Somewhere in the dark and nasty regions, where nobody goes, stands an ancient castle. Deep within this dank and uninviting place, lives Berk, overworked servant of “the thing upstairs”
But that’s nothing compared to the horrors that lurk beneath the trap door, for there is always something down there, in the dark, waiting to come out…
And so begins every episode of classic kids TV show ‘The Trapdoor.’ Merging horror with slapstick, bold claymation characters and the comedic talents of Willie Rushton, its deservedly one of the most popular British kids shows of the 80s.
But this isn’t review an awesome kids show day, so let’s have a look at the ZX Spectrum game that was based on it.
Released in 1986, the game essentially picks up where the TV series left off. Playing as the show’s down-trodden hero, Berk, Its your job to prepare a number of different meals for the unseen ‘thing upstairs.’ Keep him happy and Berk will escape with his well-earned wages, but make one too many mistakes and all Berk will receive is the sack. Tough gig.
To help Berk create the various dishes he’ll need, you’ll have to make use of the various ingredients and bits of equipment which have been liberally scattered around the Castle. Generally these will only take you so far though, so you’ll also have to work out how to harness the dubious ‘talents’ of the various weird creatures that lurk beneath the castle’s trapdoor.
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the Thing Upstairs also has a bit of a short fuse too. Everything you do is against a strict time limit. Oh Globbits.
So why do I love The Trapdoor so much? well, as a child i was a big fan of the show, so I think i was instantly won over by aesthetics. Deploying huge sprites that completely fill the screen with colour, the game is easily among the most visually appealing titles on the Spectrum – just look a the screenshots! Not only did it look great, but these large sprites also managed to avoid the clashing foreground/background colours that affected so many Spectrum titles. This was very impressive stuff.
On top of that, it also featured some ingenious sound design. As a limited 48k game, the sound was limited to the Speccy’s buzzer (as opposed to the proper PSG chip included in the 128k models,) but from the beepy rendition of the TV show’s theme tune to the ominous lo-fi roar of the Thing Upstairs’ orders, all of the sounds seem to be measured and fit the visuals appropriately.
As gorgeous as The Trapdoor is to look at, however, I’m sure we’ve all been let down by licensed games that have looked the biz but have ultimately failed to deliver on their promises. Good looks are nothing without solid game play to back them up…and game play is the area where The Trapdoor REALLY starts to get interesting.