Here's a curious tale, and one that's strangely relevant to one of this month's releases. Having spent a happy few years occasionally going to college in Bournemouth, I decided to don my mirrored shades and gun my Harley Davidson Fatboy down to the south coast. For a bit of entertainment, I dropped into the Tower Park leisure complex and found myself faced by a bewildering array of movies at the fine multiplex cinema that lurks there.
Spoiled for choice, I was eagerly scanning the large display, when I noticed a small fluffy creature lurking in the shadows. This was strange as I'd just seen that Disney's Winnie The Pooh was in a late-night triple bill (along with Troma's Surf Nazis must Die! And Dario Argento's Zombie Apocalypse) and for a moment I thought I'd forgotten to take my medication and was once again mistaking hallucinations for reality.
Rubbing my eyes, I looked again, and there really was a creature of uncertain origin and undeniable cuteness nibbling some discarded popcorn behind one of those big chrome bins. He looked up and saw that I was looking at him, and with a wry grin, waved me over. Resolving to get to the bottom of this mystery, I crammed into the gap behind the hin.
"Hi, I'm Oscar," he chirped, sounding like one of the Chipmunks who'd gone through puberty. "You're going to find the next hour terribly exciting, because not only are you the best-looking, healthy young man in this cinema (Oh dear. - Ed) but you're also into computer games, I know. I've come straight from the offices of Flair, and they've announced that I'm going to be THE game of the year. Put these on quickly."
Out of his magic pocket, he produced a set of faded jeans and a cowboy hat, and I was midway through changing into them when a security guard appeared and started to threaten me with a charge of indecent exposure, but Oscar saved the day.
"Woop, woop, you can try but there's no catching me. Heh, heh, I'm the cheeky young scamp Oscar. Weeeee!" he trilled, grabbing me by the collar and yanking me off my feet with more strength than I'd generally attribute to a two-foot rodent. As I flapped behind this spiky-haired critter like a poorly constructed kite, I thought it would be a great time to question his motives.
"I'm featuring in the first game to use the A1200's F-Mode, so my 16-colour dual playfields give a greater depth of hue to the background screen. Hah hah, with over 100 colours on screen at any one time and seven film worlds, I'm going to be a sure-fire hit. Here we go!" And with that we dived into one of the cinemas, where the strangest thing happened. We were suddenly in the film, which happened to be a Western. And then my heart sank.
"Hold on a moment," I said, "This is a platform game."
"Right on the button!" squealed Oscar. "I've got to dash around collecting little Oscar trophies before finding the clapperboard and zapping out. Once I've completed a level, I can go through a bonus door and go into another level. And look, hidden in that film can is a yo-yo that lets me smash walls and bad guys and swing from platforms. Wahey!"
"Well, all you need is a big red elephant as a restart point,and you'd be just like Flair's groovy and sickly- sweet platformer Trolls." I commented sarcastically, jumping on the head of a cowboy three times amidst a shower of pretty stars and watching him plummet off the ledge.
"You mean like this big red elephant," giggled Oscar as we ran past a suitably scarlet pachyderm, "I've got those as well, Nim nim!"
"And like Trolls, you've got themed levels as well, I suppose," I queried, simultaneously picking up a pair of trainers that allowed me to run faster and pushing my investigative journo talent to the limit.
"Indeed I have. They're all based on movies and TV, with a sci-fi level, a horror level, and get this - there's a war movie level that's (giggle) actually in black and white! Pretty wild stuff, huh?"
"Just like the black-and-white newspaper world in Trolls?" I fired back.
Before he could reply, we passed the clapperboard and reappeared outside the cinema, where a perfectly tailored silver suit and microphone were waiting for me. I quickly changed and then we were off into the game show land, were we carried on doing exactly what we were doing before.
Trolls A1200 was a much better game
"So let's get this straight in my mind - just like Trolls, you've got a yo-yo."
"That's right, but look how pretty everything is, look at the pretty backgrounds."
"Quite, and like Trolls, you leap around themed levels collecting objects before finding an escape route, and... Oof!"
Something hit me and sent me sprawling. I peered into the mass of colour but couldn't see anything apart from a small question mark. Turning round, I was hit again. Oscar shouted to look out for the pogo stick, but it was so hard to distinguish between the foreground and the background that I was smashed about a few more times until Oscar whacked it with his yo-yo.
"I'm a little offended that you're making all these Trolls references," he moaned, "because the troll was a bit of a childish character immortalised by numerous revolting plastic toys, whereas I'm a bit of a tough guy, although you can't help but love me. See, I dress up in different costumes for each level and everything. Although i'm obviously a furry mammal of some sort, you can't quite work out which, but I'd look great on sports bags and T-shirts. I'm going to be the Sonic for Amiga, for crying out loud, and all you can do is go on about some superficial similarities to another Flair game, damn you!"
At last! I was getting somewhere - the cute image of Oscar was crumbling, and beneath it I detected the hard-bitten features of a businessman. I refused to put on the space suit that Oscar thrust at me for the next level and started to take control of the situation.
I told him that this game was nothing more than a shallow revamping of the game Trolls. It old him that since Trolls was associated with those crappy little dolls, he'd been created as a ploy to appeal to a much older and broader range of people, and that dressing him up in different costumes didn't necessarily constitute a major leap forward in game design.
I told him that it was all very well having loads of colours on the screen, but that this didn't mean diddly squat if you couldn't play the game properly because the baddies usually merged into the backgrounds in confusing, garish graphical mess.
Finally I told him that Trolls A1200 was a much better game, and that I thought Flair should have tried coming up with a new idea, but by then he'd bounded over to another person and was telling him that he was the best-looking youth in the cinema. I left in a state of confusion and resolved to rent a video next time.