I think we’ve all had nearly enough Willy (matron!) but there’s time for one more. I was hoping to do one Amstrad CPC and one Commodore 64-specific JSW clone but there wasn’t time and I didn’t have much luck finding a C64-specific title (the Amstrad one I found is called Karl’s Treasure Hunt go and look at the link if you’re interested: my quickie review is that it isn’t very good). So this last JSW clone (until I move onto something else) is going to be another Amiga one I’m afraid. This time a 1995 indie title by Richard Williams and Steven Tate with the (frankly a bit awful) title of Willy’s Weirdy Nightmare.
Plot-wise, this departs a little from the usual clones; this time Willy is fast asleep in his bed having a nightmare about his mansion being invaded by weirdies and must wander around his nightmare mansion (and its grounds) in a ghostly state avoiding the weirdies and collecting magical objects in order to wake up. This is a nice twist on the plot of the original game.
Like Jet Set Willy 97 this game shamelessly partly-pinches the sprite from JSW and doesn’t really colour him in at all (although given that he’s a sort-of ghost this is excusable) but instead gives him a slightly-different body with a whole new animation, which doesn’t look that bad. But it’s the rest of the game that’s worth talking about. You see, this game looks and sounds lush and puts the other 16-bit “tribute” titles (including Top Hat Willy, which I really like as regular readers will know) to shame. The monsters are all sorts of shapes (including spinning vinyl records, snails and pints of beer) and sizes and they have been drawn and animated in beautiful 64 colour graphics. The background graphics, whlist made up of the usual small building-blocks that are typical for a JSW clone, have been well-drawn and, like the sprites, have aimed for a more 16-bit look than the bright primary-colour glow that’s typical for a tribute game like this. Willy’s Weirdy Nightmare is hardly Shadow of the Beast looks-wise, but it sure as hell looks like a 16-bit game. Soundwise, we have in-game effects
which whilst sparse are effective and a version of the opening music to the Peter Sellers film A Shot In The Dark as an atmospheric ingame tune, as well as separate tunes for the title and game-over screens.
Well, lovely graphics are all very well but as anyone who’s played Rise of the Robots (shudder) can tell you they can’t make up for poor gameplay (or totally shite gameplay in the case of RotR; I know, I know, it was fourteen years ago but for f@*k’s sake!). Luckily, Weirdy Nightmare shines in this department too. Everything moves quickly and smoothly and the rooms are well-designed with some thought required to collect some of the objects and avoid many of the nasties. Like Subterranean Nightmare, the entire game isn’t open from the beginning and levers need to be flipped on some screens to open secret doors to whole new sections of the game; however, given that this game has 150 screens this hardly makes it feel restrictive or episodic and rather than dampen the feeling of exploring a huge estate it feels more like a reward for actively trying things out rather than just wandering around, mouth-agape. Given that the game is so large and many people don’t have the time to settle-down in front of the monitor trying to collect objects over 150 screens in a single evening the programmer has also incorporated a save/load feature. In fact, the only thing I really found wrong with the gameplay was the pause when Willy passes from screen to screen which is slightly irritating at first; but you’ll get used to it.
So, to sum-up, this is a brilliant JSW clone and an easy match for both the original and Top Hat Willy (indeed, some will prefer it to both) and I heartily recommend it; in fact the only things I can really think of to find wrong with it are the aforementioned slight pause and the lack of a high score table. It’s actually a licenseware title and was published in both a freeware “demo” (although it featured much of the full game) version and a full version. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a link to a copy of the demo version and I’ve no idea if the full version has been released as freeware yet. I’ll try and find out and amend this review appropriately.