Codex Gamicus

Hover Bovver is a 1984 game written by Jeff Minter released for the Commodore 64, Atari 8-bit and a Windows version for the PC was released by Idigicon Limited in 2002. Like many of Minter's other games, it is notable for its offbeat sense of humour.


The lawn needs mowing and your mower doesn't work. You look next door and see your neighbor's lawnmower. When he's not looking, you grab his lawnmower and start mowing your lawn. Avoid being caught as you mow the lawn while avoiding your flower beds. Your dog can help you keep the neighbor away.


The player controlled their lawnmower with the joystick, and was required to "mow" (i.e., visit) every square of grass on the screen. The mower moved extremely slowly when first moved but accelerated rapidly if the joystick was held in a single direction, encouraging the player to optimise a route to include as many long, straight lines as possible.

The player was pursued by "the neighbour", an enemy who always moved directly towards the player. If caught by the neighbour, the player lost a life, although this was represented as the neighbour taking the lawnmower away (it being, in fact, the neighbour's property) and the player having to "borrow" a mower from someone else. The player's "lives" remaining were indicated by the name of the neighbour from who the current mower had been borrowed: Jim, Tom and finally Alf.

As well as grass, the boards included blocking spaces through which the mower could not be moved, and flowers. Mowing flowers resulted in a second enemy, "the gardener", appearing who pursued the player in the same way as the neighbour. Moving the mower too fast resulted in the "mower heat" gauge rising; if it reached maximum, the mower was frozen for a while, usually resulting in the player being caught by the neighbour or gardener.

The player's only weapon was their dog; by hitting the fire button, the player could set the dog on the neighbour or gardener. This would cause them to run away, or freeze in place. The amount of time for which this could be done was limited (displayed as a Dog Loyalty meter). The dog also remained active, roaming randomly, on the board even when not being used to attack; a Dog Tolerance meter dropped continuously, representing a time limit. Once this reached zero, the dog would begin to attack the mower, causing an immediate overheat if he managed to bite it. If Dog Loyalty remained, the dog could be distracted from attacking the mower by commanding it to attack the neighbour or gardener instead. Also, if the mower collided with the dog, the Dog Tolerance meter immediately dropped to zero.

Later versions[]

Idigicon released a PC version under its Kool Dog label. This version was not programmed by Jeff Minter and introduced a number of game elements seen as undesirable by many fans: most notably, the lawn was made to scroll and the mower's slow initial movement and later acceleration were nowhere near as pronounced. The player had 5 lives instead of 3, and the names of the people from which the mowers were taken were altered to those involved in the development of the game: they included George (George Bray, Producer at Idigicon at the time), and Jeff (Jeff Minter).


Minter himself later released a sequel, Hovver Bovver 2, for the PC and PocketPC platforms. This introduced a large number of new features, namely:

  • The gardener's speed increased with the number of flowers mowed. If all flowers on the board were mowed, "the police" appeared to chase the player - five extremely fast enemies who were immune to the dog. Completing a level with the police active was nearly impossible but, if achieved, awarded an extremely large number of points.
  • Dog Tolerance dropped much more slowly, and crashing into the dog with the mower no longer dropped Dog Tolerance to zero; instead, it caused "the vet" to appear, an enemy behaving as the others but immune to the dog's attacks.
  • The player again had five lives instead of three: the mowers were provided by Jim, Tom, and Alf (as in the original game) followed by "The Ex-Queen Mother's Flunky" and Yak.
  • The dog would occasionally relieve itself on the lawn. The player could prevent the dog from doing this by spending Loyalty. If allowed to proceed, the resulting dog mess would slow down the mower if the player collided with it, but it would also freeze any enemy colliding with it for a long period of time.
  • A "dog toy" could be collected which, if collected and thrown to the dog, would increase remaining Loyalty and Tolerance at the cost of the player being unable to use the dog for a period of time.
  • Some levels featured a "weed killer" which if collected, would gradually destroy all of the flowers on the level, thus inevitably leading to the gardener and police appearing. Levels featuring the weed killer tended to be extremely brief and frantic.
  • Sheep would gradually appear to assist the player in mowing the lawn by eating grass.