Tag Archives: Oliver Frey

ZZAP!64: PiG PLAY REViEW

Recently on the blog we’ve seen the preview of the OiNK computer game in Zzap!64 #26, then the special feature in Crash magazine #42 and its free OiNK comic. There’s also been a look at the Retro Gamer article which contained an interview with the programmer of the game. It was an exciting time for pig pals who owned one of the 8-bit computers back in 1987, that’s for sure. But what of the finished article? Was the game worth the hype?

Zzap!64 #28, on sale this day 35 years ago, contained the answer. Just a quick note about this issue first of all and a brilliant little detail on the cover. Staff writer Julian Rignall recently shared on Twitter that a previous competition winner’s prize was to appear on a cover of the magazine, immortalised by artist Oliver Frey. That’s reader Karen Wild just in front of the “4” in the logo! Another detail is the mention of Bond movie The Living Daylights further down the page, although inside it’s an exact article already published in Crash last month. Rather cheeky of the publisher Newsfield!


“This is another poor licensing effort, however when viewed in its own right, OiNK has a lot to boast about.”

Steve Jarratt

Anyway, moving on and the OiNK review itself takes up just over a full page and in keeping with their normal format there’s a descriptive guide to the game breaking down the individual elements, with the opinions of whether those elements were any good or not kept separate, divided up between the three members of the team that played it. There’s also one screenshot of each of the mini-games (but unfortunately none of the Uncle Pigg screens) and a summary box which breaks everything down into individual percentages.

The review does a good job of explaining each of the mini-games and as you can see they really don’t have anything to do with the comic at all, save for maybe Rubbish Man’s sprite. I can’t help question why the Pete’s Pimple game didn’t have a pimple-coloured ball and why was it battling against aliens? Why not pimple cream or bullies like in the accompanying strip in the free comic? Why does Rubbish Man fire lasers and not cold custard or rotten mash potato? Why in later levels is he being attacked by rubbish? The Tom Thug game makes no sense whatsoever! Two of the reviewers at least share these thoughts, but as a game in its own right their opinion is somewhat more positive. Here’s the review.

Identified by initials on their illustrations, reviewers Ciarán Brennan and Steve Jarratt (who would go on to launch rival mag Commodore Format, which was my C64 read at the time and which you’ll see some OiNK content from later in the year) both reported that the game plays very well and is excellent value for money for the price. It’s just not really an OiNK game. I think it’s clear third reviewer Paul Sumner hadn’t read OiNK though, and is coming from the perspective of a general game about creating a magazine or comic.

Although an attempt is made to include some of its humour in the panels of the electronic comic the player completes by playing the games, it’s clear from the comments here that hasn’t really worked. The initial idea was to include panels from the actual comic and some were written by OiNK’s three editors Tony Husband, Mark Rodgers and to a lesser extent Patrick Gallagher. However, these were cut back to text only and then trimmed down even further by programmer Jon Wells so the jokes were somewhat lost in translation.

We could’ve had a barmy platform game, fighting off Mary Lighthouse and her protesters on our way to the newsagent

For me, the big takeaway here is that the game’s bad reputation isn’t justified. Among pig pal circles it’s usually ridiculed as being an appalling game, unplayable and basically a complete disaster. Yes, for pig pals it was a disappointment; we could’ve had a barmy platform game, taking control of various characters each with a unique ability linked to the comic as they ran around OiNKtown fighting off Mary Lighthouse and her protesters on our way to the newsagent, just off the top of my head. Instead, as confirmed in the interview in Retro Gamer, the programmer wanted to make specific mini-games and saw this as an opportunity to do so, rather than developing a game from the licence. Unfortunately, with only a handful of exceptions, this was par for the course with licences back then.

But the game itself, taken on its own merits, is very good. Check out another set of review scores, this time from C&VG (Computer & Video Games) magazine and printed in OiNK #34.

I completely concur with the reviews here. I played it a couple of decades after its release (I didn’t have my own Commodore 64 until Christmas 1991) when I began collecting the C64 as a retro system around 2010. I found the game on an old Commodore Format covertape. It was great to see the OiNK logo and Uncle Pigg digitised on the screen when it loaded. Yes, I had that initial disappointment as someone looking for an actual OiNK game, but when I got into it I had so much fun. It was very addictive, each mini-game was very playable and Rubbish Man’s in particular had that just-one-more-go appeal.

It may not be an actual OiNK game per se, but that’s the only reason I played it in the first place and I discovered a wee gem.

I never finished it to see if there was a proper ending involving the characters (I doubt it) but I’d definitely like to set the record straight. It was a brilliant little game. Unfortunately OiNK fans didn’t buy it because of its lack of OiNK content, and those who didn’t read OiNK didn’t buy it for obvious reasons. But if you have a C64 (or a ZX Spectrum or Amstrad CPC) and enjoy a spot of retro gaming, you could do a lot worse than tracking down this oddity of OiNK merchandise, it’s quite common to see it for a few quid on eBay. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

CRASH #42: A SPECTRUM OF PiGGY PiNK

In 1987 Sinclair ZX Spectrum computing magazine Crash (which ran for 98 issues between 1984 and 1992) approached IPC Magazines about interviewing the OiNK editors regarding the comic for a special preview of the forthcoming computer game. During these conversations the idea of producing a special edition of the comic to give away inside Crash came up. Co-creator/co-editor Patrick Gallagher told me the magazine’s publishers Newsfield were receptive to the idea, very open-minded about what it could contain and paid the OiNK team to produce it. That issue of Crash went on sale today 35 years ago.

So, with a special feature and an extra edition of my favourite comic of all time I just had to track this down on eBay. This is the only issue of Crash I’ve ever read. I found myself reading more than just the OiNK related pages too and have included some highlights I found particularly interesting below. First up though is the interview and a special page from Frank Sidebottom. The comic itself I’ll keep for a review post of its own, which you’ll be able to read from next week. So what exactly would an issue of Crash involve? Here’s the contents page, with a little guest appearance from a certain explosive personality.

What it means by “it’s not really page 59″ is the fact the free comic was in the centre of the issue so if you opened at page 59 it would plop out. The title of the interview is another reference to George Orwell‘s Animal Farm, which OiNK itself already parodied in #30, on sale at the same time coincidentally enough. In the editorial Roger Kean kicks things off by pointing out the free comic and the article, noting this is the first time they’ve ever teamed up with another publication.

Graeme Kidd‘s article is longer and more in-depth than the one featured in Zzap!64 the month before. While the Zzap preview had told the origin story of OiNK, Crash spoke with Tony Husband directly and there’s some wonderful pieces of information for pig pals. Zzap mentioned the initial idea had been for a fanzine, here Tony is able to elaborate on the reasons behind that. The initial chance meeting in a local library between Patrick and Mark Rodgers (both working on Whizzer and Chips without knowing each other) is also mentioned, a tale I’ve heard before briefly but again there’s more detail here.


“It’s a success story the comic’s creators hardly dreamed of.”

Graeme Kidd, Four Legs Good

There are some little factoids for fans such as OiNK’s sales, the dummy issue being met with a divided opinion at IPC Magazines but ultimately championed by the people who would make the call (Youth Group Managing Director John Sanders and ‘John Painter’ is an error, that should be Bob Paynter Group Editor of Humour Comics), the original strategy in its creation and how the idea of putting together a small, weekly comic was changed to a larger, fortnightly one. Of course, that weekly format is the one OiNK would eventually turn into, much to the annoyance of some, including the editors but we’ll get to that at a later date.

There’s a funny moment when we find out a certain comics publisher wasn’t too happy with OiNK spoofs of their characters (one example mentioned can be seen in #18‘s review) and a horrific episode for a young reader whose mum showed just how hypocritical those who think they’re morally superior to others can really be (think readers of certain scaremongering tabloids). At the end there’s a very quick preview of the game which, after painting a fascinating picture of the comic, shows us probably the most uninspired screenshot possible!

To see the original Janice & John strip Tony mentions check out #7‘s review, and for OiNK’s response to the complaint make sure to read #28‘s!

Over the page from this piggy pink spread we get a little something extra from Frank Sidebottom in the shape of a guide to computers, which is really a competition page with rather wonderful prizes. If I’d known Crash had a free issue of OiNK and the chance to win original artwork, t-shirts, mugs etc I’d have been all over this as a child, even if I wouldn’t own my own computer for another four years.

I must add a little caveat here. This doesn’t look like Frank’s usual handwriting and it’s been signed “Topbottom”. I initially thought he’d been in a rush to complete it for Crash’s deadline and that was the reason for the change in style slightly, but some fans believed it wasn’t his work when I initially shared this post on social media. I checked with Patrick who can’t remember if that was the case, but he’s certain Chris (Sievey, the man behind the mask) wouldn’t have knowingly let anyone else do it, especially if it meant copying his OiNK work. So I’m going to say it was him.

Just wait and see Frank’s contribution to the OiNK pullout comic, it’s proof indeed of just how much he’d put into his work for kids.

So that’s OiNK’s contribution to the magazine itself and strangely enough I can’t find evidence of the all-important game review in any following issue. Does this not bode well for the quality of the finished product? No, even if the game had been absolute trash the magazines of the time would’ve reviewed it and given it an appropriate score. But from my extensive research into the rest of that year’s issues (and those from 1988 as well) it just wasn’t reviewed by Crash. However, Zzap!64 did so watch out for that soon.

The debut of the brand new 007,
Timothy Dalton!

Back to Crash and as I said the free comic will be getting its own review post (as well it should) next week but I wanted to highlight two particular features in the magazine that stood out for me personally in this delightfully retro read. I’m a big fan of both James Bond and Nintendo, so first up was news of not only the next Bond computer game but also the brand new movie it was based on, The Living Daylights and the debut of a brand new 007 which is always an exciting occasion.

That actor of course was Timothy Dalton, who is still my favourite in the role to this day. His second movie, Licence To Kill is not only the best Bond film in my opinion it’s also my second favourite movie of all time (behind only Jaws, in case you were wondering). Unfortunately, with MGM going bankrupt a year or so later the movies paused until the mid-90s and by that stage Dalton wanted to move on. But The Living Daylights is a superb film and the magazine’s Curtis Hutchinson took a look at its stunt work. Special mention must also go to that gorgeous Oliver Frey cover above! That would’ve made for an excellent poster but alas it was only ever to be found in A4 size and covered with text.

There’s also an advertisement for the game, which like a lot of our gaming adverts back then didn’t include a single screenshot. The Spy Vs Spy game was also a favourite later on when I got my Commodore 64, based upon characters from Mad Magazine, itself one of the influences behind OiNK’s sense of humour and satirical edge.

I do love a good contemporary retro article about new releases in the things I’m interested in. It’s always fascinating to look back at how they were written about at the time. The second article I want to show you is another such example. As a kid I remember friends getting so incredibly hyped over new Nintendo consoles but I only became a fan later down the road with the Game Boy and GameCube machines. These days I’m fanatical about my Nintendo Switch and so this was a hugely enjoyable read about “Mattel’s Nintendo”. Mattel helped Nintendo with distribution in the UK but it was wrongly labelled as their machine and simply called “a Nintendo” by many at the time.

What’s lovely and quaint here is how the ZX Spectrum range of computers are compared very favourably to the flashy new Japanese console by Crash’s whole team. Of course this is a Spectrum magazine and so it was always going to be that way. I remember later issues of Commodore Format in the mid-90s comparing the ageing machine (which I still adored and used even then) favourably against the latest gaming tech. Bless. This article in particular is like a snapshot of the industry at the time. Oh, and for those Nintendo fans reading, the news pages carried information on a price cut to the system already but it must’ve been too late to edit the article. The two bundles had been chopped down to £99.99 and £155.00, which was fierce competition for the home computers of the day!

This has been a surprisingly magical trip down memory lane, one I’ve enjoyed immensely. Don’t forget about that Zzap!64 preview of the game and a Retro Gamer article from 2021 has also featured on the blog, containing an interview with the man behind the game. But we’ve not quite finished with this edition of Crash, as the free comic is still here waiting to be seen by blog readers. I’d assume for many it’ll probably be the first time you’ll have seen it too. It’s blog review will be here from Saturday 2nd July 2022 and the Zzap!64 review of the OiNK computer game itself will reveal how good/bad it turned out, which you’ll be able to read from Saturday 9th July. After that, Commodore Format will have some articles about OiNK to share later in the year too! Bye for now.