This month Children’s BBC celebrated its 30th anniversary, which gave them an excuse to dust off Andi Peters again, and gave me an excuse to rummage in the broom cupboard for the classic CBBC inspired game, Edd the Duck. Edd was, of course, the green-haired aquatic side-kick of Andy Crane (before he went off to do his own game reviews on Bad Influence!) from 1988, and in 1990, at the height of his fame, he starred in this little platform game by Zeppelin.
At first glance, this may seem like just an inferior Rainbow Islands clone with a BBC licence attached, but take another look your protagonist there – a cuddly looking dude with floppy green hair – maybe this game was more influential than we give it credit for…
Anyway, the idea behind the game is that Edd the Duck has been given his own series on BBC1, which for some reason involves him flying (badly) around various bits of Television Centre shooting snowballs at teddy bears, giant bees, umbrellas and space rockets, among other things. Edd has to collect 20 stars in each episode in order to move on to the next; and the director is apparently quite impatient because he only gets four takes in which to do it – a challenge even for an awesome dude like Edd.
You start out, reasonably enough, in the Weather Department, flapping your way around a suitably meteorological backdrop, with scenery that changes from happy suns and sandcastles to snowmen and icicles in a heartbeat. Well, at least the representation of British weather is accurate.
I found three levels of that before moving on to the Special Effects Department to be a bit tedious – although that could be in part due to the inordinate amount of dying and starting over I did. Three levels of Special Effects wasn’t nearly as bad, but then I find rockets and space whales (which the backstory indicates are actually fearsome Arglefrags from Alpha Centauri, one of whom is called Norman) much more interesting than clouds and umbrellas in almost any context.
And then you finally reach the final levels the peak that Edd the Duck has been striving for: the Children’s TV Department! Which is… the same as the weather department but with some props from Play School. Bit of a let down really – although, not as much so as if you have the original version of the game, which takes a leaf from the Jet Set Willy book of coding and leaves a star out of one of the levels, rendering the game impossible to complete. Sigh.
Tedious level design aside, the graphics are on the whole pretty good; nothing ground-breaking, but at least Edd looks like Edd, and the platforms are positioned to maximize the use of colour – especially in the Special Effects Department scenes – without the whole thing ending up in colour clash hell. Although, I did manage to lose Edd behind a snowman at least once.
Playing the game… well , there’s no point hiding it: it’s a lot like Rainbow Islands. Jump aroud, freeze the monsters, collect the stars, rinse and repeat. It does get more difficult as the game progresses, by virtue of the bad guys hanging around in bigger gangs; but once you work out the safest routes and where you can land without being grabbed by the disembodied hand of Wilson the butler, that’s pretty much all there is to it.
Seriously, someone at the BBC signed off on this? (Of course they didn't - they couldn't have got past level 7 even if they'd tried.) My inner grammar dalek just went and exterminated a glove puppet.
Edd the Duck is a great game for a quick retro hit – for screaming fans of Edd the Duck, or anyone wanting something to trigger memories of those happy hours watching Grange Hill instead of doing homework. But anyone more interested in the actual playing of a game, though, should probably stick with Rainbow Islands.
Review by Steve Trower