teris

Tetris

Good griefski! If this is an example of the kinda computer game work going on behind that iron curtain, I think I’ll pack my best pair of Levi’s, my little red book, and a years supply of Beatles records! ‘Cos back in the USSR you don’t know how lucky you are, boy.
As you may, or may not have gathered, Tetris, originated in deepest Russia, the land of Stolichnaya, shot putters, and Doctor Zhivago. Fortunately for us, Tetris has now appeared on this side of the great divide, no doubt dropped off by Gorbachev after his last visit to Harrods! And what a cracker it’s turned out to be.
Getting down to the nitty gritty, I can assure you that Tetris will have you hooked from the moment you pick up your joystick. The game is simplicity itself – in fact it seems so simple that I’m surprised no-one has thought of it before.
You are required to slide a number of different shaped blocks together, to form lines across the bottom of the screen. The blocks drop from the top of the play area, slowly at first, giving you a few seconds to turn and position each block as accurately as you can, to form the solid line. If this is accomplished (and it isn’t always that easy!) the line vanishes, leaving a little more room in the playing area to position more blocks. And so on.
Failing to fit shapes together in some kind of order can create a kind of block traffic jam, giving you less and less room to manoeuvre new shapes. If the pile reaches the top of the screen the game finishes. On the other hand, if you become skillo at the game, the speed at which the shapes fall increases, until the drop rate becomes so fast that if you blink you miss two or three blocks!
Points are awarded for placing blocks, and a nice bonus can be earned for completing a solid line. Line making should be your main aim, as the space it creates leaves more room for all the other shapes yet to drop.
Some of the shapes are simple to slot into place, while others, mainly the crooked ones, are an absolute pain. This is where the ‘rotate’ option comes in very useful. Spin a shape in mid-flight until you can easily slot it into the pile of blocks at the bottom of the screen. If you are quick enough a shape can even be shoved under an odd section to fill a gap, but make a mistake and the shape is stuck there for good. It takes rapid reactions and a very good eye even to beat the first difficulty level, so be warned!
As a package Tetris is well smart. The front end is pleasing and easy to use. The nifty scrolling top score message and graphical effects are also a visual treat, as are all the effects used throughout the game. It has the feel of a highly polished program, and it shows. For every level within the game, a different graphical background is displayed, all of which helps to lend the game a generous helping of style, and bumps up the addictiveness mark even further. Aurally the 128K version can boast a wonderful sound track and even the humble 48K has a suitably jaunty little number.
A cracker then, and if there is any justice in the world it’ll be topping the charts by the time you read this. Tetris will appeal to shoot ’em up fans because of the need for quick reactions, and it’ll also attract strategy/adventure buffs thanx to the large quantities of brain power you need to solve it. In fact this game is one of the very few inoffensive, non-sexist, non-violent computer games that will appeal to the whole family, from Grandma down to the pet hamster. So I urge everyone to check out Tetris as soon as humanly possible, or miss out on one of the most original, addictive and playable computer games for quite a long while.
If all that is not encouragement enough to purchase your copy (and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be) then Mirrorsoft has instigated the 1988 Tetris Players All-Comers Championship. The top ten scorers at Tetris will be invited to the National Final in London for a chance to battle it out for the Tetris crown. First prize -a holiday for two in (wait for it) Russia. I kid you not! Of course if you are silly enough not to buy your own copy of the game, you too will be whisked off to the USSR – for two weeks hard labour in a Siberian salt mine. Nuff said!

Antics (Bug-Byte)

Top Games of motorbike racers

Enduro Racer (Activision)

I could do a Top 100 of motorbike racers alone. But in any genre there are standouts and this is this is the best one where you have to jump across rivers by wheelying into logs, and ride around on the backs of palm trees on a beach (ahem). Enduro Racer is the slickest and prettiest racer around, and it’s the kind of game that still won’t be showing its age in 20 years time. If you ever wanted to cross Out Run with Helter Skelter, this is the game for you.

Tetris (Mirrorsoft)

Yes, it’s the game that makes Amiga ans ST owners look at your Spectrum with real jealousy, ‘cos the Speccy version of this classic Russian reaction-tester out performs the 16-bit ports every time. In avoiding the temptation to dress the game up unnecessarily with complicated graphics and pointless shimmering backdrops, Mirrorsoft made sure that Tetris on the Speccy captured all the pure compulsion of the original without distractions. Eve though it’s been done a dozen times on the big machines, the Speccy version is still the best Tetris you can buy.

Renegade (Imagine)

Never mind your Final Fights, never mind your Way Of The Exploding Fists, never mind your International Karates, this is comfortably (if thats the right word) the most brutal beat-’em-up there’s ever been. Eye-watering knees-in-the-groin, sickeningly vicious headbutts, enemies ganging up to hold a player’s arms while someone else punches the living daylights out of him, and the player retaliating with flying kicks at speeding motorcycle riders. (Don’t try this one at home kids.) And all without the slightest danger of ending up in Casualty – what more could you ask?

Antics (Bug-Byte)

There’s no shortage of games which call on you to rescue someone or other. Most of them simply ask you to battle through a hostile scenario and reach your goal, at which point everything magically becomes alright. However, in Antics when Barnabee (the bee) reaches his kidnapped cousin Boris (the, er, bee), the story is only half-complete. Barnabee has to guide the weakened and slow-moving Boris all the way back to the start again and, if he goes too fast, poor Boris gets all confused and lost. The frantic rush to go slowly (if you see what I mean) against a tough time limit makes this just about the most heart-wrenching game in the whole world. Aw shucks.

Games

More or Less Games

100 – ZZoom (Imagine)

This was probably the first Speccy game designed with sadists in mind. In itself it was a zappy and challenging shoot-’em-up, but the most fun in Zzoom was to be had by mercilessly slaughtering the refugees you were supposed to be protecting, and watching them spin up in the air in a bloodied mess. If you had the immense self-discipline needed not to do this though, you could console yourself by playing a fast and smooth 3D blaster that was more than a little bit ahead of its time, as well as being probably the original Imagine’s finest hour.

99 – Maziacs (DK ‘Tronics)

The advertisements for this claustrophobic maze game (actually an update of Mazogs, probably the most popular ZX81 game ever) claimed that the fight sequences were choreographed with the aid of a real live stuntman, and for once you could almost believe it. It wasn’t a games for arachnophobes though, as seeing your brave little adventurer clamped broken-backed between the jaws of an evil spider-like Maziac was enough to put a shiver up the spine of all but the most stout of heart. Maziacs was a game with more character than a thousand Turricans, and more horror than all the Nightmare On Elm Street movies put together.

98 – Pheenix (Megadodo)

There are people who would have you believe that Pang, or Toki, or even Midnight Resistance represents the pinnacle of the art of Speccy coin-op conversion. Not so. The true zenith was reached as far back as 1983 with this flawless copy of the arcade game Phoenix (forerunner of this year’s [1991] Megaphoenix from Dimanic). It’s sill the zappiest Space Invaders-type shoot-’em-up there is, and you don’t need five O-Levels (or even more than three fingers) to play it!

IK+

IK+

Ancient Japanese legend tells of a time when software producers were so short of ideas that all they could come up with were hundreds of Exploding Fist clones. They say old legends never die…
I needn’t tell you what International Karate Plus (or IK+, as System 3’s trying to sell it as) is the follow-up to. That you can probably work out for yourself. What you may be clamouring to know, on the other hand, is what progress has been made since those early days, if any.
The most obvious development is that with Plus, there are three blokes on-screen at once. Up to two of them can be controlled by players, so if two people are playing it’s often a good idea to finish off the computer’s fighter first and then get down to the nitty gritty.
Why? Well, the bods who come first and second in each round get to move on to the next round, but the dishonourable tosh who comes third has to pack his kimonos and leave.
Every couple of rounds there’s a bonus screen in which you have to deflect balls that come bouncing towards you to score extra points. And there’s also a more than reasonably listenable 128K soundtrack, which helps to cover up the otherwise naff sound effects.
All the familiar moves are here, plus some you may not have encountered before. My personal fave’s the headbutt, closely followed by the double face kick which lets you flatten two other players at once. Mean stuff.
I can’t say I thought much of the graphics, though. They’re all sort of splodgy with thick black outlines, but at least they do the job. The background is nice, though, with an interesting wobbly effect on the lake. (What poetry! Make this man the Poet Laureate immediately! Ed) So, although this is probably the best of the karate games, it’s still… just another karate game. There’s no attempt here to prod anything new out of the old genre, except of course that’s it’s more slickly programmed and a bit more fun to play. The package is different; the game remains the same.
Still, anyone still playing Fist after all these years shouldn’t miss out on this one. Haaaaiiiiiiiiiieeeeeee THWOKK!

Games

Games that Can Never Be Forgotten

Growing up wasn’t an easy process, and we had a couple of sources to help us get through. For some, these sources may be books, and for some, it may be gaming. Since the topic is quite clear, we are going to elaborate more on the latter. Gaming has always been right in the corner to help you make the most out of life. But what kept this going were a couple of games that have gained the classic status. By all means, these games will never be forgotten. Hence, to shed light on this platform, here are those games.

Grand Theft Auto (GTA)

Grand Theft Auto

 

It is quite hard to forget the virtual world of crime since GTA was one of the first games that could give an adrenaline rush. With various tasks and missions, Rockstar Games kept matters alive and made GTA a brand name. Thanks to its immense popularity, each instalment kept launching something new, and you needed a better graphic card. When matters escalated to PlayStation, things were exciting.

Need for Speed (NFS)

Apart from crime, one also refused to take their hands off the wheel, as they went over hurdles to win races. Yes, that’s right. NFS was more than just a game since for many it was the closest they came to a car. The virtual driving experience was well appreciated, and people tagged alone. NFS may not have done business like GTA, but they have their ground to rely on. Staring the fanbase with Most Wanted, the NFS team went forward to gift players the right dosage of fun and excitement.

Call of Duty (COD)

COD

 

The life of a soldier is something that many dream off since expectations cannot be reality. Due to that purpose, COD came and swept things away in the right manner. Be it graphics or the attention to detail; the game had everything in place. The weaponry and camaraderie were realistic, as they took control of your emotions. With various versions, Activision kept things alive, and the COD fanbase grew larger and larger.

The Mario Series

Before understanding what true graphics was, you spent a considerable part of your childhood taking a man through blocks. The Mario series was an essential part of gaming, and we are all aware of the same. Despite restrictions, there was a strange force that kept us going as we got addicted to this particular game. A small part of survival was based on such matters, and the Mario series offered the same reality check. With newer versions of these games coming now and then, it is quite hard for the next generation to remember the classic ones. But as long as things remain at the back of your head, you’ll be fine.

 

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.