Walk Forward, Walk Forward, Stop

Originally Published: 26 June 2009

There was a dark and distant time when games used to come on cassette. A time when we would wait ten or fifteen minutes for a game to load. A time when we would curse like a docker if, for some reason (like with my copy of Jack the Nipper) the game failed to load properly and we had to go through it all again. Despite all this, though, these were good times for me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I loved text adventures. I grew up collecting swords, holding my breath in vacuums (after hyper-ventilating first, obviously, to increase your lung capacity and allow you to make more moves before you died a hideous death) and vanquishing wizards with spells. At the time when I was growing up, Children’s ITV used to have a fantastic show. Everyone watched it. You just had to. You know what I’m talking about.

Knightmare was, for me, all my text adventures made real. But instead of me making the wrong decisions and leading to an inevitable death, I got to watch gangs of schoolchildren from across the land guiding their helmet wearing friend on the quest for some relic or other. As I remember it, hardly anyone ever won – in fact, a bit of an internet trawl reveals that over the eight series only eight teams ever won.

Knightmare was inspired by games that the show’s creator had played on his Spectrum and, even better, spawned its own game which was, in the tradition of the show, an absolute bitch to finish. I remember playing and playing, always to be beaten by a black beady-eyed hairy creature in the dungeons… even after I’d gone to all the trouble of looking up the answers to the trivia questions (some of which were hard for a youngster I can tell you).  The game was good, but it didn’t capture the magic of the TV show – it was never sure if it was an action title or an adventure offering – two genres which, in the days of the Spectrum, did not mix all that well.

In Knightmare, lucky children got to wear the Helmet of Justice (which effectively blinded the contestant) and act out their video game fantasties. I never got to be one of those lucky children. I don’t think, to be fair, I ever assembled a team of highly trained operatives and put in a request to Castle Knightmare to be allowed to adventure but I kind of wish I had.  Soon, though, I might be able to experience an adventure as they’re meant to be experienced. Once Project Natal hits the shelves I want to be adventuring my behind off in a controller free environment. Obviously, it won’t be quite the same, unless I sit Carole on the couch shouting ill-advised directions to me, but I figure someone will make an adventure game that will recapture the feel of Knightmare (but with infinitely better graphics and no helmet).

And if they don’t, then they bloody well should.