Playing Scramble takes me back to my early teens, and a small chip shop in a seaside town in West Wales where I grew up. On pressing the Player 1 button and hearing the "here we go" jingle, I swear I can smell vinegar in the air and hear seagulls calling in the background.
The café had previously used a series of upright cabinets that had proved extremely popular. For Scramble they sourced the Stern Cocktail version complete with smoked glass, two player controls and fantastic graphical underlay. A cabinet design I instantly fell in love with.
The game itself is a simple affair. Guide your ship through 6 scrolling levels of mountainous terrain, asteroid fields and narrow winding passages with the intent of destroying the enemy base in the last scene. Your jet ship has two sources of ammunition: forward shooting laser cannon and bombs that arc towards the enemies below. A limited fuel supply has to be replenished by destroying oil wells liberally placed throughout the terrain. Destroy the base and it's back to Level 1 to repeat the challenge.
Continuing Microsoft's recent splurge of classic arcade content on Live Arcade, last week saw the slightly overdue release of Konami's 1981 celebrated side-scrolling shooter - to the surprise of no-one. Retroactively considered to be the first game in the long-running Gradius series, its place in gaming history is forever assured, but does it deserve a place among the Live Arcade elite, or is it destined to derided for being yet more overpriced retro fodder?
As is typical of game in this treasured era, the concept is beautifully simple, and one that continues to be refined to this day. Controlling a spacecraft across a scrolling landscape, the idea was simply to blast everything in the vicinity for as long as possible and also avoid crashing into the ground. Equipped with a basic cannon, you could either shoot straight ahead or drop bombs; which also served as a means of refuelling as you aimed them at the fuel tanks below.