, there was always Wizzy's Mansion to keep platform and mapping fans who appreciate Spectrum graphics happy. Nice little game by Bruce Nesbit.
Last Of The Free: More arcade adventure by Peter Scott with more large sprites, humorous graphics and fiendish puzzles than you probably deserve.
Space Ranger: The only disappointment of the package. Kevin Blake's version of the game (you *must* have seen it - direct a lunar mobule through an asteroid storm to reach landing pads on the planet's surface) would not have been unreasonable on first release; now, I'm afraid, it suffers from the company it keeps on this compilation.
However, there is still a mystery to solve - the cover art does hint that at one stage both Wongo (Gary Partis' real embarassment) and Stix were due to appear on the collection. Perhaps it is just as well that they didn't!
If you are any sort of serious games player then I would expect you to have three or four of these games already. If not, then it is well worth considering, despite the fairly horrific price - however, just recall that to buy the first four titles on tape alone would set you back over £30.