Play It Again Sam 9
Well, I'm back again for the umpteenth time, and this time it is Play It Again Sam 9 which has fallen into my clutches.
There are four games on this compilation, so I will review each one separately. I will start with probably the funniest Superior Software Game I've ever played, Spycat.
You are Spycat, a member of the covert branch of law enforcement, MI4.5, and after 50 years loyal service you have been retired from duties, with an extremely small pension. Therefore, as any loyal spy would do, you have decided to steal the three secret documents and retire to Greenland to write your memoirs.
The basic game is very much in the mould of Citadel, Castle Quest and all those other great favourites on the Beeb, in that you as the central character have to go around solving visual puzzles and using the right objects in the right places. There is also a bit of enemy negotiating to be done, as you have to escape from the mad machines of Doctor 'Q', cunningly named Clive Amstrad! The controls are more complexed in this game from previous games in the same genre, in that you have a six button panel which is operated with the cursor keys, this can be used to pick up and drop objects, use them, enter doors, and control the sound. Whilst this may seem a good idea in practice it is somewhat fiddly to be controlling the character with the Z,X,: and / keys, whilst simultaneously controlling this panel. It is lucky then that this game does not require a great deal of fast movements.
The graphics in the game are very smartly presented, in the Mode 2 screen, which gives a nice palette of colours to display, and also allows fast flowing graphics. The animation on this game is simply the best I have ever seen in a game of this type, one of the nicest touches is the fact that the character does not simply flip over when you want him to move the other way, but actually turns, it is simple but makes the game a lot more attractive. The game does not suffer from the dreaded flicker that animated objects in some games do.
The gameplay is exciting and fun, the whole Spy genre has a lot of room in it for a good game, and also provides a few laughs along the way. It is also difficult, but not so much that you feel frustrated. The only bad thing about this game is the sound, it is hardly inventive, merely functional. Not a bad attempt from the masters of this genre really!
It may seem a bit foolish to put two games which do not seem all that different on the same compilation, but once you get into it, this game actually differs quite a lot from Spycat. For one thing, it focuses a lot more on the Arcade side of the Adventure genre, really the thinking mans shoot-‘em-up to put it bluntly. The plot of this game is a bit thin on the ground, but it goes like this: you have been thrown out of the kingdom of Camelot, for generally being a bit of a bad king, and you have to convince the people of the kingdom that you are indeed a worthy ruler. So, as is usually the best way to prove you are a bit tough, you have to kill things and find things, and basically be a bit of a royal bully!
The objective of the game is to gain 3000 points, most of this will come from the six bags of gold which give you 450 points each, and also from shooting and killing the various enemies which lie in wait for you around the castle. There are witches and soldiers, witches are harder to kill but gain more points. You can also cast spells, which are strewn about the castle, and these produce various effects. There are also various objects, such as keys to be collected, there are 5 of these. To make the game harder you have a time limit, and a limited amount of energy, a certain amount of this is lost every time you fire. The game is quite large, and although not as difficult puzzle-wise as some of the more famous games such as Citadel or Castle Quest, it is certainly a challenge.
The graphics are good in this game, with some high res mode 4 graphics. These produce a nice overall effect, it is a wonder that the author (Tony Oakden, of Quest and Star Port fame) managed to fit all of them in as well as some of the tasks you have to accomplish! The colours used in the game are nice and bright, and don't clash, but the animation is not really up to the standard of the aforementioned Spycat. Sound in this game is a replica of Tony Oakden's other two games, beeps in appropriate places, no music, but still you can't expect everything!
The gameplay is just what the doctor ordered if you are into the shoot-‘em-up and adventure genres, if you have problems with the puzzles on dedicated puzzle and adventure games, then this is the game for you.
Steve Davis Snooker
Created back in the days when the record collecting cue master was at his peak, Steve Davis snooker was probably one of the first licensed games ever. Now however, Steve is well past his best, and this game can bring you all the satisfaction of playing against the real person, it certainly does have a high level of intelligence. Playing alone against Steve, or with another Human player, you basically have to beat your opponent at snooker. Standard snooker rules apply, with fouls and replays all included.
The game is certainly very hard against the computer, and I think the control system could have been improved a bit. For example, in stead of a length adjustable line which is pointed in the direction you want the ball to go, all you get is a cross hairs which you place on the screen in the direction you want it to go. This makes it a lot harder to line up the shots, and frequently results in the cue ball missing the coloured balls all together!
The graphics in this game are to be frank, quite dull, and not very interesting at all. Instead of green you get a black baize, the black ball is really a white unfilled circle, and the brown ball is a red ball with a green circle around it. Perhaps they could have used shading? Another fault of the game is that when you hit the ball with maximum power, as the cue ball strikes the target ball, it sometimes takes a while for it to register. This sometimes looks very fake and disappointing.
So, not a hugely brilliant game, but then again licensed games never have been known for their outstanding success. Not surprisingly this is the only game that has not actually been written by Superior themselves, but by CDS Software.
The Life Of Repton
In the fifth of the seven Repton games, you have to play through 40 screens, five specific areas each with 8 screens. These are really just new levels and graphics sets for the original Repton 3, but they are interesting nonetheless. You have Baby Repton, Schoolboy Repton, Teenage Repton, Work Repton and OAP Repton. This provides a nice variation in the graphics every 8 levels which is just what is needed. The game also features the often praised game editor, which allows you to create many levels for the game, which you can either play yourself or give to your friends (or maybe enter in a Repton competition?!) The best thing about the editor is that you can design whatever you want about the game, right down to each individual graphics picture.
The gameplay is the same as it has been since Repton 3, this is very varied, and there are many different puzzles which can be completed. Dodging through rocks, collecting keys to turn safes into diamonds, guiding Spirits to their cages to turn them into diamonds, killing monsters. It is all in there, and very interesting and thought provoking to play. In addition to collecting all the diamonds on the level, you have to collect the Crown, and diffuse the time bomb (all you have to do their is after collecting all the diamonds and the crown, walk over it) there is a time limit, which can be extended with the time-capsules. In addition to the monsters and spirits, another enemy is the Fungus, this is a special type of square, which spreads over the screen and blocks off objects. It is essential to stop this from spreading by surrounding it with rocks, or it will block off a diamond! This is all great fun, and one of the best gameplay ideas ever.
The graphics in this game are up to the usual standards of the games with nice fast graphics, and very colourful and detailed sprites. The different graphics sets give a good wide range of different graphics, so you never get fed up of staring at the same graphics. The sound is the usual Repton tune, which is good but annoying after a while. The only minor gripe is that the ting of collecting the diamonds is very high pitched, luckily this can be turned off though!
Definitely one of the best compilations in the series, it has a mixture of games, and only one of them won't be on the screen regularly. For four quality games, this would be cheap at twice the price.