Insert Disk collects Sir Fred for the Commodore Amiga.
Today’s retro game review is Sir Fred for the Commodore Amiga. This rather obscure retro gaming classic by Ubisoft was an early attempt to enter the gaming market for the company. You control Sir Fred who has been transformed in to a dwarf. The aim of the game is to rescue the princess from the gnomes and restore yourself to your full size. Ubisoft’s Sir Fred is graphically but suffers greatly from its control system. Still, if you enjoy obscure retro games, this game may be for you.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Today we’re travelling back to 1992 to look at a rather obscure game from Ubisoft. It’s time to take another look at Sir Fred for the Commodore Amiga. For full disclosure I’ve used an unlimited energy cheat this week as I’m still really rubbish at this game. For collectors there’s nothing quite like the feeling of picking up a game that you’ve been hunting down for some time. For me Sir Fred was one of those games. It was a game that I had played when I was younger but never seen in a decent enough condition to add to my collection. So what’s it all about?
Graced with strength and bravery, Sir Fred won the heart of a beautiful damsel. In doing so he has also brought on the wrath of the evil dwarf ultimor who has transformed him into a vulnerable gnome.In his quest to break the evil curse the dwarf Sir Fred must overcome the danger of magicians, flying monsters and numerous traps in order to regain the prestige that built his legend. From the off Sir Fred is full of inconsistencies. The box text refers to him as both a dwarf and a gnome. No big deal here as it’s likely that the original text has been translated from French origins. What’s more confusing though is the name of the game. The box refers to the game as “Sir Fred”. However, the in game titles drop the title in favour of just “Fred”. Again, it’s not a big deal but it there were clearly communications issues between the marketing and artwork teams and the developers. So, how does Sir Fred play? In a nutshell, not well.
You’ll find yourself wondering if your joystick is actually working. Fred can walk, roll, use his sword, jump and throw daggers. All of this is mapped to just one button plus the main joystick for movement. The whole control scheme is a bit awkward, the dexterity in the game character just isn’t there to support the movement needed to avoid projectiles and aim attacks. Another pitfall is the weapon system itself. If you stand to throw a dagger it’s path will loop it of the head of smaller enemies. In a game where 90% of your enemies are gnomes that’s a big issue for the player. Instead I found that I had to crouch to achieve a straight shot. The third element is perhaps the most frustrating feature and that’s that Fred can’t jump whilst on stairs or in to objects. Instantly if you try this he will slump to the ground like a sack of dead gnomes. This can be incredibly frustrating.
So the control system is quite sub-par but there are nice touches in the game mechanics. Generally it’s a case of find the level key and exit via a locked door. What’s interesting about the setup is that the levels although 2D have 3 planes of depth. So you will find yourself moving from the background to the foreground to traverse the level. It’s a very nice touch. Graphically Sir Fred is rather pleasing. It’s one of those games reminiscent of Shadow of the Beast. Ultimately they are games that are nice to watch than to play. The enemies are well drawn and animated, all of the dwarves have great personality and character. Despite being a real pain to kill I have to have respect to this ninja gnome. I’ll give the gnomes a free pass in this game but I will be more critical of the spiders, wasps and ravens. The ravens often appear black on a black background to good luck in seeing these approaching in time. The spiders and wasps though, these are just something to ruin your day. You can’t hit them standing up easily so you have to aim diagonally from below, or jump attack them or stand far away enough for a dagger to loop in to them. Combine this with the stair collision issue and really the game becomes not fit for purpose.
So, why on earth am I wasting your time by showing you Sir Fred today? Well, it’s partially the nostalgia and partly the connection to Ubisoft. Now better known for franchises such as the Rayman series Sir Fred represents a time when the company hadn’t quite found its feet on the world stage. As such an early game release is almost always of interest to completionist collectors and those that just like to find out more about gaming history. That brings us on to the cost of gaming history. This is the cover of the original Sir Fred release. For collectors this is one that we sit around just asking ourselves how this artwork got approved. Sir Fred is well, he just doesn’t look right. The princess, yes she’s out of the pack clip art. And just what is this thing?! It’s just a mess all round. The only part I actually like here is the gnome, dwarf, goblin thing. It’s a shame as he’s the only one we can’t see the face of. To top it off you’re looking at spending £150 to collect this one or around $180. Still, that’s the price you pay for an early edition.
What many collectors may not be aware of though is the re-release of Sir Fred at a fraction of the price. This is the Sir Fred I have in my collection. Expect the standard game floppy disk, a black and with manual and a small format box. This edition was released in the “Action Sixteen” series. Action Sixteen had a small amount of success in repurposing games after the initial run. I’ve not been able to find a reliable source but all indicators are that this game had a very low print run. With the original in scare supply this re-release was never intended to be a hit. Action Sixteen’s job was there to mop up any extra cash with budget releases. In terms of pricing I’d say the jury is out on this one. I paid around the £15 mark for my copy (that’s under $20). The price though doesn’t reflect its rarity but rather the demand from collectors.
Just to take a quick look at the box artwork. The side panels give a clear title of “Sir Fred”. In the main artwork though it’s a bit of a mess. The rather ornate font in combination with the orange and yellow on orange and yellow background just seems like an odd choice. If you must insist on the same colours at least add a key line around the edge as was done on the side title. The artwork itself, well it might just be awesome. Sir Fred who seems to appear full-sized stands wailing on a couple of dwarves. It’s brilliantly tacky yet actually illustrated really well. Sir Fred is certainly a bit of a challenge to play. If you grew up in a post floppy disk game age you just won’t appreciate how non-user friendly some games were for the audience. Sir Fred does have its moment though, the animation on the characters are really great and the developers even throw you a bone every now and again by introducing a magic star. Hit this and it acts as a smart bomb killing everything on screen.
There’s also some nice Easter Egg work from the original developer. Look closely on the second stage and you can see “copy write Incal ’89” inscribed on the wall. For Ubisoft, Sir Fred was a stepping stone to greater success. Outside of collecting circles it’s unlikely that most will know this title first hand. I really wanted to cover this game though as it does deserve some love from the next generation of gamers. It’s a great looking and great sounding game. Sir Fred may now be relegated to the gaming vaults for most collectors but it will always bring back childhood memories for myself. Terrible… frustrated childhood memories…