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Have You Played... Cosmic Spacehead?

Cosmic choice

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Confession time: I missed both The Secret of Monkey Island AND Day of the Tentacle when they first released in the early 90s. It’d take me several years to catch up and as such Cosmic Spacehead was my introduction to the point and click adventure genre. It blew my young mind.

What’s this, then? ‘Look’ and ‘pick up’ and ‘talk’ and - my goodness there’s so much to choose from, is what I almost definitely said aloud.

A NES-exclusive in 1992, Linus Spacehead's Cosmic Crusade was retitled and renamed Cosmic Spacehead the following year, and upgraded beyond recognition. Unbeknownst to me, it’s compact but exploration-heavy, item-laden levels mimicked its Lucasarts forerunners - both aethstetically and thematically - and each location was punctuated by tricky Zelda-esque 2D sidescrolling platforming.

And I loved almost everything about it. I fell for the catchy 16-bit soundtrack, the whimsical Linus protagonist, the cartoony animations and the vibrant backdrops. But, like a whole load of these games I’d later learn, I fell out with some its batshit puzzles.

Similar to its genre cousins, progression in Cosmic Spacehead, in the days pre-Game FAQS and the likes, often hinged on perseverance and luck, and actually working out that x combined with y would activate z was regularly nigh on impossible. For example, at one stage young Linus is required to explore an area named Dodgey City, however a “near-freezing pool” prevents him for completing his journey. Only by emptying a bag of icing sugar into the offending river - that you picked up half the map away, obviously - can you freeze the current and hop across. Icing sugar. I see what you did there.

Anyway, objectionable puzzles aside, Cosmic Spacehead was like nothing else I’d come across at the ripe old again of seven and still stands as one of my all-time favourites.

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Joe Donnelly