More noise than signal

Advanced Lawnmower Simulator – Zx Spectrum

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

Of all the classic games in this current retrogaming fad lauded for their playability in lieu of the graphical fripperies that many more clock cycles are devoted to in this age of technological wonders, one example stands head and shoulders above all others. One game that scrambles Chuckie Egg. That flies higher than Jet Set Willy. That sends Sabrewulf Head Over Heels. That really needs no more cut-rate puns to enhance its reputation. That game, of course, is Advanced Lawnmower Simulator.

Tapping into the Great British obsession with all garden based activities, this barnstormer was released to an unsuspecting world in April 1990 to the astonished silence of all, particularly publishers Codemasters who had their own prolific line of ‘Advanced’ prefixed games but crucially not in the lucrative lawnmowing sector. Providing the most comprehensive grass cutting simulator that has yet to grace the world, you take the role of young, idealistic uphill gardener Fingers McGovern as you try to take your company to the top of the gardening world. Starting off with only the standard issue ‘Patio Sprintette’ mower you have to build up your reputation and equally importantly your bank balance as you progress up the ziggurat.

Upgrading your lawn tending technology as you go, you’ll have to face stiff competition from your rivals and the never ending forces of nature in your quests to keep lawns the country over neatly cropped. Will you be able to join the halcyon ranks of the gardening elite such as Percy Thrower and Alan Titchmarsh or will your burned out career end up on the compost heap? Perhaps a more important question, will you be able to tear yourself away from one of the best games ever created?You almost certainly will, given that the game revolves solely around holding down the ‘m’ key for a while.

Advanced Lawnmower Simulator was a practical joke perpetrated on unsuspecting readers of the popular and deeply funny Your Sinclair magazine, receiving a glowing write up in the April 1990 issue from Duncan MacDonald, one of the most popular Speccy writers of the time, now an author having recently released the novel S.C.U.M.. Confirmation of the gag came in the next issue, with Advanced Lawnmower Simulator appearing on the covertape with a writing credit of none other than MacDonald.

As the screenshots show, even for a Speccy the mechanics and graphics were …minimal. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game itself was its line of insults on completion of a lawn, as your poor pixel avatar slowly proceeds block by block and line by line up a poorly realised lawn. The game rewards your tolerance with statements along the lines of ‘Call that a mow-job?’ and ‘That’s a bit of an erratic cut. Hellen Keller could have done better’. Still, mow well and you could earn yourself a nice corned beef sandwich.

Hardly a glowing recommendation for a game, or even a passable concept in the first place, but it spawned a wealth of YS reader produced knock-offs all of which being the same game with a few colour codes changed. Striking a chord with the ever quirky British sense of humour, Advanced Lawnmower Simulator lived on not only in the timeframe of its initial release but in a baffling array of ports for platforms as disparate as the VIC-20 and the Gameboy.

Among the admittedly slim ranks of great gaming April Fool wind-ups (the only other enduring ones I can think of off the top of my vacant little head being EGM‘s Photoshopped Street Fighter 2 screenshot claiming the inclusion of the legendary Shen Long, their ‘Lara Croft nude’ codes and the idea that Duke Nukem Forever will ever be released), Advance Lawnmower Simulator stands above all else in terms of invention and endurance.

If this has taken your fancy and you’re up for a spot of hot mowing action, there’s a very decent online Flash version for your delectation and Duncan MacDonald’s original review is archived for posterity and the shrine of all things YS The YS Rock’n’Roll Years.

Hey – it only took around five years from the writing of this for Duke Nukem Forever to finally appear – and boy wasn’t it worth the wait? No. No it wasn’t.