British television is well known for its biting political satire. From the early newspaper cartoons to modern shows like The Thick of It, Brass Eye or Spitting Image it's done a great job of keeping our political elite in check (that none of them take any heed of apparently). Yes, Prime Minister began in the mid Thatcherite era of the 80s and is considered a classic to us Brits. And with any form of entertainment that was popular during the UK's micro-computer boom, a game was made out of it...
Released in 1988, Yes, Prime Minister is very indicative of British games from this era. Not only is it based on an IP that wouldn't even be considered today, it's also a great concept crippled by a rushed development cycle exacerbated by an often amateurish lack of focus. What lifts this game up above so many others is a well written and very un-PC sense of humour.
After three seasons of simply being a minister, the clueless James Hacker (Paul Eddington) now finds himself Prime Minister. He's the kind of politian that is eerily similar to our current leaders. For example, the first episode of the show sees him campaigning about the EU over inconsequential regulations for the humble sausage (a few weeks ago we had to endure the angry cries over the curvature of cucumbers and bananas). It's all oddly prescient.
The game takes all of this classic humour and puts it in a mix between a text adventure and a strategy simulation. In a similar way to Floor 13, you can look at reports and see how you're doing in the polls (which is your score), but there's a lot less to actually do. What you can do is almost always an excuse for some biting political humour. While I found Floor 13 to be somewhat stilted and lacking in plot or story, Yes, Prime Minister is filled with very funny dialogue to keep you playing. It's alarming how sly jabs about some topics like feminism or social wellfare are still as relevant today as they were almost 30 years ago. Much like the show, the jokes are no where near politically correct, but the butt of them is always the Prime Minister himself along with the other elites who exist solely in their own Etonian bubble.
You spend nearly all of your time in your office where you can check documents or answer the phone, leaving only to attend meetings. The office is presented in garish primary CGA colours (this is 1988 after all) which looks as awful as the current state of parliament. It's so bad, I have trouble trying to tell what a lot of the gizmos on screen are - and it's not because the technology they're representing is now obselete.
Okay, so that's a telephone on the left and a TV on the top shelf.
I'm guessing a foot massager in the middle and a George Foreman grill on the right.
The whole room is not viewed at once, but requires you to sweep your cursor towards the screen's edges to scroll in that direction. Other games have done this so it's not necessarily a bad thing, but when you consider that there's no mouse support, it makes it chore to do anything. This lack of support could be due to the age of the game and possibly the fact that some micro computers which it was ported to had no mouse as standard.
Progression through the game is mainy done by multiple choice conversations. You select your answer by typing the corresponding number, which again is a bit weird for modern players. The reward, no matter what your answer, is an often hilariously offensive retort that can lead to further steps of undecency. On the flips side to this, some options which look like they're going somewhere funny are unfortunately shot down quite quickly. Overall the script is pretty decent, and does a good job at contextuaising the offensiveness. It's no where near as good as the show or some of the best text adventures of the era but the designers did make a good go of it. It's a pity then, that they didn't spend more time on the programing. It's easy to get confused with what you should be doing as there are a lot of asides to distract you. You may want to progress with what's funny or enjoyable, only to find you've gone down in the polls and lost the game.
That being said, the end-game (which is to survive a week at Number 10) is not really the point despite actually being the point. Finding all of the gags is a much better time than aiming for that bland, static end screen. In fact, that's the only positive I can find in what is otherwise a mess of a game. It got decent reviews at the time, but I'd be hard pushed to recommend it to modern gamers. Trying watching the show instead. Or the news.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the PC game to modern systems. Also ncluded is the Commodore 64 version which uses WinVice to emulate the game. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
Yes, Prime Minister (the game) is © Oxford Digital Enterprises
Yes, Prime Minister (the show) is © The BBC
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me