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… šŸ™‚

More: Mr. Wimpy on Wikipedia

Mr. Wimpy, ZX Spectrum

Mr. Wimpy is an early ZX SpectrumĀ 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! šŸ™‚

More: Mr. Wimpy on Wikipedia

The Sentinel, Atari ST

I keep banging on about Geoff Crammond‘s The Sentinel and will probably continue to do so until I’ve written about every version available. šŸ™‚

Converted in 1986 by Firebird, the Atari ST version of The Sentinel is just as good as the Amiga version – or any of the other conversions that were made from the BBC Micro original. Meaning: no bad versions of the game exist. Not that I’m aware of anyway.

The Sentinel is actually quite simple to play, when you figure out what to do, and the aim is simple: to gain height on the landscape, until you’re able to see the ground The Sentinel is standing on. Once you can do that you can absorb him, rather than the other way around.

A tense and gripping game with 10,000 different, procedurally-generated levels, The Sentinel really is the thinking-man’s video game classic. It will definitely not appeal to lazy people who can’t be bothered to learn how to play a game unless it’s spoon-fed to them with a tutorial. And it will positively delight those who twig it.

Don’t be a Sentinel virgin. Join the club: know how to play it… Go and absorb The Sentinel. At least once. Then you can say your life is complete.

More: The Sentinel 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 areĀ 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

Spindizzy Worlds, Super Nintendo

Paul Shirley‘s superb isometric puzzle/action game, Spindizzy Worlds, translates well to the Super Nintendo, even though this conversion did not have his blessing.

The SNES conversion was programmed by Japanese developerĀ ASCII Corporation in 1992, (after acquiring the rights from Activision in a controversial deal), and it has to be said: they did a pretty good job. From the nicely presented opening sequence (complete with Mode 7 scaling planets), to the silky-smooth, full-screen scrolling – everything seems polished to the max.

Controlling the ‘spinning top’ GERALD (yes, that’s its name) is very easy, but negotiating the tortuous landscapes is not. Spindizzy Worlds contains a lot of levels to play through, all represented via a rotating cluster of planets. There are two clusters of planets to play through: “Easydizzy” and “Spindizzy” and each can be played at Beginner or Advanced levels. The final, inner planet in each cluster can only be accessed once the easier outer planets have been completed. A password system is used to record progress.

The puzzles you’re solving generally require you to collect ‘jewels’, which open gates and warps and other obstacles, but there are also various coloured button to press that change things. There are enemies, of course, but these only tend to impede you, rather than kill you. There are some killer tiles, though, that will ‘insta-kill’ you if you touch them. Falling off the edge of the course will also deduct some energy/time from you.

There’s no doubting that Spindizzy Worlds is a SNES classic. It’s original, non-violent, challenging, and great fun. Definitely one to look out for if you want a good old game to play for a few hours.


Spindizzy, Apple II

I’m not sure if it’s the game or the emulator – or something else – but controlling the spinning top-like device, GERALD, in the Apple II version of Spindizzy is like trying to navigate Cape Horn in a rowing boat in the depths of winter. It’s suicidal…

The gyroscope-like central character wobbles around like a drunk skunk, with the controls giving only cursory directional motion. I’m sure it shouldn’t be like that. It’s almost impossible to negotiate the trickier parts of the landscape without precise control – you’re constantly falling off the edge, losing time. I must have a duff copy or a control mis-configuration somewhere… Bah!

Apple II Spindizzy certainly looks like the originalĀ Spindizzy (in spite of the lack of colour), and Paul Shirley‘s clever isometric world translates reasonably well to the system.

One interesting thing about the Apple II version of Spindizzy is that it was created and published without rights-holder Shirley‘s knowledge (according to sources), which contributed to an acrimonious split with publisher Activision. If true: that is very naughty of them.

More: Spindizzy on Wikipedia

Spindizzy, Commodore 64

In my mind: one of the best 8-bit games ever made. Spindizzy is part Marble Madness tribute; part completely original game, with you controlling a spinning top-like device, called GERALD, exploring a large, isometric game world that is suspended in space.

The basic idea is to explore with GERALD and collect jewels, which are found hidden around the landscape and which extend the time limit you can survive for. You can bring up a map, which shows what percentage of the landscape you’ve discovered – the ultimate goal being: to explore as much of the world as possible.

GERALD can transform into three different configurations – a ball, an inverted square pyramid (the default), and also a gyroscope. Unfortunately these are just cosmetic changes and don’t affect the gameplay in any way (an oversight in my humble opinion – more should’ve been made of them).

Spindizzy was a critical hit at the time, and a commercial success in Europe. Activision released the game in the USA, but it didn’t makes any real waves. There was an unauthorised Apple II version released in the US (by Activision, no less), which rights-holder Shirley wasn’t aware of until the mid 1990s (and which must’ve mightily pissed him off).

The original Commodore 64 version of Spindizzy is probably the one to play, although it is a very difficult game to master. There have been a number of conversions made – and most have been good – but this original version is pretty much perfect. It’s an incredible feat of programming.

More: Spindizzy on Wikipedia

Hyper Sports, Arcade

Hyper Sports is the iconicĀ 1984 sequel to Konami‘s arcade hit Track & Field.

It once again features multi event sports challenges for one or more players, this time featuring swimming, clay pigeon shooting, vaulting, archery, triple jump, and weightlifting. And maybe pole-vaulting, although I didn’t see it in the version I played.

Jolly music, exuberant player sprites, and bad translation characterise Hyper Sports, but the arcade original is still a really solid challenge for those who like sport-themed button-bashers.