Welcome to the next phase of Tired Old Hack!
As I explained in my post yesterday (which you should read first if you haven’t yet), the site’s focus is changing to mainly look at retro gaming. It won’t be exclusively retro – as I’ll detail below – but for the most part that’s going to be the site’s vibe going forward.
I know there are a decent number of retro gaming sites out there, but I’m hoping I can bring something new to the table by adding my own voice to the world of retro coverage. My general mission statement is “showing old games in a new way”, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to do that with my usual daft sense of humour.
I also think my retro coverage is going to differ from many other retro sites because I’m British (Scottish, to be exact), and our history of gaming is different to that in America, where most retro sites and YouTubers originate from.
For example, many American sites will tell you about the great video game crash of 1983, when the Atari 2600’s value plummeted and arcades across the country closed down. What they don’t often tell you is that at the time, gaming was still booming in the UK thanks to the likes of the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64.
Culturally, we also experienced different things in the UK that didn’t happen in the US. America didn’t have GamesMaster or its satellite rival Games World, which they should be gutted about. They’ll probably be less gutted about not having Right Said Fred’s song for Sonic 3, though:
The other crucial element, I reckon, is that I lived all of this. I’m not just some young buck grabbing all this off Wikipedia: I eagerly watched GamesMaster every Thursday night, I bought every issue of Sonic The Comic and Nintendo Magazine System. And yes, shamefully, I bought the single for that Right Said Fred song.
It’s one thing talking about old games and throwing up funny clips you come across on YouTube, but when you obsessed over it as a child you remember the details that only an enthusiast would pick up on. Well, that’s what I’m hoping anyway.
So, what can you expect from the all-new Tired Old Hack? Well, I won’t be giving it all away just now, but here’s a selection of some of the regular features – some new, some favourites from the previous setup – that you’ll be seeing on here in the coming days, months and years (and decades?).
As you’ve hopefully already noticed, I have a shiny new Tired Old Hack logo courtesy of the fantastic Nico Vliek (check out his other work!), and the site layout has had a wee freshen up (nothing too drastic).
That’s not all: thanks to my Patreon members’ monthly contributions, I was able to commission Nico to completely overhaul my YouTube channel: a new logo, new thumbnails template, new end title card, the full whack. The logo and banner are up already, expect to see the rest as new videos arrive.
We decided to go with a look that calls back to the days of classic ‘90s video game magazines. The font is a no-nonsense, big chunky italic bastard just like the ones used for all the best US magazines from the ‘90s like EGM, GamePro and Nintendo Power.
Because of this, the banner at the top of the page and my YouTube thumbnails going forward are going to have a special ‘texture’ that makes it look like they’ve been scanned from a magazine. So if you think it looks a little blurry and the colours are washed out a bit, that’s the idea!
In case you’re interested about the other details, the little hand on the logo is taken from the Game Genie, the popular 8-bit and 16-bit device that let you ‘hack’ your games (geddit)? That’s also why the word ‘Hack’ (and some of the banner image) looks a little corrupt, because it’s being hacked. Double-meaning, innit.
If you missed all the retro logos I used to have on the site, don’t worry: they’re coming back. I’m going to be doing new ones, in fact. I just want to put Nico’s logo up for now to make it clear that this is the new ‘official’ Tired Old Hack logo, and even once the retro logos go back up on the homepage you’ll be seeing this logo everywhere else: on YouTube, watermarks, the full shebang.
I’m keen to do a lot more video content going forward.
As you may have noticed, my Starlink and Red Dead Redemption reviews were accompanied by optional video versions (and if I’d received Pokémon Let’s Go code before launch I’d have done the same for that), in which I showed game footage while reading my review over the top of it. The reaction to these was positive, so I’m going to do more of the same.
My YouTube channel is the only element of the whole Tired Old Hack ‘thing’ that is lagging behind in terms of subscribers (so please do if you haven’t yet), and that’s mainly because I’ve been neglecting it. That’s going to change going forwards.
My new standard – time permitting – will be to provide both written and video versions of every article going forward, where appropriate. Gemhunter is naturally video-only, for example, while hardware reviews will tend to be written-only (with maybe accompanying clips showing elements of the hardware, rather than the full review given in voiceover form).
For the most part though, you’re going to be able to choose whether you want to read or watch my articles going forward.
Modern game reviews
For those clutching their Joy-Cons, DualShock 4s and Xbox One controllers and rocking back and forth, don’t worry: I’m not abandoning modern gaming altogether.
Despite my little rant yesterday, I’m not completely done with current-gen. I still aim to do my typically large reviews of some modern games going forward, starting with Super Smash Bros Ultimate (which’ll be up… at some point. Nintendo’s being funny with code again).
If a modern game takes my fancy I’m still going to want to play it, and it would be downright rude of me not to write up a review once I do.
This also extends to wee-views, the new regular series I only launched less than a fortnight ago.
In case you missed the first article, wee-views are shorter reviews of current games I’ve been playing, with the caveat that I haven’t finished the game yet: for each game, I explicitly state how far I’ve gotten.
The idea is that, after nearly 13 years of reviewing games professionally, I tend to know whether I’m going to like something after a few hours. Wee-views let me ‘review’ more games, while urging the reader to bear in mind that the game may still – unlikely though it may be – get significantly worse or better near the end.
I’m still getting a load of review codes for Switch games thrown at me, and a lot of these games simply get no coverage on big sites. Even Nintendo Life – who I’ll regularly be contributing freelance reviews for going forwards – is choosing not to review everything these days, because there are simply too many games coming to the Switch.
Wee-views will let me do my bit in covering smaller, less noticed titles, to help you discover the hidden gems and (more importantly) tell you which ones you shouldn’t take a chance on.
Well, obviously. That said, you may not see as many of these as you’d expect, at least not in the way you may be imagining.
As enthusiastic as I am about focusing on retro gaming, the idea of writing a review of Ocarina Of Time frankly bores the piss right out of my wee man (and I’d imagine you may feel the same way).
I don’t want to cover games that have been done to death, at least not in the standard way. When I do cover specific games, they’ll be less well-known ones that offer something interesting, rather than adding my two cents to the mountain of currency that is online reviews of GoldenEye, Final Fantasy VII and the like.
‘Retro reviews’ doesn’t just mean reviews of old games, of course. I’m also going to be covering anything ‘new’ that relates to retro gaming. In the next day or two I’m going to be releasing a massive hour-long video showing and explaining all 51 games in Sega Mega Drive Classics, all running on the Switch.
Meanwhile, next week I’m planning to review the recently released Atari 2600 handheld from Blaze. I’m still covering new products, then, but they’re still retro themed.
That Time When…
This is maybe the new feature I’m most excited about. If I get this right, I can see a situation where a year or two down the line people will be subscribing to my YouTube channel just so they can go back and watch through them all.
The idea is that anyone can say “here’s coverage of an old game”, when often all they want to do is talk about a specific quirky or memorable thing about it.
As a perfect example, I want to cover Virtua Striker 3 ver 2002 on the GameCube, but not because it’s a good football game (even though I do personally like it more than most). I want to cover it because you can unlock a team full of Sonic characters, and it’s really bizarre.
‘That Time When…’ solves that problem: it’s a series (provided in both written and video form) that focuses on specific weird and wonderful moments in gaming history. Using the Virtua Striker example, I could (and plan to) do an episode called ‘That Time When Sonic Was in a Football Game’, where I briefly introduce the game and then cut to the chase, showing the bit that’s actually interesting (and hopefully entertaining).
I don’t want to show my hand too soon with ‘That Time When…’ because I’ve got countless ideas for this one. Hopefully, though, you’ll soon see how much potential there is for this series, and how it won’t necessarily focus on specific games but can also look at curious, funny and downright bizarre things that happened in the gaming world in general (and yes, that includes That Time When Right Said Fred Made A Song About Sonic).
I launched Kartography earlier this year and the reaction has been brilliant, which I’m really thankful for.
If you haven’t read any of the three I’ve already done, it’s a series based on licensed karting games in which I go into unnecessary detail breaking each one down in terms of the licence, characters, tracks, weapons and other features.
Each of these elements is given a score, and they’re all then combined to see where the game places on the Tired Old Hack Kartography leaderboard. Over time, as more games as covered, the aim will be to create the definitive list of licensed karting games sorted by quality.
Naturally, since there’s a fairly obvious retro focus here already, it goes without saying that Kartography will be continuing.
I’ve already written Kartography articles for Hello Kitty Kruisers, Garfield Kart and Mickey’s Speedway USA, and I’m currently working on new ones for Nickelodeon Kart Racers (Xbox One and Switch versions) and Sonic R (Saturn).
I recently brought back Gemhunter, my video series in which I take an old and forgotten game (or, more often, one that looks suspiciously like shovelware) and try to find a hidden gem.
The gimmick is that I’m going into the game completely fresh, having never played it before, and I just leave the capture card running as both the viewer and I experience it for the first time.
I then make a ridiculous snap judgment about whether it’s a gem or not, having only spent anything from 30 minutes to an hour on it. It’s just a bit of fun, after all.
I’ve done 11 Gemhunter videos to date (catch up on them here) and only found one gem so far, which is one more than I’ve expected to find, to be honest. Folk seem to enjoy the videos, and I enjoy doing them, so it looks like a win-win. I really need to update that opening though.
Another new series, inspired by the positive reaction to Kartography. I started Kartography because I’ve always been fascinated by the way karting games handle existing licenses, but that fascination doesn’t just extend to that genre alone.
Licence Test will take licensed games from any genre – platformers, shooters, what have you – and subject them to a similar series of tests to the ones I give in Kartography.
It’s a widely accepted belief that movies based on games and TV shows are almost always rubbish, a couple of exceptions aside. Licence Test will put that theory to… well, the test.
This time I’ll be judging games based on the licence itself, how well the game sticks to its plot, how ‘authentic’ it is (does it use the actual stars and voice actors, or ropey replacements?) and finally how fun it is to play.
There won’t be a leaderboard for this one: instead, each game will be getting a licence test result using the tried-and-tested Crazy Taxi scale of Class E, D, C, B, A and S.
Much like Kartography doesn’t cover the obvious games (i.e. the Mario Kart series), Licence Test will generally stay away from your GoldenEyes. Expect to see more weird and wonderful offerings, from Short Circuit on the ZX Spectrum to Beverly Hills Cop on the PS2.
The 30 Best
When I first started Tired Old Hack back in early 2015, one of my early series was The 30 Best.
To an extent, it was essentially a shameless attempt at SEO-baiting by adding a load of ‘the best X games’ articles to the site so that people downloading emulators would stumble upon the site while Googling which ROMS to pinch.
For the most part though, it was my chance to finally and definitively list my favourite games on every system for the first time (we’d done it on the likes of ONM before, but they were group decisions).
I wrote nine of these – DS, GameCube, Dreamcast, Amiga, Wii, SNES, Vita, Wii U and Nintendo 64 (catch up on them here) – and now I plan to keep going by covering the other systems I haven’t done yet.
Retro console reviews and buyer’s guides
As I said in my previous article, when we moved house recently I started putting together a games room.
Part of this has involved re-buying many of the old consoles I had to sell back in 2006, which I grudgingly did to fund my move to London so I could start my career at Official Nintendo Magazine.
One thing I’ve noticed while doing this is that buying retro systems can be a bit of a confusing mess, especially in the UK where our consoles were almost always shitter than they were in the US due to games running slower and with borders.
Since my hope is that my site will eventually encourage other people to start dabbling in retro gaming, it would be a bit shit of me to leave folk to it and not guide them along the way.
With that in mind, I’m going to start doing special guides to each retro console. These will consist of a number of elements, starting with a review of the console and its various gimmicks from a modern point of view.
I’ll then explain the differences between each region’s consoles and redesigns, and give advice on the best ways to get them running on modern HD and 4K televisions (with different options depending on your budget).
Finally, since I appreciate that collecting retro games is an increasingly expensive hobby, I’ll cover the different ways you can play the games on each system, including modern re-releases on other consoles, emulation and any ‘alternative‘ methods that let you play backups on real hardware (though I won’t be directing you to those backups: that’s on your own head).
The aim is that by the end of each of these articles you’ll know these systems inside-out and, should you want to buy one, have a good idea of exactly which model and setup to get.
The Tired Old Hack podcast will be continuing, though for the near future (while I have a young baby) it’ll probably continue to be infrequent.
It’s difficult for me to find a free, unbroken hour, and when I do I’m more likely to want to spend it writing or editing a video.
That said, I understand the podcast is still popular so I’m aiming to do one a month (at the very least) where I’ll recap what’s been going on in the gaming world.
Long story short, don’t cancel your iTunes subscriptions yet.
Here’s a new idea that’s going to be starting next month. If it doesn’t take off I’ll scrap it, but let’s try it first and see how we get on with it.
The idea is that each month I’ll announce a retro game (chosen with help from my Patreon community) via an article on the site.
Everyone who wants to take part will then play through the game that month, while discussing its ins and outs with other Tired Old Hack readers (either in the comments for that article or – preferably – in the Game Club channel I’ll be adding to the Tired Old Hack Discord server.
That way, you can play through this retro game along with a bunch of other people, and share your findings, secrets and strategies with each other like you would’ve in the playground back in the ‘80s or ‘90s.
Each game is going to be one that’s easy enough to get hold of on modern systems for a couple of quid: I’m not going to have you all forking out £120 for Snatcher.
Like I say, if this one doesn’t get a lot of attention then fair enough, they can’t all be winners. But I’m curious to see how many people give it a go.
Loads of other random one-offs
The above are some specific examples of regular features and series you’re going to be seeing on Tired Old Hack in the coming weeks, months and maybe years.
That isn’t everything I’ll be doing, though. I’ve got a Trello board full of ideas for one-off, standalone articles and features I want to write for the site.
Some will be interesting, others will be extremely silly. But the aim with all is to entertain, educate and hopefully have you coming away with a big smile on your face.
Finally, something that’s important to me: where possible, all the game footage and screenshots you see on Tired Old Hack will be captured by me on original hardware.
Any prick can get hold of a Nintendo 64 emulator, bump it up to 4K and grab a bunch of impossibly crisp screenshots, but that’s not how the game looked.
This is how it looked, as captured on my own Nintendo 64 through an upscaler (for the best picture quality):
Emulators will never be perfect. They can come close, but there’ll always be frame skips and graphical glitches. By showing each game running on original hardware, you’ll not only see exactly how the game looks, you’ll get a better idea of how it’ll look if you get it for your own retro system.
More importantly, some systems still haven’t been perfectly emulated yet. The original Xbox, for example, still can’t be emulated accurately: nowhere near it.
There will be situations where I’ll have to use emulators. I don’t have a bunch of arcade machines in my house, so when I’m covering arcade games I’ll need to use an emulator like MAME for my captures. Games on more obscure systems, like the MSX, may also need to be covered using an emulator (at least until I can get one for the collection).
The aim, though, will always be to capture on authentic hardware first.
Every article and video will make it clear (either at the start or end) what I used to get the video footage and screenshots. You’ll know every time whether I used original hardware (which is my preferred option), a modern equivalent (like the Analogue Super NT), or an emulator.
What you can do to help
So that’s it! Tired Old Hack is moving on to the next level, and I’d be delighted if you came along for the ride.
If you want to help me, please do share any articles you like, be that on Twitter, Reddit or what have you. The more people who read the site, the larger it grows and the better it’ll become as a result.
If you want to support me financially, I have a Patreon account. All the money goes back into the site, either by ensuring it remains ad-free, funding my Adobe account to help me edit my images and videos, or helping me buy hardware and software for review. Otherwise, if you don’t want to commit to a monthly payment, I have a PayPal tips button at the bottom of every article. Oh look, here it is now:
Alternatively, if you’re an Amazon UK shopper, you can use my affiliate links (including this general one) to do your shopping: this helps fund the site too without costing you any extra.
Those are all bonuses though: the most important way you can help is by doing exactly what you’re doing now: coming to my site and reading my words, or watching my videos.
Tired Old Hack has no ads, every article is one on page, and there are no slideshows or clickbait shit to annoy you. This site is designed with you in mind, with the aim being to make your eyes light up and your mouth smile.
The focus may be changing from modern to retro gaming, but I will continue to be yer man Scullion, and Tired Old Hack will continue to be a site designed with the reader’s best interests at heart. Because my heart is what I’m using to write it.
Thanks so much for continuing to support the site. Onto level 2!