Almost two decades before the likes of dot-comedy's internet gaming invited us to push pies into Posh Spice and see how many homosexuals we could pick up on Clapham Common, Shards came along with its politically incorrect baby arcade game Whoopsy! As our shock thresholds have stiffened in the meantime, it's nigh on impossible to believe that this title was originally considered 'too rude' to be on sale in the high street stores, delicate as its subject matter may be.
For those who didn't read about how 'controversial' it was at the time [in the pages of Electron User - Ed] of its 1985 release, think euphemistically about the title for a while. Still don't understand? Well, it's one of the polite ways of saying Poo (as in Mr Hanky The and not Winnie The!) and this is a game where shit really does happen in the literal sense: you, as the baby, deposit your graphically-represented dumps about an arena to distract your mummy from "homing-in" on you.
Although Electron User milked the Whoopsy! controversy, it never reviewed it in full and, as it was only available via mail order, the suspicion is that most Elk owners knew only what is stated above. This ignorance was certainly shared by this reviewer, who prejudged it almost infinitely more than most games. The idea, while original, seemed puerile and unamusing - the opposite of what its author intended, in fact - and the uninspiring cover of a hand-drawn title and big-headed baby coupled with instructions blantantly added with a Stone Age typewriter, all photocopied and cut out with scissors, did little to fuel any remaining enthusiasm.
Pleasantly surprising it is, then, when after a minutes' loading, you are presented with an opening screen displaying huge baby, mummy and whoopsy sprites (the latter cunningly labelled as "Shhh"); all Mode 2 multi-coloured numbers - that are very nicely animated when the actual game begins. The game is almost pure machine code, reacting quickly to your keypresses and running at a brisk pace on a BBC and Turbo Electron. Sadly, while it still runs on a standard Elk, the 'lacking in processing power machine' can't match such speed and your crawling baby tends to plod around in slow motion.
As all the greats agree, the best game ideas are simple. This is the case here. You select which level to begin on, and appear bottom right of a blank screen with three whoopsies (displayed top right) stored up in your bowels, ready to soil your mum's carpet. She, doubled up in a perfect 'scrubbing the scullery steps' pose waits patiently top left. Randomly dotted about the screen are a number of toys. The object is to play with each toy - you do this by touching them; they then vanish! - without Mummy Dear touching you. On pressing SPACE to begin the game, the first whoopsy falls and your mum comes charging towards it.
While any whoopsy is on screen, mummy is not deadly to touch and you can run through, around and (most likely) away from her. Unfortunately, you also cannot pick up any toys until the whoopsy has been cleaned up. The idea therefore is to go, to go to the toy farthest away, to get it and as many of them as you can in the time between the clean up job and mummy's refreshed charge toward you and then drop another thought for the day and repeat the exercise until you've collected all the toys. With the brisk flow of action, you need at least average reflexes to be able to attempt this and even then it's not easy. Especially not when the patrolling potties enter the arena; contact with these results in a 'contained' crap which is bad news indeed if it's your last and there's still a screenful of toys to snatch!
On-screen presentation of this game is good and the code seems to be spotless, although the inlay refers to a bug in the code which may crash some Electrons if you lose your three lives on level one and have the music turned on. Oddly you choose either sound effects (default) or the hushed tones of "Rock-a-bye-baby" music but cannot play the game devoid of sound. The music grates after a while.
Effects are adequate with jingles and suitable dull notes to mark the pressing of the whoopsy key. (That Dixons found them to be repugnant toilet noises beggars belief!) The animation is also of a high standard; mummy lumbers about and scrubs up while baby waddles around on all fours and the potties seamlessly glide back and forth in not-altogether-fixed patterns. All cleverly flip vertically too.
All characters and objects (such as the toys) are viewed in profile which works well even though the only way gravity and layout would be realistic would be if the action was viewed from a Birds' Eye position. Scores and bonuses are regularly awarded and it's not hard (at first!) to get yourself honoured in "The Naughty Nine" high score table, even though you will first be sharing it bizarrely with the cast of Last Of The Summer Wine. A little nark here is that, if you make a mistake with your name, DELETE doesn't function.
All in all, Whoopsy! is not a shocking game and it is neither offensive nor really comical. What it is is simply one of those addictive arcade numbers you keep coming back to time and again because it just "has something other games don't". Take away yesteryear's pathetic paper presentation (and that it was released before the Turbo Elk came into existence!) and you're left with an underexposed gem that's suitable for all ages.