Everyone's a Wally - Another classic ZX Spectrum review by Florinthedwarf

It's true - have you seen who is our Prime Minister?
There was a time, a very long time ago, that when you bought a computer game you would sometimes get a freebee. I mean, if you managed to finish JetSet Willy for example, you could win a helicopter flight - unbelievable! Other games came with a voucher to claim a free game, some had posters, stickers, postcards, badges - it was all out there and hoping that that little something would make you want to part with your hard earned cash.

What did Mikro Gen think of when it came to marketing Everyone's a Wally? 'Badge?' 'Nah!' 'Stickers?' 'Pfft, naah!' 'How about an actual, full length song to accompany it?' 'We can chuck it on the other side of the tape!' 'Excellent! Let's do it! Anyone got Mike Berry's phone number? I hear he's not busy these days.' And the rest is history. Was the song good enough a pull to get people to buy the game? Have a listen for yourself here though I would guess it was the preceding game Pyjamarama but you never know. Each to their own, and all that.

You couldn't leave a baby to crawl on the floor these days. You could get away with so much more in the eighties. I miss them. 

Aside from the merry little ditty in this package, there was also a game to be played. Fans of the Wally's previous adventures would have very keen to pick this one up, and no doubt they would have spent many hours, days and weeks trying to crack this. Though a similar setup to Pyjamarama, this time it was bigger, more complex and had a hell of a lot more puzzles to work out. With five controllable characters and all with their own individual specialist skills, this was going to be an epic quest to complete. Also, having five controllable characters was something of a first for the genre, and possibly a first for a Speccy game (though I'd need to look that up), something rarely seen and quite striking for the time. Exciting but then hit with the reality of 'Damn! I've got to control five characters?? Argh!' - but exciting nonetheless.

So, what are you meant to do with all these characters? Well, this is where everyone has to work together using their skills to complete tasks set around the town so the whole gang get paid. The characters are as follows:

Wally - The main character who is a builder and handyman by trade

Wilma - Wally's wife and a post office worker

Tom - The Punk of the group but also a bit of a mechanic, tinkering with engines, oil and the suchlike.

Dick - A wooly-hatted plumber. Au fait with a plunger but also a wrench, should that come in handy for any reason.

Harry - A hippie electrician which is convenient as he constantly looks wired.

You'll also find baby Herbert (who would go on to star in his own game Herbert's Dummy Run next) who belongs to Wally and Wilma though as you spy him randomly crawling around the streets, you'll find he is an energy-sapper and is to be avoided. So cute though like babies in real life, will suck the life out of you and leave you exhausted. The lovely things.

Wilma, Wally, Tom, Dick and Harry. Not sure who that guy on top of the fountain is though.

You start off in front of a fountain which runs water very nicely for a few brief seconds and then stops. This is the chance for you, if you want to, choose which character you want to start the game with. Each character has a number allocated to them which you must press to take control of them - you have to be quick though as after a couple of seconds, the characters go about their business and walk off in opposite directions. If you are a little slow on the uptake, you will control Wally as he is the default character, which is no bad thing I guess. As you make your way left or right, you'll find there are many rooms and buildings for you to explore and investigate. From petrol stations, shops, telephone boxes (remember those?), a zoo, a sewer - I could go on but then I could be here a while so I'll leave you guys to it.

Also around the town, you'll find plenty of items to collect and just like Pyjamarama before it, some of these will be useless but others are essential to progress in the game. Some things you'll find will need fixing, some will need combining with others to make them work. For the ones that do need fixing, it's down to you to work out who is best qualified to take the job on. I mean, could you imagine a hippie trying to build a wall? Forget it! Could you imagine a bricky trying to fix an electricity pylon? I wouldn't bet money on it! Or indeed want to be anywhere near it when he jams his hand into it. Ouch.

You really shouldn't eat food off the floor you know.....wow is that a £1 note? Is this the eighties or something? Oh yeah - it is.

Looks wise we have the usual but great Mikro-Gen fare with very large colourful sprites, great detail and plenty of colour clash but that does it matter does it? Of course not! That's not just part of the the Speccy charm but also part of that Mikro-Gen charm. You know exactly what you're looking at, what you're picking up and where you're going so what more could you ask for? Nothing, I say. Sound again is limited with just the tap-tap as you shuffle your feet along the ground but it doesn't really need any more than that. You have a nice little beeper tune at the beginning to warm you up before you get on your way and that's all you need, really.

That's a very happy looking shark. Surprising considering he's out the water.

Walking around town, taking it in turns to play as each character and completing various work tasks may sound easy (yeah, right) but of course there are things out there trying to hamper your quest. We've talked about little Herbert crawling around the screen who needs to be avoided but you'll also find one of his toys bouncing around the streets which will drain your energy. Does everything he touch turn toxic? Other things you'll be best to evade are the naked flame you'll found outside the petrol station (yeah, sounds safe out there doesn't it?), other random moving items, such as books which you'll find flying around inside some buildings,  wayward lightning bolts, an angry monkey's banana (yes, you read that right) and a shark or two.

Yes, you also read the last one right. You'll find our sharkey friend in a couple of places, namely in the sewer but also should you try and get to a place where you're not carrying the right item, and possibly with the wrong character, you'll fall into his corridor of doom; the ground disappears as you plummet down into his lair (which always scared the hell out of me as a kid) and the have to Daley Thompson your way out of there. By that I mean of course having to waggle your joystick left and right (or hit those keys) until you manage to escape his grasp. Or not. Argh!

Hey Dick! Come back here! I think you didn't quite extinguish that cigarette you decided to drop outside a PETROL STATION! Pfft. The stupidity of some people astounds me.

The area is vast with a lot of places to explore - every building can be entered which just adds to the game's expanse. The underground section, the road to nowhere (as I like to call it) where the further you go along the further you have to travel back, the Asteroids game in the phone box...this is a big, big game and probably the most adventurous of Wally's adventures. Each character will wander off doing their own thing throughout the game including picking up and swapping items around the place which you could argue is both positive and negative. On the plus side, you could look at it and think 'Wow! This game is amazing! These characters have a life of their own. The AI here is like nothing I've seen before. Hats off to those awesome programmers!'

On the negative side however, you may think 'For goodness sake! I knew Tom had those jump leads to start with. Where the hell has he dumped them now when I need them! Argh! I could murder him! Damn you to hell, TOOMMMMMM!!!!'. Personally, I think if you go down the route of the former, you may find yourself having more fun and loving the game even more, rather than going down the route of having a nervous breakdown.

If you need to know where another character is, or indeed if you would like to swap to that character when they're on screen, they you have to select their allocated number on the keyboard. Number '1' will get you Wally, '2' will get you WIILLLMMMAAAA, '3' will get you Tom, '4' will get you Dick and finally '5' will get you Harry. Should you not be in the same room as the character you've selected, the game will tell you where they are currently located. Though, let's remember that they don't stay still for very long. 

Nothing like a quick game of Asteroids whilst in you're in a phone box. Much safer than calling some of those phone numbers you find in there.

I guess you may want some tips?  No, I'm not telling... ah ok then I will, as you asked nicely (you'd better had). Firstly, the Asteroids game in the phonebox - yes, lots of fun but also very helpful in helping you progress. You'll notice the asteroids in the game have been replaced by lightning bolts - if you've paid attention to an certain erection (grow up) in the street, you'll find the bolts have a familiar look to them. Needless to say, destroy these bad guys and you may find your path to the top of the electricity pylon a little less deadly. Just make sure you've got the right insulator to fix it. 

You call this a zoo? It's only got one monkey in it! And someone's left a wrench in here. Health and safety, people! This isn't the eighties....oh, hang on.

Secondly, you may find yourself plummeting to the gates of hell unexpectedly (as in, you'll have to run away from a shark as explained earlier); you may find yourself thinking why - well, it's because you don't have the right item on your person, or you're the wrong person, trying to do that particular job. Confused? Well, that's what I was hoping for. What I mean is, um, ok - let me give you an example. Remember that lovely fountain you see at the beginning of the game? You know when you jump to the top and end up falling into the realms of Hades? (Yes, I mean the shark again) Well, it's because you haven't got the right tool to fix it (ok, it's the monkey wrench) and because you decided to jump up there as Wally rather than........someone else! (that you can find out for yourself). 

Is that a baby manning the door of a cake shop? Surely you must do some kind of training before you can do a job like that.

Personally, I have very fond memories of Everyone's a Wally; from watching my dad play it, staring in awe of the loading screen, finally being old enough to play it myself, to trying to get them damn thing to load. Mikro Gen and their speed loaders had a lot to answer for. When you could get it to load, it was a delight. A massive game with plenty to do, puzzles to get you scratching your head, heart attack-inducing scenarios (shark), in-games to play if you get stuck and want to do something else (I'll never work out how to fix that hook) and just that overall feeling it gives you as you meander around town looking for things to do.

Finally working out some of the puzzles is very satisfying given that it will take a lot of effort and playing around until you find the right items and combinations. The games will require a lot of patience and will test your resolve but you have to admire its majesty - this was a groundbreaking Speccy game and up there with the finest for the platform. There was a remake in the works a couple of years back but that project seems to have disappeared which is a shame but the good news is, the original is still around and available for you to play.

So, if you fancy a new challenge (should you have not played it before) or want to rekindle a old challenge and you've got a lot of time to kill (I mean, you probably have at the moment, let's be honest!) it's time to get your Speccy out, grab a copy of Everyone's a Wally and play it. Just make sure you've a decent tape recorder.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter if you like @florinthedwarf

Right, I'm off to go and see if I can get that my garden fountain fixed. Anyone know a good plumber?

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