Monday, 29 April 2013

Commodore 64 Games #3

Gribbly's Day Out (1985)
By: Andrew Braybrook / Hewson Consultants Genre: Platform / Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Commodore 64 First Day Score: Nothing :(
Also Available For: Nothing

Although I never owned a C64 at the time, I did frequently see games featured in multi-format magazines of the day, and one that always appealed to me was this one, thanks mainly, I don't doubt, to the peculiar main character I saw in screenshots and adverts. More recently I've discovered that he's something called a Blabgorian and has the rather splendid name of Gribbly Grobbly. His job, at least insofar as his game is concerned, is to locate and rescue infant Blabgorians called Gribblets which apparently have a tendency to leave their home in search of adventure. Blabgor is not a safe place though, so Gribbly needs to recover the careless oafs as quickly as possible, and since there are eight of them on each of the sixteen stages that make up the game, it's quite a challenge that faces him as well.

Gribbly hovers above some damaging rough ground...
The scrolling stages are each approximately six screens wide by three high and viewed from the side, and the gribblets are of course distributed across the whole landscape. They have the appearance of small mollusc-like creatures and can hop back and forth but never move far from their original position. To save them, Gribbly must collect them and take them one at a time to a cave-like area. As you may have noticed, he's a unique-looking fellow too, having no hands and just one foot with which he can hop around. While he's doing this there's little that can hurt him, but he also has the ability to levitate himself indefinitely by using the psychic powers that he and all Blabgorians possess. While he's doing this there's a lot that can hurt him which is unfortunate since it's how he needs to spend most of his time.

The scary Seon stalks poor Gribbly...
Pretty much everything in the entire stage can hurt Gribbly, in fact. Each of them is walled and features things like trees and rocks on the ground, and there are usually a few small floating platforms dotted around as well. Touching any of this stuff causes him to lose precious 'Psi Energy' (quite rapidly too!), as does hopping onto or trying to land on rough ground, water, or some other non-normal surface. There are also some unpleasant creatures lurking around the place as well and they're quite interesting as they evolve as you play! They start out as Seed Pods which look a lot like sycamore seeds, whirling about the place. When they land on a suitable surface they become Topsies which are worm-like things that flollop back and forth along platforms, flipping over any Gribblets that may be there as they go.

Three Topsies floople around atop the safety cave...
If Topsies are left alone for long enough they take the form of a Chrysalis from which Stompers will eventually hatch. These things are a bit more aggressive and if they encounter a gribblet they'll absorb it and take their final form - a larger Flyer which carry the gribblets away. The only enemy that doesn't form part of this evolutionary chain is the flying black crab thing called Seon which stalks Gribbly around the stages relentlessly. Luckily, Seon is the only enemy that drains Gribbly's energy - the others are dangerous only to the gribblets - but our hoppity friend is still able to see them off with his bubbly attack. This kills Seed Pods, Topsies, Chrysalises, and Flyers with ease, causing the latter to drop any gribblet they may be carrying (collect it as it falls in case it lands somewhere dangerous!), and temporarily stuns the indestructible Seon (very temporarily too!). The only enemy unaffected by bubbles are the mean Stompers so it's best not to let any of them evolve if you can avoid it!

Gribbly watches a Flyer carry a poor gribblet away...
More immediately troublesome than any of this, however, are the force-fields that span much of the stages. Although Gribbly is unable to pass them (and will lose energy if he tries), he can turn sections on and off by blowing bubbles near them. The 'energy web', however, is there to contain Seon, so if you turn the wrong parts off he'll be free to wreak havoc! There's no actual time-limit you have to stick to here but it's still a race against time to finish each stage as you have to rescue at least six gribblets on each - take too long and there won't be enough left, or Gribbly himself won't be left as he'll have been permanently grounded by Seon. Needless to say, with so much against Gribbly, his task is a mighty difficult one. He can fly nice and smoothly in eight directions, and at quite a speed too, but if he hits something he'll bounce off it with considerable force, and this can sometimes result in a pinball-like effect of bouncing back and forth between two objects until he's lost a life.

Blocked from the off!
A careful, tempered approach would seem sensible then but, as mentioned, this isn't really a game that allows you to take too much time. As a result, I found it super-tough going! Indeed, it took me a good while to even finish the first stage and it's massively unlikely that I'd ever be able to finish it so it's fortunate that the order of the stages is random after the first. This at least allowed me to see a good few of them (even if only for a short while!). In so doing, I found that graphically they're fairly varied in terms of the colour schemes used. Only a couple force you to reach for the sunglasses really (the purple foreground/cyan background one above, for instance), but the foreground scenery is much more repetitive. The enemies are the same over the whole game too, but they're animated nicely, better than Gribbly himself in fact.

Oops, trapped myself inside the force-field!
Even with those fairly samey visuals and almost non-existent audio, though, the appeal that Gribbly and his game displayed prior to my actually playing it remains prevalent now that I've spent some time with it. I didn't even know what kind of game to expect to be honest. I knew it was a scrolling adventure of some sort but, being a famous C64 game, I had a feeling it wouldn't just be a generic hop 'n' bopper either. I can now safely say that's definitely the case! I absolutely loved it to begin with - steering this peculiar green alien creature around such an unusual place was a lot of fun and the appealing graphics, original premise, and smooth controls certainly leave a great first impression, but after a while it became apparent that it's far too difficult for a wussy arcade gamer like me. The title 'Gribbly's Day Out' makes it sound like a happy, jolly stroll in the park; I think a more apt title may have been 'Gribbly's Hellish Ordeal'. I'm very pleased to have finally played it though, and it's enjoyable and addictive enough that I'll return to it often, but I doubt I'll ever get very far.

RKS Score: 7/10


  1. This was a game I really didn't get on with and would have rated it 5 or 6 at most. I found it too awkward and difficult to be enjoyable. I much prefer Andrew Braybrook's later work.

  2. That's fair enough sir :) I haven't experienced a great deal of his work yet but, as I said, I really enjoyed this one except for the high difficulty. If that stupid black crab thing was toned down a bit, I'd enjoy this a lot more :|

  3. I'd happily give this one 9/10. It is initially a little frustrating due to the 80's difficulty level but with a little practice you're soon able to fly round the levels at relative speed. I still find the visuals charming, but its the feel of this game that really pulls me back - Gribbly seems to control so naturally, from his increasing bounce to pixel perfect flying to flick the switches. I've never come close to finishing it in all my years of playing, but I've had a lot of fun trying. One point to note (that I'd forgotten about until looking the game up elsewhere) is that the Rack It rerelease of the game as pictured here has been tweaked a little from the original. The scrolling is smoother and a loading screen has been added by the illustrious Steve 'SIR86' Robertson. While the loading screen retains the old name, the main title screen professes it to be 'Gribbly's Special Day Out'. What I don't know is if the difficulty was tweaked for this one.

  4. Hi Mr Ant, thanks for dropping by :) If I had reviewed the game based on my first 10-20 minutes with it, I'd probably have given it 9/10 as well. I wasn't convinced I'd like it beforehand but it was awesome! Then I continued to make little progress and soon started getting annoyed at the high-difficulty level. It sure is a unique and interesting game for sure, though, and I'm very glad to have finally experienced it :)

  5. I would also give Gribbly's a higher rating.
    It's so different to everything else for me, from the unusual premise, simple but catchy tune and even the Braybrook trademark weird fonts! He was a game programming genius :)

  6. I think part of it is to do with whether you grew up with the system/game or not. Playing Gribbly's for the first time now (or quite recently), it's still clearly a creative and original game but it's also quite an annoying one. Or so I found at least. I'm glad I got around to playing it though :)

  7. I feel the same about anything Nintendo-based, have never understood the Mario thing ;)

  8. I think I can understand that. I love Super Mario World as I got it with my SNES but the earlier ones I didn't play until afterwards so they're not games I've spent a tremendous amount of time with to be honest. I will eventually though :)