8-bit Heroes: FINDERS KEEPERS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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And you got change from £2!!!

Oh, how I loved Mastertronic! At a time when most computer games cost close to £5, with Ultimate: Play The Game pushing that figure closer to a tenner, along came Mastertronic with a range of pocket-money titles.

Mastertronic weren't the only source of budget games, and I don't know if they were even the first as several companies got in on the act - Codemasters, for example, released many a title for just a couple of pound - but Mastertronic took the budget game to the next level, and in doing so made computer games more freely available than any other company had done before.

With racks of their releases in newsagents and supermarkets, no longer were computer games just found in slightly dodgy specialist shops run by bearded men who wouldn't look out of place hosting one of those late night BBC2 Open University programmes on bio-chemistry. Mastertronic made games for the masses - or rather they licensed games for the masses, not actually employing any coders of their own - and although, like any range of releases, the quality could vary, on the whole Mastertronic released some great little titles.

BMX Racers, Space Walk, Kickstart II, Chiller (with its use of Michael Jackson's Thriller in early versions), Voyage Into The Unknown, Spellbound, all great games that I remember playing fondly. But one Mastertronic title kept me coming back for more - Finders Keepers.

The first game in the Magic Knight series, Finders Keepers arrived in 1985 on the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, MSX, Commodore 64 and Commodore 16. It would set you back just £1.99 of your hard-earned pocket money!

Finders Keepers put you in control of Magic Knight who has been sent to the Castle of Spriteland by the King of Ibsisima in order to find a special present for Princess Germintrude. If Magic Knight is successful in the quest then they may have proved themselves worthy of joining the famous "Polygon Table", a reference to the mythical Round Table from the legends of King Arthur.

Finders Keepers was largely a traditional flip-screen platform game, but during development, freelance programmer, David Jones decided to add a little spice to the format as he also included two scrolling mazes that Magic Knight must traverse to enter new sections of the map. I thought this variety of gameplay was great and really added to the feeling of value for money.

Starting in the King's throne room, Magic Knight is transported, via a teleporter, to the castle. From there you need to collect objects - the Find part of Finders Keepers - which are scattered around the castle in both the rooms and the mazes. You could sell those objects for money, and use that cash to purchase other important items from the various traders you encounter. Or you could hold on to the objects - the keeping part - and hope to find a different item which will cause the two objects to react or combine to create an item of higher value. For example, the bar of lead and the philosopher's stone react to create a bar of gold.

Throughout the quest Magic Knight would have to negotiate screens stocked with numerous monsters, all of which move in pre-defined paths. Collision with any of the monsters and creatures in the Castle of Spriteland would sap Magic Knight's strength bar. Once the strength bar was depleted, one of Magic Knight's four lives were lost.

Finders Keepers proved very popular, and David Jones coded three sequels with Magic Knight continuing the quest: the aforementioned Spellbound (1985), Knight Tyme (1986) and Stormbringer (1987). But all three subsequent Magic Knight games were quite different in gameplay to Finders Keepers. They were essentially graphic adventures with a few platform elements. Each good, but for me didn't quite cut it as much as Finders Keepers - although Knight Time had great in-game music from the legend that is Rob Hubbard.

There was to be a twist to the Magic Knight lore, with a proposed fifth and final title. The in-game instructions for Finders Keepers, the reviews, the cover, the subsequent literature and the sequel games, all referred to Magic Knight as 'he', but in an interview with David Jones in issue 27 of Retro Gamer magazine he stated that Magic Knight "was always female" and that if he had written a fifth Magic Knight game this was to be "the big reveal".

Did you ever play Finders Keepers? What other Mastertronic titles did you own? Let us know your memories of this 8-bit hero in the comments below, and view all our 8-bit Heroes articles here.

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