TONY CROWTHER is one of those Liverpool programmers, like Eugene Evans and Matthew Smith, who they tried to make stars of in the days when people still imagined there were millions to be made out of writing games.
Alas, the dream is gone, but Tony is still with us, and his latest, William Wobbler, is a nostalgic reminder of the flickering days of attribute clash which so enchanted us when he used to perform his party tricks for Bug-Byte.
As everybody knows, these days you have to pay a tenner for nostalgia.
William Wobbler is an arcade-adventure in which the hero, a rubber-necked lizard, has to pick up objects, like eggs and bits of a teleport, in order to gain ten clues. Those clues open doors which allow you to solve the puzzle. Oh wow, arn't 'cha hooked already?
I wasn't. I was sitting next to Clare Edgeley all day. She was playing Three Weeks in Paradise and I reckon somebody fixed the draw. William Wobbler is a pain in the elastic neck.
You want to know about the graphics? The wobbling saurian is a very large figure who bounds or waddles across the screen in search of his objects. Sometimes the game is a straight visual adventure, and at others William has to pull in his neck and duck as flying frogs and swarms of bees pass overhead. If you've ever seen a flying frog, you won't need to buy William Wobbler to remind you about it. If you haven't, don't bother.
The objects all have names which get printed up on the screen when you find them, so you know what they are. Of course, the superb state-of-the-art flicker system leaves you in no doubt about the identity of these objects. The programmers - Mal Gillott and Steve Evans - who adapted Crowther's original Commode 64 game - have done an even better job on the Spectrum, according to Wizard, than the original. The mind boggles.
There is a certain amount of fun to be had from sussing out the various uses for the objects. Not that you have to use them as such - if you have the right item you progress on to the next stage, and that's about it. Trigger-skill is involved in both ducking the nasties and aligning yourself up with the object you want to pick up. When the hero is so large there's a lot of room for error, and the result is not realistic.
William Wobbler comes blessed with one of the grottiest colour ad campaigns we've seen for some time, with a really wet verse about 'caverns dark and dire' and fulfilling 'your heart's desire'.
What it all boils down to is an extremely old-fashioned looking game with a very weak theme - just straightforward keys and monsters, caverns and trapdoors - sorry, teleports - which appear to make no collective sense whatsoever.
The puzzles have some wit and ingenuity, and Crowther is obviously capable of designing a good game, but William Wobbler is most unexciting.
The real insult is charging £10 for the experience. That's the upper end of arcade game prices, and this production doesn't merit it.
Programmer: Tony Crowther (converted from C64)