Month: February 2016

Molar Maul (1983)

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It’s early in the game and lots of teeth are already dead! Keep Brushing!

An early Imagine software game and also an early game by John Gibson (who also coded Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Great Escape and the mythical mega-game: Bandersnatch). At his interview for Imagine Software he was asked if he thought it was possible to write a game in one month. He said yes and got the job to do just that. Molar Maul was the result.

Gameplay

This is an unusual game : You control a toothbrush inside a mouth and it’s your job to clean any teeth that get decay on them. You do this by positioning your brush next to the toothpaste tube and waiting for a squirt of toothpaste. Then you move your brush to the dirty tooth and brush it. Easy right? Well it would be if you weren’t in a race against marauding bacteria who are decaying the teeth as fast as you can clean them!

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Before you can clean the teeth you need to put toothpaste on your brush.

If 4 teeth get to the ‘blackened’ state (they first pass through 3 coloured states firstĀ  : white, light blue, and dark blue) you lose a life. Lose 3 lives and it’s game over. Use up all your toothpase and you move to the next level – where there are more and faster bacteria.

Rich’s Pro Tip

Cartoon giving thumbs up

You can kill bacteria quickly without brushing the tooth by touching them while they are on a tooth with a toothpaste-laden brush. You can then move onto a tooth that needs brushing more urgently. Yeah!

 

Crazy Bacteria!

Every now and again a sweet (or candy if you are in the US) appears and the bacteria devour it and go crazy. This makes them much more aggressive and they will now move much faster.

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Your mother did tell you that sweets weren’t good for you…

The Verdict

At first this doesn’t seem like a particularly special game but once you get the hang of what you’re doing, it becomes quite addictive. The strangeness of it – it’s set inside a mouth! – is very appealing and makes it feel refreshingly different to the usual space-based arcade games of the time.

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It’s well programmed, fast and responsive, and quite slick for 1983. It’s a nice touch too that the brush actually brushes the teeth. The difficulty is a bit skewed however. The game starts off very easy and then stays that way for far too long. Suddenly around level 11 things start to get very difficult with extremely aggressive and fast-moving bacteria. You won’t survive many more levels at this point.

Bigger Problems with the Game

Sadly there are quite a few flaws, which spoil the game a little and might stop you chasing high scores.

  • Like a lot of early Spectrum game it uses odd key assignments (top row for up, next row for down etc) which is awkward and there’s no way to redefine the keys.
  • As the game gets harder and speeds-up, your toothbrush also moves faster and soon becomes over-responsive. It’s then far too easy to overshoot your target or the position you need to be in to receive more toothpaste. On the higher levels this is a major problem since even a small loss of time can result in a Game Over.
  • If you use the toothpaste on your brush to stop a bacterium attacking a tooth you can’t then brush the tooth even though you are already in contact with it. You’ll have to move your brush away from the tooth and then back onto it again. This is annoying.

Overall

A well-codedĀ and refreshingly different game. Weird, yes, fun, yes… but only for a limited amount of time before it gets repetitive. However if you fancy something a bit different and are willing to work round it’s little quirks then it’s worth trying,

4/10

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