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!
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.