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"In these days of dubious pre-order bonuses and parts of games being held back for DLC, do take some solace in the fact that you are at least getting a game and not receiving... well, for want of a better description, some random bunch of tree pictures as part of an iffy get-rich-quick scam from a bunch of cheaters."— Stuart Ashen
Hareraiser was a 1984 "puzzle game" developed and published by Haresoft Ltd. for numerous home computers, made as a treasure hunt game similar to Kit Williams' 1979 book Masquerade, where the winners would receive the Golden Hare, which is said to be worth £30,000. The game was divided into two parts: Prelude and Finale.
Hareraiser challenges you!
GOLDEN 30,000 PRIZE
It's not an arcade game
It's not a boring adventure trek
It's a genuine puzzle that could be solved by you!
Hareraiser the unique computer treasure hunt, a computer puzzle of graphics and text in 2 parts. Each part contains vital clues to places or locations which will enable you to discover the whereabouts of this golden treasure. It has not been buried you just have to pinpoint its location to claim this amazing prize... This puzle (sic) has been specifically designed to break away from individual arcade and adventure type games and provide family involvement. A competition for all the family. Once you collected all the clues you can work on it anywhere, individually or in groups.
You could solve this...
Part 1 (Prelude) available now!
Part 2 (Finale) ready for Christmas.
@ £8.95 each
Why It (Intentionally?) Can’t Raise
NOTE: Due to the fact that to this day no one has solved the puzzle of the game, it is possible that the game was intentionally poorly designed as a scam.
- The game cost £17.90 to purchase (£8.95 for each part), which was rather expensive for the time, not just for a computer game, but for a contest entry fee as well. The most technically advanced computer games at that time were sold for a maximum price of £7.95, and the Masquerade book was cheaper than either part at £3.50.
- When asked about why they made Hareraiser so expensive and why they charged twice for one game, Haresoft said it was to "make it fun and enable competitors of all ages to participate", which is a really poor excuse. How is paying twice for one game considered "fun" and how does it open the game up to a wider age demographic?
- Not to mention, the game code for each part is tiny (less than 8K), meaning there's no reason for the game to be split into two parts.
- The text at the start of the game is hard to read due to grammatical errors and lack of punctuations.
- Awful music, with terrible renditions of "You Are My Sunshine" at the title screen of Prelude and "Scarborough Fair" in Finale.
- The game is so cryptic that it doesn't even give a hint as to what you're supposed to do.
- Completely non-existent gameplay. All you do is move either north, south, east or west and look at a bunch of trees with some text and occasionally see the Golden Hare pass by in some screens.
- Boring and bland graphics. The game lacks the artistic charm that Masquerade had.
- In some versions, the Golden Hare isn't even colored close to gold, like in the Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC versions, where it is colored grey and brown, respectively.
- The text on the screen makes no sense, and is very misleading, for example: "Help is Here" when nothing helps you figure out the game.
- The controls are extremely strange, because instead of arrows or WASD, you have to press numbers to start the game or move.
- The controls are also incredibly unresponsive, and it would take the game about a few seconds to register a key press.
- At some points, the game may randomly crash.
- Finale is the exact same game as Prelude, just with different text and added spiders that crawl on some screens which don't serve any sort of real purpose.
Hareraiser: Prelude, despite receiving lots of publicity with its advertising, didn't sell very well and received overwhelmingly negative reviews from the various magazines of the time, citing it as an expensive cash-grab, and the puzzle being unnecessarily sold as a computer game when it requires the player to write down what's on the screen.
The magazines were swarmed by letters from confused or pissed-off buyers as well as a few obvious developer sockpuppets shilling the game while mocking people who couldn't solve the puzzle as unintelligent nerds (like Mrs. J.Y. Widdowson), showing that Haresoft could not take any criticism. As a result of the negative reviews, Finale was ignored by the magazines, was only released on a handful of computers that also had Prelude, and bombed as a result, making it rare and expensive. After the game's poor sales, Haresoft went bankrupt in 1985 and the Golden Hare that they owned was auctioned off by the liquidators at Sotheby's in late 1988 to an anonymous buyer for £31,900, almost the same price valued by Haresoft.
This game was made by Dugald Thompson, the founder of Haresoft Ltd., under the "Ken Thomas" pseudonym, who had given Kit Williams, the writer of Masquerade, the correct solution to the book's puzzle of the Golden Hare's location. Thompson then used the hare as collateral to set up the company with his business partner, John Guard. It was later discovered that he cheated, as Thompson's submitted answer was incomplete and he appeared to have stumbled on the location not by solving the puzzle but by a lucky guess, later revealed to be the result of a series of personal connections. Williams was understandably crestfallen when Thompson’s deceit was made public in 1988. Stuart Ashen discusses the game's controversy further in the video below. Thankfully, there's a happy ending for Kit. In 2009, he would finally come out of the shadows after 30 years for a BBC documentary, where it shows footage of him and the Golden Hare reuniting at last thanks to the same anonymous buyer as a gift.
- Ports of Hareraiser for the Tandy TRS-80 and Atari 8-bit systems were advertised, but never released for unknown reasons, most likely due to the controversy.