Thursday 8 November 2012

Edd the Duck!

Blog Squirrel, appealing to the masses.

Look, it's Edd the Duck!, a twenty-two year old Amiga game based on an old Children's BBC mascot. It's what the public wants. Maybe.

A few weeks ago, I caught a glimpse of Newsround for the first time in fifteen years, and it's thrilling to know it's still as pointless as ever. Along with the recent re-alignment of Radio 1 and the entirety of BBC Three, Newsround stands as a prime example of the BBC's failure to appeal to younger demographics of the United Kingdom. It's a show commissioned for the sake of tradition, not on the grounds that kids like to watch it. At least we had the sense to scrap Top of the Pops.

Fortunately we can ignore the BBC's views on the under 25s these days, but back in the 90s, when Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon were but a pipe dream, poorly tested mediocrity was the norm. With only four television channels and none running full-day schedules, it was up to Andi Peters and Edd the Duck to entertain us before and after school. What joy.

Edd the duck is a product of a by-gone age, where Children's BBC operated from a disturbingly small studio called the "broom cupboard", filling up the time between programming blocks by talking to puppets and reading out birthday greetings. Edd was the inanimate object of choice (and Olympic mascot) between around 1988 and 1993, succeeding Gordon the Gopher and preceding Otis the Aardvark. Edd was apparently a huge hit with the UK populace, but time has since been cruel and nobody remembers his existence.

Although we no doubt felt CBBC was magical back in the day, it's only when you look back on the situation that you realise how frugal the situation was. Edd was operated by the assistant producer's hand and had a simple vocabulary of quacking noises, while presenters doubled up as channel controllers for the few hours of airtime, operating a mixing desk in front of us and dealing with mishaps live on air. The "studio" was decorated entirely by drawings sent into the show, and when the schedule changed, operations were forced down the hallway into the no-frills reserve chamber. There are teenagers on YouTube with more impressive productions - it's amazing we ever stooped so low.

Obviously then, a game based around this bound to thrill and excite. Edd the Duck! on the Amiga is a vertically scrolling platform game developed in 1990 by Zepplin Games/Impulze, a studio known for producing second-rate tat for home computers. First impressions suggest Edd plays similarly to the likes of Rainbow Islands (which found widespread success on the Amiga), but you'll be glad to know this outing is significantly worse in almost every aspect. The mallard can jump around, collect stars and freeze enemies for a short period with snowballs, but getting hit will lead to an instant loss of life. Repeated deaths lead to a game over, and as far as I'm aware, there are no opportunities for extra continues.

Like ebony and mangled elephants with their tusks ripped from their faces, the rigid jumping mechanics of Edd the Duck! complement the terrible level layouts. Falling through gaps in platforms is a common occurrence, and that's when emulation is involved - with real one-button Amiga joysticks I would imagine the game is borderline unplayable. What's more, if you were young and inexperienced (like this game's target audience), Edd's not going to be kind to you - with an abnormal supply of fast-moving enemies cluttering the screen, this game is pretty merciless to anyone but patient professionals.

The rest of the package is passable, though certainly not award winning. Graphically things are decent and the audio is okay, but the environments rarely change and the music is a constant throughout the entire game. There are also no sound effects (which isn't uncommon for the era) but none of this really matters - the game isn't remotely fun, and although its cousin on the Commodore 64 might fare better, this is ultimately a product worth avoiding.

Edd the Duck! on the Amiga has no business existing, but if nothing else, it perfectly encapsulates the corporation's problems of twenty years ago. I'm not overly sure why anyone would want to experience the short-lived tackiness in video game form, but I suppose it's good to know the option's open. And hey, at least it isn't as bad as the single. I always preferred CITV anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, those graphics are so saturated that it looks like what the Spectrum might look like if they'd kept upgrading the hardware to support more than two colors per tile, lol. Still, I've seen way worse on the aesthetics alone.