Developer: Core Design
Publisher: Virgin Games
Platforms: Amiga, C64, Spectrum, Amstrad, Atari ST,MS-DOS
Release Date: 1990
Genres: Platform and Shooter
Mode: Single Player
(insert over-used, yet disturbingly still hilarious, Monty Python quote of choice HERE)
By 1990, Monty Python had been off the airwaves and out of theatres for quite some time. Re-runs were still extremely popular and CD-Rom FMV games and later the internet, hadn't brought the geek friendly Python antics home in any significant way yet. To fill this Pythonless void, we got Monty Python's Flying Circus The Computer Game!
Before booting the game up, you got the pleasure of leafing through an awesome black and white manual. Written in an extremely Pythonesque fashion, it included excerpts from TV schedules, conversations between philosophers, brief nudity and even some monsters and an educational bit on cheese identification (which also served as the game's copy protection). You can find the whole booklet here.
While the game's design was almost identical across all platforms, I'll first talk about the Amiga version, as it was by far the best of the lot.
The game is rendered in a style mimicking Terry Gilliams' brilliant cartoon segments from the show. It pays tremendous homage to the show, with over 100 references popping up, from the foot of Venus that squashes you when you die, to the main character sprite of Mr. D P Gumby, the butcher, who was famously played by every member of the cast at one point.
This was, partially at least, a result of internal arguments about what to use as the basis for the game. Given the limited memory restrictions and long load times of the 8 bit systems the game needed to run on (Spectrum and Amstrad games were still primarily sold on cassette tapes back then), too much variety in graphics for the sake of quick throw away references and gags simply would not be possible. This lead to many references being made a bit more abstract (dead parrots dropping from the top of tubes during the shooter sequences, for example). The sheer insanity of the original shows animations though make this approach to the license work perfectly and feel natural. Add to that, graphic designer and programmer Simon Phipps had a real knack for making cartoony graphics (Rick Dangerous, Bubba N Stix, Switchblade, etc.), and Core's general love of cartoon-like stuff, with CarVUp and Chuck Rock titles meant that the team was more than up to the challenge. One compromise was found by adding small interludes in the game, where the action would break at specific moments to teach you how to recognize trees from a long way away, for example.
|Amstrad CPC Version|
|Commodore 64 Version|
Reviewers of the time were split. Some mags gave it extremely high scores (Your Sinclair gave the Spectrum version a 90% score, while the German 64'er magazine gave the C64 version only 10% saying it was horribly outdated and claimed that calling the scrolling in the game actual scrolling was "the pinnacle of cheekiness". Amiga Power gave it 50%, which by their standards meant it was a perfectly average game, saying it was fun even after you've seen the jokes, despite basic gameplay).
So, is it the best game ever? No.
Is it a fun game with a lot of character and a ton of little references? Definitely! It didn't set the world on fire at the time of its release, but it was still fun, then as now, and worth a looksie, especially if you're a Python fan, but only on a 16 bit system.
Here's also a good profile of the game by Simon Phipps.