While the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario have endured, other platform game celebrities have passed quietly into obscurity. Here’s a look at a few video game characters who deserve a second shot at fame…
BonkFirst seen in: Bonk’s Adventure/PC Kid (1990)Looking a little like a prehistoric version of William Hague, Bonk could use his gigantic noggin to headbutt his enemies into submission. Brilliantly balanced gameplay was married to some fabulously outlandish Japanese humour – it’s a shame that Bonk isn’t more widely known; he first appeared on the obscure TurboGrafx16, and was later ported to the NES, Game Boy and Amiga. Something of a cult classic, Bonk can be found on the Wii’s Virtual Console, and both outings are well worth downloading.
Alex KiddFirst seen in: Alex Kidd in Miracle World (1986)Sega’s early attempt at a Mario-beating mascot, Alex Kidd’s defining features were his gigantic ears. The star of five games and a Japan-only BMX racing spin-off, young Alex was ultimately displaced by a certain blue-rinse hedgehog. Appearances in Shenmue II and the rather strange Segagaga (a Sega ‘save-our-company’ management sim) aside, Alex appears to have faded into obscurity. There are rumours, however, that a comeback may be in the offing, with a company called Aceland Studios apparently trying to ‘gauge interest’ in a potential sequel.
Tom-TomFirst seen in: Wonder Boy (1985)While not the most charismatic of characters, Wonder Boy was at least one of the better Mario clones that saturated the market in the wake of Nintendo’s success. Tom Tom was a hammer throwing, skateboard riding youth in a pair of leafy pants. Sequels followed, in which the franchise bizarrely branched off in two directions; the Wonder Boy in Monster World series was a kind of action RPG, while the Adventure Island series continued down a more traditional platform route.
?First seen in: Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure (1990)One of my personal platform game favourites, MFHTA appeared on the Megadrive in 1990 as a Japan-only release – a shame, because the rest of the world missed out on one of the most bizarre and humorous games of the era. The faintly Persian looking main character (whose name I’ve yet to discover) wears a cape and turban, which despite the title doesn’t actually allow him to fly at all – rather, he treads at the air with his feet in the most absurd fashion possible. A butchered, re-skinned version of Flying Hat appeared in the west as Decapattack; the original deserves to be rediscovered, so let’s hope that Nintendo see the light and make it available on Wii’s Virtual Console.Bub and BobFirst seen in: Bubble Bobble (1986)Perhaps the most instantly familiar characters on this list, I’ve included them here anyway simply because they’ve not appeared in an original game of their own in over a decade. Introduced in the sublime Bubble Bobble in 1986, Bub and Bob were a pair of bubble blowing dinosaurs who perhaps became most famous for their appearance in Puzzle Bobble/Bust a Move (although let’s not forget the sublime Rainbow Islands). While the puzzle game outings were classics in their own right, I think it’s high time Taito bought them back for a new platform adventure.
Monty MoleFirst seen in: Wanted: Monty Mole (1984)Along with Manic Miner, the Monty Mole series of games were quirky and typically British. The first, Wanted: Monty Mole introduced the monocle-wearing hero as he traversed a series of single-screen mines collecting lumps of coal. Monty appeared in three popular sequels – Monty is Innocent, Monty on the Run and Auf Wiedersehen Monty – as well as a mini-game (Moley Christmas) given away free on the cover of legendary Spectrum mag Your Sinclair. An attempt to reboot Monty as a spandex-and-cape wearing superhero in 1990’s Impossamole was met with a lukewarm reception, and poor old Monty has never resurfaced since.Miner WillyFirst seen in: Manic Miner (1983)One of the earliest platform heroes, Miner Willy became one of the most recognizable characters on the ZX Spectrum – not bad for a monochrome sprite only a few pixels tall. Sadly, Willy’s fame didn’t endure – his creator, the eccentric Matthew Smith, only created two platform outings; Jet Set Willy 2 was little more than an expanded re-release than a full-blown sequel.TokiFirst seen in: Toki Goes Apespit/JuJu Densetsu (1989)Another criminaly overlooked game, Toki featured the titular ape who could kill his enemies by spitting at them. Despite ports to numerous systems including the Amiga, NES, Atari Lynx and a particularly excellent Megadrive version, Toki never enjoyed a sequel and is seldom mentioned today.
Agent AlbatrossFirst seen in: Rolling Thunder (1985)Proof that platform games didn’t have to be cute and pastel shaded, Rolling Thunder introduced the world to lanky Interpol agent Albatross as he jumped and blasted his way through an army of hooded villains. While Rolling Thunder did spawn a pair of sequels, it’s never been as popular as Sega’s Shinobi, a game that borrowed many elements from Albatross’s adventures. In my opinion, Rolling Thunder is crying out for a Bionic Commando: Rearmed style 21st century reboot.Rick DangerousFirst seen in: Rick Dangerous (1989)A sort of ‘Super Deformed’ Indiana Jones, Rick Dangerous appeared at the end of the eighties on a variety of systems, from the humble C64 to the posh Amiga. Programmed by Core Design, Rick appeared in two games that featured plenty of platform jumping, rolling boulder avoiding and puzzle solving – all elements that would later appear in the same dev team’s Tomb Raider…
Agree with our choices? Discuss them in the comments!