Putting the boot in
Like The Big K.O. and the various karate games that have appeared on the BBC Micro, By Fair Means Or Foul allows the player to execute a variety of boxing moves. These include a body blow, uppercut, standard punch and duck punch - all perfectly legal boxing manoeuvres.
You can also move backwards and forwards and block your opponent's blows by engaging either a high or low guard. Four foul moves are also permitted - a head butt, knee kick and groin punch - hence the name of the game.
Of course, like any boxing match, the fights in By Fair Means Or Foul are supervised by a referee, who will try to ensure a good, clean fight. However, there are times when his attention wanders.
So, if you want to play dirty, strike quickly. The probability of executing a foul move without attracting the referee's attention is indicated by the colour of a silhouette below your score.
If the figure is red, you will certainly be spotted by the referee; orange indicates that you stand a reasonable chance of getting away with a foul move. A green silhouette indicates that any dirty move will certainly not be seen.
The referee's attention is constantly changing, so he may be watching one competitor with an eagle eye while the other may be able to execute all kinds of ungentlemanly moves.
You start off with five lives but will lose one if you are caught attempting an illegal move.
Each player has an energy level which falls every time his opponent lands a punch. If it reaches zero he will lose a life.
Your energy does build up gradually as you regain your strength, but you will have difficulty in avoiding your opponent for any great length of time. However your energy is restored to maximum at the end of each round, so you can sometimes hang on to fight another day.
Rounds are one minute long, but the time can seem to go very quickly if you are losing. If neither player manages a knockout, the one with the higher energy level at the end of the round is the winner and the defeated player loses a life.
If you manage to defeat your opponent five times you go on to fight for a more imposing title against a tougher adversary. Needless to say. the game will come to an end if you lose your lives first.
Like author Michael Simpson's other game, Way Of The Exploding Fist, By Fair Means Or Foul pits you against a number of increasingly skilful and vicious opponents. The first one only knows a few of the available moves and is a fairly clean fighter. Later opponents can call on a wider range of skills and manoeuvres and do not hesitate to use them.
The ring scene graphics are not particularly impressive and the overall impression is of a game rather devoid of colour - a stark contrast to Exploding Fist. However, the animation of the two boxers is very lifelike as they swing their arms and jump around on their toes.
Another nice touch is the way that a board showing the number of the current round drops gently down from the top of the screen.
The crowd certainly believes in audience participation and, if you manage to land a punch, a little "Get him!" or "Again!" speech bubble appears in the air behind you. If you succeed in winning a round, your fans go wild and celebrate with a deafening roar. However, they are not particularly patient and will soon start to shout "Chicken!" if you are seen to be avoiding the action. The referee is a little more subtle - he just goes to sleep!
Above all, the audience likes to see clean fighting. If you or your opponent stoop to ungentlemanly tactics, the crowd soon voices its disapproval by booing the offender.
Like Fist, By Fair Means Or Foul includes options for either one or two-player combat, so you can play either against the micro or another human opponent. The players can be controlled using either the keyboard or joystick, but the latter is very much easier if you have the usual complement of hands.
Although most games now feature joystick control. By Fair Means Or Foul actually allows them to be selected individually, so that one player can use the keyboard and the other a joystick - a rarely-seen feature.
You can switch the sound on or off at will - and if you don't like the crowd turn them off as well. A demo mode gives you a good idea of strategy and gameplay - watch closely.
The package includes a specially extended version written to take advantage of the extra memory built into the Master 128 and Master Compact.
The most impressive feature of this is the introductory page that shows head-and-shoulders portraits of the six pugilists - including two giant images of the two about to play. A nice touch is that the boxers actually look like their portraits. Other new features are multi-channel music and a scrolling high-score table.
By Fair Means Or Foul is the result of a well-used idea approached from a different direction and, as such, has been implemented well. However, in spite of the extra features provided by the Master version. I still feel that it does not knock Way Of The Exploding Fist off the top spot of BBC Micro combat games. I will be interested to see if anything ever does.