Farmer Jack And The Hedge Monkeys

Author: Dave E
Publisher: Cronosoft
Machine: Spectrum 48K/128K

Farmer Jack And The Hedge Monkeys

When I was a boy, I owned an Acorn Electron game called Bumble Bee which was a twist on the Pac-Man formula. Your bee scurried around a maze avoiding spiders and clearing screen after screen of dots. The twist however was that the maze walls would rotate if your bee rammed into them, effectively making the maze fluid. Scattered around it were a bunch of spider-traps too, and you scored bonus points if you managed to lure the roaming spiders into one of them. I always assumed Bumble Bee was an original game because there didn't seem to be any clones of the format for the Spectrum or Amstrad computers.

Now, many decades later, there is a very similar game for at least the Spectrum. Farmer Jack And The Hedge Monkeys is almost identical, replacing the bee with a tractor, dots with seeds and spiders with "ravers, hippies and hedge monkeys". It's a fast, frantic and frustrating version too with excellent graphics - and yet another musical masterpiece by Yerzmyey beating away in 128K mode.

The maze is of considerable size and you begin clearing it from its dead centre. Hippies also begin at the same position but appear one at a time and only when an on-screen countdown reaches zero hour. Needless to say, it's advisable to clear all seeds around the start position as quickly as possible. This will allow you to keep some space between you and them. Some walls will rotate about their origin if you run into them; others however will not. Moveable and immoveable walls are coloured differently, although you do need sharp eyesight to determine this.

Farmer Jack And The Hedge Monkeys

Overall, with its gorgeous opening screens, its selection of funky music and its colourful graphics, Farmer Jack is really a very well put together title indeed. That is, however, apart from one big issue which I should warn you may result entirely from my overfamiliarity with Bumble Bee. That big issue is this: Your tractor can be moved left, right, up and down. However, if you release the control key, it stops. If you compare this behaviour with Bumble Bee, or indeed Pac-Man, this behaviour is different. In those two games, you tap the control key and your character continues in that direction, bashing revolving walls out of the way if appropriate, until he hits a foe and dies or comes to a stop at the maze outer border. That is not so here.

Now whilst this seems like a little thing, it has a large effect on the frustration level of Farmer Jack. Your tractor must be "in line" with the maze walls to navigate its way through them. If you stop in an unaligned position, your tractor simply won't move as you want it to, and in the second it takes to shift it about, an angry hippy may well collide with you, taking away one of your three lives.

I'm sure Cronosoft would argue that this game is not Bumble Bee and the movement routine is a feature of what is a very addictive game. I would have to agree. But, even if I wasn't a Bumble Bee aficionado, I would, I think, still find fault that you can be thwarted in making progress through the maze by being a few pixels too far left or right. Still, if you set that aside, Farmer Jack is an excellent clone of the old favourite.

Dave E

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