Commodore User

Inspector Gadget And The Circus Of Fear

Author: Bill Scolding
Publisher: Melbourne House
Machine: Commodore 64/128

Published in Commodore User #52

Inspector Gadget And The Circus Of Fear

When Melbourne House proudly announced, back in '86, that it had acquired the rights to the French cartoon TV series, Inspector Gadget, the world waited with baited breath.

After all, the Aussies' track record in the field of cartoon computer games was hardly epoch-making.

In the nick of time along came the jolly budget giant Mastertronic, who gobbled up little Melbourne House and promptly scrapped Inspector Gadget on the eve of its release. According to Mastertronic, the game was not up to standard.

Inspector Gadget And The Circus Of Fear

Now, nine months or so later, the hapless 'tec has turned up again, starring in a game which has undergone some radical changes. Gone are the supersize sprites and the comical animation. Gone are the speech bubbles, gremlins and pitfalls. Gone are even some of Gadget's gadgets. In fact, gone is just about everything except the title: Inspector Gadget And The Circus Of Fear.

Instead, what we've got is a very average hunt 'n dodge game depicted in unremarkable graphics across a tiny playing area. If Melbourne's new bosses think that this Inspector Gadget is up to scratch, then the earlier version must have been really awful.

In the TV series, all this hardware gets him nowhere, and the mysteries are usually solved by his sidekick Penny and her dog Brains, while Gadget leaps about tripping over his Gadget elastic-legs.

Inspector Gadget And The Circus Of Fear

In the game, though, Penny and Brains are held captive by the evil MAD agents somewhere in the Big Top, and Gadget has to comb the circus tent to first find his missing gadgets, then unmask the spies, before rescuing his friends. He's got only fifteen minutes to do it.

With a time limit like that, it's just as well that the big Top isn't all that big, comprising only twelve screens of sawdust and striped canvas, and a high-wire. These screens are patrolled by a small number of circus characters - lions, seals, midgets and the like - who monotonously prowl back and forth across each screen. If Gadget touches any of these he's returned to the starting screen and thirty seconds are lopped off his time.

Six of the screens have doors leading off them into what seem to be cottage interiors, with blazing fires and stripped-pine floorboards. What these are doing in a circus is anyone's guess, and all but one are, bizarrely, inhabited by bearded ladies.

Inspector Gadget And The Circus Of Fear

Gadget collects these items by bumping into objects and examining them, and after picking up a few he can use them, in the correct order, to identify and arrest the Mad agents. I told you how to do this then I would destroy what little challenge there is in the game, but through trial and error Gadget will soon discover how best to employ the long arm of the law.

Inspector Gadget isn't terrible, merely run-of-the-mill. Considering that it's come from a once-great software house, it's particularly tragic. There's no score facility, and no sound effects to speak of; just some irksome music that you can't switch off. Neither is there an abort key, so if Gadget shoots the midget on the high-wire he's stuck up there for the rest of the game. And worst still is the repetitive scenery.

A sad, sorry show.

Bill Scolding

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