GAMEX game
  • Graphics
  • Sound
  • Playability
  • Lastability
FormatSinclair Spectrum
DeveloperJonathan Cauldwell
Price£2.99 (excl. P&P;)
ReviewJason and Frank

Main review

There’s only a few things that are really difficult to understand in the world today and, apart from the more obvious topics like religion, the scoring system used for cricket and how they get jam inside the doughnuts, for a lot of people the commodities market is one of these grey areas. Enter GameX – The Games Exchange, yet another slightly warped brainchild of Spectrum maestro Jonathan Cauldwell where currency is directly linked to the performance of video games – this is a world the Oldschool Gaming team like the idea of. There are sixteen commodities, or games to you and me, on offer and each has it’s own fluctuating share price. To start with you have no capital and, on more positively, no tax to pay, so GameX generously lets you have a quick round of Muncher (a slightly simplified Pac-Man clone) in order to get a little cashflow going. Once you’ve got something to work with, it’s time start building your portfolio.

Once shares have been purchased in a title, the player gets to have a go and this in turn earns more capital but, since it’s possible to freeze the action to trade at any time during play, it’s also possible to make a profit by buying into a game and selling the shares if the price goes up significantly – but it’s worth remembering the old adage; shares are like trousers, they can go up or down and you might find yourself waiting for your chosen commodity to increase in value. A couple of games have a fixed difficulty level and are therefore good long-term investments because, although they don’t generate a huge income from each round, they’re consistent; one “buy and hold” game is the airbourne shoot ’em up Spitfire, it’s expensive to initially buy into but earns well over time. Other games can make more capital per round, but are significantly harder to play as time goes on, either because their difficulty increases with each play, as with Robotron variant The Dead, or because they’re difficult games to start with. One of the cuter platformers is Skate Pig, our porcine hero leaps around on his ‘board and collects keys – but one false move and, in true Manic Miner tradition, it’s back to the start of the round!

The only cloud on the horizon in the GameX market place is taxation and although it starts at zero (and if only the real world worked like that) the counter goes up whenever something negative happens within a game; the amount of taxation added varies depending on the game itself, in some cases contact with a nasty won’t be fatal and merely adds a couple of percent whilst in other cases a collision is fatal and will also add a fixed 10% penalty, so the tax counter acts like a cross between a lives counter and energy gauge. If the taxation reaches 100%… well, that means all the money is going to the tax man and you’re broke, so it’s game over. It’s not all bad news though, the tax can be lowered by 10% collecting four icons during play that spell out the word GAME.

Superficially, GameX could come across as an attempt to simply put together sixteen simple games as a package and, to a degree, that’s what has happened; all the games are fun in themselves, all are well represented if simple graphically and, although it’s limited, what sound there is fits the bill, some titles are more difficult than others and, since such a diverse range of styles are represented, there’s usually a few titles that a player can latch onto and enjoy. But unlike other attempts to meld multiple games together, with Lazy Jones or more recently the Wario Ware series being the first examples that spring to mind, this isn’t just a case of a group of disparate titles and a little “glue” to hold them in place and the stock trading adds a whole new element; is it worth risking the purchase of shares in a game the player isn’t keen on playing, is the upward trend in a title going fast enough that some stock can be purchased and then sold on before the dividend on that title is due, even how much stock to buy?

But even better is that the stock trading side of GameX is optional so, whilst you do need capital to buy into titles you want to play, it’s not necessary to concentrate on share prices and the market unless you want to. Bigger scores will be earnt by those players who try to keep how much they paid to play the games in their head as well as the techniques needed to actually play them, but anyone can approach GameX and it’s sub-games and play them however they see fit and that’s what makes it well worth the small amount of effort initially required to get used to the “game world” and start trading properly.

Second opinion

The concept of many games in one load has always facinated me. Even the slightest mention of Lazy Jones brings a slight, nostaligic tear to my eye. An old battered up cassette tape picked up at the tender age of ten brought so much joy with its many sub games crammed into a single load. GameX re-ignites such memories and feelings with its emergence on the Spectrum through the Cronosoft label thanks to the genius that is Jonathan Cauldwell.

Rather than having to navigate around a series of rooms across three floors, GameX requires you to play on the stock market, buying into any of the fifteen games available to you. You start by building up capital by playing a game of Pacman (or Muncher as its known in this game) and, once you have cleared a round, you can then buy into a game or two from the list. If for instance you buy into two games, you play the first in the list that you’ve selected and play the next game once you’ve completed a round or level of the first title.

Now the problem with Lazy Jones was that, once you got over the novelty factor, you realized that the sub games were fairly average. GameX however features sub games on par with the quality found in Firebird’s Arcade Classics and there are some truly awesome mini-games crammed into it including some fantastic arcade conversions like Missile CommandBreakout and many more. My favorites include Bubbles (a neat Pang clone), Skatepig (influenced by Manic Miner) and Mr. Spud (a mini Burger Time!)… the original game Rain Man would have made a nice mini game on its own. This compilation of games is a real treat to gamers, and one which really blew me away. Apart from the slight poor responsiveness in Dodgums and occasional flickering or slowdown in some games, the mini-games are almost flawless. Most games contain just enough to warrant more than one go as did the original arcade classics, and the tax/capital aspect adds even more.

Graphically there is nothing spectacular here, but everything is functional and considering that there are fifteen different games in here, its good enough to cause no complaints. Presentation is neat and tidy, with a cool flick through various game characters on the front page (R.I.P. on the VIC 20 did something similar, cycling through it’s maps before you started each game.) Sound is a little sparse though and effects are repeated through most games, though it was worth it to squeeze all of those games in. GameX is not just a great collection of mini games, but an intelligently pieced together package for very little money. Being an avid C64 user, i’m very envious that Speccy users have got such a great package from Cronosoft. Highly recommended!