Written by David H. Lawson (co-founder of Imagine Software), Ah Diddums is a 1983 action game in which you play as a teddy bear trying to escape from inside a toy box (to comfort his crying baby owner) by arranging coloured blocks into a staircase the top of the screen. This allows him to climb up to the next level. And there are 99 levels in this particular toy box, so his journey is going to be a long one…
The graphics in Ah Diddums are extremely flickery, move jerkily and suffer from terrible colour clash, and the ‘squirty’ sound effect that the teddy makes as it moves around also becomes super annoying after a short while. The gameplay is low-scoring and repetitive and the only real hazards you encounter are small, indistinct sprites that are meant to be toys moving around the box. Touch one and you’ll lose a life. You can pick up a pea-shooter and shoot these enemies, or throw a ball though, which can help clear the way to the blocks you need to reach.
Ah Diddums was one of a number of 16K Spectrum games that Imagine produced in the early ’80s, when there weren’t a lot of professional-looking games on the market. And Imagine‘s colourful cassette artwork and bold marketing claims seemed to generate a considerable amount of interest in its games at the time. Enough interest at least for them to bullishly (and infamously) attempt to try to change the market with their hardware-enhanced ‘megagames’ – Psyclapse and Bandersnatch – only to collapse in the process.
Playing Ah Diddums now: there are clues to Imagine‘s demise in this game. Ah Diddums is a lightweight, throwaway idea, executed in a sloppy manner, that was marketed as far more than it actually was. Imagine got rich selling this type of game during the very early days of 8-bit home computing, and lost it all by thinking that they could change the world, which they couldn’t. They just made relatively simple games that appealed to an embryonic market and couldn’t adapt as the market changed and competition increased.
Believe it or not, Ah Diddums won “Best Original Game” at the Computer & Video Games 1983 Golden Joystick Awards. Looking at it now that just makes me laugh… It just goes to show how rubbish the home video game market was in the UK back then!
More: Ah Diddums on Wikipedia
More: Ah Diddums on World of Spectrum