December 1989

Gremlin Graphics


Programming, Graphics and Design (Atari ST, Commodore Amiga)

Switchblade was the first game I began writing for the Atari ST. However, being a spare time project it took some eighteen months to complete – by which time I had started and completed several other projects including Rick Dangerous during work hours.

Inspired by the artwork of Japanese video games, a bit of Mad Max, a few passages from William S. Burroughs’ book ‘Cities of the Red Night’ (no, I don’t know either…) and the scale of Ultimate’s classic ‘Underwurld’ the game was a 128-screen platform adventure.

The game saw the super-deformed ‘Hiro’ running around the post-Apocalyptic ‘UnderCity’ blasting a variety of cyborg enemies with his missile-firing ‘Cyber Arm’. It was an entirely non-scrolling affair. This, being my first attempt at an Atari game meant that it was well within my technical abilities at the time, but, in hindsight, knowing how tough scrolling the screen sideways on the Atari while maintaining a decent frame rate, it was probably for the better. Having a non-scrolling screen instead allowed me to opt for a system similar to that seen in Hewson’s Spectrum game ‘Ranarama’ where areas of the screen were made visible as you entered them (so it was impossible to peek at later areas of the game that shared the screen you were currently on.) Also, the graphics featured a masking layer allowing Hiro and the enemies to pass behind foreground elements so that they looked like they belonged within the level, rather than being simply printed on top of it.

It was an absolute joy to make – I had no deadline to meet; it was finished when I said it was and the only limitations to what could or could not go into the game were simply down to my artistic and technical skills. As a result, I threw everything I could into the mix, including being able to pack the levels with tons of collectables and bonuses – even the collection of ‘EXTRA’ and ‘BONUS’ letters, inspired from many hours playing the classic arcade game, ‘Bubble Bobble’.

In fact, the only downside of developing Switchblade in my spare time was that my coding skills had improved so much in my day job, that in the evenings working on Switchblade I was going back to working on the code of a novice programmer and had to force myself to keep moving forwards to complete the game rather than constantly going back to rewriting the code to make it technically better.

The UnderCity: Bricks, Ladders and Giant Robotic Snakes with Mohican Hairdos…ahem…

But I’m proud of my achievements with Switchblade and, although it did not reach the audience that Rick Dangerous did, I have since discovered that it is still remembered fondly by a fair few people.

Amstrad and Spectrum conversions of the game were done by Gremlin and ultimately a sequel. I had no part in the sequel – by the time that Switchblade 2 came around I was far too busy in my work hours to ever consider doing another spare time project again!

The game was entirely developed by me, with music being provided by the very talented Mr Ben Daglish.


Here are scans of the original concept art for Switchblade…


Piko Interactive created an Atari Jaguar conversion of Switchblade and commissioned me to paint a brand new piece of cover art for the release:

Switchblade 2017 Atari Jaguar Remake Cover Art by Simon Phipps


More information on the various formats of the game can be found on Moby Games’ Switchblade page.