Game Review: The Election Game (Commodore 64, Mastertronic)

The Election Game, Commodore 64, Mastertronic - 2C004
  • 0.5/10
    Score - 0.5/10
0.5/10

Summary

An idea of having an election themed game would have some followers if you are into politics, but only if the game itself was any good.  The Election Game is not.  It is tedious, where you have no real influence on the more random feel of the game, and any excitement that you may have thought was here is non-existent.  It feels like it should have been on Cascade’s infamous Cassette 50 compilation, it is of that low standard, and is one of the worst Commodore 64 games – and the nerve to charge an extra pound is the final insult to injury.  Absolutely appalling.

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User Review
6.5/10 (1 vote)

As the UK is heading towards a General Election in the next month or so, at the time of writing this review, politics is once again front and centre in the public eye and in the news.  Whatever your political persuasion, or not as the case may be, there have always been games based on elections.  In fact, The Election Game itself is a re-release of a 1983 game released by Mr Chip Software called Westminster, perhaps much better named considering that is the part of London where the Houses of Parliament resides and indeed may have tied up more nicely with the 1983 General Election at the time.  For some reason for this re-release, Mastertronic decided to charge £2.99 instead of the normal £1.99 at the time.

Choose Your Party

The game loads with a Commodore BASIC graphic representation of Westminster, and asks if you would like to read the rules.  Reading those shows the game still refers to itself as Westminster, so only the title page was changed for the re-release.   Once those have been read, you can commence the game.  You can choose from Conservative, Labour, Liberal or Independents, pressing RETURN means the computer is the player, and entering a name means you control that party.  In theory, four players could all play but this may prove difficult to find three friends who would be that interested.  Once all four parties have been selected, you can choose the number of rounds of canvassing for votes.  The rules and manual recommend 120 rounds (which would take a fair while) and realistically to make any difference to the gameplay, 30-40 would be a minimum.

Canvassing

The canvassing rounds start and effectively you move around the 60 constituencies / seats (yes, only 60, how unrealistic) – and each party starts off with 15 seats.  At each constituency you can see the opinion polls, where all the computer-controlled parties have a round number of votes, but yours is seemingly random.  You input how much of your budget you want to spend on canvassing voters to gain votes, and if that is enough to gain votes elsewhere, you will be informed.

During these canvassing rounds, you will randomly get some news headlines if you have gained a bit of luck, or your party office will donate some more funding to you to spend on more canvassing (at the expense of losing one canvassing round).  According to the rules, spending more should gain more votes,  but in practice this does not always work, it seems very random. You will also see how many seats you have and how many are marginal (where you may be able to gain one) and if the opinion polls show you are close behind, spending enough may turn the seat over to you, or it may not, such is the almost random nature.

I Wanna Be Elected

The constant canvassing becomes tedious very quickly, and you will wish that you had picked less rounds.  It almost becomes the case that entering any random number of money could be used to influence the outcome, with the occasional splurge of cash when a constituency is quite low.  On occasion you will see an opinion poll forecast the state of the parties with a checkered effect to the right indicating the winning line for a majority, and often early on, there is no movement, so seems pointless.  Later, with multiple canvassing rounds this can change a little.

On rare occasions you can choose to move to a constituency where the opinion poll shows the vote could be marginal, so you can head there from a selection and choose.  Of course, it makes sense if you can go to somewhere that you are slightly below someone in the lead, but sometimes it gives you a choice of the ones you are winning comfortably, which seems somewhat more random, as does the donations to your party funds.  So, you do need to at least think before you overspend and then run out of influence.

The Final Countdown

At the end of the canvassing, and provided you do not choose more rounds, some BASIC graphics show the polling stations opening and closing, with a representation of the count taking place.  These are poorly drawn even for PETSCII characters, and offer no real incentive to get excited about the results – with the lack of any sound being another factor.   Once the count has taken place you will see which party got the most seats, and whether that was enough to be a majority or not.  You can see each constituency result and a final graph, but that just adds yet more tedium.

Final Thoughts

Playing The Election Game for the number of rounds of canvassing needed to make the game have some influence over the result means effectively it is a tedious and dull exercise.  It feels like a poorly made board game idea converted over to a computer format where it feels even more dull and lifeless, with basic graphics, no sound and dull and repetitive gameplay throughout.  You will feel relieved if you manage to gain power, in that you will not have to play the game again.  You would have felt short changed for £1.99, never mind the extra pound being charged here, and the awful nature of how poorly executed the game is really does hammer home what a waste of money this game is.

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4 Comments

  1. In terms of pricing, all I can think of is that Mastertronic had to pay royalties on the game twice so they had to increase the price accordingly. First they licensed it from Mr Chip, but if they had a license agreement with Orion Software to pay *them* royalties as well, then Mastertronic would have had to pay both companies to release the game!

  2. This game was long dead by the time I joined Mastertronic so I can’t comment authoritatively on the “dual royalty” theory but it does not seem very plausible. Mr. Chip would have got 10p or perhaps slightly less per unit sold. There is no way that, allowing for retail markups and VAT, a royalty of some 50p would have been paid to Orion. I am also confused because I have a cover scan showing that this was part of the 199 range.

  3. Update to my earlier comment. In the press cuttings section, Home Computing Weekly 8 May 84, Martin Alper is quoted as saying that they had priced a few games at £2.99 but decided to make the whole range £1.99. In June 84 an ad in Popular Computing Weekly lists titles on sale at HMV, all at £1.99 including the Election Game on C64. But it was also released on Spectrum, sold some 20,000 copies and is not mentioned on the HMV ad. Curious.

  4. I carried out some further checks, and here’s what I’ve been able to find out:

    * The Election Game on the C64 does have the 299 Range front cover on all known copies – which have been verified on Lemon64, Gamebase64, RetroCollector and eBay auctions.
    * The price may have been dropped by Mastertronic and retailers later, as this seems to be the only known game in the “299 Range”, having done extensive research.
    * The inlay section “The aim of the game” had a red stamp across stating “Acknowledgement to Mr Chip’s Westminster”.
    * The instructions leaflet mentions the the game Westminster too, and has a further acknowledgement in the bottom right of the instructions.
    * Election on the Spectrum (catalogue number IS0027) is a different game entirely from The Election Game – the only similarity is that they both use the same front cover art

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