Play It Again Sam 3
Play It Again Sam 3 is the third in the long line of brilliantly good compilations from Superior, and boy is this a good one! With four games, Commando, Killer Gorilla, Killer Gorilla 2 and Palace Of Magic. As there are four games, I will review each separately, and then draw the compilation together for an astoundingly brilliant conclusion type thing. So hold on, and get ready for the first!
This is an arcade conversion. of a highly successful coin-op made by Capcom. It has been converted to the BBC by Elite, one of my favourite software companies, also behind hits like Airwolf and Paperboy. The game does have a basic shoreline, but as with all shoot-'em-ups, it is not really that important. Here though, is a brief description of the plot. You are Super Joe, a crack combat soldier. Armed only with a machine gun, you must battle your way through the hoards of marauding rebels, who seek to kill you. You must advance your way through the enemy and on to the final destination, the fortress. The nearest you could probably come to another game like this would be Cannon Fodder on the PC and Amiga, but on a more simplistic level. It is quite an ambitious game to do on the BBC, particularly with the many objects that are on screen at once, but it is a testament to the game that the Beeb handles everything the game comes up with, most of the time with relative ease. In this game, the only thing you have to do is shoot, gun down as many troops, armoured vehicles, troop carriers, mortars and missiles as you can, and dodge the ones you miss! I liked the way you can also fire grenades, their main use is to lob them over the sandbag walls that some of the soldiers hide behind, I don't normally use them though.
When you first start the game, it is very easy, and you don't actually have to shoot much, just dodge your way through the enemy soldiers, occasionally picking off a few that get in the way. Somehow this game manages to be intensely satisfying though, there's nothing like pretending that the soldiers are your boss/teacher, it brings a whole new dimension to the game! All too soon though, the game becomes harder, with more soldiers advancing towards you, and you can reach quite a frantic pace in the later levels, where dodging the bullets and mortars really takes precedence over the 'dodge some, shoot a few' style play of the earlier levels. This is another good thing about the game, the learning curve feels just right, you aren't put into an impossible situation at the start, and you don't feel like the game is a complete walkover, in fact, you can clearly notice when you are getting better, something that not many other games achieve.
There are not all that many arcade conversions available for the BBC, and this has got to be amongst the best, but the game does have one stumbling block, that lies in the graphics. Being set in the lowest resolution mode is not all that important, it is the limited colour depth which shows, because the bullets are the same colour as the rocks in the ground, sometimes you cannot see the bullets heading towards you, particularly when there is a lot on screen, so you can end up dying in a most infuriating way! The sound on this game is very average, only a few bangs to show shooting and explosions, and they aren't that good at all. The strange thing is, in this game there is absolutely no music whatsoever. Considering this is an arcade conversion, you would at least expect some music, but there is none! The gameplay is definitely the best part of this, it's ultimately repetitive, but fun, and as far as I know (there is no mention of size in the instructions) this is a huge game, and quite difficult towards the end. My best score is 25,300, so if anyone can beat that I want to know! All in all, a good game, but the graphics let it down a bit.
This is probably the first ever platform game, originally created by Nintendo - ever heard of them? It was the game which catapulted them to fame, and has probably been played by millions of people over the years. The game was known as Donkey Kong, and starred that master of plumbing Mario, but since being produced for the BBC by Micro Power it has undergone a few changes (probably to avoid copyright). The main character has been replaced by a name- less person, and the game renamed Killer Gorilla.
None of these changes really detract from what was, and to some extent, still is, a great game. The plot is simple; the evil Donkey Kong has kidnapped your girlfriend, and you have chosen to try and get her back. The game is sort of set in a building site, the Donkey Kong has climbed up high, and you must climb up the ladders and other obstacles, whilst he tries to stop you by throwing large barrels down the tower towards you. You can either jump over the barrels, or get one of the hammers and smash them. The latter way is easier, but you cannot climb ladders with a hammer in your hand, so you must wait until it disappears, usually a few seconds later. When you climb up to the top of the screen, the Donkey Kong runs away again, up to the next level, of which there are four in all.
So, this is a simple, yet fun to play game, sometimes frustrating, especially the way that sometimes there are many barrels rolling all after each other, but there is not enough space between them to jump over them in more than one jump, and one jump will not clear all of them! On the later levels there are things such as conveyor belts, flying girders, barrels of fire, and moving ladders, all of which make the task of completing the level harder. To get bonus points, you must collect the various items which the girlfriend has dropped, again these are placed in suitably difficult places to reach. The game is quite hard overall, and not something which you could easily complete. The four levels might make it sound easy, but once you finish level four, the game goes back to a harder version of level 1, which can extend the playing time of the game, perfect for people who like to build up big scores!
The sound is suitably good, and the title music is good too, but the sound that the main character makes when he moves, a sort of squelch sound, does not sound good, and is very annoying! A nice little tune plays when you complete a level but, apart from that, during the game there is no music. The graphics are actually quite good, something Micro Power was well known for, and they are nice and colourful, whilst being fast. The game play is what you would play this game for, a true classic, you have to own it. If you like platform games, then you have to get the one which formed the genre! Overall, a great game, if you like beating high scores and you want to see The original platformer, then go for it!
Killer Gorilla 2
Ok, so you might think that having the sequel to a game on the same disk as the original would be a bit of a stupid idea, but this one actually works! If you like games with monkeys in, then you'll definitely want this disk, but others will just appreciate the games for what they are, and would have probably preferred a bit more variation in the genres chosen on the disk. Two of the same genre is a bit much, but this game is significantly enough different from its prequel, reviewed above, to be considered a worthy addition to a Play It Again Sam disk, and it does have the attraction of being a Superior Software- written hit, the first reviewed on the disk!
The plot of this game actually has nothing whatsoever to do with the first one, a good start by anyone's measure. The story (what little of it there is) is that the evil gorilla Morris has kidnapped Killer Gorilla Junior. Playing the character of Killer Gorilla, you must rescue him from the cage he is imprisoned in. You must collect the keys to the cage before the bonus counter reaches zero, or you die. You have to dodge through the snappers, little crocodile things which kill on contact; the birds, which do the same; and the electric spikes, which (somewhat surprisingly) kill on contact! You can try and crush them by knocking off the apples and pineapples hanging from vines. The main part of this game features swinging on vines, and jumping, a lot like platform games usually do, and it can get very infuriating when you always fall off of the vines, because it can get hard to judge whether you can reach the next vine by simply swinging to it, if you try and you can't then you will fall down and die.
I thought that dying by just falling, from any distance, was a bit harsh, energy levels would have been better, or a limit so that you could safely drop from a small distance. The graphics in this game are a lot better than the ones in the original, Superior have gone for a higher resolution, and less colours, which makes all the difference. Cutesy graphics however do not make a good game, and it is a shame also that the sound is no better than in the original, with just a few beeps and bangs for the main sounds, a bit disappointing.
They say that the sequel is never as good as the original, and this is certainly no exception to the rule, but you may want to play it if you don't have anything better to do.
Palace Of Magic
This is the 'feature' game of the disk. There is normally one on every disk, a true Superior hit, normally every bit as good as its title says, and this is definitely one of those games. This game, you may be pleased to hear, does have a relevant plot. It is a graphics adventure, and the story goes that you have been reduced to the size of a Dwarf, after offending the evil wizard Caldeti (an anagram of Citadel, another good Superior adventure), and you have been banished to one of Caldeti's old homes, the Palace of Magic.
The only way for you to escape is to search for a transporter system, and activate it. So, you must move through the palace, searching for keys and other objects of use, to get through the castle's many rooms and eventually find the teleportation system. Keys are all differently coloured, and have to be used with the correct coloured door. Sometimes this can be difficult, you think you have found the correct key for the door, but it isn't it, this is because the doors are coloured half in one colour and half in another, so you may have the key with a green top half, but a white bottom half, whereas the door may have a white top half and a green bottom half, so there are two different green and white doors and two different keys! I advise you to make a map of the rooms, you'll never remember all the details otherwise! Objects also do things, there are things such as treasure chests, and gold bars, I have also found a cross, but I don't know what this is used for.
You can collect up to two objects at the same time, this makes the game harder because you always have to juggle the objects in your inventory, so you could never complete it in one go, you'd never get the right things in the right stages. The best way I have found to go about, is by exploring segments, finding new rooms, and once you have made a complete map, plan a way through that can do everything in as little time as possible. You also have an energy level, which decreases as you bump into the various creatures of the castle, and a very annoying thing is that you can 't actually shoot anything, which means you must dodge them, something that is very hard most of the time, and so this brings me to... the top hats!
These hats are spread around the castle to help you; when you pick them up, they instantly give you an energy boost, to replace energy lost from skirmishes with enemies, or from the way you naturally lose energy as you go through the game. This is a huge game, and I still haven't completed it, after playing for many hours, I still haven't got a complete map! Superior has a strong tradition of creating great puzzle and adventure games, Baron, Citadel, Ravenskull, Quest and Star Port to name but a few, this is definitely one that ranks up there with the likes of Castle Quest and Citadel, a truly great adventure!
The graphics are good, detailed and speedy, good colour variation throughout the rooms, and everything is represented clearly, no flicker in any of the sprites, something that some other action game could learn from. The music is sparse, in fact there is absolutely none that I have heard, and again the sound effects seem very minimal, something shown throughout the whole disk, which is strange given the exceptional musical capabilities of the BBC Micro! This is definitely one of those games that keeps you up until the early hours - great gameplay, solid graphics and all in all great value for money, the £6 that you pay for the compilation would be a good price for this game alone! Buy the compilation just for this game if you're into adventures - you won't be disappointed!
So, that's the compilation, two competent platformers, one slightly-flawed-but-otherwise-great shooter and one brilliant adventure, not bad for six round pounds, eh? If you like nice music with your games then steer clear of this package, but if you just feel like a good adventure, then buy this. You can play the others when you get stuck on Palace Of Magic, then return to it when you feel refreshed!!!