By the ‘90s, the large game publishers were paying games journos on the side (careful – Ed) to write their manuals (phew – legal Ed). As a result the stories had become a bit better, except in budget world – where that bit was usually tacked on by somebody in management who thought they were really creative or by the coders themselves.

So, erm, in Santa’s Xmas Caper ol’ Saint Nick has had his Christmas pudding laced with booze by the “naughty” elves. He’s too off his face to drive the sleigh, so he’s given the list of naughty and nice children to you. Pulling on a fake pregnancy belly and a Poundland beard, it’s your task – as Fake Santa – to fly from Greenland to England and deliver all the presents, thus saving Christmas. Hooray!

Er, except the naughty elves aren’t finished yet. They’ve decided to take to the air in toys to stop you. Quite violently, as it happens (this story is horrific. Also who’s really paying these elves? – Ed). This sets up yer horizontally scrolling shooter. Instead of a spaceship, it’s you, Fake Santa, pulled by reindeers. Instead of enemy aliens it’s toy planes, footballs and elves lobbing fruit at you. Santa can shoot them (ffs – Ed) or, if you’re feeling festive, just weave around the icy obstacles.

If ever a storyline screamed “3am with a spliff”…good fun though. Santa’s Xmas Caper has the sort of anarchy and inventiveness we usually associate with the really early C64 games.

FESTIVE FEELS: There’s a lovely big drunk Santa on the title screen. The Greenland backdrops are snowy. There are Christmas puddings everywhere. Every piece of music is a Christmas song you’ll recognise. It is very, very slick. Bradford’s Reflective Designs clearly had a lot of fun with this one (the themed “baddies” are clearly a nod to Jeff Minter’s stuff, for example). We were only joking about the spliff, by the way. Yes.

CHRISTMAS CRACKER OR TOTAL TURKEY? It’s a standard shoot ‘em up with Christmas stuff placed over the top, and holy balls is it hard. But it oozes the holiday season and everything about this ludicrous piece of software will make you laugh. You won’t play it forever, but who’s loading this one up in July anyway eh? Deffo worth a blast on Christmas Eve, especially with a trainer. CF