Day 168 - in loving memory

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

Seven years ago today, we lost my youngest brother, Jamie.  He was only 26 years old, which is no age at all.  November 10th will always be tinged with sadness, naturally, but we prefer to be more celebratory and remember all the great times.  As he was a real character, there were plenty of them!

For the purposes of the blog, I'm playing some of the Commodore 64 games that I associate with him.  Although he was only born in 1979, he loved computer games from an early age and was soon able to pick up my second Zipstik and get stuck in alongside me.  This was great, because my other brother, Steven, wasn't that much of a games fan.  So it gave me someone to game with when I wasn't with a mate.  To be fair, most of his gaming was done on the Sega Megadrive and Saturn, but we did have some fun with the C64, even if it was on the wane by the time he was interested.

Rock 'N' Wrestle

After the mighty Way of the Exploding Fist, hopes were high among magazine reviewers that the next fighting game from Melbourne House (Fighting Warrior didn't count, did it?) would be amazing.  But they seemed disappointed, with reviews being less than stellar.  I, too, was disappointed... I'd hoped it would be brilliant fun, and the reviewers seemed to be saying it was nothing of the kind.  But then I played it...

That's going to cause a bit of a headache.
It's fair to say that Rock 'N' Wrestle is not an amazing game... but it CAN be brilliant fun!  It certainly has its flaws, but back then, they barely seemed to matter.  The wrestlers were all the same sprite but in different costumes, which didn't impress the magazines.  But to us, with a bit of imagination, they were all wildly different!  Did anyone really want to play as the dodgy moustachioed leather boy, though?

The game had digitized speech... but it was terrible!  If you managed to pin your opponent, the referee would shout out the count, something like this: "KHAAAA!  KHOOOO!  KHREEEE!"  And yet, we loved that!  We'd even shout it out when we were play-fighting!

For all its lack of polish, though, Rock 'N' Wrestle had a lot going for it in terms of gameplay, mainly in its use of the joystick.  There were a variety of moves available, depending on your position in the ring.  When both wrestlers were standing, you could kick, chop or grab.  If you grabbed, you could swing your opponent round, headbutt them, lift them or do a backbreaker.  If you lifted them, you could do a number of moves, including the vicious piledriver.  You could even climb up the turnbuckles, if you wanted.

Woah!  Woooooah!  WOOOOAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!
Even then, there were flaws.  You could batter your opponent senseless, taking away all their energy, but if you got careless they could still beat you!  This annoyed in the single-player game, but it was a real leveller in two-player games, and on more than one occasion I would get cocky and toy with my brother, only for him to grab me, throw me and pin me for the ultimate humiliation!

The Willow Pattern Adventure

This was the first game Jamie ever bought with his own money.  I suspect it was the oversized and different packaging that appealed... it probably looked like you were getting a lot for your money, what with Willow Pattern (as it said on the box) being a budget game.

I want that huge diamond, but I don't fancy scrapping with that fat lad to get it!
He played it a lot.  It was probably a good game for a young un to play and enjoy.  It's quite simplistic, as were many similar games of the time.  The object is to roam around the palace gardens in an attempt to find your way in, then make off with your love, the Princess, whilst avoiding her father.  Naturally this isn't easy, with the palace guards proving a formidable enemy.

It always used to annoy me when I found my way blocked by a guard and I had no sword.  It took me ages to realise that if you could lure a guard into throwing his sword and then get out of its way, the sword would drop to the ground and you could pick it up.  Once armed with that knowledge I could progress fairly well, and games lasted a decent length of time.

The path to true love never does run smooth!
Willow Pattern was never a great game, but this was a popular genre in its time, and this was a pretty classic example of an early budget game.    It appealed to me until games got more sophisticated, but Jamie really loved it, so it will always be a special game for me.


I will, to some degree, feel bad about Bounder until my dying day.  Why, you may ask?  It was a great game, after all.  Well, here's the thing...

It was Jamie's birthday, and he'd been given some money as a present.  I was going into Newcastle that weekend, and he asked if I would buy him a game with his birthday money.  Naturally, I told him I would... after all, I would stand to benefit from this, too.

And so it was that I was entrusted with his ten pounds, and the task of returning home with... The Eidolon.

It's always nice to know you have fans...
I was quite excited about that.  After all, it had received a massive Gold Medal from ZZAP! 64, and it looked amazing.  The prospect of fighting those giant dragons was very appealing indeed.

And yet, when I stood in WH Smiths with the game box in my hand, something didn't feel right.  I'd been looking at all the games, and for some reason I'd found myself drawn towards a game called Bounder.  It was a much more unassuming package, coming in a box which was half the size of The Eidolon's case, and with much less flashy artwork.

It had, though, also received a Gold Medal from ZZAP! 64.  What's more, it had a second game on the other side of the tape!  Surely that would be a better use of his birthday money?  With that rational thinking, I went against my brother's wishes and bought him Bounder with his birthday money.  I made my way home, and handed it over.

It was probably half an hour before he stopped crying.

Not as many questions as I faced when I came home with the wrong game...
To be fair, he was only seven years old.  Even after explaining the "two games for the price of one" aspect, he wasn't remotely appeased.  He wanted the game with the dragons.  I don't think he ever got to play it.

Personally, I loved Bounder right from the off.  What a horrible shit.  He grew to enjoy it, but I don't think he ever really got over the fact that it wasn't The Eidolon.  And I don't think either of us played Metabolis, the "B-side", to any degree.  Oh well, you live and learn.  I've never done that with anyone's money again.

From these early beginnings, Jamie went on to be quite a gamer.  I'd always considered myself good at games, but he would routinely thrash me.  On the Megadrive, we played the very first FIFA International Soccer on Christmas Day.  It was a tense, well-fought battle, which remained goalless until the last kick of the game, whereupon he scored with a screamer from outside the box.  On the Saturn, I would cane the brilliant Sega Rally, only to be crestfallen on my returns home from work to find my high-score table filled with his initials.

Jamie died as a result of epilepsy, a condition that can be tied to video games.  We'll never know if games triggered his attacks, or if it was just one of those things, but his is a very sad loss that may have been avoidable.  To that end, I intend to dedicate this book to him when it's finished, and I'm also giving serious consideration as to what might be involved in donating part of any proceeds to an epilepsy charity.  It's certainly something I've started looking into.

This post in memory of Jamie Neil Morrison: March 2nd 1979 - November 10th 2005.