In the mid 80’s Tony Crowther moved to a new software company called “Gremlin Graphics”. Here, he and Peter Harrap created the Monty Mole character, which featured in a series of games, released on various home computer formats, in particular the Spectrum and Commodore machines. Crowther developed the Commodore 64 version of the Monty Mole game.

The idea for the character has an interesting history as it was derived from the controversial miners strike that was going on at the time in the United Kingdom. Pete Harrap's Dad was a miner and Tony Crowther's Grandad was the President of the Coal Board! A local newspaper ran a story about the game and even a national TV station became interested! The game itself was a simple, but hard, platform style game.
Monty Mole
Monty Mole by Gremlin Graphics

Percy The Potty Pigeon
Percy The Potty Pigeon by Gremlin Graphics

His next game Percy the Potty Pigeon was based around a pigeon that you controlled with the aim of feeding his family of chicks by picking up worms.

The graphics were detailed and well drawn, visually quite impressive. The music was poor, but the sound effects were adequate.

You could attack enemies like cars that were driving on the roads by dropping deadly exploding eggs on them, an amusing method of eradicating obstacles in your way! At certain times, you will need to replenish your flying energy by resting, otherwise its pigeon pie for you.

The game is quite original and great fun to play – it can become a bit repetitive after a while, but nonetheless one of Crowther's better games.

He later went on to produce the Suicide Express (for Gremlin Graphics) and Black Thunder (for Quicksilva) games. He was criticised at the time, as both these games were based on the original Loco game that he developed at the Alligata software company years before. Also, the background graphics in Suicide Express and Black Thunder were very similar. However, although the games essentially used the same game engine, they were based around a different story line and utilised different sprite/character graphics.

It’s fair to say they allowed Crowther to push the C64 further in terms of graphics and sound. It’s also worth noting that these games employed software speech synthesis for speaking “Game Over” etc. It was a nice touch but unfortunately the speech was not that clear and inferior to the software speech technique developed by Electronic Speech Systems Inc (ESS) (see Speech Box article). However, it would have cost a lot of money at the time to use ESS so it makes sense that Tony opted to go for a much more cost effective method of producing the speech!

Suicide Express
Suicide Express by Gremlin Graphics

Black Thunder
Black Thunder by Gremlin Graphics