Title : Chiller
Released: 1985, Mastertronic
Platform: Commodore 64
If for you, like me, money was tight when you were no but a child in the 80s, then you will fondly remember the Mastertronic £1.99 range of games. Affordable software which, even if it didn't always live up to the hype and the promises on the cover, did at least allow you to feed your insatiable appetite for new games. The thrill of chossing and buying a new game and the anticipation of loading it in, reading every word of the instructions on the way home.
Let's be honest, we have all spent far more on games which have dissapointed or were mis-sold or mis-advertised, some by the biggest magazines of the day and their paid for reviews, and Mastertronic had their fair share of duffers. But now and then you were pleasantly surprised with a cheap game that was actually playable, lasted more than a couple of hours and was a challenge and fun enough to easily warrant the couple of quid.
For me, Chiller was one such game.
Let's get the music out of the way first. There are very few of the original releases still around. The ones with the actual rendition of Michael Jackson's Thriller, writen by Julie Dunn (Gilligan's Gold, Battle of Midway amongst many others), were withdrawn for, well, obvious reasons. A few made it out into the wild and there are still stories even today of them being found on ebay etc. But you will most likely, if you have a hard physical copy of the game, have one of the 2nd generation. Still great music, but not Thriller.
In fact Dunn's contribution, along with coding and graphics by the Darling brothers, the founders of Codemasters (which is still going today) is the main reason this unassuming budget game plays so well. It's early and may be based on the Game Maker engine (some debate about that), but hey.
So....we've all been there. Your girlfriend has been captured and is being held captive in a haunted mansion and you are on your way to rescue her. There is no time for things like checking fuel levels of course, or grabbing a snickers bar for the journey - time is of the essence here, and on your way to liberate your love the car, of course, runs out of petrol.
No choice then but to continue on foot, and the most direct route is going to take you through a forest, obviously, a cinema, why not, a ghetto (bit awkward) and naturally a graveyard, ending up at the haunted house.
This is basically a straightforward platformer. Retrieve the blue magic crosses which are dotted around and avoid the spiders and skeletons. It's pretty tricky and requires a few goes to get the timing and movement right. There are ghosts and zombies here and annoying bats, and if they touch you your energy will get drained (it goes down slowly anyway) . If only you had stopped for that snickers bar! No fear though, the mushrooms you will find can restore a bit of health, just make sure you avoid those poisonous toadstools!
More ghosts and ghouls await in the cinema - again collect the crosses, avoid the baddies, preserve your energy. Rubble is falling down from the ceiling and the mysterious ice cream sales ladies float across the floor. Use the seats as platforms and grab those crosses! The easiest level in my opinion.
Not sure you'd get away with having a ghetto level nowadays in a game - or at least not calling it that! Anyway, guess what. Oh, you knew already? Yes you have to collect the crosses, bouncing around the window sills and roof tops and avoiding the inexplicable flying night vultures.
More bouncing around gravestones, tress and a windy path/platform. Various night vultures (I think they are supposed to be bats bizarrely) and what look like cats, and of course ghostly ghosts and skeletons try to scupper your plans. Again, adventurers, grab those crosses!
The Haunted House
OK, so more of the same. Avoid the odd tree climbing chappy, the skeletons etc. and leap around the roof and jump off the vines to gather all the crosses. Once you collect them all the love of your life appears at the doorway and you have a tea-top-table-turnaround (trademark jonnypencils) and go through the whole thing again backwards, like Satan himself. Only this time both of you will be collecting crosses, switching between the boy and the girl to collect blue and red crosses respectively. It's a nice twist to prolong the game.
If I've made it sound easy, it isn't. It's a pretty challenging game and kept me entertained for weeks.
I wont post a video - there are loads out there - but if there are any of you left that haven't already played this game, or new enthusiasts reading this for the first time, do find yourself an original or download a tap file and relive the glorious budget driven 80s !
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Title: Son Of Blagger
Released: 1985, Alligata Software Ltd.
Platform: Commodore 64
Alligata Bites Back is, I think, simply a re-release series from Alligata Software, cut down versions (in terms of packaging) and cheaper. This one is released in 1985, 1 year after its first showing.
I recently got this as a present, along with lots more goodies, so we're good for Game of The Month for another year at least!
The packaging is standard for the Bites Back series, green labels with stamped name, and minimal cover details.
Simple instructions on the inner sleeve include movement key mappings, and loading (press shift/run-stop).
Left = Z - Right = X - Jump=Return
The Restore key switches to Joystick Control.
Loading time was about 4 minutes and there is no loading screen or any other entertainment during that time. Just the flashing lines we all know so well.
Straight from loading you are presented with the welcome screen, and pressing space takes you directly to the first level.
The air starts to decrease Manic Miner style and you need to have your wits about you to find all the keys strewn around to end the level. Keys are off screen as well as on so you'll need to move about and shift the scenery left and right, and think logically to get them all in the time allowed. Mechanics are a little frustrating but you soon get used to them - movement is again similar to Manic Miner, in fact the game is, of course, heavily influenced, as was Blagger before it.
One thing that hasn't improved with age is my skill at the Blagger games! I find it really hard, and soon found myself wanting to load in a hacked version from my trusty 1541 Ultimate II, but resisted cheating to play through properly. Well honesty only gets you so far, and in my case that was the 2nd level! I will persevere though.
Playability is good. Good enough to be addictive, and the game is quick enough in terms of restarting to get you replaying once dead in a matter of seconds.
Music is really good - I didn't get annoyed with it at all, just the right level of benign, background tune to help move the game along. And the sound effects are few and far between but work.
All in all I enjoyed playing Son of Blagger and it will be one I'll return to, added to the list of games I want to beat without cheating.
As I have previously mentioned, if a video/play through exists elsewhere I will link to it rather than reinvent the wheel, so please see AL82's video below. It WILL contain spoilers including the ending so if you don't want to see that, don't click!
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