Commodore User1st September 1986
Published in Commodore User #36
Legend has it had Hercules, son of Zeus, was full of remorse after slaying his family, and consulted the Oracle as to how he might best atone for his nasty little deed.
He was ordered to perform one task every year for King Eurystheus, and only if he succeeded could be take his place amongst the other immortals on Mount Olympus.
What the legend does not dwell on is that the twelve labours of Hercules were actually standard levels-and-ladders fodder of such incredible age that even the Ancient Greeks must have thought twice before shelling out the drachmas for Alpha-Omega's budget cassette.
Hercules, chained to his C64, soon discovered the twelve labours were spread over 50 screens of jumping from platforms, swinging from ropes, avoiding spiders, birds and what Hercules at first took to be ice-cream corners but later deduced to be fireballs!
What made things doubly difficult was RAP - Random Access Principle which, when Hercules failed to complete one task, selected another at random, rather than returning him to the start. So, just as he was getting the hang of capturing the Ceryneian Hind, he was whisked off to fetch the Oxen of Geryon.
This got tiresome after a while, and more so as RAP didn't seem to be all that random. The fifth labour, cleaning the 'most unpleasant' stables of the Kind of Elis, occured rather more frequently than Hercules felt he deserved, while the altogether more interesting ninth labour, removing Hippolyte's Golden Girdle, he'd had a crack at only once in a blue moon. But such, mused Hercules as he sidestepped another cowpat, was life.
He fast learnt to move smartish on each new screen, having just seconds to leap to a nearby ledge or rope before flames consumed the platform on which he stood. Doing this on his search for the Certain Bull meant leaping into thin air, though new platforms popped into existence beneath his feet until he reached the door to the next screen.
The quest for the Erymanthian Boar, depicted in pixels so stunted that Hercules thought at first it was a hamster, was a doddle in comparison. Ignoring a screenful of ropes, ledges, dancing spiders and mutant candelabra, Hercules headed straight for the Giant Rodent and just made it to the next screen before getting his sandals singed.
Success at these and other labours brought him a score of 25,970, which seemed impressive to Hercules but didn't cut much ice with the folks on Olympus. Finally, the sheer grinding poverty of both the graphics and the concept, coupled with frustrating repetition of idiotic taks, overcame the little enjoyment Hercules had found, and brought him to his knees.
The gods relented and gave Hercules a copy of Thrust to compensate and to show that not all budget games are like the Elisian stables - stuffed with horse dung.