The Full Monty: Episode One. I Haz A Bukkit.

Can I be beaten by a thirty year old platform game? Not likely!
(also featuring moles, miners, squirrels, vivisection, bukkits and more)
 

I woke up this morning, and as per Weird Al tradition, I went right back to bed. It was, to be fair, 1am when I did this, so it’s not that unusual an idea.
Except that I couldn’t sleep, and needed something to occupy my mind. Turning to the phone near my bed, I trawled recent gaming news, and noted that Elite had produced a few more gaming packs for its iOS ZX Spectrum game emulator. The big news this week had been the addition of Barbarian, a game that was always more famous for Maria Whittaker’s… ahem… glandular assets than anything else. Maria may have been a fine looking young lady back in the day, but I never found Barbarian to be that thrilling a game. Diving into the emulator app, I also noticed a Gremlin Graphics pack featuring the Monty Mole games.
And then I realised that while I know about the Monty Mole games, I’d never actually played one. I’d looked longingly at the box art as a teenager, but always with the knowledge that the wrong kind of computer sat at home for these particular games.
Indeed, outside of emulation, the closest I’ve ever come to a ZX Spectrum was when a boy at the East End school I attended in London brought one into school.
And then proceeded to smash into pieces over his own head.
There were some tough kids in that school. Tough… and kinda dumb.
Anyway, the gremlin collection was only $1.19, far cheaper than the original games had been, so mere seconds later, they were mine. And there’s no better place to start than at the beginning, which means 1984’s Wanted! Monty Mole.
It is, as so many games were at the time, a flick screen collecting and platforming game, in the Manic Miner style. Which was, it’s got to be said, the style at the time. ¬†As Wanted! Monty Mole starts off, it all looks pretty nice.

A mole, a river, a squirrel and a bucket. Should be a doddle.
A mole, a river, a squirrel and a bucket. Should be a doddle.

My first task? Jump the river, avoid the squirrel dropping nuts and get the bucket.
You know, the bucket. For the mine you’re about to go in. It’s not as though you’re some kind of subterranean mammal specifically evolved for digging in any way. Because if by some freakish chance you were, then the need for the bucket would be really stupid.
But nobody said game plots from the 80s made sense. Given this game features Arthur Scargill — yes, that Arthur Scargill — Wanted Monty Mole is even more ‘special’ in this regard.
Anyway, back to the river. Run left, hit jump and done, right? Nope. Fall in, die. Repeat.
Those who would cross the bridge of death... must die a bit. Or a lot.
Those who would cross the bridge of death... must die. A lot.

 
Then realise you have to jump up first onto the bridge and then across the river. At which point, it’s fairly likely you’ll mistime getting past the squirrel and get conked on the head and die. Three lives, game over and you get to read the game over poem.
I like poetry. No, really, I do, and I do have to applaud the idea, the concept of a game over poem. Nobody does them any more, and with reason. You see, while this game over poem is cute, I’m also going to see it a whole lot.
Sylvia Plath, this ain't. She was far more upbeat.
Sylvia Plath, this ain't. She was far more upbeat.

So, I start again, refreshed in my bridge crossing skills, jump over neatly and grab the bucket. A bucket, should point out, that is gently fizzing for some reason. I know very little about mining, but I never figured that effervescent buckets were a large scale feature.
Anyway, I grabbed the fizzing burping bucket.
At which point a miner comes out of his house right next to me. Which option do you think he takes?
A) The world’s biggest double take at seeing a bipedal mole with both the capacity and desire to steal buckets, followed by swift capture and a fortune on first the chat show circuit, then the fairground circuit and finally the lucrative medical research circuit post vivisection?
B) Scream the 80s equivalent of “Noooo! They be stealin’ my bucket!” before killing me stone dead.
The Miner Is So Enraged, He Forgets To Drop Dead When Crossing Water.
The Miner Is So Enraged, He Forgets To Drop Dead When Crossing Water.

If you chose B) then congratulations. You could have a retro future designing punishing 80s platform games.
So, once more over the bridge, grab the bucket and run right to get away from the miner. Straight into a nut that the squirrel is still dropping, dead again. Third time, jump river, grab bucket, avoid nut and jump away from miner… straight into the river.
It's game over time again. This is distinctly starting to lose the funny.
It's game over time again. This is distinctly starting to lose the funny.

Start again, and this time, I make it there and back with only a brief half dozen dead mole corpses left behind. There are elements of social satire here, but one thing is shockingly clear: the programmers of Wanted! Monty Mole really, really hate moles.
Next time: Monty In The Mine (Not Of Terror, because that was a Dr Who game)
 
 

About the author

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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