Through the Trap Door

by Don Priestley
Crash Issue 47, Dec 1987   page(s) 12,13

Producer: Piranha
Retail Price: £8.95
Author: Don Priestley

It's back - the Trap Door TV series, now showing every Saturday morning on Number 73. Collins is publishing the books, Channel 5 is releasing the video and (for our obsessive readers) 'Merit Toys launch the Trap Door bus with Berk driving his monster friends'. Hey!

And Berk, the blue cartoon cutie, is back in Piranha's Through The Trap Door, sequel to Trap Door (which earned 88% Overall in Issue 33, just over a year ago).

Berk and Drut are coloured thingummywotsits. searching for Boni the skull (he's been snatched by a kleptomaniac bat) through a series of subterranean worlds. They have to find the key in each one before they can go on to the him back through the trap door.

Berk can carry Drut, a hopping froglet, in his chubby arms, but first he has to catch him. Fuelled by his passion for the worms that appear everywhere, Drut is always running off - but in some sections of the underground rooms, invisible Drutmarkers can control him.

You can switch control from Beth to Drut, thus using the frog's hopping powers to retrieve keys. If Berk gets into difficulties attempting to reach a key, Drut can push it to a safer position.

Falling stalactites, great Berkswaliowers which rise from the ground, ceiling drips, bats and ghosts all occupy this basement environment. But it's not all bad - forgetful tourists have left behind sweets and sausages, which can be used to keep Berk's great bulk sustained. Other items, such as a Pooter and a hefty weight, can also be helpful in the quest for the keys.

If either Bark or Drut attempts to pass through an unlocked door, or if Berk goes through without Drut, or if Berk fails to pick up Boni, you lose, and have to start back at square one. It's a jungle down there.

Programmer Don Priestley did the original Trap Door, and his recent credits include Piranha's Flunky (60% Overall in Issue 44).


Joystick: Kempston
Graphics: large, colourful, cute; and some of the fastest Don Priestley-style graphics to date
Sound: very little - a serious flaw

The TV characters are represented brilliantly; they're easily recognisable and quite accurate too. There's loads of colour, and the masking technique is used effectively. But the game might wane after a week or two. Still, it's worth buying if you're a fan of the programme.
MIKE [73%]

I didn't like Don Priestley's Flunky much, but I found Through The Trap Door very addictive and lots of fun. The graphics work well and their function isn't hampered by the technique, as happened in Flunky; the problems are quite logical, and having control of two characters adds interest. This is much more playable than Trap Door, though perhaps Don Priestley could find a new technique sometime...
PAUL [84%]

Large graphics and cuddly characters make Through The Trap Door look very, but the game itself is of no real interest. As in all Don Priestley's games, the graphics look good but their slumping around the screen soon gets irritating; the best thing here is when worms and slugs pop up out of the ground to have a little squirm. Through The Trap Door is very attractive, but there's not enough to do.
NICK [52%]

Presentation: 83%
Graphics: 81%
Playability: 66%
Addictive Qualities: 63%
Overall: 70%

Summary: General Rating: Another superb adaption of the TV series, though its appeal comes from graphics more than addictive gameplay.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 25, Jan 1988   page(s) 91

Reviewer: Richard Blaine

This is a real oddity of a game. It's based on the adventures of a strange little trio of monsters featured on a popular kids TV series - but as I am unfortunately forced to work during the day (boo, hiss). I haven't caught the programme. There was a video floating around the YS offices, but the queue to see it stretched along Oxford Street. Children's TV and cute toys seem to fascinate the magazine's editorial staff, so I gave up waiting and just slapped game in the jolly old Spectrum.

Boni the skull has been kidnapped by a nasty living down in the catacombs - cue for an animated version of said dastardly deed at the beginning of the game. You play his friends Berk and Drutt. You actually control one of them at a time, flipping from one to the other as circumstances demand. Each has its own particular abilities.

Drutt is basically a frog, or possibly a toad. He can jump very high. This is useful to dislodge keys that you will need to let you through the doors into the next section of the underground labyrinth.

He can be unreliable though, every so often a worm pokes its head up out of the ground and starts inching its way around. Drutt will immediately break off his current activity, bounce after it and devour it with relish (and mustard and pickle as well)

Berk, a large yeti-like creature with rather manic bug-eyes, lollups around the screen with a crazed but amiable look on his face, picking things up. He can even pick up Drutt. Also keys, sweets, sausages, eyes and other strangenesses, which can endow our blue friend with magical powers like flying.

I had a bit of trouble with Berk. To pick something up he has to walk up behind it and march straight at you, whereupon he makes an ungainly lunge and grabs whatever it is he's supposed to grab. If you're lucky, that is.

When I say Berk is large, I mean he's a very big sprite, as with Popeye and other games designed by the same programmer, Don Priestly. In fact, Berk must be a quarter to a third of the screen high, and other creatures are correspondingly large. As a result, bats and other beasties aren't just amorphous blobs which you recognise more by their colour than by any physical resemblence to what they are supposed to be. No, with Mr Priestly, you can see their wicked little eyes rolling, and even their fangs glinting...

I'm not entirely certain though, what age range the games aimed at. It has to be for the younger games player, who will be familiar with the TV series and certainly the enormous chunky graphics would seem to suit that market. But to be honest I found the problems you have to cope with very difficult (And you're billions of years old! Ed). Often you have to be in exactly the right position at the right time, and you must anticipate with absolute accuracy just when something's going to drop down and clobber you. And, cheating as I did by looking at the solution, I was amazed by its complexity. In many ways this is far more of a graphic adventure than an arcade game - you don't even get to zap any of the beasties that zap you!

All in all though an excellent game with a great deal of its own brand of appeal. It'll take you weeks of hard work to solve completely, and provide a lot of fun along the way. Well worth picking up - though I hope you do it with more style than Berk!

Graphics: 8/10
Playability: 8/10
Value For Money: 8/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

Summary: Well hard arcade adventure with the Don Priestly signature all over it. Fans will lap it up.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 69, Dec 1987   page(s) 56,57

Label: Piranha
Author: Don Priestley
Price: £8.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: Kempston
Reviewer: Tamara Howard

Alas, poor Boni, I knew him well. And that's as close a literary allusion as you're going to get, and the reason for it is a skull.

Yep. What have here in Through the Trapdoor is a "Rescue the skull" game. (Why? It's dead. It doesn't care about being rescued, it isn't any use to anyone really, except as an trace element in a bag of Winalot). Yoh! Berk and Drut are back. Berk being a blue thingy, and Drut being a yellow thingy. Both now big media stars. Anyway, anyway, this skull's dropped through the trapdoor, and Berk and Drut have to rescue it.

OK, so it's all a rather spurious excuse for an adventurey game by Don Priestley, with cutesy-yuk character, sweetie-puke locations and a compleete-lee ghast-lee plot. Despite my natural reticence to even load such a thoroughly ghastly, childish game, I, um, oh gosh, I quite enjoyed Trapdoor II really.

Following on from the not-really-up-to-scratchness of Flunky, gameplay-wise, TTTD has a more solid sort of basis. There's all the usual, "Go to the left and pick up the key before decapitating the bat," which requires a lot of concentration and applied minds. (All right, I found it difficult, but then I'm probably not as smart as some of you). There also an added bonus of playing both the little yellow frog and the big blue blob, so you can switch between the two and get one to carry out a task which the other one would find nigh on impossible.

All of which is pretty usual sort of stuff. But what I really liked about TTTD was, gulp, the cuteness of it all. The tasty hard bits of the game, like deciding which way to point your pooter without getting blown up (look, you just have to play the game, OK)? and the general necessity to think about what you're doing is nicely balanced by having something so completely puerile and twee to gawp at.

Don Priestley has done a nice job with Trapdoor II, although I'm not sure that a third game with equivalent cuddley-ness would be in order. Two Trapdoors I can take quite happily though, and I recommend Through the Trapdoor to anyone who has a strong stomach and an eye for a tricky problem. Roam around four underground locations, collect keys, open doors, eat sweeties, and stop that horrendous froggie jumping all over the placie and banging his headie by picking him up and squeezing him until his eyes bulge. (Tee hee).

If you liked the original Trapdoor, like the large, simple tricky problems and either are very cute yourself or enjoy spitting blood at thingies and spookies you'll probably find Through the Trapdoor worth a second look. And if you don't, you can always have fun pushing Berk down the hole and watching his eyes spin.

Overall: 7/10

Summary: Horrendously cutsey came with a number of good hard puzzles to solve along the way. A worthy successor.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE (Advanced Computer Entertainment) Issue 4, Jan 1988   page(s) 73

Cartoon capers from Piranha.

Berk and Drutt, the two cartoon cuddlies, are back with a vengeance. The Trapdoor had you controlling the wonderfully animated Berk in the dingy corridors of the Bad Tempered Thing's castle. The sequel not only lets you manhandle larger-than-life Berk, but also his bouncing buddy Drutt. The adventure starts when hapless Boni (the skull) gets plucked from his abode, and subsequently taken to an underworld by a headless bat. Both Berk and Drutt must travel through four underground regions to recover their pal.

You have 16 lives with which to hunt for Boni. It sounds like a lot, but there are many hazards and you lose a life roughly every 90 seconds. Berk, the large blue thingamiwatsit, is the main character. Drutt just bounces around satisfying his craving for worms and occasionally, with great trepidation, gets Berk out of a hot spot.

The four regions are fraught with dangers and puzzles. There are pits, icicles, bats, and other menaces to dodge. The task usually involves locating a key and taking it to the nearest door - it is in this manner that you pass to the next stage.

As with the original, the graphics are bold and superbly animated. Berk's facial expressions have to be seen to be believed. And Drutt, who insists on gobbling every passing worm, is cute in his own special way. The tasks are harder than the original, but could still do with a little tweaking. A game worth getting if only to watch the big, bumbling characters.

Reviewer: Richard Monieiro

C64/128, £8.95cs, £13.95dk, Dec 87
Spectrum, £8.95cs, Out Now
Ams, £8.95cs, £13.95dk, Dec 87

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 88/100
1 hour: 85/100
1 day: 78/100
1 week: 70/100
1 month: 55/100
1 year: 20/100

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Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 5/10
IQ Factor: 6/10
Fun Factor: 9/10
Ace Rating: 824/1000

Summary: Keeps you glued to the screen for a surprisingly long time.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 74, Dec 1987   page(s) 25

MACHINES: Spectrum, C64, Amstrad
PRICE: C64, Spec, Amstrad (£8.95 cass), C64, Amstrad £13.95

Berk is back in his most daring adventure yet! Together with Drutt, he must go down through the Trap Door and rescue Boni the skull from the evil clutches of the skeleton which has kidnapped him.

The aim of the game is to find Boni, and escape.

There are four different areas to the game, each requiring several tasks to be performed before you can exit through a door, to the next one. You can play either Berk or Drutt, swapping between characters whenever the game demands it.

Berk will come across a variety of magic potions while on his travels which give him special powers and will help him considerably. Certain tasks, during the game, will have to be performed by either Berk or Drutt. Most of the time Drutt will be responsible for achieving a lot of the given tasks that are presented to them. The main task in each region is to retrieve a key, which is needed to open the exit door to the next region, and key. A whole host of the most uncanny and evil creatures roam each region, and are intent on preventing you, completing your quest.Only quick reactions and logical thinking can ensure old Boni's release.

The game begins with you witnessing the abduction of Boni by a headless, winged skeleton. You, as Berk, pick up Drutt and head down into the gloomy depths of the Trap Door. Down there, you must take control of Drutt, and search for the first key. Once found, Berk must retrieve it from its a resting place.

When he's got it, proceed to the next couple of screens where an enormous pit is located. Once across it, the first of the exit doors is found on the next screen. The following three regions are played the same way, and the use of a magic potion in each one is essential. Each magic potion comes in the form of a particular item, which Berk must eat. They include sausages, eyeballs (that's disgusting, EDI), sweets and mushrooms.

The graphics are exactly the same as the original Trap Door game, simple, but effective. The use of colour and sound is of average standard, and could have been different to the original. The game is extremely hard to complete, and will require a lot of trial and error practice to actually get off the first region. Getting to the second region is a feat in itself.

Through the Trap Door is a game where you must like arcade adventures to really appreciate it. The multitude of problems and puzzles are extremely taxing. But once solved, leave you with a feeling of satisfaction. Through the Trap Door is an ideal game for all of you who love a challenge now and then.

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7/10
Value: 8/10
Playability: 7/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 2, Dec 1987   page(s) 77

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £8.95
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £8.95, Diskette: £13.95 (Mid November)
Commodore 64 CPC Cassette: £8.95, Diskette: £13.95 (Late November)


Don Priestley's been writing computer games for longer than he might care to think about, way back to early Spectrum days and games like Maziacs. Most were released through Dk'tronics, and the last he did for them before the company turned away from software, marked a new style characterised by giant, colourful figures with plenty of animation, Popeye. After a first release, the then newly-formed Macmillan software house Piranha picked up the game, and so started a fruitful partnership which has seen Don follow up with Trapdoor, Flunky, and now the sequel Through The Trapdoor.

The highly successful Trapdoor was based upon the cult TV show featuring plasticine monsters. The sequel also features the flubbery antics of gigacute blue Berk, and provides much more action than Don's last offering, Flunky, but still retains an irresistible charm that makes it a winner.

Deep down below the trapdoor is a place where you don't go alone. Unless, of course, you're as stupid as Boni the Skull. But to be fair, he is helped. There he is, quite content sitting above the trapdoor, when it bursts open and out flies a hideous bird-like creature who grabs Boni by the cranium and disappears down below with him. This slight mishap hails the return of Berk and his worm-gobbling chum Drutt. Thus begins the new adventure - Trapdoor II: The Search For Boni.

The game takes place in the strange lands, split into four regions, below the trapdoor. Boni remains captive at the farthest end of the fourth region and to get there Berk and Drutt must collect three keys which unlock the doors between the regions.

Through The Trapdoor relies much more on action and timing than puzzles for its main appeal - where puzzles are encountered they aren't as involved as those in either Trapdoor or Flunky. While it appears most people still love Don Priestley's graphic style the task-orientated games are wearing a bit thin. At first the game proves difficult, and it may seem as though you're getting nowhere until you discover one little secret that helps to complete a section a gives a clue to the nature of the difficulties ahead.


Unlike the original, where Berk was the only controllable character, In Through The Trapdoor you can operate both Berk and Drutt, utilising each creatures' unique abilities. Drutt, for example, can jump very high and bears a charmed life when it comes to meeting any of the monsters that inhabit the tunnels; Berk's far too fat to jump, but he can carry objects, and his hyperactive digestive system has some odd, though useful, effects on the things he eats. Working the characters on unison, it's relatively easy to complete most puzzles.

Controlling Berk is simple - just left and right - although eating sweets and magic mushrooms provides him with jumping and flying powers. Drutt, on the other hand, is rather more independently minded and when not actually being moved in a direction tends to wander off and begin chasing, and later eating, the worms which wriggle around in the corridors. In fact Berk's carrying ability comes in useful at times for imprisoning Drutt within his capacious arms.

Control between the characters is switched by depressing the fire button, and to indicate which character is currently in control, a row of little bulging-eyed blue Berks or yellow Drutts appears along the bottom of the screen. As the game progresses the eyes gradually close - when they are all closed your time is up, and Berk and Drutt are zapped.

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Overall: 82%

Summary: Don Priestley has always been a commited Spectrum programmer, so clearly Through The Trapdoor is crafted with the machine very much in mind. The large cartoonesque characters are engaging and by capitalising on sheer size, he has provided some very startling shocks here and there. The sound is little more than 'bells and whistles', which is slightly disappointing but it hardly detracts from the overall pleasure. It's a fascinating game both to play and watch, and with the inclusion of two characters to control, provides enough entertainment to make it an excellent sequel.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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