And so it came to pass, the world witnessed one of the greatest losses to the nineties video games industry. Despite my best efforts, Stick Man vs Mr Hammer Head and the Nail Men never made it onto the Mega Drive.
A number of things struck me about my response from EA. First and foremost was the paper Elaine Hyslop from Development had selected to print her response upon. In my short ten year existence, never before had I seen or felt paper of such high quality. Retrieving the envelope, I realised it was made from the very same acid-free top quality sheet. Running my finger over Elaine’s signature, I couldn’t believe what I was feeling. Biro. A real signature. The combination of these elements alone seemed to be telling me something. It was almost as if Ms Hyslop was sending me a subliminal message:
“Stick Man is never gonna make it, not in a million years kid. But, you know what? I see potential here. Dig a little deeper, come back to me with another idea and we’ll see what we can do for you. (You’re a fantastic artist by the way).”
And so it came to pass, the world was about to witness one of the greatest (attempted) comebacks in the nineties game industry.
A week of doodling in my school exercise book followed. Monday: I sketched potential characters. Tuesday: bad guys. Wednesday: sidekicks. Thursday: level designs. Friday: box art. I had to be forward thinking, I needed a new idea and I needed it fast… I also needed new exercise book.
That weekend, realising it would be another three years before my parents subscribed to an internet connection (maybe I was too forward thinking) I took a trip to the local library for inspiration. Drawn to an illustrated book of military aircraft, I turned to a page illustrating an F-14 Tomcat. That was all I needed.
At the time, an edition of Mean Machines Sega contained a preview of upcoming Mega CD title Tomcat Alley. I was mesmerised by the movie-style visuals. The combination of FMV sequences, real-life actors and fighter jets blew me away. Having recently played EA’s title LHX Attack Chopper on a friend’s Mega Drive, I knew that EA were well versed in the military flight-simulation genre. Such a shame the only thing Tomcat Alley came close to simulating was a toilet seat.
Undeterred, my moment had arrived, my second game concept: Super F-14 Tomcat.
Memories of the writeup for this title remain sketchy at best, as Electronic Arts retained what I sent them. Elements that do remain clear include an exhaustive set of controls, levels set in the desert, and the all important ability to shoot camels. Super F-14 Tomcat was good to go.
Though I can’t remember the exact wording of my letter, I’m sure my letter to EA went something along these lines:
“Dear Elaine, Though I appreciate the world may not be ready for a hammer fighting stick man, what say you to a camel-killing flying machine? I present to you Super F-14 Tomcat. Please send me a copy of the game upon its sure-fire release ”
Letter posted, I waited. “This is the one, this is the one,” I kept saying to myself. Weeks went by. “This is the one, this is the one,” I kept repeating, by now sounding like a possessed Stone Roses fan. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, I arrived home from school to find a response from EA. This was no letter. This was a PACKAGE!
I could hardly believe it, they’d made my game and here it was, a pre-release cartridge, I’d done it, I’d done it, I’d…