Molyneux only knows what year it was and Molyneux only knows where my boss got it from but at some point in the nineties, he let me (“providing I could carry it myself”) take his excessively weighty PC round to my own home and nestling there amongst all these other games was The Burps.
The Burps is, give or take a tweak or seven, Ultimate’s Atic Atac remade for DOS by Ovine By Design. It was, even allowing for Wolfenstein and all manner of other things stashed in a small pile of discs, the most exciting find for me. Don’t ask me why but it’d never really occurred to me that, well, you could remake old games. It sounds so stupid, right? If you can make one thing then you can make another, right? But still, when you’ve got this whole universe of untapped possibilities, why would you want to remake a videogame?
Yet there we were and someone had done just that with The Burps.
I often joke that it was all downhill for Ultimate after Jetpac and I still stand by that opinion in the main but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few more actually great games to come, right? And Atic Atac was such a great game, one of a handful of videogames that very early on sold me on videogames as being able to be set somewhere, in a place, not just in some abstract star field or rolling across the terrain of a supposed alien world. That videogames could do this outside of just describing with words the where and how of somewhere. Atic Atac was set in a big old house and I loved that so very much. And at some point around 1993, I discovered someone else who loved that as much as I did.
It’s funny now because obviously we have the internet proper and it’s easy to find someone who gives the same amount of shits (or scarily more because this is the internet and giving a scary amount of shits about inconsequential media is a thing) about a thing as you but I could never run to Compuserve or any number of early connected things. I was poor, my family just scraping by, luxuries like that were well out the window.
It’s not even like it was really my first encounter with a remake, y’know? My mate and I had an Amiga and they weren’t in that short supply. It’s just that, well, it was the first time it really sunk in. There’s people out there who value these old things too. Enough to pour the time and effort into making them run on new machines. The timing helped. 92,93 and things were racing technology wise. It was, in true videogame fashion, all about excitement for the new, the upcoming, the technological leaps we were about to take. Old was out, here comes the filled polygon future. This wasn’t just the novelty of “look, it’s Jet Set Willy running on an Amiga” or something. It was more.
The Burps though? The first time I realised that old games didn’t have to be forgotten in that race. The first time I realised the importance of having these things stick around to be talked about.
And sure, it’s just sort of Atic Atac for DOS when you look at it now but that’s sort of the whole point too. “Just” Atic Atac for DOS is fucking cool.
A fair few years later, I’d stumble upon a remake of Elite’s The Fall Guy by a chap called Gordon King and that’d shift and change my life in ways unexpected but that’s another story.