I think the problem with that game was that you played the Road Runner. You don't watch Road Runner cartoons for the Road Runner, after all. The fun comes from Wile E. Coyote's misadventures, mishaps and catastrophes. Why would you play a game that doesn't feature any of that?
|See, I just wanted to let the coyote get the Road Runner. Wile E. is great!|
I doubt I'll ever forget the first time I loaded Cliff Hanger on my C64. It was buried in the middle of a C90 that I'd borrowed, and as I'd never heard of it before I'd primarily loaded it to get to whatever was next on the tape. Those feelings appeared to be confirmed when a droning tune burst into life and a crippled looking character (Cliff Hanger himself!) appeared and hobbled across the screen. The fact that his brother was called Coat almost sealed the deal...
|I'm looking at this and thinking that a lot could go wrong...|
Of course, I had no idea what to do. The first screen appeared, and my character stood in a desolate-looking desert backdrop, appearing to be as clueless as I was. I pushed the joystick right, and accidentally walked over the ledge. Wow... what a rubbish game.
|Well, that could have gone better. But at least I'm still in one piece.|
OK, so it was a pure fluke, but in that moment I realised what this game was all about. Set up like a film set, Cliff Hanger has you playing a series of outrageous scenes or stunts in which you, as Cliff, must stop the evil bandit from making his getaway. Some are relatively straightforward, merely asking you to roll a boulder off a cliff and onto the fleeing criminal. Others, though, are very complicated and lead to a bit of head-scratching as you try and figure out what you need to do.
|Alright, now I'm a bit stuck.|
Interestingly, the tables are turned in terms of how the characters work. The bad guy is now effectively the Road Runner, with the hapless Cliff Hanger taking on the role of Wile E. Coyote. That's why the game is so much fun... you get to act out all the crazy stunts. When you first start playing, you're never quite sure what's going to happen. Sure, there are sometimes clues in the title, but when you're faced with a sparse landscape and just a couple of objects, it's all down to trial and error as to whether or not you'll be successful. And when you set off one of those traps, you're almost hiding your eyes as you do it, wondering how it might go horribly wrong...
|Alright, who put that giant rock there? Thanks, whoever it was!|
Cliff Hanger was programmed by James Day, who didn't write much else. I'd love to get his thoughts on the game, and also from New Generation's Malcolm Evans and their other programmers. New Generation didn't release a lot of games, but there were some genuine groundbreakers among them, and they deserve to be featured in this book. One can only try...