If there's one genre that was particularly prevalent in the 8-bit era, it was bastard-hard platform games. I can't tell you how many platform games I played back in the day where you had to collect umpteen objects and get through all the screens to win the game. Manic Miner probably started it, although it was probably its sequel, Jet Set Willy, that made the biggest mark on me on the Spectrum.
Many of these games were great fun as well as being rock hard. Monty on the Run, for instance, kept me playing for ages on my Commodore 64. That one was nails, but I played it and played it and even managed to complete it (twice!) without cheating. Granted, Rob Hubbard's amazing music probably drew me back to play more than I might otherwise have done, but it was still excellent.
Not sure I'm liking that smug look on Spiky Harold's face...
But for every great platformer there were dozens of mediocre or downright awful ones. Games that were ruined by a lack of playtesting, bugs or a number of other dealbreakers. So when I loaded up Spiky Harold and found it was a platformer, I wondered which category it would fall into.
I'll get to that in a bit.
Spiky Harold is a hedgehog. He's in a bit of a bind, though... winter is fast approaching, and he's nowhere near ready! What he needs to do is fatten up a bit for hibernation. Luckily, he lives in an area packed with food. He must visit each of 57 locations and eat the food item contained therein. Once he's stuffed himself, he must return to his chamber. Slight problem... he's only got twenty-four hours to do it.
No wonder this character never caught on. A jumping hedgehog? That's ridiculous.
He's a big, fat bugger, is Spiky Harold. Much bigger than all the other critters in the hedgerow, which makes getting about tricky. Because for all he's fat and covered in spines, the slightest touch from so much as a worm is deadly. That means that pixel-perfect jumping is essential.
And that's where the problem lies. Even with twenty lives at his disposal, it's very difficult to see more than half-a-dozen screens. Timing is everything, and if you're a split-second out, you've had it. Moving onto a new screen poses its own problems. There are times where you'll pause for a second to take in the screen, only to be killed by something coming on behind you. Grrrr.
Jesus Christ! Here comes a deadly snail! Stay out of the way!
Spiky Harold is a very traditional platform game, with very little in the way of innovation. For many, that would have been sufficient, especially at a budget price. If I'd bought it in nineteen-eighty-whenever, I'd probably have played it for ages and done quite well before I gave up. Now, though, it was too frustrating to be enjoyable and I don't want to play it any more. Spiky Harold is going to have to go and find an animal shelter, because he's getting no help from me.