1984: Gremlin Graphics is born
Gremlin Graphics was founded around 1984. At first they concentrated on games for the Spectrum, but soon realised that the C64 had a games market potential. All their early games had the orignal and 'classic' GG logo: a green gremlin looking slightly angry, along with the text of Gremlin Graphics in green. Indeed in 1984, came the first of what would be a series of games based on one character: Monty Mole. Wanted: Monty Mole hit the C64 in 1984, and it was programmed by no less than Antony Crowther. Why the music covered the Colonel Bogey theme, is unknown. Nevertheless, sales of this on both C64 and Spectrum were promising and there soon became many fans of the little mole. Early on was also the game Percy the Potty Pigeon, which was also one of the very first C64 tunes by Ben Daglish. Ben would later on work a lot for Gremlin Graphics on their music.

10 Carver Street
The first offices Gremlin had, was located at 26 Carver Street, Sheffield S1 4FS. Parkhead House, and they worked here in their very early era. These days a multimedia company Zoo own the building and their Z logo can be seen on the first and second floors of the building. After a while, this place didn't suit Gremlin Graphics, so they moved on to... 10 Carver Street, Sheffield S1 4FS. Alpha House. The Gremlin Graphics address we all know and love. Usually a few companies share the building, but for the majority of their C64 output, this is where they were.

1985 was a very good year for Gremlin Graphics in fact. First off was the game Thing on a Spring, which involved a little character much like Zebedee from the hit TV show The Magic Roundabout. Thing and his Spring would bounce around many levels of a toy factory, avoiding evil toys as he went along with collecting jigsaw pieces to defeat an evil goblin, oil to keep his springs healthy, and overall was solid platform fun. It also was one of the earliest C64 music compositions by Rob Hubbard, and its very cute bouncy style suited the game brilliantly. Thing on a Spring was indeed a popular game, so popular in fact that the Thing character became one of the two 'margin' characters who would frequent the pages of Zzap! 64 magazine (the other one was of course Rockford from the game Boulder Dash). And later in the year, we then had Monty on the Run. MOTR had received critical acclaim on the Spectrum, and the C64 version was very well done. Not only that, but it had another classic Rob Hubbard tune which really got you induced into a slight panic as you tried to get Monty escaping. The high score tune was also very well known and many C64 musicians have covered it.

1986, and more nice original concepts abound. We had Bounder, in which you controlled a bouncing tennis ball. Now what made it interesting was that you viewed the action head on, and could only of course bounce around so that you had to ensure that you timed your movements across platforms etc. in time with when the ball bounced on the surface. Even in 1986 computer games needed a breath of fresh air and this was definitiely it. Also there was Trailblazer programmed by Shaun Southern, where you controlled a ball and had to get to the end of levels by either jumping over holes in the ground or using coloured blocks to your advantage and at times, to your disadvantage. The 3D like effect of the board coming towards you was adopted by many demo groups as a 'trailblazer' effect. So if you ever wondered, you know now.

Way of the Tiger was also a big hit, combining many oriental fighting disciplines in one game. And there was Footballer of the Year, which had you playing a striker aiming to be the top footballer. The novel goal shooting along with the idea of buying cards to enhance your players' chances pre-dates EA's Premier League Stars idea by ooh, at least 12 years. And who can forget Jack the Nipper, in which you had to be as naughty as possible? Completely barmy idea, of course, yet it worked!

Late 1986 also saw Gremlin Graphics change their logo: they just had "Gremlin" in green lettering at a slight 3D angle. Nevertheless, they were always known as Gremlin Graphics and indeed their trading name was still that and they owned the copyright. Just in case of any disputes, you know.

1987 then saw a clutch of sequels: Auf Wiedersehen Monty, in which Rob Hubbard and Ben Daglish famously worked together, Re-Bounder, and Thing Bounces Back. Sadly to say, none of them were anywhere near as good as their prequels. And there was Krakout, a bat and ball game with clashed with Imagine's far superior arcade conversion of Arkanoid. Gremlin also went into licensing, with three games between 1987-88 based on the TV series Mask, and one on the movie of Masters of the Universe. We also had Avenger, a kind of sequel to Way of the Tiger, set with Oriental fighting mixed with Gauntlet. Almost worked wonders, that one. And another sequel, Jack the Nipper 2: Coconut Capers. This time the little brat set about the whole of the jungle with just a lovely bunch of coconuts to create much hassle with, and sure he did. The coup de grace though was Alternative World Games. Released a year after Epyx' classic World Games, this spoof was lovingly done, and an original idea to carry off the spoof so well. It really made you laugh hard as well as play hard. I mean who would want to compete in events such as boot throwing, pole climbing, running up walls, jumping rivers and pillow fighting and not giggle?

1988 saw Gremlin Graphics' output slow a bit, but there was still plenty of ideas. Technocop, a futuristic driving game mixed with shooting was let down by some poor execution and a bad multiload, a multi screen platform version of Mickey Mouse with a nice version of the Sorcerer's Apprentice music (as used in the film Fantasia) to guide Mickey along. What was good was Skate Crazy. This involved much skating around on roller skates around various obstacle courses and the likes, and that hadn't been seen on a C64 to that date. The novel control system took some getting used to of course, but it was well worth it.

By this time Gremlin Graphics' output was slowing as other formats were taking over the market. However, in their later years there were many memorable games, even if most of them were conversions from other machines: 1989 saw Butcher Hill, a war based game that was actually quite good fun to play, along with Gary Lineker's Hot Shot, the third licenced game based on the famous English footballer. In 1991, Super Cars, an overhead racer a la Super Sprint really was good, you had options to buy equipment, but also unlike Super Sprint wasn't full of bugs. There was also Switchblade, a flick screen platformer with a hint of Manga attached to it. The slightly unusual look and feel definitely made things different, and indeed it was also pretty tough to get through. The music on both original Amiga and C64 versions was made by Ben Daglish, still producing many tunes for most of Gremlin's games.

By 1992 things were very slow, and a version of Space Crusade was one of the last games they ever produced for the C64.

Gremlin Interactive
In 1994 or so Gremlin Graphics changed everything and became Gremlin Interactive. Despite making the Actua Soccer series of games and selling quite a few copies of the PC and Playstation versions, it was sad to see them bought out by Infogrames to be part of their empire.

What people say about the Gremlin years
Chris Shrigley: The Gremlin years were hard, exhillerating, fun and completely insane. I served my apprentice-ship in the games industry while at Gremlin. I got to work with some of the best people and really learned my trade. We pumped games out at an astonishing rate. We were expected to write three or four a year (which we usually did). When we joined Gremlin it was still a pretty small company. They were in a couple of offices above the computer shop that Ian (Stewart) also owned.

Gremlin started to expand and we moved to bigger offices within the year. The mid 80s was really the boom for 8-bit in England and we were at the heart of it. The typical development cycle was three to four months, from idea to it being on the shelves. We had a lot of freedom and were able to be as creative as we wanted, with every game being "original" or a least a derivative of our favourite coin-op game.

Pete Harrap: Looking back on it we had a great camaraderie going at the time. I even remember one day, the owner was being particularly nasty - I think Chris Kerry (Auf Wiedersehen Monty, Thing Bounces Back) had been threatened with dismissal, so we all walked out 8-). Things got pretty much back to normal very quickly after that. It's amazing what fear will do to a manager!

Ben Daglish: The Gremlin years were work work work work work! I'd stoll in, write music and then go home. Dull dull dull dull! And they never payed enough, but then I would say that wouldn't I? The equpiment I used was a eight track Tascam, 16 channel Allen & Heath desk, synth, TX81Z, reverb unit of some description - all being run from an ST running Steinbergs Pro24. I left Gremlin because I was bored with the office routine and I could never be bothered to get out of bed. Music isn't a 9-5 activity, but they thought it was.

An old employee?
If anyone reading this ever worked for Gremlin, or indeed produced any games for them, feel free to let us know your experiences of working there.

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