Following the release of Creatures, all Thalamus' games would feature cute and cuddly things. A far cry from the glory days of shoot 'em ups, true, but they still seemed to do OK. Next up from them was Summer Camp. Now, whilst doing my research I discovered that Summer Camp was programmed by John D. Ferrari. I remembered that name from one of my first ever Commodore 64 games... he programmed Mastertronic's budget release, The Human Race, which is a game I've always loved. You'll see more on that one soon... but that gave me more of an urge to play Summer Camp. I'd always presumed he never programmed anything else after that, I'd never seen his name on any other games!
This game's star is a real work of art!
Summer Camp is set in, erm, a summer camp. We don't really have them in the UK, it's more of an American tradition, where kids are sent during the school holidays so that parents can have a few weeks of peace and quiet. Anyway, this particular camp is about to have its opening ceremony. But what's an opening ceremony without the Stars and Stripes flag? Nothing, that's what! And as sheer bad luck would have it, the camp's flag has gone missing.
Those little helicopters are deadly! Luckily, Maximus' tail doubles up nicely...
Now, this could have happened for any number of reasons, and who knows who could be to blame? It could be anyone's fault, but Maximus Mouse, the wee rodenty fella that lives in the camp's grounds, just knows that the finger will be pointed in his direction. With that thought on his mind, he makes it his business to hunt down and replace the good ol' Stars and Stripes, ensuring that calamity is avoided at the opening ceremony.
After all this time, at last, confirmation of life on the moon.
Of course, and you knew this was coming... that's easier said than done. Maximus is not the only creature to inhabit the camp... there are all kinds of woodland critters crawling, leaping and flying around, and more besides. Most won't actively attack Maximus, but they will certainly get in his way, and touching them is a bit on the deadly side.
Boy, you look like a horse's ass.
Maximus' objective is a tricky one, and in order to be able to complete it he's going to need vehicles ro get about. Being a mouse, there aren't any handy, but there are boxes of parts lying around the camp. Maximus must leap and bound his way to the boxes and pick up all that are lying around a level, thus completing a blueprint and getting him a step further in his quest.
The bonus level. Step on the arrows in the right order to win.
All this leaping around is an energy-sapping business, but luckily there are food icons scattered around each level, which can be picked up to restore some energy. That's not their only use, though... this being a platform game, some things may be a little difficult to reach, until you realise you can jump on the food icons...
Oh good, a bar. You might need a drink at this point.
In fact, there are other little tricks to this game. For a while, I spent my time trying to avoid everything. And then I had a little thought, and decided to try something, and it was then that I discovered that you can ride on kites and balloons. Very helpful indeed! They don't kill you, but the fall from one of them might...
Let's go fly a kite, up to the heighest height.
It's at this point that you're thinking this is one of the best games ever. Sadly, I can't say that's the case. Although it has its fair share of plus points, there's one overwhelming negative... it's just too hard. I can imagine that back in the day I'd have spent ages playing it, and I might even have done OK at it, but with my self-imposed limit of an hour or so it was really hard to make much progress (without the trainer). If you can get the right weapon you stand more of a chance, and there are some fun pickups to be had, but a game that seems to be going well can come to an end frighteningly quickly.
Maximus has met his end. You see this screen a lot.
Summer Camp is a cute game with a real sense of character. The star of the game is endearing, and its filled with cute, cartoony touches (a great example is the way Maximus is redrawn after a death). But that cuteness is a velvet glove wrapped around an iron fist. It's just that bit too difficult, whereas if it had been toned down a bit we might have been looking at a really fun platformer. A visit to Summer Camp should be the time of your life... this one has just a bit too much hard labour.