Xeroxmorphs in Dittoland: guilty feet have got no rhythm

The Sword and the Rose is a curio bazaar conundrum Codemasters slipped under the radar in 1990. A game so derivative even the title is stolen property. Not from the cloned game in question mind you, but a 1953 Disney family adventure movie.

Some consolation I suppose that the gamers aren’t the only ones having a knightmare.

Quite possibly it was purposely withheld from submission for appraisal knowing it would be mercilessly wedgied and Chinese arm-burned into oblivion by the reputable Amiga magazine fraternity.

Duly, Raze, the only British magazine to have reviewed it, contradict themselves within the space of two lines and award the Amiga version scores of both 87% and 78% in the same half page ‘analysis’. The Atari ST version fared slightly worse with duplicate scores of 85% and 74%, while the non-existent DOS version only warranted a single score of 75%. Fail words me… sentence structure too!

Your Sinclair graded the 90 screen £2.99 Speccy version 71% (issue 52, April 1990) calling it “quite a giggle”, “niftily programmed and very jolly to play – perfect cheapie fare”. The C64 incarnation doesn’t appear to have been reviewed in a language I can read without translation.

Mr Clumsy works the graveyard shift in the Speccy-tacular Sinclair version.

Perhaps the idea was to publish The Sword and the Rose sans the typical fanfare in the fleeting hope that people would buy it based on nothing more than its similarity to a certain Capcom coin-op franchise starring a cast of goblins, ghosts and ghouls. Many people did buy games solely because the box was nicely decorated, so it wasn’t a terrible plan assuming you’ve already engaged damage limitation mode expecting your work to be lambasted by the critics.

Codemasters were so determined to avert your attention from the game in hand that you’re harassed by full screen, unskippable spam promoting other titles before you’ve even hit fire to play. Subtlety never was the Darling’s forte.

Whatever the reason for it not being widely reviewed, the repercussions are clear; it remains an obscure title posing no threat to its unwitting mentor. This is likely why Capcom deemed it unworthy of the expense of any legal action, if they were aware of the game at all that is.

Over on planet 8-bit it was known as Prince Clumsy, the name of a minor character plucked from The Oliver Twins’ Dizzy universe. The accident prone prince is the heir to the throne of Keldor, wields a bow and arrow and intends to ban bananas when he becomes king so he can’t slip on the skins. Well why not? It makes about as much sense as constructing a super-sized Mexican baby gate! 😉

Sinking lower than gallows humour, it’s the Commodore 64 version.

As with the rebranded £6.99 Amiga version, they’re all ridiculously short, even for budget titles. Your princessly inamorata has been captured by her sister for reasons best known to herself, and as the hero lead, of course rescuing the distressed damsel headlines your to-do list. Dial-a-plot was engaged at the time so this is all we have to work with folks, sorry.

You agilely dash around the grounds and innards of an anonymous castle jumping split-leggedly whilst sporting a suit of armour, tooled up with a range of medieval style weapons… an axe, lance, fireball and so on… a la Sir Arthur strangely enough. Ironically, the further you advance into the game, the less effective these weapons become at inflicting damage so are best ignored.

Spectral enemies of the graveyard variety including Dracula (who only has one word in his vocabulary: “blood”), the grim reaper, ghosts, gargoyles, and skeletons respawn ad infinitum – often right on top of you! – so hanging around to shish kebab them on your lance is totally futile. As is collecting most of the power-downs that litter your surroundings, morph into a skull and crossbones on contact and deplete your energy.

The upshot, your only option is to simply race through the infuriating flick-screen scrolling levels as fast as humanly possible without dawdling to admire the scenery, as pretty as the ‘dead’ engraved headstones may be. Hey, at least this is helpfully delineated in plain-speaking English. How else would you distinguish them from the live burials otherwise?

Should you sustain damage, it detracts from your energy bar – one thing the developers didn’t swipe from Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins. In Capcom’s game you’re dead after two hits. You lose your armour absorbing the first and expire on the second.

The graphics are quite nicely drawn and are sufficiently well animated for an early budget title, whereas the sound effects are largely stock audio library fare with some sampled pilferage from Streets of Rage thrown in to boost the production value.

Level design is nothing to write home about, and even that isn’t original having been borrowed from the castle stages of Palace Software’s 1986 C64 title, Cauldron II.

It’s not entirely awful to be fair, only extremely brief and primitive. Nevertheless, there would have been no logical reason to choose this over either of the GnG games, not even to save your precious pocket money.

With no more than five and a half minutes of game play on offer, it would have cost you 2.12 pence per second, making the seaside arcades look like good value for money. While that doesn’t seem like much today, add inflation to the bottom line and you could easily buy a tropical island and still have spare change for a Mach I fighter jet for the journey home.

Don’t be, really it’s fine.

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