Mikie (Imagine) Review | Everygamegoing - Everygamegoing


By Imagine
Acorn Electron

Published in EGG #013: Acorn Electron


Mikie is one of only a small handful of Electron games that were released by Imagine Software, a company that actually came to a very sticky end just as a film crew were making a documentary about it! Imagine had gone big on its marketing, big on its packaging and big on its cover art graphics. After its spectacular collapse this left many concluding it had been all style and no substance. In the case of its Electron range of games, they may well have had a point. None of Imagine's games are particularly good, and Mikie is a pretty unambitious conversion of the arcade machine of the same name. Nevertheless, there is an interesting idea hiding away inside here so let's take a look...

Mikie is the name an all-American hunk and features a number of screens set inside his High School. You start off on the (somewhat iconic) classroom screen with a makeshift maze of desks occupying the majority of a homeroom patrolled by a furious, pacing teacher. There are four additional screens too - the locker room, the cafeteria, the gym and finally the schoolyard - which retain the same graphics and must be navigated in much the same way. All the screens are accessed serially by means of a 'corridor' screen which again, shares the qualities of the room-based screens, but which you can run through much faster. Whilst all the screens basically challenge you to collect up all the hearts you can see and then run for the exit door, they each manage to bring something new to the table too.

The original, and most well-known, Mikie screen is the homeroom. In this screen you begin seated at a desk and must run over to any desk with a heart underneath it, whilst avoiding the advances of the patrolling professor. To reach the heart you need to press the fire button three times whilst standing next to your seated classmate. The third press will nudge him (or her) off her seat, allowing you to collect the heart. Collecting a heart adds a letter to the message at the top of the screen. The "messages" are little more than a word, or collection of (short) words (i.e. "I Dig You"), and explained by the brief instructions as a note from Mikie to his girlfriend. Hmmm. Well, it's weird but it sort of works, I suppose.

Because of the psuedo-random movement of the enemies within Mikie, all of its screens can initially feel rather unfair. On screen one, sometimes the livid lecturer seems to run around all over the classroom and allow you to collect up the hearts with ease... but on other occasions he staunchly takes up a position by the door marked 'Out' making your exit from the room impossible. On bad days, he will also fling his false teeth at you without any warning. Colliding with him, or his false teeth, robs you of one of your three lives and leads to a considerable pause before the game starts up again.

If you persevere however, you will discover that he can be avoided, and that keeping a requisite distance between him and Mikie will usually allow Mikie to avoid the flying dentures. So, whilst the skill element doesn't always guarantee success here, a few tries of the screen should see you clear it. Doing so will see you proceed to the corridor, in which you must try and avoid the janitor, who tries to bar your way to the next room. Your pursuing principal is hot on your heels too, so don't be tempted to double back!

Describing the game mechanics is quite difficult. Though it may not appear so at first, Mikie is almost a maze game. That's because every room restricts you to certain areas, whether the walls of the maze are desks, lockers, walls or even the dancing girls of screen four. One real irk of the Electron conversion is that a different key control is used for the 'nudging' of your classmates on screen one, and the 'collecting' of hearts on screens two and three. If you haven't read the instructions before you play the game, it's a real pain to be frantically trying all of the Electron's keys to work out which one will remove the hearts from the locker doors, particularly whilst the game's denizens bear down upon you. (Note: The keys are ZX*?, RETURN and, to collect the hearts, SHIFT. If they'd combined RETURN and SHIFT, you'd be able to play it with a joystick!)

I'm conscious, because I've played many versions of Mikie (including the arcade machine itself) that this Electron version is very far from being, as the Americans would say, "all that". The graphics are blocky. It's sometimes difficult to position your character exactly where you want him. In later rooms, which have three psuedo-randomly moving enemies instead of one, it can become positively infuriating when you cannot get to the door. And, although the different rooms may well require a few different techniques for collecting the hearts, essentially all six of them boil down to you running around hoping that the teach, the janitor and/or the cook don't get too close. To state all that is to bemoan both the original arcade game and the Electron's somewhat uninspiring conversion.

However, despite all of these quite obvious frustrations, I personally quite like games that are set in schools and so, for that reason alone, I find myself cutting Mikie quite a lot of slack. Yes, it probably doesn't deserve it, but somehow it still manages to be compulsive enough that I fire it up every now and then. There's something rather amusing (and satisfying) about delivering the completely pointless message to Mikie's girlfriend on screen five, and the stars seem to align regularly enough that every three games or so, I manage to achieve it.

Perhaps as a consequence of what happened at Imagine, all of their games have become quite desirable in the intervening years since 1984. Indeed, the Commodore 64 version of Mikie has been seen selling for triple figures for some years now. The Electron version doesn't (yet) result in large wads of cash changing hands, but Imagine Software collectors have slowly but surely been acquiring it over the past few years, meaning it's appearing less and less frequently now. Certainly, if you see it offered for less than £10, it wouldn't be a bad little investment.

Dave E

Other Acorn Electron Game Reviews By Dave E

  • E-Type Front Cover
  • Around The World In 40 Screens Front Cover
    Around The World In 40 Screens
  • Impossible Mission Front Cover
    Impossible Mission
  • To Hell In A Hamper Front Cover
    To Hell In A Hamper
  • Dreamtime Front Cover
  • Dare Devil Dennis Front Cover
    Dare Devil Dennis
  • Pres Games Disc 1 Front Cover
    Pres Games Disc 1
  • E-Type Front Cover
  • Your Computer 4.10 Front Cover
    Your Computer 4.10
  • Balloon Buster Front Cover
    Balloon Buster