A game based on the world famous actor… adverts were placed in magazines and it was mentioned around the gaming scene on many occasions in the late 80’s.
Martin Holland was working on the graphics for the Amstrad CPC version for Canvas Software, when apparently US Gold pulled the plug on Canvas’ involvement. All the data was shipped to Tiertex, who took over the multi-platform project according to Martin – though there is no evidence to suggest this happened.
It was unknown at the time if the C64 version was completed, but the Spectrum and Amstrad versions were and received poor reviews. Dawn Hollywood (then Drake), worked on the ZX Spectrum version and unfortunately did not know anything about the C64 conversion.
Rumors were originally of Martin Calvert doing the graphics and his older brother Steve coding it. Martin Calvert originally confirmed that the C64 version was nothing to do with him or his brother and that possibly it was actually outsourced to another individual.
There was once supplied what was believed to be a C64 screenshot, published in a Swedish magazine called Soft, which catered for both the Amiga and C64. There was no real Amstrad scene over there, and the Spectrum was virtually non-covered… so was this REALLY a c64 version?…. Well, no – it was the Spectrum version in the end!
Finally – a breakthrough in 2015, when Sean Townsend confirmed that he was the sole developer of Charlie Chaplin on the C64. The graphic artist eventually would be confirmed as Martin Calvert, who eventually recalled the project after a final prod. The game was designed by Gary Bolton. Music was composed by Mark Cooksey in a bit of freelance work away from Elite.
The game was confirmed to be incomplete – but was functional as far as Chaplin being able to walk around scenes and interact with other characters. The record and playback functionality however was extremely buggy and needed a lot more work to get going properly and to finish the project.
Progress halted when Sean was not being paid properly by Canvas, and so he left and moved to Barcrest. No-one picked up the project afterwards, and Sean wasn’t sure why the game didn’t get finished off. Maybe a C64 developer could not be found to tidy things up?
Sean confirmed that game was done from scratch and was not a port, utilizing the bitmap mode of the C64 and software sprites. The loading however was very painful and ideally in hindsight for Sean, should have been done in a different way so it would work well on tape.
Sean kindly dug out all of his C64 and Atari disks, and did a long term loan to GTW64 to see if we could preserve anything of Charlie Chaplin between 2015 and 2016. After a very long slog to get the Atari-format C64 source code preserved and sorting the C64 disks out, with a lot of help from Mat Allen and the guys at Kyroflux – a fully executable version of the game was found and preserved.
Most of the game is actually there, and is believed to be about 80-90% complete overall. There is heavy corruption in places with some of the animation frames not working (in particular the collapse of characters), and the playback feature not fully functional or working correctly. The playback of each 3 scenes in the cinema is missing cut scene text and doesn’t quite seem to work. You can however play the game and see most of the scenes from the complete game.
The loading is terrible though as Sean suggests, and it is hard to see how the game would have worked well on tape. In combination with the shallow idea for the game, no doubt this would have bombed too in the press like the other versions. Sean did his best though given the circumstances and design that he was given to work with.
Mark Cooksey’s music has been integrated, though it seems not all of it. There is a separate music demo which has a “Sad” tune not seemingly utilized. Only the title tune has been added, and menu tunes present in the CPC version are missing. There is also a distinct lack of SFX compared to the other versions, which suggests Sean may have gone with a “silent movie” approach, or they are yet to be discovered (maybe tucked away in Mark’s music files?)
We are very pleased to present though what remains of the conversion and solve a mystery that has been running for many years now. It is a title that will intrigue, and finally we can see how the game was looking on the C64 – all thanks to Sean and his kind loan of his work disks and the help of Mat Allen and the Kyroflux team for their assistance.
Contributions: Martin Holland, Fabrizio Bartoloni, Martin Calvert, Martin Smith, Sean Townsend, Ross Sillifant, Jazzcat, Mat Allen