Graphics were another great UK software house of the 1980s and early
1990s, and sadly they, like Ocean, were bought out by the Infogrames
empire in 1998. Typical isn't it? However, they were one of the first
major UK houses to release a series of games based on a single character,
along with making various other original games that really set the
scene for the C64. Also on this page are exclusive pics of their offices
in Sheffield, England so you can see where they worked over the years.
Gremlin Graphics were founded around 1984. At first they concentrated
on games for the Spectrum, but soon realised that the C64 had a
games market potential. All their early games had the orignal and
'classic' GG logo: a green gremlin looking slightly angry, along
with the text of Gremlin Graphics in green. This is shown above.
Indeed in 1984, came the first of what would be a series of games
based on one character: Monty Mole. Wanted: Monty Mole hit the C64
in 1984, and it was programmed by no less than Anthony Crowther.
Why the music covered the Colonel Bogey theme, I don't know. Nevertheless
sales of this on both C64 and Spectrum were promising, and there
soon became many fans of the little mole. Early on was also the
game Percy the Potty Pigeon, which was also one of the very first
C64 tunes by Ben Daglish. Ben would later on work a lot for Gremlin
Graphics on their music.
1985 was a very good year for Gremlin Graphics in fact. First off
was the game Thing on a Spring, which involved a little character
much like Zebedee from the hit TV show "The Magic Roundabout".
Thing and his Spring would bounce around many levels of a toy factory,
avoiding evil toys as he went along with collecting jigsaw pieces
to defeat an evil goblin, oil to keep his springs healthy, and overall
was solid platform fun. It also was one of the earliest C64 music
compositions by no less than Rob Hubbard, and its very cute bouncy
style suited the game brilliantly. Thing on a Spring was indeed
a popular game, so popular in fact that the Thing character became
one of the two 'margin' characters who would frequent the pages
of Zzap! 64 magazine (the other one was of course Rockford from
the game Boulderdash). And later in the year, we then had Monty
on the Run. MOTR had received critical acclaim on the Spectrum,
and the C64 version was very well done. Not only that, but it had
another classic Rob Hubbard tune which really got you induced into
a slight panic as you tried to get Monty escaping. The high score
tune was also very well known and many C64 musicians have covered
it. Those of you who love the Monty on the Run music should definitely
check out the Back In Time CD: Rob himself had input into the reworking!
1986, and more nice original concepts abound. We had Bounder, in
which you controlled a tennis ball bouncing. Now what made it interesting
was that you viewed the action head on, and could only of course
bounce around so that you had to ensure that you timed your movements
across platforms etc in time with when the ball bounced on the surface.
Even in 1986 computer games needed a breath of fresh air and this
was definitiely it. Also there was Trailblazer programmed by Shaun
Southern (my fave C64 programmer ever), where you controlled a ball
and had to get to the end of levels by either jumping over holes
in the ground or using coloured blocks to your advantage (although
the reversing direction cyan ones were the curse of many a gamer).
The 3D like effect of the board coming towards you was adopted by
many (and I do mean many!) demo groups as a 'trailblazer' effect.
So if you ever wondered, you know now. Way of the Tiger was also
a big hit, combining many Oriental fighting disciplines in one game.
And there was Footballer of the Year, which had you playing a striker
aiming to be the top footballer. The novel goal shooting along with
the idea of buying cards to enhance your players' chances pre-dates
EA's Premier League Stars idea by ooh, at least 12 years. And who
can forget Jack The Nipper, in which you had to be as naughty as
possible? Completely barmy idea, of course, yet it worked!
Late 1986 also saw Gremlin Graphics change their logo: they just
had "Gremlin" in green lettering at a slight 3D angle.
Nevertheless, they were always known as Gremlin Graphics and indeed
their trading name was still that and they owned the copyright.
Just in case of any disputes, you know.
1987 then saw a clutch of sequels: Auf Wiedersehen Monty, in which
Rob Hubbard and Ben Daglish famously worked together, Re-Bounder,
and Thing Bounces Back. Sadly to say, none of them were anywhere
near as good as their prequels. And there was Krakout, a bat and
ball game with clashed with Imagine's far superior arcade conversion
of Arkanoid. GG also went into licensing, with three games between
1987-88 based on the TV series MASK, and one on the movie of Masters
of the Universe. We also had Avenger, a kind of sequel to Way of
the Tiger, set with Oriental fighting mixed with Gauntlet. Almost
worked wonders, that one. And another sequel, Jack The Nipper II:
Coconut Capers. This time the little brat set about the whole of
the jungle with just a lovely bunch of coconuts to create much hassle
with, and sure he did. The coup de grace though was Alternative
World Games. Released a year after Epyx' classic World Games, this
spoof was lovingly done, and an original idea to carry off the spoof
so well. It really made you laugh hard as well as play hard. I mean
who would want to compete in events such as boot throwing, pole
climbing, running up walls, jumping rivers and pillow fighting and
1988 saw GG's output slow a bit, but there was still plenty of
ideas. Technocop, a futuristic driving game mixed with shooting
was let down by some poor execution and a bad multiload, a multi
screen platform version of Mickey Mouse with a nice version of the
Sorcerer's Apprentice music (as used in the film Fantasia) to guide
Mickey along. What was good was Skate Crazy. This involved much
skating around on roller skates around various obstacle courses
and the likes, and that hadn't been seen on a C64 to that date.
The novel control system took some getting used to of course, but
it was well worth it.
By this time Gremlin Graphics' output was slowing as other formats
were taking over the market. However, in their later years there
were many memorable games, even if most of them were conversions
from other machines: 1989 saw Butcher Hill, a war based game that
was actually quite good fun to play, along with Gary Lineker's Hot
Shot, the third licenced game based on the famous English footballer.
In 1991, Super Cars, an overhead racer a la Super Sprint really
was good, you had options to buy equipment, but also unlike Super
Sprint wasn't full of bugs. There was also Switchblade, a flick
screen platformer with a hint of Manga attached to it. The slightly
unusual look and feel definitely made things different, and indeed
it was also pretty tough to get through. The music on both original
Amiga and C64 versions was mde by Ben Daglish, still producing many
tunes for most of Gremlin's games and is well worth a listen. By
1992 things were very slow, and a version of Space Crusade was one
of the last games they ever produced for the C64.
In 1994 or so Gremlin Graphics changed everything and became Gremlin
Interactive. Despite making the Actua Soccer series of games and
selling quite a few copies of the PC and Playstation versions, it
was sad to see them bought out by Infogrames to be part of their
empire. However where they worked still remains..