Anyway, it wasn't always like this. Although there were tons of memorable characters in the 80s, not many of them were attached to a platform as a mascot. Miner Willy, you could argue, might have been the face of the Spectrum. But if there's one unofficial mascot that endears today, it's got to be the first blue character that did a lot of running (and other things)... Horace.
|Om-nom-nom! Horace fills his belly!|
The first time we saw the bug-eyed blue fella he was feeling a mite peckish, in Hungry Horace. A PacMan clone of sorts, it featured Horace running around mazes in a park and eating all the food from within those mazes. As you would expect, he wasn't left to his own devices. Vicious parkies patrolled the grounds and wouldn't hesitate to give Horace a good hiding if they caught him.
|That parkie's not exactly a handsome lad, is he?|
In a slight twist from PacMan, Horace could move on to the next screen without having completed the screen he was on. However, it wasn't possible to go directly back to that screen; instead, Horace would have to work his way back around to it. This was an interesting way of providing an escape route, but was probably necessary as the screens were a little cramped.
|Hmmm. This level looks a bit tricky.|
That game was Horace Goes Skiing. In essence, it was incredibly simple. Horace was minted up with $40, and fancied going skiing ("Why dollars?" asked a lot of mags at the time... well, remember, it was written by an Australian and that's their currency...). All he had to do was hop across the road, hand over ten bucks for ski rental, get back across the road, and away he could go, down the slippery slope.
|The traffic doesn't look much, but it moves at a fair rate!|
That doesn't sound terribly thrilling, but back in those days it was pretty compulsive stuff. Running across the road required little skill and more in the way of luck and judgement, but you did feel like you'd achieved something just by getting into that ski hut.
|Ahhhh... just look at that. Look at it, revel in it, drink it in.|
None of that mattered. Horace was now an icon, and Horace Goes Skiing destined to go down as a classic game title. Despite its relative averageness (?), it's fondly remembered by all those that have played it.
|Well done, Horace! Pluckier than Eddie the Eagle, and looks better on a T-shirt.|
It could be argued that Horace & the Spiders was a very ambitious game. After all, you have to remember that author William Tang programmed all the Horace games to run on the 16K Spectrum, and Horace & the Spiders had three different (albeit simplistic) game screens.
|That spider's got some evil eyes on it.|
Successfully making it to the other side meant that Horace would find himself trapped in a cave full of spiders. The only way out was to STAMP THEM ALL TO DEATH!
|How does Horace hang on without any hands?|
This variety meant that Horace & the Spiders was a pretty nice little arcade game. All the Horace games were high score games, which meant that repeated play was inevitable for the arcade-hungry kids of the 80s. The fact that the games were all simple and straightforward to play pretty much guaranteed they would occupy the tape deck for lengthy spells.
|THE SPIDER'S TRAPPED! GET IT! STOMP ON IT NOOOOOW!|
Sadly, there were no more Horace games. Apparently William Tang had health problems while he was developing the next, and he never finished it. I don't know where he is or what he's doing now, but I hope that he's alive and well and knows how much he's appreciated by the now-grown-up kids of the 80s. And if by some chance he or someone he knows reads this, please get in touch!