While Yes, Prime Minister was tickling the more intellectual funny bone, Spitting Image was an anarchic assault of satire for our screens. Throughout the 80s and early 90s no public figure was safe from their rubbery lampooning. Right off the heels of the 1987 general elections - a time rife for spoofing - this little-known fighting game brought the caricatures to the Commodore Amiga.
Right in the middle the show's 13-year run (1988 to be exact), the property was picked up by the London based publisher Domark. Like many licensed titles, they farmed it out to a third party to do whatever they pleased with it as long as it met a deadline. The development company they chose was Walking Circles who's only previous credit was a couple of ports for The Living Daylights computer game. So what did this green company choose to do with the license? Why, create a fighting game of course. This was before Street Fighter 2 blasted onto the scene to redefine what a one-on-one fighter could be so temper your expectations a little. In fact, much like our current Tory government, don't expect much good to come out of it.
The story behind all of the shenanigans is that the world will end (because why not) unless a single ruler resides over all. In some unusual acts of heroism for such figures, they've decided to fight to the death to decide which one. The charm of the game is much like MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch where famous people punch each other in the face. Add Thatcher to that roster and you've got a winner right there.
The are six fighters, each representing a world leader if the late 80s. Along with the aformentioned Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Regan, the USSR's Mikhail Gorbachev, South Africa's PW Botha, Iran's Ayathollah Khomeini and Pope John Paul II were added to the mix. Be careful how you pick them, as you first need to select your opponent before your own fighter who'll begin the game on the right of screen. It's proof that the genre was in dire need Capcom's genius.
Beyond the novelty, there's not much else going for it. Fighting is controlled with the joystick which is mapped to the keyboard's arrow keys with the right Ctrl as the fire button. The fire button alone will not do anything, instead you need to hold it down and wiggle in any direction to perform an attack. Up and down will punch in the head or shins respectively while tapping towards an enemy will give them a blow to the gut. You'll get an ineffective special move if you tap away. These specials can be quite funny, and really the only move unique to your character. For example, the pope reveals an angry nun concealed under his robe while Botha drops trou for a quick whizz.
Far more helpful is your sidekick. Pressing the space bar or 0 on the numberpad will summon a helper who'll usually just lob something at your opponent. Thatcher has a bottle throwing member of parliament (I'm not sure who) while a particularly flatulent follower comes to the aid of Iran's leader. None of these mechanics are particularly deep, even with the added random chaos not attributed to either side. For a bit of a giggle, ignor what you're doing and read the Referee's commentary. Naturally the part is played by Quen Elizabeth II.
While a lot of effort has been made to add the odd joke, the same cannot be said for the gameplay. There's no nuance to each fighter who all essentially play exactly the same. To make matters worse, your attacks won't register unless you're at a specific distant from your opponent. A major annoyance for anyone who's used to the more refined fighters of the last 20 years.
That being said, it is by no means broken which is more than can be said for some others at the time. The rules of play are simple and easy to figure out, yet not too fiddly to master. It's a basic game with some great 16-bit graphics that are impressively accurate to the show's deformed puppets, especially for 1988. You'll even find yourself chuckling occasionally although I wouldn't go so far as to call the satire clever. An interesting curio that sadly hasn't stood the test of time.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses uses FS-UAE to emulate the Amiga on PCs. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
Spitting Image (the game) is © Domark
Spitting Image (the show) is © Central Independant Television
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me