Back to Skool was the sequel to the extremely popular ZX Spectrum computer game, Skool Daze. It was released in the United Kingdom in 1985 by Microsphere on the ZX Spectrum 48K for the sum of £6.95, believe it or not (moderately expensive then I suppose, although I do have a recollection of some Spectrum games going for £9.95). The game was subsequently re-released by Alternative Software UK.
The game itself used pretty much the same game engine as Skool Daze, but built some very exciting new options and twists into it. The game was in 2D with a view of a school from the side – sort of like a platform type of game. The player controls Eric, a student at the school. The player had to get him to complete various tasks and puzzles in order for him to achieve his goal (in the original it was to get his school report, but in the sequel I think it had something to do with the girl’s school). Whilst doing all this, you had to make sure Eric gets to his classes on time and didn’t get told off by the teachers. It was game over when Eric got 10,000 lines – that’s when the head teacher, Mr. Whacker would come after you to expel you. I do seem to remember it being vaguely fun to try and run away when this happened, or try and hide in the girl’s school. Unfortunately, there was no save game option, so you’d always have to start back at the beginning (after you’d waited ten minutes for the game to load off the tape), but I don’t ever remember caring.
New features in Back to Skool were the ability to open desks and get new weaponry, namely a water pistol and stink bombs, both of which were necessary to complete parts of the game. For some reason you had to shoot water inside trophies and water a plant to make it grow so you could then use it to climb over the gate to the girl’s school. The girl’s school itself was a new feature and you could go visit Eric’s girlfriend there. A “kiss” option was also added, an option perhaps wasted on myself given I was six when I first played the game, but maybe not on my older brothers. You could also catch rats from a classroom and release them in the girl’s school. This may all sound quite pedestrian when compared to computer games nowadays, but at the time this was cutting edge gaming (honest). Many an hour was spent at school discussing it and the excitement at working out the puzzles were immense as the game hung together so well.
The same cast of characters was also carried over from Skool Daze. The same teachers were there – Mr. Creak, the old History teacher who started lessons by saying “Come along you little Anarchists!”, Mr. Rockitt, the Science teacher (I think he referred to the pupils as “little cherubs”), and the Geography teacher who’s name escapes me, but he looked sort of like a Teddy-Boy. It was amazing how well the characters were drawn given the programmers only had a few blocky pixels to work with and black and white. The school swot, Einstein (who would answer every question in class, starting with the words “Please Sir, I cannot tell a lie…”) looked perfect – he had a sort of alien-like head.
Maybe it’s because I was so young and didn’t know any better at the time, but I’ve never played a computer game since that gave me so much pleasure as Skool Daze and Bak to Skool did. The memories of rushing back to school in shorts and slapping the tape into the player are all coming back to me now….