The gritty, younger reboot of my Playstation retrospective series, 32 Bits, commences in a few months. Whatever form it may take, it will contain one new thing: demos.
I did take a look at some demos before, but I decided to look at demo discs more thoroughly this time around, as a peculiarity of 32 bit-era gaming culture. But one thing always eluded me, until now.
The US’ Official Playstation Magazine, with its monthly demo disc, began publication in 1997. So did Sony’s quarterly demo/video magazine, Playstation Underground. But the UK had a demo magazine since the system’s launch in 1995 – their Official Playstation Magazine debuted in November 1995, and ran absurdly late, concluding in March 2004 after 108 demo discs. While the American Playstation magazine mixed PSX and PS2 coverage, and alternated PSX and PS2 demo discs for a time before discontinuing the former in very early 2002, the British magazine just launched a PS2 edition and kept both in publication for…four years.
Obviously, the stray European exclusive or game that just wasn’t popular in North America can be found on OPM UK’s discs. And there’s a number of experimental, or obscure Japanese games that made it to Europe, but not America, such as Vib-Ribbon. But there’s something weirder: from 1997 on, many OPM UK discs included full games made on Sony’s Net Yaroze homebrew system. These hobbyist-developed games never really made it to American shores.
I fired up a disc – the thirty-eighth, more or less because its Net Yaroze game was one of the few I heard of. Haunted Maze is a weird riff on Pac-Man where you evade mummies to “In the Hall of the Mountain King”:
Other demos include B-Movie – which turned out to be the European name for Invasion from Beyond. Soccer games are far more prominent on the UK discs, and this disc contained one genuine exclusive: Fluid, a bizarre game where you swim around as a dolphin and unlock samples to use in the game’s real focus, a music sequencer. You then play through your own songs – one of a wave of surreal European music games that never reached American shores. Another disc contains an expansion pack for a racing game, Circuit Breakers.
But the star of the OPM UK discs are the Net Yaroze games it gave a platform to, and I’m glad I’ll be able to dive into them and every other oddity strewn about their collection.