Edge 397 explores UFO 50, Spelunky dev Mossmouth’s ambitious mission to build 50 games for a fictional retro console

(Image credit: Future)

There’s a maxim in game development that every project is always six months from being finished. Multiply that by 50, and you can understand why UFO 50 has been so long in the making. But finally this compendium of ’80s-styled games – designed around the specifications of a console that never existed – is almost ready for launch. In Edge 397’s exclusive cover feature, we talk to the creative team and play every one of those 50 games. 

Conceived by Spelunky creator Derek Yu and his childhood friend Jon Perry, and put together with a superteam of indie collaborators, UFO 50 tells the story of UFO Soft, a developer that, between 1982 and 1989, made the Lazer-X system and its library of games. In a case of life imitating art, making those games also took eight years for real. “We worked out, how long would it take a game company to make this?” Perry says. “But for some reason we didn’t include ourselves in that simulation.”

The games, as we discover, are bound to the technical limitations of the time, but not necessarily to the design tenets – the catch-all excuse that UFO Soft was simply ahead of the curve allowing the developer to include more modern elements. But they’re also made to hark back to a time before guides and walkthroughs (and even instructions) were commonplace. Part of the appeal of UFO 50 – as well as its broad spread of genres, from platformer to RPG, with roughly half boasting multiplayer modes – is its lack of handholding, forcing you to figure out how these games work before you’re able to master them. 

It’s been a ludicrously ambitious undertaking. In our expansive cover feature we talk to Yu, Perry, Spelunky composer Eirik Suhrke and Catacomb Kids’ creator Tyriq Plummer about this fascinating collaboration, and pick out several of the highlights of the collection ahead of its planned release later this year. To continue the retro theme, we follow that up with the story behind Atari’s recent revival, as we talk to several key figures – including the legendary Nolan Bushnell – about how the iconic brand rebooted itself after years in the industry wilderness. 

Moving forward in time, but still with one eye on the past, in Time Extend we examine how loyal fans modded Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines into the history books after its disastrous launch. Then we bring things more up to date, as Irrational co-founder Jonathan Chey explains how he isn’t letting the Void Bastards grind him down at Blue Manchu. We also talk to Out Of The Blue about how a change of perspective led to the Truman Show-inspired action adventure American Arcadia. 

In our Play section, meanwhile, we have reviews of Dragon’s Dogma 2, Rise Of The Ronin, Children Of The Sun, Shiren The Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon Of Serpentcoil Island, Mars After Midnight, and more. In Hype we look forward to the likes of Phonopolis, Tales Of Iron 2: Whiskers Of Winter, Hyper Light Breaker and Visions Of Mana, and we examine what this year’s GDC says about the present and future of videogame development. Just like our cover game, there’s something for everyone in the new issue of Edge, which is on sale now

Edge Staff

Edge magazine was launched in 1993 with a mission to dig deep into the inner workings of the international videogame industry, quickly building a reputation for next-level analysis, features, interviews and reviews that holds fast nearly 30 years on.