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|Platform(s)||Atari 8-bit, C64, Windows, Intellivision|
Hover Bovver is a 1983 maze game written by Jeff Minter released for the Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bit family. Like many of Minter's other games, it is notable for its offbeat sense of humour. The background music is based on the folk tune Country Gardens by Percy Grainger. It was arranged by James Lisney.
The purpose of the game is to mow the lawn (using the neighbour's mower) whilst avoiding static obstacles - the flowerbeds - and mobile enemies - the neighbour himself. Your pet dog will antagonise the neighbour and keep him away from you, but as the dog itself is vulnerable to the mower, care must be taken not to run it over.
The player controls their lawnmower with the joystick, and is required to mow every square of grass on the screen. The mower moves extremely slowly at first, but accelerates rapidly if the joystick is held in a single direction, encouraging the player to optimise a route to include as many long, straight lines as possible.
The player is pursued by "the neighbour," an enemy who always moves directly towards the player. If caught by the neighbour, the player loses a life, although this is represented as the neighbour taking the lawnmower away (it being, in fact, the neighbour's property) and the player having to borrow a mower from someone else. The player's lives remaining are indicated by the name of the neighbour from who the current mower has been borrowed: Jim, Tom and finally Alf.
As well as grass, the boards include blocking spaces through which the mower cannot be moved, and flowers. Mowing flowers results in a second enemy, the gardener, appearing who pursues the player in the same way as the neighbour. Unlike the neighbour, the gardener will not walk over the existing flowerbeds. Moving the mower too fast results in the mower heat gauge rising; if it reaches maximum, the mower will stop moving until the gauge drops back to a particular level. It usually results in the player being caught by the neighbour or gardener.
The player's only weapon is their dog. By hitting the fire button, the player can set the dog on the neighbour or gardener. This causes them to run away or freeze in place. The amount of time for which this can be done is limited (displayed as a Dog Loyalty meter). The dog also remains active, roaming randomly on the board even when not being used to attack. A Dog Tolerance meter slowly drops, representing a time limit. Once this reaches zero, the dog begins to attack the mower, causing an immediate overheat if he manages to bite it. If Dog Loyalty remains , the dog can be distracted from attacking the mower by commanding it to attack the neighbour or gardener instead. Also, if the mower collides with the dog, the Dog Tolerance meter immediately drops to zero.
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In 2002, Idigicon released a PC version under its Kool Dog label. This version was not programmed by Jeff Minter and introduced a number of game elements seen as undesirable by many fans: most notably, the lawn was made to scroll and the mower's slow initial movement and later acceleration were nowhere near as pronounced. The player had 5 lives instead of 3, and the names of the people from which the mowers were taken were altered to those involved in the development of the game: they included George (George Bray, Producer at Idigicon at the time), and Jeff (Jeff Minter).
In 2002 Minter released a sequel, Hover Bovver 2, for the Windows and PocketPC platforms. This introduced a number of new features:
- The gardener's speed increased with the number of flowers mowed. If all flowers on the board were mowed, "the police" appeared to chase the player - five extremely fast enemies who were immune to the dog. Completing a level with the police active was nearly impossible but, if achieved, awarded an extremely large number of points.
- Dog Tolerance dropped much more slowly, and crashing into the dog with the mower no longer dropped Dog Tolerance to zero; instead, it caused "the vet" to appear, an enemy behaving as the others but immune to the dog's attacks.
- The player again had five lives instead of three: the mowers were provided by Jim, Tom, and Alf (as in the original game) followed by "The Ex-Queen Mother's Flunky" and Yak.
- The dog would occasionally relieve itself on the lawn. The player could prevent the dog from doing this by spending Loyalty. If allowed to proceed, the resulting dog mess would slow down the mower if the player collided with it, but it would also freeze any enemy colliding with it for a long period of time.
- A "dog toy" could be collected which, if collected and thrown to the dog, would increase remaining Loyalty and Tolerance at the cost of the player being unable to use the dog for a period of time.
- Some levels featured a "weed killer" which if collected, would gradually destroy all of the flowers on the level, thus inevitably leading to the gardener and police appearing. Levels featuring the weed killer tended to be extremely brief and frantic.
- Sheep would gradually appear to assist the player in mowing the lawn by eating grass.