Category Archives: BBC Micro

BBC Micro

The BBC Micro was developed in the 1980’s as an educational tool, with the computer becoming the standard in most schools of the time.   Due to it’s graphical power and fast processor it was also great for playing games, featuring a number of faithful arcade games, as well as original titles.

Top titles included space exploration game Elite, puzzle game Repton and platformer Chuckie Egg.   Check out my reviews of the best BBC Micro games!

Killer Gorilla for the BBC Micro

Not a Donkey Kong Clone, Honest

The BBC Micro was touted as an educational tool, if you believe Fred Harris (sorry kids). Most of us growing up in the 80’s will have used one at school, either doing some rudimentary programming, or playing with maths tools such as “Turtle”.

Killer Gorilla BBC Micro
Killer Gorilla Screenshot on the BBC Micro

It also happened to have a great specification for replicating arcade games due to the colourful high resolution screen and multi-channel sound. Various publishers in the early days of the BBC chose to go down this route, with faithful renditions of Mr Do! (Mr Ee), Frogger (Hopper), Space Panic (Space Monsters) and Donkey Kong which, you guessed it, was renamed Killer Gorilla.

Killer Gorilla Game Advertisement

Killer Gorilla Gameplay on the BBC Micro

For some reason, in the Program Power (later Micro Power) version, they felt the need to replace Mario with a stick man. Quite how they felt this would fool Nintendo I don’t know, as in every other way this game was a carbon copy of the arcade game. The levels were recreated perfectly, and even had the “How high can you try?” message between stages.

I won’t dwell too long on the gameplay as we all know Donkey Kong, but this game had it all, as your not-Mario jumped and hammered his way across various levels to rescue his girlfriend. The gameplay was true to the arcade original, including the need to time your jumps to perfection to avoid the many different obstacles put between you and the big monkey. The sound was also pretty spot on, as well as the inter-stage screens showing your progress up the skyscraper.

I spent a lot of time on this as a teenager when I was supposedly “doing homework” on my BBC Micro. It was streets ahead of its contemporaries in replicating arcade games, which wasn’t lost on people not able to afford the pricey BBC Micro. I was very jealous of my friend who had one if these when all I could manage was a Sinclair ZX81.

Mr Ee! Retro Review for the BBC Micro

Introducing a pixel perfect clone of Mr Do!

Mr Ee! came from a time when copyright law didn’t seem to apply to video games, otherwise this game would never have existed. Imagine taking the latest Super Mario game on the wii, copying it, calling it Super Dave and releasing it on the XBOX. That’s what Micro Power did with Mr Ee! on the BBC Micro, a blatant copy of The Mr Do! arcade game.

Mr Ee! Animated gif
Mr Ee! Gameplay on BBC Micro

Mr Ee! : Not just another arcade clone

But there are plenty of blatant rip offs out there in video game history, and this is not the reason why Mr Ee needs to be celebrated. What it did, it did brilliantly, providing an almost arcade perfect copy of the original. The computer that made it possible was the BBC Micro, a home computer whose primary purpose was teaching IT in schools.

Mr Ee! Cassette Inlay
Mr Ee! Cassette Inlay

On seeing Mr Ee! playing on my friend’s BBC Model B computer, a kind of cross between Pac Man and Dig Dug, I knew I had to have one. Everything from the full colour graphics to the lively (if repetitive) music, shouted quality, and to me it looked and played just like the game I had played in the arcades. It was the first time that I realised that commercial quality gaming was possible on a personal machine. It is no suprise to read interviews with Adrian Stephens (the programmer behind the game) had spent hours playing the game in the arcades and had wanted to recreate that feel.

How to play Mr Ee!

Mr Ee! has unusually rich gameplay for an early arcade game conversion, with multiple game mechanics that must be mastered in order to progress.

Firstly, you have the ability to collect cherries to score points, which rack up with multipliers when you collect them in sequence. There are also monsters to avoid, which can be killed with a ball you can fire (one at a time), and bounces off the walls of the tunnels until it destroys and enemy or returns to you.

Me Ee! for the BBC
Mr Ee! On the BBC Micro- spot the difference

Then there are apples, which unlike cherries cannot be collected, but you can dig underneath them so they fall and crush anything (including you) in their path. Be careful as some monsters can also push apples off of ledges to try and kill you. The monsters, collectively known as creeps, are broken down into:

  • Regular Red Creeps, that look like dinosaurs and can only travel along existing tunnels
  • Diggers, which are purple dinosaurs that can dig their own tunnels
  • Alpha monsters, that are containers with letters inside them spelling out the word EXTRA, get all for an extra life. They can also eat apples!

Unlike PacMan where there was only one way to clear the screen and move to the next level, there were actually 4 ways to progress in Mr Do! / 2 in Mr Ee!

  1. Collect the Cherries – Easy to do on the early levels but very low scoring. On higher levels it is a good last resort if you are under pressure from enemies and there are only a few cherries left to collect.
  2. Kill all monsters – Even if there are munchers and alpha monsters on the screen the level will end when you kill the last regular monster or digger. This is helpful when you are score chasing and get overwhelmed with multiple monsters.
  3. Get the Extra (Mr Do! Only) – Kill the alpha monster highlighted in the “extra box” at the top of the screen and the level will end immediately
  4. Get the Diamond (Mr Do! Only) – A diamond will appear at random from an apple that has fallen and cracked open. Get it quick to end the level.
Mr Do! Arcade screenshot
Mr Do original arcade game

Mr Ee! Remembered

Mr Ee goes back to a time when one programmer, part game fan / part self taught coder, could produce a commercial quality game at home and it become a huge hit, selling in thousands. Today this is just not possible, not even in the world of teenagers selling games through the app store. In this open market space a popular game will need programmers, artists, musicians, marketing teams and serious money in order to compete with the thousands of quality games available.

So hats off to the BBC and their indirect promotion of blatant plagiarism for the sake of the 80’s gaming public – it will never happen again.