Before Apex went cute with Creatures, there was Retrograde. Here’s how their classy blaster helped Rory Stamp settle in to a new and very different life…

Until I bought this game, most of ours had been second-hand (older, unwanted games from friends that were usually either really difficult or a bit rubbish) or budget releases. The latter included some £2.99 treasures like BMX Racers, which were all of the above but somehow cool. But then I stopped getting the 2000AD comic and asked for ZZAP! instead. That’s when I read a review of Retrograde. I’d played Dropzone and Bruce Lee on my uncle’s Atari 800 and loved them both. This game looked like a combination of the two, plus huge end of level bosses and upgradable weapons!

At the time we had recently moved from a housing estate in Cambridgeshire to a village in Cumbria. It was a life-changing shift for a 10-year-old: moving hundreds of miles from friends and swapping my large, modern junior school for a tiny village primary that had just three classes – one for the infants, two for the juniors. I look back and realise it was one of the best things that happened to me, but back then it was seismic.

Until I started making friends there were only two continuities from the old life. My family, and the C64 (the two overlapped when my brother was up for a game of Yie Ar Kung Fu or Emlyn Hughes International Soccer).

So I was spending more time with the breadbin than ever. And I decided to spend more money on it. For the first time, I saved up my pocket money for longer than two weeks. After a month, I gave £8 back to my Dad so he could write a cheque and send off for Retrograde.

I remember getting home from school, tearing open the parcel and commandeering the lounge TV to play it. Often I would set up the C64 upstairs and use our smaller black and white TV, but this game needed to be seen in full colour.

It looked and played and sounded like a dream. Probably more like a nightmare to my parents, given the amount of time I spent playing it, and the heartbeat sound effect that had a habit of raising your blood pressure.

Within a couple of months I’d completed it, got my high score in ZZAP! 64 and even had a poem I’d written about Retrograde published by its creators, in Apex’s Diary of a Game (tracking their development of Creatures).

I went on to buy and play some amazing other new games like Turrican II, Midnight Resistance, Space Rogue and Lords of Chaos. And I shared the joy of them with new friends as we settled into Lake District life. But it’ll always be Retrograde that was the biggest blast. CF