I’m half way through a week off work and already I’m a broken man. An idiotic attempt at physical exercise has left my body in an aching, mangled state, while a gratuitously hot Thai curry has thrown my mind into a strange, spice-induced fug. To reflect my rather surreal mental state, I’ve decided to revisit some of the weirdest video games ever – those strange, forgotten games that lurk down the back of the sofa of time; the odd elephant-man style games that hide in the shadows, afraid of comely young women in victorian dress.
So here, for your delectation and delight, and in no particular order, are five of the oddest games of all time (or at least the ones that readily spring to mind)…
Frankie Goes to HollywoodPlatform: ZX Spectrum
A game released to cash in on the brief popularity of Mike Read’s favourite band, Frankie Goes to Hollywood was as mad as a lift full of wolves. The game involves gaining access to mid-terraced houses and getting the small blue man you control to touch random objects. Touch the right object and you can play a bizarre (and frustrating) Pong-type game. Occasionally cryptic messages appear on-screen that say things like ‘the killer loved smoking’, or ‘you’re now 3% a real human’ or something like that.
Reading the instructions may have helped me to understand it a little better, but even so, weird.
Ganbare Golby! Platform: Game Gear
Ganbare Golby (or ‘Good Luck Gorby‘ in English) was a rather unique puzzle game that allowed you to guide former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev around a factory feeding a starving proletariat. Pressing the correct switches would ensure the conveyor belts delivered boiled hams to old men on crutches – kind of like an Iron Curtain era Pipemania. This game did reach western shores as ‘Factory Panic‘, but the slightly sick premise was gone, and cartoon Gorbachev, with his bald head (complete with wine spot), was replaced by a wholesome looking blonde-haired chap. Strange.
Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure Platform: Megadrive
At heart a Mario clone, this game featured a young man in a cape and turban whose primary weapon was a small smiling egg which behaved like a sort of boomerang. Various amphetamines could be collected which turned your character into a bazooka-toting giant cyborg ape. What was even more surreal than the game’s title was the way it constantly gave you more lives – it was quite possible to amass about fifty on the first level if you knew where to look (which it actually showed in the instruction book). Bizarre.
Sexy Parodius Platform: Arcade, Saturn
An exceptionally weird entry into a long line of weird games, Sexy Parodius and its prequels were a cartoony, uniquely Japanese send-up of the popular shoot-em-up game Gradius (released as Nemesis over here).
The Parodius games all featured a selection of cute animals (penguins, cats, squids) instead of Gradius‘s metal spaceships; Sexy Parodius, for some reason, added scantily clad ladies to the already surreal mix – apparently at the behest of a lustful and avaricious octopus. Peculiar.
Rygar Platform: Coin-op/home conversions
The game itself is pretty straightforward – basically a variation on the Ghosts n Goblins running-jumping-shooting-things theme – but it’s the back story and graphics that put this firmly in the weird game category.
You know you’re in for a surreal time when a Reeves and Mortimer-style preamble appears on the screen: ‘4.5 billion years have passed since Earth’s creation. Many dominators have ruled in all their glory, but time was their greatest enemy and it defeated their reign. And now a new dominator’s reign begins…’
And then the game starts. You play a little man in skin-tight red trousers who wields what can be only be described as a giant electric yo-yo as he scampers through a pleasant rural environment collecting odd trinkets that serve no discernible purpose whatsoever. Enemies include: headless men apparently covered in woad, horned dog-type affairs with no fur, some worm-things, and a sort of bat lizard.
At the end of every level skin-tight-red-trousers-man has to move a large cooking pot to gain access to some sort of candle-lit gym, where a man in a loincloth poses for your bemusement.
Very, very odd indeed. In fact, I think I need a lie down now… until next week.
Ryan Lambie will be back with another column next week; read his last one here.