Well, no, it's not so much the jokes that get my goat (I'm as much a fan as the next guy) - it's more the dribbling buffoons who insist on telling them. There's no escape, is there? There you are, sitting in front of your keyboard, or your lunch, or on the school coach (yup, the school coach never fails) and what do you hear? "Always look on the briiiigh..." Aaargh! SHUT UP!!
Okay, so you can call me a grumpy git if you want (You grumpy git. Ed) but show me one more cretin who sings about trees, high heels, suspenders and a bra and I'll show you a harpoon the size of which would make Orca the Killer Whale (God bless her soul) reconsider the dietary benefits of plancton. In other words, this review is going to be a Monty Python joke-free zone, okay? (Grumble mumble... Reader's voice.) Excellent.
Actually, the nice thing is, Virgin Mastertronic seem to agree with me too. True, when they first decided to do something with the licence they planned to base each of the four levels around a different side-splitting sketch. But then they thought "Nah, that'd be crap" and opted for something com... ahem, not quite the same at all. So what mind-blowingly innovative solution did they come up with? Well, follow me, Spec-chums, (in crocodile formation, please) and we'll find out. (God, at last. Ed)
Monty Python's Flying Circus is one deliciously surreal arcade adventure. No, it really is - a puzzler, a shoot-'em-up and a platform-and-ladders game all rolled into one. (It's not a million miles away from Super Mario Brothers in fact.) You play Mr DP Gumby (as seen on TV), a dimwitted tree-trunk of a Yorkshireman, all Jimmy-Hill chin and no brain. And, spookily enough, the reason he's got no brain is because it's burst and split into four pieces, each of which has subsequently scarpered off and hidden at the end of a level, thus thwarting his plans of becoming a high-flying chartered accountant. So he wants them back, with a little help from you. (Obviously it's not in the interests of the game to quietly whisper in his ear that the qualifications required for such a lauded vocation need not, of course, incorporate the possession of said organ, but there we go.)
To manage this, you've got to dither your merry way across four horizontally-scrolling/vertically-flipping levels, each time retrieving a sufficient number of Spam cans (remember them?) to trade in for your quarter of cerebral slime. The only trouble is that most of them have been 'camouflaged' behind various pieces of cheese, and since there're absolutely tons of these pongy dairy produce thingimijigs stacked up across each level you've got a fair bit of blasting to do to get them all.
If you're thinking that's not exactly the world's most earth-shattering idea for a game, you may indeed be right - though in a spooky kind of way that's the basis for it's success. What we've got here is a tried-and-tested formula decorated right up to the Christmas tree fairy with all manner of wonderful Pythonesque graphics, all looking suitably surreal, and it works extremely well.
Remember all those little animated bits in the TV show? Well, that's what we've (sort of) got here. The bloke who thought them up was Terry Gilliam, a kind of 'Invisible Monty' (since turned Hollywood director), who rarely appeared in the sketches but created this wonderful world of cartoon chaos out of cut-up photographs and stuff which they then sort of dropped in among the live action bits. It's from these that the look of the game takes its visual cue, though the actual gameplay itself has, in the main, years of 'heritage' behind it. This won't be the first time you've had to make your way through subterranean tubes and tunnels, as you do in Level One, for instance, or defy death by dodging pistons and scrambling along conveyor belts as in Level Four.
This familiarity isn't a problem though - what they've done is come up with a structure that works well as a game in its own right, and then tweaked and modified it enough to fit in all the specific Python-ish bits. And very weird the result is too. Take Gumby for instance - one minute he's sporting a tasteful line in hanky-on-head high fashion, the next the body of a fish! And the villains are equally bizarre, ranging from falling weights, Eric the half-a-bees and Silly Walk Ministers to pointing fingers, Keep Left signs that zoom up-screen, flying hamslers, the lot. You never know what's coming next!
Most of the baddies you can simply avoid (although blasting them in true diplomatic fashion can often ease matters), but others, like the policeman on his bicycle or the Spanish Inquistion blokey (both of whom spit out rounds of pea-sized bullets at you) definitely need to be taken out, if only to see what handy little energy icons they leave in their wake.
It's not all blasting fun though. There are squillions of little puzzles to squelch your grey matter around as you go along, from the cheese identification protection system you encounter at the beginning of the game to sussing out how best to release a can of Spam you can't get to without it dropping off the bottom of the screen. Remember what order you need to blitz particular cheese blocks and you may get the odd bonus giveaway object (whatever that may be) hidden within too!
All of which brings us to, erm, somewhere near the end I think. What haven't I mentioned yet? Well, the speed's fine and dandy, and I think I've already said the quality of the graphics is spot on as well - crisp and colourful, this is Speccyvision at its best. The level of invention (not least visually) is excellent as well.
However, I do have one small reservation, and that's the fact it seemed to me slightly arbitary how many times you get hit by bullets, other baddies and so on before you get killed. Me, I like things to be like real life (ie one shot and you're dead) - I'm not into this 'you can take so many hits before you keel over' stuff at all. You just end up not giving a fig about anything, la dee da, waddle bounce, cruising your way through everything paying not very much attention at all really when suddenly someone (somewhere) somehow decides they've inflicted one too many 'pings' upon you and that's your mortal coil shuffled off well and good, matey. (At which point your head will spring up off its human/fish/bird/etc body in rather a bizarre fashion.) No. I like to know more where I stand, mortality-wise.
Still, in my book that's not enough to deprive Monty of that oh-so-coveted badge of Megagame fame. It's definitely a tip-top stomper, and, as my mother always told me, you've always got to look on the bright si...
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