And so, this trip through the Thalamus Commodore 64 catalogue comes to an end with their final release, Nobby the Aardvark. To be honest, I never really took any notice of this one... my 64, if not exactly gathering dust at this point was certainly very neglected, and I only really continued to buy ZZAP! 64 out of a sense of loyalty. Also, I couldn't be arsed to go to the newsagents to cancel it.
Awww... cute little kitty...BOMB! AAARRGH!
Nobby the Aardvark received a ZZAP! Gold Medal, which suggests it's a pretty decent game, although towards the end of the Commodore 64's life there's a suspicion that some games might have been overrated because there wasn't much else coming out. While researching this, I discovered it was programmed by Genesis Software, who had previously programmed the excellent Codemasters budget game, CJ's Elephant Antics. Hopes were indeed high.
Mmmmmm... ants... omnomnomnom.
The first time I played the game, that pedigree was evident. The graphic style and gameplay are not a million miles away from CJ, with a very cute and charasmatic main character, lots of humour and some fun and varied enemies.
The game features Nobby who, unsurprisingly given the game's title, is an aardvark. And he's not just any old aardvark... he appears to be a direct descendant of the aardvark from the Pink Panther cartoons (wink, wink). Nobby's having a peaceful day at home when suddenly a small colony of ants invade, pinch all his stuff and disappear down into their anthill. The blighters!
Big balloon... big balloon... bigger than the sun and moon...
Nobby gives chase, and manages to catch the ant that got stuck outside after he couldn't fit the fridge down there. After a bit of bargaining in which Nobby agrees not to eat the ant, the little fella reveals to Nobby that there is a place called Antopia, which is full of big, juicy ants, just there for the taking. Perhaps naively, Nobby believes him, lets the ant go and sets off to gorge himself silly.
Ah. That's going to cause a bit of a problem.
Nobby's quest is a lengthy one, which sees him walking, swimming and even hot air ballooning in his efforts to reach Antopia. That means there's a fair amount of variety to Nobby the Aardvark... something that is very welcome in a game of this type. How many platform games see you piloting a hot air balloon?
Awwww... cute little baby whales!
The aardvark is apparently a member of the cat family, as Nobby starts out with nine lives. He is, however, unarmed... something of a problem, as the road to Antopia is fraught with danger. Animals of all kinds take offence at the sight of Nobby, and will attack him as soon as he draws near. There are even planes that fly by, dropping bombs at our poor aardvark hero.
Luckily, there's a way for Nobby to fight back. Strewn around the landscap are anthills, and Nobby can use his long snout to suck up a load of ants, which can then be fired at enemy critters. That'll teach 'em! Unfortunately there are other hazards that are not animal in nature, and they must be avoided at all costs.
Aaaargh! Christ! Is it worth all this for an unlimited supply of ants?
Nobby the Aardvark is a very playable game. It's generally a lot of fun, and although it can be frustrating if you fall miles from a platform, but it's usually your own stupid fault when that happens and when you learn to take care you can usually get past anything. Some sections work better than others... the hot air balloon section (which reminds me of another of the developer's Commodore 64 games, New Zealand Story) is just a little too cramped to be entirely successful, for instance.
That said, there's not a single area that I didn't enjoy. Nobby the Aardvark is very polished, and even if the different sections take ideas from existing games, as a whole it's an entertaining game in its own right. It may have been the last time the Thalamus name graced the Commodore 64, but they maintained their high standards right to the end.