Mean Machines Memories
By Paul Barker - 10 Jan, 2006
Before the wasteland of Ebay's sniper filled gaming arena and back when every local chippy had a Street Fighter machine with at least 2 buttons pummelled into the fascia, Saturday afternoon wrestling was the norm, and 'Gummi Bears' bounced playfully across our screens of a Sunday, many of the nation's Generation X-er's would indulge in more little known pleasures (not least the hairy handed Sam Fox Page 3 type!). Graduating from the Atari's wonderful Keystone Caper's to the dizzy heights of the C64's Fire Ant I was about to be opened up to a world where a spiky blue miscreant and a stout Italian plumber would duke it out over the next decade.
I would, by chance, peruse through a magazine that would introduce me to the 'grey' import scene, and the contortionist like expertise to hold and manoeuvre a, wait for it….6 button pad!! To sample the delights of mastering a certain sneaky Russians spinning piledriver.
From Megaman to Thunderforce 'Mean Machines' went on to educate a generation of 'yoofs' on the delights of Nintendo's grey breezeblock and the fun of riding a Green dinosaur with an extra sticky tongue.
Consoles were about to rule the roost in the underground gaming circles and screams of 'Ha-Do-Kennnn' would echo through every 70's carpet graced arcade emporium (complete with local 'fug' waiting to rob you for your 2 penny pieces).
From short, abrupt (and often incorrect!) advice in the letters page, the rants of 'Mean Yob' to the over exposed screen shots with bad captioning 'Mean Machines' had an atmosphere all of its own, capturing the care free days of gaming and the intensity of local Ken/Ryu arguments as though they mattered.
Gary Harrods's art always got my attention from the get go, a far cry from the dreadful C+VG cover art of the day (Streets Of Rage Vs Shinobi anyone?..egh!) And the fantastically sketched Final Fight guide introduced me to the wonder's of Capcom's classic side scroller.
From Jazza's comedy 'business-at-the-front-party-at-the-back' hair styling's to Gary Harrod's heated attempts to perfect Guile's re-dizzy combo, 'Mean Machines' had heart, real heart, and would convince me that Mickey Mouse's' Castle of Illusion was the 'best looking game ever'.
Trying to get that elusive issue 0 with Ninja Gaiden cover art was a nightmare, and 'Mean Machines' proudly exclaimed themselves in around issue 20 or so 'It's worth at least 100 quid (well maybe 100 football stickers, 'shinies' of course, or any other such useless tat traded in school playgrounds across the land).
Glow-in-the-dark stickers adorned many a cover and although utter cack, were beautifully drawn and bring a tear to my eye even now.
But I wouldn't get all teary eyed for no reason, and my hacked xbox with a full catalogue of Super Famicom games I could only dream of affording as a kid does sit as a nice replacement for every 'Sword Of Sodan' and 'Psycho Fox' review my young eyes were forced to endure.
Perhaps gaming's not so bad nowadays, but it certainly is a little less colourful without the wonder filled pages of the publication of my misspent youth.