Mr. Wimpy, Oric

It could be argued that the Oric version of Mr. Wimpy is better than the ZX Spectrum version. It does look slightly better graphically, but I think that a more diplomatic solution would be to say that both are as bad as each other…

Maybe that’s a little harsh. Maybe it isn’t. It depends on your point of view.

Both games feature the same two-screen sections – fetch the food (times three), then a blatant BurgerTime rip-off. Both games have flickery sprites and colour clash. Both games have unremarkable gameplay. Both games have sketchy AI on the enemies… Need I go on?

The Oric version has a better attract screen and a more colourful Mr. Wimpy sprite, so is the best. There – that’s solved that one… 🙂

More: Mr. Wimpy on Wikipedia

Mr. Wimpy, ZX Spectrum

Mr. Wimpy is an early ZX Spectrum game from Ocean Software, first published in 1984. It is based on (and licensed from) the Wimpy chain of restaurants – in particular their mascot: Mr. Wimpy. Wimpy restaurants were more widespread in the 1980s than they are today, but this was still a surprising release from Ocean.

What is not very surprising is that Mr. Wimpy is a clone of BurgerTime, although it does have an extra level that you have to play through before getting to the BurgerTime clone.

That first level is a simple ‘fetch’ game where Mr. Wimpy walks from the left side of the screen to the right, picks up an item of food, then returns back to the starting point – the caveat being: if Mr. Wimpy is touched by one of the moving hazards he loses the item and must try again.

Mr. Wimpy is neither a particularly great game, nor a particularly memorable release from Ocean, although it is an interesting curiosity from the mists of time. Is it still worth playing today? Of course it is! 🙂

More: Mr. Wimpy on Wikipedia

The Evil Dead, Commodore 64

Another great film turned into video game kitty litter! This one in 1984, by Palace Software.

The interpretation is as an overhead survival game, with you playing Ash (spelled incorrectly in the game – slap on the wrist to the programmer!) who is besieged by Kandarian demons inside a remote log cabin. You can close the doors and windows to stop the demons getting in, and must also kill any that make it into the cabin. To kill them you must first find a weapon (randomly located around the cabin, or outside), and then use it on them. Whether it’s an axe, a sword, or a shovel – it makes no real difference – the effect is the same. Eventually, when you’ve killed enough demons, the ancient Book of the Dead will appear and you have to throw it into the fire to triumph.

As a huge fan of the 1981 film I’ve always thought that this game was total and utter rubbish. I remember as a young gamer hoping that it would be good enough to buy, but I read the reviews and thought “there’s no way I’m buying that!”. And I was right. The graphics are pathetic, the cabin is tiny, and the gameplay is clumsy and repetitive. There’s no escaping the fact that The Evil Deadthis Evil Dead (there are others) – is both a missed opportunity, and a steaming pile of crap.

Are there any positives about the game? The intro sequence and tune are quite nice. The scrolly text message at the bottom of the screen describes the monsters as “mutants”, which is sure to piss off any die-hard Evil Dead fan who reads it. Other than those like me who don’t really give a toss.

A BBC Micro version of The Evil Dead was also released by Palace. A ZX Spectrum version was developed and completed, but was never released as a stand-alone game. It later appeared as a freebie on the b-side of another Palace release: Cauldron, so eventually made it out.

More: The Evil Dead on Wikipedia

Raid Over Moscow, Commodore 64

Raid Over Moscow was a controversial release for Access Software in 1984. The game depicts a fictional nuclear war scenario between the USA and Russia and involves US forces fending off nuclear attacks, then flying into the Russian capital to attack what is supposed to be The Kremlin.

Like most of Access‘s early output Raid Over Moscow is an interesting, playable, and beautifully-programmed action game that is broken down into distinct stages. Firstly there’s take off, which involves piloting a “spaceplane” (their word, not mine) out of a hangar and towards Russia. Secondly, there’s a side-scrolling, isometric shoot ’em up section that plays similarly to Zaxxon, in that you increase/decrease altitude and move left and right to avoid obstacles while at the same time blasting anything that gets in front of you. Eventually you land and then have to take out the troops guarding the gate to the city. Reach the final stage and you then have to destroy a series of robots protecting the reactor underneath the Soviet “Defence Center” (actually the State Historical Museum), and you must do this within a strict two minute time limit.

In spite of the questionably propagandist scenario (Raid Over Moscow was made during the Cold War which kind of explains the thinking), this is still an excellent game. It presents a decent challenge and is extremely well-produced. And it still plays great to this day.

Later re-releases saw the title changed to simply “Raid“, with all references to Moscow being dropped.

More: Raid Over Moscow on Wikipedia

Pyjamarama, ZX Spectrum

Pyjamarama is the 1984 follow-up to Automania, and features the same lead character – Wally Week. Which makes it the second game in the Wally Week series.

Wally, in this one, has forgotten to wind his alarm clock and is in danger of overlaying, and you play his subconscious on a quest to wake him up. And to do that you have to find his alarm clock key. None of which makes any sense whatsoever, but that doesn’t really matter because Pyjamarama is still a very good game.

Pyjamarama is basically a flick-screen adventure/puzzle game, with each screen representing one room in Wally’s house. Scattered throughout the rooms are various items, and some of these items have specific uses. Discovering what the items do is a key part of the game – as is item-juggling, because Wally can only hold two items at a time.

Graphically, Pyjamarama is iconic – it really does capture a distinct look and feel of ZX Spectrum games of the time; in particular the colour clash, which – while being pretty horrendous – doesn’t seem to mar the game in any way.

The Wally Week series:
Automania (1984)
Pyjamarama (1984)
Everyone’s A Wally (1985)
Herbert’s Dummy Run (1985)
Three Weeks in Paradise (1986)

More: Pyjamarama on Wikipedia

Raid on Bungeling Bay, Commodore 64

Raid on Bungeling Bay was Will Wright‘s first ever video game and it was released for the Commodore 64 by Brøderbund in 1984. Will Wright – in case you didn’t know – was a co-founder of Maxis and also designer of SimCity and The Sims.

Raid on Bungeling Bay is an overhead helicopter shooter and the basic aim is to set off from your aircraft carrier to bomb six enemy factories found located among a chain of islands. They’re of course heavily defended, and they also ‘develop’ as the game unfolds, giving you a time limit to stop them from taking over the world.

You have a front-mounted cannon which can blast boats, ground emplacements, aircraft, and other ground vehicles, but you need to drop bombs on the factories to destroy them. The process is to find a factory, clear the area of enemy defensive positions, then place yourself carefully over the top of a factory, before dropping your bombs. You can hold nine bombs per sortie and each factory pretty much takes a full payload of nine to destroy. Landing back on the aircraft carrier will replenish your bombs.

Other things to watch out for: enemy aircraft attacking your carrier (you have to go and fight them off), and an enemy battleship that is gradually built, before setting off to intercept your carrier. The battleship resents your presence and will fire homing missiles at you if you are within range.

I have a soft spot for this game, even though it looks quite dated now. I played it for hours as a kid. I just loved the feel of flying around in the chopper – viewed from overhead – blasting stuff on the ground. And it still feels good to play now… I picked it up and played it recently and almost completed it. It’s a nice little self-contained action game with some interesting mechanics and a wonderful control system.

MSX and NES versions of Raid on Bungeling Bay exist, but – rather strangely – none anywhere else. I say “rather strangely” because Bungeling Bay is a great game and would probably have worked well on other platforms.

More: Raid On Bungeling Bay on Wikipedia

Ad Astra, ZX Spectrum

This early Spectrum shooter by Gargoyle Games might look a bit archaic by today’s standards, but back in 1984 when it was first released it really set the gaming world alight. Well, the Spectrum gaming world – at least…

Playing it now you’d be forgiven for wondering what the fuss was about, because Ad Astra doesn’t have a moving starry backdrop to give the impression of speed (the stars are static); it doesn’t have the correct perspective on the craft you’re controlling (something that always bugged me, even as a kid playing it); it doesn’t have selectable difficulty levels, and it doesn’t have much in the way of excitement.

It does have large, rolling planets that come at you (impressive for the time); a blue mothership section; some nice explosions, and some TIE Fighters… Maybe that’s what impressed people back in 1984?

Ad Astra is a game that has dated quite badly over the years. It’s simple enough to play, but is from a time when video games were usually very primitive, and – as shooters go – this one is a bit of a throwback.

More: Ad Astra on World of Spectrum

Spy vs. Spy, Commodore 64

Back in 1984 Spy vs. Spy was a revelation. It was – and still is – a shining example of two-player versus gaming. Two spies, each searching for the secret plans, and each laying traps in order to stop the other – it tended to bring out the devious side (and the trash talk) of anyone who played it. Myself included. Many hours were spent playing this game against my brother back in the mid Eighties, and Spy vs. Spy quickly became a cult favourite for myself, and for many other Commodore 64 owners.

Of course, this being a split-screen game, each player can see what the other is doing, which adds another level of deviousness and trickery to the gameplay.

Spy vs. Spy is beautifully presented, with humorous animated graphics based on the MAD Magazine characters of the same name. Placing traps is achieved by cycling a pointer over a bank of icons on the right-hand side of the screen. There are six different types of traps and each has to be set up by first hiding it in either a piece of furniture, or inside a door. And when your unwitting opponent triggers a trap you laid: it’s kaboom. Or course: the same can happen to you as you’re searching for the plans.

There are eight levels of difficulty, with more rooms being added as the levels go up. There are also five levels of computer AI for the single-player game, so Spy vs. Spy has some serious replay value.

It’s still a brilliant game to play now and is definitely a Commodore 64 classic!

More: Spy vs. Spy on Wikipedia

H.E.R.O., ColecoVision

The ColecoVision version of the classic rescue game, H.E.R.O., looks quite similar to the Commodore 64 version, in that: the graphics are a little rough around the edges.

This being a game from 1984 (and originating on the Atari 2600), the graphic artists can be forgiven for wanting to use every colour on-screen at once. Often, home video game consoles back then had limited palettes and resolutions, and the ColecoVision was something of a leap forward in terms of graphical capabilities, so the guys at The Softworks (who converted this for Activision) tried to “sex-up” the graphics with more ‘textures’ and colours. And the result is a bit of a mess… At least by modern standards.

But don’t let that put you off, because H.E.R.O. on the ColecoVision is arguably the best version of the game around. It feels good, in terms of controls, and is relatively absorbing – even though any appeal will be limited.

More: H.E.R.O. on Wikipedia

Travel With Trashman, ZX Spectrum

The sequel to the classic Trashman is another excellent ‘leftfield’ Spectrum game from Malcolm Evans and New Generation Software.

In Travel With Trashman you’re again controlling Trashman – a bin man – and one who is on holiday and also who is incapable of walking away from litter he finds on the ground.

The basic premise is to pick up litter on each screen, earning cash as you do so, while also avoiding touching other people (you lose cash if you touch someone). As you accumulate cash you can afford to fly to further-flung places around the world to pick up litter. There are 13 different destinations to travel to in total, including: Alice Springs, Benares, Chichen Itza, Kanyu, London, Hong Kong, Jerusalem, Madrid, Moscow, Munich, Paris, New Orleans, and Samoa.

Travel With Trashman is a simple game, but is definitely fun, plus it also teaches about geography and different places around the world, even if the representations are satirical. The stereotypes are certainly not offensive, though.

More: Travel With Trashman on World of Spectrum