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Pop A Cap

The reviews on this site are the text versions of the videos on my YouTube channel. The text based reviews use (if at all) very little pictures. Please follow the link to the corresponding video in order to see in game graphics.

Pop a Cap was made in 2004 by Benjamin Autin under the username Toastman for the Sega Dreamcast. It is a homebrew game which he did as an entry into a video game competition. This competition was called "Dream Coding Grand Prix 2004" and was held by DCEmu UK and GP32 Xtreme with sponsoring from Lik Sang. Benjamin contributed to the main competition which was about creating a game which can serve as a learning device for children. Benjamin ended up winning first place and was rewarded with a Neo Geo Pocket Color and six games, a mug, a Dreamcast arcade controller and three Dreamcast games, one of which came with further merchandize.

Pop a Cap is a light gun operated quiz game. In normal difficulty the game presents the player with a question which has to be answered within 30 seconds. Six bullets are available to hit the square showing the right answer. The achieved percentage of correct answerers is displayed in both top corners. In an options screen the difficulty can be changed which affects the time limit and the amount of available bullets.

The questions are grouped into the four main categories English, Science, Math and Math 2. Each category contains five sets of questions called lessons which are individually dedicated to a certain topic. A set contains 15 questions. To unlock the next set of questions the player has to answer 80 % of the questions right.

To me as a non native English speaker the English category of questions was interesting. My favorite category was Science. It was during the play through of this category that I realized that this game isn't targeted towards children but to nerds and geeks, which I found very delightful. Sure enough I wasn't disappointed to find questions exceeding the 12 column multiplication table in the category Math. Furthermore there were plenty of base two questions which are very approachable for computer enthusiasts. In Math 2 lots of algebra is involved and the questions became quite tough to solve just mentally within the time limit.

There is no problem with aiming as the game offers a calibration screen. I tested the game with both official Dreamcast guns and it worked great. Benjamin developed the game using an InterAct StarFire LightBlaster. Normally the progress can be saved to a VMU and I have seen screen shots of the process. Sadly for some reason saving did not work for me. Furthermore I wasn't able to enter letters in the save menu when using a Mad Catz Dream Blaster.

Benjamin made the game in a modular fashion, which would easily allow him to swap the questions in order to turn the game into a trivia quiz game. As of 2019 Benjamin isn't sure about the location of the source code anymore.

Personally I like the game. I don't mind that the game goes a bit off track to serve another audience as initially targeted by the competition, as realistically homebrew games are mostly played within the homebrew scene itself or by enthusiasts. This way the game is the most fitting for the people who actually are going to play it and I think the judges realized that. The game looks simple, but I think it is visually appealing. From time to time a text will quill over the limits of the answer box and sometimes the answer boxes overlap too much so that they can't be selected individually anymore. However usually the placement of the answer boxes is good. Browsing through the menus works well. The music and the sound effect fit the game nicely.

I was able to contact Benjamin and he generously answered some interview questions. The questions and answers are labeled with "Q" and "A" respectively.

Q: Besides Pop A Cap you made at least two other Dreamcast games and a DOS game. At some point you were making games professionally for Transech and Rocket Can Games. Did you make any other games privately on your own? If so, on which system?

A: Since I've gotten busier, it's been more difficult to find time to fit everything in. Like everyone else, I have several half-started projects. Mostly for the 360 and PC.

Q: Do you still own a DreamCast?

A: I still have a Dreamcast. Due to moving around a bit recently, it's currently packed away.

Q: What is your favorite light gun game?

A: House of the Dead has always been my jam. The movie theater near where I lived had a cabinet and we'd always go about 30 minutes early to give it a play through.

Q: Are you still interested in light gun games?

A: I enjoy light gun games. It's a little more difficult to find home console versions due to the move to LED/Plasma screens. There's something pleasantly tactile about light gun games.

Q: Are you still fond of video games? If so what are you usually playing?

A: I'm still playing games when I have time. I'll always 100% the newest licensed Lego platformer. Travelers Tales typically does a good job with world design and balancing abilities. I've also been a fan of the Yakuza series since I first learned of it. So I'm currently playing through Judgment as it's a new kind of story set in the same universe.

My acknowledgement goes to Benjamin Autin for his time answering my question and of course for making Pop A Cap.


Benjamin Autin allowed me to make the game available to my dear viewers.

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