Somewhat ironically, Oh No! is actually an inspired-by clone of a 1980’s arcade coin-op called ‘Rip Off’ from Cinematronics. Jon Hare and Chris Chapman used to play ‘Rip Off’ at the local bus station in Chelmsford where they were living at the time, and felt that they could write a version with minimal effort but add their own ‘sensible’ spin to it at the same time.
The scrolling message that appears as the game loads reads as follows:
OH YES! IT’S OH NO! IT’S THE YEAR 1,000,000 A.D. AND THE UNIVERSE IS A VERY WEIRD PLACE. BRAIN ENGINEERING HAS REACHED NEW HEIGHTS AND YOU’RE A SAD VICTIM OF THE LATEST TECHNIQUE IN BRAIN SPECIALISATION. ABOARD YOUR TRUSTY STEED, BADJAK, YOUR SOLE PURPOSE IN LIFE IS TO RAISE AND BREED OXES, FASCINATING GLOWING ORBS OF INTENSE RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE. THEY’RE VERY MUCH SOUGHT AFTER, AND YOU HAVE TO STOP THE ALIEN RUSTLERS FROM POACHING YOUR HERD BY BLASTING THEM APART WITH YOUR SUPER LASERS AND TOENAIL BOOMERANG GUN. OCCASIONALLY AN OXE PARENT APPEARS ON THE LANDSCAPE WHICH LOOKS LIKE A RED LASER TURRET, BUT IT IS IN FACT A METAPHYSICAL ENERGY FIELD. DESTROYING THIS BRIEF PHYSICAL APPARITION PROVIDES ENOUGH ENERGY FOR A BRAND NEW BABY OXE TO BE BORN. INSTANT DEATH IS THE PENALTY FOR LOSING ALL YOUR OXES AS YOUR SPECIALLY ENGINEERED BRAIN EXPLODES WITH EXCITEMENT. HAVE A NICE DAY..
Considering there’s a lot of references to Oxen, try spotting any graphics in the game that actually look anything like an Ox! The High Score table also rather curiously features a snake charmer and his reptile, which has nothing to do with this game but is Sensible’s small tribute to the Activision Commodore 64 title ‘Master of the Lamps’ which was a particular favourite of theirs at the time!
(Thanks to Gary Penn and Jon Hare for recalling Oh No! in their excellent book ‘Sensible Software 1986-1999’)