The Making Of: Oh Mummy
The first game you played on your new computer as a kid often leaves a lasting impression and never was that truer than with Oh Mummy, so we sent Kieren Hawken into the tomb to plunder its story
It’s not an Amidar clone, as programmer, Daren White reveals
When Amstrad entered the home computer market in 1984, Alan Sugar already knew that no matter how it promoted its new computer range games would play a big part of its success. So, with this in mind, he hastily created the Amsoft label, to both produce new games for the CPC range and licence older games, too. One of the first companies he turned to for help was the littleknown Gem Software, as it had already released a number of games for the CPC’S biggest rival
– the ZX Spectrum. One of those games was Oh Mummy, an interesting take on the Konami arcade game Amidar that featured an intriguing Egyptian theme. This game was ported over to the CPC fairly quickly and would end up being one of the titles that was bundled with the tape-based Amstrad
CPC 464. Some two years later Alan Sugar was completing the purchase of the Sinclair brand and, more specifically, the ZX Spectrum computer, from his great rival Sir Clive Sinclair. Once again, he knew the importance of bundling games with a computer and for the debut of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum
+2, with its Cpc-style built-in tape deck, he once again turned to Gem Software to do the honours. Because of this, the Amsoft rerelease of Oh
Mummy for the ZX Spectrum and the new Amstrad CPC version would be the very first game many people played when they unwrapped their shiny new computers on Christmas or their birthday, and the enjoyable arcade-style gameplay meant that it remained a favourite thereafter.
Oh Mummy was the creation of John Line and Daren White, who would end up purchasing Gem Software themselves after the company hit financial difficulties. The initial version of the game was released for the ZX Spectrum in April 1984 with versions for other Z80-based machines following later that year. While many recognise the game as an Amidar clone Daren himself cites a different inspiration. “It was actually a derivative that we based Oh Mummy on, a game called Painter,” he reveals. “There was also, a touch of Pac-man in there too!” For those that might not have played Amidar or Painter we’ll fill you in. In the game you control a character who must run around a maze, which is set up in a grid pattern, and ‘colour in’ all the squares by moving around the entire perimeter. Once you light up every square you move onto the next level. This might sound easy but there are also enemies running around trying to stop you doing this, so you have work the best way to avoid them. As well as utilising an Egyptian theme, Oh
Mummy also adds some extra gameplay elements such as cursed tombs that reveal extra monsters, magic scrolls, valuable sarcophagus artefacts and, crucially, keys, which must be found in order to reveal the level’s exit. “Egypt was an interest of mine, as I was really into magic at the time and it’s difficult not to research Egypt when looking into that subject,” says Daren. “Also, we just needed a rational for the game, and we decided that the player was being chased by mummies! Once the mummy idea was there, we just brainstormed for extra gameplay ideas and these just happened to pop into our heads.”
The Amstrad deal played out well for Gem Software, and Daren remembers how it all came about well. “When I first joined Gem Software it was a limited company and I was just an employee,” he says. “However, they went bust a year or so later after it started having problems with some of the larger distributors not paying up. After this, John, Sandy (John’s wife) and myself formed a new partnership, keeping the name Gem Software. We didn’t become the owners of the company until after Oh Mummy, so the Amsoft deal came about after the original Gem Software partnership had been dissolved. Amstrad approached a few developers to see if they had any games that could be bundled with their machines. We offered them Disco Dan, Roland In Time, Roland Goes Digging and, of course, Oh Mummy. I don’t know much more than this as the deal was mostly handled by John and Sandy.”
Now, we can’t let Daren go without asking him a few questions about Oh Mummy’s legacy. The popularity of the game among retro fans has seen more recent ports to the Mattel Intellivision, PC,
IOS, the Vector-06c computer and an enhanced update for the Mega Drive. We wonder if Daren himself had seen or played any these tribute versions. “I did see the Mega Drive version and the iphone versions,” he says, “but not until a couple of years ago when I looked into doing a remake of Oh Mummy for modern machines.” He adds, “Both versions were very good indeed and a pleasure to see. It’s always nice to see homage to your work.” To this very day Daren is also still extremely surprised at just how fondly the Oh Mummy is remembered. “I still run into people who are delighted when they find out I made Oh Mummy. The last one was when I was working at Samsung R&D, one of the programmers there told me his mum was a massive fan. So I gave them a signed copy of one of my remaining Oh Mummy tapes and she was over the moon!”
Special thanks to Daren White.
a few » [ZX Spectrum] You only have tomb. seconds to escape a cursed
» [ZX Spectrum] The intro in the Spectrum version explains all the items you’ll come across in the game.
» [Amstrad CPC] You’ve got the scroll, you’ve got the key, now head to the exit before that mummy escapes the tomb!