“Tuck your shirt in!”
“Stop harassing the school hamster!”
“Get that hamster out of your trousers!”
“Nibbles’ funeral is to be held next Monday – please attend if you can.”
For anyone who attended school, the words above will most probably bring back so many memories of being a child, in school most probably, waiting for the bell to ring to go home. Unless of course you enjoyed school in which case the bell could wait, but still, I’m sure the above words still ring true.
If you were of the party of not enjoying school, would you want to come home and play a game based on being at school? You may think “Why would I want to do that?” but then you wouldn’t have played ‘Skool Daze’.
Skool Daze (Microsphere, 1985) encapsulated everything you liked, and probably hated about school but most importantly, you could punch kids in the face and get away with it, most of the time, but we’ll come back to this later.
The aim of the game was to obtain your school report from the headmasters’ safe before it was sent home to your mum who would probably in turn give you a bollocking (mums, eh?). In order to do this, you had to find ways of hitting the numerous shields scattered around the school in order to make each of them flash. You then had to work through the teachers via a catapult (yes, catapult – I love this game) which would in turn give you a number that would be part of the safe combination. Of course, thing’s weren’t just as simple as that – to get one of the teacher’s to reveal their number a catapult just didn’t do the job. You had to find out which historic battle happened in the year that they were born (seriously? yes! – you had to listen in class!) and then take it upon yourself to go out in to the real world and find out what that year was (in the day’s before Google?! How was it done? …ermm, what’s a ‘library’?). Once you knew what this year was, you had to make sure the said teacher saw it written on a blackboard, which for some unexplained reason tapped in to a deep, usually impenetrable place of his memory and forced him to blurt out his number of the combination. So get the full combination right and voila.. you were almost done as you had to get all the shields again (!?). But do all that and ta-da! You’ve completed the game – but would you want to?
I don’t mean this in a negative way; Skool Daze is very much an open-play game where yes, you could go through the rigmarole of completing the game but there is so much else that you could do. You could play the game for hours and not get bored, and to end it would be disappointing.
In what other game could you walk around writing “Arse”, “Bum” and “Fanny” on the blackboards, jump on kids’ heads, catapult teachers, catapult kids, punch kids in the face just for fun? Only in Skool Daze. In between all that joviality, you did have to attend lessons and watch your step as there were things out to get you; namely the school bully and the swot, trying their best to get you lines in order to get you sent home.
Let’s start at the beginning. As Skool Daze opens you are given the option of renaming the characters, which in itself is amazing. It was a great touch by the games’ writers, which only added to the appeal of the game. You had yourself “The Hero” – Eric, “The Bully” – Angelface, “The Tearaway” – Boy Wander and “The Swot” – Einstein. Then we move on to the teachers whose characteristics lived up to their names. Mr Withit – the Geography Teacher, Mr Rockitt – The Science Teacher, Mr Creak – the History Teacher and finally the headmaster – Mr Whacker! (complete with cane). Who could resist putting in their own teachers names at this point? Or indeed such names containing an obscenity (who could resist re-naming a teacher Mr. Dickhead?).
The game starts at the beginning of morning breaktime with you as Eric (or whatever name you have given yourself); surrounded by your peers who quickly disperse to go and do their own thing. There are plenty of areas and rooms to explore, with lots of characters wandering around at any given time. The school bell will frequently chime, and with it, a notification at the bottom of the screen telling you where you need to be; whether it be a lesson with a certain teacher, playtime or lunch time. Of course when you need to be in a lesson, pupils should head to class, though you have to make sure you’re in the right one or you’ll get caught by a teacher and end up with lines.
During the game you will pick up lines that are dished out by the various teachers and for a various amount of reasons – of which I’ll go through later – though most notably you’ll probably find them increasing regularly if you’re a bit trigger happy with your catapult (I know they don’t have triggers but it would sound weird to say ‘elastic happy’).
You can accumulate 10,000 lines and then you are sent home by Mr. Whacker (unless you’ve renamed him to “Mr Dickhead”) who will head straight for you no matter where he is and deliver the news that you must go home and finish your lines. Boo!
Aside from having to attend lessons, Skool Daze has a few other “missions” to complete which vary, or you may not get any at all depending on the way the game is playing out. If you do get a little fellow approach you – it’s bad news! He’s either going to tell you that one of the characters has the mumps and you need to avoid him until the end of break (it’s home time for you if you’re caught) or someone (one of the named characters) has hidden a pea shooter somewhere and is about to tell a teacher that it’s yours. Little bastard. You then have to find the character in question, and do what you can to stop him getting to said teacher until the end of break. This is usually where you have to get handy with him (punch him in the face several times – oof!) or get that catapult going so you don’t get any more lines handed out to you. I tend to go down the fisty route.
I love the statements you get from the teachers when certain things happen or when you’re caught doing something that you shouldn’t. “You are not a Kangaroo!” is amongst my favourites which you’ll see if you enjoy a bit of jumping up and down and a teacher sees you. “Don’t hit your mates!”, “Come along with me, boy!” are a couple of others that you’ll hear and I suppose you can guess when you might hear these!
You’ll pick up lines for a number of reasons, being in the wrong class, being caught hitting someone, being caught writing on the blackboard, caught jumping, caught with your catapult out (fnar!) and also something which you’ll have to look out for – the Swot telling telling tales. What a dick!
Einstein will often try and get you in trouble, always starting with this annoying introductory statement: “Please Sir, I cannot tell a lie…” proceeding with a cutting exposé of your latest antics right there and then infront of the whole class, mostly about writing on the blackboard or that you’ve hit him. Bastard.
Although sometimes spinning complete lies, he does also tell the truth so if he does see you writing on the blackboard or if you do indeed give him a smack (lots of fun!) then you only have yourself to blame, I guess! Funnily though, the teacher will not always believe him even when he is telling the truth and he himself will end up with lines! Quality! ‘Ave some of that, swot! Heh heh heh.
Going back to the teachers and their personalities; these are brought out when either you are attending a lesson or if you’re caught mis-behaving. The “At one with the kids” Geography teacher Mr Withit, nails it with lines such as “Come on now, chaps” and the old History master Mr Creak with his “Don’t try my patience, boy!” really does add to the feel of being at school and will bring a chuckle to your cheeks (though hopefully not Paul or Barry). The wife of the game’s creator was actually a teacher and was clearly influenced by her experiences, which indeed adds a lot to the whole atmosphere of the game.
There’s so much more to say about the brilliant Skool Daze although if I carry on I’ll run out of space, but, (he says plowing on regardless!) this is just one of those games that you can talk about for literally….daze (sorry). The teachers, the swot, the bully, writing on blackboards (by yourself and by the character Boy Wander – some of which are hilarious and some shameless self-promotion of other titles by the same software house – tut tut!) – is there anything negative about this game? Even the loading screen is epic!
If you haven’t played Skool Daze – why not?! And if you have – why aren’t you playing it now?!
Take that chewing gum out of your mouth, tuck your shirt in, take that stupid grin off your face, stop talking and go and load this up now!
Oh, and detention is at 3:30.