This game originally piqued my interest thanks to the cover of CRASH magazine #14 (March 1985).
I mean, look at these guys… they kind of look like the grotesque marionettes Jeff Dunham uses for his ventriloquist act:
Upon further investigation, ads for this game boast “1st ever multi-role arcade adventure” and there’s a song called “Everyone’s A Wally” included on the reverse of the tape — so really, how could I resist?
The ads for “Everyone’s a Wally” that ran in the gaming mags look way different than the CRASH magazine cover. It looks hand-drawn with a somewhat amateur-ish look? All the same, I couldn’t wait to check it out.
Booting up the game, we are treated to the same art as seen in the ad:
After a bit of research, I discovered that this was the third in a series of five computer games based around a character called ‘Wally Week’. All five games were produced by Mikro-Gen and, at the peak of his fame, a monthly comic strip about Wally was published in Your Sinclair magazine (1986). This game was released in 1985. Suffice to say, Wally already had a bit of a fan following by the time this game was launched.
After the title screen has run its course, you start the game in, what appears to be, a city park. At first glance, it feels like a platform game — and I’m noticing an endurance bar (for player health), the ability to change characters and an item inventory list in the top right corner [ex: an empty oil can, a fuse wire]. I did a bit of running around and discovered that you can enter buildings, jump around, and are limited to only carrying two items at a time.
After getting lost in a maze of streets and buildings, this is already looking more complicated than I expected — so instead of muddling through and trying to figure this out (and having you guys suffer through it), I’m just going to read the instruction manual and resume this review.
Alright, so your goal is to get the gang to work in unison to crack open a safe. So it’s sorta like Ocean’s Eleven, but with 5 usable characters. [For anyone keeping track, Herbert (the baby) is not a playable character.] You can switch between characters by pressing 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. If they are on the screen with you, you will swap with them. If they aren’t on the screen with you, pressing their number will tell you where they are. Every character has a different skill set that will somehow aid you in opening the safe — I think you’re collecting pieces of a combination lock? Not totally clear here. Ready? Let’s go!
The first thing I did was go exploring. Apparently, there’s an out-of-bounds zone once you cross the city limits. This game is a platform game, and you can jump over obstacles and onto different items. Flying obstacles will hurt you, so avoid them.
As I make my way back into the town, I enter a few buildings to see what’s inside. There are random items scattered around to raise your endurance, and objects you can exchange for one of the two items in your personal inventory. Picking up and dropping items is somewhat finicky — walking over the items means you immediately pick it up, discarding the second item in your inventory. Don’t want to pick up that item in your path? Jump over it. I noticed that some characters can’t jump as high as others, so some items might be out of your reach unless you are using the correct character.
After a bit of trial-and-error, I manage to make my way through town and run into another character, and I promptly switched places with him to become… Harry. As you can see, Harry is carrying different items than Wally. Now that I think of it, Wally’s test tube would really come in handy in a room with this chemistry set.
I thought I was on a roll and making some progress, but then a flying stamp hit me a few dozen times and I lost all of my endurance and lives. So I ended up with this screen:
If you’re going to solve this game, it’s important to remember what each character does. Wally is the common laborer, Tom is the mechanic, Dick is the plumber and Harry is the electrician. I’m not sure what Wilma does, described as “Wally’s wife. She might do the shopping, etc. “ (which is a bit sexist, if you ask me).
By my fourth time playing this, I realize the biggest challenge is getting the right objects to the right characters. Since you can only hold 2 objects at a time, the wrong character might be carrying the wrong items and need to give them to another character to use them. Unfortunately, there’s no simple way to do that. To complicate things, characters you aren’t controlling (so, any one of the other four) are constantly moving around the town and swapping objects. Soon, it turns into “Where the heck did I leave those pliers? I could’ve sworn I left them in the bank.” Nope. Another one of the characters grabbed it without you realizing, and swapped it for another object. *sigh*
Every now and then, to keep the game from being too easy (ha!), a trapdoor will open up and your character will fall into a tunnel and be chased by a demon. Obviously, if the demon catches you, you are dead. If one of your five characters dies, the game is over.
Success! I’ve managed to hold two items that *should* work with each other: An unstamped parcel, and a rubber stamp. Yet, nothing seems to happen — whether I stand outside the post office with them, or if I enter the post office with them:
Is it because I’m using them with the *wrong* character? I really don’t know. This game is annoying like that. A quick message telling me what I’m doing wrong would be appreciated.
So far, I’m really enjoying this game. It’s pretty challenging and it’s taking me a while to figure out how different items interact. The game play is innovative — being able to switch characters and all. To be honest, the graphics don’t bother me — as long as I can clearly identify the item I’m picking up everything is A-okay with me.
This is an extremely cerebral game (mixed in with some platforming elements). It’s not enough to collect the right objects, but you also need to figure out which order to use them, how to combine them, and how to get the correct objects to the correct characters. This game is challenging enough without having to hunt down the characters you need to swap with — maybe if pressing 1 – 5 actually swapped you with that character anywhere on the map (instead of only when they are on the same screen as you are), it would make the game feel less tedious. Don’t get me wrong — I think the character-swapping is a brilliant mechanic and this game does indeed merit the “multi-role arcade adventure” accomplishment it advertises, but I’d like to point out that I spent most of my time chasing down other characters hoping their skill sets would come in handy.
Something amusing about this game is that there is no way to save your progress, and you more or less need to complete the game in one sitting. I can imagine a lot of hours invested trying to figure out what items do what, and which characters can use which items — actually, I’m imagining hours upon hours spent doing this. I actually took a sneak peak at the walkthru and some of these puzzles are REALLY difficult and I wouldn’t have been able to solve them on my own.
This game feels like a forerunner to Maniac Mansion (which I loved playing as a kid on my NES), and is a really challenging game that makes me to sit in the same room as someone else playing, and snicker along as they try to solve the brain-bending puzzles this game is rife with. While I don’t think there’s much replay value here, I think you’ll probably spend 20 hours (or more) trying to solve it, complete it, and then never want to look at it again. For some games, it’s all about the journey and not so much the destination. I’d definitely recommend giving this one a try.