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Black Mirror's 'Bandersnatch' was loosely inspired by a cancelled game

Black Mirror's 'Bandersnatch' was loosely inspired by a cancelled game

January 3, 2019 | By Emma Kidwell

January 3, 2019 | By Emma Kidwell
More: Console/PC, Design

Netflix released 'Bandersnatch', its special choose-your-own adventure episode of Black Mirror a few weeks ago, and it has recently come to light that the interactive experience was loosely inspired by an actual video game of the same name.

Chris Scullion of Tired Old Hack wrote up the rise and fall behind Bandersnatch, beginning by introducing the Liverpool-based development studio behind the endeavor, Imagine Software.

Comprised of Mark Butler, David Lawson, and Eugene Evans, the trio quickly gained a reputation for making quality games, including Arcadia, Zzoom and Alchemist. Their success fostered the drive to create something bigger.

So in early 1984, Imagine began placing teaser advertisements in magazines like CVG, Crash, and Sinclair User for two new games. The first one, titled Psyclapse, was being developed for the Commodore 64.

The second game, Bandersnatch, was slated to be released for the ZX Spectrum.

Scullion writes how the series of ads became stranger and stranger over time with its phrasing in an attempt to get players excited for the release, but they eventually died down to nothing but subtle ads showing logos. According to Scullion, readers still had no idea what kind of game to expect once the momentum died down.

What kind of game was Bandersnatch? It was supposed to be an adventure game set in a futuristic city made up of domed buildings, where the player took control of a character named Vell, a retired officer of the Intergalatic Police.

Its central mechanic (which was considered revolutionary at the time) would have players interacting with its various residents using a speech bubble system. According to Scullion, these thoughts would appear in bubbles and players could carry them out by pressing the Fire button. 

However, a concept this detailed was going to be hard to fit onto the ZX Spectrum, especially since Bandersnatch was considered a "mega-game" (games that wouldn’t usually be possible on the computers they were designed for). 

This was just one of the many issues which caused a downward spiral for Imagine, and the entire piece goes into more detail about the cancellation of Bandersnatch, so be sure to read it here. It's well worth it. 

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