Ghouls And Ghosts

Ghouls And Ghosts

Anyway, now I’ve got to try and get through this review without letting a single bit of saucy, blue or otherwise spicy language slip out. She’s really picked the wrong time for these sort of shenanigans as well, ‘cos Ghouls And Ghosts is a right sod (um, okay, a fiver) and just the sort of game that encourages the spontaneous use of colourful colloquialisms. In other words, it’s bloomin’ tricky! (Yikes! £5.20! Oh no, I said “Yikes”! That’s £5.40. I mean 60! Damn! Uh-oh. £5.80) I mean, there you are, wandering along, minding your own business and what happens but a zombie skeleton murderer leaps up out of the ground and has a go at you! Then another one! And another! Vultures fly after you, plants lob skulls, pigs charge, other monsters spit fire and it all gets very unfriendly indeed! And that’s just the first level! It’s enough to make a grown man weep – and take out a blinking standing order with the ruddy swear box! (Another couple of 20 pees. That’s £6.20 you owe. Jackie) Yup, Ghouls And Ghosts is really hard. Perhaps a bit too hard to be friendly. In addition to the baddies, the checkpoints you have to reach to prevent getting sent right back to the beginning are quite far apart, meaning your first hour of playing is Frustration City. At least, it is if you’re as crap as me. (£6.40. Jackie. ) Generally the controls work well but you have to jump up in the air, using your joystick, before you can access the upwards throwing weapons – which is sometimes rather unfortunate because it means you leap so high as to touch the villain you were trying to shoot and so kill yourself. Baddies sometimes rise up out of the ground right beneath you too, giving you no chance. Mmm. Basically really good gameplayers with a lot of perseverance will find it ‘just right’, but ones who are a bit crap might get a bit put off. (What’s that, Jack? Oh, I didn’t say ‘crap’ again, did I? Alright, £6.60. What do you mean “£6.80”?)
Right, now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at, erm, the look of the thing. Even though it’s based on an arcade original, programmers Software Creation seem to have totally thrown out of the window any pretence at emulating coin-op graphics in their conversion. In other words, it looks like a good old fashioned Speccy game, not an ‘interesting’, ‘honourable’ but ultimately failed attempt to recreate the colour and giant sprites of your average snazzy coin-op. Totally the opposite of games like, say, Altered Beast and quite a welcome relief.
The small, monochrome figures you see here may not initially set the pulses racing, but they’re serviceable, have a wide range of movements and don’t get in the way of the extremely challenging gameplay. Later on, when a big, snazzy graphic appears (or a neat little one, like the flickering fire bombs you throw or the rain that falls in some scenes) it’s a nice surprise and sometimes truly stunning. The whole thing is backed by some of the neatest sounds (in 128K) I’ve ever heard on the Speccy, with a real sing-along intro ditty too. Other than that, there’s not much instant appeal here but tons of life expectancy.
So, to sum up, Ghouls And Ghosts makes a welcome change from the recent slick, flash but ultimately shallow coin-op hits which US Gold has produced recently (Fog Worlds, Strider) and shows a massive improvement on the dull conversions it did at the start of the year. It’s good to see the gang producing genuinely good arcadey games again and this must rate as one of the most challenging and playable of the year. A bit of a triumph for USG and Software Creations all round, I think. Blimey O’Reilly O’Rourke!

Karate Ace

Karate Ace

Karate Ace is a whole bunch of games with one thing in common, and it’s not necessarily karate, strangely enough.
However, if martial arts sounds like your idea of fun, this could be your lucky day, ‘cos this compilation contains some of the bestest oriental-type games around (and some of the worstest too). Glancing down the list below, you’ll see that most of them date from the early Mesozoic Era, but why let a minor point like that spoil the fun?
So, chop chop, let’s not hang about. With no discernible attempt at an eastern accent, here’s the rine up…

Way Of The Exploding Fist: Need I say more? Oh really? Sigh. Known as ‘Fist’ to its friends, this is the great-grandaddy of them all, and looks none the worse for wear. Okay, well a bit then. The graphics have since been bettered, and there’s very little variety.
But oh how that beeping intro tune brings back memories! And that eye-watering kick in the goolies, probably the all-time greatest move ever. However, the opponents aren’t too bright, and repeating a certain move a few times gets you through every time. It’s definitely best with two players.
YS hadn’t learnt to count way back in ’85 when this one appeared, so there’s no rating for it, but we liked it all right.

Kung Fu Master: The only coin-op conversion in the collection, and the worst of the lot in my opinion. The idea is to battle through the five floors of a temple to rescue the poor damsel held captive at the top (sorry ladies!).
This involves beating up the obligatory crowd of baddies with the various moves available to you. The graphics really turned heads when the game first appeared – away mainly – and today they look worse still. Slow, stodgy, tons of colour-clash. Playability isn’t too bad, but the whole thing seems so vague it’s unlikely to hold your interest for long.
Kung Fu Master managed an eight first time round, but things have changed around here.

Way Of The Tiger: Maintenant vous parlez. This is a three-part multiloader, but don’t hold that against it.
The graphics are what really makes this one, and they look good, even over two years later. The attention to detail is fantastic, particularly in the backgrounds, where fish plop out of rivers, owls fly overhead and peasants walk past pushing carts. Also worthy of a mention is the 3D parallax scrolling, which works vertically as well as horizontally. A little sluggish perhaps, but it brings a whole new dimension to the game (hence ‘3D’. Gottit?).
The three chunks are Unarmed Combat, Pole Fighting (Warsaw this about, then? Ho-ho) and the grand finale… Samurai Sword Fighting. They’re all good fun, although you’ll be lucky to get a whack in edgeways on the last part.
A Megagame in its time, and it still looks triffic today.

Avenger: Billed as WOTT II (or Wotty), it’s really nothing like the first part. But it’s still darned good.
Gauntlet is what first springs to mind. Same overhead view, same maze, same scrolling, but otherwise totally different. Continuing the beat ’em up theme, in order to dispatch the various nasties that come your way, you can punch and kick in the traditional manner or, if things get desperate, let loose with the shuriken. There are loadsa objects to pick up too, so you won’t get bored.
Once again, graphics are first class (yuk, I hate that programme…) with nice smooth scrolling and there are plenty of sound FX and tunes.
Once again, a Megagame originally, and it holds onto its title on the curtain call.

Bruce Lee: If you thought Fist was going back a bit, how about this? I’m amazed the British Museum let Star Games have the master copy back!
Brucie got mixed reactions when he was let loose on our screens, oooh… must be three years ago now, and I still feel that way now. On the one hand, it’s great fun dashing around the wizard’s fortress collecting lanterns for a while, but as I remember, this was the only game I managed to beat eight times in a row without losing a life. It really is incredibly easy once you get to know the routine. And there aren’t that many rooms to explore, so that doesn’t take long.
The graphics look pretty disgusting as well. They’re primatively drawn, and exceedingly repetitive.

Super Wonderboy

Super Wonderboy

Well, you’ve seen Wonderboy (we gave it to you last ish, remember?), so you’ll know the general format – an up/down, left/right scrolling platformy shoot-’em-up (in various hues of monochrome). Not unsurprisingly, Super Wonderboy is along the same lines, the main difference being that in this game you collect money after dispatching any nasties, and then have the chance to purchase your ‘upgrades’ in the shops which are scattered around the landscape. You ran buy stuff like armour (which makes you harder to kill), shoes (which stop you getting horribleness between be toes when treading on doggy-doos – oh, and help you jump higher) and weapons (such as bombs, whirlwinds and lightning). Some of the shops aren’t actually shops at all though. They contain mega-nasties, which, when killed, release absolutely loads of dosh and either an extra weapon or a key to be next level.
The levels themselves are quite varied (as in the Wonderboy we gave you). There’s land to cross, water to cross, lava to cross, the latter two with the aid of little platforms, both static and moving. There are castles to enter, dungeons to trek through, ramparts to hop, skip and jump along, all the time waiting for the next nasty to come into view. There are loads of little ‘surprises’ in store for you as well as you trundle your way along the pathways. One second you’ll be thinking something tike “My word, what an incredible easy stretch of the game this is” when, all of a sudden, ‘Poof!’ (‘Ere, are you calling Super Wonderboy a poof? Ed), you fall down into a hidden section of the game. It’s more of the same, of course, but there are about eight billion juicy power-ups, so if you’re particularly skill you can actually emerge from them (back into the main game) with roughly the same amount of energy as you bad before you left, but with a whole bundle of bombs, armour and cash to boot. The aim of your quest is to reach a giant dragon at the end of the game and kill it (Which is probably why Wonderboy is wearing a nappy – in case it’s scarier than he’d anticipated.) Killing the dragon means that, as you’d expect, you win the game. But it’s not going to be easy – ‘cos Super Wonderboy is big (big, big). And it’s got a fair old rake of multiload waits to prove if. Too many in my opinion. I’m sure they could have squeezed bigger loads in if they’d wanted to. Another thing that I don’t like is the way your main sprite sort of ‘floats around’ when you move him (make him jump, that is). This was far more ‘solid’ in the game we gave you.
Graphically, Super Wonderboy isn’t quite as good as its predecessor either – things tend to be a little tricky to make out at times. It’s not that bad though, so I won’t have a mega-moan. Playability-wise, certainly, Super Wonderboy is a bit corky. The learning curve is well thought out and you really feel as if you’ve made good progress before you die. You also learn enough in the process to enable you to get much further the next time you have a go, but you still need to be a mite on the tenacious side.