The final days of 2015 lumber into view, and thank god for that - it's been a pretty miserable year for me on a personal level, and I will be glad to see the back of it. Fortunately, the act of writing about videogames has helped to thrill and entertain me over the last twelve months, although the same may not be true of VGJunk's readership, wonderful darlings that you are. Yes, even games with such dubious pedigree as Silent Assault and Pipi and Bibis helped to keep me sane and put things into perspective: the fact that I don't live in a universe where the only videogames are licensed Game Boy Color tie-ins is proof that things could always be worse. So, with a new year almost upon us, it's time for the annual tradition of the VGJunk Year Review, where I award prizes to some of the games I've covered this year in categories made up on the spot and selected according to my whims. Let's get started!

Most Shameless Rip-Off

There was absolutely no contest in this category, as Codemasters' Commodore 64 and Amiga title Prince Clumsy (AKA The Sword and the Rose) was such an unabashed clone of Ghosts 'n Goblins that it is scientifically provable that you can't talk about it without making reference to Capcom's lance-slinging classic. Even if you try to describe Prince Clumsy through wordless mugging and silent charades, an unseen force will carve the words "it's just bloody Ghosts 'n' Goblins!" into your forehead, the blood-markings forever serving as testament to Codemasters' sheer cheek.

Best Character

I said he would take this title way back in January, and I saw nothing in the intervening eleven months powerful or moving enough to change my mind - the winner is King Ape from Mad Motor. I'm not a complex man, I don't need much more than an enormous, helicopter-riding gorilla wearing a crown, spiked underwear and the Lord Mayor's chains to capture my heart.
Honourable mentions go to the entire cast of Captain Commando, especially Mack the Knife (even his in-game bio describes him as "very cool") and the floating, disembodied head of Sir Clive Sinclair from A Day in the Life. Turns out A Day in the Life of Sir Clive Sinclair's Floating, Disembodied Head is a harrowing one indeed, but Clive bears it all with grace and good humour.

Biggest Waste of a License

Beavis and Butt-head are difficult characters to build a game around, and Doug is so phenomenally boring that any game based on his adventures was always going to be a one-way ticket to Snoozeville calling at Boredom Junction and Pointlessness Central, so the title has to go to Indiagames' Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Quest for Oz. Buffy's a superb fighter and gymnast who beats vampires and monsters to un-un-death with karate and (that one time, at least) rocket launchers, so it was a shame to see her appear in what is quite possibly the most half-hearted Prince of Persia clone ever created. It does absolutely nothing with the license, either, with Buffy herself being the only character from the show to appear in-game. I know the last boss is supposed to be Drusilla, but even taking into account the tiny resolution of a mobile screen it looks nothing like her and so I'm not counting her.

Most Brutal Difficulty Level

Looking through this year's articles, I noticed that I didn't write about that many really difficult games. I'm fairly sure that's because my very first article of 2015 was about Spelunker, a game so viciously committed to inflicting sudden and near-constant deaths on the player that it's taken me an entire year to recover from agonisingly grinding my way through it. I don't think I have ever uttered such a stream of foul invective at a videogame in my life, and I've played through Dragon's Lair on the NES.

Most Terrifying

It wasn't any of the games I wrote about during the Halloween Spooktacular, that's for sure - no, the only game this year to elicit a frisson of fear was Paul Norman's The Trivia Monster. After the unsettling weirdness of Norman's Forbidden Forest, I was hoping for more of the same from Trivia Monster, and boy did I get it in the form of the titular monster's scream, the horrifying sound of a robot programmed only to feel pain trying to drag itself out of a burning cheese grater.

Best Soundtrack

It was a fairly weak year for top-quality soundtracks, but as is so often the case Castlevania came to my ears' rescue with the music from Castlevania Legends.

Most Pleasant Surprise

Quite a few games this year turned out to be much more enjoyable than I first anticipated: Moon Crystal is very close to being a true "lost" classic in the Famicom's library of platformers, Riding Fight was so beautifully dumb that I could overlook many of its flaws and Heavy Smash is just pure arcade fun. However, I have to give this one to Big Fish Game's pixel-pecking hidden object spook-a-thon Halloween Trick or Treat. The cluttered, kitschy mess that makes up the game's environments is an aesthetic that's wired directly into my brain's pleasure centres, and I found the act of hunting around for disguised items deeply relaxing. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I have developed something of an addiction to horror-themed hidden-object games, and since Halloween I have played a considerable amount of them including both the Halloween Trick or Treat sequels and several others. There you are, then: final proof, if proof were needed, that I have no business writing about whether a game is good or not.

Most Poorly-Timed Article

I probably should have saved all those words about Return of the Jedi until a couple of weeks ago, huh?

Most Baffling

Scare Bear for the C64. Why was it called Scare Bear? Where was that bear even going? Why were tiny astronauts trying to kill him? Did he defund the space program for tiny people or something? There are no answers to any of these questions, leaving Scare Bear as a true enigma for the ages.

Most Forgettable

I was looking at the list of this year's articles. Battlecry is on there. I could not remember a thing about Battlecry other than you punch people in it and honestly, that's fifty percent of the games I write about. As someone whose brain is nothing more than a fleshy filing cabinet for side-scrolling beat-em-up information, this means Battlecry might be the most generic slugfest ever created.

Best In-Game Text

Always a hotly-contested category, this one, and amongst my favourites are the various messages in the wonderful Advanced Lawnmower Simulator, even the ones that cruelly compared me to Helen Keller.

Shadowgate was another highlight, with text that veers between sarcastically calling out you, the player, for your dumbass decisions like, I dunno, punching yourself in the face, and describing even the plainest items as though they were artefacts of such wondrous beauty that you eyeballs will rub their eyeballs in disbelief should you happen to glance at them.

Doug's Big Game featured a goat emergency, which was nice.

However, the clear winner in this field is Riding Fight, a game packed to the rafters with poorly-translated and utterly charming dialogue, from the orders that villains should be "manacled and punished" to the hero's quip that his wild adventure is "only a daily experience." Best of all is the enigmatic phrase "what a gravy day," a phrase that manages to communicate it's meaning despite not really meaning anything.

Worst Game

Always a tough choice, this, and I'm still undecided whether that's because the vast majority of retro games are shite or because I am compelled to inflict mental anguish upon myself by playing the worst of the worst. So, who were the contenders this year? Imagine: Doctor was seemingly an attempt to put all who played it into a coma with a one-two punch of extreme tedium and being deeply patronising. The same is true of Disney's Doug: Doug's Big Game, and the manufacturers of sleeping pills the world over are praying Doug's Big Game doesn't become common knowledge because it'll put them straight out of business. TimeCop on the SNES? I'm not going to finish describing it, just like the developers didn't finish making the game. Silent Assault was a typical dollop of unlicensed NES misery, and Penalty Soccer must surely have been the result of one man's quest to remove everything you could consider beautiful from the Beautiful Game. You might be thinking "maybe the winner is Barbie: Fashion Pack Games, a title that contains neither fashion nor games?" Well, you're close, but Barbie takes second place. The winner, and winner by some considerable margin, is Game Boy Color abomination The Mask of Zorro. Hateful gameplay and controls, graphics so bad they'll make you wish the very concept of pictoral representation had never been invented and parts of the game that are almost literally impossible all add up to create a steaming pile of excrement that is this close to dethroning NSYNC: Get to the Show as the worst videogame I've ever played.

Best Game

On the flip-side, there were some games I didn't hate this year. It was nice to finally finish Shadowgate, which remains a jolly little adventure, accidentally leaping out of windows notwithstanding. Captain Commando has been a favourite for many years and thankfully I haven't become any less enamoured with it over time. However, head and bat-wings above the rest this year was Capcom's mighty monster mash Vampire Savior, a product from a company at the very top of its game that is absolutely drenched in detail, care and attention. It's got a great cast of characters, the presentation is fantastic, the gameplay is pitch-perfect and one of the stage backgrounds is a giant god-foetus with an eyeball in the sole of its foot. Play Vampire Savior now or at your earliest convenience, is what I'm saying.

My Personal Favourite Article This Year

It has to be the one about Halloween Trick or Treat. I just had so much fun writing it that I was disappointed when I'd finished, and it left me feeling more Halloween-y than I have in years and that is very important to me. Also enjoyable were the Street Fighter II Character Encyclopaedia, (because I got to marry my twin loves of Street Fighter and really stupid jokes,) Fright Night, that time I played a bunch of Super Mario Bros. hacks and the big, beefy men of the Amiga's title screens. Rarely have so many lazing tracings of Boris Vallejo pictures been collected in one place.

And there we go, another year down and still somehow VGJunk trundles on into the future. I hope you've enjoyed this year's articles, and grateful thanks to everyone who's sent me an encouraging message or comment. I'll be back in the new year with more of this sort of thing, assuming I can tear myself away from Bloodborne.



Today: some golf. "But VGJunk," I hear you wail, "isn't golf one of the most tedious events mankind has ever allowed to be broadcast in the name of entertainment?" You may have your own, differing feelings on the subject and that's fine, but personally I'm of the opinion that Mark Twain's famous quote that "golf is a good walk spoiled" does not go far enough. It's not even a walk, you ride around in an electric dorkmobile. So, golf. I'm not a big fan. What I am a fan of is Japanese videogame artwork, and by focusing in on Famicom games I have managed to put together a selection of box-art for golf games that somehow, against all the odds, manages to make the sport look interesting.

Golf, Nintendo, 1984

Let's begin, as seems appropriate, with Nintendo's own Golf, one of the very earliest Famicom releases. It features a man hitting a golf ball towards a flag, thus effortlessly capturing the very essence of the sport, but here's my problem with it - I know that's supposed to be a cap on his head, but I just can't get my brain to read it that way unless I really concentrate on it. At every passing glance, my eyes tell me that this is the back of a man who has a mere stump where his head ought to be, or maybe that he's popped his collar to a frankly ridiculous degree. His doctors said he couldn't play golf in a neck brace, but he was determined to prove them wrong! And then his head fell off. I have no idea why I can't see it as it's meant to be. However, I know exactly why those purple tee-marker orbs look to me as though they should have electricity arcing between them. It's because I'm a big nerd.

Jumbo Ozaki's Hole in One Professional, HAL Labs, 1988

Smashing the stereotype that "Jumbo" is an epithet only suitable for elephants and the morbidly obese, famous Japanese golfer Jumbo Ozaki gained his nickname due to his height. According to Wikipedia he's 5' 11", so I'm on course to be given the nickname Gargantua any day now.
This isn't the most interesting of cover artworks, I'll grant you. There's a golf man and a golf place - you know, the Hole Zone or White Ball Alley or whatever they call it - and some golf words. It's definitely a golf game. The cover has gotten that across in a clear and effective manner. You're never going to mistake it for Doom, so congratulations to the artist on that front. I also like that they included a yacht marina on the left of the image, just in case you weren't one hundred percent certain that you're too poor to take up golf.

Mini-Putt, A-Wave, 1991

These being Japanese covers, it wasn't going to be long before we got to one featuring giant-eyed little munchkin-people with the physical dimensions of a toddler and the hair of a clown trapped head-first in a threshing machine. Here are some now! Just look at 'em, the neckless freaks. The young chap in the foreground is about to take his putt, but in a disgraceful show of poor sportsmanship that girl in the background is shouting at him. I can see it now, he's bringing back his putter, his eyes firmly on the ball and just as he starts his swing his opponent shouts "don't miss, dickhead!"
Also worthy of note is that sun, who has the florid cheeks and slack expression of a teenager who's drunk, possibly for the first time, on a cheap Bacardi knock-off, a teenager who has just decided that now is the perfect time to call Sally from his maths class and tell her he fancies her, forgetting that she has no idea who he is and that it's two AM in the morning. I know that sounds way too autobiographical a hypothesis for it to have been triggered purely by looking at that cartoon sun, but I swear that never happened to me. I would never drink a knock-off Bacardi substitute, not when there was creme de menth that would never be missed by anyone sitting in the drinks cabinet.

Golf Club: Birdie Rush, Data East, 1987

What is a "Birdie Rush," anyway? The thrill of coming in at one under par, or trying to get through your round of golf as quickly as possible because you've had a sudden epiphany that you could be spending your time in a glorious myriad of other, far superior ways? This guy certainly doesn't seem to be having much fun, but then I think he's supposed to be a professional. That's why there's a crowd behind him with camera. I need a job where I can wear an outfit like that and still call myself a "professional," but what are my options besides becoming a golfer? Eccentric grandfather in a kid's TV show, possibly. Time-travelling 1920's newspaper boy is the only other one I can think of. Dude, why is "society" and "the Man" so insistent on putting everyone in their specific little boxes, man? I want my bank manager to wear clothes like that. It's not going to affect his ability to do his job or anything, so why not? Might want to lose the spiked shoes, though. They'll mess up the flooring. Related trivia: Nintendo put out some officially-branded Super Mario World golf shoes. Well, if he is going to spend all that time jumping on evil creatures he might as well have jagged metal sticking out of his soles while he's doing it.

The Golf '92, G.O.1, 1992

This isn't just any golf, this is THE golf, the definitive article, the One True Golf. A bold claim indeed. I can't tell you whether this game is good enough to crown itself The Only Golf, because I'm not going to waste my time playing it. Let's just say it is. The Golf '92 never can and never will be bettered as a videogame recreation of golf. I can tell you one thing about this cover art, though, and that's that putting pencil moustaches on cutesy, super-deformed characters makes them look really creepy. For example, the guy in the yellow shirt at the bottom; he looks like a mean dad who threw away his daughter's Cabbage Patch doll and was then cursed to turn into that very doll, and he's just getting one final round of golf in before his hands become useless fuzzy flippers.

Mesaze! Top Pro Green Ni Kakeru Yume, Jaleco, 1993

I think that title translates as something like Aim! Top Pro Dreams of the Green, which is a damn sight more interesting than Golf or even The Golf. The cover's nice, too, very tranquil, although obviously it's too dark to play golf at sunset so this has probably been arranged so the player and his caddy can have a romantic moment to help them get over the double bogey on the fifth. So, a good cover, but the game's by Jaleco so it will almost certainly be aggressively average. An aggressively average Famicom golf game from 1993. I think that might be the most average videogame possible.

Fighting Golf, SNK, 1988

Okay, so you might know this one better as Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf, a title I always read as Lee Trevino is Fighting Golf. Lee Trevino is out to put a stop to golf once and for all, and he's going to bring it down... from the inside!

There's Lee now. Presumably. I have no idea what Lee Trevino looks like. The only reason I am aware of his existence is this game, and all I know about this game is that it adds an extra little layer to the Simpsons joke about Lee Carvalho's Putting Challenge. I'm sure it's a great game, though. It's endorsed by the US National Video Game Team, after all, and such an august institution would never allow their name to appear on an inferior product.

In Japan it's just called Fighting Golf - no word on whether the Japanese National Video Game Team endorses it - and it has a much more dramatic cover, with dynamic brushstrokes that capture a raw power that Lee Trevino simply does not possess. The intensity of the image is somewhat undercut by the golfer not looking at where his ball is going, mind you.

Golf-kko Open, TOSE / Taito, 1989

Another fun, cartoony cover for Golf-kko Open, the undoubted star of which is that cool mole. You can tell he's cool because he's wearing shades, and sunglasses do seem like a good idea to protect oneself from the brightness of this artwork, which strikes me as a bit Keith Haring-ish.

The picture continues on the back of the case, where we can see that the golf ball is caught between ecstasy and agony. The sting of the driver hurts, but it hurts good. Forget about the masochistic golf ball for a moment - possibly a futile challenge, it's not a concept that is easy to forget - and instead check out that snake. That snake has the glazed, anxious expression of a reptile that has, through a series of comical mishaps and coincidences, become a participant in a human golf tournament. No-one has noticed that he's a snake yet, and he's going to front it out. Will there be a heart-warming ending when the snake managed to win the golf tournament and everyone still loves him even though he's a snake? No, of course not. How is he going to hold a putter?

Golf Grand Slam, TOSE / Hector, 1991

It's a bunker. Yep. The ol' sand hole. Disappointment Beach. The Dunes of Shame. I don't have much more to offer than that, folks. Next!

Mario Open Golf, Nintendo, 1991

It's-a him, Super Mario, with a smile on his face as he uses a golf club to batter a mole to death. It's Super Mario Bros.: Groundsman With Extreme Prejudice! Now you're playing with power, and a niggling sense that you're a terrible person.
At least this cover finally settles the matter of Mario's nationality. He is definitely American. No native of any other nation would wear that outfit. Technically, Mario is breaking Federal law by wearing these hideous dungarees, as the US Flag Code states that the Stars and Stripes "should never be used as wearing apparel." That's animal murder and a criminal lack of patriotism in one cover, Mario. What a disgrace.

Famicom Golf: US Course, Nintendo, 1987

And now he's goose-stepping! Do you hate America, Mario? Is that it?

Namco Classic, Namco, 1988

This one is my favourite of the lot, a light, summery number that actually looks more like the cover of a tennis game than a golf game. I really like the logo, and the artwork is so cheerful that it manages to make golf look like something worth spending your time doing, but it's offset by the unusual swarm of arrows hovering around the girl, which gives you something to ponder. What do they represent? Are they extremely dense motion lines? Are they pointing in the direction of the ball's travel? Is this a giant woman being attacked by a fleet of the ships from Asteroids? Who knows, but it's an interesting touch none-the-less.

Namco Classic II, Namco, 1992

For the sequel, Namco took a more realistic approach. They've still got a lady taking a swing on there, but now there's also a man who seems to be preparing to smash the game's logo with his five-iron. I'm beginning to think that I have some barely-suppressed rage issues, because I'm looking at a lot of these covers and immediately seeing violence. Maybe it's just my own dislike for golf coming through, although it's not like I don't enjoy golf games. Through the transformative power of videogames, almost anything can be made enjoyable. Golf, stacking blocks, typing, you name it. I could probably get some fun out of my own colonoscopy if they let me control the camera and turned it into a little game. "Pilot the all-seeing Eye of Drungarth through the meat-labyrinth to uncover the ancient evil lurking within," that kind of thing. Hang on, I think I'm on to a winner here. I'm going to call the NHS and propose a shared Kickstarter. Don't worry, I won't forget about you when I'm rich.



Have you ever wanted to be a detective, using nothing but your keen powers of observation and highly-developed sense of logic to sift through the clues and identify the guilty? Okay, good. First things first, develop a problem with your personality, because all the famous detectives have one. Sherlock Holmes is a cokehead, Batman lives in a cave and dresses as a bat, and Columbo never takes off that bloody coat. I'd suggest developing a trait that no-one's seen in a detective before, like a compulsion to stop detecting every half-hour so you can drink a bucket of paint. Inspector Dulux, they'll call you. Once you've done that, you can start practising for a long and fruitful career in summoning a group of people into a room and then revealing who the killer is by playing these two games: released as a double-pack in 1984, it's Widgit Software's Commodore 64 titles Who Killed Cock Robin and Humpty Dumpty Mystery!

We'll start with Who Killed Cock Robin, because Humpty Dumpty was involved with the king's men and so we'll save that added layer of royal intrigue to enjoy later. There goes Cock Robin now, flying towards a tree laden with Christmas baubles, or possibly cartoon bombs. Maybe these bombs are what killed Cock Robin, because he suddenly falls from the sky having been murdered in a brutal farmyard slaying. But who killed Cock Robin?

Well, that's cleared that up. Another case closed for Detective VGJunk, and the sparrow is remanded in custody to await his trail for birdicide. Time to move on to Humpty Dumpty Mystery, then.

Oh, never mind, apparently the sparrow's confession isn't trustworthy enough to secure a conviction. I guess forensics couldn't find the smoking arrow. No reason is given as to why the sparrow might make a false confession, with the options being that he's either protecting someone or he's mentally unstable. Either way, he will be charged with wasting police time and I can get on with the business of finding the real killer.

I need to establish who killed Cock Robin, when they killed him and where. Erm, I don't know about the former but the other two answers are "about three seconds ago" and "right next to that tree, I just saw it happen." No-one is asking why Cock Robin was slain, I notice. You'd think establishing a motive would be an important part of this process, but no-one seems interested. Maybe he had it coming.
Okay, first things first - selecting a difficulty level, with higher difficulties having more possibilities that need to be eliminated. I always like to start on the default difficulty where possible, so let's go with four because it's roughly in the middle.

Here's a clue to get you started. "Not an early bird," hmm? Right then, I'll look for the ones who haven't caught any worms.

Here are the suspects: the blockiest bunch of birds you're ever likely to see outside of a Duplo aviary set. You have to guess which one of these birds committed the murder by typing in the corresponding number. I'm going with the swan, because we've already established that we don't trust the sparrow's confession and while the faces of the crow and eagle to have a hint of true psychopathy about them I reckon that makes them a little too obvious. No, it must be the swan, the aloof, regal swan, the only bird with the superiority complex required to think it can get away with murder. They can break a man's arm with a flap of their wings, you know, so just imagine what they could do to a tiny robin.

Next, make you guess as to where the murder took place. Oh, those were supposed to be apples growing on that tree from the title screen. I did meant to select the orchard, because that's where we saw Cock Robin die, but I accidentally pressed 1 so let's hope he was actually killed in the field and then his lifeless corpse was thrown into the orchard in a clumsy attempt to hide the body.

Finally, pick a time of death. I wish I had some forensic data to help me out here; body temperature when the body was found, how far rigor mortis had set in, that kind of thing. I wanted CSI: Farthing Wood, but instead it's just down to a random (at this point) choice. Let's go for 9PM, nobody murders birds in the afternoon and everyone's in bed at 3AM.

The data has been analysed, the suspect has been questioned and the location meticulously searched, and the results are in - one out of my three guesses was correct, and thus we stumble upon the central concept of the game. You're not told which of your guesses were incorrect - maybe the swan had an alibi, or Cock Robin was captured on CCTV while putting twenty quid on the night's football in Ladbrokes at nine o'clock - so you repeat the process using guesswork and logic to find the three correct pieces of the puzzle.

You're given an extremely generous ten chances to get it right - detective work moves at a much more relaxed pace out here in the countryside than it does back on the mean streets of the big city - and between each round you can pick a number to receive a clue, like so. Some are more useful than others. "Has a keen eye"? That'll be the eagle, then. "Right Angled Time" and "Has Many Trees" do a lot to narrow things down, too. Now I know the eagle is the culprit, and that it didn't take place in the field, so means my original guess of 9PM must have been the one I got right in the first place.

And there you have it. The eagle has landed... in prison, and he's looking at 25 to life. He's a jail bird now. I'm glad he's locked away so he can't tear my eyes out with his talon in retribution for that pun.
That's it for Who Killed Cock Robin in the "gameplay" stakes. It's a passing diversion that might have kept young children of the early Eighties entertained for half an hour or so, although I am factoring in the ten minutes it takes for the tape to load into that.

Oh, okay, let's have another go, this time with six of each variable to contend with. Now they're animals, and it's a bloody good job it has their names written right there because I would struggle to identify some of these from their picture alone. The snake and the badger are recognisable, just about, but the cat looks like it's holding a piece of model railway track in its mouth and the "dog" picture could just as easily be a very unfortunate puddle on a bathroom floor.

There are six new places, too. I have no idea why the farmyard is full of little martini glasses with flags sticking out of them, or why the tree in the lane appears to be exploding. Oh, hang on, it must be one of those bomb-trees from the opening screen, of course.

It turns out it was the cat, in the churchyard, with the candlestick. At noon, I mean. Later, at trial, the cat revealed he had perpetrated the crime because he wanted to leave Cock Robin's body on the kitchen floor as a present for his master. He then licked his own arsehole and was charged with contempt of court.

On to Humpty Dumpty Mystery now, and the real mystery is what kind of benevolent god could allow such a twisted, malformed egg-man to exist? Another mystery: does Humpty have trousers made especially for him, or does he simply paint his legs black? Yet more mystery - this game has more goddamn mystery than an X-Files box set - who are these bizarre, place men with fezes and Hitler moustaches, and what is the significance of the symbol on their hats that looks like the underside of a plane? They must be the king's men, performing their solemn duty to keep watch on Humpty Dumpty so that he can never again go on a bloody rampage through the peaceful world of men. It's a stressful job, as the ranks of the king's men are constantly depleted by the ravenous attentions of Humpty's insatiable appetite - why do you think we eat soldiers with a boiled egg, hmm? - and eventually one of these man had to, ah ha ha, crack.

HUMPTY DUMPTY WAS PUSHED, the headline screams. Humpty doesn't seem that traumatized by the ordeal, mind you, Are you really telling me that all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again when the worst of the damage seems to just be a large crack? Maybe not the horses, glueing eggshell together is a job too delicate for hooves, but surely the king's men could have put him together again if they had wanted to. This isn't the action of one rogue soldier, then. Everyone hates Humpty. Also, if you're an egg, don't sit on a wall, or at least wear a crash helmet.

Here are the king's men, lined up in alphabetical order. One of them is called Donks. I hope he gets a lot of promotions, everyone will love to hear the tales of General Donks or Major Donks. Donks. That'll be my nickname for Donkey Kong from now on, good ol' Donks and his little chimp friend Dids.

You might have realised by now that Humpty Dumpty Mystery is a variant of the classic board game Guess Who? To find the egg-smashing culprit, you must eliminate the others by asking a series of yes-or-no questions based on their appearance. For instance here I asked "Did He Have a Red Hat?" and no, he did not have a red hat so anyone wearing a red hat is eliminated.

And so you go on, asking questions and occasionally being stumped by the text parser. I just wanted to find out whether Humpty's assailant had a moustache or not, but I could not get the answers I was after until later, when I realised the word I should have been using was "lips". It also took a bit of trial-and-error to figure out "badge" for the thing on their hats and "jacket" for their clothes, but I got there in the end. That was the most challenging part of the game: as in Who Killed Cock Robin you get ten attempts but it's even easier here, and I always managed to narrow my suspects down to a shortlist of one after three or four questions. That's not really a complaint, because these games were specifically designed for children in the 5-10 range, but merely a heads-up that if for some reason you do decide to play this game then be warned that it's not going to fill an entire rainy afternoon.

'Twas Clump who did the deed! I should have known. A red jacket, a blue hat and a toothbrush moustache? That's the portrait of a killer if ever I've seen one, although I'm not sure why I'm seeing twelve copies of Clump's face now that I've identified him. I've either spent too long on this case and gone in so deep that my obsession with catching Clump means that I see him at every turn, or this is a big sheet of posters to inform and warn the public about Clump. Wanted dead or alive for the crime of egg-shoving, that kind of thing.

With the crimes against him avenged, Humpty Dumpty is back in fine health, presuming his legs are supposed to be doing that. It doesn't look like a very comfortable seating arrangement. Speaking of seats, Humpty has once again perched himself atop a wall, having learned nothing from his ordeal.

But wait, there's more! You can also select Humpty game two from the title screen, and how could I resist after Humpty game one was so thrilling? I'll admit, I was drawn in by this mysterious image of a silhouetted king's man, although I'm seeing someone else in that shadowy outline...

There, that's better.

Humpty game two starts in much the same way as Humpty game one, with the attempted murder of a large sentient egg, an egg with two passions in life - sitting in high places and the feel of brick against his backside. Again, one of the king's men is responsible, but this time there was a witness! Unfortunately, the ranks of the king's men are filled from a very small pool of families that have engaged in generation after generation of inbreeding, and so all the king's men look very similar.

It was this guy. He did it. He's not ashamed, he'd do it again in a heartbeat. Someone had to put an end to Humpty's tyranny.

I hope you burned the miscreant's face into your memory, because now he's gone and you have to remember what he looked like. Was his hat blue or red? Did he have a 'tache, or were his pursed and extremely red lips on display for all to see? All the king's men have tiny, creepy eyes like you might see painted on the disturbing idol worshipped by a race of semi-human maniacs, but what colour were these particular eyes? Enter all the details that you can remember and keep guessing the ones you don't. It is not a complex process.

There's even less to capture the imagination in this one than there is in Humpty game one or Who Killed Cock Robin, and it's the last part of this C64 double feature. So, how has a thirty-year-old bundle of children's guessing games held up? Do you really need me to answer that? There's nothing to hold your interest in any of the games once you've played them a single time, they're extremely easy even for the suggested age range and the graphics are, well, let's call them rustic, shall we? Crudley hewn from great slabs of pixels with only simple tools, etcetera. Still, there is a certain amount of charm to it and the games work correctly, which sounds like damning with faint praise but I'm always happy when a retro game isn't horribly broken. Was it worth writing all these words about? I dunno, I had fun doing it and isn't that really all that matters? Yes, yes it is.

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