I was saddened to hear that Ben Daglish passed away last Monday; I’d only seen him play on a couple of occasions at Back In Time events and we’d met very much in passing at the same time – my own shyness prevented me from taking full advantage of those opportunities – but he, along with people like Rob Hubbard and Martin Galway was behind a significant chunk of the soundtrack from my formative years, composing for games I enjoyed including Krakout, Hades Nebula, Return Of The Mutant Camels and many more on the C64.
Ben also produced a number of demos with his friend and regular collaborator Tony Crowther under the We MUSIC banner – they put out a great cover of Stairway To Heaven amongst others – but there’s one that always stands out for me personally; it’s been known by a couple of names over the years including Space Gladiator but the filename on the version I received as a teenager was 10 Minute Trap. There are two flavours available with the sparser version hidden within the game Trap itself – the cassette inlay features a screenshot with the caption “hi scorers should enter re-arranged MODE” as a hint – as well as being available separately, but a retooled version also exists which added a couple of logos and an upscroller, this was released to promote UK online service Compunet and is the one I’m most familiar with personally.
The demo itself is very much built around the music, which is nearly ten minutes long and truly epic in scale – the burly, sometimes titular Space Gladiator at the bottom left of the screen accompanies parts of the music with his drum and will sometimes practise or just watch the action when not required – and there’s a window looking out on a couple of barren planets where the story unfolds. As the music gets going a flying saucer arrives to beam down a spaceman, leaving him behind to witness what appears to be a pitched interstellar battle with multiple craft flying past, missiles smashing into one of the planets and occasional stroboscopic flashes which are all tied into the soundtrack. I’ve always felt sorry for that spaceman actually, he looks rather lonely stranded there and observing from his solitary platform and waving at the UFOs as they whiz past!
The Compunet version’s scrolling text talks about the various online services available, sometimes punctuating events in the main window as it does so – the phrase “you’re never alone with Compunet” rather ironically appears as the spaceman is dropped off for example – and I’ve always rather liked that integration, the advertising could just have been wedged in with absolutely no regard to the original demo but time and thought obviously went into this. It helps that 10 Minute Trap is already an engaging, unusual demo of course, which is also why I’ll sit down and watch the Compunet version a couple of times a year just because I can… although subsequent viewings will be a little sadder knowing that one of its creators is no longer with us.