"Tyrone calls you up, you know in the game, and he says 'I can dig more clams than you stupid!' and you gotta say 'Nuh-uh boy!' and y'all gotta race down to the beach with your buckets and your shovels and the object of the game is to find parking." - Meatwad

The Game

Clamdigger is a retro computer game previously lost to the ravages of time until being referenced on the Cartoon Network show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" (03x04 - "Super Computer"). The game was written and produced by Adrian Damenschnitzel and released in 1983 for the Commodore 64 personal computer. Although the machine had graphical capabilities, Clamdigger was written for the machine's 40 x 25 character text mode. Despite its text-based nature, Clamdigger is an action game where animation is achieved through cleverly shifting text characters around to give the impression of movement, as seen on mobile phone and *nix console-based games.

The game starts with Tyrone, the game's only opponent, calling you up and challenging you to a clam dig.

                            #########                
                        ###           ###            
                      ##     #####       ##          
                     ##        #          ###        
                    ##         #           # #       
                    ##         #           # #       
                    ##                     #  #      
                    ##    ########         #  #      
                    ## ##          #####   #  #      
                    ##  ##  ###            #  #      
                  ###### ### #  #####   ######       
                ## ##    ### #### ######  #######    
               ##### #  #    ### #        ######     
                 ### #  ##   #        # # ## ######  
                  ## #  ###           # #  # ####### 
                     #   #  #       ## #     ####    
                     #              ##   # ###       
                      ##    #######     ####         
                        ##   #        ###            
                          ##      ####               
                             #####                   
                       
              
              - I CHALLENGE YOU AT THE BEACH
              - GET YOUR FATHERS CAR
              - YOU CANT BEAT MY CLAMMING SKILL IDIOT

Driving Section ("Crash and Burn")

After the intro and title screen, you are launched straight into the game. The first section is perhaps the most classically action-ish portion of the game - the car chase. You are launched onto a winding road where you must dodge oncoming traffic (you can only move vertically, as the 'camera' is always focused above your car). You gain points for each stretch of road you successfully maneuver, and lose them if you hit the edge of the road or an oncoming vehicle. All throughout this part of the game Tyrone's disembodied voice spouts off-putting remarks towards the player (car phone, perhaps? Then again, this was 1983...) such as "CRASH AND DIE", "YOUR FRIENDS HATE YOU" and "I HOPE IT HURTS WHEN YOU BREATHE". A rising growl provides engine noise, and a brief musical interlude in the form of a bleepy rendition of the Funeral March when you hit an obstacle.

              - I KNOW YOU CRY YOURSELF TO SLEEP                                        
                                        
                                        
                                        
                                        
                   #####                        ######
              ######   ###                  #####     
                         ###             ####         
                            ###       ####            
                  @           #########             ##
                                         D       #### 
                               DD              ###    
                 #########           D      ###       
                            ####       ####                 
                            ####     #####            
                               #######   

              POINTS: 1002                LIVES: 1

A little confusing at first: The "@" represents your car, "#" is the road edge, and "D" is traffic. After 60 seconds of this the game brings you to a section of car parking spaces, and you have to successfully navigate your vehicle (at high speed) into an empty space or lose a life.

The Digging of the Clams

After a brief interlude ("- HAHA I BEAT YOU HERE! DONT EVEN TRY LOSER") the player is awarded the opportunity to get stuck into the game's namesake section: clam digging. Unfortunately this is the weakest part of the entire game. You are presented with a map, featuring Tyrone "T", the player's character "@", crabs "C" and clams "<". Tyrone and the crabs move around freely, at twice the speed as the player's character. The object here is to traverse the map and reach clams, rapidly hitting the fire button to dig them up and add to your score. If a crab or Tyrone touches the player, a life is lost. Each round lasts 30 seconds, after which the scores are compared. If player's score is higher than Tyrone's the next round is played (there is an extra crab each round), else it's game over. Again, Tyrone tries to discourage you during play with lines such as "I HOPE YOU FALL OVER AND CANT GET BACK UP", "DROWN IN QUICKSAND" and "YOUR BROTHER IS IN JAIL HAHAHA".

              - CLOWNS CHASE YOU AT NIGHT
                AND WANT TO TAKE YOUR FEET
                                     <                 
                                                      
                     C      <                <           
                                                      
                                <                      
                      C              < @                
              
                                                      
                 <               C                      
                             <              <           
                        T                     C        
                  <               C                     
              
              
              POINTS: 2822                LIVES: 2

De-shelving...

The game was withdrawn by the publisher a month after its release thanks to a lot of complaint calls from angry parents. Many had raised the issue that the in-game text delivered by Tyrone was designed purely to make kids feel useless, depressed, scared and perhaps even suicidal. Further enquiries prompted a full investigation into the game's binary code, where further messages not seen in the game were fished out. It is thought that the author had originally intended these to be put into the game itself, but decided they were too obvious and hence no publisher would release the game. In their entirety, the cut messages were as follows:

"SOME CHILDREN DIE IN THEIR BEDS"
"PARENTS KEEP THE BEST SWEETS IN THE MEDICINE CUPBOARD"
"SELF HARM IS NOT A DIRTY PHRASE"
"DO YOU FEEL DIRTY? SCRAPE IT OFF"
"YOU FAIL AT EVERYTHING YOU DO. QUIT AT LIFE"

At the discretion of the game's publishing house, the facts were not publicly announced and so the author wasn't exposed. However, many home-hackers who would often tear games apart for fun discovered the hidden phrases and the game became an underground cult classic.

Availability

Only 500 copies of the game were ever pressed, and half of those were destroyed before they reached the shelves. Original boxed copies of the Clamdigger have become valuable collector's items, sometimes appearing on EBay at prices as high as $600. Check that box of old cassettes in your attic - you could have a goldmine stashed away!

The Present...

Due to Clamdigger's re-entry into popular culture, rumours are abound that an un-named publishing house are to bring the game up to date, albeit in a tamer form. Although outlandish, these tidbits come from a respectable source in the gaming industry and are just reaching the eyes of Internet gossip-folk. Intended to be a pastiche of the original game, a friendlier version of Tyrone is billed to be voiced by David Boreanaz, with the game itself taking inspiration from the sub-game based hit family title "Mario Party". Adrian Damenschnitzel is believed to be lead programmer for the project.

Sources: Old copies of "Home Computer Magazine" and industry contacts. 'Screenshots' were taken using the C64 emulator "Frodo" and hand-converted to ASCII.

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