Bit of a twist for this week's retrospective. Rather than focusing on a single title, we've allowed former Retro Gamer editor Martyn Carroll to get all misty-eyed as he recalls a particular era in gaming history. If phrases like Knight Tyme and Kikstart 2 mean anything at all to you, polish those rose-tinted glasses and read on.
I was really thin at high school. No weight on me. I'd love to say this was because I was always outdoors, riding bikes and building bivouacs. The truth was that I spent far too many hours indoors, playing games on my ZX Spectrum, pasty-faced and oblivious to the benefits of Vitamin D.
The reason I was thin was because of games. You see, full-price games were expensive and I was only able to afford them following Christmases and birthdays. This obviously wasn't ideal.
Surprisingly, the answer did not lie with piracy. C90 tapes packed with games regularly did the rounds at school, but in my experience homemade copies rarely worked. There was nothing more annoying that waiting 10 minutes for a game to load only for it to crap out at the last second.
Then, in the mid-eighties, the solution for my gaming drought turned up in the most unexpected of places - the local newsagent. I went in to pick up the latest issue of Sinclair User magazine and there, by the counter, had appeared a spinning rack filled with blister-packed games from a new company called Mastertronic.
There were titles for the Commodore VIC-20, the Commodore 64, the BBC Micro, something called the Dragon 32, and - yes! - the Spectrum. Back then this was akin to discovering digital distribution. I could buy games straight from the local shop rather then catching a bus into town or waiting for mail order companies to meet their frankly ridiculous '28 day delivery' promise.
But the best bit was the price. All of these games were yours for just £1.99 a pop. This was a quarter, perhaps even a fifth of what you'd pay for a full price release. This was the rule book getting ripped up. This was revolution!
And this was the reason why I was skinny at school, but more on that in a minute.
Over the next few years the budget game market went mental. Mastertronic's games began to appear in convenience stores, video shops, petrol stations - basically any building where people bought stuff.
Other publishers quickly moved in. British Telecom released budget games through its Firebird Silver range, while Richard and David Darling, two teenage brothers who'd wrote a number of hits for Mastertronic, launched their own budget games company called Codemasters.
Ocean, US Gold and Elite Systems also got in on the act with their own low-cost labels, although in most cases they used them to re-release games that had previously retailed at full price - great if you couldn't afford a game first time around.
The budget model wasn't just about games at pocket money prices. Frequency played a huge part too. Whereas full price publishers might release one title a month, the budget guys were banging out several titles every week.
In 1987, Mastertronic alone released 267 games across 11 different formats. This meant that every time you went into your newsagent or wherever, there would be new games on the rack.
Magazines often couldn't keep up with the sheer number of new releases and as such, reviews wouldn't appear until weeks later (if at all). This meant buying games 'blind', based only on the cover-art and the blurb on the back of the box.
Or in the case of Codemasters, the hilarious "ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!" inlay quotes usually made by David Darling himself. (For the record, David, I would still like to know what colour the sky was in your world when you described the shameful Twin Turbo V8 as "Amazingly playable, just like real performance car driving!").
Buying budget games was like purchasing a 59p game from the App Store based solely on the screenshots and the publisher's comments. The low cost and the general quality of titles meant that you'd rarely feel ripped off.
I'd estimate that for every 10 budget games available, two would be wretched, seven would be pretty good for the price, and one would be as good as a full price release - perhaps even better.
Those in the top 10 per cent included several quality titles written by industry good guys John and Ste Pickford and published by Mastertronic. There was darts sim 180, zany platformer Zub, isometric bug blaster Amaurote, and wizard warfaring action thing Feud.
Mastertronic also published a couple of brilliant 'bike' games. Kikstart 2 was the superior sequel to the original trial bike race game. It was unofficially based on the BBC TV series Kick Start, where kids who were clearly superior to you and I rode bikes over ramps and barrels in a muddy field somewhere.
Action Biker is probably best known for starring Clumsy Colin from the old KP Skips crisps commercial. It should really be remembered just for being a great game (only on the Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bits though - the Spectrum version was completely different, for some bizarre reason).
The Firebird Silver label was also home to some top cheapies. The best included Booty, a neat little platformer set on a pirate ship, and Rebelstar, a classy turn-based strategy game from genre supremo Julian Gollop. Firebird also deserves slaps on the back for bringing the BBC Micro masterpiece Thrust to other 8-bit computers as a budget title.
By comparison, Codemasters became a bit of a joke thanks to the number of mock 'simulator' games the company whizzed out - BMX Simulator, SAS Combat Simulator, Professional Cow Tipping Simulator etc.
Codies did manage to redeem itself with the long-running Dizzy series. These colourful cartoon adventures, created by the dependable Oliver Twins, were generally excellent, with the third entry Fantasy World Dizzy being the pick of the bunch.
But even when Dizzy was at his best, for me personally he couldn't top the marvellous Magic Knight, star of four budget games written by David Jones and published by Mastertronic.
The first, Finders Keepers, was a slightly uneven mix of platforming, puzzle and maze elements, yet the sequels - Spellbound, Knight Tyme and Stormbringer - were really clever graphic adventures that completely belied their budget game status.
Knight Tyme was also the first game to be designed specifically for the new, bigger memory Spectrum 128. The budget price meant less risk for the publisher should a game fail, so Mastertronic regularly released games for the minority formats that the full-price publishers overlooked.
If you owned a Commodore 16 or an Atari 8-bit, the only UK software houses regularly releasing games for your machine were Mastertronic and Firebird. And as the Nineties rolled around and the 8-bit computer market shrank as owners upgraded to flashy 16-bit machines, it was the budget publishers like Alternative, Hi-Tec and Zeppelin who were plugging away at the bitter end.
As for me being thin - it's a bit embarrassing, really. I've left it to the end in the hope you will have stopped reading by this point and are instead posting your budget game memories in the Comments section.
OK, this is what happened. At school I was given 50p a day to buy some lunch from the canteen, which in the eighties was plenty of money for a decent meal. But I'd spend 10p on a pack of Space Raiders and squirrel away the other 40p. At the end of the school week I'd have the magic sum of £2, which I'd spend on a shiny new budget game.
Jamie Oliver would probably disapprove, but I did this for months and months and my software collection swelled with budget gems. And apart from a slight case of rickets, it never did me any harm.