Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story Review – Preservation at its Finest

Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story

We’re well past the point where games have been accepted as a form of art. While the greatest paintings, written works, and cinematic masterpieces have all been immortalized and preserved in museums or digital collections, game preservation remains a minimal focus across the industry. Thankfully, developers like Digital Eclipse are showing the rest of the world how it’s done.

Their latest release is Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story, an interactive documentary and collection of Jeff Minter’s catalog of titles from his time in the game industry. This type of preservation seems like an easy win, but does Digital Eclipse have the format down, or is there room for improvement? Let’s find out.

A Near-Perfect Combination of Preservation and Education

Over the last few generations, a few games blur the line between a documentary and an interactive experience. Some seek to tell the story of a historical event, while others deep dive into a specific region’s culture.

However, Digital Eclipse has carved out its niche in this genre with games that preserve the history of gaming itself. Jeff Minter’s story isn’t their first title, but it does fall into their Gold Master series of games, and it creates a time capsule within the broader history of gaming.

The game’s structure is divided into two parts. The first is a collection that includes nearly every single one of Jeff Minter’s games that are all playable and preserved to capture the moment of time they existed within. Fans of retro titles or Jeff Minter’s work will find this treasure trove with interesting concepts.

The only notable omission from the list is Defender 2000 for the Atari Jaguar. Neither Jeff Minter nor Atari have the rights to the title, but the collection still feels comprehensive without it. However, the deeper meat of the experience is the chapters that chronicle the entire history of Llamasoft and its creator.

These chapters are organized into timelines that include all manner of photos, cover art, video interviews, and, of course, playable versions of the games. It’s an excellent way to preserve history, allowing you better to understand the context around each game’s release. It also helps inform the design thinking that went into the titles, which makes them unique.

This structure makes it easy for both fans of the games and newcomers to experience the full story and what makes the titles unique. Since all these games are from the same developer, you’ll naturally encounter similar ideas and gameplay concepts throughout the catalog. It can’t be avoided due to the collection’s nature, but it allows repetition to set in after extended play sessions.

While it’s also part of Jeff Minter’s design and charm, some of the games and their instructions leave something to be desired because it is difficult to understand how to play the game. You’ll find scans of the original instruction manuals and controls for your platform of choice, but even with these things you may spend several minutes being confused each time you try a new title.

Really, though, it’s all part of the charm. Playing Llamasoft games, especially through the interactive timelines, really conveys the full vision of what each title is going for, and that’s the magic that Digital Eclipse has managed to capture here. It’s the lightning in the bottle that makes titles like this worth preserving.

A Template for Game Preservation Efforts

Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story

Regardless of what you know or think about Llamasoft’s catalog of titles, the format that Digital Eclipse has created here is perhaps the most exciting part of this game. This type of virtual museum can easily be replicated to cover other developers, eras, or genres of games. I wondered what it would be like to see a similar approach done for some of my favorite developers in the history of gaming.

As a lifelong gamer and someone who will be playing games for the rest of my life, game preservation like this is incredibly important to me. I want future generations and new gamers to experience this amazing form of art, and thanks to studios like Digital Eclipse, we’re starting to see that happen more and more, and I am eager to see what they do next.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Article by – Bradley Ramsey
Insert date – 3/25/2024

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