Tag Archives: Don Priestley

Gregory Loses His Clock, ZX Spectrum

Playing Gregory Loses His Clock was a real treat for me, because I had never seen it before now. I love finding (and of course grabbing) good old games that have previously passed me by. Considering that Gregory Loses His Clock was released very late in the life of the ZX Spectrum (1989), it’s no surprise that I missed it. Most people (myself included) had moved onto 16-bit computers by then.

Gregory Loses His Clock is another of those unique Don Priestley games with big, colourful sprites (not really sprites, but you know what I mean), lots of character, lots of running around, and lots of weird ideas. In fact, Gregory Loses His Clock is both the culmination of years of refinement of the Priestley game engine, and also something fairly original, compared to Popeye, The Trap Door, Through The Trap Door, Benny Hill, and Flunky.

Gregory Loses His Clock was published by Mastertronic at a budget price (£2.99) and quickly faded into obscurity. Find it and play it now to see Priestley‘s last attempt at this technique.

Don Priestley‘s ‘big sprite’ games on The King of Grabs:
Popeye (1985)
Benny Hill’s Madcap Chase (1985)
The Trap Door (1986)
Through The Trap Door (1987)
Flunky (1987)
Gregory Loses His Clock (1989)

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Priestley

Flunky, ZX Spectrum

This 1987 release from Piranha Games is the fifth of the ‘big sprite’ games from renowned ZX Spectrum programmer Don Priestley.

Like the Priestley games that preceded it (Popeye, The Trap Door, Through The Trap Door, and Benny Hill), Flunky uses bolted-together character square graphics to make large, colourful character ‘sprites’ that can move around the screen without causing colour clash. Flunky – I would say – is probably the most successful of Priestley‘s games in terms of looks versus control response times (and frame rates).

Flunky is a satirical game featuring the late ’80s British Royal Family. You play the Flunky, obviously, and must complete various tasks for the demanding rulers in order to fill your autograph book with their signatures. And once you’ve got everyone’s John Hancock you can then complete one final task for The Queen.

Flunky is an interesting game, but definitely of its time. Other than ardent Royalists, I can’t see many people wanting to play it now. Or I am I wrong about that? Let me know in the comments.

Don Priestley‘s ‘big sprite’ games on The King of Grabs:
Popeye (1985)
Benny Hill’s Madcap Chase (1985)
The Trap Door (1986)
Through The Trap Door (1987)
Flunky (1987)
Gregory Loses His Clock (1989)

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flunky_(video_game)

Through The Trap Door, ZX Spectrum

The 1987 sequel to The Trap Door doesn’t have its own Wikipedia page and isn’t mentioned on the Wikipedia page of its predecessor.

Personally, I didn’t even know it existed until recently, and I’m old enough to remember playing games on my ZX Spectrum, and also being fastidious about knowing about every Spectrum game in existence. So why did Through The Trap Door slip past my radar? Probably because it looks identical to The Trap Door.

The core game in Through The Trap Door is different to the first Trap Door game. In this you’re trying to escape from a succession of rooms, and can switch between Berk (the blue blob thing), and Drutt (the yellow hopping thing), to gain access to keys and various other items that are being guarded by monsters.

Like the first Trap Door game, Through The Trap Door features Don Priestley‘s characteristic graphical style – big animated characters, with no colour clash, but somewhat jerky movement and a control system that is just about manageable.

Compared to the video games of today, both Through The Trap Door, and its predecessor, are quite ‘archaic’ games. In context, though, they are both interesting, and show a talented individual’s work at its peak. Well, actually, Popeye was the first, and takes some beating, but the Trap Door games are a close second.

Don Priestley‘s ‘big sprite’ games on The King of Grabs:
Popeye (1985)
Benny Hill’s Madcap Chase (1985)
The Trap Door (1986)
Through The Trap Door (1987)
Flunky (1987)
Gregory Loses His Clock (1989)

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trap_Door_(video_game)

The Trap Door, ZX Spectrum

An adaptation of the British children’s television show of the same name, The Trap Door, which was made by Don Priestley for DK’Tronics in 1986.

The game is basically a continuation of Priestley‘s innovative ‘character square sprites’ graphics system that he devised for Popeye, which used bolted-together character squares (8×8 pixels each) to create large, colourful, moving ‘sprites’ (character graphics), but without any colour clash. Thus, the large, attractive character graphics in The Trap Door. The technique is a bit of a fudge though, and movement is a bit jerky as a result. It is acceptable overall though.

In terms of gameplay, The Trap Door is a challenging game of ‘fetch’. Just like in the TV show, Berk (the blue bloke you control and the ‘star’ of the TV series), is at the beck and call of his master (“The Thing Upstairs”) who is constantly barking instructions to him. Usually to bring him food.

To solve many of the tasks you’re given, you have to utilise the weird creatures found inhabiting the castle, and – of course – the titular Trap Door. It’s not easy because there is a random element to the movement of the various creatures. Berk’s time is also limited by the his master’s rising anger levels, which is shown as a bar at the bottom of the screen. When the bar reaches the top, you fail the task and have to start again.

Don Priestley‘s ‘big sprite’ games on The King of Grabs:
Popeye (1985)
Benny Hill’s Madcap Chase (1985)
The Trap Door (1986)
Through The Trap Door (1987)
Flunky (1987)
Gregory Loses His Clock (1989)

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trap_Door_(video_game)

Benny Hill’s Madcap Chase, ZX Spectrum

Benny Hill’s Madcap Chase is loosely based on the infamous Thames TV show, Benny Hill, made in the 1980s and featuring Mr. Hill, and his various cohorts, running around doing funny (or rude) things in the name of comedy.

In the game, the plot follows the exploits of Benny as he tries to help his neighbours by doing a number of tasks for them. Benny Hill fans will be disappointed to know that the game contains none of the raunchiness of the TV show – all that remains is the running around… And running around is what you do, as Benny, trying to do things.

The graphical style of Benny Hill’s Madcap Chase is very similar to ZX Spectrum classics The Trap Door, Through The Trap DoorPopeye, and Flunky, and that’s because all five were made by the same bloke: Don Priestley. And Priestley‘s graphical style was recognisable on the Spectrum. Of all of Priestley‘s games, though, Benny Hill’s Madcap Chase is probably his least well known. Unsurprising considering that Benny Hill is all but forgotten to this current generation.

Don Priestley‘s ‘big sprite’ games on The King of Grabs:
Popeye (1985)
Benny Hill’s Madcap Chase (1985)
The Trap Door (1986)
Through The Trap Door (1987)
Flunky (1987)
Gregory Loses His Clock (1989)

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benny_Hill’s_Madcap_Chase

Popeye, ZX Spectrum

DK’Tronics1985 release Popeye is notable for its use of large, colourful animated character graphics, the likes of which had not been seen before. At least not at the time of release on the humble ZX Spectrum.

These large character graphics came from Popeye‘s owner – King Features Syndicate – who wanted the characters to actually look like their comic counterparts, and not just a squishy mess of pixels.

Popeye‘s programmer, Don Priestley devised a way of creating large character graphics by bolting together lots of character graphic squares (8×8 pixels), and making them look like ‘sprites’ (although they are not actually sprites, as many seem to call them), and he first used it in this game.

The same graphical technique would later resurface in Trap Door, Benny Hill’s Madcap Chase and Flunky, all programmed by Priestley on the ZX Spectrum.

Don Priestley‘s ‘big sprite’ games on The King of Grabs:
Popeye (1985)
Benny Hill’s Madcap Chase (1985)
The Trap Door (1986)
Through The Trap Door (1987)
Flunky (1987)
Gregory Loses His Clock (1989)

Maziacs, ZX Spectrum

This very early, 1983 ZX Spectrum game by Don Priestley is still a joy to play to this day.

The premise is simple: you have to find the missing gold and return it to its rightful place.

Continue reading Maziacs, ZX Spectrum