Ah let’s talk about the menu ! Even tho nowadays it has become utterly obsolete, there was a time when it was the central and main part of a demo. But we need to roll back in time, back to the 80s and early 90s, when most releases were megademos, namely productions made of several screens that were independent and not linked to each other neither code-wise nor design-wise. Some screens were even coded by other crews invited to contribute. As a consequence coders had to think up a screen (what we would call a « hub ») from which you could choose your destination. That was when the first menu appeared. This is indeed a « graphic interface » that allows to select the screen to be loaded. 🙂
Of course each demo crew could make up they own menu : from a mere text box with a cursor to select a choice to a colorful and moving screen and so on… Demo crews challenged each other to give us the best looking menu !
The example shown above is what you could expect to find in a typical menu, namely a character that you could control, making him move from one door to another. Here is for instance the menu that welcomes you in 1991 Dark Side of the Spoon demo by Unlimited Matricks.
Here indeed the menu is displayed in overscan and if not enough, let’s add that it comes with sampled sound making it an impressive feat for the humble Atari ST ! Design-wise… Hmm it’s another matter that I will rather no comment on. 🙂
Even tho it is still a very classic kind of menu I like 1999 Nostalgic’O demo main part by Oxygene a lot more ! Here you will make a robot-like character move all around a sort of base. Nothing special but the graphics and colors are really polished !
Let’s end with the classic menus with maybe the best looking of them all. Taken from 1992 Just Buggin’ demo by ACF it is rich with colors and graphics and could easily make you think you are actually playing a video game ! Unfortunately the demo screens themselves are quite average and won’t be remembered…
Yet all menus do not show like these ones or viewers would soon enough feel bored to death. As a matter of fact in 1991 Ooh crikey wot a scorcher demo by The Lost Boys you are handling a space ship flying over a fractal landscape (in other words « in 3D »), in search of the various screens. A straight to the point menu can be used tho. 🙂
In 1993 Anomaly demo by Mjj Prod you will be offered a true playground in which you will make a ball roll in the tradition of good old games like Marble Madness. 🙂 It’s two in one : first a megademo and then a game !
In the self titled 1993 Synergy‘s demo it’s a stunning mapped cube that you will spin to choose a specific screen. It’s big, colorful, technical and awesome ! You can find this demo in one of my coups de coeur by the way.
Our last example comes from a major demo as far as menus are concerned. I am of course referring to the huge Phaleon Gigademo (1992) launched by NeXT. This mega-production gathered more than a dozen demo crews and offers FOUR, yes four, different menus from a simple but nice looking text box until menus that look like well-known games such as Shadow of the Beast and Dungeon Master.
In the middle of the 90s, demos evolved and started linking screens to each other, adding transitions, hence making demos a lot smoother and (in my humble opinion) more consistent as a whole. As a consequence a menu was not needed any more and so it just faded away…
Time to close the door on a glorious past with some videos starting with Dark Side of the Spoon :
Then with the gorgeous menu in Just Buggin :
We keep rolling with Anomaly :
And we end with the trip offered by Ooh Crikey Wot A Scorcher :