Thursday, 16 February 2012

This week: Monty Saurus on the Stickleback 5 1998

Monty Saurus was a children's game released by Spoilt Child Studios America in 1998 on it's new system the Stickleback 5.

The game was aged at children between the ages of 4-6 years. The premise of the game was a simple one, move the friendly, cartoon, dinosaur, left and right collecting pickups. These pickups being: food, drink, and eating cavemen.

The controllers for the Stickleback were hard wired single button affairs, with a single joystick. Technological advances had meant Spoilt Child Studios had developed an accompanying head set with microphone. In the case of Monty, it allowed children to give him orders: "eat", "bite" and "poop!"

Initial success was apparent, for straight away, heavy demand was being made in the run up to Christmas 1998. Unfortunately for Spoilt Child, they had not had enough time game testing, and were soon aware of gaming issues.

What senior developer Orville Shapeshifter had chosen to omit to other staff, was the internal "intelligence" of the game. Orville had been "moon lighting" at Black Onyx Games up the road. Onyx were themselves working on a gaming console for teenagers, and using the very same chip that Orville had used for the Stickleback. Orville was more than aware that the "Intellechip" was going to be big, but knew that Onyx were ironing out bugs for their forthcoming machine The Bachelorg, a gaming system for single men and losers and would be some time.

With this, Orville decided to see if the chip would push a long in a children's console. His eagerness was his downfall though as complaints were soon coming in. Parents were appalled to find out what their child could make Monty do. Here is an exert from one complaint:

"I came into the living room and sat down to watch my son playing his favourite game Monty Saurus. What I saw on screen was disgusting. My son was telling Monty to "bite" until he had eaten all the fruit off the trees. He then told Monty to "poop!" so he did. He then turned Monty round to eat his own "poop!" I couldn't believe this was happening. Next my son made Monty "puke" as he obviously didn't want to eat poop! Monty was then sick. I thought this was bad enough but then my son shouts "bite!" so excitedly. Monty starts eating the "poop sick!" I was shocked. My son then gets Monty to walk over to a bunch of cavemen. I thought he was going to "bite" as the game instructs, but no. My son shouts "poop!" and quick as you like, Monty has defecated on the caveman! He then tells Monty to "bite" again. Jesus, the poor dinosaur is eating a man covered in dinosaur crap! So then my son tells Monty to "puke" again, but on more cavemen! This goes on and on till Monty becomes pale and falls over. He doesn't get up! My son shouts: "yeah, Monty is dead!" I switched the machine off and sent him to his room. What were you people thinking?!"

Reports like this flooded Spoilt Child, who were rightly concerned and ordered a full recall on the system and game. The investigation led all the way to Shapeshifter, who could not be found. Days later his body was found inside a windmill. On a Crazy Golf course. Suicide was the verdict, so nobody else was accused. Leaving Shapeshifter as the sole person for the disaster.

Spoilt Child Studios was broken up and never again made technology of the kind again. But what of Black Onyx and the Bachelorg?

The following year the Bachelorg was released and became the biggest selling new console ever. And what sold the console so well? The Bundled game: Celebrity Breakdown.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

This Week: Barry Von Richthofen PS1 1995

"A stricken tri-plane is seen above the French Town of Amiens. It is 1918 and The Great War is nearly at an end. Infantry man Barry Blot has just discovered the town and the sight of the plane, having been separated from his unit. Following the plane instead of heading to the town, Blot finds the plane downed in a near bye field.

"Blot approaches cautiously, checking for the "hun" and any life in the pilot. It is clear the pilot is dead and that he is German flyer. Blot drags the body clear before seeing the plane explode in a bright ball of flames. As the flames dance in the rising sun, it is clear to Blot that the man is the image of himself! On checking the pilot's papers Blot is shocked to reveal he is none other than "Manfred Von Richtofen" The Red Baron!

"(Oh and he also looked at the bright red tri-plane, and figured it was probably him.)

So begins the journey for Barry Blot. Removing a flight ready pigeon for his kit bag, Barry writes a message to home:
(The scroller writes)

"Dear Mam and Dad,

The weather here is lovely. It would be better if there wasn't a War on, but hey-ho. Got into some bother in the first battle so ran away. I've had a change of  heart now since I remembered they will shoot me for it. Anyway, you have to tell General Ash Burton Grove that The Red Barron is dead and I am going to be him! Shhh, don't tell anyone, (like that snooty slag, Vera Bollard at number 42) as it's on a need to know basis. I'm planning to fool the hun into thinking I got out alive when secretly I will be sending a flying pigeon home with jerry's plans each week. I reckon my Grammar School German will get me through and I'll blag the flying. Any shooting will involve missing or shooting their lot down!
Stay safe mam, and keep grand dad away from my parsnips in the potting shed!


So begins the game. Barry dons the Baron's flying suit and buries the body. Will the Germans smell a rat? Will Barry be shot down by RAF? How many live pigeons does Barry have in that bag?
All these questions will soon be answered!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Nope It's: "Kids TV I Am Aren't Seeing!

This week: "Trilby and Co" LWT 1978-1982

Trilby and Co was a kids tv programme aimed at 4 to 6 year olds and pre school kids.
It was commissioned by London Weekend Television and filmed around the South East of England.

In early 1976 producers for children's television devised a new programme to entertain and educate at the same time. The programme would follow the adventures of a live chimpanzee called "Trilby". Trilby would drive a double decker, red, London bus to schools and meet school children. There with his assistant Aljanon, he would "talk" to the kids about school and learning. A small sub story would involve Trilby collected numbers and letters to fill his "Monkey Board".

Trilby's helper, Aljanon was played by a black man (Marcus Mears) who would "speak" for Trilby using such lines as "what was that Trilby, you want the kids to give you a banana?" or "what was the Trilby, you want to go to sleep now?" Casting of both Trilby and Aljanon took some time as both needed to suit each other. As Trilby needed to be well behaved, Aljanon needed to be able to follow the handlers course and look after Trilby and the safety of children.

In late 1977 a chimp called Mr Fitz had been deemed suitable and had bonded well with Mears. Filming soon began and that is when the problems began. For although Trilby was manageable in most parts, he was prone to mood swings. In a documentary of "Kidz Top 40", Mears was asked about the time with Trilby. "The chimp was horrible. For every adorable cuddle, there was faeces throwing and blind refusal to cooperate".

In Mears biography (published in 1990 "Monkey Business and Me". Flannel Books) he tells of how Trilby would take off his blue boiler suit and cap, parading around the bus naked. The problems were not particular to Trilby either, as Mears tells how racist exec's paid the monkey more than him, forcing him to quit the show in 1981. Mears was replaced by "Jan" (Sue Flipflop) with no explanation to fans, late 1981, but was also unhappy with the chimp. Flipflop left the show after rumours of Trilby trying to "make love on her".

Sadly by November 1982, it was all over. Trilby was cancelled after an "automotive incident". Chinese whispers circulated that Trilby (now heavily dosed drunk and chain smoker) had actually figured out how to drive the bus! Word spread that the chimp escaped from his handler and jumped into the bus, started it, and went screaming off round the studio car park. Witnesses reported seeing the chimp grinning in the driving seat, "flipping the bird" to shocked onlookers. After hundreds of pounds of damage to parked cars, the bus crashed. The LWT Marksman took aim and shot Trilby. Bringing an end to a bitter sweet adventure.

Exec's were rightly saddened by the passing of Trilby, but had to move on. They followed this up with Gonk! in 1983. It was an animated stomach that taught children how to eat the right food. Although popular, it never captured the hearts of a cheeky chimp and a helper called Aljanon.

To this day you can see a statue dedicated to the memory of "Mr Fitz" at Gypsy Adventure Park, Norwich. The inscription on the stand reads: "Mr Fitz, actor, womaniser, misunderstood bus thief"