Category: Uncategorized

Bite The Dust (1988)

Introduction

DJ Nicko (who looks a lot like Kermit the Frog) has discovered a diamond mine and must collect as many diamonds as possible for his ‘female companion’ Julie. In doing so he must avoid falling boulders, vicious spiders, killer skulls and homing omlettes(!)

These spiders must be led into webs to get diamonds.

This is a mix-up of Boulderdash (the basic concept and small graphics) and Repton on the BBC (the extra features like spirits/spiders and cages/webs and the more thoughtful and stategic gameplay). It’s pretty good too, especially considering it was given away as a free game on a 1988 Crash Magazine Tape.

Graphics

There’s nothing spectacular here in terms of graphics, they are very basic. The main character DJ Nicko has some charm in the way he flops rather than runs around the levels. As I mentioned earlier he looks a bit like a baby Kermit or even Crazy Frog (perhaps betraying his Euro-dance origins!). This makes him rather charming. Considering this is the Spectrum it’s also nice that the display scrolls. It’s not the smoothest scrolling ever but still, it’s nice to have.

DJ Nicko must collect the diamonds without crushing himself.

Sound

Fairly basic sound effects but there’s an upbeat tune that plays the whole time. I can’t quite figure out what it is but it’s similar to The Entertainer (which was used in Repton) It’s a little bit slow and plinky and it can interfere with your concentration a bit – especially when you have to plan your route through a particularly complex arrangement of boulders and diamonds.

Gameplay

It’s the standard Boulderdash gameplay- Collect all the diamonds on the level within the time limit, but avoid being crushed by boulders or touched by enemies. You learn the rules pretty fast: Boulders will fall if 1. Unsupported 2. On top of a diamond/boulder/slope that has no objects directly to one side. You often have to make boulders fall to clear your way to the diamonds.You must also be careful not to trap or crush yourself. As the game’s complexity ramps up, you’ll really need to think 3 or 4 moves ahead. There’s a time limit so think fast!

Level Design is both clever and sensible – basic techniques are introduced early in the game by giving player simple puzzles to solve that require their use. This means you’ll always have a good idea of what to do when the puzzles get more complicated and taxing.

It is possible to get stuck in the game – usually trapped by surrounding boulders. If this happens you’ll have to wait until the clock runs down and are whisked back to a restart point. However accidentally trap some diamonds with boulders and then walk through a restart point – and you’ll then have no chance of completing the level. Your only option will be to start again. Thankfully you are given a password each time you complete a level, so you can restart again on the last level you reached,


There is also a nice addition to the game in the form of an editor that allows you to make your own levels and save them.

Three Moments From The Game

Unlocking The Safes (be careful!)

Collecting a key turns all safes into diamonds. But be careful – unsupported boulders on top of the safes will fall!

Crushing an Omelette(!)

Omelettes hatch from eggs which will home in on your position. This may seem a bit weird but in Repton monsters hatch from eggs, so the author has had to change things a bit. You need to crush the omelettes with a boulder because doing so will give you a diamond, and you always need to collect every diamond possible before you can move on to the next level.

In the above sequence of screens, DJ Nicko lures a homing omelette into a boulder-trap and then brutally murders him. All for a diamond!

Pon De Restart

Having played a lot of Repton in my youth I assumed these were transporters but they are actually restart points. They are often handily positioned so that you will walk-through one after solving a particularly tricky puzzle.

The Verdict

While this is an addictive game but I wouldn’t always describe it as fun. You get satisfaction from solving puzzles and it’s addictive trying to get further in the game. The controls are responsive although you don’t really have that much chance out-manoeuvering a homing enemy when it gets close.

What I would Change

The graphics – they are very simple and functional. Apart from the way DJ Nicko moves, there’s no real charm or artistry to them at all. Plus the basic concept could have done with a refresh, this is basically a copy of Repton with smaller graphics and no new ideas. I would have liked to have seen things shaken up a bit. Set it in a new location e.g. space, a city (perhaps use a digger for the main character) and have different objects with different rules. I personally need something fresh to get me excited about another Boulderdash/Repton style game.

The Final Score

A simple game, that’s well-executed and borrows all of it’s gameplay from other games but does it well and is addictive. Only really worth playing if you love this kind of game because the original games that this is based on are much better. 5/10

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Goldwood (19xx)

Plot

I have no idea, the game doesn’t say. It seems to be Tolkien inspired (there is mention of hobbits: “thieving hobbits”, and there’s even a ring). You start in a wood, there’s a brook and a castle nearby. So it’s set in┬ávery traditional fantasy setting.

This was a random choice of game (see my ‘About‘ page) and I can’t find out an exact release year – so maybe it was unreleased. I do know it was ‘published’ by Xcellent Software however.

Graphics

Each location is accompanied by a colourful illustration. They are not exactly Van Gogh but are often helpful in giving you a better idea of what you might be able to do in a location.

Gameplay

This is a text adventure. Not the sophisticated variety where you can type “TAKE THE ROCK AND THROW IT AT THE WINDOW.” This is the simpler kind where you type “N, S, E, W, GET SWORD, E, N, KILL TROLL” and then rather hopefully “OPEN DOOR WITH KEY”, and it replies “I don’t know how to do that.” Then you try “UNLOCK DOOR” and it says “I don’t know how to do that.” Finally, through trial and error you realise that “OPEN DOOR” works as long as you are holding the right key in your inventory.

AARGHHH! “EXAMINE MOUND” is what I needed here.

To put it bluntly, Goldwood is very annoying in this way. Even typing “INV” instead of INVENTORY to display the contents of your pack fails. Usually part of playing these types of games, is getting inside the author’s head to understand their logic and way of thinking. However Goldwood is so unfriendly and inflexible that it makes you not want to bother.

The descriptions aren’t very helpful or detailed. You enter a hut where there is a “Long narrow hole”. I assumed this was a hole in the ground and only much later realised it was a hole you could poke a STICK into to open a secret passage. The game also doesn’t like you EXAMINE-ing anything. “Why do we have to examine everything?” Which at first seems like a bold rebellious statement against standard text adventure convention, but soon you’ll realise – by the dearth of clues, and lack of flexibility in the parser – that it’s just a lazy way of putting less content into the game.

The Verdict

I have played a few text adventures in the past. This seems like quite a small one. I managed to reach 40% completion after about 2 hours play. Most of which was spent wasting time. If I knew what I was doing, I could have reached this point in 10 minutes. After a while you do learn instinctively what you might need to type in a situation, and the game becomes a little more fun. Overall it’s still poor though.

By Spectrum adventure standards this is probably a 2/10. It has a terrible parser, it’s inflexible – you can’t “DRINK BOTTLE”, but you can “DRINK FLUID” (the fluid is in the bottle), it uses odd words for things, and besides the satisfaction you get from solving puzzles, it isn’t much fun to play.

By today’s standards this is a 1/10.