Hunchback, Arcade

Century Electronics UK‘s Hunchback is apparently NOT loosely based on the 1831 Victor Hugo novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as many have speculated. But since it features Quasimodo running from left to right over a castle rampart, trying to rescue Esmeralda from a tower at the end, that is an easy assumption to make.

According to rumour the main character was originally designed to be Robin Hood, but the artist who drew him did such a bad job that it was commented by his associates that it looked more like a hunchback instead, so the decision was made to change the game to feature Quasimodo and call the game Hunchback… If true, that is ridiculous. But there are no real citations of it being true – even though Wikipedia does mention it – so it can only be put down as speculation.

Quasimodo must jump over guards and their pikes; over flying fireballs; swing on ropes over chasms, and avoid all the other hazards to ring the bell on the far right of each of the twenty screens. Hunchback even features some rudimentary speech synthesis, although – if I was being honest – it is so bad that I cannot make out what it’s saying.

A guard climbing up the wall on the left acts a timer to hurry you up, and will give chase and set Quasimodo on fire if he catches him (unlikely to be honest, since he moves so slowly). If Quasimodo rings the bell before the guard reaches the top, the player gets a bonus. If five screens are completed without losing a life the player gets a ‘Super Bonus’.

The first few screens are incredibly simple and require little effort, but the difficulty creeps up as the game progresses. By the fifth screen Quasimodo must contend with hazards coming from above and below. If you manage to reach Esmeralda at the end (not that difficult), a bonus screen – with bells and ropes – must be completed to finally rescue her. And that’s an almost impossible task!

Hunchback was something of a hit at the time of release, in 1983, and could be found in most arcades in the UK (since it was a British-developed video game). In fact: I remember playing it in the early ’80s, but even my teenage self thought that it was a bit lame. Looking at it now: it’s not aged well, but Hunchback is by no means the worst video game from that period of time. Have you ever seen Leprechaun? The game was influential though, and was mercilessly cloned on home systems. Ocean Software later licensed the game and produced a number of official conversions, the most popular of which was probably the ZX Spectrum version.

More: Hunchback on Wikipedia

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