Cronosoft, the long-time Spectrum publisher, is back with two new games this week. Dave Edwards has got hold of the first copies to let us know if they're good enough that you should part with your pennies
Reviewed By Dave E In Micro Mart #1436It's Back! | Deep Core Raider | Scores (Deep Core Raider) | Toofy In Fan Land | Scores (Toofy In Fan Land) | In Conclusion
Cronosoft has been running its retro publishing software house for almost two decades now. Limited print runs mean many of its early games are no longer available and, from releasing a steady flow of new games a few years ago, recently it has been much more quiet. So it's great to see them returning to the fore with not one, but two new games. However, it is returning to a more mature marketplace - Spectrum owners, which are its main customers, nowadays have several hundred new retrogame releases to choose from each week. Not only that, most new releases are 100% free, whilst Cronosoft is sticking to its physical cassettes at £4.99 each. Let's see what you get for your money...
Deep Core Raider invites you to become a space pirate in control of a pod. The instructions explain to you that "deep core raiders" can make a good living from observing the heavens to see which planets are being colonised by the big multi-national companies. When they spot one, in they swoop to steal the equipment to melt it down for scrap. Or something like that anyway.
What the instructions singularly fail to point out however is that you have to collect all the booty in this simplified Thrust-style game. If you leave even a single item behind, the gate to the next planet will remain closed.
Deep Core Raider has just four controls - left, right, fire and thrust. If you're not thrusting, gravity will slowly bring you down to the nearest surface. If it's flat you'll rest on it. Be careful of diagonal surfaces though; you'll skirt down these - possibly straight into the firing line of one of the planet's many automated guns. You don't have to worry about rotating your ship so it's very easy to control it. The biggest problem is timing. The defences tend to fire a shot and then pause for just enough time for you to safely pass. However, you need to position your ship perfectly to avoid such shots, particularly when letting gravity propel you downwards through the line of fire. In such cases, you'll soon be longing for a control that would give your fall a little bit more velocity.
The good news is that you don't die if you hit the walls of the cavern. The bad news is that some caverns are populated not only by guns but also enemies of the type that are spawned from a teleportation point and then rebound around the interior. You can manoeuvre your pod above these and shoot them - but a successful hit only removes the enemy for a nanosecond before he is respawned again at the teleportation point, so it's hardly worth bothering.
Deep Core Raider is a reasonable Spectrum game - it handles well, has a fair measure of variety, is easy to pick up and play and has no colour clash. Unfortunately, it's the type of game that tends to become boring pretty fast.
Toofy In Fan Land isn't new - it's a game I first played in 2012. In it, you play a cute, um, thing (I'm not exactly sure what it is!) that must collect up his nuts from a weird maze world of oscillating fans.
Toofy is almost like one of those games that I tend to categorise as "propelled movement". The ones where you move left, for example, and the sprite flies left until obstructed by something. In the case of Toofy, this propelled movement is caused by the fans that are planted into the walls of the maze. So you move left, right, up and down as normal, but every time you get near a fan, it uncontrollably blows you across the maze, flipping you upside-down in the process. Gravity then reverses to suit the angle at which you're standing, which can be at 0, 90, 180 or 270 degrees.
Toofy is half arcade skill and half puzzler. You need to navigate the fans to get the nut and then escape the room. There are 51 rooms in total. Each room contains an alien who floats diagonally around the room rebounding off the walls. All sprites in the game are quite big which gives the game a cute appearance, but also means screens are quite cramped, so either learned timing or good luck is required not to collide with the alien when the fans do their stuff.
There's no colour clash and the rooms have a steady incline in difficulty, with some nice scales as Toofy gets blown hither and thither. Patience will see you through most rooms but, as each room is more of the same, it's not a particularly addictive game.
There aren't very many games still released on physical Spectrum cassette. I'm not wildly excited about either of these two new games per se and, considering they don't really break any new ground, you wouldn't really expect me to be. Hence their appeal may be limited to those of us who collect the physical versions just so we can admire their beautiful artwork. And for that, Cronosoft, there is certainly a place - and we love you.