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A Gremlin Legacy

A Gremlin Legacy

Formed in 1984 by Ian Stewart and Kevin Norburn as Gremlin Graphics, Gremlin became one of the UK’s most successful games publishers of the 80s and 90s. Driven by the inventive power of its employees, many of its games remain legends of the retro gaming world, particularly Monty Mole, Zool and Actua Soccer.

That power came from its developers, the coding and artistic talent cannily recruited by Gremlin during its formative years. Even as Gremlin finally shuttered in 2003, these creatives became successful developers elsewhere, helping to bring even more wonderful games to reality. Join Graeme Mason as he looks at how these Gremlin alums and more have shaped the gaming landscape and discovers the brilliant video games they helped create. And don’t forget you can read all about the history of Gremlin in Bitmap Books’ superb A Gremlin In The Works by Mark Hardisty.

Tony Crowther

Having cut his coding teeth at fellow Sheffield games publisher Alligata, Tony briefly worked for Gremlin in 1984 and 85. While there, the whizzkid produced Commodore 64 versions of Potty Pigeon and Wanted: Monty Mole, along with the manic Suicide Express, before moving on. Now working freelance, Tony continued to produce stunning C64 games such as Gryphon, Trap and Zig Zag. Having graduated to the 16-bit computers in the late 80s, Tony returned to Gremlin for its PC games, Normality and Realms Of The Haunting, in the mid-90s. Like other Gremlin alums, he joined Sumo Digital in 2011, working on titles such as Forza Horizon 2 and Burnout: Paradise Remastered. Today, Tony remains at Sumo as a technical consultant.

Suicide Express (1985)

Burnout: Paradise Remastered (2018)

Chris Shrigley

Chris joined Gremlin in 1986 alongside friends Robert Toone and Andrew Green. The trio created a bouncing ball game, Bounder, which impressed Gremlin’s Ian Stewart enough to take the three teenagers on as employees. As a coder, Chris was responsible for the novel soccer action/management hybrid Footballer Of The Year, platformer Future Knight, and Bounder’s sequel, Re-Bounder. After a brief time at Core Design, he co-founded Eurocom before developing the SEGA Mega Drive game Ex-Mutants for Acme Interactive and Malibu Comics. Chris eventually graduated to sixth-generation development at Mass Media and THQ followed by a six-year stint at Disney. Today, he is still making games for his own company, Giant Space Monster, most notably the dungeon crawler Immortal Darkness. 

Bounder (1985)

Immortal Darkness (2018)

Peter Harrap

Peter forged his coding career on the ZX Spectrum at Gremlin. The Monty Mole series, conversions of Bounder, Trailblazer, Avenger and Future Knight stretched his programming sinews, while his artistic side was demonstrated with in-game and loading screen graphics. In 1987, Peter left Gremlin to co-found Teque Software with Shaun Hollingworth and Tony Kavanagh. After helping to produce many more 8-bit games such as The Flintstones, Blasteroids and Continental Circus, Peter and Teque focused on Amiga games throughout the 90s. Following a corporate restructuring at Teque (now Krisalis) in 2001, Peter left, eventually linking up with Sumo Digital, assuming coding duties on Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (2012) and Snake Pass (2017) before shifting to his current technical director role.

Month on the Run (1985)

Snake Pass (2017)

Darren Mills

Sumo Digital co-founder and current director of excellence, Darren has overseen most of the outstanding games to have come out of the Sheffield publisher/developer over the last twenty years. An artist by nature, Darren first helped Gremlin to bring the terrifying Realms Of The Haunting to life, engineering various technical aspects of the game. After leaving Gremlin, he hit big with Sumo’s update of the classic driving game, OutRun 2. His creative director role has encompassed various titles such as Virtua Tennis 3, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing and F1 2009.

Realms Of The Haunting (1996)

OutRun 2 (2003)

Jason Perkins

The early 80s saw Jason working as a freelance ‘bedroom’ coder, creating several Commodore 64 games for his own company, Merlin Software. After a brief spell at State Side, where he produced the C64 port of the popular BBC game Frak!, Jason joined Anthony Clarke and Mark Rogers to form Micro Projects. The team was established at Gremlin when called in to rescue a project starring ‘Thing’, a character from Monty On The Run. Their entirely new game, Thing On A Spring, became a massive hit on the C64, as did their conversion of Monty On The Run to the same computer. Post-Gremlin, Jason has enjoyed a successful career, most notably as CEO and co-founder of Curve Studios. Curve’s recent hits include the crazy physics game Human Fall Flat and Lawn Mowing Simulator.

Thing On A Spring (1985)

Human Fall Flat (2016)

Jeremy Heath-Smith

When, in 1987, Gremlin Derby morphed into Core Design, it began a company that would go on to have global success with one particular series and character. Headed up by Gremlin’s erstwhile sales executive, Jeremy Heath-Smith, Core was responsible for one of the most recognisable videogame characters of all time, Lara Croft, and it continued to develop Tomb Raider games up until 2003’s The Angel Of Darkness. At Gremlin, Jeremy had been responsible for selling its games, and he oversaw a period where the publisher leaned more into the licensed arena with games such as The Muncher and Mickey Mouse: The Computer Game.

Mickey Mouse: The Computer Game (1988)

Tomb Raider: Chronicles (2000)

You can read about these fantastic developers and their games in the Bitmap Books book, A Gremlin In The Works. Find out more here.

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