EGGHEAD 4 game
  • Graphics
  • Sound
  • Playability
  • Lastability
FormatSinclair Spectrum
DeveloperJonathan Cauldwell
ReviewGordon and Dan

Main review

He’s back! And this time it’s personal. Or a domestic issue to be more precise. Egghead is home again after his recent exploits in space, but he doesn’t have time to rest. His girlfriend Shelley is coming over for dinner in three hours, and Mr. Head needs to cook a slap up meal pronto. A quick visit to his friendly oven shows him the ingredients he needs, but old Eggy doesn’t keep his foodstuffs in the kitchen like everyone else. In fact, they’re scattered all over the house and surrounding areas for him to find. Some of the items Egghead will come across are not for cooking, but will aid him in reaching the deeper recesses of his maison. He can carry up to three items, but the ingredients can only be cooked in the kitchen one by one. If only he had tidied up after that house warming party last week…

What Egghead IV (subtitled “Egghead Entertains”) amounts to is a flick screen platformer in the style of Jet Set Willy that has the collect-and-drop gameplay of Knight Lore bolted on top. On first playing you are drawn to the unusual animation of the Egghead sprite. He waddles from side to side, just like a real cartoon character. His jumping ability is natural and smooth, with a neat facility to change direction mid-flight. He may have short legs and arms, but he moves through the air like Wayne Sleep. The other sprites in the game are also well animated, and the collision detection between them and Egghead is pixel perfect. The varied and detailed locations include mineshafts, an excellent Burgertime pastiche and a graveyard with dubious (C64?) headstone inscriptions. All have plenty of colour, but attribute clash with the Egghead sprite is minimal. Special note must go to the neat masking effects throughout the game that on one screen allow Egghead’s yellow bonce to walk behind red and white roadworks banners without any bleed whatsoever. Many of the platforms in these locations require subtle movements and jumps that are hard but never unfair. The simple, logical puzzles are great fun too. The more you search for items to open new rooms, the more Egghead IV‘s addictiveness really kicks in. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself hooked by one of the best 8-bit homebrew releases of the decade.

It’s not quite perfect, though. First of all, Egghead IV won’t win any awards for originality, as a few of the screens have the familiarity of a half-remembered pop hit. One example, the “Canal Lock Gates” screen, is also a ponderous and graphically weak affair – the only misstep in the game. There’s no scoring system either, which makes it difficult to measure your progress against previous attempts. I would also question the suitability of the AY tune by Yerzmyey. It’s good, but it’s also a furious cacophony of noise that’s too intense as a backdrop for the more thoughtful gameplay of Egghead IV. And apart from the music, there’s no sound at all, forcing 48K purists into playing a silent movie.

For a program as intricate as Egghead IV however, these criticisms are small, especially when compared to the games it was inspired by. Take Wanted: Monty Mole, for example, where you can be permanently trapped behind a wall near the beginning of the game. Or the budget hit Booty, where creatures randomly appear to kill you without giving you a chance to escape. Egghead IV pulls off the rare feat of capturing much of the atmosphere and excitement of these classics whilst avoiding their pitfalls.

So where does Egghead IV fit in amongst its influences? Well, quite near the top, actually; technically I’d put it way above everything else in the Jet Set Willy era (1984-85), including Jet Set Willy itself. But is it a better game? Well, no, I don’t think so. For all the polish of the sprites, Egghead IV‘s psychotic televisions and rotating stars don’t have the same impact as the pirouetting rabbits and gargoyle heads of Matthew Smith’s masterpiece. Jet Set Willy‘s sprites didn’t just look good – they reflected the human condition. They reminded you of people you hated and feared. The way Miner Willy sidestepped them without intent on revenge seemed to be a lesson for us all – a crash course in life filtered through a strange, drug-filled haze. Egghead IV is good, but not that good.

Comparing Jonathan Cauldwell to one of the best sprite designers ever is a little harsh though. In short, Egghead IV is a brilliant platform game that stands shoulder to shoulder with anything in the history of the Spectrum. Quite frankly, it should not be available free of charge on the internet. It’s far too good for that. Download it now before Cauldwell comes to his senses and removes it. Addictive, engrossing and near flawlessly executed, Egghead IV does what it says on the cover: it ‘Entertains’… and then some.

Second opinion

What’s the hardest thing in the world to do; climb Everest? Nah, sail around the world? Nah, entertain a woman? Oh hell yes. You get that wrong and you are in a whole world of pain, since there aint no fury like a woman scorned. So what has our loveable chap gone and done? Invited his woman over for a bit of a feast to impress her, the fool.

If you have ever played any of the Egghead games you will immediately know what you are in for so skip this review and go down to the next paragraph, otherwise read on. The basis of the game is to collect the ingredients for the dish our rotund hero is about to prepare. These have to be collected in a specified order, once you get one ingredient you can set out to find the others. The next ingredient to find is handily shown over the oven in a thought bubble and your progress is helped by being able to carry three items at a time so if you know where you are going or need something then you can save a fair bit of time. Time is of the essence and is shown by the clock at the side of the screen; you have only three hours before your lady friend rings the doorbell, so you’ve got to be quick since the map is quite wonderously large and very varied.

You also start the game with five lives which can be lost by touching the weird and animated erm, bad things such as televisions, pigs and other unnatural bits. There are also a few static objects that clutter up the screen and hinder your way, making some of the jumps difficult when precise timing is a must. Graphically, Egghead IV is excellent, all the sprites are superbly detailed and animated and the sheer amount of varied backdrops make it a joy to behold. The only problem I had was that I haven’t got an AY-equipped Spectrum so there was no sound while i was playing, although the title screen (with lovely spinning star) clearly stated there was music.

What can I say, it’s a collect ’em up; if you like this sort of game then you’ve got yourself a winner here, especially if you like to draw maps like back in the old days and, if you’re not a fan then you may find yourself amazed at how enjoyable this game actually is, and that it’s so simple to get into and play – and you can’t help but laugh at the great loading screen where Egghead has cooked a chicken, how’s that for irony!