Think games based on movies, action-oriented TV shows and classic works of literature are a bad idea? They’ve got nothing on games based on soap operas.
This is Neighbours. It’s a game based on the mega-popular Australian soap of the same name, which has been shown in over 50 countries since its first episode in 1985. And it’s bizarre.
Bizarre because, as anyone who has watched the show will know, it’s not a show to set your pulse racing. Neighbours catalogues the daily affairs of the inhabitants of Ramsay Street in quiet, suburban Melbourne, where about the most exciting things to happen are old people dying or cast members (like Kylie Minogue) leaving the show and launching successful singing careers. Or, in rare cases (like Guy Pearce), acting careers.
There are no wars, no street battles, no business empires, no criminal syndicates and no sporting teams. There are kids, their parents, and a shopping complex. So how did somebody make a game based on this fluff? And why?
In 1991, at perhaps the peak of the show’s popularity in both its principal target markets (Australia and the UK), Neighbours the game was released on a variety of home computer formats, including the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari ST and Amiga. Since the show had no video game staples to base an adaptation on, something had to be invented out of thin air.
Creator Ian Copeland, from developers Impulze, figured turning the soap into a racing game was as good an idea as any, giving players the option to select from a range of characters (including Minogue’s and Pearce’s) and hurtle them down Ramsay Street on a skateboard, bike or cart.
None of which sounds that bad, but take a closer look at the character select screen up there. There’s a car and a kangaroo that you can cover up with a blanket. For no reason. The icon has a giant map of Australia on it. Because, you know. People might forget the game’s about an Australian soap, despite the fact there are characters named “Charlene”.
And then you start to play the game, and notice things. There are mad old women trying to knock you off your skateboard. There are pedestrians holding surfboards, despite the fact Ramsay Street is nowhere near the beach. There is an ostrich, despite the fact ostriches only live in Africa. Oh, and there are kangaroos. Everywhere.
Clearly, this was not a game actually based on Neighbours. It was an existing concept or even completed game, heavily inspired by Paperboy, which had a Neighbours licence thrown over it to make a quick buck. It was also, clearly, a game made with the British market in mind, what with the emphasis on all of those bizarre things in the preceding paragraph that aren’t actually present in suburban Melbourne.
Even if you’ve never seen the show, I highly recommend tracking down a copy and giving it a try. It’s like Paperboy meets Micro Machines. In a way so bad it’s a hoot.
(Advertisement image courtesy Matt Keller | Retro Gaming Australia)