While other 80s games like Donkey Kong ended up spawning a 200+ game franchise and iconic characters that have become Halloween costume staples, Pyjamarama (1984) hero Wally Week languishes utterly unknown.
And yet Pyjamarama was the better game. It’s a direct ancestor of modern games like Outlast.
In Pyjamarama Wally is asleep and needs to wind his alarm clock so he can wake up on time in the morning, get to work, and not lose his job (sure, no 80s proto-neoliberalist fears reflected here). Finding the key (spoiler: it’s on the moon) involves realizing you need to slide the pound coin into the change machine to get a penny, which will unlock the toilet* where you’ll find the hammer you need to break the glass on the fire extinguisher which you need to get past the fire and . . . . .
On your way through all this you had to avoid Wally-eating Venus flytraps, ghosts, animated roast chickens, flying double-headed axes, and assorted other things out to do you harm. The graphics were state of the art at the time, and these guys were inventing game design which we still use today.
Remember, no online walkthroughs in 1984, because no world wide web. If you got stuck you could write in to a magazine like Computer and Video Games with a question and hope they published your letter in a few months, and that a reader would write back with the solution for you in another few months. This is the reason I never finished a single one of the Level 9 Computing’s text adventure games. It tooks weeks of experimenting to find the right solution to a next step. Games were a committment: an investment in time and effort.
I do like gaming a hell of a lot more now. I like being able to find a solution to my stuckness inside of 60 seconds, but I also adore the sheer beauty of modern games. But maybe they’ve made me a little less persistent.
You can play Pyjamarama in a ZX Spectrum emulator online here, for free, right now.** And appreciate the times when this was as good as gaming got.
*This is because in British Empire countries, when you needed to use the bathroom you’d say, “I’m going to spend a penny.” My great-grandmother always said, “I’m going to see a man about a dog” which left me wondering why she saw so many men about dogs and yet never went ahead and bought a puppy. Now I just wonder why she needed to announce to everyone why she was leaving the living room. Could you not just . . .go?
** And if you get stuck, the walkthrough is here.