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Helter Skelter version differences

I was recently asked to update the Helter Skelter WHDLoad patch to support another version of the game. It turned out that this "new" release of the game was a much more rare 1988 edition, compared with the more commonly spread version from 1990. The code was very similar between the two versions, but I did notice a number of changes which I will document, purely because nobody else has done so.

First up, the most obvious difference is the title screen. The 1988 version does not include music, and has a boring logo. The 1990 version features music, and a nicer title picture:

1988 version title screen

1988 version title screen.

1990 version title screen

1990 version title screen.

The high score table is also nicer on the 1990 version:

1988 version high score table

1988 version high score table.

1990 version high score table

1990 version high score table.

The very first level looks quite different too, with the 1990 version the winner here. The monsters are far more varied, and the background is not quite as hard on the eyes:

1988 version level 1

1988 version level 1.

1990 version level 1

1990 version level 1.

The next major change is the cheat mode. On the original 1988 version, typing NAMROD during the game activates the cheat mode. This was changed to FIZZY for the 1990 release. Once the cheat word has been typed in, the ENTER key on the numeric keypad skips the level, and the MINUS sign on the numeric keypad returns to the previous level.

At the start of the game, you can choose your starting level by pressing F1 (1 player game) or F2 (2 player game) and entering a level code. Level codes are handed out every 10 levels. All level codes (except the USER code) were changed between the 2 versions:

Level   1988 code   1990 code   
11 spin blot
21 flip bolt
31 ball cult
41 goal glut
51 left trot
61 twin unit
71 play watt
81 user user

On both versions, levels 61-70 are broken, and as soon as the level appears, it fades out and the next level begins. I suspect this is because the levels were setup incorrectly, giving a time of 0 seconds to complete the level.

The 1988 version features a bug that allows you to edit the built in levels (1-80). This bug was corrected in the 1990 release, and you can only access the user created levels (81-128). To edit the normal levels in the 1988 version, perform the following steps:

Click load/save

Click load/save.

Click Save screens

Click Save screens.

Select a save slot

Select a save slot.

Select Load screens

Select Load screens.

Choose the same slot as before

Choose the same slot as before.

Game displays level 001

Game displays level 001.

If you try this on the 1990 version, you will see level 081 instead of level 001, so the rest of the trick will not work. So in this one regard, the 1988 version is "better" than the 1990 version.

At this point, you have to enter a menu (I use the Platform menu at the top) or you will find the game crashes when you try and go to the various screens. 

Click Platform

Click Platform.

Click Exit

Click Exit.

Click Screen select

Click Screen select.

Click Next screen

Click Next screen.

If you pressed "Previous screen" instead, the game will wrap back to level 000 (which doesn't exist) and the game will crash. If you press "Goto screen" you will only be able to type in a valid user level number (81-128) so you will not be able to view/edit the built in levels.

Now you can keep pressing the "Next screen" or "Previous screen" buttons to view and edit the built-in levels 1-80!

Level 2

Level 2.

Level 3

Level 3.

Level 4

Level 4.

Level 5

Level 5.

Level 6

Level 6.

Level 7

Level 7.

Special thanks to Richard, Carlo and BarryB for sending the original games, and hopefully someone found some of this article at least slightly interesting.

Post your comment


  • Gravatar for VincentGR

    Interesting indeed!

    VincentGR 11/02/2017 9:25am (7 years ago)

  • Gravatar for BarryB

    Really nice write up! Quite a bit of difference between them. And yes, it was interesting :)

    BarryB 17/01/2017 11:42pm (7 years ago)

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