On the surface this magazine might seem a strange addition to the blog but there is method to my madness. In case you missed it, previously I’d announced a pig pal by the name of David Crookes had been able to score a chat with Jon Williams, the coder of the OiNK computer game released back in 1987. This was set to appear in #221 of Retro Gamer and I’ve now got my trotters on it. UPDATE: Over a year later, and with the magazine no longer easily available, this post has been updated with the complete OiNK article and a full break down by me of its contents.
The article itself is only two pages but does include some insider knowledge and screenshots for anyone not familiar with this particular piece of OiNK merchandise. Sadly, it begins with that well-trodden myth that OiNK was created as a children’s version of Viz, which is simply not true. OiNK was created in response to the tired humour of other comics, to create something for the kids of the 80s, with Mad Magazine influencing some of the potential ideas. That particular publication will pop back up again further down this post.
The piece also says that our three editors, Patrick Gallagher, Tony Husband and Mark Rodgers approached CRL to make a game for them but as we’ve learned in previews in contemporary magazines (Crash and Zzap!64) it was the other way around. I could just be nitpicking here of course (also, the contributors were brought on to OiNK before it was given the go-ahead so they could make a dummy issue) and the bulk of this article is actually quite interesting, focusing on a chat with the game’s creator, Jon Williams.
What’s clear from reading this is how Jon was completely unfamiliar with the comic, which is fair enough. However, CRL providing a few photocopies isn’t a great amount of research and the ideas thought up for the game sound more like those for a generic game about comics rather than anything pertaining to any specific licence. It’s interesting to read how it all came to be but it does seem to back up the notion from pig pals that it was an OiNK game in name only.
A small budget was given to its creation so, music aside, it was fully coded by Jon which was not a rare occurrence for the time. (The ‘Ian’ mentioned is Ian Ellery of CRL, although his surname and position aren’t printed here.) When it came to designing the game it wasn’t a matter of researching OiNK’s characters and trying to create something original around them, instead rather disappointingly Jon wanted to make a Breakout clone and a copy of an earlier game of his, shoe-horning OiNK into them instead. Only the Rubbish Man mini-game in any way resembles the character, but all of the humour, stinky super powers and random villains are nowhere to be seen.
This feels like such a wasted opportunity. OiNK had such an anarchic sense of humour, ripe for a crazy, original game like the Monty Python one released on the Commodore 64 just a few years later which took the best elements of that show and created a game around them. But instead it seems the game came first and the licence was an afterthought. Again, this feeling when playing a licenced game wasn’t uncommon in the 80s and 90s.
However, Jon should be commended for creating a game in such a short period of time and the interview really is rather interesting with details about the start-stop nature of its development, the rush to get it completed with that tiny budget and the shortcuts he had to take which inevitably had a big impact on the finished product. I was surprised to read much more input from the comic’s team had apparently been promised at the outset, although this was unfortunately pared back when things fell behind schedule.
As a former obsessive with the Commodore 64 I found the technical aspects mentioned alongside some of the design documents fascinating. The game was originally created for my old home computer with the conversions for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC computers handled by other people based on Jon’s code. This does beg the question why was a Spectrum magazine the one with the free OiNK comic (Crash) and not a C64 publication (like Zzap!64).
While some of the revelations here make me want to tear my hair out (we could’ve had a game more closely associated with the comic, there was little real research done, the programmer just wanted to create another specific game and used our licence to do so) it’s always interesting as an OiNK fan to find out more behind-the-scenes information about my favourite comic and any related releases.
By sheer coincidence the feature right before the one on the OiNK game might also be of interest to readers of our piggy publication. It’s an in-depth look at the creation of the Spy Vs Spy games based on a hit comic strip from Mad Magazine, which as I said earlier actually was one of the influences cited by the creators of OiNK. I have very fond memories of playing all three of these games in the early 90s with my friend and only many years later finding out it was based on a comic.
Elsewhere there’s one more little link to OiNK hidden away in a great interview with Violet Berlin, who I used to watch on Bad Influence on ITV and Gamepad on Bravo. Yes, that’s our very own Frank Sidebottom aka Chris Sievey popping up on one of Violet’s earliest shows! If you’d like to read any of these extra features, or maybe you’re just an OiNK completist like me, you can contact Future Publishing for Retro Gamer #221 via the Future shop, although you’re more likely to find it on eBay.
Towards the back of the issue is a list of all the main games covered in the issue and the average prices they can go for if you’re interested in picking up the OiNK game on the C64, the ZX Spectrum or Amstrad CPC machines if you happen to own one. The game will be getting much more coverage around the point of its release during the OiNK read through, including the previews from Crash and Zzap!64, a special edition of OiNK, a review of the game, a look at when its name was later changed and even some tips for completing it. Watch out for them!