Many years ago, when I was a mere slip of a boy, I visited a church coffee morning 'do' where an Acorn Electron proudly stood on one stall displaying a notice of "10p a game". The game in question was a little-known title by Squirrel named Bun Fun and, remarkably, right from that day some fifteen years ago to the day today, another copy of it was never to make an appearance. Indeed, until the corresponding BBC version was dug out of someone's attic and auctioned on eBay in 2000, my mental faculties were challenged by rival collectors in its respect on numerous occasions. [You did state unequivocally that it was by Mastertronic! - Ed]
Well, finally the Elk version of Bun Fun is about to take its rightful place in cyberspace and, having decided to save that 10p back in 1987, I eventually get to play it for free. Its arcade premise is certainly a different one in putting the player alongside a conveyor belt garnished with buns. In some respects surprisingly too, the instructions are much the same as you would expect work on a real life production line job to be like.
The few bland Mode 6 instructions screens that introduce this premise irritate in the respect that, as each paragraph of them appears, there is an unnecessary pause. After this, you are allowed to enter how long you wish to play (in minutes) and how much cash per hour you think you are worth. A fairly colourful (Mode 2) screen is then built up. This shows your rate per hour, the machine's "waste" meter and a line of buns that trundle past the downturned nozzles of both icing sugar and walnuts. You must operate the controls of each in turn and supposedly this manipulation of the C and N keys is where the "fun" comes in.
Buns arrive in vertical rows and you can generally think of each row as having four positions, each of which may or may not be occupied by a bun. If you have a row of four buns then tapping the 'squirt icing' key four times in quick succession will give each bun in each position a white topping and on the line will trundle to the next vertical row. However, usually one or more of the positions where a bun could be are empty. This means that you need to master the tapping of the key so as not to waste any of your icing sugar. If there is no bun in position two, say, then you need to pause for the length of time of one tap after the first tap before you tap twice more.
Getting the timing wrong means that you squirt icing into an empty space. This leaves a 'splat' effect on the conveyor belt and adds to the Waste Meter. Getting the timing more wrong means you ice the last bun but miss one of the buns inbetween, also adding to the Waste Meter.
As the first lot of buns moves from left to right across the screen it will not be long until you need to operate the Walnut-sprinkling nozzle as well. This works in exactly the same way - tapping it correctly results in a 'Gudbun' being produced, tapping it wrongly in the Waste Meter rising. The two nozzles work in tandem so you need to keep your attention well focussed. As soon as you finish tapping C, you must check the iced buns which are now under nozzle two and tap N accordingly. As soon as you finish tapping N, there will be another row of buns beneath nozzle one.
The game continues until the time you specified expires or you create so much waste that the machinery explodes. Although this action part of the game takes a bit to get started (and takes even longer to finish if the machine does give up the ghost!), once you get used to a rhythm and means of working, it is paced at just the right speed. At least, that is, if you choose to work for the lowest amount of money. If you go for higher remuneration, something odd seems to happen with the nozzles and they begin to fail. The problem seems to be with emptying the keyboard buffer and the Electron thinking that you have in fact only pressed C or N once when you have in fact pressed it twice in quick succession.
On top of this problem, Bun Fun is an unnecessarily noisy game. A constant fluttery space-invaders style bonus sound practically has the Elk bouncing off the table throughout the bakery decoration process and there is no option to turn it off! More care could also have been taken with the bun graphics, which are just multi-coloured 8x8 CHR$ definitions. Still, they are passable, as are the constantly blanking and updating pay rate and waste meter indicators on screen. It's best to ignore these while playing however as checking them frequently means you break your rhythm and waste buns.
An option to speed up the conveyor belt would have been nice. Unfortunately, with most of the game being in BASIC and this part being in Mode 2, the dynamics for this option simply are not there.
If the machinery survives your time limit without getting clogged up with your failed buns then you get a report of your progress. This notes how well your score compares with previous attempts and asks whether you wish to play again with the same options or with different ones. Changing the options unfortunately means having to wait for all those darned instructions to appear again!
Having finally gotten hold of Bun Fun after all this time, I wish I could say it was a brilliant, or even a good, game. Sadly it is only fun for one or two attempts. After these it becomes just too much like a production line job - boring! Icing and lobbing nuts onto bare buns just isn't enough action to keep the player interested for any period of time. If the game got progressively more difficult or had some more variables (even just a few "bonus" buns perhaps?) then at least there would be more of an arcade 'feel' to it. As it stands, it seems a little rough around the edges. It may have provided me with a sense of nostalgia but it certainly isn't addictive enough for me to play it again anytime soon.