Edd: The Duckumentory – a Zeppelin Eddstravaganza!

Andi Peters/Andy Crane and Edd the Duck were at one time the nation’s favourite kazoo-voiced, mohican punk, mallard-human comedy double act sensation, beating all the other valiant contenders on the bill webbed feet down. They made Keith Harris and Orville, and Rod Hull and his emu look like silly kid’s teatime entertainment, while Sesame Street’s Big Bird wasn’t even in the same ball pond.

“There hadn’t been anything like it before. To pull together the whole Children’s BBC sequence and give live continuity to it was massive.”

“We had no idea how successful it would be. Millions of people loved him…”

Andy Crane was reunited with Edd The Duck on BBC Breakfast and it was oddly heart-warming

Petty-minded re-duck-tionists have over the years sought to denigrate Edd as a mere “green-haired hand puppet” brought to life by Christina Mackay-Robinson (now Christina Brown) who was an assistant producer employed by the BBC at the time. They seem to be under the misguided illusion that but for someone’s hand stuffed up his backside he’d possess no joie de vivre, no soul or spirit of his own. How the dcuk would a stuffed plush toy come to be a devoted Kylie and Blackburn Rovers fan? Think about it. Too many lunatics, not enough asylums! I don’t know how else to explain it.

Quizzed by journalist Benji Wilson on what it was like to spend so much time talking to an ‘inanimate’ object, Andi quite justifiably became defensive.

“You say inanimate – he had a personality. Sorry, he has a personality – Edd hasn’t died. And genuinely he would ‘say’ things and I would know what he had just said to me. It’s honestly some of the best years of my television life I spent in that Broom Cupboard. We used to just laugh a lot, Edd and I.”

– ‘Some of my best years were spent with Edd the Duck

Edd made his debut appearance in 1988, initially alongside Andy Crane on the Children’s BBC ‘interstitial continuity programme’ affectionately referred to as The Broom Cupboard, because that’s precisely where the filming appeared to be taking place. With only three alternative channels with which to compete back then, the teatime target audience simultaneously tuning in to watch the live show could easily surge to 12 million viewers!

“Edd The Duck evolved because Christina, who used to do Edd, had found him on a market stall in Hong Kong. But when he first appeared, he didn’t quack, and he didn’t have green hair. When he first appeared, I think he was in pin-stripe blue dungarees. Which disappeared quickly! He went through quite a considerable makeover over the years, and quite rightly he started to quack eventually. He got his punk haircut from a Blue Peter makeover…”

The Den of Geek interview: Andy Crane

From the cramped confinement of this humble hideaway, Andy, Andi, or a special guest host would introduce the upcoming shows in the programming schedule, interview the pop culture celebs of the day, or pass the time rolfing comedy skits between themselves. The human half of the equation would also push the buttons on the BBC TV Centre continuity suite desk that would trigger the commencement of the next cartoon, Neighbours, Blue Peter, Newsround or whatever… and sometimes it even went to plan!

 

Phillip Schofield demonstrates the Beeb’s cutting edge TV production technology

“For the first link the previous continuity announcer would be sitting there saying, ‘And don’t forget on BBC Two tonight, it’s Call My Bluff.’ There’d be one trail, they’d stand up, I’d sit down, plug in, switch the camera on and go, ‘Good afternoon, Welcome to Children’s BBC.’ There was no production team – it was just me and Edd.”

“What the Broom Cupboard did was bring an intimacy between the presenter and the viewer. It was one camera, no bells and whistles, no graphics, just the presenter talking to the audience at home.”

– Andi Peters, one half of The Broom Cupboard (1989 – 1993). ‘Some of my best years were spent with Edd the Duck

Proceedings would regularly be interrupted by the disembodied, silver service attired arm of an otherwise unseen mysterious co-star known as Wilson the Butler. Straight from Buckingham Palace, he was classically trained, representing Edd’s abiding arch nemesis, and the instigator of many an anarchic tussle. Sometimes the spats became so raucous that Edd (and his incessantly chattering, motor-mouthed beak) would have to be clamped to the desk by the firm hand of the adjudicating co-host until his steaming blood dropped back below boiling point. It’s truly staggering that such depraved violence was allowed to be shown on uncensored, pre-watershed TV!

“I suspect Wilson The Butler happened because one day Mark Wilson, who was the producer on Children’s BBC, reached in one day and hit the duck. I can’t remember. Or he handed me something, and I would have said “ah, thank you Wilson”. Because his name was Mark Wilson. And from that a character is born.”

The Den of Geek interview: Andy Crane

Edd’s career may have hatched inside a makeshift hovel starring alongside a couple of BBC marionettes, yet he’d only just begun feathering his nest. Long before becoming a fully-fledged international Superduck, he was clearly destined to soar far above the likes of ordinary TV mascots.

‘Showbiz Edd’ went on to take centre stage in several pantomimes and short films, headlined his own BBC comic book cartoon strip, as well as being parodied in the British weekly comic, Toxic! published by Apocalypse Ltd as a rival to 2000AD. Being unable to speak English didn’t hold him back one iota – following a crash course in warbling from Liverpudlian songstress, Sonia, Edd learnt to rap and wasted no time in releasing his own radically unique single, ‘Awesome Dood!‘ in 1990.

 

“Edd is great. What I love about him is that he can say things you wouldn’t dare to. Edd was a joy to work with.”

Simon Parkin, An Unofficial History of Children’s BBC Presentation

In 1991 Edd the Entrepreneur forged ahead into the refreshments market creating a brand of milkshakes that were promoted in The Dandy. Where most celebrity drakes would be content to rest on their laurels, the following year, the 6 year old public-spirited ambassador became the official UK Olympic team mascot for the Barcelona Olympics. Before, during and afterwards Edd endorsed everything from bubble-bath, lunch boxes, knitting patterns, novelty watches, and illustrated novels to puppets of all things… puppets?

 

 

 

 

 

Far more eggciting than any of this for us gamers, however, Edd was pixelised for posterity in not one, but two hi-octane action platform computer games developed and published by Zeppelin. Both of the 16-bit versions were coded by Ian Copeland and illustrated by David Taylor, whilst the development teams responsible for the remainder played musical chairs somewhat.

Eddbow Islands (as no-one other than myself likes to refer to it) was released first for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 in 1990, followed by the deliciously se-duck-tive Amiga and Atari ST dishes in 1991. As my ever so chucklesome little gag would suggest, it was heavily inspired by Taito’s eminently revered coin-op arcade game, Rainbow Islands. Wondering how the two polar opposites became fused I asked David what he could remember about the design process.

“Rainbow Islands was the current favourite around the office at the time. And setting the game in a BBC ‘studio’ made sense.”

“I suspect that we paid er, ‘homage’ to Rainbow Islands because it was the coin-op conversion of the moment (Though personally I always preferred Bubble Bobble). Still, at least Edd the Duck was better reviewed than Edd the Duck 2…”

Much to the disgruntlement of the critics, Edd’s first 16-bit video game outing was published under Zeppelin’s newly rebadged, full price ‘Impulze’ label at a time when the game it spoofed had already been made available as a budget re-release. They weren’t so much concerned with whether the box said ‘Cognito’, ‘Impulze’ or ‘Impulse’ on the front, only that a clone of a game that had already been knocking around the amusement arcades for several years would cost their readers £24.99.

Playing as the unflappable bird himself, the game takes place against the backdrop of a pasquinade BBC Studios. Your goal on each of the nine levels (known here as episodes so as not to shatter the illusion), split across three departments – weather, special effects, and children’s TV – is to reach the apex of the vertically scrolling environment having collected the 20 stars required to progress to the next area and complete the production shoot. Filming is wrapped up upon collecting the final star per episode, at which point you’re congratulated with a rhyming couplet reminiscent of Edd’s ‘Awesome Dood’ classic hit single. A glass of Ducks Fizz wouldn’t have gone amiss!

 

Nevertheless, should filming not go to plan, you can expect to be harangued by your exasperated director armed with a bellowing megaphone.

Arrive at the episode’s terminus a star short of a cabaret (old chum) and you’re forced to descend back down to retrace your steps, although it’s worth flailing a few times if only to watch Edd attempt in vain to flap his way out of trouble with his ineffectual little wings. Sorry, that came out a bit schadenfreudey – what I mean is, David made a splendid job of animating your admirable toil, Sir Edd. Any chance I can have my keyboard back now? I’ll behave myself from now on, I promise.

In some of the earlier warm-up episodes the difficulty curve allows for several extraneous stars to populate the environment so as not to punish you for failing to gather each and every last one, yet this leniency is soon tightened as the challenge ramps up and you make some headway towards the final stage. On the special effects levels stars form part of the backdrop as well as the foreground ensuring you’re that little bit more disorientated with sensory overload. If that strikes you as fowl play, may I suggest winging it by bounding into all of them just in case.

Rather than rainbows you fire limited range, non-upgradable snowballs to temporarily freeze enemies. Given the kid-friendly target audience, killing is definitely off the menu. As such, opponents quickly defrost without warning, once more becoming an active threat, forcing you to keep waddling onward at all times. As the difficulty level escalates, the stunned enemies shake off their catatonia more swiftly, coercing you into a frantic scramble for the ‘goal in’, much like its forebear. Note that this snowball weapon mechanic would be recycled a year later in 1992 when Zeppelin released Santa’s Xmas Caper for the Amiga. Hot topic of the day: Is it still plagiarism if you ‘borrow’ from your own portfolio? Discuss.

Edd’s controls are floaty and yet somehow simultaneously as klutzely stiff as stirring rapidly setting fudge. Your jumping arc is ‘one size fits all’ in that you have no jurisdiction over its range or angle, and in the Amiga version you’re incapable of manoeuvring mid-jump. The Amstrad edition (coded by Brian Beuken and featuring a toga-clad Edd) is certainly the worst in terms of butterfingered, sludgy controls and jerky scrolling, though at least you have the game-changing benefit of aerial flexibility, as in the Spectrum incarnation by the same programmer. Unique to the Amstrad version, however, the main menu screen and in-game playfield employs the ‘mixed mode technique’ to allow for separate segments of the display to be presented at different resolutions. In contrast to the Spectrum’s extended periods of eerie silence, title screen music and a limited range of in-game jingles are evident, along with a menagerie of jarring sound effects, whereas the latter is all you’ll hear if you’re playing Edd on a Speccy. Brian is still employed in the industry, only now he’s a lecturer teaching others how to code games at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.

A single tune plays throughout the Amiga experience composed by Adam Gilmore. In short bursts it’s pleasantly catchy and hummable, a kind of amiable nursery rhyme jingle blended with an undercurrent of arcadey frenetic peril. Unfortunately the chipper melody loops incessantly and once it climbs inside your unsuspecting eardrums and sinks its gnashers in, it’s never coming out again. Play it with the sound off or it’ll follow you around for life much like tinnitus. You have been warned!

Already a hard nut to quack, it’s tricky to get a handle on what’s just outside your peripheral vision, making blind leaps of faith a mechanical mainstay, much like Wilson the Butler’s silk gloved hand. In this BBC twist on Rainbow Islands, the notorious Michael Jackson signature glove apparently substitutes for the ‘hurry up ghost’ that maintains the momentum and keeps the coin guzzler guzzling. That and the water, which is noxious in both games, except it only rises in Taito’s, and Edd being a duck really shouldn’t be phased by it at all. On the contrary, collision (with anything that’s not scenery or a star) is sufficient to snuff out one of his four lives (or ‘takes’), immediately transforming every cutesy caricature into a deadly hazard. Speaking of which… know your enemies! Here’s the roll-call:-

Weather department

Amongst the thunderbolts and lightning, snowmen, beaches, buckets and spades, sandcastles, cool shaded suns, icicles, snow-capped platforms and Christmas trees you’ll be badgered by:-

Jack in the no-box teddies
goofy, happy-go-lucky, bespectacled fish
Comic Relief Red Nose Day bees
parachuting umbrellas

Special effects department

In these space themed missions the scenery is burgeoning with sleepy moons, waving astronauts, satellites, rockets, and non-collectable stars. Pester-power is provided courtesy of:-

Clown-shoed walking googly-eyed bananas also sporting Comic Relief red noses (Bobby The Banana?), Arglefrags from Alpha Centauri, and cuddly shuttles possibly inspired by the ‘Jimbo and the Jet-Set’ cartoon.

Children’s TV department

The final series of episodes revolve around kiddy-centric paraphernalia such as alphabet bricks, chocolate bars, badly drawn pictures, ice-cream cones, milkshake sundaes, hot air balloons, and freaky pantomime/circus masks (long before coulrophobia became trendy). Your tormentors in sprogland include:-

Spinny bowtied clown heads, more shiny-happy fish, Comic Relief bees, and stringless yo-yo-ing teddy bears as seen in the earlier episodes.

Emancipating the 180th star from a lifetime of eternal, levitating spin-nation, the game abruptly transitions to a conclusive rhyming ditty informing us that our travail has been a success, Wilson is a happy bunny (boiler?) and the Broom Cupboard is saved.

Developed a year apart (by a variety of coders) and designed for platforms incorporating divergent strengths and weaknesses, the various versions contrast significantly. Analogous to the Spectrum release, there’s no in-game music where the Commodore 64 game is concerned, only sound effects, though – relatively speaking – it does feature intricately detailed, high resolution graphics (by Richard Beston), it controls reasonably well and the scrolling is smooth. You may be interested to know that having left the games industry, Richard became the managing director, creative lead and a tattooist at his own tattoo parlour, Triplesix Studios in Sunderland, where he also supplies his own business with tattoo equipment designed and manufactured by another venture of his, Ego Ink Ltd.

Spectrum fans had to come to terms with the colour clash deficiencies typical of the system, jerky scrolling and a showstopping bug that renders the game uncompleteable unless you deploy a ‘poke’, aka a cheat. Specifically, on episode 7 there are only 19 stars available to collect so advancing to the subsequent level is a technical impossibility given that the flip is made upon snagging the pivotal 20th star.

Critical reception amongst the gaming press was inexplicably all over the dartboard … think drunken Heimdall darts and you’ll get the gist. Bizarrely, the weakest versions received the highest scores, and the better ones some of the lowest, whilst mediocre to dire scores were awarded to what is perhaps the best rendition; the C64.

“It may be a copy of Rainbow Islands but it’s a blimmin’ good one (not quite as good as the original, but very snazzy nonetheless). I just wish it’d been a bit longer, and a bit more it’s own game, but that said it’s a nice little thing, and made me come over all happy and warm inside when I played it.”

83% – Your Sinclair (February 1991)

“Edd The Duck is obviously more appealing to younger Speccy players, although it’s quite hard. The best thing about reviewing the game was the research: an afternoon watching Children’s BBC!”

80% – Crash (Nick, January 1991)

“Question: What looks like Rainbow Islands and is as fast and colourful? The answer is Edd the Duck! The cool dude mallard from Children’s BBC is here in his own game and very good it is too. But then I always have been a sucker for a good platform game. The going is tough but not frustratingly so and with a bit of practice you can get Edd leaping around on the platforms like a gymnast. It’s usually monochrome graphics that are highly detailed, but this game proves that you can use all the colours of the rainbow and still pack in a lot of detail. Buy Edd the Duck now, you’ll be quackers not to.”

85% – Crash (Mark, January 1991)

“Urrghh! Jerky scrolling, appalling colour clash and awful playability make Edd the Duck about as inviting as a punch in the family jewels. Avoid.”

29% – Computer and Video Games, Spectrum version (February 1991)

“Personally I’d prefer him with orange sauce and a couple of new potatoes.”

80% – Commodore Format (September 1993)

“If you’ve got a real urge to ‘become’ your favourite TV duck (as long as it’s not Orville), you can indulge for the princely sum of four quid. The game isn’t that good, though, so here’s a couple of words of warning – be careful.”

72% – Commodore Format (April 1992)

“Edd the Duck is… all right. It lacks that special something which would set it apart from other platform games, for better or worse.”

66% – Commodore Format (February 1991)

“A potentially fun game, Edd’s let down by the mischievous mallard’s limited jumping ability. Edd the Duck will soon end up gathering dust due to lack of playability.”

42% – Commodore Force (October 1993)

“Oh dear. A bit easier than the Amiga game, but just as bad. Why buy a Rainbow Islands clone for a tenner when the real thing’s the same price and far superior into the bargain?”

42% – Computer and Video Games, C64 version (February 1991)

“Edd’s movement is easily controlled, he can be moved to the left or right as he jumps or falls…”

“Taken on its own merits though, it’s plenty playable enough. The difficulty level is about right – you won’t finish the game in the first five minutes, but you’ll find that there’s enough progression to keep you at it. “

“Ed relies heavily on a tried game formula, but doesn’t altogether pull it off.”

75% – Amstrad Action (May 1991)

 

“The game bears an inexplicably uncanny resemblance to Rainbow Islands by Ocean, except that your rainbows are replaced by snowballs. Gameplay, however, is quite good and I can see this appealing to the younger ST user. Let the kids play it before you buy it.”

73% – ST Format (February 1991)

“Your granny might buy you one.”

33% – Amiga Power (May 1991)

“The game attempts to be Rainbow Islands without the rainbows, and although graphically it’s fine (if completely unspectacular), the playability is reduced to singular frustration by the fact that Edd cannot be moved while he’s jumping causing many an undignified death. Also, the idea of only temporarily freezing your opponents (rather than blasting them to oblivion) simply doesn’t work as they have a tendency to thaw out at just the wrong time (once again resulting in a hideous death). For 25 notes, Edd the Duck is a complete joke – and I’m not laughing.”

42% – Computer and Video Games, Amiga version (February, 1991)

“As Rainbow Islands rip-offs go, this must be one of the worst. The limited platform action couldn’t interest a half-wit, and I’d be very surprised if anyone plays it for longer than an hour or so.”

26% – Amiga Action (June, 1992)

Of course all these opinions pale into insignificance next to those of Andy and Andi, so I made it my mission to seek out their verdict of Edd’s digital dalliance with eponymous gaming. In a shocking jaw-hits-floor revelatory moment, former Bad Influence co-host, Andy Crane told me, “Unfortunately you force me to admit that not only have I never played an Edd the Duck Amiga game – I have never played any Amiga games at all! That said I do hope your article is a success.”

Illusions shattered, childhood ruined!

Andi Peter’s response was much the same. He confessed to me, “Sadly I never got the chance to play the Edd video games. Spending so much time with an International Celebrity duck was enough…the idea of having to interact with a digital version would have pushed me over the edge.”

Speaking of Bad Influence, Andy’s co-host Violet Berlin must surely have invested some quality Edd-hours over the years? I checked in with her to find out… oh, and also to talk about cake: “Disappointing to tell I didn’t even remember there were Edd the Duck games, let alone play them. Sorry to leave you with an icing-less cake. :(”

Bashed mercilessly into duck pate by critics and gamers alike, 27 years on people still remember Edd like it was yesterday. ‘Fondly’ would be over-egging the trip down memory lane. Nevertheless, the game has undergone a bit of a retro resurgence of late amongst some of the most popular old-school game-streaming YouTubers, who gravitate towards the misfires as much as the classics, if only to titter at one of the era’s most noteworthy ‘what were they thinking?’ moments. To continue your education in duckology you may like to peruse the coverage from Kim Justice (also revisited on one of her recent live gaming streams), Eurogamer’s Ian Higton, ChinnyVision, and our very own Amigo, Chris Foulds.

Edd is assuredly an acquired taste in all respects, not that this has ever tethered his ability to draw the attention he craves …if not necessarily affection. Still, David takes it all in good spirits, quite rightly savouring the video evidence of having left his mark on this so often ephemeral world.

“Affection is good. But attention is better than obscurity any day of the week. Even when it comes to Edd the Duck!”

Then there are those of us who have over the years become dotingly attached to the off-the-wall​ concept, David’s cartoonishly​ endearing graphics and the nostalgia buttons they push, if not so much to the game itself, which admittedly is so infuriating it would make an ample-maned punk duck go bald!

It’s a crying shame that – and I’ve shed many a tear into my Edd the Duck duvet and pillow set trying to reach some semblance of closure – that had the controls been tightened up, the gameplay evolved somehow, and Edd been given a killer, tweakable weapon of some sort, it could easily have rivalled the cherished Japanese classic it tried so hard to emulate. It’s the missed opportunities in life that haunt you to your dying breath. The case in point being Dick Rowe’s biggest regret; shortly before passing away he went on record to confirm that his was not securing the Edd the Duck license before Zeppelin beat Decca to the punch. Evidently it wasn’t all it was quacked up to be!

Still, that’s what sequels are for; you absorb both the positive and negative feedback, right the wrongs and produce a superior follow-up. Correct? Insofar as it happened, that’s entirely true. In 1993 ‘Edd the Duck 2: Back With a Quack!’ was released as a £9.99 budget title, this time solely for the Amiga seeing as the 8-bit systems were no longer economically viable, and even the Atari ST had lost its mojo. It bears no relation to the first game, Edd or The Broom Cupboard. As I discovered from talking to the graphics artist who worked on both Edd games – David Taylor who now earns a living as an extremely talented, award-winning photographer – there’s a very logical – if not immediately apparent – reason for this.

“I think Edd the Duck (1) must have done reasonably well for Zeppelin (or Impulze, which was a short-lived full price label spin off from Zeppelin) as I seem to recall getting royalties from sales for about a year afterwards. The sequel went out as budget and didn’t do quite so well. Oddly enough the sequel wasn’t supposed to be an Edd game at all. It was originally designed to be the third title in the Blinky series. But Brian Jobling, the owner of Zeppelin, thought it would do better commercially using the Edd licence.”

A morsel of retro gaming trivia to be reckoned with! Edd 2 may have fallen between the quacks and we’d have been none the wiser. BBC license or not, judging by the critic’s lambasting of the first game, I’d imagine the sequel would have been a tough sell. Edd in the Land of Oz Somewhere Over the Rainbow had the novelty factor, the epilogue was perhaps a duck too far!

Edd’s second intrepid venture into the world of gaming is a horizontally scrolling platformer set in Dodge City. Despite the ye olde wild west cowboys and Indians theme and the bullet vending machines, Edd shows up to the gunfight armed only with a limited number of replenishable custard pies, that – as in the first game – stun enemies rather than killing them. That’ll be the ‘universal’ viewing rating at work again. Curse you censorship tyranny! …speaking of which, you may well need a swear bleeper seeing as the ruthless one-hit-kills are back with a vengeance.

Rather than stars, Edd must collect a predetermined number of a medley of different items in order to progress to the next stage. Commencing at the Dodge railway station, ten-gallon cowboy hats are the must-have pickupables of the season. On level two you’re required to scour the station and tracks for gold coins in order to buy a one-way train ticket to Dodgeville. Level three’s explosive goal is to scoop up all the wayward dynamite scattered about the vulture-infested desert town, enabling you to clear the rubble from the entrance of a mine.

Teleporting your way through the slime-ridden bat cavern you happen upon the ultimate video game guardian, the mother’s mother of all end of level bosses: Wilson the Butler’s floor-pounding clenched fist! Rather like the robotic steel fist boss from Turrican it appears to be modelled on, Wilson’s appendage can’t be frozen in custard carbonite like all those feeble foes you’ve encountered thus far, yet will shatter into four silk-gloved shards if you pelt it with enough of the dairy delights. Your reward is a W-branded treasure trove of glittering something-or-others and the promise of “adventures new”.

Whilst Edd 1 was mostly tolerated and even received some enthusiastic praise, the sequel left the critics in stone-cold, almost unanimous disbelief and befuddlement, and some only a shed padlock away from reaching for the pitchfork to drive the poor desecrated duck out of the Beeb’s petting zoo for good. Amiga Format appear to have been playing the loony black sheep of the family to win a bet of some kind. I have no other explanation for their score.

“Visually the game’s fairly attractive with plenty of colour and detail on the backgrounds and main sprites. The real problem is that the gameplay is slow and very bland: mainly just simple platform jumping. Controlling Edd soon becomes annoying as he’s often very unresponsive.

Edd May be a megastar on Children’s BBC, but this game is more of a turkey than a duck.”

23% – Amiga Force (September 1993)

“The gameplay is basically running around, jumping and firing off custard pies in all directions. Doubtless this will appeal to the kids but experienced players may find it all a bit simple. Not too bad though.”

65% – Amiga Action (July 1993)

“It’s fun, it’s pretty challenging, especially if you close one eye as you play, and you’ll enjoy it a great deal. And, for once, it’ll appeal to serious games players rather than just children who are fans of the fandabidozi graphics (sorry).

Anyway, Edd the Duck 2 is strongly recommended. The BBC’s Edd puppet, however, can go and boil his head.”

80% – Amiga Format (June 1993)

“It all might have been quite good if the game had been executed even remotely well or had some imaginative traps. The main challenge the player faces is mastering the control system. It’s not complicated or anything like that but Edd moves with about as much fluidity as a block of flats travelling uphill. Attempting to jump anything is more trouble than it’s worth so the game rapidly turns into a mindless avoid-’em-up.

All this, when coupled with near-Spectrum quality sound effects and graphics which look like they’re from a kids’ colouring competition, renders the game hopeless and unless you’re into throwing money away you should keep your hands firmly in your pockets.”

47% – The One (May 1993)

“Astonishingly rudimentary platformer that, remarkably, somehow manages to be even worse than the first Edd the Duck game. Back With a Quack makes the language that we’re allowed to use in a family magazine seem woefully inadequate, and gets 3 percent for the quite nice intro music and screen.”

3% – Amiga Power (June 1993)

“Everything about this game reeks of budget quality. Fine if you want a five-minute platform game, but there are so many better examples of the genre about.”

41% – CU Amiga (July 1993)

Of course the bad press was water off a duck’s back for the irrepressible hipster… albeit very slow draining water. In 2014 Edd and his Broom Cupboard made a prodigious comeback on national TV appearing on ‘Celebrity Juice The Big Reunion’ alongside his former impresario, the perennially energised, age-defying Andi Peters.

Striking while the retro bubble’s hot, in 2015 Edd joined Wiganer ‘Hacker T. Dog’ – the Beeb’s current kid’s TV mascot/host – along with 20+ former presenters and puppets (there’s that word again bizarrely!) to help commemorate 30 glorious years of ‘between the programming’ children’s TV.

Since then the trail has run cold. Edd hasn’t updated his LinkedIn profile for several years and he’s not answering my calls. If anyone has any information at all regarding the whereabouts of the much-missed – and maligned – mysterious mallard, his family, legion of friends and colleagues – Darkwing Duck, Daffy, Donald and Count Duckula to name a few – implore you to contact the police without delay.

Andi – as concerned as anyone at his lifelong friend’s sudden inexplicable disappearance – believes all rumours that Edd has gone off the rails, descending into an abyss of drugs and alcohol-drenched delirium are unfounded, yet fears for his safety continue to mount.

“Well, it was a great partnership. We achieved a lot. People to this day ask me where he is. Edd is a very nice duck – there are no shock revelations. And he really did go to Cubs on Tuesdays!”

An Unofficial History of Children’s BBC Presentation

Edd ducking in and out of the media spotlight over the years Andy Crane has revealed in interviews can be elucidated by his proclivity for “living in a shoebox” between assignments. Perhaps he’s resting once again until the perfect role coaxes him out of retirement. Who knows, maybe the allure of a second video game sequel could be sufficient to entice him from exile? The big question is, are Eutechnyx up to the challenge?

6 thoughts on “Edd: The Duckumentory – a Zeppelin Eddstravaganza!

  • May 26, 2017 at 6:04 am
    Permalink

    Oopphhh Kinda harsh to blame only me for the missing star, it was supposed to have been playtested before publication, I was only the coder, and it was a very very quick job. Suggesting it was the worst version is also rather subjective as it was surprisinlgy well received. Is it a great game? No, its far from that, but it was a nice game for kids, who seemed to enjoy it.

  • May 26, 2017 at 12:03 pm
    Permalink

    Hi,

    Thanks for stopping by to share your feedback. I did ask if you wanted to be involved in the article beforehand, but had to go ahead without you when I didn’t get a response. Anything you said would have been included to counterbalance my comments.

    This is an opinion piece so yes, these are only my personal views. I did include extracts from the extremely positive Crash and Sinclair User reviews to be fair, as well as the polar opposite C&VG one. I actually thought I was quite reserved in my criticism given the level of vitriol that’s levelled at the game elsewhere.

    Here’s one of the more rational, calm reviews… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9yrxxu8W6I – this is the YouTube channel of Andy Godoy, retro gaming podcaster and Speccy obsessive so he does know what he’s talking about.

    Why was Brian Jobling so keen to rush it out the door in the first place? I don’t get that because it’s not as if there was a movie schedule that it had to tie-in with like many licensed games. I do sympathise with you though re: the pressure and tight deadlines. I know from speaking to other developers how stressful an environment this industry can be to work in. If you have a boss who’s only interested in the bottom line, quality control is the first thing to fly out the window.

    • May 26, 2017 at 12:27 pm
      Permalink

      I don’t recall, having any contact from you? I’d have been happy to give you some info on the game, though it was a very long time ago and I don’t recall that much about it..

      I also can’t comment on why it was rushed out, but rushing out games back then was the norm, and reusing code between the Spectrum and Amstrad was a common practice.

      All I can tell you is that I was contracted to code the game according to specifications I was given. It wasn’t uncommon in those days for contract coders like myself to produce code according to a spec provided by the client. I had very little input into the gameplay, style or graphics. I was asked to produce a scrolly vertical game and I did and I made changes as my producer demanded. Test builds were sent to Zeppelin at different stages and I was paid in stages as the demo’s were approved. I wasn’t actually paid that much either as I recall but it was a simple job.

      I seem to recall I also added a small editor to allow the production team to produce maps.
      I can’t honestly recall if I produced all the final maps, so it might not even have been my fault that the 19star bug was there.. But I’ll accept it is a sad flaw.

      As a game it was aimed at very young kids too, so meant to be very simple to play and not too challenging. Again I had no say over the price or marketing that seemed to place it in the adult game market. In fact I had no say in anything 😀 I just wrote the code, sent it, and changed/added what I was asked to do.

      I don’t mind the negativity, I’ve written a lot of projects in my time (around 75), some I’m less proud of, some very proud of, Edd isn’t exactly high art, but as I say, some people really liked it, especially younger players.
      I’m sure a better game could have been produced, but as I was nothing more than a coder for hire, with a production team at the Zeppellin office in charge of the Design,QA and duplication and marketing, its a little unfair to say ” We have coder, Brian Beuken, to thank for this one” when you refer to a bug.

  • May 27, 2017 at 12:00 am
    Permalink

    I found you on LinkedIn and sent a message through there. I don’t know why it wouldn’t have got through, or maybe it did and you don’t have it set to notify you.

    Fascinating insight into the development process, thanks for that. I’d totally forgotten about the editor. World of Spectrum have made that available. That kind of thing was a real novelty bonus back then when modding anything and everything wasn’t taken for granted as it is these days with the ability to create and share the results over the web.

    http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0010492

    You’re right, it didn’t need to blow away Mario or Sonic. However the various different versions turned out I still love the notion that the games exist at all. It’s a bizarre slice of old school gaming history that I wouldn’t want to change for a second.

    I’ll consider tweaking that line to take the sting out of it, but I’m struggling to think how I’d relay the information without it amounting to the same thing, and other people reaching that conclusion regardless. Hmm…

    • May 27, 2017 at 3:50 am
      Permalink

      Just found your linked-in message, sorry I don’t check it that regularly, but I’ve added you now.

      Its ok as I say its not high art, I just felt it a little unfair to label me as the villian of the piece when in all genuine honesty I don’t even recall if I designed the levels. I rather enjoyed coding Edd, it was a very quick job and the editor gave it more room for expansion than was usual those days.
      I always loved working on the Amstrad, as I hated the Speccy colour clashing, but it was an utter bitch of a machine to do anything decent on. If you had scrolling on it you were using 80% of your processing power just to scroll, leaving very little for sprite managment or logic.
      Game coding then was pretty hard, fighting with poor hardware and often even poorer design. That didn’t really change until the era of consoles where we finally had the power and hardware to actually give designers a chance to reflect their idea.
      Im kinda pleased to have been part of that, even though some things make me cringe when I see them now, but much happier to have survived to the later era of game development where hardware limits are no longer a hurdle we have to jump.

  • May 27, 2017 at 8:13 am
    Permalink

    No problem, and thanks, we got there in the end. 🙂

    I’ve edited the article now and moved the ‘where are they now?’ bit to another paragraph so it flows better. Reading it back now it does seem unnecessarily hostile, especially in what’s supposed to be a lighthearted story, sorry.

    I was a Speccy gamer before I came to the Amiga and so grew up with the colour clash situation. It was what I knew so it felt completely natural and acceptable to me at the time, even though I was aware it didn’t happen with the rival systems. Looking back with dewy-eyed nostalgia now I see it as part of the charm, and many people seem to share that sentiment in protesting against removing the clash from the revamped Spectrums like the Next and Vega. I can see how frustrating it would be for a programmer or graphics artist who already have enough limitations to contend with though. I know a few developers who worked on Spectrum games, yet never touched the machine itself, which says a lot about the reliability and ease of use of the platform as a programming tool.

    Interesting point. The massive overhead caused by scrolling does explain why so many 8-bit games, and even some early 16-bit ones, used flick-screen scrolling rather than the smooth variety. Everything was about compromise and juggling resources back then.

    I totally agree. I couldn’t code a Frogger game to save myself, but I’m glad I lived through that magical era as a gamer.

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