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The Antstream Arcade Archive: Flunky

In our latest Antstream Arcade Archive series, we look at another specific game from the Antstream Arcade retro vault, giving you the lowdown on its plot, gameplay, tips and more. This month, we proudly present Flunky, the 8-bit game from publisher Piranha and programmer Don Priestley that puts you in the shoes of a dogged Buckingham Palace servant. With Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee currently being celebrated up and down the country, what better way to mark this event than by playing the most regal and majestic game on Antstream Arcade?

You’ve got me. What’s a ‘flunky’?

According to the Oxford dictionary, a flunky is someone who ‘tries to please somebody who is important and powerful by doing small jobs for them’. Only this is no ordinary menial servant: this faithful and loyal retainer works for our very own royal family, dutifully answering their every whim and request.

Oh. So you don’t get to play the Queen.

Nope, but you do get to run around after her Majesty and the rest of her family. First up, Buck Palace is getting a little chilly, so it’s your job to light all the fireplaces throughout its many rooms. Fortunately, this flunky comes prepared with a box of matches. Then it's time to attend to the royals, and they’ve all gotten into a bit of a pickle.

Right, what’s the problem, or rather problems, then?

Well, (deep breath), Princess Diana has lost her hair, Prince Charles has mislaid his polo balls, Fergie can’t find her freckles, and Prince Andrew needs a boat to play with in the bath. And finally, Her Majesty’s beloved corgi dogs have gone awol. So naturally, it’s the flunky’s job to try and retrieve them.

It’s all in a day’s work for this dedicated chap.

I sound very obedient! Yes, ma’am, certainly ma’am, anything you say, ma’am.

This flunky is a devoted employee, but he’s also on a mission of his own – his real aim in life is to collect all the autographs of this most famous royal family. So he begins the game clutching his autograph book, but there’s a hitch: each member of the royals will only sign their name once flunky has performed their specific task. Additionally, Buckingham Palace is one strange household with objects such as a bomb, gun, and tugboat sitting in various rooms.

Hang on – Buckingham Palace – aren’t there any guards?

There are plenty of palace custodians lurking around, and should flunky do anything they deem out of turn, they’ll start firing their guns at the poor servant. Fortunately, they aren’t the quickest, and they make a right racket just before their arrival.

The graphics are enormous! How did the programmer manage such impressive sprites with no attribute clash on the ZX Spectrum?

Coder Don Priestley had a graphical style all of his own. He cut his teeth on several arcade games such as 3D Tanx and Maziacs before devising a masking technique for a game based on the famous cartoon,

Popeye. Several similar games followed, all featuring massive, colourful visuals.

Life as a dogsbody is not much fun, but I need the autographs. Any tips for helping these royals in distress?

Flunky is a tricky game, and the solutions to its puzzles are not always obvious. For example, Charles’ polo balls are bouncing haphazardly around; these can only be nudged back into his room using the springs. Getting Princess Di’s hair involves shooting a strange creature just as it’s over her head, while replacing Fergie’s freckles is a ridiculous exercise, taking in a bomb (!), makeup, and matches. The final challenge, retrieving the Queen’s faithful hounds, is more logical – you tempt them to her room with a sausage from the kitchen – but no less fiddly.

So it’s a fetch quest, doing your best to help the royal family. How did this go down back in the day?

Flunky scored well in the magazines of the time, with much praise for its humour and graphics. “Flunky’s graphics are quite good, especially the backgrounds,” noted Crash. “And the flunky sprite moves nicely, despite looking as if he’s been to the Roger Moore school of eyebrow wiggling.” In true obsequious servant style, this dogged flunky raises his eyebrows in mild irritation at the meaningless tasks he has to perform. Tsk.

Should I manage to satisfy these demanding royals, is there anything similar to Flunky on Antstream Arcade?

For equally obtuse arcade adventure puzzles, you can’t beat Microsphere’s Skool Daze and its sequel, Back To Skool. While there’s nothing quite there to match Flunky’s imperious sprites, try the beautiful Heartland for another 8-bit game that has to be seen to be believed.

All that’s left is for us all to raise a glass to salute the fantastic 70-year reign of Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II. Now, where did those doggies get to?

Thank you for reading - watch out for another blast from the Antstream Arcade Archive soon!

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