Back before the word Frak! became a swear word on the most recent incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, or a controversial form of mining, it was a 1986 platform game on the BBC Micro. My friend had a BBC Model B and a Sony colour monitor, and we would play Frak! for hours, as well as the excellent Mr Ee! (a clone of the arcade game Mr Do!). The game was written by Nick Pelling under the Aardvark Software brand, although he preferred to be known by the name Orlando M. Pilchard.
Frak! on the BBC micro
You control a caveman called Trogg, who had to traverse various platforms and defeat monsters armed with only a yo-yo. Timing had to be pixel perfect, and Trogg could only fall a short distance without dying – with no floor, falling from the edge of a platform often meant instant death. The game itself was not exactly Chuckie Egg in terms of speed, with progress more of a puzzle than a rush through the levels. Trial and error was often the way to progress, plodding your way through the various obstacles to collect the keys to the exit and complete each of Frak’s 3 basic levels.
Along the way you would meet one of three stationary monsters, whose touch was deadly, so you had to work your way around them or destroy them your yo-yo. In addition to the monsters, balloons would rise from the bottom of the screen, and daggers would fall diagonally down the screen, and colliding with either would also end in death. Fortunately you could also destroy them with a well timed yo-yo strike.
To score extra points you could collect light bulbs and jewels that are dotted around the platforms, often in out of the way places that made your journey longer and more treacherous.
After completing 3 levels the game screen turned itself upside down and you would play again, a novel way of extending the life of the game by re-using graphics, important when you only have 32k of memory to play with. Most toasters these days have more than this.
Most memorable for the fact that the caveman would cry “FRAK!” in a speech bubble whenever he died, clearly a way of swearing without swearing, ultimately influencing the writers of Battlestar Galactica (possibly). The back story for the game was never really clear to me though. Why was he a caveman? Why did he have a yo-yo? Why monsters, if he was a caveman why not sabre-toothed tigers or mammoths? Perhaps we will never know.
Frak! was also released on the Electron (I had a copy of this and it was monochrome and very disappointing) as well as the Commodore 64, but the BBC Micro version was the original and best.
For and interview with the developer head on over to the BBC Games Archive.