Kokotoni Wilf, Commodore 64

Of the three versions of Kokotoni Wilf released by Elite Systems, the Commodore 64 version is arguably the worst.

It was published in 1984 to a userbase already familiar with excellent games, and was viewed as something of an insult to Commodore 64 gaming, even back then.

Like the Spectrum original, the aim is to guide Kokotoni Wilf – a magician’s assistant with wings on his back – through a tortuous maze of dangers, in order to collect pieces of an amulet for his master.

Also like the Spectrum original; the graphics are pathetic. Even more so on the Commodore 64, which does have some fairly elevated capabilities over Sir Clive‘s humble machine, and fails to use any of the them to impress the player. That said: I don’t think it looks quite as bad as the Amstrad version

Unlike the Spectrum original, the Commodore 64 version has an in-game tune. A hilariously out-of-place rendition of “Consider Yourself” from the musical, Oliver. Let’s just say that it does little to enhance the game and swiftly move on…

Every version of this game has its own version of the flying mechanic and they all centre around trying to cheat gravity. The mechanic in this version makes controlling Wilf feel like you’re flying a bloody bumblebee at times… It certainly doesn’t look or feel very convincing…

Ultimately the main over-riding feeling you get from playing Kokotoni Wilf on the C64 is that you are wasting your precious time on a game that is not very good. 🙂

More: Kokotoni Wilf on Wikipedia

Kokotoni Wilf, Amstrad CPC

Compared to the Spectrum original, Amstrad Kokotoni Wilf is pretty ugly. The developers have chosen a dark blue background with green caves, and the odd splash of colour in the (very flickery) sprites and landscape decorations. The graphics are very poor in my opinion.

Controlling Wilf is more a matter of luck than judgement. He zips around the screen semi-uncontrollably, trying to pick up pieces of an amulet, and – rather annoyingly – getting stuck on the landscape all the time. So much so that you have to factor in getting stuck on the landscape as part of your survival strategy.

Gaps – through which you might never think you would fit – are seemingly the only way of progressing, and – when Wilf dies – the controls are so over-responsive (and the game so eager to continue) that you can easily kill him a number of times in a row if you’re not careful. So you have to quickly remember to stop using the controls when he dies…

These kind of dodgy “features” are from the primordial days of video gaming – ie. when everything was archaic and unfair, and no one knew any better at the time… Well, some did, but most fledgling video game designers hadn’t learned how to make their games fair yet…

So, is Amstrad Kokotoni Wilf worth a play today? No, not really. By the Amstrad CPC‘s standards it’s a pretty poor game. Whether it’s worse than the awful Commodore 64 version or not is open to debate.

More: Kokotoni Wilf on Wikipedia

Kokotoni Wilf, ZX Spectrum

A leading contender for the game with the silliest name of all-time, Kokotoni Wilf is an early platform action game with you in the role of the titular Mr. Wilf.

The back story is about a magician, called Ulrich, who is trying to reassemble a broken Dragon Amulet in order to keep some dangerous dragons in check. But Ulrich realises that he is too old to go out adventuring himself to collect the pieces, so he sends his assistant out to get them instead, and that assistant is you – Mr. Kokotoni Wilf.

To help ‘Toni’ (as his friends sometimes call him), Ulrich creates a pair of wings on his back, and these help him fly around. Which in turn makes it easier for him to reach these broken pieces of amulet. “Easier” being a euphemism for “near, but not quite, impossible”.

What Ulrich doesn’t tell you is that your journey to collect these amulet pieces is going to take you on an adventure through time and space, which is why later stages of the game appear to be set in ‘present day’ London (a very shonky 8-bit version of London, it has to be said), and also far further into the future (into a future with dodgy 8-bit graphic representations of overhead monorails and space ports).

The original ZX Spectrum version of Kokotoni Wilf is not a bad game, although – looking at it now – it hasn’t aged particularly well. Compared to, say, the atrocious Commodore 64 and Amstrad versions of this game, it still plays reasonably well and can deliver some fun.

In all versions of Kokotoni Wilf it is a matter of getting used to the rather dodgy and archaic control system. Flying Wilf around is more luck than judgement at times, and even if you think you’ve got a handle on it, you can easily bite the dust very quickly, lose all your lives, and end up back at the beginning again.

More: Kokotoni Wilf on Wikipedia

Arkanoid: Revenge of Doh, Arcade

Arkanoid: Revenge of Doh (aka Arkanoid 2) is the sequel to Taito‘s hit game Arkanoid and was released into arcades in 1987.

It takes the ‘bat and ball’ genre (aka the ‘Breakout‘ genre) to previously unheard of levels of both playability and difficulty, and it also managed to influence a lot of other games in the process.

Differences to Arkanoid include: Warp Gates which allow you to choose a direction to branch off in, after completing a level (left or right); new power-ups and enemy types; two new brick types; a mid-game mini boss; 64 levels in total, of which 32 are playable in any single game, before a boss battle with mighty Doh himself at the end (if you were wondering who the hell “Doh” was – he’s the end boss).

Revenge of Doh – like its parent – is devilishly difficult, but very compelling. To play the game properly you really need an analogue controller – otherwise you’re going to struggle to reach the ball with your bat in time. Get it set up right, and Arkanoid 2 is a challenge still worth undertaking today.

This game came out around the same time the 16-bit- home computer revolution was happening, so was converted to most home systems. The Atari ST conversion is particularly good.

More: Arkanoid: Revenge of Doh on Wikipedia

Arkanoid, Arcade

Taito‘s Arkanoid was released into arcades in 1986 and did for bat and ball games (often referred to as Breakout clones) what Mario did for platform games. That is: revitalise them with new ideas and features.

The name “Arkanoid” refers to the ship that the player’s vessel – the “Vaus” – escapes from, which is shown in the introduction. Controlling the Vaus was by a dial, or paddle, on the cabinet, which allowed for quick, analogue movement of the bat. This was pretty much essential, because the ball speeds up the longer it is on-screen. Playing the game now, in MAME for example, the analogue controls are often switched to digital, which seriously hampers the player’s ability to move quickly. It pretty much ruins the game… So anyone wanting to play Arkanoid the way it should be played will have to switch the controls back to analogue and set them up to work with a mouse, a thumbstick, or an actual paddle.

The aim of the game is to clear every screen, either by bouncing the ball up at the blocks, by shooting them, or by picking up a falling capsule that opens up the next level. Fail to return the ball up the screen and you lose one of your bats. Lose all your bats and it’s game over.

Arkanoid is colourful, compelling, and very challenging. The game has stood the test of time well and has also been very influential over the decades. An even better sequel – Arkanoid: Revenge of Doh – was released in 1987.

More: Arkanoid on Wikipedia

Horace and the Spiders, ZX Spectrum

The third and final Horace game on the ZX Spectrum, written by William Tang and published by Sinclair/Psion in 1983.

Horace and the Spiders is yet another ‘clone’ game, this time copying Space Panic and also elements of Pitfall.

The game is split into two distinct stages. The first one sees Horace walking along a side-scrolling cavern and jumping over spiders that come his way, then climbing moving spider silk strands to cross a ravine. The second stage is a single screen platforms and ladders game where Horace must stomp holes in the web platforms so that spiders fall into them, and when they do he must stomp them again to kill them.

Like Hungry Horace and Horace Goes Skiing, Horace and the Spiders is a game that many see through rose-tinted spectacles – the memory of playing it as a kid is stronger than the game itself. In truth: it hasn’t aged well, and isn’t much fun to play nowadays.

But at least Horace himself has become iconic among Spectrum fans.

A further ‘official’ Horace game, called Horace in the Mystic Woods, was released for the Psion 3-Series palmtop range in 1995, but it wasn’t written by William Tang. Further to that, a ZX Spectrum conversion of Horace in the Mystic Woods was released by indie coder Bob Smith in 2010. Other fan-made Horace games exist too, including Horace Goes to The Tower, released in 2011. It seems that our love for Horace continues ever onwards, in spite of his rather chequered past…

More: Horace and the Spiders on Wikipedia

Horace Goes Skiing, ZX Spectrum

Hungry Horace author, William Tang, also produced this sequel – Horace Goes Skiing – the same year as its predecessor: 1982. It was again published by Sinclair/Psion.

This one is part Frogger clone and part skiing game, and is slightly more playable and enjoyable than its predecessor.

Horace starts off having to cross a busy road to get to the ski slope. The traffic is fast, relentless and deadly, and finding a gap to make it through is not easy. Get hit by a vehicle and Horace must pay $10 for an ambulance. And – since he starts with $30 – that gives him three lives to begin with.

Survive the road, and the scene changes to a horizontally-scrolling slalom course. Horace skis down the screen and his speed is dictated by how much you turn him left and right. If Horace is facing directly downwards he’ll accelerate to top speed. If you turn him left and right he’ll turn and slow down. The route to success is lined with coloured flags, and only by carefully controlling Horace‘s speed and direction will you make it between them. Bash into a tree or a hill and Horace‘s skis will cross and he might break them. If he does, it’s back to the road for another pair (or game over if he doesn’t have the cash).

While Horace Goes Skiing is definitely better than its predecessor, it’s still not what I would call a “classic” game – even for the Spectrum. Sure: it’s steeped in nostalgia, but that’s not good enough on its own. If you were going to play it today, you’d probably be tired of it in 15/30 minutes.

More: Horace Goes Skiing on Wikipedia

Hungry Horace, ZX Spectrum

This ZX Spectrum Pac-Man clone is a legendary early title from Beam Software/Melbourne House, and was published by Sinclair/Psion in 1982.

Hungry Horace is probably as well known as it is because of Horace – a cute blue blob with eyes, arms, and legs – and who is somewhat memorable. It certainly isn’t revered for its sparkling gameplay, which is limited at best (and banal at worst).

Four mazes, repeated over and over; supposedly representing a ‘park’ – Hungry Horace isn’t even a particularly good Pac-Man clone. The faces that chase you have weird AI; the mazes have dead ends; some mazes have corridors; ring the bell and the faces get scared for a limited time and you can ‘kill’ them by touching them…

Describing Hungry Horace any more will just cause me (and you, probably) to yawn, so I’ll just say that this is a game that is fondly-remembered because it was the ‘birth’ of Horace – a character Spectrum owners grew to love immensely. The game itself has unfortunately degraded over time…

More: Hungry Horace on Wikipedia

Jail Break, Commodore 64

Jail Break is a conversion of the Konami arcade game of the same name, and was developed and published by Konami themselves in 1986.

It’s a very spartan run-and-gun game where you’re basically a lone policeman, up against waves of escaping convicts.

Rescuing fleeing civilians will gain you an extra weapon – a shotgun or a bazooka – though neither really makes any impact on the gameplay. Which is truly awful.

If there was an award for worst sprites in a video game, the Commodore 64 version of Jail Break would be in contention. The expanded characters look ridiculous, frankly, and are animated just as badly.

The game’s only saving grace is that there’s some colour variation in the different stages. And it has a nice loading screen/tune. Woopie… Otherwise, it’s a pile of retro-gaming excrement. Konami really took their eye off the ball with this one…

More: Jail Break on Mobygames

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