Seeing as I'm writing this on Budget Day, I thought, "why not start off with something topical?". And what could be more topical at the moment than the NHS? Understaffed, overworked, with budget cuts imposing more and more restrictions on the embattled legions of hard-working staff, it's a subject that's close to our hearts.
Simon Pick's Mad Nurse, when played today, seems to reflect this so well that if it had been released by Code Masters (as were), it might well have been called Trainee Nurse Simulator!
Putting the player in the shoes of trainee nurse Brenda Bumwash, the game throws you into a nightmarish hospital ward, built over three storeys which are interconnected by an open lift shaft. The only patients in this hospital ward are some kind of super-babies, who are able to crawl and jump out of cots right from birth.
It's no wonder that poor Brenda is mad, although I'm not sure exactly what kind of "mad" the title refers to. She's obviously not insane, as she spends all her time trying to save these babies from electrocuting themselves, poisoning themselves or falling to a spectacular doom down that aforementioned lift shaft. No, she must be "mad"as in furious, due to the fact she's left to cope with this lot on her own.
Naturally, Brenda can only keep so many plates spinning and some of the babies come a cropper (with a horribly strangled sampled scream, to further wound poor Brenda). Once three babies have met with an untimely end, Brenda is out on her ear and the next trainee on the conveyor belt is shipped in to replace her.
OK, taken at face value, Mad Nurse is pretty horrible. You have to remember, though, that this was written at a time where such things were looked on a lot more innocently (who can forget Nintendo's "Fire" Game & Watch, for instance?). Taken as a daft game, it provides a fair bit of frantic fun for a while as you dash between the levels, trying desperately to get all the errant nippers back to their beds.
Everyone had to start somewhere, and from this game, Simon Pick went on to write some classic C64 arcade conversions, including Nemesis, Shinobi and NARC, along with other great budget releases such as Slimey's Mine and Microrhythm. Hopefully I'll get to ask him about them for the book at some point! Mad Nurse would have been a decent way to spend your £1.99 back in the day, but it does tend to get a bit tiresome after a while. Proof, perhaps, that you play games to get away from work, not to replicate the experience!