Land Of Mire Mare (Spectrum 48K)
The saga of Mire Mare is well-known in the retro computing world. The very short version of it is that Ultimate began work on it but never finished it, leaving all those who enjoyed Ultimate's other 8-bit offerings (Alien-8, Sabre Wulf, etc) to wonder what might have been. The longer version you can read on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mire_Mare
What we have here is not Ultimate's "lost" Mire Mare; instead, it's a wholly new game which its publisher, AGD Homebrew Games, calls a tribute to that unreleased title. The physical release comes in an oversized black slip-case box in identical style to Ultimate's classic releases, and the cover art and instruction manual are all lovingly done in the Ultimate style.
The game itself is an overhead maze game which, whilst nicely presented, is something of a mishmash of gaming oddities. You control Sabreman (star of Sabre Wulf) and your mission is to collect three magic jewels and throw them into the Well of Mire Mare. Strangely, you cannot pick up the jewels directly if you find them; instead you must be carrying the "pledge" (a random object found in the maze itself) appropriate to that jewel. If so, moving over the jewel will swap the two of them.
You move around the various locations by going in and out of doors, which flicks the screen to the next location. Usually, you have a few seconds' breathing space before enemies begin to teleport in. You don't have any sort of weapon when you start, so you have to defeat them (initially at least) by beating a hasty retreat to "flick-screen" them away!
Even alone, this feature feels like it's breaking half a dozen gaming rules but it is nothing compared to the flashing mushrooms which are scattered throughout the locations and have a 70% chance of killing you - except on the rare occasion when they will boost your energy instead. Naturally, against those odds, you practically need to be at death's door to consider taking the risk.
Cast your mind back to those enemies mentioned earlier. In fact, these enemies number ghosts, soldiers, fires and gas bubbles. None of the weapons you can find (an axe, a staff and a sword) fire bullets, meaning that the only way you can test whether any weapon defeats any enemy is by barging into it and hoping that this won't see your energy wiped out in a fraction of a second.
Why the axe defeats the fire or the staff defeats bubbles is beyond me.
Now, perhaps, AGD included all of the above "features" because they were mentioned in whatever surviving documentation exists about the Mire Mare Ultimate release. I don't know enough about that to comment. What I do know is that they do not hang together well in this tribute; more often than not, my jaunts into Land Of Mire Mare found me backed up against a dead end whilst enemies "hovered" over me until my energy was wiped out.
On that basis alone, I would have trouble recommending you play it. And with all the bizarre fighting weapons, "pledge" items and random death features, it becomes yet more exasperating.
If you can imagine this game on release without the Mire Mare connection, I would be summing up that it was a difficult, colourful, frustrating graphic adventure that doesn't really offer much more than a hundred others.
This being the case therefore, the Ultimate association suddenly becomes a rod for its own back. Clearly, it's an interesting idea to try to "deliver" a game that enthusiasts have always wanted, the splendid packaging is an obvious plus and the game itself is put together well. In all fairness too, I have to point out that you can download it for free - the £24.95 price tag is only for a physical cassette version.
And yet I do still have enormous difficulty with the amount that Land Of Mire Mare is being sold at. It's so high that it leaves AGD open to allegations that this is not so much a tribute as an attempt to cash-in. The game itself is created with Jonathan Cauldwell's Arcade Game Designer utility; so many elements of it are generic. So if you do scout out a physical version, you are paying £25 for a cassette, a black box, some glossy paper and what I assume to be less programming work than has been put into the average Cronosoft title. And to give a more concrete illustration, the same price will buy you six Cronosoft Spectrum games.
Often I can see the sense in collecting up the physical versions as the limited number of them produced means they increase in value very quickly. However, I seriously doubt whether Land Of Mire Mare will ever sell for more than £24.95, so much better to download it instead.