Easter isn't just about chocolate eggs from eager-to-please bunnies (I've been told there's some religious alternative purpose, but we'll gloss over that for now), it's also a perfect excuse to discuss the oft-forgotten gem of our industry - the video game Easter Egg.
Easter Eggs are essentially secrets, hidden jokes or messages left by developers and designers for you to hunt out in game. They serve no purpose and have no reward other than the satisfaction that comes with finding something that most will have missed whilst playing. The first Easter Egg was discovered in a game released exactly 35 years ago this month - Adventure for the Atari 2600. By locating and manipulating a hidden "dot" players could gain access to a hidden room, which had the message "Created by Warren Robinett" - the game's programmer. Once this secret was found, Atari decided to keep it in game and call such secrets "Easter Eggs". The rest, as they say, is history.
Relevant history lesson aside, I thought to celebrate the coral anniversary (yes I looked that up) of Adventure's release and to get into the Easter spirit I would reminisce over my favourite Easter Eggs I have had the pleasure of discovering myself over the years, and it would be great if you could share your own favourites in the comments section below.
Wedges of Cheese in Perfect Dark
What makes the perfect object to hide in a futuristic shooter whose story involves alien invasions and the end of the world? Why a wedge of cheese of course. Rare's spiritual sequel to the Nintendo 64 launch title Goldeneye 007 - Perfect Dark - was a game which saw you take control of Joanna Dark, a Special Agent deemed so good, her boss dubbed her "Perfect Dark", hence the game's title. What's a little less clear is why included in every level of this 2023-set shooter is a piece of cheese to be found if you're keen of eye. Perhaps Joanna is a fan of the yellow stuff, perhaps cheese is the key to ending the war between the Skedar and the Maians, or maybe, just maybe, the guys and gals down at Twycross just like a bit of a laugh.
Either way finding these in random locations throughout each and every level was a nice little random sidequest, some of which were incredibly well hidden - striking that perfect balance between quirky randomness and intriguing rarity that makes a good Easter Egg.
Mario References in Zelda Games
In almost every Zelda game released there is a nod to Mario hidden in there somewhere, some more hidden than others. Whether it be a Bullet Bill on the sleeve of the creepy Cannon guy in Lake Hylia in Twilight Princess or the Happy Mask Salesman having a Mario Mask on his back in Majora's Mask, these familiar nods to the Mushroom Kingdom provide perfect little Easter Eggs to be found for fans of either franchise.
But perhaps the most famous, and indeed my favourite because I found it on my own, is the one from Ocarina of Time. As young Link, after you have met up with Zelda in the Castle Grounds for the first time, and finished the dialogue, you are free to explore. If you angle the camera just right, you can see through the window behind where Zelda was standing, and notice some familiar images on the wall. That's right it's Mario and friends in their own pictures. If you tilt the camera some more you should be able to make out additional pictures of Luigi and Yoshi too. A fantastic little Easter Egg that I always look for every time I replay this classic.
Day of the Tentacle - Playing Maniac Mansion
Day of the Tentacle is an awesome Point and Click Adventure game. Really it's awesome. So awesome, some Dealspwn stud wrote a Blast From The Past article about it a while back, go look it up. But hilarious comedy, clever puzzles and some tenuous cause and effect logic than can only come from time travelling aside, there was also a pretty nice Easter Egg in the game too. Especially if like me, you hadn't had the privilege of playing the prequel to Day of the Tentacle - Maniac Mansion.
By going into Weird Ed's room in the game, and using the action "Use" on Weird Ed's computer, you could actually play Maniac Mansion in it's entirety if you decided you needed a break from all the fun you were having in the sequel. It was a nice touch, and was great for me to understand what had gone before this great game.
The Chris Houlihan Room in Link to the Past
Perhaps one of the more famous Easter Eggs was in Link to the Past on the SNES. Way back in 1990, Nintendo Power magazine held a competition where one of it's readers could appear in a undetermined future NES game, by snapping a photo of a rare boss in Final Fantasy and mailing it in. Chris Houlihan was the victor, and he had his very own room in the SNES game (I consider that an upgrade) Link to the Past. The room itself was only labelled the Chris Houlihan room in the US though, and his name wasn't used for European audiences, presumably because we'd hunt him down and slap him with a wet fish. Or something.
The room was a bit of a bugger to get into, as it had no set place in Hyrule, and served more as an emergency room for the game, when it wasn't sure where Link should be. As such there are numerous ways to get there. One of the ways, and the way I found it, was to peg it from the Sanctuary entrance to the secret entrance to Hyrule Castle that Link uses at the start of the game. If you were lucky (and I had to try repeatedly) then it dropped you into this room.
Notched Pickaxe in Skyrim
If you've played both Skyrim and Minecraft then this more recent Easter Egg won't be lost on you. At literally the highest point on the map in Skyrim - atop the huge Mountain dubbed the Throat of the World sits a lonely Pickaxe. But this pickaxe is special, as it's called the Notched Pickaxe. Not only was the pickaxe itself a nod to Minecraft, but the name itself was also a nod to Minecraft's creator Markus Alexej "Notch" Persson. Plus it's not a bad Pickaxe to have, as it comes with a unique "Notched Pickaxe" enchantment that cannot be found anywhere else in the game, which is pretty handy, and a nice reward for scaling such a large mountain to it's remote peak.
But what about you dear reader? There are thousands upon thousands of Easter Eggs out there, and I'm sure with just this taster list above I've not hit on your favourite Easter Egg memory. So drop a note in the comment section below to let us know your favourites. We'd be particularly keen to know if you're actively going to be searching for gaming Easter Eggs over the Bank Holiday weekend too. Because that would be awfully dedicated, and deserves a special Dealspwn golfer's clap. Very few ever receive such commendation.
Happy Easter everyone!