The Snake Becomes The Key

Retro Gaming Humour

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464 Issue 1

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January 29, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Rockstar Ate My Hamster: The XXXX Factor

Words:Chris Keeley

Simon Cowell and Pete Waterman have nothing on these bozos.

Championship Manager, as any gamer knows, is more addictive than chocolate flavoured crack. That feeling of being in complete control of your club and your players and telling everyone what to do is a magic formula. Rockstar Ate My Hamster is something of its spiritual predecessor, not in the addictiveness stakes, but in terms of the concept. Bossing people around, making decisions, acting the big man. In terms of addictiveness, it’s not so much chocolate crack as chocolate raisins. Great at first but becoming ever more sickly with each passing minute.

Cecil Pitt and Clive, his bumbling assistant, fresh from dusting themselves off from the disaster of their bankrupt theatre agency, decide to spend Clive’s £50,000 inheritance and move into rock star management. Having failed triumphantly at the theatre business it’s hardly a huge leap of imagination and remit between the two and doesn’t really seem advisable. Will the dismal pair’s lack of creative spark and originality hold them back? In terms of them making money, no actually, it won’t. In terms of your prolonged enjoyment of the game, it turns out that yes, yes it will. Very much so. Like toast flavoured chewing gum, or teasing lions about their appearance, the novelty soon comes to a sharp halt.

You play Cecil, the failed theatrical agent, a man whose appearance and business acumen are in constant competition with each other to see which is the worst. It’s your job to get his new enterprise off the ground and making money. Clive, your generous benefactor/dogsbody is along for the ride and there to carry out your every whim, as long as it is one of 5 pre-determined actions. His other duties it seems, are to absorb a barrage of abuse from Cecil and the blame for everything. The human embodiment of an over-excited puppy, Clive takes the torrent of 80’s style insults in his stride, deflecting them with his enthusiasm for making the band a success. He really doesn’t deserve to be told to ‘get stuffed’ or be called a ‘scumbag’ quite as often. It’s his money that is funding the company after all.

I don’t use the ‘F’ word often, but Rockstar Ate My Hamster is….fun. For about an hour that is. It begins brightly but soon tails off, like a passing comet or a Micheal Barrymore house party. This first hour of pleasure is largely derived from creating your band, training them, gigging and releasing records. I know what you’re thinking….and you’re right. What else is there left to do? Nothing. After this initial flurry you are left with nothing new and you’re free to go on autopilot. In this case I imagine the reading from the little black box would go something like this…….TOUR…….RELEASE RECORD……TOUR…..RELEASE RECORD…..TOUR…..RELEAS…WHY ARE YOU PUNISHING ME LIKE THIS? MALFUNCTION….. SMOKE HISS ARGGHHHH DIE HUMANS! …..TOUR…..RELEASE RECORD…..TOUR ad infinitum.


The schoolbus driver had a real bad attitude

The dredgery of day to day office life is recreated quite accurately once everything is up and running. You are left to stare at the same picture of the not-so-dynamic-duo as they schedule show after show after show. You feel like their captive, trapped in their tiny office with them as they perform the strange torture on you of helping them organise their dreary lives. Occasionally you are allowed out of their den and on to the bands’ tourbus, but always under the watchful eye of Cecil and Clive. The thing is, despite all this, you find yourself suffering from Stockholm Syndrome; feeling sorry for and even identifying with your captors. You find yourself willing them to succeed, or failing that, just put themselves out of their misery, whichever offers the quickest route out of the game.

If you dare, you may attempt a publicity stunt in order to break the monotony and perhaps eek out a few extra sales. By stunt, what I really mean, is a death-defying stunt. More often than not you get no publicity and if you do, it’s probably because one of your charges has died. That’s right, died. Usually in some bizarre orgy involving a vicar, sometimes a hamster and occasionally both. Evil Knievel and David Blaine would think twice about one of Clive’s publicity stunts. I’m sure that he’s acting out his frustrations against Cecil with his suicidal brand of promotion. No-one could remain that chipper in the face of such mental torture, not without some kind of breakdown behind the scenes.

To attempt a meta-metaphor (a first for this blog) Rockstar Ate My Hamster could be compared to this review itself. It starts amusingly enough and you’ve been entertained up to a point. Now imagine that you are forced to read those first few paragraphs over and over again. Like toast flavoured chewing gum, or teasing lions about their appearance, the novelty soon comes to a sharp halt. Like toast flavoured chewing gum, or teasing lions about their appearance, the novelty soon comes to a sharp halt. Like toast flavoured chewing gum, or teasing lions about their appearance, the novelty soon comes to a sharp halt.

January 29, 2007 Posted by | Chris Keeley, Wacky rockstar management games | 10 Comments

Pogostick Olympics: Says it all really.

In 1987, the gaming community was given its first and only pogostick simulator. The level of realism was staggering: You’d play with it for five minutes before getting bored, then leave it to fester in its box forever.

Have you ever looked through old school photos of yourself? It’s generally either an hysterical or terrifying experience, re-living scenes of friends parties and school discos, sporting a Donald Trump hairstyle accompanied by three conflicting pieces of clothing; a bright green shirt screwed into a pair of black tracksuit bottoms, finished off with a nice pair of scuffed shoes.
I’m digressing here because the same philosophy, I have recently discovered, also applies to computer games and this theory has never been more eloquently demonstrated than Pogostick Olympics, a game that having recently finished re-visiting, I’m seriously struggling to find any reason to merit why I wasted so much of my youth playing it.

The whole game is built around a stupid idea, which bravely, the game’s creators decided to embrace – emblazoning its theme over its box and title, demonstrating a brash confidence which I found myself respecting (rather oddly). It’s really a ‘get what you pay for’ scenario here. You should have only heard of this game if a) Your nan thought it sounded ‘cool’ and bought it for you for Christmas, or b) You have always had this weird desire to see pogo-sticking become an Olympic event. I can imagine the Olympic committee actually pondering with the idea of introducing the pogo-stick (a piece of equipment I have never actually seen anybody use in real life) in the hope it would inject some cool vibe into the precedings, but then after playing this game, killed the idea outright.

I would have loved to be in the boardroom when the programing team were brainstorming new ideas for their next project and landed on the idea of recreating an Olympic event that doesn’t actually exist. It really makes you wonder what other ideas had to fall to the cutting room floor, amid a background noise of tears, to make way for this game; such genre busting titles such as, Shopping Trolley Rally or Paper Aeroplane Foodfight…we can only guess.

The game hands out all the right clues that it’s going to be really bad experience. The loading picture is of a blonde guy in a white shell-suit, aloft a tiny winners podium. He is so largely out of proportion it would be scientifically impossible to get two other people on it. He’s also pulling the weirdest face – it kind of looks like he’s taking a big dump in his pants. This face, you’ll later discover, is the result of playing four seconds of this game.

Welcome home spaceman!

Luckily, the game only takes around four minutes to complete, so here’s a quick rundown of the whole game:

The first event is balloon popping. Ok, so first off, controlling your pogo-pugilist is like trying to give commands to a piece of carpet. Jumping height, speed and trajectory, is generally up to the discretion of the computer, so commanding your little guy to do anything other then sporadic jumping proves very frustrating. Every event has the same garish head hurting primary coloured background. It appears that in videogame land the Pogo stick Olympics draw quite a crowd. Millions of different coloured pixels travel from all platforms and game genres to come and watch the day’s five events unfold.

The second event is the hurdles, this is the most pointless of all the events. It is mathematically impossible to get through this stage without knocking down at least thirty hurdles. The runaway mine train mentality of your pogostick superstar, coupled with the fact that the groups of hurdles are too closely packed together, means that the event becomes a simple case of hitting the space bar whenever you feel compelled to do so.

The next event, the triple jump, is the most ridiculous of all the events on offer as you’re not given a clear indication when the three jumps actually begin. There’s crap strewn across the track, which you have to avoid, and the genius programmers decided to place a large bush just in font of the sand pit, which, if you should collide or clip as you pass, reduces your speed, to that of a piece of carpet which has been stuck down to the floor, and your recorded jump will measure a silly two centimetres…great.

The next event is the target shot, the most amusing of the five on offer. Here your player must shoot tiny arrows out of his nut sack and pop floating white balls which look exactly like the baloons but without a blocky pixel string hanging from them.

The final event is the obstacle course and allows you to hone all the skill you’ve acquired in the art of slapping the space bar at random intervals. It’s actually the best of all the levels, so the game does kind of finish on a high note; although confusingly, none of the different surfaces you land on seem to affect the speed of your character, so there’s no real point to it, you might just as well be a competing on a piece of carpet.

When you finish the game, which you can do about ten times in the same time it has taken to read this review, you are greeted with a pathetic congratulations screen – blue text on a black background. Sums up this whole brain bruising experience.

January 24, 2007 Posted by | S**t Sports, Stuart Hunt | Leave a comment

Barbarians Reunited

Words:Stuart Hunt

It was the first time I had ever played a beat em-up and witnessed video-game violence. Many argue that it was this very game that started it all. A pre-cursor to Midway’s Mortal Kombat, Capcom’s Street Fighter series and Satan’s Rise of the Robots.

Revisiting Barbarian after almost ten years was like bumping into an old girlfriend, who looks annoyingly good now as she did back then. Barbarian looks well for its age, surprisingly well infact. Perhaps the only wrinkles on show is its cassette tape body, encased in ridiculous box art.

The Mills and Boon cover shot of a very bronzed Michael Van Wijk (Wolf from the Gladiators to you and me) having his shiny leg fondled by scantily clad page 3 pouter Maria Whittaker caused controversy when the game was released, as worried parents deemed it too subversive to use on the cover of a game about killing people.


Today however, the picture feels about as risqué as a Michael Parkinson interview. I’m sure back in, whenever the hell this game is set, hairspray, makeup and bronzer hadn’t been invented and if it had, I would imagine it would have cost a fair penny. I don’t know what the going wage was for a barbarian back then, but considering their wardrobes seem to consist of one bright coloured t-shirt and a pair of black pants – I’m led to believe it wasn’t a great deal.
For anybody that has never seen, played, or even heard of this game until a few minutes ago, I’ll give you brief rundown. It’s a 2D sword-em-up programmed by Palace Software. It came out around the time those ten-a-penny Conan films were released, starring Arnold Schwarzeneger and a group of actors no one has seen or heard from since.

In the game you take the role of a barbarian who is trying to obtain the perfect gift for his girlfriend to celebrate their five year anniversary. He must fight his way through a number of strange coloured clones of himself who are protecting an evil old man called Drax, who guards the last remaining tin of hairspray in the entire land… the guy doesn’t even have any hair, that’s the level of his evilness.

The first thing that impressed me when I re-played Barbarian was the visuals. The characters move fluidly and respond to your commands without looking like they’re pondering about it first. You only have a sparing number of moves at your disposal but the ones on offer, such as ‘The Web of Death’ more than make up for it. The simplicity in the controls is actually a comforting characteristic that makes the game more accessible.

Barbarian also has one of the coolest moves in a video game: The swinging decapitation – a slash of genius which is easily up there with Ken’s flaming dragon punch, Sub Zero’s spine pull and running at zombies with a parasol in Dead Rising. When the computer character resorts to the screen screaming tactics of continually hitting you as you pick yourself off the floor, there is nothing more rewarding than coming back and lopping the head off of your tormentor, especially if he boasts a full bill of health. It allows the balance of a fight to turn on a pin head, invoking a strong strategic element into the game. The down side of course is that it could always happen to you. There is nothing more frustrating then having rolled and defended a barrage of sword slashes and taken 5 of your opponent’s red health circles away from him, to witness him retaliate with a sneaky head from neck seperator at the very last minute. To add insult to injury a gargoyle, who is dispatched to clean up after a fight, will disrepectfully toe-punt your head off the floor like a football!

To accompany the fantastic visuals the game’s programmers realised that less was more when it came to creating the soundtrack. The game’s Casio-esque ballad, which rings out over the menu screen, is grand enough to join me in battle but leaves at the first sign of trouble. When the fighting begins the sound is substituted for the satisfying tones of sword clangs and grunts.

To sum up, Barbarian is a great piece of balanced gaming. It demonstrates that making something very simple, very well, is sometimes all is required. A game can look the part, but if isn’t enjoyable to play, the cracks soon appear and the ugliness escapes. If I have to suffer looking at ridiculous cover art and suspicious graphics for a great game, I will. C’mon, you can’t tell me we love playing Tetris for the realistic looking blocks and picturesque backdrop?

January 22, 2007 Posted by | Fighting, Stuart Hunt | Leave a comment

Unlucky night for the unlucky knight.

Arthur gets jumped by the cast of Thriller!

Now if you’re going to save a damsel in distress there’s a lesson to be learned from Ghosts ‘N Goblins: It’s probably wise to research the route your going to take before you set off. If you follow poor Arthur’s lead you’re going to get into all sorts of hot water. It’s unfortunate that there wasn’t a route planner available back in medieval England because the itinerary he’s working from takes him into graveyards, through haunted forests and into the pits of hell itself (probably). It’s a tad long-winded to say the least.

The games plot is the typical damsel in distress scenario, although there really is no actual evidence put to the gamer (bar one loading screen) to suggest why Arthur is running through a cemetery late at night, armed with an infinite number of knives. He could have been exercising a spot of late night grave digging before all hell breaks lose, we just don’t know.

Arthur’s adventure is made 1000 times more difficult by his pathetic suit, which is about as strong as a layer of tin-foil. A decomposed body, plant spit, transparent ghosts, probably even a heavy rain is enough to penetrate his in-arduous amour and reduce him to a pile of bones. In all honestly, you might as well be controlling a character being pushed around in a hospital bed, connected up to a intravenous drip.

Thankfully, this is a criticism that was addressed in the games sequels. You may remember the iconic images of Arthur running through a cemetry in a pair of heart covered boxers, like some kind of goth pervert – This was a humorous (to us) and discomforting (to poor Arthur) way of giving the player an extra life – and with this in mind, we can assume that it’s Arthurs pants that actually provide him with protection and not his wimpy suit.

Arthur is perhaps the unluckiest game character I have ever come across. He’s had a turbulent love life, look’s suspiciously like a baby when he climbs ladders and is the only game character, I can recall, who has ever had to strip down to his undies.

G’NG is one of the CPC greats. It’s so darn playable and annoyingly addictive. Graphically, it’s superb (for its day) with chunky, cartoon sprites. The character designs are original, if a tad random – ghosts with pitchforks! And you wont be able to remove its catchy theme tune from your head, Chris and I have been humming for about two weeks now!

Dang da dum dang dang dum dang dum dang dudum duummmm 🙂

Words:Stuart Hunt


Chris’s Review

Ghosts and Goblins shares the honour of not only being the first game that I ever played, but also, has without any question in my mind, the best soundtrack to any computer game ever. Ever. It starts off with a digitised fanfare that must fill Arthur, the knight you control in game, with a tinge of pride and also hope…. hope for the journey ahead. That is until the sickest 8-bit bassline you ever heard kicks in. Honestly, it wouldn’t sound out of place on a current drum and bass compilation. The sense of foreboding and menace is palpable. Arthur must be bricking it, even before the chaotic melody comes in. All in all, it’s enough to reduce most knights to the foetal position.

Our Arthur is made of sterner stuff however and perseveres regardless on his quest to save his damsel in distress. She must be pretty distressed by now, as this is another game that I have never got anywhere near completing. I doubt that she IS even a damsel anymore; I don’t know if it’s an age thing and at the age of 25 you then reach wench status? Having given up waiting for Arthur, I reckon that she probably married the big, ugly, red demon thing that carried her off and her broodiness gave way to the patter of little cloven hoofs. I digress. Arthur’s damsel in distress (for all he knows) has been kidnapped and being the brave knight that he is, Arthur must risk life and limb to rescue her.

Stage one in the quest: a haunted forest. Zombies appear from everywhere intent on turning Arthur into a pile of bones. I don’t know if zombies are just jerks and try and kill everyone they see or if they have been hired to stop our hero by the demon that kidnapped his damsel. If so, he must have pretty deep pockets, there are literally thousands of zombies on the payroll, respawning and respawning and respawning. If you have ever played Driver and know the suicidal lengths that the cops go to get their man, you will be familiar with the mentality of the zombies in this game. Like moths to a flame, flies to shit or Pete Docherty to Kate Moss they seem to have an irresistible pull to Arthur. The point I’m trying to make here is that this is another difficult game. Ok, the zombies themselves are pretty wimpy but they just keep coming and get in the way of your other knightly duties, jumping chasms, climbing ladders, shooting crows in the face with lances, you know, the usual. In traditional Amstrad style, these duties require pinpoint accuracy and feats of memory that would have pulled a good crowd at the turn of the century. “Roll up, roll up and see the fantastic Mr Recollecto! He remembers the exact jumping sequence needed to escape the level one forest on Ghosts and Goblins.” Yeah, they’d f**king lap it up.

I still remember the feelings I got when first playing Ghosts and Goblins: confusion, frustration and fear. Confusion in that what I was doing was controlling a little man on the screen, frustration at not being able to get very far in the game and a creeping fear, mainly due to the music. 21 years on and little has changed, perhaps with the exception of the damsel’s body clock. Maybe I’ll give her a call.

Words:Chris Keeley

January 20, 2007 Posted by | Chris Keeley, Hall of Fame, Stuart Hunt | 2 Comments

Howard’s egg-scrutiating adventure

Words:Stuart Hunt

Howard the Duck – The wise cracking, earth saving, big headed egg-poo-er, had his own line of fragrances, fine wines, and a computer game… I know amazing huh? Dont get too egg-cited, it’s crap!

I was a big fan of the Howard the Duck movie as kid and I didn’t even realise a game based on the film was ever created. I didn’t see any adverts, any reviews in magazines – a clear warning nowadays that such a game should be avoided like prison showers. My memory of it and its Amstrad counterpart, is shall we say, a little diluted now. I un-fondly remember it being mentally hard going. The controls were frustrating, the levels, or I should say, the first and only level (I saw at least) was amazingly taxing. So, at 25, I figured I could return to the game with 10 years of gaming experience under my belt. Having toppled the Covenant in two Halo adventures and finished Ghost Recon on the John Rambo difficulty setting, how hard could it be to jump over 3 inches of sand?

The map’s on the other side you idiot!

I load up the game and begin my adventure in a tropical rainforest – a scene that I don’t actually remember seeing in the film, but never mind. The first task is to communicate with the duck, and by that, I mean get him to actually move his feathery ass. The controls in this game are dire, Howard waddles around the level like he’s layed a large egg in his pants and to make matters worse you’re given a pointless sped up 30 minutes (why not just give us a real 5 minutes?) in which to complete the first level. I guarantee, 18 of those will be spent trying to jump over of a piece of sand the exact distance of Howard’s longest possible jump (to the exact pixel). It requires a long run up on a piece of ground an inch in screen size. When, or probably, if, you manage this nefarious task, you will be awarded the most useless power up in computer game history – a jet pack with the power of a bike transformer.

You can’t take it out on poor Howard though, the duck clearly has amnesia, because when he’s trying to figure out how best to get back across the sand he just spent half his natural life trying to jump over, he forgets the jet pack he just found 30 seconds ago. Jerk.
I will say, please don’t attempt to make the return trip back across the sand by jumping, you’ll never do it as you’re given even less ground to pick up speed on. Such a feat will require you to control a running Howard around a corner – this is not an option – such an act is like trying to teach a guitar how to swim.

Touching the Void
Around the time you picked up the jet pack, a strange vampire midget character appeared, which looked a lot like the counting count from the Muppets. He may have stood out because perhaps like everything else in this game (except Howard) he doesn’t actually appear in the film – but he is your ticket out of there. To escape requires Howard to commit hari-quaki, so run into the count, watch Howard perform his ri-duck-ulous spinning floating move, signalling he’s dead or in the process of it, and cunningly you will start back at the beginning, still equipped with the jet-pack. What an ingenious puzzle, made all the more obvious when you realise Howard doesn’t actually have any lives – he’s imortal… of course! I was kicking myself when I realised.

Now you have to cross the treacherous death sptitting river – luckily we have a jet pack, right? Now, I’ve never attempted to cross a raging river, with strong currents trying to drag my bones down into a deep, dark watery grave. However, I can honestly imagine that actually doing it in real life, would probably be easier then trying to do it in this game. The crappy controls and the feeble nature of the jet pack, which seems to lose power after 5 seconds, make it almost as frustrating as trying to jump over sand. Almost.

So if you make it over the river, you’ll notice a pile of seeds sitting invitingly on the floor, which I will wager, you’ll assume is energy for the duck – it’s not, but it would make perfect sense to think this. Moving closer to the yellow traingle will cause one of those mini count’s to sneakily jump out and here is where the supposed ‘action’ in the game is introduced.

Now, Howard can talk, he can dress himself, he can even operate a f**ing jet-pack, but one thing he can’t do is fight for shit. Trying to get him to kick is like trying to talk a goldfish out of its bowl. Every time you attack, Howard has to jump in the air a few times first, almost as if he’s psyching himself up first. Fighting is a frustrating experience and as there’s no energy bar so the outcome of a fight seems to rest on the roll of an invisible dice.

If you manage to kill the count, you’ll probably feel like congratulating yourself, but keep the champagne on ice because another one emerges from the seeds quickly soon after. Yes that’s right, this game inhibits those annoying infinite baddy generators – seeds! (for some reason). If you are able to make your way safely past the stupid seeds, you’ll notice another stretch of sand, which looks suspiciously further then Howard’s current long jump record – a distance you will have witnessed him attempt so much, it will be burned into your retinas.

And so after a few hundred failed record attempts your time will run out, leaving you with two options: Replay the whole demoralising process again or take your aggression out on Duck Hunt.

January 18, 2007 Posted by | Movie Tie-Ins, Stuart Hunt | Leave a comment

Blagger: Difficulty gets a new name

Blagger is a platform game showcasing all the genre’s stereotypes we have grown to love: Random enemies, unforgiving collison detection, all you can do is walk and jump and everything is out to kill you.

Taking the difficulty crown from the brow of Jet Set Willy and making his adventure seem easier then playing pong in slow motion, Blagger owns the precision platform genre. Armed only with an erratic, gravity discarding clunky jump in a world where everything is trying to kill you, the game perfectly recreates the level of difficulty you would expect to experience when trying to break into a Vegas casino wearing a penguin costume.

The games plot, from what I can gather, is based on a bank robbers worst nightmare, where, ferns, giant quality streets, mad hatters and even Mick Jaggers lips are all out to stop you from collecting the keys which open a conveniently labeled safe – about the only thing that can’t kill you in this game.

It would make sense that only one of the keys would open the safe, so you cant help but feel the game would have benefited from the relevant key being randomly placed on the level, thus giving the player two possible strategies – the lengthy trial and error method or the strategy which is presented here – risk life and sanity to collect them all, then try out each one when you get there.

Blaggers gaming ethos can be summed up in five words: ‘If you stop, you die’. Once setting foot off of that first, safe piece of platform, youre literally signing your life away; carried off by a conveyor belt into a constant barrage of death dealing plants and telephones.

The game just feels like a bunch of end level screens, thats how difficult it is. I dont think the term forgiving was invented at the time the game was programmed. If you die (which you can keep track of by blinking) the game empties your red headed heros pockets and conveniently places the keys back in the same areas you found them.

If this all sounds like fun… then you will probably get a kick out of Blagger. If anyone has successfully finished the game and could shed some light on its last level, please get in touch. I imagine it probably goes something like this: The rooms called The Green Mile, there are 100 keys to collect and each is guarded by an army of tanks, packed with state of the art red hair seeking missiles, while poisonous gas is silently emitted into the room.

Words:Stuart Hunt.

Blagger Spot

Chris’s Review

Blagger is a classic Amstrad platform game in that all you can do is walk and jump and everything kills you. I’ve been playing it on and off for the best part of 20 years, only now as I sit down to write this review do I ask myself, why?Remember the kid at school who was always ill, smelt faintly of milk and was crap at football? Imagine if when reading his Friends Reunited profile you discovered that he was a career criminal. Blagger was that guy at his school, a pasty redhead; he has decided to embark on a life of crime despite being susceptible to death from almost anything. If he touches a tree, he dies, falls from the smallest of heights, he dies (try bending your knees when you land dude) ANYTHING, he dies.

His second major mistake after his career choice are the places he attempts to burgle. First off, level one, the bank. Fair enough you might think. In fact, with the only major security feature of this bank being a small collection of shrubs, it seems Blagger will get his robbing career off to a good start. Well, at least that would be the case if he wasn’t deathly allergic to shrubs. On successful completion of the bank blag, where does our hapless hero choose for his next hit? Where else? A sweet factory. Flush with success, next up is the Mad Hatter’s Den, I don’t know how much money there is in mad hattery but there can’t be much, oh, and there are shrubs everywhere. Planning doesn’t seem to be his strong suit.

Planning will need to be your strong suit however as guiding our redheaded robber through each bizarre level is excruciatingly difficult. Shrub security systems abound, not to mention flying sweets, teeth and hatters, each one hell bent on prematurely ending the worst criminal enterprise ever. Equipped with only five lives and each level’s strategy being the definition of trial and error, a Zen like state must be achieved to avoid coming within one pixel of anything that isn’t the floor or yourself.

Assuming you have the patience of Mother Theresa and the memory of Derren Brown you may well be able to play this game long enough to learn the patterns of the enemies and the correct jump sequences to progress further than level 5, something I haven’t achieved despite the best part of a quarter of a century trying.

I was going to say that the theme tune; “The Entertainer” was bitterly ironic but then I realised, this is actually a good game, if extremely frustrating. It is the level of difficulty and repeated challenge that have kept me coming back for more and more and more and more and….

Words:Chris Keeley

January 18, 2007 Posted by | Chris Keeley, Platform, Stuart Hunt | 2 Comments



It started with a hiss….

Welcome to The Snake Becomes The Key – a retro gaming blog for archaic Amstrad computer games. A partnership by Christian Keeley and Stuart Hunt who, from a kinship for life depleting load times, a weird appreciation for shoddy movie tie-ins and probable permanent ear damage from dolphin language loading sounds, decided to visit every jumble sale over a period of two years to unearth a plethora of ancient Amstrad cassette tapes to re-live that pocket-money programming period.

You may wonder why we called this blog ‘The Snake Becomes The Key’ well, for any of you that check out YouTube, you’ll see that as well as clips of people wearing condoms made out of glass and Polish street fights, there’s quite a funny selection of computer game themed videos, be it a parody, online review, or just an angry rant. By some strange chance, we accidentally clicked on a video showing a walkthrough for an old Atari 2600 game based on Indiana Jones – by far the most dog-sick looking game we’ve ever encountered. The guy doing the commentating took the whole thing deadly seriously and narrated it in a portentous knowing tone….Jerk.

It wasn’t until we finished watching his 15 minute master class that we realised the guy was actually a gaming genius. Amazed were we by how illogical the puzzles were and how he had somehow managed to crack the ingenious solution of walking in and out of two screens 8 times, like an OCD sufferer opening a door, to find a key, which, unless you spend weeks deliberating over every minuscule pixel on your television like a mental person, you would never find yourself. Why? because it’s a f***ing snake, something, which by video game convention, written into the syntax of perhaps every other video game, is something that will usually kill you. It’s like the programmers were literally trying rough you up for playing a video game. It’s kind of like the equivalent of keeping frozen food inside a DVD player – it makes no sense whatsoever.

This experience had us thinking about the games we used to play when we were kids and how we could never finish them. Was it because we were shit at video games? Quite possibly, or was it because we didn’t have the insight and open minded approach which enabled us to consider that the snake becomes the key?

Anyways check it out, post us your comments and suggestions. We really hope you enjoy stepping back in time with us as we replay some old gaming gems from yester-year.

Stuart and Chris.

January 16, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments