Remember the first run through Earthworm Jim, confronted with the cow and refrigerator? What about Streets of Rage 2 where the baseball pitch descended down to the depths of the earth? Who could forget Shadow Dancer’s ascent to the top of the Statue of Liberty, only to find a boss nigh on impossible to defeat (damn rotating blades). How about the beach in Stick Man vs Mr Hammer Head, where the man in the sombrero gives you a boat, for no apparent reason? What do you mean you don’t remember?
Having nailed characters (no pun intended), genre and concept, it was time to move on to the next point of call in my quest.
No matter how great the character, no matter how fantastic the graphics, or soundtrack, one thing is always key: level design. For me, it’s the little things that truly matter, those little details that stick in your mind for years to come. The rotating bolts in Sonic 2’s Metropolis Zone, those damn cows in Road Rash, that weird little dancing man in Desert Strike. The list goes on.
In my gaming effort, the dynamic was a simple one. Seemingly taking his cue from Princess Peach, our protagonist’s best bud has been abducted by an evil giant hammer and his minions. The reason? Unclear. The solution? A frantic chase through seas, beaches, the Big Apple, Universal Studios (why not?) and the Tower of London (obviously). Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the meticulously planned levels of Stick Man vs Mr Hammer Head:
As a side-note I made sure EA were aware of one key detail:
“In the Boat ride and the River Thames the nail men are dressed scoober divers”.
Scoober Divers. You heard it here first.
I was almost there, my vision almost complete, but something was still missing. Thoughts turned back to Sonic 2 (as they often did), to the Bonanza Brothers, to ToeJam & Earl, then back to Sonic 2 (as they often did). Something was missing, something these games clearly possessed: SIDEKICKS. “But who would a stick man choose to spend his precious time with?,” I hear you cry. A car tyre with eyes and a robotic, jet engine-clad Sonic the Hedgehog rip-off, of course.
“Could you give me a free copy of the game with a poster in it for my Mega Drive?”
Onto my bike I hopped, to the postbox in town and it was away. How could EA possibly resist?
Days went by, weeks. Nothing. “It’s because they’re making my game,” I thought “they’ve sent it to Japan.” I dreamed of the day the postman would arrive at my parent’s house with a huge parcel containing a pristine copy of my game, posters, merchandise. Kids all over the world would go crazy for Stick Man, he’d be bigger than Mickey Mouse, bigger than (dare I say it) than Sonic. Millions of copies would sell worldwide, I’d be the most popular boy in school. It was simply a matter of time. Then, one day, my mum picked me up from school: “A letter arrived for you today.”
Surely this wasn’t right? A simple envelope couldn’t possibly contain a game cartridge. No matter, this game was getting made. A dead cert. The envelope contained a simple letter. Elaine Hyslop from development wrote:
“Oh,” I thought.