The original Commodore 64 version of Jeff Minter‘s Hover Bovver is just as niggly and annoying as the Atari 8-bit version, which was released as the game’s “evil twin” in 1983.
As video games based on cutting grass go: Hover Bovver doesn’t play like it’s been properly thought through, and the way you use the mower in the game does beg some questions. Regardless, what we have here is a game where you get points for using your mower in various mazes of grass, flowers, and hedges. The hedges stop you moving through them; the grass is there as a path for you to mow, and the flowers I think you’re supposed to avoid (although I couldn’t work out of there was a penalty for mowing the flowerbeds or not).
In many of the ten available gardens the layout of the grass versus the flowerbeds does make for some interesting off-piste mowing… Most annoyingly, the on-screen enemies use simple AI to chase you down and are quite relentless in doing that, so death comes quite often. Controlling the dog does kinda work. If you build up the dog’s loyalty then it will attack the chasing man for you. Whether that does any real good or not is open to debate.
Hover Bovver is a confusing mixture of the familiar and the improbable. In theory Hover Bovver represents video game-based nostalgia and Britishness. In reality Hover Bovver represents Minter having not quite found his feet yet at this point in his career and the game being a bit of a unplayable clunker… A classic case of the name of the game being more famous than the gameplay.
If there is a way of making grass-cutting into a fun video game then Minter failed to realise it with Hover Bovver.