The Trap Door

by Don Priestley
Crash Issue 33, Oct 1986   page(s) 122

Producer: Piranha
Retail Price: £7.95
Author: Don Priestley

It's no fun being a minion - all that scampering around after a tireless master, very tedious. Poor old Berk the chef! Shut away in the bowels of a damp and gloomy castle, his sole vacation in life is to wait on his hingry master's every whim.

The castle is very messy as well as being very damp and cold. With only Berk to tidy things up and lots of minor minions scampering around untidying it, the place soon becomes very disorganised. Berk must move around the rooms in the castle collecting the objects he needs to feed the boss. He can move left and right and in and out of the screen - much as the central character in Don Priestley's previous games, Popeye and Benny Hill's Madcap Chase moved around the playing area.

Berk's master is a very impatient sort of fellow. At the bottom of the screen an Angry Meter monitors Thing's mood - when the hungry one gets really furious on account of the delay, it cancels the order and demands something else.

A large trapdoor nestles in the start location, and all sorts of nasty beasties lurk in the dank region below it. Berk needs a specific trapdoor monster to complete each task. Apart from the useful objects and creatures, there are a lot of pests beneath the trapdoor.... Every time Berk opens the portal he has no way of telling what might leap out - it's just a question of opening the hatch quickly and slamming it shut pronto if an undesirable beastie shoots out. Ghosts say Boo and startle Berk so much that he jumps to another room in the castle - they only go away if they're fed. Watch out for the flame thrower monster because he's very unkind to our Minion.

Cooking utensils and useful objects are scattered around the castle. Most are cunningly hidden inside other objects and Berk must pick things up and tilt them to get at hidden items. By using his small blue brain he must use objects and trapdoor monsters to produce the correct meal for Thing.

If Berk loses a vital object by dropping it down the trapdoorthen his task cannot be completed, and he has to commit suicide by throwing himself into the void below the trapdoor...

Apart from the foes in them thar vaults, Berk does have some friends. Boni the skull is quite intelligent for a bodyless bag of bones. If Berk picks him up he usually says something useful and gives Berk a clue, but each bit of advice costs points. Drutt is a yellow spider that spends its time eating worms and generally being a pest. Other monsters and creatures wriggle and squirm their way around the castle, and some of them are ingredients!

At the end of the week, if Berk has correctly completed all his chores then he gets paid. Unfortunately, Thing is not a very trusting soul, and Berk's wages are sent down in a fortified safe. If Berk wants to get at the money and have a wild night on the town with other Berks, then he must find out how to get inside the safe and claim his loot.

Berk starts out life in the castle as a trainee minion. If you choose the Superberk option them all manner of nasties leap out and make life incredibly miserable.

There's just no pleasing some Grumpy Things.


Control keys: definable: left, right, forward, back, drop, pick up, tip
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: good, responsive
Use of colour: excellent
Graphics: superb big characters, and great animation
Sound: very good title tune, with some nice in game effects
Skill levels: two: learner berk and super berk
Screens: 6

With the immense, bright, colourful characters, Trapdoor is one of those games that grabs you immediately. Even though the game gets a lil' bit monotonous after a few long sessions, you can always sit back and admire the terrific animation and amazing lack of colour clash. Most of the problems are relatively easy, providing you don't mistake any objects for others. This can, and often does happen, and when it does, is very frustrating. Basically, Trapdoor is a very playable and addictive excellent game, with great graphics and fantastic colour.

To begin with, I must say that Trapdoor is not the game for serious people! The whole look of the game is extremely colourful, and Berk's animation is excellent and smooth. The game is very simple in its layout, but very well drawn with lots of other squiggly colourful characters to follow you around and get in the way. The game seemed to me to be aimed at the same market as the TV series due to be broadcast this Autumn - young. It's a pity really, as the idea of the game is very good but doesn't involve any in depth thinking. I can't really say that I went wild over Trapdoor, but the game is very smart in all aspects, including a cute tune. A game for the young and young at heart.

What a great game Trapdoor is! it is based on a very original idea and presented in an entertaining way, which makes it very playable and quite compelling. The graphics are astoundingly large and well defined: the characters move around agreeably and the backgrounds are detailed. The sound is on a par with the graphics - there are only a few spot effects during the game but the tune on the title screen is fantastic. The game at first is very easy... on the learner Berk level there are no nasties to kill you so you can have a good old stomp around the castle looking around and learning the layout of the rooms. I enjoyed playing Trapdoor as it is a playable and original game.

Use of Computer: 89%
Graphics: 91%
Playability: 88%
Getting Started: 89%
Addictive Qualities: 85%
Value For Money: 86%
Overall: 88%

Summary: General Rating: A very neat and original game with endearing graphics.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 10, Oct 1986   page(s) 62,63


Possibly the weirdest programme on the telly this autumn is now being weird on the Speccy. YS's resident berk, Phil South opens the Trap Door to see what's cookin'...

Game: The Trap Door
Publisher: Piranha
Price: £7.95
Joystick: Kempston
Keys: Q-Back, A-Forward, Z-Left/Pull, X-Right/Pull and C-Drop

Life as a lowly Berk can be a bit trying. Like when He Who Must Be Obeyed wants his fried eggs and the stupid Bird doesn't lay. Or when you're trying to make boiled slimies, and the flippin'slimies don't want to be caught. Or when you're trying to get a can of worms together and that divvy Drut keeps eating them before you can can 'em... tsk! There he goes again!

And now Him Upstairs wants his eyeball crush, but the Crusher keeps missing the vat. You went to all that trouble to grow the eyes, pick them and put them in the vat, and now the daft beggar can't even crush them for you. Time's run out and Him Upstairs has changed his mind! That does it. It's time to end it all by throwing yourself into the inky depths beyond the trap door... Ahhhhhhh.

It's a well known fact that if you present the best programmers with a computer that has limitations, they'll make it their business to push their games so close to those limits you can't stick a fag paper in the gap. Witness the quantum leap in graphics between the first games on the Speccy like Manic Miner and the latest offerings like Starstrike II and Heavy On The Magick. So, you may have thunk to yourself, that's as far as the attribute-stricken Spectrum can be pushed. Oh ye of little faith. If I told you that I'd just played a game on my Spectrum that wouldn't look out of place on an Amiga, would you believe me? Fortunately you don't have to take my word for it. Check out the screenshots for yourself, and see whether you can tell the difference between this and an animated cartoon...

Based on the forthcoming plasticine peopled TV show of the same name, The Trap Door is the story of Berk and his encounters with the beasts lurking under the door in his kitchen floor. If the series is even half as funny and cleverly done as the game, then it should be good indeed. And you have to look very closely indeed to pick out any attribute clashes at all; even more startling as the sprites themselves are enormous. Some are at least a third of the screen high! The amount of animation in each single sprite character, not to mention their artificial intelligence, is more than most games have in the whole program!

You have a series of tasks to perform for your hungry master upstairs, and not only do you not know what they are beforehand, but the tools you need to do the job are scattered around your dungeon. Some are small and hidden within others, but the problem with most of them is that you have to suss out the task they're most suited to first. I say most suited, because you can use almost all the items in more than one way. This comes in very handy if you lose the proper utensil to complete a particular meal; a spot of lateral thinking and you can usually use another to the same effect.

Berk can move every object in the dungeon; those which are too heavy to lift he shoves along the ground. You don't have positional problems picking things up either, as Berk zeroes in on objects and doors. In a lot of other games the first hour or so of play is spent learning how to cope with the sprites. No such problems in Trap Door. Everything you want, you can get. Just gently push Berk in the right direction and he'll get the idea and carry out your wishes.

Even the music and sound effects match up to the graphics and playability. For the best effect try passing the sound through your stereo from the EAR socket, or even listen to it with a pair of headphones! Don't believe anything else you hear, this is the game for the Speccy. And don't be put off by the packaging either. Yes, I know it's a bit naff, but ignore it, especially that sticker. Height of bad taste, I call it. Brush all these obvious turn offs aside and buy it. For my money, this is one of the best arcade games ever on the Spectrum. (And yes, Piranha, you can quote me on that.)

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Graphics: 10/10
Playability: 9/10
Value For Money: 10/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 78, Jun 1992   page(s) 55


Summertime, summertime, summer, summer, summertime! Hurrah - summer is here! And what better way to celebrate the advent of sunny, carefree days than by locking yourself in your bedroom and playing a load of Speccy games? With the seemingly unstoppable spread of budget software, we here at YS thought it would be quite a wheeze to sort out the brass from the dross. So take your seats and upset your neighbour's popcorn as JON PILLAR whisks you with shameless bias through a roundup of the best £3.99ers around.


Alternative/Issue 63
Reviewer: Jon Pillar

Amazo visuals front one of the most frustratingly playable games around. As Berk you have to bake a load of ghastly grub for 'Im Upstairs without making a hash or getting fired. The puzzles are classically nasty, but the sense of achievement when you solve em is little short of religious.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 54, Sep 1986   page(s) 49

Label: Piranha
Author: Don Priestley
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: Various
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

Usually licencing deals work like this: a film or TV series becomes very successful, and a software house pays several grand to use superficial elements of the plot in a software title.

Trapdoor has it all back-to-front. The game is out now and the TV show isn't screened until the autumn.

Trapdoor, the TV version, turns out to be a highly bizarre childrens'series. The plot involves a large furry monster called Berk and his attempts to feed the Thing that lives upstairs. Whilst Thing is sometimes contented with innocent pleasures like fried eggs on other occasions it demands yukky stuff like fried slimeys. The eating of unpleasant slimey and/or squidgy foods seems to be an obsessive theme in the program.

The computer game has been written for the new firm Piranha by Don Priestley (the ex-DK'Tronics Popeye and Minder programmer) and it's marvellous. So good, it actually makes me want to see the TV show.

The main characters in the game are huge sprites which are nevertheless very smoothly animated and, more amazing still, don't change colour as they move over different backgrounds. The inventive animation gives the assorted monsters a great deal of individuality. Berk really does seem slow and stupid but in a well-meaning monsterish way.

In the plot Thing gives Berk a series of tasks which must be accomplished within a time limit. Each task involves a number of separate actions, which though odd, follow a sort of bizarre logic. Trying to figure out what on earth you are supposed to do with what forms a good 50 per cent of the game. For example, when Thing asks for fried slimeys the first thing you need to discover is which of the large number of little monsters jumping and squirming around the screen are slimeys.

Trapdoor contains superb graphics with an ingenious plot. There are only half a dozen or so screens to explore but that isn't the point. This is not a game of the platforms and ladders school. In fact in the way that it requires a problem to be solved via a complex but logical series of actions reminds me of an adventure game.

That this 'adventure' features a large dopey looking monster, is based on a kids program involving cooking nasty meals may seem a major obstacle to its success. I hope not, it's the most original game I've seen for ages.

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Overall: 5/5

Summary: As original to play as it is to look at. Trapdoor may be one of the most imaginative games of the year.

Award: Sinclair User Classic

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 61, Nov 1986   page(s) 39


MACHINE: Spectrum
PRICE: £7.95

Hey! This is the most fun I've had with my Spectrum since I used it as a frisbee. The Trap Door is truly a fun game with a capital B! For Berk, stupid. No, I'm not calling you names. Berk is the hero of this crazy caper which is the closest thing to an interactive cartoon I've ever come across.

Let's take a look at what The Trap Door is all about. Well, firstly it's probably a good thing to note that it's a game based on a new animated TV show coming your way this autumn.

Berk lives in the lower regions of a dark and gloomy castle. Here he serves the needs of the unseen Bad Tempered Thing.

Berk slaves away completing tasks set by the Thing. Usually these tasks are dirty and difficult.

Berk, a big, blue blobby character, has two mates - Boni and Drutt. Boni is a skull and Drutt is a sort of spider-thing.

The centre of Berk's world is The Trap Door. If he opens it lots of things happen. Monsters appear from the depths, things fall in and are lost forever - but the trap door is essential if Berk is to complete the tasks set by Thing.

In the game, Berk sets out to complete five tasks and earn a safe full of loot. Thing's commands appear on the screen one by one and you only get a limited amount of time to complete each of them.

But the game doesn't end if you fail to complete one task. You can carry on - although the results of your failure can take on rather dangerous forms.

For example, a monstrosity can escape through the open trap just when you don't want it to - and it sticks around to plague you for the rest of the game.

The characters are huge and colourful, the animation excellent and if there are any colour clashes they are so tiny as to be completely irrelevant.

The game play may be a bit simplistic. But when you get the firebreathing Flamethrower chasing you while you are trying to get together a dish of Boiled Slimies for Thing, and there's a spook drifting around, and Drutt is eating all the worms, and Thing's Anger Meter is glowing, and, having a fit of the giggles, you'll suddenly realise that you're having FUN!

The Trap Door is a brilliant game - one of the most original and entertaining I've seen for ages.

Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 7/10
Value: 9/10
Playability: 9/10

Award: C+VG Hit

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue 31, Nov 1986   page(s) 54,55



Not that long ago, Programmer Don Priestley wrote a computer game based on the Popeye comic strip and cartoon series, and for the game he came up with some new techniques that created some of the largest coloured sprites ever seen on the Spectrum, as well as masking techniques that almost made you forget about the Speccy's attribute problems. Unfortunately, the Popeye game didn't set the world alight (though I thought it was excellent), but now Don Priestley and his mega-sprites have reappeared a the helm of the first game from the new Piranha label. The Trap Door, based on a new children's series produced by Terry Wogan's own production company, and due to be seen on television this autumn.


The main character in the series is a blue blob-like fellow by the name of Berk. Berk is the servant of the Bad Tempered Thing who lives in the upper regions of the castle whilst Berk rushes around in the castle cellar doing the Thing's bidding (which normally means getting his meals - worms, boiled slimies, that sort of thing).

Also tucked away in the cellar is the Trap Door, beneath which lurk all sorts of weird creatures. Some of these things can actually help Berk in his chores, though others are just plain awkward.

In the game, you are in control of Berk and have to complete the tasks that will get shouted down to you from upstairs. This involves looking for, and also making use of the creatures that will pop up from the trap door just about every time you open it. Along the way you'll have to solve some of the most devious and imaginative problems that you're likely to come across in an arcade/adventure. What, for instance, do you do with the bullet if you haven't got a gun and how do you make the bird lay eggs? Fortunately Berk has a friend called Boni, a disembodied skull who can provide the odd bit of advice if you're not sure what to do next.


The playing area down in the cellar isn't all that huge, consisting of barely a dozen screens, but, as with the Popeye game, one of the things that makes the game so enjoyable is the 'layered' effect that allows you to move characters and objects not just up/down and left/right in two dimensions, but also into and out of the screen to create a real 3D effect. So, although the number of individual screens is quite limited, there is a lot more that can be done than in most other games. There are passages and staircases that you can wander through, and a number of objects that need to be positioned carefully in order to complete your tasks.


But the main feature of Trap Door is probably the quality of the graphics and animation. Berk himself is a sprite of not inconsiderable proportions but some of the monsters that pop up out of the trap door are larger than anything that I've ever seen drawn on a Spectrum screen, and yet they move around the screen smoothly and without any attribute problems. The animation is so good that it's fun to just sit and watch all the action in front of you. One of the nice things about the television program is the way that all sorts of little creepy crawlies just wander about doing odd things irrespective of what the main characters are up to, and this has been carried over into the computer game so that you can have Drut (a small yellow blob) chasing worms around the screen while Berk is busy trying to do something else. This adds to the atmosphere of the game and makes it feel almost like a real cartoon world.

Don Priestley's earlier experiments with this type of game haven't been wildly successful, perhaps they fall rather awkwardly between the two types of arcade and adventure game (and also because the animation techniques are so costly in memory that a 48K doesn't really do them justice). But hopefully with the publicity surrounding the TV series people will take a close look at Trap Door and enjoy it as much as I did.

Award: ZX Computing ZX Monster Hit

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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