Sinclair User21st September 1987
Published in Sinclair User #69
I'm always a bit surprised at the dress sense of your average superhero. No trusty parka or balaclava, no handy first aid kits for those inevitable little amputations that occur in the line of duty. Lion-O, Thundercat super hero is no exception. What must his mother be thinking of. sending him out with just a loin-cloth and head band.
Mind you, he probably got caught on the hop. I mean, it's not every day that a gang of marauding Molemen rush into your gaff while you're in the middle of Grandstand, nick your precious gemstone and run off into the wilderness. Small wonder he didn't have time to put his trousers on.
Anyway, personal tastes aside. Thundercats is a hackety-slash game featuring a suitably (or entirely unsuitably, depending on your viewpoint) fur clad gent who's quite desperate to regain the stone of Thundera, which is the key to his, and all the other Thundercats, power. The bloke who's currently in possession of the jewel is Mumm-ra, who, judging by the tasty digitised picture at the beginning of the game, is an extremely badly wrapped mummy, with quite appalling halitosis.
The race is on - across some fourteen levels of differing landscape, and increasingly repulsive villains. As well as nabbing back the stone, there's a coupla cats to rescue, seemingly the Molemen ran off with one or two of Lion-O's buddies as well. (Don't ask me why they're called Molemen, but there's something very unthreatening about a villain with a long nose and poor eyesight who eats dirt.
All this, however, is more or less irrelevant in the face of the greatest question any hardened games player can ask, that being, "Is it any good?" And the answer, without any doubt whatsoever, is, "No. It's not good, it's absolutely blinkin' marvellous.")
Yes, Thundercats is great. It may well be almost exactly like Hysteria in idea, and very similar to the forthcoming Rastan Saga in the region of loin-cloths, but that doesn't matter a jot. It's still got a certain something about it that lifts it up well above yer average slashety-jab game.
Firstly there's the music. Wonderful, heroic, heavy drum machine sort of stuff. (Rob Hubbard on 128K.) Makes you want to gird up what there is of your loin cloth and get into the breach, so to speak. During the game there's less tune, but I more drum machine. Each time I you kill a baddie there's a sickening thud. Each time you get killed, seven times in a game in all, folks, there's a booming twaaang! and your now lifeless body is hurled across the screen to the accompaniment of a blood-curdling scream. Impressive stuff.
Then there's the graphics, which are superb and in some places, digitized. And that's all down to Gargoyle Games, who undertook the programming of this little licence and turned it into something really special. There's no attribute clash, but loads of colour. The game is filled with it, check out the backgrounds: blocks, boulders, stones and rivers all detailed with relative scrolling. At the top of the screen, whichever level you happen to be on, there's always a picture, the Thundercat's panther-head symbol, a pair of eyes, watching your every move, or a landscape.
You progress through a world in which heavily bandaged individuals have the last say in anything, and things aren't very nice at all. And all you have is a sword, and a good strong, solid running, jumping action to go with it. You move pretty fast, in fact, Carl Lewis with a strong wind behind him would be hard pressed to keep up with you. And because you move so fast, you quite often find yourself pelting headlong into a mole and getting snuffed. There's not much you can do about the baddies, whether they be moles, bats or hunchbacks. Sure you can jump over them or bash 'em with your sword, but should they change direction, or should you swipe just a bit too fast, you're in shtuck. Make contact with a nasty, and you're Mumm-ra's next meal.
Actually, that's the only complaint I have with the game. Perhaps if you didn't belt about the place like a rat up a drain pipe you might live a bit longer, but the baddies don't hang around, so I guess you just got to keep going boy. And going. Trying not to fall in the ponds, because you can't swim (what is it about these guys? You'd have thought even you most basic superhero could've managed the doggy paddle).
I managed around 3 levels of the game - there are 14. The first person to get through the lot deserves a Smartie, because this is one difficult game. Gargoyle has done a splendiferous job on this one, and Elite has surely got a major hit of its hand.
Marvellous graphics, brill sound and fiendish gameplay, Thundercats is "just one more go" with a vengeance.