It almost brings a tear to my eye when thinking back to watching this great cartoon series as a young kid. So much so that when I found the game in a second-hand shop, I was quick to buy it. Loading up the game when I got home, I was sadly disappointed to find a poor arcade adventure game based around a murder at a circus. When researching for GTW and generally playing various games, I came across this interesting preview of the game, which is nothing like the abysmal game that was released.
This version of the game is much closer to the style of Melbourne House games which was typical at the time (Muncher, Street Hassle), with a chunky main character (Though accurate and well animated!). It even seems that the charset was nicked too from Muncher/Street Hassle! Graphically very funny, and the animations for each part of Inspector Gadget are very faithfully reproduced.
Gadget has to run through a horizontally scrolling level (very much best described as a Metro Cross clone), jumping obstacles and getting Gadget skates and other gadgets like the Helicopter, spring legs and other bits. Very faithful to the cartoon original, and much more fun compared to the very poor effort we eventually got. Collecting certain objects, makes you jump to other screens, but overall its very unstable and crashes a lot.
No music exists in the preview, apart from an awesome rendition of the theme tune in the intro sequence, a lot more accurate than Jason Brooke’s version in the final released game, and much closer to the the cartoon and the style of old Melbourne house music. You can check it out for yourselves from the downloads area below.
It was discovered that the version in Gamebase 64 has the missing intro sequence, which is a very faithful rendition of the cartoon’s intro. Plus it has the music which has been sitting in HVSC for a while. This updated version has been added to the downloads section as well.
Thanks to Peter Weighill for digging out an early advert for the game, it is confirmed that this was intended to be the “Circus of Fear” Inspector Gadget game eventually released by Melbourne House. So this version you see here was cancelled, and another team clearly brought in to create a whole new game around the story/theme. But why?
Thankfully, the creators were tracked down in 2008 and we would learn what happened.
Essentially, the game was being developed by both Don Havelberg and Ian Chia, and was nearing completion when disaster struck. Towards the end there was a bug that kept crashing the game, and unfortunately after many banging of heads, the developers could not find what was causing it. Andrew Davie, who worked at Beam Software, recalls sitting with Don Havelburg for many hours trying to find the issue and were chasing around the bug in the system.
With deadlines looming, Melbourne House had to concede defeat, and so new developers were very quickly drafted in to knock out a quick effort which was the dire arcade adventure game which was released. Dire probably because it was rushed.
What is quite sickening though is the fact that soon after the contract was passed over to another development team, the developers of the original game found that it was something startlingly simple that was causing the crash, and that they could have after all fixed it and finished the game. Andrew confirmed that it was later found to be simply a missing “clear interrupt” instruction.
Sadly bad luck prevented what should/could have been an excellent licensed game had it been polished up.
Interestingly the press span things by saying that Mastertronic cancelled the first version as it wasn’t good enough, which is clearly a cover up – as it certainly WAS good enough. Plus the eventual release was absolutely terrible. According to Mastertronic, companies had review copies – but probably just the demo that we have perhaps?
It is not known exactly how this development of the game managed to sneak out, but it is believed that this is the final version, and indeed it does crash on occasion. Both developers did not know how the game surfaced, and were quite surprised to see it after so many years. Ian was only around 16\17 when working on the game. It is suggested that someone who saw the game at CVG when the article preview was produced (see Gallery) may have leaked it.
It is possible more graphics, level maps and enemies are hidden in the code and haven’t been implemented just yet. Certainly there is a bug there which could well be fixed and make the game fully playable once more. Is this something anyone can help with?
From the article that CVG ran, we learn that the game was divided into three worlds – the first was really a training level to get to grips with all the gadgets that Inspector Gadget had (including Gadget Skates, Gadget Copter, Gadget Elastic legs and more). It could be that the preview has all of the features, just includes a bug and a lack of music/sfx (which could well be added by someone).
Professor Chaos has been hacking around and it seems it may have been a very easy fix, but also there is a cut-scene tucked away in the game that you can see by pressing F7. Possibly an end sequence unused? A good point made by Professor Chaos is that the ZX Spectrum version of the Beam game was released, so this is actually a good indication of how the final game would have been: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-uvHQ5u23o
It feels that there is potential here to do something with this preview. Hopefully some day we’ll get a fully fixed version to enjoy.
Contributions: Peter Weighill, Mat Allen, Mat (Bondclone), Andrew Partis, Andrew Davie, Ian Chia, Don Havelberg, Ross Sillifant, Professor Chaos
Don Havelberg talks to GTW64 about Inspector Gadget:
“I don’t know if I should admit to it, but yes I am. wow, that’s my past coming back to haunt me.
The game was never finished because Ian left the company and the game kept crashing. I worked out years later that when you get two timer interrupts happening at the same time on the C64 one of them doesn’t happen and that made the whole game crash. It would have been a very simple fix…
I have no idea how it got out there, i was going to ask you where you got it from. I don’t have any thing about it left. Was all way too long ago.”
Ian Chia reacts after seeing the preview:
“Huh – that’s incredible! I haven’t seen those screens for a very very very long time. Last time I saw that was in 1987 (I was 17 or 18 I think), when I was working on it.
Amazing – how on earth did that code and screenshots get leaked?”