Everyone remembers the ‘commiserations, you’ve died, but here are some fresh recruits’ graveyard scene from Cannon Fodder (I think Hallmark do a card for the occasion). You know, the one that teaches us that war is rollickingly good fun, yet has some pretty nasty reaper’s cushions, and other grim soft furnishings. That one. If you’re with me, are you also familiar with the inspiration behind it?
‘Boot Hill’ is a generic term coined in the 19th century in the American old west to describe a burial ground catering for those who ‘died with their boots on’. Typically these were outlaws who perished violently in gun battles, or through hanging by order of the town sheriff.
The most famous of them all – though not the first – is located at Tombstone, Arizona, and is notorious for being the final resting place of Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury who kicked the bucket at the O.K. Corral.
All this may go without saying if you grew up watching wild west cowboy movies and TV shows such as Wyatt Earp, Tombstone and Gunsmoke. For everyone else, enjoy retro gaming trivia nugget #346.
Sensible Software weren’t the first to pay homage to Spaghetti Western folklore. In 1977 Midway released a two-player coin-op arcade shooting game called… you’ll never guess what? Oh you did.
You and a friend or the CPU play gunslingers exchanging lead across the backdrop of a ‘Boot Hill’ cemetery. One joystick controls your cowboy’s legwork and another directs your pistol and fires.
The multicoloured environment makes it look out of its time, though only because it’s a static, printed image onto which the monochromatic sprites are projected.
If your deja vu antennae are twitching, it may be because you’ve seen the cabinet at the arcade in the mall featured in George Romero’s 1977 horror movie classic, ‘Dawn of the Dead’.
So now you know… or already did, in which case I’ve wasted my time. I’ll get my coat.