Return To Wonderland
The Retro Connection
Once again, it’s time to have a closer look at how our infatuation with vintage video games (primarily from the 1980s and early 1990s) has influenced design decisions in our own releases. In the first part of this article series, we had a look at some of the retro games that made their way into Wonderland Adventures, mostly as very subtle (and sometimes hidden) references.
In Return To Wonderland, we were far less subtle, as the theme of an entire section of levels was “Retro Gaming, Wonderland Style”. Each level was an attempt to inspire a connection with the original arcade classic that it was named after. How do you make a Wonderland level resemble Frogger, Pac Man, or Pong? Here are our eight attempts:
1. Mrs Pac Man
Okay, this one was straight-forward. Stinky and Loof certainly like to “gobble” up Rainbow Stars, a maze is an easy level to design, and Return To Wonderland even has its own variety of Ghosts. All that was missing were the Power Pills. In retrospect, we couldn’t tell you why we named the level “Mrs. Pac Man” rather than just “Pac Man”. Maybe because it’s the better game of the two? (Note: The maze setup in our version bares no resemblances to the original game. Oops! That could have been easily fixed.)
2. Space Invaders
This one was trickier. Yes, Return To Wonderland has UFOs, and the classic “shields” of the original Space Invaders game were easily recreated using walls of wooden boxes, but Stinky and Loof had no way of fighting back. Except, of course, to use reflectors to turn the enemy fire back on them. That’ll teach those flying saucers!
Yikes, you can’t get much more Retro than Pong. A ball, two paddles, neither of which had an easy Wonderland equivalent. So we constructed a level with Stinky and Loof on opposite sides of a wall of wood, rolling a heavy stone boulder back and forth (smashing the boxes, perhaps a nod to Pong’s quasi-sequel, Breakout). Instead of Pong’s paddles, Stinky and Loof would push around steel boxes to stop the rolling ball.
4. Dig Dug
Impossible to recreate with Wonderland elements (unless you know of a cheat code to give Stinky a handy air-pump?), we opted instead to play with another core essential of Dig Dug: opening passages into caverns filled with baddies, who will in turn begin to chase you. Chompers, Coilys and Z-Bots took the place of Pooka and Frygar.
Q*Bert’s classic pyramid had to be flattened into a triangle, and the transporters were replaced with teleporters. One thing that remained exactly the same: Coily! The purple snake is one of Q*Bert’s main adversaries and might well have been the inspiration for our own bouncing nuisance. Or is the Wonderland Coily a mental offspring of Gremlin Graphic’s “Thing on a Spring”?
Frogger’s two stage levels (street and river) were an easy match for the Wonderland level setup. Rather than cars and trucks, the “street” was now populated by Z-Bots and a lonely rolling boulder, whereas the moving logs on the “river” were replaced with stationary floating boxes. There are still five “exits”, as in the original, but here each exit is filled with a Rainbow Coin.
In Space Invaders, we used reflectors to counter the UFO’s fireballs. This time, Stinky was able to use a lone UFO to lob fireballs at the incoming centipede (made up of a string of Z-Bots). You were, of course, able to evade the Z-Bots altogether and just run for the coins, but where would the fun be in that?
8. Missile Command
This one, quite honestly, is a bit of a stretch. Instead of defending cities from incoming missiles, we had Stinky try to defend several buttons from incoming Z-Bots. The buttons, once pressed, would spell Stinky’s defeat. No word yet on whether a Track-Ball compatible version will be released.
And there you have it... eight classic arcade machines and their Wonderland interpretations. It was a challenge to try to fit a completely different game into the world of Wonderland, but it was also a lot of fun. We even revisited the same idea in Wonderland Adventures with the design of the Wondertown Arcade.
As a final note, members of the Wonderland community forum might also be aware of a ninth level, “Dragon’s Lair”, that re-creates the famous rolling boulder sequence. This level was created by us as well (under a pseudonym)... we just didn’t think of the idea in time for the original game release.