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The Top 7... Maddest British old-school games

3. Flunky (1987)

How mad is it?

Ostentatiously so. It’s a Royal servant simulator. Nothing in gaming could be more fundamentally British than that. Unless of course there had been a game on the Amiga based around trimming a gentlemanly moustache using mouse clicks, which unfortunately there wasn't.

As the archetypal bewigged royal courtier (with bizarrely 18th century stylings) it's your job in Flunky to carry out tasks for 8-bit representations of the actual Royals, working your way up the hierarchy with the aim of eventually reaching the Queen. Whether this is part of a elaborate assassination scheme sub-plot is uncertain, but along the way you'll run into Princes Charles and Andrew, Princess Diana and the Dutchess of York, all rendered in grotesquely caricatured fashion. Also, Diana is bald. For some reason.

How did they sell this lunacy?

 

With the promise of violent suppression by an aristocratic over-class.

Bonus madness

Flunky designer Don Priestly applied his trademark “CHRISTTHOSESPRITESAREMASSIVE!” style to a few high profile licensed games, including Popeye and Trapdoor. In a stunning case of “Why did you license that?” syndrome, he also made a game based on comedian Benny Hill. Yes, he of the skimpily-clad women and perpetual double-speed chases. And because, as we all know, said scantily-clad women and double-speed chases are the be-all and end-all of British comedy, here is one of those chases: 


 

2. The Sentinel (1987)

How mad is it?

Pioneeringly nuts. So you’re this robot, right? And you’re being watched by a deadly Sentinel robot who stands at the highest point on the map and absorbs your energy, presumably with his LAZOR EYES or some such deadly robot technology. But he can only do that if he can directly see the square of the map you’re standing on. From above. Obviously. With his LAZOR EYES. But it seems that this is just how robots roll, as you can do it too. So you’ve got to get higher than him, view his square and absorb the crap out of him instead.

Jumping however, is not how robots roll. The only way you can elevate your ‘bot is by absorbing the energy of trees from the landscape and converting it into boulders, which you then stack around the map. And then you put a clone of yourself on top of them. And then you Quantum Leap into it. And then you reabsorb your old self. And keep going until you get higher than The Sentinal and absorb his face right off.

It’s a stealth RTS platform game with elements of board games. It’s moody and unbearably tense. It used 3D worlds before 3D was even possible and it's generally bloody brilliant. The Sentinel, we salute you, you magnificent lunatic.

How did they sell this lunacy?

 

With a clear knock-off of the best shot in the entirety of Blade Runner, but it didn’t matter.

Bonus madness

In 1998, The Sentinel returned with a sequel called, um, Sentinel Returns, on PC and PS1. Being released in the late '90s of course, things in this version are darker and gloomier, with a trippy yet grim visual style remeniscent of Clive Barker and H.R. Giger. The most interesting element of its pounding eldritch darkness though is the soundtrack, which was written by king of oppressive '80s synth John "I invented Michael Myers, you know" Carpenter.

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33 comments

  • LikaLaruku - January 31, 2010 8:44 a.m.

    I am baffled & confuse, good sir. @_@
  • jnewco81 - October 25, 2009 4:08 p.m.

    I remember having Flunky on the Spectrum - hard as nails and pretty unforgiving - as most games were way back then! Good fun though
  • super0sonic - October 25, 2009 7:57 a.m.

    Oh man I totally played the crap out of "Attack of the Mutant Camels" Man I forgot that game ever existed!!
  • theres1dentevil - October 25, 2009 1:01 a.m.

    i want a modern remake of hover bovver like yesterday. watched the vid and nearly died laughing. ace!
  • JohnDD - October 21, 2009 5 p.m.

    This is why I love UK and Jap games - US games are too RAWK AN ROLL! HELL YEAH I HATE Y'ALL British music in the 80s was pioneering, just like the 80s games scene (must have been something in the water back then). I like my games to be unique. Another great read from the Houghton - thanks.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - October 21, 2009 4:04 p.m.

    Yar: That's why I bought an American SNES in the early '90s and started importing.
  • Yar - October 21, 2009 3:53 p.m.

    This blog does well to illustrate why I don't like being a gamer in Britain. You lucky yanks over there got I-Ninja, Megaman Anniversary Collection, Earthbound, the SNES Chrono Trigger, and 3 Final Fantasy Games before FFVII. Meanwhile, we got... Hover Bovver. Hover Bovver.
  • noobeater - October 20, 2009 8:18 p.m.

    haha article made me smile, thank god many were before my time as i dont think i could stand it, besides the 90's were a peach of a decade to grow up in. Obviously us british rule with are tea and constant nagging and fish and chips and inferior dentistry, and looks like the british Gamesradar are becoming the leading gamesradar article writers. 'GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!'
  • IHateMakingUserIDs - October 20, 2009 5:27 p.m.

    Did anyone else see Barack Obama in the Flunky game? Look again, he's on the right, ridign the rocking horse.
  • Xplosive59 - October 20, 2009 3:02 p.m.

    gah these games make me feel bad for being british
  • crumbdunky - October 20, 2009 2:05 p.m.

    rxb-I'm surprised there was neither JSW NOR Manic Miner on this "inspired by the "real Retro" featyre from Charlie Brooker's Gameswipe from BBC the other night! Practically all of this can be pulled back to that TV show and that's no bsad thing when you think of the clever way around lack of 3D Sentinel managed at that time. Old British C64 and Speccy games are the muts nuts for me as far as retro goes even IF Jet Set Willy was broken in two places and you needed to glitch it twice(and know where to do it too) just to get to halfway through the damn game(just after The Banyan Tree level IIRC-could be wrong it's long time since I allowed this game to ruin my mood!). But even if it was criminally broken it was still hyper mad and imaginative and deserved a place here as a game some more folk would have played. Even the old £1.99 C64 games could be good AND mad. I remember a rip off version of Paperpboy crossed with NMX bandits type thing which wasincane and you got points for avioding city gents and grannies who would stick unbrellas and walking sticks into your spokes respectively. You could always rely on a mental celevration screen wit cool 8bit music too when you beat a game-usually with crap pretend fireworks too! We brits know what mental is-comes from being on an island surrounded by vountries you constantly go to war with for thousands of years. Paraniod invention I calls it! Recaptcha-nebraska bye
  • rxb - October 20, 2009 1:15 p.m.

    Ahh the good old days. I loved Ocean as a company they put some good Amstrad games out. Im surprised Jet set Willy didnt make the list. Ive meet Sir Jimmy Savile a few times. One time he had a Doctors ID card with a picture of Robert de Niero on it. True fact.
  • brickman409 - October 20, 2009 2:25 a.m.

    haha I should be drinking me some tea while playing a bitish game eh
  • Amnesiac - October 20, 2009 2:16 a.m.

    @TestDDs: PLEASE tell me you were trying to be a black hole of funny.
  • AMayer - October 20, 2009 1:49 a.m.

    Holy crap. British people are insane. I'm glad I live in America where the people are much less crazy. Ha, ya right.
  • Onedown - October 20, 2009 1:36 a.m.

    Maybe its just me but none of the videos are working. :/
  • TestDDs - October 20, 2009 1:31 a.m.

    @michaelmcc827 because your mom was a the top 7 of best times in bed last night
  • Unoriginal - October 20, 2009 1:07 a.m.

    Read the whole feature with Guru Larrys voice in my head. A good feature becomes better.
  • michaelmcc827 - October 20, 2009 12:06 a.m.

    why do I not care about this top 7 at all...
  • garnsr - October 19, 2009 9:54 p.m.

    John Pertwee's my second favorite Doctor, after Peter Davison. Odd song. The sheep video was awesome! Any chance any of the Brits will be on Talk Radar? This list definitely seems to need a British perspective to discuss it. There were a number of typos (presumably) in this, like saying our "allusions" were shattered, instead of illusions, and saying the music was the most "interested" part of Sentinel Returns. Aren't those the sorts of things we just heard that the American guys don't take lightly?

Showing 1-20 of 33 comments

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