Stories and sprites of the Games That Weren't

Games That Weren't is a blog about unreleased and cancelled video games, featuring media and mysteries uncovered from old documents, magazines and interviews with the people who were there. There's a book too, a thick and hard one at that.

Games That Weren't was first inspired by a Commodore 64 magazine article by Ian Osborne in a late issue of Commodore Force in 1993. Entitled, "That Was the Game That Wasn't", the feature was of great interest to a young 11yr old Frank Gasking, and shed light on titles that had never been released.

Frank wondered what it would be like to actually play some of these games that were shown and began contacting friends in the C64 scene to try and pick up copies of those games mentioned in the article. After managing to get hold of a few of them that had leaked out, Frank researched through many old magazines and started to uncover even more unreleased / incomplete games.

There are the famous examples, such as Bandersnatch/Psyclapse, but many others I'd never heard of. I particularly enjoyed reading about the wild misuse of the Thundercats license by UK game publisher Imagine, which set about developing two titles with the instant-crush methodology characteristic of UK-based licensees in the 1980s, ran out of time before Christmas anyway, so crudely reskinned a finished game that had nothing to do with the cat cartoon. This was always thought to have been a game called Sword of the Samurai, (not to be confused with the Microprose title by that name) but it turns out to have been something called Wolf.

It is likely that Wolf was close to completion by around September/October time, Elite saw the game and saw it was an ideal opportunity to re-purpose as a Thundercats themed game. Gargoyle no doubt had a financial motive to go go ahead and make the relevant changes. One thing that did not change though was the music – which Rob [Hubbard] had already composed back in July 1987. This now explains why the tunes have no resemblance at all to the TV series. Tunes were already composed, they were Rob Hubbard tunes and Elite had no reason to get Rob to re-compose them. When this theory was posed to Rob, Rob confirmed that actually Wolf WAS Thundercats, and when he was contracted to do the ST music – he was made aware of the name change and asked to do a ST version of Wolf in a hurry before we went to the states.

Interestingly there could be quite a few remnants of Wolf in the game, which make sense now we have the connection. The mountain areas at the top of the screen seem to have indication that there could have been some kind of "moonlight" feature originally – which may have impacted on the game. Maybe you originally controlled a human, which could transform into a Wolf under moonlight? We checked the CVG preview for any remains, and there were sprites that never made it into the final game – which we have added here. The CVG preview also has slightly different SFX too. Could these have originally been for Wolf?

The two other projects were not abandoned. One was released the following year as Beyond the Ice Castle, the other as Bomb Jack II. How slapdash were these publishers? "Bomb Jack II" still had the Thundercats theme in it—which they hadn't put in the "Thundercats" game they actually published.