C’mon, you must know it. It’s the famous catchphrase of one of gaming’s most enduring icons, a jolly red chap who lives in a cartoon world of brick platforms and turtle-stomping. Why not shout it along with me? Ready? “It’s-a me, Bioman!”

Super Bioman 1, no less; an unlicensed Korean Master System game from 1992 that was (perhaps) developer by a company called Hello Soft. Not to be mistaken for a tie-in with the Super Sentai series Choudenshi Bioman, Super Bioman 1 is the story of what appears to be a pudgy alien child in a red babygrow who must travel the land to save a princess. At least, I assume princess-rescuing is the goal, what with Bioman being a complete rip-off of Super Mario.

A rip-off of the all-time NES classic Super Mario Bros. 3, to be precise. This is abundantly clear when you look at Bioman’s map screen, an image that makes you wonder how awkward it must have been for Bioman’s developers to draw on the tracing paper they’d tacked to their TV screens.
It’s got all the elements you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever played SMB3 (and if you haven’t, go and play it right now, I guarantee you’ll have more fun than reading this article). Numbered stages in a mostly linear progression, bonus areas like the mushroom houses and a castle at the end – all terribly familiar, even when viewed through the extremely bootleg lens of Bioman’s graphics. But will the gameplay adhere to the same Super Mario formula?

Well, yes, obviously. As interesting as it would have been if Bioman’s Mario map screen had lead into a blood-drenched survival horror or something, what we’ve got here is Super Mario but on the Master System and not as good. Bioman can jump, smash blocks with his head, bounce on enemies, collect coins and all that jazz. Of course, Bioman has its own unique quirks, and we’ll get to those in due course.

For now, just take a good look at this off-brand Koopa Trooper. I know it looks like some mad scientist grafted a plucked chicken head onto an army helmet, but this is what passes for Koopa Troopers in Bioman and you can jump on them and kick their abandoned shells around the stage as you’d expect. That said, every time I kicked a turtle shell in Bioman it immediately ricocheted and killed me. I’ll let you decide whether that was down to karmic punishment or Bioman not controlling as nimbly as Mario does.

And so it goes, all the sights of SMB3 recreated in a copyright-infringing way that I honestly find rather charming. Question mark blocks are replaced by “Q” blocks, the coins are dollars rather than the gold-based economy of the Mushroom Kingdom and super mushrooms make Bioman big and cheerful. It all reminds me of a pound-shop toy line, the kind where sure, The Lion King is a Disney movie but there’s nothing to say that there can’t be a different and legally distinct Little King Lion who sings songs about looking forward to becoming a regent with his friends Tumbaa and Pimon. And hey, if you’re going to rip something of it might as well be the best, right?

Thus the first stage ends just as a stage in SMB3 does, with Bioman leaping up to collect one of the random icons in the end-of-stage box. Collect three for a bonus, collect three matching icons for a bigger bonus. I reckon you could make an interesting psychological survey of the split between SMB3 players that patiently try to match the icons and those (like me) who just run towards the goal as fast as possible. Okay, maybe “interesting” is too strong a word.

Here’s stage two, where Bioman has turned purple. It’s because he’s collected a fire flower, you see, and it’s not like they could make him more red. So now he looks grape-flavoured. I’m still at a loss as to what Bioman is supposed to be, honestly. There’s something... familiar about him. He reminds me of some half-remembered mascot character, although that might just be down to the cutesy, chubby style of a lot of Asian mascot characters. I feel like he should be advertising nappies or baby formula, not stomping on turtles.

The third stage is a bit different, because it’s a boss battle! It’s supposed to be the equivalent of the “fort” stages in SMB3 where you fight the mid boss Boom-Boom, but without the stage that precedes the actual fight. Instead you’re thrown straight into battle with this almost indecipherable thing. I once forgot about a bag of potatoes at the back of a cupboard for a couple of months, and it’s nice to see that bag of potatoes went on to get a job in the entertainment business.
With the power to throw fireballs from Bioman’s hands, I went into the battle feeling confident. Just waltz in, sling a few projectiles, claim the easy victory, bask in the cheers of the crowd and so forth. Except you can’t use fireballs in the boss battles. It’s not even that they don’t damage the enemy, either – you simply can’t throw fireballs at all. Let’s put it down to performance anxiety, and resort to jumping on the boss’ head. If that is a head.

Now we’re back to the regular stages, and you might have noticed a few things. One is that all the stages look the same, and yes, apart from the boss battles they all take place in this strange twilight version of the Mushroom Kingdom, where the only light that reaches the ground is the baleful glow of a distant nebula. Again, it’s a look that I do like, but over the course of a whole game a bit more variety would have been nice.
Another thing is that, for a Master System game, the graphics look a bit... crap. On a technical level, I mean. I don’t know much about the Master System hardware, but I believe Bioman is running on an SG-1000 graphics mode. I’m also fairly sure that Bioman was ported from the MSX. There are Bioman games available on the MSX, and as an extra piece of evidence:

I’m pretty sure the Master System doesn’t have a space bar to press. That said, there was a keyboard for the SG-1000, although that definitely wasn’t the intended control scheme for this game.
This is one of Toad’s bonus game houses by the way, now staffed by one of Toad’s distant cousins from the rural backwaters of the Mushroom Kingdom - the kind of place where they keep things in the family, if you get my drift. It’s a slot machine with items as rewards, but the true reward of this screen is that the phrase “god speed you” reminded me to listen to some Guitar Wolf.

At the end of the world is, of course, the castle. Just like the fort there’s no actual stage here, just a boss battle. Bioman replaces Bowser’s Koopa Kids with a grumpy tomato, and it’s definitely a distinct downgrade. Neither of the characters look like they want to be here. I don’t particularly want to be here. The inevitable stomping has taken on the grim air of duty. The tomato offers little resistance as it waddles back and forth along the ground. It yearns for this to end beneath the heel of Bioman’s bootees. In the end, there is only silence.

Holy shit, a talking chair!
I was actually quite surprised that this first world isn’t all there is to the game, but the princess (told you there’d be a princess) isn’t here so there must be more to it. I’m hoping there aren’t eight worlds. Bioman is running out of steam already, it surely cannot sustain itself for another forty-odd stages.  But the talking chair’s unwavering believe in Bioman’s strength gives me the confidence to forge ahead, so let’s see what else the game has to offer.

Well would you look at that, it’s more of the same. I think we all saw this coming.
Now that I’ve cleared the first world, I suppose I should talk a bit about how Super Bioman 1 actually plays. In a word: ehh. Wait, that’s not a word, that’s the noise you make when someone asks you to hang out with people you don’t really know that well. It’s a perfectly suitable noise for describing Bioman, though.

The game works, just about, but it doesn’t work well. There’s a lot of sprite flickering, to the point that it can be difficult to spot enemies sometimes. Bioman himself moves in a fairly slippery manner, often moving a step further than you’d expect when letting go of the directional buttons. Probably the worst aspect of the game is that the left-to-right scrolling is often choppy and sluggish, and not being able to move smoothly from left to right is a real killer for what is essentially a Super Mario game. Weirdly, it never seems to be an issue when moving from right to left, presumably because the game isn’t loading in new sprites and thus slowing things down.

As well as technical deficiencies, Bioman also has some strange quirks in its design. Unlike the set items of Mario games, the contents of each question block are random, which means that if you’re unlucky you can potentially go a long time without finding any power-ups. Then there are changes to enemy behaviour that throw a spanner in the works because I (and pretty much everyone else) am so used to how Mario games work. For instance, in Mario games, if you stand on a pipe that has a Piranha Plant popping out if it, the enemy won’t jump up and bite you on the arse while you’re standing there. Not so in Bioman, and the non-official bitey flowers will keep chomping from right underneath you. Or there are the Boos, which normally won’t move towards Mario while he’s looking at them – but in Bioman the ghosts have overcome their shyness and will move, seemingly at random, whenever they goddamn feel like. Perhaps the most baffling feature is that sometimes the corpses of stomped enemies can hurt you. That’s bad enough, but it gets worse: sometimes harmful enemy corpses will fall out of question boxes, resulting in almost unavoidable death.

If you ever lose sight of what makes the NES Mario games such genre-defining classics, I suggest you go and play a sub-par Mario bootleg. Then you’ll understand. It’s not like Bioman is awful, especially for a pirate game, but there’s enough wonkiness and technical problems to stop it being all that much fun. I do find the graphics quite pleasant in their simplicity and the music – recreations of famous SMB3 tracks, naturally – is quite good.

But by the time I’d reached the end of the second – and as it turns out, final – world, Super Bioman 1 had more than worn out its welcome. More variety would have gone a long way towards keeping things interesting, even if it was just some stages that didn’t take place during an eternal eclipse, but what you get is the same backgrounds, the same simple action and the exact same boss battle before the game limps unconvincingly over the finish line.

I’m glad I got to the ending, though. It’s hard not to be charmed by these thoroughly wrong versions of Mario and Peach. It was kind of the royal jeweller to find such a minuscule crown that wouldn’t draw attention to not-Peach’s tiny, tiny head and hang on, was Bioman supposed to be Mario all along? Or is the plumber just taking all the plaudits for Bioman’s hard work? I say let him have the applause. Judging by the unfortunate shape of his body, iI don't think he's long for this world.
And that’s Super Bioman 1, a Super Mario game on the Master System. It’s certainly something. I’m not the biggest fan of the Alex Kidd games but if you want to stick with those, that’d probably be a good decision.



It’s nice that Donkey Kong is still around, you know? Still starring in games all these many years since his 1981 debut, still a big part of Nintendo’s pantheon of videogame legends despite pretty much the only update to his character being that he put on a tie, still taking you through his monkey rap. Here in 2018 it’s difficult to imagine just how phenomenally successful the original Donkey Kong was, but a good indicator is that Donkey Kong is one of the most cloned and copied videogames of all time, and that’s what we’ll be looking at today – a collection of cover art from some of the many, many Donkey Kong rip-offs. If you’re a big fan of poorly-drawn cartoon gorillas – and let’s be honest, who isn’t? - then you’re in for a treat.

Donkey King, Dragon 32

First up is a release for the relatively obscure Welsh home computer, the Dragon 32, and yes, it is called Donkey King. The developer should have gone the whole hog and swapped out the gorilla for the Heehaw Rex, King of the Mules, because it would have given the game its own identity and diverted Nintendo’s lawyers from what is one of the least subtle Donkey Kong clones on this list. It’s got everything you associate with Donkey Kong proudly displayed on the cover: gorillas, damsels, barrels, and by the standards of these covers it’s quite competently drawn, even if Donkey King’s expression suggests that throwing barrels at people doesn’t fill him with the pure sense of joy that it used to. It’s always a shame when your hobby starts to feel like work.

King Kong, Atari 2600

A quick detour into the console market with King Kong, an interesting title because it’s a DK knock-off with an official King Kong license. Universal sued Nintendo after Donkey Kong’s original release, claiming that it infringed on their King Kong copyright by being about a large ape that takes a kidnapped woman to the top of a building. It sounds like a relatively solid legal base, but Nintendo won the case because Universal had previously (and successfully) argued that King Kong was public domain while they were trying to get their 1976 King Kong movie off the ground. Thus soundly hoisted by their own legal petard, Universal ended up putting their name on this King Kong game.
As the biplanes buzz around and a player character who looks a lot like Indiana Jones attempts to scale the Empire State Building, an enigmatic emotion flashes across Kong’s face. It’s not a pleasant emotion either. In fact, it’s the expression of someone watching their parents dance at a family wedding.

Kong, ZX Spectrum

Naturally King Kong is a popular theme for these DK clones, with a lot of them leaning more heavily on the themes of the classic ape-meets-girl tale than even Nintendo’s original does. This cover for Kong is no exception. It’s an okay piece of artwork, I suppose, and I like the perspective on Kong’s… paws? Wait, apes don’t have paws, they have hands, right? Yeah, it’s definitely hands. Any time I see a joke about people having their internet history exposed, I breathe a sigh of relief because I know that if anyone does go snooping through my search history they’re just going to find things like “do apes have paws” and “DK Rap video high quality.”

Kong Strikes Back, ZX Spectrum

Kong Strikes Back isn’t technically a Donkey Kong clone, because it’s actually a rip-off of Mr. Do’s Wild Ride. Still, it’s got platforms, ladder-climbing and a giant ape, so I think it warrants inclusion here. As you can see, it takes place in a theme park full of roller coasters, because even colossal gorillas can’t resist the lure of the Nemesis Inferno. This Kong has a more friendly look about him; something about the cast of his face suggests a more playful nature, although because he’s forty feet tall and weighs about as much as the Sheffield-to-Cleethorpes passenger train “playful” still equates to “terrifying.” Surprisingly small hands (not paws) for a giant ape, mind you.

Monkey Kong, TRS-80

That’s more like it. Those are some appropriately enormous hands, although when combined with the especially long arms and that face this Kong looks more like an orang-utan than a gorilla. That’s fine too, of course. You’ll get no monkey prejudice from me, and I’m sure this Kong can hurl barrels with the best of them.
The blurb’s trying to sell Monkey Kong as an accurate recreation of Nintendo’s original, but I’m not buying it. Just look at the way the characters are posed. All I can see it a gigantic orang-utan that is under Mario and Pauline’s control. I think it’s the blank, dead eyes. He has no style, he has no grace, this Kong also has no free will and his held under the thrall of his captors.

Crazy Kong, Commodore 64

Yep, he looks pretty crazy, and absolutely furious that some idiot is running across his freshly-polished metal walkway in dark-soled shoes. The real craziness comes from this cover’s Mario stand-in, however. What the hell is going on with his skin? The red blotchiness implies that either he’s got a monkey allergy or this metal floor is actually one big cheesegrater and he keeps falling over. Then there’s nose and look, someone has to say it so I guess it’ll be me – it’s kinda phallic. Maybe that’s why this Kong is so crazy; you would be too if some dick-nosed weirdo with a suppurating rash and an ear growing out of his temple started causing you grief.

Killer Gorilla, BBC Micro

Or M.C. Escher’s Donkey Kong, if you like. I’ve spend ten minutes trying to figure out the perspective in this image and all I’ve gotten out of it is a headache, so let’s instead focus on the fact that this game’s Mario analogue realised he had to fight a giant ape and turned to his trusty battle-axe to get the job done. Oh, and his very tight shorts. I’m choosing to read this image as the damsel reaching down towards the hero and saying “Jesus Christ, Terry, give me the axe and I’ll sort this out.”

Killer Gorilla, BBC Micro

This alternate Killer Gorilla cover may lack the raw drama of a modern-day barbarian in yellow socks, but at least it takes place in a world where the laws of physical space aren’t complete absent and the hero has swapped his axe for a more DK-appropriate hammer. Also, hey, that gorilla is actually shaped like a gorilla! Just a shame about it’s unnerving face, really. I didn’t know gorillas could dislocate their jaws.

Kongo Kong, Commodore 64

Kongo Kong is intense. The mad, staring eyes of a killer, those are. That fact that he seems to have been partially consumed by a fur-lined parka only increases the power of the piece. The mid-eighties really were a boom time for artists who specialised in nightmarish monkey faces.

Kong’s Revenge, ZX Spectrum

A real bump up in artistic proficiency for this cover, where a very Tom of Finland-esque construction worker who made the embarrassing error of shrinking all his clothes in the wash shoots a gorilla right in the nostril.  That’s his revenge for Kong’s revenge, you see. Obviously the artist has gone for an injection of sex appeal with the scantily-clad damsel, but who chained her up? Surely not Kong, with those hands he doesn’t have the manual dexterity to operate those shackles. So it must be like King Kong, where Fay Wray was chained up to attract Kong in the first place… but they placed the bait at the top of a partially-constructed skyscraper populated by construction workers so buff they’d make He-Man feel self-conscious about walking around without a shirt on? There’s no logic to this giant gorilla story, I tell you.

Krazy Kong, ZX Spectrum

A more cartoonish Kong for this cover, with an ape who’s figured out that climbing up things just makes it easier for the planes to shoot you so he’s sticking to ground level. There’s not much else to say about this cover, except that it’s definitely the one on this list that most looks like an illustration for a kid’s bedtime story.

Krazy Kong 64, Commodore 64

That’s… not a gorilla. I don’t know what that is. A sasquatch, possibly. There’s a thought – I’m surprised there weren’t more Donkey Kong rip-offs that replaced the ape with a yeti or something. Perhaps it was just accepted that the true appeal of Donkey Kong isn’t the charming graphics or fun, precise gameplay but simply that it’s got a big monkey. Whatever this thing is supposed to be, the guy in the red shirt isn’t getting out of this alive.

Wally Kong, ZX Spectrum

“Wally” is a word used to describe a foolish person in British slang, by the way – see also the pioneering computer game Everyone’s a Wally. Of course, that's not to say that this particular ape isn’t called Wally. He might well be. He might have even been bullied at Giant Ape High School for his unusual name, causing him to try to forge a new identity by installing a prosthetic mouth that does not blend at all well with the rest of his features. His gob looks like a pair of ninety-nine pence plastic Halloween fangs made from no-doubt toxic materials in a Chinese tat factory. No wonder the damsel is turning away from Wally with such a disdainful air. “Ai ‘ont ‘oo ‘ook at ee?” says Wally, but she can’t understand him. Because of the mouth thing. Oh well, at least this Kong bothered to comb his hair.

Panic Kong, MSX

Speaking of apes that made an effort, the star of Panic Kong has slapped on a bit of nail polish. Unfortunately, he looks a lot more like a beaver than a gorilla thanks to his big buck teeth and the dots below his nose that imply whiskers. Maybe that’s why he’s holding a tree, he picked it up as a snack. He also looks like someone set a coffee cup down on each of his nipples. You’re a weird one, Panic Kong.

King Cuthbert, TRS-80

Here’s King Cuthbert, which I think is the same game as Donkey King but ported to the TRS-80 and given a makeover to star Cuthbert, a character who appeared in several other home computer games of the time. This is definitely my least favourite cover on this list, because although it’s well-drawn I find these weird, chipmunk-faced homunculi difficult to look at. Like, are they children?  I can’t tell. They’ve got child-like proportions, but Cuthbert’s face is a Cabbage Patch doll of an accountant and if they are supposed to be kids then the girl has a disturbingly ample bosom. No, it’s all wrong and I sincerely hope that gorilla is going to rise up and reclaim his crown from King Cuthbert the Freakish.

Congo, MSX

Of course there were some DK clones that replace the gorilla on a building site with other animals and settings, like the circus-themed Congo. It’s still the same barrel-dodging, girder-climbing action, except the animal is a bear and you play as a circus ringmaster, so you get an additional soupçon of animal cruelty thrown in. At least the cover’s good, clean cartoon fun, a refreshing palate cleanser after King Cuthbert. The only real issue is that the ringmaster doesn’t appear to be wearing any trousers.

Fast Eddie, Commodore 64

Or how about Fast Eddie, which is, well, it’s… this. Victorian beachgoer leaps over googly-eyed blue domes. There are ladders which look very specifically like the climbing frames you’d sometimes get to use in PE class, when it was raining out and the teacher decided you were doing "gymnastics." Eddie holds a heart above his head. It’s his heart, and you can’t take it from him. Not even the dome that’s managed to grow extra-long legs has any chance of catching Fast Eddie. At the bottom of the cover it says “A product of Sirius” and I would not be surprised to learn it mean that this game came down from the stars.

Killer Kong, ZX Spectrum

Moving into the final stretch now with Killer Kong, a cover that has gained some notoriety for being pretty goddamn weird. I appreciate the stark simplicity of the piece – nothing more than a picture of a gorilla who’s just farted and is waiting for the smell to reach you. However, I have seen this cover multiple times in the past and I am only just now realising that the gorilla is wearing a monocle. This pushes the Killer Kong cover to the realms of true art.

Krazy Kong, ZX Spectrum

“Okay, so I drew the cover for our new Kong game...”
“Oh, cool. How’s it looking?”
“Not great. The gorilla looks… weird.”
“And very pink.”
“Well, just throw in a random drawing of a pyramid, that’s what I always do.”
“Do you think that’ll help?”
“Oh yeah, as long as you don’t make the pyramid too detailed.”
“Okay, got it, very simple pyramid. Thanks.”
“No problem.”

Kong, Commodore 64

For their addition to the world of DK clones, Anirog software decided to make their new game unforgettable by giving it a cover that must surely have caused nightmares in any child who saw it. Less a gorilla and more low-ranking demon who torments sinners who over-indulged in life by forever beating them with barrels of booze, Anirog’s Kong is has the unmistakeable air of a Ghanaian horror movie poster and honestly? I love it. I might have to watch Shakma again after this.
However, if you thought Anirog’s Kong offered the pinnacle of bonkers ape-game covers, you’d be… absolutely right. Not with this cover, mind you.

Kong, Commodore 64

That honour goes to this cover for Anirog’s Kong, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a masterpiece of absurdist art. My god, where can you start with this one? There’s Kong himself, with a face that’s just as terrifying as the last cover but in a completely different way – rather than “this monkey will eat my face” it’s an “I’ll wake up and this white-faced ape will be sitting at the end of my bed, silent but for the sound of its drool dripping on the floor” kind of horror. Especially unnerving is the contrast between the overall bulk of Kong and his minute physical features: a minuscule ear, a navel the size of a penny and the merest hint of a tiny, tiny nipple.
And then there’s the “hero,” who equally defies description. A Peppa Pig character dressed as Hugh Hefner is my best guess. What is with that nose? Is he a pig? A pig who gained a commission in the Royal Navy and ended up on an island of hideous mutant apes? And here’s another thing: I realise that those yellow shapes are supposed to be the staves of a barrel the hero has just smashed with him hammer. I know this. However, I can only see them as bananas, as though Kong is nothing but a colossal, banana-packed piñata and our hero has just bashed him open. This version of Pauline nonchalantly inspects her nails, impatient for this debacle to be over and done with.

And it is done. I can bear no more Kongs. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some of the many Donkey Kong clones out there, although I’m aware that “enjoyed” might not be the right word. Good night, and may your dreams be free of Anirog’s Kong.



After writing about Granny’s Garden a few weeks ago, I’ve been drawn to the nostalgic charms of the BBC Micro and its raft of wholesome educational content. It was a computer with noble ambitions, and today I am in no way going to honour those ambitions with a quick article about Gloria Callaway and ASK’s 1982 photofit-from-Hell-em-up Facemaker!

Let’s begin with the cover, because it’s a wonderful example of early-eighties tech-art: the grid, the glowing neon effect, the implication that Facemaker is such a powerful program that it can barely be restrained by your computer monitor. The actual face on the cover is… less appealing. “What is his name?” asks the cover, and I have no idea but if that moustache is anything to go by he’s related to Wario somehow. The face on the cover might look the villain from horror movie about murderous cyber-clowns, but this game is called Facemaker so surely I can make my own faces. Bigger, stronger faces, with eyes that can see in total darkness and mouths that can utter the secret names of the most ancient evils!

You might have expected Facemaker to be an art program where you use a mouse to draw faces, or perhaps to pick different facial features from a graphic interface. It’s neither of those things but it’s a lot more like the latter, because it’s a text-based system where the game asks you questions and generates a face from your responses. That really is the entirety of the game. It asks you to describe a face, then shows the face on the screen. Facemaker might be the flimsiest “game” I’ve ever covered, but back in 1982 the idea of making a picture appear on a screen by typing in words would have blown my mind and not just because that was two years before I was even born.

For my first attempt at face-making, I decided to try to recreate a famous person’s face, although I immediately fell into trouble when the first “famous” person I thought of was Steven Seagal. I’m not sure why. I must have seen a picture of him just before loading up Facemaker, or perhaps it’s because when you look at Seagal you think “my, that bloke has a lot of face” and that makes him a good candidate for Facemaker. Sadly, the instructions on-screen are telling me to think about Steven Seagal’s features as one might try to recall the features of a long-lost lover, so this has backfired terribly.

You don’t get to see the facial features while you’re selecting them. Instead, they’re described by either their size or their emotional state, and you type in the choice that best matches your artistic vision. Of course, having not played Facemaker before I don’t have any idea what these choices will look like so I’m mostly working on guesswork but I think describing Steven Seagal’s eyes as “small and mean” is fair enough, right?

Yes, those are definitely the eyes of the Putin-shilling star of Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. Relatedly, there was a Steven Seagal SNES game in the works that was never released with the hilariously appropriate title Steven Seagal is The Final Option, a name that was surely chosen when every other action movie start refused to participate.

And so it goes, with the player / artistic visionary (delete as appropriate) answering a facial questionnaire on such topics as mouth emotion and hair waviness. Being asked “is it fine or bulbous” is an exciting new brainteaser for me to ponder, but then that’s computer games for you, always providing new experiences.

The hair is where this digital Seagal falls apart. There simply aren’t enough hair options, and while the pure black of Facemaker’s colour palette is a fair approximation of Steven Seagal’s unconvincing dye-job there are no options for ponytails or any different hairstyles – it’s really only the length and curliness you can change. That’s why this face looks more like Sid the Sexist from Viz rather than Steven Seagal.
But wait! There are some facial hair options, and how could you possibly recreate Seagal without including his trademark fuzzy-felt goatee?

Oh, and don’t forget the glasses, although the main reason I’m including this screenshot is to show you the confused question mark creature that appears if you enter a response the game can’t parse, like typing in “prescription sunglasses that your nan uses when she’s driving” during the questions about Seagal’s glasses. Despite consisting of such a small amount of pixels, it has perfectly captured the look of someone who's laughing during a conversation they didn't fully hear and hoping it was a joke rather than a question.

And here’s the finished article. Good god. It is not a great likeness of Steven Seagal, although horrifyingly it does look like me before I started cutting my hair short. It's the bulbous nose that does it. Is this what it means to be hoisted by your own petard? I set out to draw Steven Seagal and ended up with a glimpse into a parallel universe, one where I played this villain in an early-eighties movie about future cops called something like “Star Police 2047” and this was my picture on the computer-generated wanted posters.

That’s about your lot for Facemaker, then. I fiddled around with it for a while and made a few more faces, like “the bloke who complains on Facebook that girls today don’t appreciate men who read books and collect swords” pictured above, and it’s clear that it’s a very limited program. For starters you can only make white people, and I mean white like a close-up of milk. This is probably for the best, because the BBC Micro’s colour palette doesn’t include any shades of brown and trying to make a “black” face with those limitations would look… not good. Plus you can only have “dark” or “fair” characters – that is, brunette or blonde – and all the bright red lips mean that Facemaker excels as a program for designing bootleg Halloween masks of the Joker and little else. But like I say, Facemaker is thirty-five years old, so I wasn’t expecting anything different.
I’m not going to let the "fun" stop here, though. Oh no, I’ve got a little game for us to play. I created a few more famous celebrity faces, and I want you to see if you can guess who they’re supposed to be before reading the answer below each image. Feel free to let me know how you did in the comments.

First up we’ve got this super picture that I heroically spent time looking at despite the risk to both my eyesight and my sanity. I must have an iron will, man. That’s right, it came out looking upsettingly like disgraced sex offender Rolf Harris but it’s actually supposed to be Robert Downey Jr.!

On a similar theme, here’s an actress famed for her beauty so it’s a shame I couldn’t manage to reduce the size of her chin to less than the Bruce Campbell proportions you see above. Fresh from facing Thanos, using Groot like a baseball bat to batter the alien hordes and pulling off the world’s first quintuple motorcycle backflip (I confess I haven’t seen the new Avengers movie yet) it’s Scarlett Johansson! I can only extend my deepest apologies to Miss Johansson.

Here comes a good old-fashioned lover boy, drawn with a casual flick of the wrist. I was under pressure to come up with a good likeness, and maybe I’m going slightly mad but I think this is the most recognisable of the bunch. Not exactly made in heaven, sure, but the miracle of eighties computer technology means that you don’t have to be stone cold crazy to figure out that this is Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.

I’m sorry to do this to you all but yes, this is US President and surely the unwitting star of an alien civilisation’s hidden-camera prank show, Donald “World’s Most Powerful Bigoted Grandad” Trump. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Trump is the only person whose Facemaker face ended up being more attractive than the real thing.

Do I have to think about Donald’s hair, Facemaker? Can I just, you know, not do that? Brighter minds than mine have tried and failed to figure out what’s going on there.

Finally, here’s a nice palette cleanser with one of the world’s most familiar faces, despite him not being a real person. He’s not French, either, despite what this picture might suggest. You’ve almost certainly spent some time hauling his chubby frame across a variety of fantastical worlds, destroying fungi and chucking dinosaurs down holes. Bingo, you’ve got it – it’s-a him, Super Mario!

It’s a shame that Facemaker doesn’t include any colour options or a flood-fill tool, because that’d mean I could easily make a Luigi, too. Hooked on the brothers. Indeed. Actually, hang on a sec…

Well, that’s Trump fixed. I’m sorry to conclude this article on such an unpleasant note, but I don’t think I can wrest any more entertainment from Facemaker. Only nightmares.

VGJUNK Archive

Search This Blog