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Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Kokotoni Wilf (ZX Spectrum)

I've played some games with some stupidly-named heroes in my time. I've played Nodes of Yesod. I've played some Final Fantasy games, if only briefly. I haven't really played a Zelda game, but I know they've got some stupid names. It's kind of expected that characters will be named unconventionally. But what on earth would posses you to name your hero Kokotoni Wilf?

Released in the front half of the Eighties, Kokotoni Wilf was the first ever release from renowned company Elite. It's very highly regarded among Speccy owners, and indeed, I remember quite enjoying it at a friend's house. So in an off-period, having trawled through my archives, I thought I'd play it again for the first time in over twenty-five years.


I'm sure I've seen better dinosaurs on the wall of my kid's classroom.

Kokotoni Wilf is the poor, put-upon assistant of Ulrich the Magician. Ulrich is apparently so powerful that he is able to keep all the dangerous dragons of the world asleep. The spell, though, is about to expire, and Ulrich must renew it. Unfortunately, the powerful Dragon Amulet, a might artifact essential in casting the spell, has been broken and scattered across time...

That seems a bit irresponsible to me... how could you let something so important get smashed to bits? Anyway, Ulrich might be powerful, but he's also old and apparently his spell repertoire does not extend to magically collecting the pieces of Amulet, so it's up to Wilf to get out there and physically do the job.


Someone explain to me how that big thing got in this small cave, please.

It's a tricky task, so to give his manservant a bit of a hand, Ulrich give Wilf a pair of magical wings, so he can get to those tricky to reach spots. These will come in handy in your passage through time... jumping over dinosaurs and the like could be a bit beyond a man!

I can't say I remember just why I enjoyed this so much back then. I mean, I had an Atari 2600 which had considerably better sound than the Spectrum. And it's a very hard game to love on appearances. Initially, it looks like something a primary school class conceived and drew, with bright primary colours splashed across childish-looking characters.


Yeah, nice work, smarty-pants. Icarus could do that too, and where did it get him? Eh?

And then, the gameplay itself is terribly slow. For all he's got wings, Wilf limps around from screen to screen with all the urgency of a crippled sloth, which doesn't make the game very exciting.

For all that, though, there's something quite compulsive about Wilf's hunter-gathering exploits. Maybe the trip through time has something to do with that; or maybe it's that urge to see what's on the next screen (for better or worse). Maybe it's just that you don't want to be beaten by its infantile creations.


There you go, old reviewers... three games and I'm onto 1066AD. It's not that hard...

Kokotoni Wilf picked up all kinds of awards on its release, and even to this day is rated very highly on the excellent World of Spectrum website. Those rose-tinted glasses must be prettyy powerful, because it's really not that good. But it's not a dead loss either, and in those days when imagination counted for more and we were more prepared to imagine ourselves in a dinosaur-filled wonderland, I expect it was fairly easy to lose a good few nights after school to this.

As a kind of postscript, I had a read of the reviews for this on World of Spectrum, and was quite surprised to find that a fair number of them appear to have been written by people who couldn't be bothered to play the game properly before reviewing it. A few reviews mentioned not getting past the dinosaur section, which was only twelve or so screens of a sixty-screen game. To be fair, I haven't played it properly either, but at least I put a bit of effort into it, and it's not that hard. It gives you an even greater appreciation for the skills and application of the ZZAP! lads (and by association, the CRASH lot as well). I suppose a lot of games were released back then and time was at a premium, but it explains why ZZAP! 64 and CRASH were so far ahead of the rest... they appear to be about the only ones who actually enjoyed playing games!

7 comments:

  1. Ah, but don't I love the odd Spectrum post? Of course I do, of course I do. Thanks Paul!

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  2. I recall quite a few games from back then, but can't say as I have any recollection of this one. With a name like that, I don't think I'd forget it. It is amazing how much nostalgia can tint our view of games from the past though, isn't it? Good post!

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  3. I named my son after this game (Wilf not Kokotoni). Not because I love the game, I've hardly played it, but because I love the name. Kokotoni Wilf. It might be ridiculous, but at least it's unique. Much better than the modern naming of video games - Mediocrity 4: The Homogenising.

    Interesting point about old mag reviews, I guess there were a lot of half-arsed reviewers out there, which highlights how refreshing it was to have passionate gamers working on those top magazines.

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  4. I loved this game back in the day. The graphics weren't up to much even then but it was strangely addictive.

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    1. Fully agree, despite on graphics it was like a bomb in game industry.. in some time of course...

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  5. Not a bad game - not the best from Elite - but it was strangely playable (not to mention a challenge)

    I never did complete it but I played it a lot.

    Nice post.

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  6. I love this game! and also there are some screens with miner willy in it as well!

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