Amstrad Action1st October 1989
Published in Amstrad Action #49
Rockstar Ate My Hamster
Rock stars have unsavoury reputations: the Eagles urged us to "party till you puke," the Sex Pistols spat on their audience and one or two have had a penchant for parking Rolls Royces in swimming pools. But none has achieved the ultimate headline which banners across the Stun sleazepaper in Codemasters' latest full price offering: Rockstar Ate My Hamster!
You've been left 50 grand by a granny and rather than investing it wisely (like on the 3.30 at Kempton!), you let Cecil Pitt use it to start a rock group. This band, you hope, will make your fortune, by becoming the greatest musical phenomenon this side of Kylie and Jason.
Holding auditions, you view 49 of the most gifted people ever to hold a guitar - make that 50, if you're foolish enough to believe Wacky Jacko has talent! Each tells you their price and you have to weigh their current popularity against your ability to pay their wages. You can build a band of up to four would-be megastars (eg. Ms. Maradonna, String, Dorrisey and Witless Houston) or concentrate your resources on a rock dinosaur like Bruce Stringbean to bid for the top.
As soon as the band and a name have been decided, it's time to start on the campaign trail. You've one year to get four silver records and rake in as much dosh as is immorally possible. There are three ways of making money: sponsorship, touring and record deals, the relative success of which lies in how much press coverage you attract.
The first choice is whether you're good enough to pack in the fans on January 1st or whether you'll need a little practice. Of course, exposure brings offers of recording contracts - but too many nights playing stadiums crammed with six people soon leads to bankruptcy. You've a choice of venue (pubs to mega-sized football grounds) and the admission price (£2 to £20). Careful financial juggling can leave you seriously rich, but if the fans stay away, you'll need publicity to cram 'em in.
Ask your trusty sidekick, Clive, to arrange a publicity stunt, and the very next day you see the headline in the Stun. Trouble is, while all publicity is good publicity, some can prove fatal. Results range from "Rockstar ate my wife" (good), through "Rockstar's life of train spotting" (bad) to "Rockstar killed in nuclear war" (ugly). Of course, landing the latter with a one man band can bring a promising career to a sudden end. So only dabble with the press when it's absolutely necessary - or you have spare band members!
Eventually you sign a recording contract and it's off to a studio to work on the album. You name the tracks as tastelessly as possible until you've a whole host of classic songs ready to whip the great British public into a buying frenzy. Upon release, you have the option to make a video and there are various expensive locations and directors to chose from - so it's worth having a fair wadge of notes available, because if you let Clive shoot it in Cricklewood for £55, it'll never chart.
Once you start releasing the vinyl, it's time to keep in the public eye with tours and headline stunts. A bar graph shows how record sales are going, and once a week you get a nailbiting chart countdown as you see if you have at last managed to make the break.
A strategy game based on the music biz may sound about as exciting as Bros in concert, but it's not that bad, and the humour (noticeably tamer in parts than it could and perhaps should have been) gives the game impact. Even when you've finally seen all the snide comments between Clive and Cecil, read all the headlines and made up as nasty a name as possible for your group, it remains challenging. It's tough to get those four records high in the charts, especially with the publicity feature killing off your meal-ticket(s) at random intervals!
The caricatures are well observed, with each star having a different appeal and personality - Rotten Johnny always storms out of my groups demanding crates of caviar! The sound is basic but changes with each artist and actually improves during the year as the band members begin to gel.
Once you win, it's odds on you'll be unlikely to rush into another game, unless being a self-centred manager playing Russian roulette with others' lives is the bag you're into. How quickly can you drive someone to their grave for the sake of a buck? Answer: very, especially if it was your hamster the rockstar ate in the first place!
Colin Jones has succeeded in what seemed an impossible task: creating a funny and playable rock management game. But the question remains whether enough people want to play it. It's great fun for a while, but you may find its long-term appeal limited.
First Day Target Score
Two silver records
Green Screen View
P. Limited number of different screens to see.
P. 50 excellent caricatures.
P. The band actually does get better with practice!
Grab Factor 70%
P. Playing spot the stars is fun.
N. Death is too easy for a one man band.
Staying Power 72%
P. Fiendishly difficult to get those silver records.
N. One level of difficulty only.
At last, a management/strategy game that gets away from sport and a witty and original look at the record industry.