You are what you invent

Much to our chagrin Bananaman fans have never been bestowed with a bona fide, officially licensed game adaptation to represent the ‘nana-caped eighth wonder of the world in pixel-land. You’d imagine the gaping void might have been plugged by public domain game coders releasing unofficial, free substitutes, only that avenue too has proven to be a dead end. Understandable of course – free or not, such a venture could potentially attract litigation.

Just one developer – a commercial outfit in fact – stepped up to the plate to pitch; Hungarian studio, I/O Products. Published by Black Legend in 1994, Fatman is a ‘thinly’ veiled twist on perennial favourite superhero, Batman, albeit kitted out in a DIY, half-baked Bananaman costume.

 

 

While nowhere near chronically obese as depicted on the box cover and in the manual, Roy Fat (as he’s otherwise known) weighs in on the wrong side of rotund according to the ‘porklife-o-metre’. I’ll let said manual explain how this came to pass via the modern marvel that is optical character recognition…

“Once-upon-a-time there was a quiet city somewhere in Cartoonland. This was home to Roy Fat and his wife. They lived in a small house near the city border. Roy was an inventor and a restaurant owner.

Every morning he would get up at 9am, eat nine scrambled eggs for breakfast and go to his secret lab to work on his useful (and more than often useless) inventions. Roy loved his food and his stomach! Therefore all his inventions were based on food! Some examples of his creative genius – Food Inventing Processor (FIP), Ice Warning Gadget (IWAG) and many other not-so-useful gadgets.

But his most useful – and by far the most successful – invention was… The Food Duplicator! With this wonder of modern technology he could make a copy of any food you processed through the machine (insert a pizza and out come two pizzas!). No wonder Roy’s stomach was rather sizeable, to say the least!

But that wasn’t the only feature the Food Duplicator possessed; using a ‘flavouring processor algorithm’ the machine actually duplicated tasty, delicious food even when the food the machine was fed with wasn’t very good itself… and with the stored data The Food Duplicator could reproduce any food it had previously duplicated!

No wonder Roy Fat’s restaurant was very famous worldwide, with lots of people coming from all the corners of Cartoonland to eat in the ‘Stomach Building Centre’, as Roy’s restaurant was called.

But there were also some people who didn’t care for Roy’s success story. A multi-national company called Thindicate inc. that happened to be based in Roy’s home town, hated Roy Fat for his invention more than any others. Thindicate had a monopoly in the food market, delivering to all the markets, shops and restaurants. But since the big opening of the ‘Stomach Building Centre’ business was going down the hill for Thindicate.

Ted Thinsin, the managing director and evil mind behind Thindicate Inc., tried everything to get this new and hugely successful competition wiped off the map. He tried to convince Roy to sell the duplicator to Thindicate to mass-produce it, so the whole world could enjoy the unbelievable taste.

Roy decided to go into business with Ted, but in the last minute he got a tip from Ted’s secretary that Thindicate wanted to destroy the duplicator to regain the monopoly! Ted was absolutely furious when Roy didn’t hand over The Food Duplicator! Very, very furious….

The wicked game started…”

Wicked as in ‘cool’? It’s been a while since I’ve heard it used in that context. I wonder if it’s also ‘totally rad’? I’m sure we’ll find out one way or the other soon enough.

In any case, sans the usual ‘damsel in distress’ element, quite a novel premise it must be said. You have to give I/O credit for embracing irreverence at a time when 99% of the competition were playing it safe, swimming with the politically correct current for fear of upsetting little Johnny’s mummy and daddy.

Strangely enough though, in the same year Interplay Productions published ‘Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure’ for the Genesis and SNES. The titular character’s phlegmy weapon is what you’d expect it to be, and he plays musical bottoms whenever the mood strikes, and gas allows. It makes ‘The Caped Consumer’ look like a high-brow vanguard of erudite etiquette amidst polite society.

If ‘Thindicate’ was intended to be onomatopoeic, to give the impression of someone with a lisp attempting to say ‘syndicate’, that’s very witty, full marks! I mean, I/O shouldn’t be making fun of people who suffer from speech impediments. That’s derogatory and disgraceful, obviously. 😐

Is ‘Roy Fat’ a Hungarian pun that’s flown right over my head? Maybe even an English one and I should simply have paid more attention during punology classes.

Nevermind, what’s important is that he has a weaponised paunch and can wield it much like Chuck Rock did three years earlier. Roy’s belly-buster maneuver comes in handy for close combat, though since it leaves no margin for error it’s lucky we have a few other tricks up our lycra sleeves.

Switch to Roy’s belch attack (by pulling down and pressing fire) and we can emit airborne gaseous tremors. These generate shockwaves sufficiently potent to disintegrate any weaklings in the vicinity.

Other long range tactics involve launching carrot missiles or hurling explosive mushrooms that detonate on a delayed timer. If, however, you’d rather get up close and personal there’s always your trusty burgeoning buttocks. Jump aloft enemies and pull down to unleash a Mario style head bounce with some real weight behind it.

Any weapons not already considered bodily appendages can be collected from the environment, as can roast chicken drumsticks, providing a much-craved calorie and energy boost.

Progressing through the levels entails accumulating a predetermined number of ‘whatevers’ in order to open and pass through the exit to the next themed world. In the first instance these would be burgers, which inexplicably enable us to earn enough money to travel to Transylvania to continue the pursuit of our beloved other half.

Yes, someone (an anonymous, disembodied hand that reminds me of Wilson the Butler of ‘The Broom Cupboard’ fame) is willing to pay us in exchange for burgers recovered from the streets of Cartoonland. Ours is not to reason why and all that jazz…

Collecting strawberry juice in golden chalices to appease a vegetarian vampire, bizarrely enough, makes much more sense!

On route we get to dispatch evil, crawling babies. No doubt if they turned to face the camera it would be revealed that they’re mono-browed, demonic prepubescents of the kind that were always torturing Bart Simpson.

Elsewhere we face anthropomorphic Putty blobs made famous by System 3 in a couple of old-school platformers released around the same era.

On that note, keep an eye out for the ‘no Zool’ signs fixed to several walls in the Egyptian world. I suspect our Hungarian chums weren’t fans of the ‘Ninja from the Nth Dimension’ then. They probably took issue with his ant-denial assertions!

Clockwork horses serve as restart points…

…which is handy if you’re temporarily distracted by the pretty rain effects, bump into one of the shady trench-coat-garbed characters and lose a life.

You’d think being able to stop in a heartbeat what with the absence of any momentum/inertia it would be easy to avoid such collisions. No such luck – the controls are responsive and reliable enough, everything just happens far too quickly to be able to react in time, making regular death inevitable. Now there’s the perfect example of oxymoron!

Roy moves at such a disorientating clip, when travelling short distances there isn’t even sufficient time to animate his legs. Briefly tap left or right and instead he’ll glide across the platforms without so much as lifting his feet. There’s no point expending valuable calories that could be put towards belly-building I suppose.

Aside from the brilliant Dr Claw/Inspector Gadget reference in the intro…

 

…and the longest popcorn-munching scene in the history of ever!

…what makes Fatman stand out (no stomach jokes please, that would too easy) is the humongous bosses. You just don’t expect to find them in such a run of the mill platformer.

Level 1 concludes with a cross-eyed punk throwback to the ’70s kitted out in a leather jacket and bovver boots. With his wavy, elongated, jabbing arms and lolling tongue synced to the beat of the high-tempo caper soundtrack, the absurdity rating flies off the scale and into orbit.

None of the bosses demand much effort where termination is concerned. What makes them difficult to handle is staying focused on the job at hand while you’re falling off your chair laughing. It’s really no shocker that the moon can be seen watching on in stoned, wide-eyed bewilderment.

Later we face equally proportioned oddball obstacles in the form of a spitting Frankenstein’s monster…

…a mechanical dragon tooled with a jiving extendo-neck…

…and an overgrown snake accompanied by a sunny onlooker who appears as flabbergasted as the moon was previously.

Our semi-penultimate encounter features an eyeball mounted directly on a single foot with a roaming, toothy proboscis protruding from its ‘head’! Monty Python would be so proud.

An out of this world alien that makes the ink-squirting octopus we meet in the subsequent tryst…

…and the clockwork T-500 mech-tank mustard/ketchup shooter after that seem positively pedestrian.

Fatman isn’t nearly as offensive or terrible as some people would have you believe. Just another average platformer that had it not been for the quirky theme would barely have registered a mention in the gaming press as late into the Amiga’s lifespan as 1994.

Amazingly it was treated to a dedicated, enhanced A1200 edition. One that totally failed to capitalise on the system’s advanced hardware beyond offering marginally improved graphics.

It all seems so mediocre and throwaway, and then you read in the scrolling finale credits that Fatman is “dedicated to the remembrance of our friend Jozsef Regos (who tragically died in a car accident)”.

I expect he had a great sense of humour and would appreciate being aligned with a blobby superzero. If not, the tribute does at least lend the game a certain sense of gravitas that inherently it has done nothing to earn in its own right.

Thanks to Fatman I know that 24 years ago a stranger called Jozsef was well regarded by his friends. That alone elevates its legacy far above a great many platformers of the time. Those in particular that were hastily thrown together on a shoestring budget to cash in on a flash in the pan licensed character, who has long since been shunted aside to part the waves for the current ephemeral craze.

One thought on “You are what you invent

  • November 18, 2018 at 7:02 am
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    Good article and fair review, while game is average platform it also got some charm.

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