A few weeks ago, Emulation Zone took a trip to the splendid Game On exhibition at London’s Barbican gallery, and was mildly surprised to note that contrary to your correspondent’s deeply-cherished beliefs, it turns out that pure gameplay design isn’t the be-all and end-all of retrogaming after all. The exhibition boasts many original arcade cabinets, and it came as something of a shock to Emulation Zone to realise just how much more fun it is to play Galaxian, Donkey Kong or Ms Pac-Man in that original cabinet surrounded by all that iconic imagery, as opposed to playing the exact same game on a generic beige PC monitor.

How fortunate, then, that Emulation Zone had already suggested to the MAME team how such knowledge might benefit the daddy of all arcade emulators. The newest release of the emu, MAME 0.61, takes Emu Zone’s advice and pioneers one of the most significant additions to the MAME source code in recent memory, in the form of support for bezel artwork. An arcade game’s “bezel” is the glass panel immediately surrounding the game display, which often includes attractive artwork, game instructions or additional display features (such as the lights indicating your rank in Gorf, for example).

Anyone with access to bezel artwork can now easily apply the graphics to MAME (no coding knowledge is required, just a small amount of paint-program manipulation, and you don’t have to wait for the next release of MAME to implement your bezel, it works as a plug-in simply by dropping the relevant files into the appropriate folder), and the difference it makes is stunning. Bezel-ed up games now “feel” much closer to the experience of playing the real coin-op – or, of course, if like many locations your local arcade used to put games in generic cabinets, you can now get the flavour the game was supposed to have in the first place.

The new function has proved very popular, particularly among people who always wanted to contribute something positive to MAME but had no coding talent, and dozens of bezels have already been made available. Emulation Zone itself is off to try to find some scans of The Pit and Mag Max. Just when you thought MAME couldn’t get any more excellent, eh viewers?


Just feel that enhanced atmosphere.

Well worth giving up a bit of screen real-estate for.




SPATTER (Sega, coin-op, 1984)

In the mid-80s, (doubtless as a reaction against the apocalyptic doom and gloom that was prevalent at the time as everyone imagined an Orwellian apocalypse) Sega went through a phase of producing incredibly twee, pastel-coloured arcade games. Replacing the macho space-and-racing themes that had characterised most of the company’s work until then (and which would return with a vengeance around 1986) came brightly-coloured games like Teddy Boy Blues, Wonder Boy, Fantasy Zone, Alex Kidd, Ninja Princess, Flicky, My Hero, Mister Viking and lots more, all seemingly aimed squarely at kids, with their cutesy cartoon characters and tinkly-bonk music. Most of the games were pretty successful, and almost all were converted to one or more of Sega’s home formats of the time.

Practically the only title of the era which didn’t get a home port was the long-lost Spatter - borrowing from a whole clutch of other coin-ops such as Rally-X, Pengo and Head-On, it’s is a simple, fast-moving maze-chase game in which Sega felt players would like to be cast as a Teletubby on a tricycle pedalling around collecting flowers. The game’s touch of genius, though, came in the elastic fences separating the lanes of the roads, which your Teletubby could hurl himself into to either squeeze past enemies in the same lane, or send those in the opposite lane flying. The game allows so much tactical scope within instantly-graspable one-button controls that it’s both enormous fun and uncontrollably addictive, and how it ever escaped a home port is a mystery to this reporter. And any game with a challenge round where you can earn a “Happy Bonus” will always be alright with Emulation Zone.



(Left) What are those things chasing you, anyway? Ducks? Cats? Owls?


Emulation Zone is brought to you in association with the International World Of Stuart Foundation.