Harlequin (video game)

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Developer(s) The Warp Factory
Publisher(s) Gremlin Graphics
Designer(s) Ed Campbell
Platform(s) Amiga, Atari ST
Release 1992
Genre(s) Platformer
Mode(s) Single player

Harlequin is a strategy-based platform game for the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST released in 1992 by Gremlin Graphics.

The game was written by Andy Finlay, with graphics by Ed Campbell. It was produced by Pete Cook. The sound is credited to Imagitec, and was composed and arranged by Barry Leitch.

Tagline: Probably the strangest game ever!


Screenshot from the Amiga version.

Harlequin takes place across multiple eight-way scrolling levels, each one of which is completely unique, featuring different scenery and enemies. Your character, a harlequin, has returned to his homeworld, Chimerica, to mend its broken heart. To do this, he must find the four pieces that the heart has broken into and take them to the central clock tower.

Finding the pieces of the heart involves a fair deal of strategy and puzzle-solving. Almost every location contains switches that, if flicked, can open up new areas of the current level or change things in different levels, creating new pathways through the game and closing others. Completing the game is thus made more difficult, because the game world evolves as the player interacts with it. You don't have to play through the levels in any particular order to complete the game, but you may often come to a dead end and have to retrace your steps in order to flick a switch you missed, thereby opening up a new route. Some levels need to be revisited several times if you want to make progress, and particularly important changes to the game world actually show up on the map that appears between levels, offering clues as to where you should go next.

Each level has a different setting and graphics style. Most of them are quite weird, happening for example inside a giant clock tower, across the rooftops of a city, or in Egyptian or Mayan mythology (called "The Dream Mile"). There is a level where you are sucked through a maze of drinking straws (called "Suck It and See"), like a bonus level in that it is packed with health power-ups. Each screen also has a background music tune, but some tunes are shared between several screens.

Power ups include a burger (for health), a space hopper (grants invulnerability and higher jumping), fire-works (a sort of partial shield that orbits Harlequin) and an umbrella that can be used as a parachute. There is also a fish power-up that allows Harlequin to turn into an angel fish when in contact with water.

Harlequin is mostly noted for its good-quality graphics and music and the sheer size of the levels it takes place in, as well as some of its twisted humour and 1990's pop-culture references (e.g. The "Matey" bubble bath bottles in the swimming pool level).


Harlequin is set in a world named Chimerica which has several themed locations. Some locations have to be visited more than once to complete the game.

  • The Bomb Run - A land of explosives suspended over a lake.
  • The Clock Tower - The outside of Chimerica's central clock tower. Populated by violent alarm clocks and grandfather clocks (complete with beards).
  • The Clockworks - The inner workings of the clock tower, with many cogs and girders to leap from. Enemies include orange worms and jumping bolts.
  • The Wacky Jugglers - A difficult vertical level that involves jumping from jugglers balls to gain height. One mistake here often means repeating the whole level.
  • Cutesy Land - A tongue in cheek spoof of Mario Bros. computer games - everything in this level tends to have a face, including the water. This world can only be accessed through the Virtual Television in TVee Wonderland. A piece of Chimerica's broken heart is located here.
  • The Dream Mile - A bizarre Mayan/Egyptian world complete with pyramids, tombs, scorpions, sand and high winds.
  • Fathom This Out! - A swimming pool level containing the dreaded Davey Jones' locker. And Davy Jones' towel and building contract.
  • A Flight of Fancy - A flying level where Harlequin is suspended from the bottom of a kite. This level has several guises, one of which is randomly selected when the player enters it.
  • The House of Cards - A world based on playing cards, gambling and casinos. Fauna includes card sharks (literally). This world can only be accessed through the Virtual Television in TVee Wonderland.
  • Heavens Above! - A twisted version of heaven, taken over by imps and demons.
  • Hellzapoppin' - Hell's incarnation is one of the darker, creepier levels. Everything appears in shades of deep purple and grey, with fiery walls and all kinds of dangerous monsters running wild. A piece of Chimerica's broken heart is located here.
  • What a Fall? - Another sinister world, this time based on Alice in Wonderland. You have to make your way to the bottom of the level from a precarious platform positioned at the very top, and it can only be safely navigated by floating downwards using the umbrella, because the whole place is full of giant vats of poison (gruesomely labelled "Drink Me") that spell instant death if you land in them. Other hazards include deadly dodos and walking watering cans.
  • The Jig-saw Puzzle - The jigsaw puzzle requires the player to restructure it by finding the right levers. A lot of the monsters here are eyeball-based.
  • The Learning Curve - A world based on children's TV programmes, much like Play School on the BBC, full of giant colouring pencils, Lego blocks and monstrous toys. This world can only be accessed through the Virtual Television in TVee Wonderland.
  • A Dark and Gloomy Place - A world of ghosts, zombies and dark, damp, dripping crypts. This level can only be accessed when a gigantic chimney has been built on A Walk Across the Rooftops (achieved by flicking a switch in Fathom This Out which makes Davy Jones sign his building contract, granting permission for construction work to proceed), allowing the player to drop down into the mortuary building.
  • The Organ Chamber - In this world Harlequin is shrunk and the world is a giant pipe organ. If you're playing the game with sound effects instead of music, you'll find that the keys of the organ actually produce the correct notes when you run across them - and it's rumoured that something special happens if you hit the keys in a certain order.
  • A Walk Across the Rooftops - A world above a city, including violent satellite dishes and deadly chimneys. A piece of Chimerica's broken heart is located here.
  • Sewercide - A maze of piranha-infested sewer pipes. Careful use of the Angel Fish power-up is needed here.
  • A Little Sheet Muzak - The final level of the game, which can only be accessed after the player flicks an all-important switch in Hellzapoppin'. The entrance to this level is located in The Organ Chamber world - when the necessary switch has been activated, the music book in the middle of the level will open, allowing you to jump inside. A Little Sheet Muzak is like a giant page of the book, and the player is required to use the musical notes as platforms, hopping towards the exit while avoiding gigantic bookworms. The final piece of Chimerica's broken heart is located here - however, this level is impossible to leave except by jumping into the giant heart symbol at the top, which automatically ends the game. It is vital, therefore, to ensure that you already have the other three pieces of Chimerica's heart before you jump into the music book.
  • Suck It and See? - A maze of drinking straws, filled with goodies and continue bonuses. There is a 60-second time limit in effect here, and if you fail to leave before it expires then all the bonuses vanish forever. If you leave in time, however, you can return and all the bonuses will have been replenished.
  • Throat of the Machine - A strange vertical level that includes weird pink maggots and giant fly-aliens in bubbles. The entrance to this level is found in the Clockworks, but it only appears after you flick certain switches in other worlds.
  • TVee Wonderland - A creepy television superstore where every single TV is broken, and hopping lightbulbs, deadly sparks and other mis-firing electronics threaten your life. Deep within the bowels of this level is the Virtual TV (VTV), which is vital for accessing three other levels - you can change the programme being broadcast on the VTV by flicking switches in other worlds, and by jumping into the VTV screen you can enter the new environments.
  • Beating the Drum - A very difficult level, filled with dangerous percussive instruments. Some of the drums act as trampolines to higher places. This level is accessible from Suck it and See? and even then only late into the game. Although it provides one entrance to The Organ Chamber, Beating the Drum is the only extraneous stage in the game. It is a difficult place to traverse and there is no real reason to enter it, as there are no switches.

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