Sunday, September 29, 2013

Daredevil Dennis and Frak on the BBC Micro

It’s safe to say that by the time we get to 1982 there had been a big shift in gaming from the arcades to the home.  While most of us had Sinclair Spectrum or maybe even a Commodore VIC 20 at home schools thanks to a government scheme had BBC Micro computers.   It was on the BBC that the next two games to hook us were found.

The first of these was the graphically simple Daredevil Dennis.  No fancy side scrolling with this game just a block graphics rendition of a motor bike and later a speed boat that you control as it zooms across the screen requiring you to hit space at perfectly timed intervals the jump or otherwise avoid the obstacles.  First few attempts at this game could result in the player losing all their lives in a matter of seconds before they even have a chance to get their bearings.  But play it enough and it surprising how good you can get at it.  This simplicity of game play can result in some very addictive games as quite well demonstrated these days by the mobile games industry.

Within a couple of years the BBC was also blessed with the great looking Frak.  Frak was a colourful (at the time) side scrolling platform game where you controlled Trogg the caveman through the sometimes fiendishly difficult levels.  On your way you had to avoid the deadly Scrubblys and Hooters.  A great game that made me want a BBC just for that!  You can keep your Elite…Frak was THE game for the BBC.
Frak is also interesting for its early copy protection on the game.  If that protection failed the game would just play the music from the TV show Captain Pugwash on an endless loop – Captain Pugwash being a Pirate.  Of course like all copy protection it was at best a bit flaky and many legitimate users got to hear this music as well.  Frak also made it in a cut down version (much like Elite) to the Electron and eventually the Commodore 64
Sadly for most of us, due to its high cost (nearly £400 for a BBC Master) we would never have the chance to own one at home.  Thankfully this was the boom time for home computing and there were alternatives popping up almost monthly it seemed…

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