Computer Gamer

Stifflip & Co.
By Palace
Commodore 64

Published in Computer Gamer #27

In the search for perfection, Palace think they have found their empirical formula for success.

Stifflip & Co.

In former times, Britain was Great and the nation to be reckoned with. The Empire stretched round the world and, for many peoples, Britannia waved the rules which were inextricably tied up with the laws of cricket. Even the World Wars came in two innings.

Renowned for daring exploits and cucumber sandwiches, we umpired the Empire and knocked bounders for six. By jingo, what it was to live in a land of heroes shaped by institutions such as Eton, Harrow and the MCC. The repressive ensured that the British would endure hardships far from their native shores and the roll of honour bore such names as Nelson, Wellington, Livingstone, W G Grace and Viscount Sebastian Stifflip.

Driven by nationalistic fervour and sheer stupidity Stifflip had gathered together a band of eccentrics who roamed the world righting wrongs and crushing cads wherever they found them. Of all their exploits, none has been more celebrated than their struggle to vanquish the evil despot, Count Chameleon, master of disguise and sworn enemy of the establishment. Much of the story had been lost in the apocryphal mists of legend, but after much research the jolly good coves at Palace Software have unearthed the truth and committed the saga to the silicon medium. Now everyone can relive the crucial battle to rid the world of the Count's evil Rubbertronic ray gun. Let's hear a loud hurrah for Palace as they go out for the Count.

Stifflip And Co

The truth was established on behalf of Palace by the indomitable Binary Vision team. Their clarity of vision was enhanced by an intriguing system of viewing the accounts of Stifflip & Co. through the lens at the bottom of a pint glass, thus allowing sufficient distortion for the ultimate truth to be revealed.

Binary's researchers, Paul Norris and Rupert Bowater, were aided and abetted by Richard Joseph on sound and graphically assisted by Mark Eason and Anna Williams.

According to the team, it appears that Stifflip missed the excitement of his days as a flying ace in the Great War where he earned the dubious monicker: the Yellow Baron. Bandits at one o'clock could never be replaced by tea four o'clock and bed at half past seven. And so it was that he gathered together with three like-minded eccentrics and set out to save the Empire.

Stifflip And Co

Miss Palmyra Primbottom, the only lady team member, already had a prodigious array of exploits to her name. First winner of the gruelling Girl Guides deportment badge, she later became known for her work with the Women's Temperance League for Clothing the Savages in Darkest Surrey. Guided by her family motto, 'Godliness is next to cleanliness', she modified this during her experiences in the tropics to 'cleanliness is next to impossible'.

Little is known about former lounge lizard Colonel R G Bargie except that he earned the honorable Order of the GNT and bar several times every evening. His prime motivation for joining Stifflip's company was for his family's honour, not as a skilful manoeuvre to escape his creditors, nor had it anything to do with the rumours of the vast riches to be gained in South America.

The final and least memorable member of the team is Professor Braindeath whose researches into amnesia involved such commitment that little is remembered of his former achievements. Declared clinically dead a decade before the team's South American adventure, he forsook his researches into producing a device to put the middle back into doughnuts for the promise of adventure, excitement and 'all that sun'. The professor is almost living proof that all mad professors are not necessarily bad.

Stifflip And Co

What dynamic force caused the forging of such a team as Stifflip and Co? What irresistible challenge drew the team to the South American banana republic of Banarnia? Why did they bother? The answer lies in the telegram which was unearthed in the British Museum's collection of documents suitable for shredding machines.

It appears that the entire rubber crop of Count Chameleon's adopted country had disappeared under suspicious circumstances which led Viscount Stifflip to the conclusion that the feared Rubbertronic raygun was more than just a rumour whispered in the corridors of power. Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery he called his team together and set off for Banarnia's golden shores. "What shores?!" we hear you cry. "I'll have a G 'n T", replies Colonel Bargie, whose own researches into rubber stretch as far as bouncing numerous cheques.

The fiendish raygun threatens all that makes Britain grate... sorry... great. The dratted weapon is devised to neutralise the starch in wing-collars, soften firm moral fibres and loosen stiff upper lips. Worst of all, this answer to nationalistic washing power will unpredictably alter the bounce of the revered cricket ball, the regal orb which complements the sceptre of State: the willowy cricket bat.

We join our heroes in the first innings as they arrive at Banarnia's customs post. A tax must be paid before anyone can continue but with only three shillings to rub together another means of payment must be sought. How can our heroes go on? Try as I may, my best efforts were met with a hail of bullets and the early retirement of my team to the great pavilion in the sky.

Desperately I tried a long shot which Palace refuse to let me report but it sent the Banarnian General shooting off into the distance with cries of "Ariba, ariba!"

Free to roam, it took seconds for the Colonel to find a local bar, but his reputation for vulcanised cheques had preceded him and, morally crushed, he was at the end of his tether when physically flattened by a ten ton weight which ended his role in the game.

Each member of the team can be controlled independently by an ingenious icon menu offering six activities. "Chinwag" allows you to interact with the other jolly characters in the game. "Beetle Off" permits movement in one of four polar directions. "Do One's Stuff" calls up an activity menu so that your chosen team member can get things done and "State Of Play" gives the statistics of your players' energy and how well the universal plan is working. "Change Batter" is the icon which controls which character you are using and the central screen which shows the previous cell and current cell of the action in comic strip style changes to display a "Meanwhile..." caption.

By far, the most interest icon is the one marked "Biff!", through which you may indulge in a bout of fisticuffs with the Count's henchmen. Selecting this icon causes a battle screen to pop up. here the vital statistics of the fracas are displayed in graphics form. A rotating bloxing glove indicates the power of your punch and a spring-loaded glove shows your opponent's blow.

Before indulging in the noble art you have to select your punch mode. If the white chicken's feather is not chosen, you have three options: left hoo, right uppercut or the dastardly caddish punch below the belt. Be warned, the swift jab at the nether regions is not the mark of a true Brit and should be used sparingly to avoid divine intervention into your affairs.

The accuracy of your punch is determined by an ingenious target whose concentric rings rotate eccentrically unless you can hold a crosshair at the centre of the frame in which the rings appear. Success results in a resounding whack on the jaw of your opponent, failure means a glancing tap.

Although the number of locations is relatively limited when compared to conventional text adventures, the problems to be solved more than compensate. Always play the game with your tongue firmly in your cheek as you bite the bullet and you are sure to succeed. Solve problems such as what to do with a reed, a knife and a charming relative of Hissing Sid, work out the strengths and weaknesses of your heroic team to win the day.

The icon system certainly adds a new dimension to adventuring, even though it can become cumbersome when a fight is brewing. As I said before, the game is contained on the tape as two innings, one per side of tape. Entry to the second part is determined by a code achieved on side one.

As always, Palace have come up trumps. Stifflip & Co. has a style and sense of humour which smacks of the old Empire days. Bounders abound, morals are upheld at all costs and the arcade element adds punch to another spiffing game from Palace.