Playing Wunda Walter (VIC 20)

The planet Plato is in chaos, nasty little energy-based creatures called Fuzz Balls have invaded through a hole in time and need to be stomped on; only one creature can save the day in this manner, the loveable and rotund Wunda Walter needs to take out as many of the little… darlings as possible whilst avoiding the patrolling “manic depressive mutants practising body popping”. This was written in 1984 when video game scenarios were weird at the best of times and prolific Interceptor freelancer Keith “Howlin’ Mad” Harvey wrote the game so probably had a hand in the storyline as well.

Our hero starts each stage running along on a flat patch of ground but will need to take flight almost immediately to avoid death; this is done by holding the fire button down which causes Walter to inflate and float upwards with left and right on the joystick controlling his flight and releasing the button letting him drift downwards,. Since the majority of Plato’s surface will pop an unwary balloon-like creature, only the flat areas or Fuzz Balls should be considered safe to stand on and even then care must be taken since stepping halfway off a ledge will prove fatal.

The graphics are good but the VIC doesn’t have a hardware fine scroll register like later Commodore machines or the Atari 8-bit so the background shifts in character steps – one VIC character is about twice the width of those on the C64 for reference – with the software sprite movement being similarly chunky, but this doesn’t get in the way so Wunda Walter is still a playable if somewhat difficult game. Despite the emphasis in the storyline, splattering the Fuzz Balls is actually optional so merely avoiding the flight path of those body popping mutants and keeping clear of the landscape as it loops past a couple of times is enough to progress to the next level. There are four areas in total, each with their own distinct graphical elements and enemy attack pattern so learning both the lie of the land and how each nasty moves is essential for long-term survival.

I found out whilst writing this piece that Wunda Walter is considered a rare VIC 20 game these days, which is probably down to a combination of it arriving late in the VIC’s life cycle and requiring a 16K RAM expansion, both of which will have limited it ‘s potential audience. I still have my copy from the mid-1980s which I think was originally purchased from Interceptor themselves at a Commodore show in London, it’s currently tucked away in a storage box, sports the lurid green clamshell case and is apparently worth a few quid due to that aforementioned rarity… but don’t tell the wife, okay?

Playing Go Go! Mile Smile (Arcade)

Released into the arcades in 1995 by the… interestingly named Fuuki, Go Go! Mile Smile – sometimes known as Sasume! Mile Smile depending on the territory – is an endearingly cute, maze based action game. The player controls a cyan egg which can only be moved around the tracks surrounding the play area; these spaces are completely safe because the patrolling enemies can’t actually move into them but, in order to complete each stage, the contents of the egg must literally come out of their shell and gather all of the items which are dotted around the screen.

Contents plural because the egg is almost TARDIS-like and crammed impossibly full with yellow, fluffy chicks; as they head out into the playfield these avians form a delightful little Conga line and, if an enemy breaks their chain in some way, a life is lost and the round restarts. The fire button can retract everything back into the egg at lightning speed if used early enough and there’s also a friendly fairy who drifts past occasionally, pausing on her way to drop off items which are either a score bonus or there to help, for example temporarily allowing the chicks to deal with their pursuers.

So with the bonus items, fast retract button and the egg being safe from contact with the nasties it might sound like an easy game, but Go Go! Mile Smile really isn’t; keeping a constant, watchful eye on the entire line of birds and making sure they’re not about to make contact with anything is an acquired skill and it’s incredibly easy to miss potential collisions when concentrating on where the lead one with a piece of shell on it’s head is going. There’s not much time to hesitate or strategise either since each level has a time limit, this can sometimes be topped up by items from the fairy but it’s best to play like the seconds dished out at the start of the stage are all you’re getting.

I stumbled across Go Go! Mile Smile over a decade ago, randomly downloading it whilst picking up ROM images for MAME in part because it looked bright and colourful and I wanted something that wasn’t a hardcore scrolling shoot ’em up so that my Beloved and I would sit down and play together; we did but, ironically, she spent far longer playing Parodius rather than anything else! The gameplay shares a few features of the 1982 coin-op Anteater except with more potential entry points into the maze-like playfield and, despite all the jolly colours and music, things get seriously intense as the seconds tick down whilst trying to gather those final, hard to reach items on a stage.