Play It Again Sam 6
In this compilation there are four games, Galaforce 2, Hunchback and Hopper (all by Superior) and The Sentinel which was originally by Firebird. This was a strange collection for me, because I normally find that Superior at least includes one complexed game, such as a graphics adventure or Repton style game, but unusually, this one has very simple, arcade games on it, the most complexed being The Sentinel.
I'll start with the worst, because I want to end this review on a good note!
This game started off on a bad note for me, mainly because, when I loaded it up, I could not figure out what the hell I was supposed to do! Normally, before even taking a peek at the manual I at least have a little muck around on the game, check out the graphics etc, before I get into it and settle down to play it properly. However, on this occasion, everything was so strange and weird that I could not even figure out what I was looking at, never mind what I was supposed to do! A look at the instructions did not really help either, I just could not understand what I was supposed to do! Anyway, I eventually figured out that you have to create robots, boulders and trees. You start in a sort of isometrically shaped world, with squares as the surfaces, in a sort of mountain formation.
You have to build robots on the squares higher than you, then transfer to those robots and absorb the old robot, the eventual aim of which is to elevate yourself to a higher position on the map than the Sentinel. To stop you doing this, the Sentinel has several sentries, which try and locate you, and then attack you, draining some of your energy, which you need to build things with. Some sentries change trees into Meanies, which try and get you to reveal yourself, by forcing you into hyperspace, that is, moving you to another location on the map. Now although this may seem very simple, to me it has to be one of the all time worst plots ever for a computer game, it is just complete rubbish! The game actually moves at such a slow pace, that you could easily spend a day on just one level, it really is like a slug. The graphics are very nice and 3d, but what's the point if they hardly move? The sound is about average, with just a few pings and clicks, but the thing is that I have never ever seen any of the meanies or sentries, they just don't appear for me. The furthest I have actually got in this game is nowhere, I have tried playing it several times, but each time I die, for no apparent reason energy gets drained.
I would have to say that this is the worst ever BBC Game I have played. I really do hate it with a passion, and how it got onto a PIAS compilation I will never know!
Ahh, this is a nice little game, programmed by those experts at Acornsoft, who in my opinion created some of the best ever arcade conversions for the BBC, this one you may more commonly know as Frogger. We all know the game play of Frogger, but for those peoples sakes who have been on Mars for the past decade and a half, here it is, you play the part of a frog, trying to get back to his home, unfortunately a road full of traffic and a fast flowing river stands in your way. So, what you have to do is cross the road, by dodging all the traffic, then cross the river on the backs of some friendly turtles (who annoyingly dive more frequently when you are on them :-) and some logs. If you get hit by a car then you lose a life, and if you don't get off a log before it gets to the edge a screen then you die, you must get past all the logs and turtles, and then direct your frog into one of the five spaces on the other bank of the river, when you do that, it is time for the next frog to cross the road, and you repeat this until all five spaces are filled, thus completing the level. As you complete more levels the traffic moves progressively faster, as do the turtles (they also dive more) and the logs, so the game really has no limit of levels, it is more of a high score beater, which is good.
I really like this game because it has a nice set of graphics, the gameplay is focused on, which is important, and it seems to have everything nicely timed, you actually feel yourself getting better as you play more, it has a great learning curve. The sound is nice, with little tunes and all the right effects, and it has that elusive 'just one more play' feeling. A great game overall and certainly lifts the compilation from the depths at which it lay after me playing sentinel first!
One of the golden games of the 80's, this has been ported to just about every format imaginable, certainly all the 8-bitters had this on them. Another simple, yet fun to play game, you are a hunchback, and have to rescue your sweetheart, Princess Esmerelda from the evil clutches of the baddies. The trouble is, you have to dodge the rocks, arrows and holes which stand in your way on each screen (there are 12) Jumping will suffice most of the time, but a keen sense of timing will help on the latter levels. The game is nicely presented in a side view platform style layout, it must have been one of the earliest platform games (earlier than Lode Runner?) and probably sparked off a million Sonic the Hedgehogs in its time.
It has a great set of obstacles to overcome, and each screen is just different enough for you to like, for example, all you have to do on the first screen is jump over a couple of rocks to reach the other side of the screen, but on the second screen you have to swing across a gorge on a rope, nice varying gameplay there. I really like this game, although not as much as Hopper, because it gets very hard at the end. There are some nice sound effects, especially the sound of the Hunchback as he falls to his death! So, another triumph of simplicity over complexity then!
This is a shoot-'em-up style game, in much the same vein as its predecessor Galaforce and also to a certain extent Galaga and Arcadians. Yes, you've guessed it, it's another shoot the aliens in space game, but this time with a difference. I think this game is highly impressive, because not only do the aliens come at you with a startling array of formations and tactics, but also throughout the game there is a great musical score, which really does get the old trigger finger pumping, something that some shoot-‘em-ups sadly lack. Yes, it may be the umpteenth different variation on the Space Invaders theme, but it is definitely one of the best of those variations. Another great thing about it, which is not one of the normal elements of games of the era is the inclusion of Bosses, nice big spaceships, which are harder to destroy, it really makes the end of each phase (determined when you have shot enough baddies) much more enjoyable, and it very satisfying when you shoot them! The action varies in every galaxy (phase) of which there are 16, with completely different formations of aliens, and types of aliens, in each one.
Another good feature is the inclusion of several powerups, such as extra laser power, extra lives, and others, but be careful! There are an equal number of 'power downs' which slow down your movement, decrease fire power etc. Overall, I think this is definitely the best shoot-‘em-up game ever done by Superior. Nothing else can match it for the sheer pace and excitement which you feel when playing it, definitely one for the end of a long, hard day!!
Play It Again Sam 6 shows a triumph of Simplicity over Complexity. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes it can be better to have a well-produced simple game, than a badly-produced, complex game... because there is a lot more that can go wrong when you have such a complex game as The Sentinel. Evidently from the score it received, something has gone wrong!! I don't think this is one of the best PIAS collections - it's definitely not the worst! - but it is definitely one of the more arcade-orientated ones. I suppose that's either good or bad for you, depending on your preference.