Shaking all over

Over in the UK, meanwhile, the charts were being rocked by one Shakin' Stevens. You've got to respect Shaky, and that's not a sentence I thought I'd ever commit to print. He deserves respect because he saw the appeal of 'retro' before many in the record industry (Jive Bunny, Levi's Ad executives etc.) by releasing cod '60s rock ‘n' roll songs in the '80s. He looked back, yes, but one eye looked forward to the exciting new world of computers and videogames.

Seeing the potential marketing opportunities of endorsing his own computer game, Shaky starred in his very own title - The Shaky Game. But rather than go to all the trouble and expense of creating and releasing a standalone game, Shaky sneaked a Spectrum game onto the cassette version of his 1983 album, The Bop Won't Stop. So it was a freebie, but that's no reason to forgive him.

Beginning with an introduction from the man himself, the game cleverly incorporated references to his lyrics. "Hi, I'm Shaky!" it began, just in case you were in any doubt. "It's late, close to midnight," he says, setting the scene and slowly building atmosphere. "You have to help me reach this ole house of vampires before my fuel runs out. Watch out for the flying bats - they will drive you crazy!" he jokes, with a pun that fails to break the tension. "If you reach the house quickly you might win something. Do your best - give me your heart tonight." It seems that even in the witching hour, Shaky still tries it on, which once again is a reason to respect the aging rocker.

Shaky shows compassion for the player's poor sense of bat/car interaction.

To recap then, the player has to drive around a maze to the 'ole house', finding the quickest route possible to save fuel (Shaky, even in those days, was aware of environmental issues), while avoiding bats. Written in BASIC, The Shaky Game wasn't exactly what you'd call survival horror, although playing it was a pretty horrific experience. The planned sequel, a celebrity wrestling match between Shaky and Richard Madeley, is currently stuck in development hell.

Shaky wasn't the only pop icon to hit the Spectrum scene. Being named after a pair of poncy French detectives from the poncy Tin Tin stories, it stood to reason that poncy new wave popsters The Thompson Twins would star in their very own poncy text adventure game. The Thompson Twins Adventure came on a flexi-disc and was given away with Computer & Video Games magazine.

The adventure began with the floppy-haired threesome on a beach with exits north, south, east and west. Sadly, telling the Twins to 'go west' didn't see them bump into Peter Cox or Richard Drummie, but with further exploration they would find such delights as a jar, a newspaper and a kite, as well as finding themselves up a tree. Those with the patience of a coma victim could no doubt spend hours typing in commands and exploring sandy beaches and forests, trying to find the 'Doctor', but inevitably most would end up tapping in obscenities instead. Funnily enough, if you sent the Twins north from the starting position they'd drown in the sea. Wishful thinking maybe?

Former punks The Stranglers were another band who released a text adventure for the Spectrum. Appearing on the band's 1984 album, Aural Sculpture, and written by the band's keyboardist Dave Greenfield, Aural Quest placed you in the shoes of The Stranglers tour manager, and saw you collecting parts of a giant ear. Anyone expecting to chuck tellies out of hotel windows, drive cars into swimming pools, or even secure some Golden Brown for the band, would be seriously disappointed by this sedate affair.

The Frankie game came with a special 15-minute live version of Relax recorded on the other side of the tape.

Somewhere more daring, but no less odd, was Ocean's Frankie Goes to Hollywood game. Videogames aren't well known for their representation of minorities, especially when it comes to sexuality. So you'd be forgiven for thinking that Spyro the Dragon was the world's first gay gaming icon. Not so; Frankie Goes to Hollywood, leaders of the '80s pink pop explosion, stepped into the games arena in 1985, thanks to licensing kings Ocean Software.

It was a rather surreal adventure game in which the player had to become a 'real' person, thereby escaping everyday life and finding peace in the 'Pleasuredome'. You became 'real' by earning pleasure points from doing nice things, such as giving a cat some milk. Honestly, there couldn't have been a friendlier game. Of more interest, and slightly more archaic, were the arcade mini-games found inside the Pleasuredome (which were accessed by stepping through TVs and computer screens). Once inside you got to control President Reagan's head and spit in Gorbachev's face. Like you do. You also had to defend the city of Liverpool from a wave of German bombers.

Frankie stands out as one of the most bizarre games ever released, which is perhaps befitting of such an odd licence. Half the time is spent trying to work out exactly what the hell is going on, and neither the band nor the eponymous Frankie make an appearance. Thankfully Ocean had the foresight to include an audio cassette which could be synched up to play along with the game, giving a spoken tutorial as the player explored a Liverpudlian suburb.

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About the author

Martyn Carroll

Martyn Carroll


Martyn has been writing about video games since 1997. He launched Retro Gamer magazine in 2004 and has been typecast as a lover of rubbish old games ever since. His specialist subject is actually the Crabs novel of Guy N. Smith.

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