Archive for the 'Multi-screen Arcade' Category


Author: admin
October 21, 2010

Download Trapdoor Remake

Usually licencing deals work like this: a film or TV series becomes very successful, and a software house pays several grand to use superficial elements of the plot in a software title.

Trapdoor has it all back-to-front. The game is out now and the TV show isn’t screened until the autumn.

Trapdoor, the TV version, turns out to be a highly bizarre childrens’ series. The plot involves a large furry monster called Berk and his attempts to feed the Thing that lives upstairs. Whilst Thing is sometimes contented with innocent pleasures like fried eggs on the other occasions it demands yukky stuff like fried eggs on other occasions it demands yukky stuff like fried slimeys. The eating of unpleasant slimey and/or squidgy foods seems to be an obsessive theme in the program.

The computer game has been written for the new film Piranha by Don Priestley (the ex-DK’s Tronics Popeye and Minder programmer) and it’s marvellous. So good, it actually makes me want to see the TV show.

The main characters in the game are huge sprites which are nevertheless very smoothly animated and, more amazing still, don’t change color as they move over different backgrounds. The inventive animation gives the assorte monsters a great deal of individuality. Berk really does seem slow and stupid but in a well-meaning monsterish way.

In the plot Thing gives Berk a series of tasks which must be accomplished within a time limit. Each task involves a number of separate actions, which though odd, follow a sort of bizarre logic. Trying to figure out what on earth you are supposed to do with what forms a good 50 percent of the game. For example, whan Thing asks for fried slimeys the first thing you need to discover is which of the large number of little monsters jumping and squirming around the screen are slimeys.

Trapdoor contains superb graphics with an ingenious plot. There are only half a a dozen or so screens to explore but that isn’t the point. This is not a game of the platforms and ladders school. In fact in the way that it requires a problem to be solved via a complex but logical series of actions reminds me of an adventure game.

That this “adventure” features a large dopey looking monster, is based on a kids program involving cooking nasty meals may seem a major obstacle to its success. I hope not, it’s the most original game I’ve seen for ages.

Tank Command

Author: admin
October 18, 2010

Wossis? Good Lord, a new game. I didn’t think the cheapie mob issued anything new these days, but this one’s clearly the exception. And what sort of game is it? Yup, a Commando-type game! Well, there’s a thing. Unfortunately, it’s even duler than the original. You control a tank, in which you whiffle around an enemy island, destroying enemy gun emplacements and fuel dumps. It’s a flip screen and you have to choose your route carefully so that you can do your blasting without having to cross the enemy fire (all but impossible). You have to be fairly mean about bullets and grenades, because new supplies are often hard to come by, which means that this is not the game for people like me who like wasting ammunition (eat lead, Johnny Gook).

The graphics are nice, and it’s been well programmed, but there’s one crucial thing missing – any new ideas at all. Deeply ungripping, I’m afraid.

Tank Command game is still one of the best specimen of the genre.

Auf Wiedersehen Monty

Author: admin
October 18, 2010

The software industry seems to be getting a bit nostalgic at the moment. First, Imagine and Gremlin came out with updated versions of Breakout (and CRL have hot one on the way too). And now Gremlin have brought about the return of the platform game and Monty Mole. What’s more, these old games still seem to have a bit of life left in them, and they’re giving a lot of the more advanced software titles a run for their money.

Having survived his last couple of adventures, Monty has decided to go off on a bit of “round the world sightseeing”. The eighty screens of Auf Wiedersehen Monty are named after various tourist traps, and the screens are arranged in roughly geographical order to give you a rough idea of how to find your way around. The titles of a lot of the screens are irrelevant really. Though some of them do bear some sort of resemblance to the places they’re named after (the Pyrenees screen, for instance, is a bit hilly and the monster-sprites are shaped like bulls), most of the screens are just an excuse for a lot of platforms and ladders, crushers, sprites, and deadly spikey things that have to be avoided at all costs. And it’s all good fun, as you might expect (not terribly original, I have to admit, but fun all the same).

Of course, a platform game’s not a platform game without a few dozen objects to collect, fucked away in various awkward corners. In line with the game’s globe-trotting theme the main thing that monty has to collect is a number of Eurocheques which bumb up his money score, but there are also a lot of other objects which have different properties, and it’s up to you to find out what does what.

This is where the names of the screens can come in useful. For instance, there’s a wheel wich might not seem like much use on its own, but when you take it to Monac (for the Grand Prix) you’ll gain extra points. And there are also objects which have some effect on Monty himself – extra lives, alcohol which gets him drunk, even a cheat mode if you find the right object.

It doesn’t require state of the art programming skills to write a game like this, but it does take a lot of thought to get the design of the screens right. Many a platform game has died a death because it was just too hard to be enjoyable, but Gremlin have gotten the balance just about right here. The game is hard enough to be addictive and a little bit infuriating, but if you can’t get at all the object on the screen it’s still reasonably easy for you to move on and explore another part of the game so that you don’t get bored by dying in the same place over and over.

The graphics are good – all the sprites are quite large and smoothly animated, and Monty responds well to both keyboard and joystick control.

I’ve always enjoyed platform games and Gremlin‘s Monty series has provided some of the better examples of the genre. Apart form a few pretty feeble budget titles there hasn’t been a decent platform game released for a while, so Monty’s return is very welcome. Now, what with the return of Breakout and Monty Mole, the only question left is – “When does the return of Jet Set Willy arrive”?


Author: admin
October 17, 2010

Download Saboteur Remake

If you enjoyed playing kung-fu games then you’ll love this one. It’s best described as a kung-fu arcade adventure in which you play a highly skilled mercenary. Your latest job is for a bunch of revolutionaries who want you to infiltrate a central security office and steal a floppy disk containing a list of rebel leaders before the information is transmitted throughout the country.

You arrive by dinghy at a wharf by a warehouse which is the location of the disguised security office. Ahead of you lie an underground complex of 118 complete with two underground trains.

You’ll need all your kung-fu and weapon skills if you are to survive the rooms packed with armed guards, laser firing video cameras and vicious guard dogs.

You enter a warehouse holding only a shuriken (a pointed throwing weapon) with only 90 minutes (game time) to reach the computer room and find the disk.

Although you can stop and fight the various guards the key task that you are paid to do is to get the disk. You do get some cash for fighting and killing guards as you go as you go through the game via a paid-as-you-kill scheme but you get nothing for harming dogs.

It is important to keep the dollars rolling in as these represent your score in the game. Killing a guard with a kung-fu blow nets you $500 where as killing with a weapon gets you only $100. Naturally using a weapon is easier and quicker but each one can only be thrown once. Luckily you can find other objects ranging from knives to bricks which flash in the “Near” box on the bottom left of your screen display. A quick jab of the joystick and it’s in your sticky hands.

Unfortunately you can only hold one object at a time to leave your hands free for all the kung-fu blows. This creates a problem for you on the way out since if you’re holding the disk you can’t use any weapons.

Once you’ve creamed a few guards and tamed a few dogs you’re ready for a full challenge that brings a tidy profit of $10,000. All this entails is finding a bomb in the warehouse and swapping it for the disk setting it to explode. Get out safely and the money is yours. This should only be attempted by skilled saboteurs as carrying the bomb to the computer room cuts down your weapon use even more and once you’ve swapped it for the disk, sets you another time limit in which you must escape.

Escape is via a patient helicopter which hangs around waiting for you. If I had my way I’d pay the pilot to land and give me some help inside the warehouse.

Saboteur Spectrum is an exceptional game that takes the kung-fu game a stage further to perfection.


Author: admin
October 14, 2010

OK admit it. Exolon was the best game of 1987. It had better gameplay, bigger graphics and more color with less color-dash than any of the competition.

Cybernoid is Exolon II with the elements of Equinox. Plotwise it’s maybe less original but it takes the brilliant graphics of Exolon a stage or two forward and puts them in a flip screen space shoot-em-up of astoundingly destructive proportions.

Cybernoid is a fighting machine – an ultra powerful spaceship just itching to take out hoards and hoards of wibbly alien blobby things. Why kill them? What’s the plot? Who cares? Let’s just assume they jumped ahead of you in the bus line or something.

Cybernoid grows in firepower as gameplay progresses. As you survive you discover, dumped in odd corners of the screen, some of the most trully spectacular and destructive weaponry yet seen in a computer game. Things start well with an awesome electromace which swings around your spacecraft leaving a train of sparks behind it. The explosions in this game are better than Exolon as things smash into a thousand multicolored pieces.

There is more. Aliens come in dozens of different guises. Some are tiny and can be easily taken out with standard lasers others are gigantic monstrosities – particularly deadly are the bizzare things which look like wasps’ nests and throw out deadly bouncing boms.

Parts of the game remind me of the old Caverns of Mars – it isn’t just blasting things, sometimes to get further into the game you need to time your way past some of the most fiendish obstacles known to arcadekind – tiny channelways needing precision steering and split-second timing.

For the wimpish there is a shield option which will get you pretty safely through the early screens, but there is a problem – it runs out. If you use it up in the early stages – well you’re going to be pretty stuck when the going starts to get really tough aren’t you?

It’s a real player’s game this – you can start to develop strategies for different obstacles. Certain kinds of flying bomb follow specific patterns and no obstacle is impassable – just very, very difficult indeed. Someone somewhere is going to solve it in about two hours but the average blasthead should get days and days of challenge.

Game of the year 1988 so far? You bet. It has everything Exolon does but it’s harder and the graphics are probably even better. Cybernoid is also certainly the most completely destructive game I’ve ever seen.

I think all of the adds up to a pretty strong recommendation don’t you? The best flip screen shoot-em-up ever seen on the Spectrum. A worthy successor to Exolon.


Author: admin
October 14, 2010

Download Equinox Remake

Equinox Spectrum does not feature any members of the Wally family. For this at least, some of us are glad.

It is, instead, a collect-and-dodge game of vast proportions. Were games judged on the sheer volume of bouncing and splurging sprites alone the game would be a winner. As it is Equinox Spectrum contains nothing new. There is much to enjoy but nothing to admire.

The plot is to clear a number of levels of unstable nuclear cannisters, which are liable to blow up. On each level the time left before that level’s cannister explodes ticks away at the top of the screen.

Quite apart from the problem finding the cannister and discovering how to travel from one level to the other, there are bouncing monsters of many species including splogy jelly, a cute penguin, orbs, hair standing on the end thing, and the particularly popular “oh God I can’t think of anything else and I was supposed to have this game delivered last week” programmers “please yourself” abstract shapes.

And, all of them bounce determindedly.

The thought part of the game derives initially from trying to discover what objects when combined together do what. Some of these links are obvious, e.g. stone blocking passages and sticks of dynamite. Some less so, e.g. blue spheres and teleport type devices. In the end though, the game is too much of the too familiar.

Large silver canisters must be located and dumped down the waste disposal accessed via the transporter near the opening screen. You’ll soon realize part of the technique of playing the game is knowing when to leave a level for a while (thereby halting its timer) to return to it later. Some problems can only be silved by collecting objects from one level and using them on another.

Controls are, left, right, thrust, collect/use, fire. The moment you start moving the timer for the cannister on the current level starts ticking, seconds later in true Ultimate style the assorted aliens materialize. Guess what you do to them. Repeatedly. Next you start to pick up objects and carry them around, fruitlessly pressing the Use button in all the wrong places until finally something happens. The first thing you’ll probably discover a use for will be the Smart bomb – it has a big S on it. There are two kinds of teleport – between areas on the same level and between levels. To get between levels you need a passcard, the higher the level the higher the card number necessary, i.e. Passcard 8 will get you into all the levels, Passcard 2, only into levels 1 and 2.

Few words about playing area of Equinox Spectrum. One of those vast mazes constructed of what looks like chrome and steel with lots of straight edges and a few twiddly bits – a bit like the inside of an air conditioning duct. There are big central rooms and small passages. Placed around this sleek high-tech background there are some rather Heath Robinesque objects like a giant old fashioed magnet and some inelegantly constructed teleports. There are laser barriers, locked doors, switches and occasional large mosters (which do not bounce but berely blink a single bloodshot eye) strewn of the levels.

Game Over

Author: admin
October 13, 2010

A principal female character at last, but one, I suspect, launched as a cassete wrapper to appeal to the male eye. But what’s this? This woman named Gremla, is a crual and powerful galactic ruler, a maga-villain to out-shine Darth Vader.

The hero, yes you’ve guessed it, is a man called Arkos. He was Gremla’s faithful Lieutenant but a sudden twinge of conscience has turned him into a super-goodie, determined to defeat the magalomanic obsession of his ex-boss. The final battle is played out on two levels and ladders worlds, the first called Planet Hypsis, the second – Schkunn. You must dash across each, destroying Gremla’s guardians on the way, and, on the final screen, defeat the Giant Guardian.

Hypsis is a horisontally scrolling world of 20 screens, peopled with five types of alien robots and another five types of objects. On the first screen you meet the small, floating laser shooters, robots that’ll shoot straight for your head and drain your ever decreasing power unless you put four laser bolts into them. To offset their deadly effects, shoot at the Energy Heart cylinder, grab the heart which floats away from its remains and take on the energy it contains.

You’ll need all that energy if you’re to beat the second level which, when you first see it, you will think is unplayable. There are two level pads which move up and down in the middle of the screen. Jump to the first and then the second, but you must not hit the ground or you’re turned into a mass of glittering vapor that floats away – and that’s a life lost.

If you pass this screen you’ll have seen and solved the play format for the rest of the game.

The levels change color – blue to white – later in the game, and take on ladders in the middle of the map, but the method of moving from one end of the screen to the other is always the same. Only the guardian robots change. You soon encounter a massive guardian robots change. You soon encounter a massive guardian robot, a Dalek without an eyestick, which lobs huge energy bolts at you. Don’t bother to stay around and destroy it. Just run across the screen in the vain hope that you’ll retain all of your energy.

Next up are the green monsters which you find on the metal platform and stone bridge screens. They represent no threat that I could see, and don’t even look pretty.

To combat all these forces you can pick up grenades on the ground and a nifty time you’ll have to avoid the mines if you’re ever to get to the second world.

The Planet Sckunn scrolls vertically and horizontally, so the game play’s more difficult. That said, your weapon. puny though it is on the first level, is upgraded so that it produces a never-ending stream of laser power and will destroy everything in its path.

There are two stages to get through: The Forest and The Palaces. In The Forest there are lakes in which you’ll drown as well a less-than-abundance of aliens. Admittedly you do get a creature called a Kaitas which takes two energy points from you when it hits you, but it can be downed with just one laser shot and doesn’t represent much of a threat.

The Palace screen is an improvement over The Forest, but only marginally. It’s crowded with elevators which take you from one floor to the other. Once you’re in one you mustn’t move or you could die. There are also mines scattered on the floor, and four more types of aliens with which you’ll have to deal.

The aliens on this level shoot fireballs and you need to hit them four or five times before they’re destroyed – not a difficult task with your super laser. The Giant Guardian at the end of the game, however, is another matter. Hit it 30 times and its wings disappear, 15 times – and its body disappears, another 30 and its head vanishes. It’s a devil to destroy and makes up for all the puny aliens in other parts of Game Over Spectrum.

Metal Army

Author: admin
October 10, 2010

Cor blimey, strike a light, it’s a mug’s game innit? You work long hours, you get no holidays or pay, you stand a good chance of being blown to pieces, and the only job satisfaction you get is if you manage to catch some squirty little superhero and squash him into little pices. I dunno, when I signed on as a guardian robot I expected action, adventure, travel, fame, but what do I get? Trudge, traudge, trudge, left, right, left, right, game after game, and I don’t even get my name on the cover.

Take this Metal Army gig. General Ironside promised us world domination when we signed up to take over Slough nuclear power station. No mention that Harry Chainsaw, freelance bounty hunter and part-time window cleaner (Are you sure about this? – GT), would be wading through us with his thermoplasma servoblaster.

The bomb’s planted, the timer’s running, all we have to do is strut around doing the usual, “You-will-be-exterminated.” Bit. Cinch. At least the surroundings are nice; plenty of corridors, elevator platforms, security doors, pipework and booby traps, just the sort of thing we like. You might call’em, ooh, nice graphics.

I’m good mates with the giant bouncing ballbearings. The tinmen and the domeheads work pretty well together, popping out of tubeways and chasing down old Harry. It’s such a laugh crushing him just as he tries to pick up a security pass, or catching him against a locked door, or sandwiching him as he tries to refuel his blaster from a power point. How we laugh as he evaporates in a puff of steam.

And Harry’s a bit clumsy, and he’s quite likely to blunder into spigots discharging coolant gas, electric charges or radioactive fuel. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to get past the first screen, where four gas spouts in a row cook him to a crisp most of the time. We can just sit eating our sandwiches and waiting for him to blunder along. The big problem is that it’s so quiet in here; just the odd “plip plip plip” when one of me mates gets melted. Not a jot of music. The management just don’t seem to want us to have a good time.

Anyway, what it all boils down to is a pretty big (from what I’ve been able to eplore), very hard platform/maze/shoot ’em upin the best budget tradition. Though there are scores of games like this around, very few do it better than Metal Army (Koo-er! eh?). This will keep you occupied for a quite some time, so you won’t have to resort to looking for smutty double entendres in YS reviews for a while.

Cauldron 2

Author: admin
October 9, 2010

Play Cauldron Flash Remake

The Pumpkin Strikes Back! If you played the original Cauldron game you’ll remember that it was the witch’s task to destroy the Evil Pumpkin in order to become Queen of the Witches.

But now, in Cauldron II, the tables are about to be turned as the last of the pumpkins enters the witch’s castle in a attempt to cut off a lock of her hair and drop it into the cauldron hidden in the depths of the dungeon.

But before you can cut off the witch’s hair you’ll need to find the scissors which are hidden somewhere in the castle, as well as collecting a number of other objects that will be needed if you’re to find your way safely through the dangers of the castle.

Each game starts in one of six possible locations within the castle and you have to guide the little pumpkin through the corridors, stairways and halls in search of the objects and the room where the witch lies sleeping. The 127 rooms are laid out in the shape of a castle, with different floors and turrets jutting out here and there, so finding your way up or down properly adds an extra level of difficulty to the game since some rooms are easy to get through if you’re on your way down from the top of the castle, but impossible to get through if you’re trying to go up from the lower levels.

Pumpkins don’t have legs (in fact they don’t have much except heads and a big grin) so the only way to get around is by bouncing. This where most of the fun lies, as controlling the pumpkin’s bouncing is an art in itself. There are three different heights of bounce that can be used in conjunction with the usual left/right controls, but unlike most platrform games where you just jump and stop, the pumpkin continues to bounce all the time, and if you misjudge a single bounce you can end up shooting out of control and ricocheting from platform to platfrom. If something like this happens in the wrong place you can find yourself hurtling out of a window at the top of the castle, only to fall into the grounds beyond the moat at ground level.

In addition to the problems of bouncing your way around all the rooms, there are all the monsters wandering around to deal with as well. One or two monsters are deadly upon contact, but most of them just drain your energy level – which is recorded as a percentage level at the top of the screen, along withe a record of all the objects that you’ve managed to find – and when this falls to 0% you lose one of your seven pumpkinny lives. Fortunately, there are sources of magic within the castle which allow you to recharge your magic powers and to blast most of the monsters that stand in your way (through at cost of 1% of your energy each time).

The graphics and animation are excellent throughout and good use has been made of the Spectrum’s sound, with nice little sproingy noises accompanying the bouncing action. And just watching the pumpkin bounce around is fun, especially as the squishy little fellow squeezes through some of the tight spots in the rooms.

If you enjoyed Cauldron the first time around, you’ll certainly enjoy Cauldron 2. It doesn’t really break new ground, being a descendant of the long line of platform games, but it is well designed and puts the emphasis on fun and playability rather than enormously complex icon menus and suchlike. I haven’t come anywhere near finishing it, but I’ll be going back to Cauldron 2 more than I do with most games these days.


Author: admin
October 9, 2010

Spectrum version of Cauldron online is the conversion from Commodore 64. Actually, having played the C64 version and been unable to figure out what I was I was supposed to be doing. I think I prefer the Spectrum game.

The task you are set is to gather the ingredients for a spell which will allow you to defeat the Pumpking. These ingredients are all hidden in underground caves, and in order to gain access in the forest and which allow you to enter the crypts and tombs leading to the caves.

Flying your witch over the scrolling landscape is real fun. With her hair streaming behind her, the witch is quite a nippy mover as she duchs and dives on her broomstick, avoiding the bats, ghosts, and balls of flames thrown up at her. The landscape is quite detailed, and the scrolling is as smooth as I’ve seen on the Spectrum.

My only criticism of this part of the game, is that when the witch dismounts to open a doorway, you temporarily lose control of her (until she is through the door and onto the next stage of the game) but she can still be attacked by the ghosts and other nasties and have her magical energies drained. I did find this a bit irritating, because it more or less means that just for a few seconds, the game plays itself and all you can do is sit and watch as the witch is attacked on her way to the crypt entrance.

Once underground, the game becomes a bit more conventional as you go through a variety of screens in order to collect the ingredients you need for the spell. These screens are fairly standard platform game stuff, but though they are quite well designed, I found that crossing from one screen to the next often meant losing a life as you can often enter the new screen only to find yourself falling through thin air. Also, the witch can fall through the edges of platforms even though she might not actually be hanging over the edge. I did find those two details annoying, since I felt that they caused me to lose a lot of lives rather unfairly and through no fault of my own.

Even so, I have found myself going back to Cauldron over and over again, and I still find it both challenging and addictive.