Although I am loath to begin any discussion with a story about young boys and masturbation, I understand that there is no other possible way to begin this review. You see, for all men (and ladies) out there of a certain age, you will remember the joys of the stick; to be specific, the joystick.
This phallus-shaped implement of wanton desire, this obelisk of entertainment, with its comely shape and beckoning, throbbing buttons was our training manual in the art of taking-to-bed. You kids nowadays, so sweaty and pale, so uniformed about dirty lovin and dirtier videogames – you have grown up on unrealistic porn rather than good old-fashioned, hard-working fist action and button bashing, and I can only assume you are crap at both. For a generation of youngsters, our fingers were sculpted into sleek killing machines and our biceps primed for masturbation many years before it was required, or even thought of. Meanwhile, many girl gamers of the 80s and early 90s gained invaluable expertise on the handling of stiff, yet jiggly tools which once again would make their futures considerably brighter.
Countless hours of repetitive thrusting, poking, shaft-grasping, rhythmic pumping, and sheer dedication has meant that we are a fearless race of nymph-Gods, able to stave off such petit problems like muscle cramps, strains, exhaustion, and ultimately boredom in your quest for the orgasm goal (goalgasm? no). Not that it needs to be such a long slog, because those countless hours also taught us finesse and control, meaning we can beat one out at a moment’s notice or let it ride for a night of tantric boning the likes of which you X-BoX and Playstation youngsters will never experience. It’s our duty to give thanks; thanks for all those secret bathroom squirts, thanks to all those times a hand slipped down some pants gave you or a partner a pleasure moment, thanks for the hundreds of millions of gallons of stinky juices which have splurged out of or been slurped from your body over the last decade or so. And for all of those things, we have one person to thank:
Even without the games he endorsed leading to unfathomable ecstasy for us, I bet a few of you out there are reaching for the tissues just by gazing upon his beauty. Those muscles. That tache. Settle down! We’re not here to talk about sex, that part is done – we’re here to talk about the classic calorie crusher that is Daley Thompson’s Supertest. Now, I’m sure a few hipsters out there are already scrambling to type a furious response about Daley Thompson’s Decathlon or Track And Field, but you’d better calm your skinny-jeaned legs and relax before you expire due to the strain of lifting your Mac-Air, strain caused by a diet rich in tofu. Firstly, I’m aware that Supertest wasn’t the first of its kind, and secondly, this is my blog so I will be talking about the games I most fondly remember. In addition, Supertest, I feel, is the superior game due to the fact that Thompson is no longer a white man as depicted confusingly in Decathlon, and that he has expanded his repertoire beyond mere running and jumping track events to disciplines like skiing, tug of war, and shooting – he truly was the greatest athlete of a generation, a titan amongst men.
Before we get onto the games, I forgot to mention the delightful title screen music which you can find easily enough on Youtube – the only time Chariots Of Fire has been bearable. It plays over some lovely animation – a white, presumably Daley Thompson contradicts my earlier racial comment, and runs and runs while you decide whether to go with Kempston joystick orKeyboard. Leave this long enough and I think you are taken to a high score screen and highlights reel with some other tune playing over the top – another inspiring number if I remember correctly.
Onto the game then – here we have 12 events of an interesting variety: Rowing, Penalties, Ski Jump, Tug Of War, Triple Jump, 100 metres, Javelin, 110 metre hurdles, Shooting, Cycling, Diving, Giant Slalom. Even before you start playing, we get the title screen which shows the epic times just around the corner. It’s bright, dynamic, and depicts a jaundiced Thompson hugging his futuristic track suit in comforting fashion, lulling you into thinking this game will be a light, refreshing warm-up for any real exercise you may do later
Speaking of fun even before you start playing, the game offers one of the most supreme Name Loading screens in videogame history – one so brilliantly awful that inputting your name (Bumface McAnusarse) becomes a Sysyphus level challenge game on its own:
Thankfully you can only enter three letters, but nevertheless, wafting between these flickering neon letters is a nightmare which still haunting my sleeps 20 years after I last tried it. Those blippy bloppy nows the cursor makes as it flies to and fro past the one letter you actually want to select is the theme tune to every emotional trauma I have ever suffered. When writing my name on exam papers, these images would come crashing back and I would scream the scream of a cassette loading screen and run out of the room. Also – R = Rub? What the hell does that even mean?
Once (if) you successfully navigate beyond the limbless angel above, you will be greeted with the individual game loading screen – first event – Rowing. he screen shows that you have three lives depicted by three runners – if you fail in an event, one of the runners sadly fades away. Also sad is the fact that each event only has sound effects, not music. Starting with a glitch sounding pistol explosion, you pit yourself against the computer in a novel approach to racing – your boat doesn’t actually movie, instead the targets move signifying that you are passing them before or after your competitor. It makes sense if you see it, I promise –
Mushy fart noises accompany your oars blasting through the water, in a stunningly life-like sound effect, while you rhythmically bash your joystick from side to side on your way to victory. This is a light enough warm-up if you qualify on your first life. On to penalties then, as Thompson channels his inner Jan Molby and sticks one in the top left. This was always one of my favourites, and to this day is ‘quotable’ for me. See, when I was young, we played this on a crappy small TV, and when you miss a penalty, the word ‘MISS’ flashes up on the screen. On my TV however, this looked like ‘HISS’. So when I’m watching footy now and someone channels their inner Chris Waddle and skies one, I usually shout ‘HISS’! to the bewilderment of everyone else watching.
The screen is quite complex here, with a number of important features – the main play action where you see a chubby Daley Dwarf defeating his white slave master, a power meter, an angle of shot giver, and a little map showing you where the goal is in case you’re a moron or an American. Like other events, the screen shows how many points you need to qualify. How the points for your goals are actually computed I have no idea – some combination of Italian flair and German composure I imagine – success or failure doesn’t seem all that important as I seem to recall getting points even when I Hissed. I also have no idea what the controls were, I can’t remember much other than mangling the joystick and trying to smash the red button at the right time, leading to a variety of Hisses. Two final things to ponder; firstly, why does Daley need a 100 metre sprint before kicking the ball, and secondly, The Gay Dan?
Next up is another complex screen and game, and one of Daley’s most famous events…. Ski Jump! Again, my memory fails me – I can’t really recall exactly how to play this, but I think it went something like – press fire button, shake stick to maintain power, press fire button to take off, and time your final fire button press to land without snapping your legs off.
You need to time your landing precisely to avoid the graphic misfortune displayed above – overshoot and you end up exploding and rolling through the snow like something from a Wil E Coyote cartoon. Equally important is your take-off – mis-time and you drift peacefully off the edge and zoom serenely off the screen before the pop-up FOUL! screen brings you back to reality. As you can see, Daley really psychs himself up for this event by covering his entire body in blue war paint – it is highly recommended you do the same. The main play screen is where you should follow the important moments of the game, but once you take off, feel free to gaze freely on the other two screens – a bird’s-eye view where Daley is transformed into an X passing through a syringe, and the ever popular side view, where you get a true representation of the awe-inspiring scope of Daley’s slope and jump. At the bottom, a handy power gauge mocks your feeble biceps as you ever so gradually edge towards the required qualifying distance, always aware of the icy tundra closing in below. Three tries should be enough to get you through to the next event and quick breather.
Ready? Oh lordy, here we go. For all the hundreds of Spectrum games I played decades ago, a handful of games, or parts of games stand out as impossible. Not difficult – completely impossible. The next event, Tug Of War, is one of those. I don’t even think the rapid fire button which game with some of the fancier joysticks helped. It is still possible to beat this event, yes, but I don’t I’ve ever heard anyone claim to have beaten the freak known simply as ‘Gus’.
Take a moment to look at those fuckers. On a good day I could beat Eric Von Mean, and I have a vague recollection of even defeating Curly Cobb once. But Gus (whose head is eerily similar to the giant blue fist cursor) would have your arms ripped off in a matter of moments before lunging through the screen and given you a wedgy so severe that you now have a double anus. Seriously – even the world records screen shows that he is unbeaten (The Woods too – being ‘7’ and Gus being ‘8’… again, it will make sense on the screen below). Also worthy of noting, and which may be complete balls but is how I remember it, is that snooty twat Jessie Gee would lull you into thinking you were winning before pulling it back and slaughtering you on the verge of victory.
Look at the crowd watching the spectacle. For some reason they remind me of popcorn. Also, remember them, because they keep coming back in later events… in the same seats… in the same position… never moving or cheering… only emitting positive thoughts bubbles such as ‘far-out’. In their defence, for this event they do actually make a disturbing series of pops, clicks, and buzzes if you win, like they all decided to celebrate by launching a single, timed to perfection, apocalyptic fart together. If you select Hyper Bill as your opponent, you need to rattle your joystick until you yank him over your line – apparently to win you should mimic the way your opponent is tugging, and try to out-do him, but that sounds a little too much like masturbating whilst watching someone masturbate. My advice is to do it as hard and fast as possible. Same for Tug Of War.
You should be sweating by this point in the game, and you may even have lost a life. Make sure you don’t lose anymore – you’ll need those once we get to Diving. Before that though, we have the Triple Jump. It’s another test of timing and joystick punishing – run as fast as you can by shaking the joystick, then leap through the air in a series of bounds by tapping the fire button at the precise moment. It isn’t the most exciting event, but it is memorable for some decent running animation. For reasons unknown though, before you first take off the animation has a stroke and you slide forwards and take off in one, motionless manoeuver. It is a joy to behold. Also, if you land correctly, you are rewarded by a ghost which appears and gives Daley a mouth gift.
Aside from the obscenity going on, eagle-eyed glancers will notice that the triple jump is measured by degrees, with 44 being hot, and 52 being internal organ boiling. The scientists amongst you will know that the best way to reduce core body temperature is to go for a nice sprint, which leads nicely to our next event – 100 metre sprint!
Basically, you run like a bastard, but don’t stop, because next up is the Javelin where you continue to run like a bastard and eventually throw a stick. Meanwhile, your arms and hands will be weeping. What’s interesting about Javelin is that the Guses amongst you may be able to throw the javelin out of the screen –
The pain doesn’t end yet, because we’re onto the 110 hurdles now. To get this far with your arms still attached to your body is an achievement in itself. Give yourself a pat on the back. As you would expect, the hurdles is another wrist wrecker, with timed button presses to leap over the obstacles. If you succeed, you are rewarded with one of the more interesting and fun events of the game, and you can relax your arms for a few moments. This is a game of skill; this is pistol shooting
What seems simple, is actually an extremely addictive, and frantic game. You only get a few moments to move your sights to the target, and fire, before the target vanishes – and if I remember correctly, there is no set pattern to this each time you play, so you can’t memorize which target will appear. You get thirty shots in total, so it’s easy enough to qualify, but you’ll want to keep trying to break your record, and get as many of those elusive bull’s-eyes as possible. Graphically this is pretty, Daley’s cap is rather fetching, and the lush outdoors seem like paradise, aside from all the bullets whizzing off into the horizon. Musically, we have bright, blippy sounds for the targets turning, and the good old coughing sounds for the pistol. This is one you’ll want to return to.
We’re on the home straight now, but we can’t afford to get complacent. Your fingers should be poised and primed for action, so lets give them some torture.
Cycling is a nightmare. It’s a button basher of the highest (lowest) order, and was known as the primary cause of premature arthritis in Western children through the 80s. As you would expect, you finger that red thing as fast and hard as possible until you reach victory. Just make sure you get it right first go. Once that is done, it’s on to another impossible, yet fun event – Diving. This one is again about timing, but also about flair and skill. Most of the time it’s sheer luck if you land in the pool head-first – you’ll likely be dropping in feet-first quite a few times. On the rate occasion that you do pull off a stunning combo of somersaults and enter the water correctly, the Judges will still be unbelievably harsh and score you lower than a eunuch in a fucking contest.
No matter what you do, that hairy bastard on the left will never give you a single point. You have three dives, with a potential of 40 points per dive – a total of 120 points up for grabs, and you need a mere 65 to qualify without losing a life. I guarantee you won’t get close to 65 points. Having said that, it is a fun one to play with friends, to see which of you can get closest to qualifying. Once you’re done, dry yourself and get warm as we’re off to the slopes once again for the Giant Slalom; this one is impossible too.
I like that Daley has opted for the classic wooly bobble hat, flouting international sporting safety regulations. But remember, this is Daley Thompson, more man than you’ll ever be, and one who laughs at the thought of his skull hitting snow at 40 mph. As mentioned, this one is impossible – not tough, just impossible. Not only do you need to get to the bottom within a minute, but you have to pass through various sets of flags which have been cunningly placed at the nether regions of the course, and with not enough space between each set to physically reach without coming to a complete standstill and shuffling over to. You’ll be seeing a lot of this
Again, it’s fun to try, to see how long you last, or even if you can make it to the finish line, but keep an eye on those lives. Nice detail on the graphics, but the only sound is when you crash through a flag. The controls are pretty awful too, but that adds to the challenge. And what a challenge it has been! It’s time to lick your wounds and celebrate, because that’s it folks. You took on the world and lived to tell the tale. All that is left is to watch Daley transform into a skinny white dude, stand atop of a French podium, and receive the adoration of the crowd. ‘Far Out’! ‘Not bad’! ‘etc’! As a final insult, a Giant, situated somewhere behind the crowd, rubs one off in honour of your achievement, an explosive ejaculation which goes fountaining into the air. It’s every 8 year old boy’s dream come true.
But wait – it’s not quite over. The overall champ needs to be decided, so it’s back through the events for some one – on – one challenges. Don’t worry, you won’t win – basically you keep going until you lose. And so, all you’re hard work comes to nothing, as you weep at the feet of the one true champion
Well, at least we can say we were beaten by the best, and – wait – wait a second… is that… is that Hyper Bill!!? I HATE YOU HYPER BILL!!!
Did this Pulitzer Prize quality review spark some memories in you? Feel free to share you’re happiest moments in the comments below.
World Of Spectrum page for Supertest, filled with pics, reviews, emulators, music, and more: http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0001222
Youtube walkthrough courtesy of ZEUZDAZ: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAVdN0u0iao