Cauldron 2

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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.




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