Tuesday, 23 April 2013

#2 - Mudpies

Publisher: Microdeal(UK), Michtron(US)
Developers: Jeffrey Sorensen, Philip MacKenzie
Approximate release date: December 1985/January 1986

As a bit of an experiment with this one, I'm including some gameplay footage to try and make thing a little less dry and text-heavy. This has resulted in this entry taking a little longer to prepare, as I had wrestle with some video encoding issues, but hopefully it'll be worth it. Maybe.

Okay, we're now going to look at another Microdeal game, but before we get into that, just take a look at this truly horrific cover art:

Unadulterated nightmare fuel.
Gahhh! Thankfully, the clowns that feature in the actual game are marginally less disturbing. Mudpies is another old game repurposed for the ST, but this port seems to have had a little more effort put into it than Lands Of Havoc, thank goodness. The original was only available for one relatively obscure system, the Tandy Color Computer(CoCo), and was itself based on an earlier arcade title released by Atari themselves, Food Fight.

The reason Atari weren't releasing their own arcade titles for the ST at this point is slightly complicated. Following the disastrous videogame market crash of 1984, what remained of the company had been effectively split into two entirely separate entities; Atari's arcade division(Atari Games) was now mostly owned by Namco, whereas the home computer division(Atari Corp.) was now in the hands of Jack Tramiel, former head of Commodore. The restrictions on Atari Games' licence meant they couldn't sell anything with the Atari name on in the home market. However, they could licence games for release under a different brand, leading to the creation of the Tengen label, who would go on to release titles for pretty much every system going. Including the ST of course. Later on, Tengen became embroiled in the infamous Tetris copyright case, but that's a whole other story.

Mudpies was the second ST release from Microdeal, and came out in either the winter of 1985 or spring of the next year (Compute! Magazine reviewed it in their December '85 issue, the earliest review of an ST game I've been able to locate so far).

You control Arnold, "a mischievous 12 year old boy who's sense of humour sometimes goes astray," according to the instructions. Uh-huh. Arnold is a somewhat reckless young urchin who's thoughtless shenanigans during a trip to the circus have landed him in some pretty serious shit. He's trapped in a nightmarish maze of circus tents, trying to avoid the pummelling he is due to receive from an endlessly respawning army of clowns who haven't taken particularly well to his anti-social behaviour.

The object of each room is simply to reach the exit to the next room before the tide of clowns finally overpowers you, making sure to pick enough discarded junk food on the way in order to hold off starvation for a little while longer. It seems there is apparently no way out of this hellish circus, because as soon as you successfully traverse the seven or so screens, you just end up back at the start to do the whole thing all over again. Coming into contact with a clown or their projectiles results in a cute little animation of two paramedics carrying you away on a stretcher, although it seems like these guys must hate you as well, as they just dump you right back in there once you've been patched up.

Graphics-wise, there's not an awful lot to shout about. The game sprites are very small and flickery, and don't animate particularly well, but we should bear in mind that this game came out very early in the Atari's lifespan, at a point when programmers were still trying to work out what on earth to do with it - getting any game up and running at all was something of an achievement, so we should probably cut the programmers some slack.

That's about all there is to it, really. Mudpies is a surprisingly fun little game, but I couldn't imagine it keeping your attention for very long, due to the lack of variation in the "levels". Once you've played all the way through a couple of times(which takes less than ten minutes), you'll have seen the entire game. The only reason to keep playing beyond that is to improve your score, and even that's not especially difficult. Even with my distinct lack of l33t gaming skillz, I was able to beat the creator's high scores in very little time at all.

Here's some gameplay I recorded earlier:

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