It is widely known amongst fans of the ZX Spectrum home computer that William Tang, creator of the Horace series, was too ill to finish the mysterious fourth game in the series ‘Horace to the Rescue’. From a man who delivered such classics as Hungry Horace and Horace and the Spiders, this was a blow to his devoted fans.
In 2007, however, the enigmatic Tang resurfaced to announce that he was working on a title for the DS, to be published by Rising Star Games. It was tentatively titled ‘Horace Goes Clubbing’ – a not-so-subtle nod to the second and most popular game in the series, 1982’s Frogger rip-off cum sports sim Horace Goes Skiing – and, like the best the series had to offer, consisted of taking other people’s ideas. In this case, that particular mini-game from WarioWare where you avoid stomping feet seemed to be the inspiration, though Tang actually went far deeper than that.
Players of Horace Goes Clubbing were to be tasked with running around a club as Horace, avoiding the violent movements and drunken stomping of women’s heels. Touching the screen whilst directly underneath one of the women in the club would turn Horace’s head upwards, which then triggered a ‘Profiling’ sequence in which Horace took note of a series of images – it is said that Swery65 got the idea for this feature of Deadly Premonition from a preview of this Horace game in Famitsu – which would be added to the ‘Wank Bank’, accessible via the pause menu, which seemed to serve no explicit function in terms of gameplay, but in which images could be sorted, ‘starred’, and viewed at the player’s leisure.
Initially, the gaming press received the title warmly. Issue 41 of Retro Gamer posed as its monthly question to its staff, ‘How warmly do you feel about Horace Goes Clubbing?’, to which everyone bar editor Darran Jones responded ‘Very warmly’. Darran, being an Amstrad hardliner, responded ‘I am not aware of any such game.’ In Britain, the game was touted as having “the potential to revive the moribund British games industry” by the BBC, in spite of the fact that Tang (much like tennis starlet and British media favourite Laura Robson) is Australian.
As is the nature of games today, however, the project failed to make it to release. It was crippled by declining sales forecasts as the gaming press moved on to new fetishes, while the central mechanic was picked up by Anita Sarkeesian and other prominent members of the unemployed community as being “demeaning towards women.” Rising Star Games attempted to appease them by including what a press release described as “men with ripped trousers so you can see their bits too”, but they refused to add men’s ‘profiles’ to the Wank Bank, labelling such a feature “gay.” Once Rising Star got the European rights to No More Heroes, they dropped the troublesome title, stating that they could not have “too many buttocks” on their 2008 release catalogue. Some rumours have it that the game was actually cancelled because Tang bankrupted himself on long distance phone calls to his UK-based publisher, and was unable to fund development. Either way, Horace Goes Clubbing is a gem we will sadly never get to play. All that remains is the three screenshots featured below.