Wheelie - Riding Motorbikes ZX Spectrum style in a florinthedwarf review!

..but what if it doesn't come back?
If, like me, you're waaaay too scared to go anywhere near a motorbike, let alone get on one, then Wheelie would have been the closest you would have got to experience the thrill of motorbike racing. Also, like me, you would need to be the same age and have owned a Spectrum when I first started playing this game as otherwise the reference will have been lost on you. I'll assume you are and did so we can saddle up, helmet up (on?) jump into those leathers and get choking that throttle. It's time to hit the road and avoid some giant hedgehogs. Yes, giant hedgehogs - nothing wrong with that, is there?

Get out of my way, Roadho.... I mean hedgehog!!
Hedgehogs have been the burden of many a motorist over the decades, getting under your wheels and spreading themselves across the road, though in Wheelie, the tables have turned. Try and run over one of these bad boys and it's you that will be spread over the tarmac. Totally undignified. Where have these giant hedgehogs come from and why are they here? Erm, I don't know. All I can say is Wheelie is one of those games where realism goes out of the window in terms of enemies. Giant hedgehogs are one thing and killer bees are another - who would have thought motorbiking was so dangerous?

You wait so long for a bus sometimes that when it does arrive, you just have to jump over it with your bike.
So what is Wheelie all about? The aim of the game is make it to end of each level and find the Ghost Rider who is waiting for you and then race him back to the start. It all sounds so so simple, though it really, really isn't. There are so many things out there to get you. Not just unnatural things like giant hedgehogs but also natural things such as ice and the everyday worry of running out of petrol. Who'd have thought that a normal thing such as topping up your tank would even come into consideration when you're trying to make your way through a world of fantastical killer creatures trying to survive? Got your gun? Yes. Got food? Yes. Got plenty of water? Yes. Have you popped to Tesco to get some petrol? Yes. Did you use you Clubcard? AAAARRGGHHHHH!!!!! NOOOOOO!!!! These are the things you need to consider, my good people. But of course it's not just just the unnatural and natural things you need to worry about here. You also have to put your bike riding skills to the test, but to be more specific, you need to get your Evel Knievel on! This is where the fun comes in.

There's nothing that's so much fun as jumping over a a bus or a couple of cars - if you can manage it. There is no doubt that you will fall flat on your face for first few hundred times. Getting your speed just right is so tough, then you also have to get the other controls nailed on. It helps to hold 'up' whilst you're plunging to your death... I mean whilst you're gracefully flying over the bus and landing flawlessly like an Olympic ice skater. Ahem. You can of course look at crashing as a fun thing - there are so many ways to crash in Wheelie and for that I am grateful for. You have to admire the detail added here, depending on how your crash depends on if you come flying off your bike completely and just simply pranging yourself (usually against a wall) in which you'll still be clinging onto your handlebars.  I like to play the game of how many different variants of 'crash' I can get out of one game. The pranging is fine as you bounce softly against the wall and then back into your seat but imagine the fun and frolics as you speed towards the bus, gathering momentum as you go, telling yourself 'this time.. this time'. You hit the ramp, float like a butterfly, you feel the wind flow through your hair (which you really shouldn't if you're wearing a helmet), the feeling is immense, you feel ecstatic, the greatest rush in the world....and then BAM! You land on top of the bus, your hands break free and there you go, head over heels, you fall in front of your bike and it rams into your body as you make your descent to the ground...which ironically stings like a bee. A killer bee. Of course, there are other spectactular ways to crash, even just hitting a little bump in the road can you lead to a spectacular crash as you fly through the air do a full 360 and land on your back. Great stuff.

I can flyyyyyyy- ouch!
Once you've finished playing around with buses, bumps and speeding down hills trying to get as many bones broken as possible, why not try and get on with the game? Across Wheelie's green landscape you'll find hills, bumps and flying tyres (which are collectable and give you more points), which you need to navigate to make it to the end of each level. You really will need to master those jumps over various vehicles or you'll stand no chance. Each level has a name and it relates to what kind of enemy has been added to make your job harder. You start off on 'The Bouncing Hedgehogs' which feature our giant spiky friends I mentioned earlier. These little (well, pretty big) critters move slowly up and down on the road and require you to carefully plan your approach in how you can get underneath them without getting squashed. You'll find as you increase your speed when moving slowly, your character will pull a wheelie as you accelerate which looks cool obviously, but if you're under a giant hedgehog at the time, can prove costly and end up with your front wheel coming into contact with said hedgehog and then you're down one life, my friend. This makes this part of the game very tricky indeed but not impossible - some swift manoeuvring will get you past safely, it just takes practice.

So, you're the ghost rider eh? You look nothing like Nicolas Cage. Imposter!

When you've managed to negotiate your path around, or indeed under any hedgehogs you need to pass, you'll find other hazards in your way. The one you'll see frequently is ice, which is nicely shown in the game as the word 'ICE' along the road. Be consistent with your speed here and you'll be fine - decide to increase your speed whilst travelling over it and then you'll have another way of crashing to add to your list as you spin wildly and slide across the floor. Hills are another where your speed is key; sure it's fine if you travel at a respectable speed but turn thar throttle whist you're heading down one and then it's time to fall and have your bike fall onto your back. Probably one of the better, more painful looking crashes in the game and well worth checking out. Should you be lucky enough to make it to the end of the level you'll find the Ghost Rider. When meet said rider, it's a one-on-one race back to the start of the level. Here is where it gets slightly unfair; whilst you have to make your way back, avoiding ice, jumping over cars and buses and also trying not to run out of fuel, Mr Ghost Rider makes light work of the course by simply riding through the middle of it - buses n' all. Cheat. But by now you would have mastered things, yeah? No? Well, time to keep practising! Beat the rider back to the start and you're onto the next level. The next level and subsequent will have a similar look and feel but with the added challenge of different, and in some cases, even more nasties to avoid. Level names include 'The Wily Wallabies', 'The Killer Bees' which are quite self explanatory but you will also have levels called 'Spring and Sting', 'All That Bounces' along with 'Nightmare Park' and 'Abandon All Hope'. I wonder what they're like?

Wheelie is a nice game to look at with sharp graphics and nice animation. Sound is a bit limited and could possibly give you a headache if you listen to it too loud but it does the job. Plenty of longevity is to be had here as it's a very challenging game but also very well done. Microshpere would go on to release Skool Daze the year after Wheelie was released so you're in very good company here.

Wheelie for me, brings a lot of memories back as my dad was a biker and he used to enjoy a bit of Wheelie ; he probably got up to a lot of things on the real road as he did in the game.. though I hope he never came across a giant headgehog. Hopefully. Dad? Can you please clarify this?

Right, enough talk. Time to jump on the steel horse, fill 'er up and then head over to Nightmare Park....or 'work' as it's more commonly known. Or should that be 'Abandon All Hope'?

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