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Review by Crispin Boylan Play It Again Sam 4 Available From: Superior Software Price: £11.95 (£6 for 8BS members) Type: Four games on compilation: Frak! - Platform Cosmic Camouflage - Shoot 'em up Grand Prix Construction Set - Racing Spell Binder - Graphical Adventure As you can see from the games on the compilation, this is a mixed bag, which in my opinion is a good thing, too many games of one type can seriously affect your opinions of a particular genre. Well, this is the fourth of the Play it Again Sam compilations, and there are four games, which I will review individually, so lets get cracking, no time or space to lose, and here we go! .... 1. Frak! This is not actually a Superior Software game, but an Aardvark software one, particularly notable for their excellent conversion of the Arcade classic Zalaga, and for the brilliant Firetrack. This however, is an extremely different type of game from either Firetrack or Zalaga, and it proves that trying to be a Jack of All Trades is more likely to make you look like a bit of a Joker! This is the fairly standard platform type of game, you have to collect all the keys and also for the bonuses there are bulbs which increase the time you have left before it gets dark, and gems for extra points. You do all the normal platform game things, climb ladders, use a yo-yo to kill monsters, balloons and knives which kill you if they touch you, and generally progress through the screens by picking up all the keys. If you run out of time on the screen, then it becomes night-time and you can still continue, but can't shoot knives or balloons with the yo-yo. The Scrubblies are the most pointless things I have ever seen in a computer game, they are big purple things with teeth, they don't actually do anything, just stand on the platforms, waiting to be killed, one question - why are they there? It just seems very silly to put something in a game that doesn't do anything, a bit of resistance to the yo-yo I would have expected, maybe a bit of movement? They do kill you if you touch them, but its not the sort of thing that happens is it? I do not like this game at all, for me it is just a very annoying game, the character seems very slow in his movements, the game just has no sense of urgency about it, and it is way too hard for my liking. The daggers and balloons seem to home in on "Trogg" ( the main character) and it all becomes too annoying when they seem to fly towards Trogg much faster than he can react, in fact, I have never even completed the first screen! So, the gameplay is not up to much, but what about the graphics and sound? Well, actually they're not too bad, the graphics are pleasant enough, well drawn, and at medium resolution with good use of the colours, they move well, if slowly, so all in all they are quite good. The sound is also quite good, it has a nice little tune playing in the background, so it's not too annoying or too loud, the sound effects are nice, the appropriate sounds for collecting items, and a good, if annoying sound for the footsteps of Trogg, so nothing wrong there then! Overall then, this game is a bit of a stinker really. Ok, so the graphics and sound are nothing to be scorned, but like kit cars, you can't put the body of a Porsche on the engine of a Ford Fiesta and expect a sports car, and in this case, the engine is most definitely the gameplay. Overall 54% 2. Cosmic Camouflage Wow, after seeing Frak being solidly beaten into a pulp with the big reviewers hammer, next up for the hot seat is Cosmic Camouflage, the sequel to Meteors which is an original game by Superior Software, if the words 'sequel' and 'original' go together. Let's start with the plot, I'm 99.99% sure that everyone who reads this review have played, or at least heard of Asteroids, the old classic game of one little ship shooting loads of asteroids in to loads of smaller asteroids, mixed in with a few random flying saucers, and then shooting the little asteroids into nothingness to complete a screen. Well, if you didn't know about it before, then you do now! Anyway, as mentioned above, this is the sequel to that game, and as you would expect, there's not a lot of room for plot development, so I shall now refer to this as merely an 'enhanced' game of Asteroids, and not a 'sequel'. Now that I've got it all sorted, if you are sitting comfortably, then I will begin with the review proper.... The main differences between Cosmic Camouflage are that in Meteors, the things you could do to avoid asteroids were, shoot them, move away from them with the ships thrusters; hyperdrive away, which meant disappearing for a few seconds, and then reappearing somewhere else and that was basically all, a simple set of things to do, which meant for a very enjoyable game. Now in the 'enhanced' version, you can also use Camouflage Cover, meaning that you can become invisible for a few moments, and also the fact that you can use Radiation bombs, which kill everything on the screen, nothing original there then. In fact, Atari actually made a version of Asteroids, called Asteroids Deluxe, which basically added these very same things, making this seem very much less original. Well, despite all of this, I actually think that this game is very good! I like the way that when you use the thrusters, the ship stops dead when you take your finger of the thruster button, instead of having momentum, unrealistic this may be, it is very handy when you need to navigate through a whole load of debris! The explosions are very nice as well, adding a bit of action to the game. I was also impressed at the way the graphics moved, very slickly, even with a lot of moving objects on the screen, the graphics could have been a bit more detailed though. The range of things to shoot at is very nice, Spores which follow you unless you cloak, Decanoids which when shot release 4 spores (very hard) and Hermit Craft which appear when you shoot an asteroid, shooting hermit craft releases a Radiation Bomb which you can collect and then use. The sound on the game is ok, nothing special, no tune, just explosion and shooting noises, all in all pretty crap. This game gets absolutely no credit for having any originality what so ever, being written in 1988, being exactly the same as Asteroids Deluxe which was written in 1984 is hardly a coincidence! Although this is not original, I still like it, though not as much as Meteors, and I think it adds some nice touches to the original. If you liked the original, then you'll like this, its a game that you can quickly pick up and play, if only for a few minutes between more engaging games such as the classic ELITE! Overall 74% 3. Grand Prix Construction Kit This is a racing game (no surprises there then) with a twist, unlike many games for the BBC Micro, it has two features which are always lacking from games, a course designer, and a split screen two player mode! Did I just say split screen? Well yes, I think I did! The only other Beeb game I have seen with this feature is Spy Vs Spy, and that is hardly the same sort of thing as a Racing game! When I saw the split screen on the back of the box, I thought oh no, this is going to be slooww! But no, when I actually get down to playing it I find that it is indeed a fast, slick racing game, for two players! This is a very basic racing game really, you choose the number of laps, 1 - 9, and then choose if you want to race against a friend or the computer, then off you go. Features include, hump back bridges (not on any racing circuit I've seen) which make you crash if you go over them too fast, chicanes and banked bends. All this adds to a fast, playable game which is really enjoyable for two players, however in 1 player mode it is severely lacking, there is no feeling of progression, after you win against the computer, you simply play it again, no drivers championship, or anything like that. If you're a loner, you won't be playing this game for long, unless you like designing tracks for yourself. Two player mode is where the game really shines, designing tracks to try and beat each other on can keep you hooked for ages, and it really does get competitive, especially when the cars are close together! The one gripe I have about the gameplay is that it is too punishing, when you come off the road you explode first time, and for a game that is supposed to be fun, not realistic, this is annoying, one mistake makes you lose the race, which can make the game boring if you keep having to restart! With 18 tracks already included, and the possibility of loads more with the track designer, this will never get boring, as long as you play with a friend! The sound is good and involving, with nice engine noises, and the graphics are very fast and quite detailed, something you would not expect for a game with a split screen mode! Overall a solid game, nice features included, it is very easy to make your own tracks, and some competitive gameplay make this one a great play on a rainy day. If you want single player thrills however, the classic Revs is the one to get! Score: 80% 4. Spell Binder This is the piece de resistance of the collection, a real gem of a game, beautifully done, I can't praise it enough, definitely one of the best Superior Games to play. Well anyway, enough of my praises, lets take a look under the hood of this graphics adventure. The story goes that you are one of the ten wise Magelords, with a large knowledge of powerful spells, sent to find the evil Zorn, a Magelord who has defected from the brotherhood, and fled to the Castle of Lorraine, you must banish him from the universe forever by making the ultimate spell. This is a huge game, the castle is divided up onto 2 floors, 3 citadels, a catacomb and a dungeon, so you better be prepared to make a map! By wandering through the castle, you can search the rooms by pressing the correct key, if you find anything of interest then the Spell Binder will add them to his inventory, these include spell ingredients, such as Toads Legs and Burned Ashes, or objects like corks and gold bars. These objects can all be used at some point in the game, and at certain points you may have to make spells yourself by mixing the required ingredients together in the mixer, either using the standard spells like Heal, which give 10% of energy to you, Airshield, which reduces hits on you to 50% effectiveness, and Freeze which stops monsters in the current room from moving. More powerful spells can be mixed, if you know the ingredients, you can always try randomly adding ingredients and seeing what you come up with! The monsters are very varied in this game, with creatures such as Zombies, Stone Dwarfs which speak advice to you, DeathMonks, Demons, Vampires and Watchers, huge eyes which float around the room. You cannot kill the monsters with standard spells, only freeze them, which is quite annoying as there are a lot of them about the castle. To connect all the various areas of the castle together, the catacombs, dungeons, and citadels, you must use a teleport, a nice touch I thought, as you cannot go back through these teleports to where you were before, better make sure you've done all that you can! The graphics of these games are reminiscent of the old Ultimate Play the Game Isometric view games, but not quite as good. These are, however still brilliant, even though the actual view area is quite small, to allow for a good speed. It is only in two colours, but the details is amazingly good, some of the best ever on the beeb. I really like the way that you can have good fun mixing your own spells, I haven't made anything interesting yet, but I'm sure I will! The sound is also good, a really good tune and nice special sound effects for things such as teleporting and spell mixing, very atmospheric! Overall, this is definitely the game of the compilation, superbly constructed, great sound, graphics and best of all, gameplay! The puzzles are simply brilliant, I'm still trying to solve some now! This is a game that you will really want to play until the end! Score: 92%, a classic. Overall: 2 good games, 1 classic and 1 real pile of rubbish, still worth buying, if only for spellbinder, without spell binder though, I'd find it hard to recommend this compilation to anybody, but with it included, definitely worth it, just don't play Frak, you won't enjoy it! Overall compilation score: 75% a solid, yet dragged down by Frak, compilation.