Commodore User

Stifflip & Co.
By Palace
Commodore 64

Published in Commodore User #46

Stifflip & Co.

Dash it all! This confounded game just about takes the biscuit. I've been playng the deuced thing since the sun sank below the yard-arm, and I haven't once clapped eyes on that arch-bounder Count Chameleon. My intrepid crew are all up to their jodphurs in leeches and quicksand, and the whole bally show is crawling with beastly poncho wallahs who've never heard of the Marquis of Queensbury.

What's worse, old boy, is that the ruddy thing is so damnably addictive that in no time you find yourself talking like Bertie Wooster.

Stifflip & Co. is a jolly romp in stuffed shirts and pith helmets through the steamy jungles of some nasty foreign country. It's also a frightfully difficult two-part graphic adventure, with some arcade interludes, from the fiendish rotters who brought us Zoids and The Fourth Protocol - Binary Design.

Stifflip And Co

The storyline sounds exactly like an old "Goon Show" broadcast. The contemptible Count Chameleon is threatening to loosen stiff upper lips, relax moral standards and sabotage cricket balls everywhere with his devilish Rubbertronic Ray. Only that fearless flying ace Viscount Sebastian Stifflip, and his eccentric band of explorers, can stop this impertinent cad!

At the beginning of Part One, "Out for the Count", we found the heroic foursome broiling in the midday sun at the Banarnian Airport, greeted unsmilingly by the trigger-happy General Moustachio. One wrong move, like resorting to fisticuffs - 'Not my best notion', mutters Stifflip - and the quest abruptly ends in a spatter of machine-gun fire.

But, provided Stifflip does the sensible thing, the dastardly plot proceeds in a series of detailed black-and-white cartoon frames, showing the character currently under control, the location, and some of the objects to be found. As the action gets underway, each scene is wound upwards and the next scene appears below.

Stifflip And Co

All movement, speech and other actions are carried out with the joystick selection of icons and menus, allowing your team to 'Chinwag', 'Beetle Off', engage in 'Fisticuffs' or 'Do One's Stuff'. This is last option throws up a lengthy menu of all those activities essential to adventuring, enabling characters to pick up, drop, climb, jump, open, close, chop, untie, blow down, etc, etc. It's a surprisingly large range of possible actions, and there is usually some way of performing whatever eccentric notions come to mind.

Control can be switched at will between the four explorers, from Stifflip himself to Miss Palmyra Primbottom (member of the Women's Temperance League for Clothing Savages), or Professor Braindeath's ('clinically dead') or Colonel R. G. Bargie (GNT and Bar). Selecting the 'Meanwhile...' icon, followed by the portrait of the desired character, causes the cartoon frames to be peeled away, like a page turning, to reveal a new set underneath.

This is only one of the many astounding graphic effects borrowed from the movies. Others include a wonderful dream-dissolve for Pause Game; dramatic close-ups of snake fangs, fists and deadly bees; and shrinking circular cutouts for 'The End'. Sound effects too owe a lot to Hollywood - distant jungle drums, the whoop-whoop of gibbons, the hiss of snakes, and the sudden crashing chord (dum de-dum DUM!) when a villain appears.

Stifflip And Co

Although there is no text input, the problems Stifflip & Co. encounter in the swamps, treetops and Inca temples are very much in the classic adventure tradition. There's the barman who won't serve anyone, the radio which doesn't work, the hanging vine which leads nowhere, the telescope which can't be used, the wall cloth which is just out of reach, and the temple door which is jammed tight.

Some locations, once entered, seem to have no exits, while others only lead directly into a rope-trap, a sheer drop or a darkened cave. One of the most diabolical is the leech-infested quicksand, though if you've seen Dr. No and The African Queen, you should be able to sort that one out. Studying the cassette cover and the free poster often reveals useful information.

If all this wasn't enough, you've still got the Count's hook-nosed, poncho-wearing henchmen to deal with. This is where the game moves into the Fisticuffs arcade sequence, with its multi-window screen crowded with springs, boxing gloves, bull's eyes and test-your-strength machines. Battling it out is fun but energy-consuming, and at first you'll opt for the below-the-belt punch. Be warned, however, such unsportsmanlike behaviour will eventually bring retribution from the Celestial Umpire!

And, of course, even if you finish Part One, there's still Part Two, 'The Final Countdown', waiting on the flipside of the cassette.

Stifflip & Co. is one of the most accomplished, and certainly one of the most enjoyable, graphic adventures I've seen. The presentation and icon control should be attractive to gamers who get put off by all that tedious text input associated with adventures, and will allow them to concentrate on solving the problems rather than finding the correct vocabulary. Seasoned explorers will find much to keep them busy too, though some of the tasks might ring familiar bells.

All in all, then, a damn fine show.

Bill Scolding

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