Version tested: Retro
Without doubt the C64's finest technical achievement in its long and glorious history, this jolly platform romp (from the stupendously talented Rowland brothers of Creatures 1 and 2 fame) boggled the mind with some of the tricks it pulled off on the ageing hardware.
Released by mail order only at the tail end of 1993 (and heavily plugged by Commodore Format during its dying days) the game effectively drew a line under the drawn-out latter days of the C64.
And what a way to go out - with a 100 per cent CF review score somewhat pointlessly dished out as a thank you for generally living up to expectations. The Rowland brothers even managed to do pretty well out of it, raking in far more profit from its DIY approach than from its previous hits, despite probably only selling a few thousand to the dogged die-hard followers out there (like, er, me).
The game itself wasn't anything especially groundbreaking, snugly fitting in somewhere between Sonic and Mario - which, of course, were at the height of their popularity at the time. Starring a cuddly triceratops called Mayhem, the idea was to bring happiness and therefore colour back to the landscape by stomping on enemy heads and collecting the required 'magic'. It was pretty, lightning fast at time and extremely playable, but like all platformers of the time, it was also a git on occasion.
Once you've gathered up the magic dust bags, you get to play the 'happy' version and collect tons of stars to move onto the next sad world to transform. Complete with a wonderful rainbow colour effects, jelly-like backdrops and extremely cute sprites, it was damn near the happiest looking game ever. In fact, some of the style wasn't dissimilar to the one used to such glorious effect in Yoshi's Island a few years afterwards.
Somewhat annoyingly, the game actually shipped with a life counter bug, with a printout of a Basic programme that would rectify the problem on a slip of paper from Apex. Not only that, it had a tiny Jet Set Willy-esque colour code piracy protection sheet that was only an issue if you actually paid for the game. Pah!
Revisiting the game all these years later, it's easy to see why everyone got so giddy about Mayhem in Monsterland. It's a truly great game and well worth checking out just to see how far the C64's screaming innards could be pushed. A fitting conclusion.
9 / 10