Remake Roundup: Hunchback
Welcome to the Remake Roundup! Here we take a look at an unsuspecting old school original and roundup a tasty smattering of new retro remakes. Relive a relic from your past in a new skin with modern conveniences!
In the 80’s and 90’s some games didn’t quite make the ‘classic’ criteria despite being well-known, or even popular. Usually falling victim to shoddy control schemes or insanity-rendering levels of obtuseness, games like Madballs or E.T. promised so much but were, well, a bit shit.
For our first Remake Roundup we found a bunch of hidden floppies containing remakes of an arcade “classic” called Hunchback. A historically accurate retelling of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hunchback saw Quasimodo launching himself over balls of fire, dodging arrows and avoiding armed guards, which I’m sure also happened in the book I never read.
Hunchback initially hit the arcades in 1983. As a certified early 80’s coin gobbler, it was designed in an age where punishing the player by requiring meticulous memorisation and perfectly trained timing was apparently seen as ‘a fun way to spend an afternoon’. Despite this, Hunchback was popular and ported to a large number of home platforms including the C64, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, MSX and ZX Spectrum. The C64 version was the one I grew up with, which I apparently decided was still more enjoyable than doing my homework, and can be played online here (may require you to sign up for a free account).
Hunchback II: Quasimodo’s Revenge (1984)
The very first ‘remake’ started as early as 1984. While Winston was being punished in the Ministry of Love, OCEAN decided remaking Hunchback was also a good idea. Don’t let the “II” fool you, it’s basically the same game with (slightly) better gameplay. An improvement but still not that good.
Hunchback II: Quasimodo’s Revenge
Play: Online at SuperRetro.net
Gawsh. Hunchback really was deceptively popular wasn’t it? Not content, OCEAN decided to continue the burgeoning Hunchback IP with Hunchback: The Adventure in 1986.
A review puts it nicely, revealing the game was… not quite amazing. It seems we hadn’t learned how to make Hunchbacks fun by the mid-80s. It’s not really a ‘remake’ I suppose, but I couldn’t resist sharing the fact that someone made a text adventure that involves Quasimodo continually stabbing guards to death.
Hunchback: The Adventure
Download: World of Spectrum (requires emulator)
Super Hunchback (1992)
In the early 90s everything was made better by putting the word “Super” in front of it, and hunchbacks were no exception. Super Hunchback nods towards the arcade version on the very first screen, immediately assaulting you with a never-ending stream of logs (instead of fireballs) while making your way to the bell on the right-side of the screen. However, as you’d expect from a 90’s game, it vastly improved Quasi’s movement, while following levels’ design begins to open up. The controls however are still pretty awkward on the whole, and it certainly doesn’t fulfill all 10 requirements for being a masterpiece. But I’d rank this as the first decent ‘playable’ Hunchback game in history.
Playable on browser: Game-Oldies
Hunchback is a classic remake story. Developers Scottige games and Mersey remakes wanted to relive some hunchback action without the need for an emulator, and so Scott took action into his own hands by making possibly the very first modern remake of Hunchback
The game was started and completed inside a week, and stays pretty true to the original version with updated graphics via Mersey Remakes. However, I found the jumping a lot more lenient, and much easier, although grabbing onto the rope was still almost impossible.
Required file: CNCS32.DLL
Hunchy 3D (2004)
Hunchback Remake (or ‘Hunchy3D’ according to the zip file), is a pretty basic Hunchback remake made in Gamemaker. While the game retains the theme and gameplay, developer Crozza Remakes decided to mix things up a bit, with different level designs and enemies. For example, in addition to the usual bloodthirsty castle guards you’ll also have to dodge giant spiders, because every game needs more giant spiders in it. Hunchy 3d doesn’t bring anything exceptional to the table, but it gets the job done.
Hunchy/Hunchy II (2005)
Hunchy and Hunchy II are homebrew Atari 2600 games, made by CD-W. The first is a pretty straight up remake, but the sequel deviates. As the author puts it: “I wanted to get away from the purely linear behaviour (running from one side to the other) of the original, and so the objective now is to collect the bells which are scattered around the screen (similar to Hunchback II). There are also ladders and platforms now, and the guards can chase after you. The basic gameplay is inspired by “Chuckie Egg” which is one of my favourite 8-bit games.”
- This version is very similar to Langford’s remake (below) in the sense that it closely replicates the original levels and gameplay, however the graphics are again vastly improved. Thankfully, it did away with the weird gridline effect as well. Curiously the guard sprites have been stolen from the old Asterix arcade game. Although it doesn’t overcome the inherent problems of the original, it’s probably the best ‘pure’ remake out there.
Download: Classic Retro Games
The Hump in Love (20XX)
The Hump in Love is a Spanish effort (O Corcunda No Amor in Spanish), Quasi sure does get around. The game looks very much inspired from the original but the Spaniards seems to have taken some romantic liberties, describing Esmeralda as Qusaimodo’s ‘girlfriend’. Life will find a way.
The Hump in Love / O Corcunda No Amor
Play online: Jogos De Acao (spanish site)
Snowbrawl in Hell (2013)
- Snowbrawly in Hell is a remake of Hunchback developed by Far From Sleep it was made as a minigame in tribute to Hunchback. Snowbrawl changes up the theme quite a bit, no longer being about Quasimodo but rather, seemingly trying to escape from a Cold Day in Hell. It follows the same basic Hunchback gameplay, with your character leaping over deadly pits and dodging a plethora of obstacles, reaching a snowman at the other end (rather than the bell). No longer being a crippled hunchback, the movement is slightly improved, and the first few screens are significantly easier than the original’s unforgiving gameplay, improving the flow of gameplay. For example, the fireballs now come from a machine, which helpfully displays its timing with a light that changes from red to green. The difficulty and challenge quickly ramps up to Hunchback levels, though, requiring you to jump pits, while timing your jumps to avoid pitchfork wielding demons and also dodging the fireballs. Probably the best ‘clone’ remake.
The Hunch (2015)
The Hunch is a remake by Robert Langford. Graphically, it’s certainly an upgrade, with a higher resolution and more colours than the original ancient versions. Although, to try and emphasise the retro-origins, the developer uses “Speccyvision”, a kind of grid-line overlay to emulate an old pixel/scanlines effect, which doesn’t really work.
Gameplay-wise Hunch sticks pretty close to the original, in the sense that you are about as athletic as a retired toad and have about 1% margin for error in your jumps and timing, but features the original 15 screens plus 15 extra, and the arcade’s Tower bonus screen which appeared as the first level of “Hunchback II”. If you liked the challenge and rigid controls of the original then The Hunch is the perennial upgrade for you.
Download: Developer’s Site
Phew! I have to admit I when I set out to write this article, it was intended to be more of a fluff piece. Kind of like a “oh hey, did you know someone actually remade that old crappy hunchback game” deal. I grossly underestimated the Hunchback’s enduring appeal to the masses.
Remakes are interesting because they show how people balance what made the old game great with what would make the game better. In the case of Hunchback, despite some sources admitting it was really a bit crap, the remakes were mostly content to stick with the formula.
If you’re a sucker for the original, then try Robert Langford’s or Mike Farrow’s remakes, as they’re clearly the standouts. If you want something (slightly) more modern-leaning, Snowbrawl in Hell is your man. If you want something a bit different, then Super Hunchback is probably the most interesting entry in the overcrowded Hunchback market.