CJ’s Elephant Antics

This is the only time you’ll see CJ in shades.


As a thirty something gamer I had a variety of machines, but my first real pride and joy was a Commodore 64. I think along with the ZX Spectrum and the Amstrad CPC464 they cornered the domestic gaming market for many. So today I have decided to look back at the very first C64 game that I actually had the patience to complete in it’s entirety. That game was the somewhat uncool CJ’s Elephant Antics.

The game itself was a fairly standard platformer of the day with a lovable elephant as the main protagonist. He was captured and destined for a zoo in England only for the plane to hit turbulence and he fell out in France. Conveniently for his flight his captors had given him an umbrella parachute so his landing didn’t spread elephant innards all over Paris. The four levels of the game were CJ’s attempts to get back home to Africa through France, Switzerland and Egypt before arriving in home in  the not-actually-a-country of Africa. I’m not splitting hairs but technically Egypt is in Africa so he was home in three countries, but this was 1991. I assume he hitched a lift through the other inconvenient and less iconic countries.

I expect I first read about it in the classic C64 magazine Zzap64. Oh how I loved that magazine, full of blocky graphics that these days look terrible. The amount of independent and indie gamers programming for those machines meant there was always a healthy glut of games to review.

That umbrella wasn’t half handy.

The joy of an eight bit platformer was finally making the jump you failed a thousand times, or finally beating the boss that beat you a thousand times. Nowadays that would be called repetitive, but back then it counted as fun and depth. I persevered with the jumps and battle because in 1991 I was little more than a simple 12 year old boy who didn’t particularly like being outdoors on cold nights. Plus we had to be in by six for tea and bed after The Bill.

I also went with it because back then £2.99 was a lot for a young boy to have, and as a ‘budget’ game that was the market I had to go at. A top game cost much more, perhaps as much as £10. We weren’t flushed with dollar back then so you got a budget game and you made it last.

So CJ became my challenge and for many years it remained the only game I completed. In actually fact the next one I finished properly was Grand Theft Auto Vice City, so it was well over a decade before I had enough time on my hands to beat everything the developers could put in the game. It wasn’t fashionable to go to school and tell people you’d managed to get an umbrella carrying, upright standing elephant back to his home country, but in my mind completing it made me a proper gamer for the first time.

Spectrum users had maybe five colours. He wasn’t a pretty egg.

Apparently it had a 2 player mode as well, although I didn’t try that out because my brother was too busy on his ZX Spectrum playing the superior Dizzy games to come and indulge me. I hated that little egg and I hated all the kids that said the C64 version wasn’t as good because it was programmed on the Spectrum and therefore was really a Spectrum game. The C64 was better, face facts.

Today you can still buy the game on cassette on ebay, and it’s fetching a touch under a fiver, which means it probably wouldn’t serve as a sound investment. You’d struggle to find an original machine to play it one, or even a tape deck that would load it 100% of the time. Indeed my gaming was often interrupted by having to rewind the tape and typing ‘load’ once again. That’s how we used to roll kids.

For a bit of nostalgia I decided to find an emulator online and play CJ’s again. I’m sorry to say that it hasn’t aged all that well, so reviewing it by todays standards would be like comparing reviewing an I Phone 6 against a Bakelite phone with a numbers dial on the front. After all the Bakelite phone might have passed for communication back then, but you wouldn’t use it if you’ve got Whats App available to you.

The 16 bit Amiga version was prettier, but CJ still didn’t have his shades on.


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