Play It Again Sam 15 Review
By Crispin Boylan (E4W)
Available From: Superior Software
Price: £14.95 (£6 for 8BS members)
Type: four games in compilation:
Cyborg Warriors - Shoot-em-up
Network - Arcade Adventure
Ricochet - Arcade Adventure
The Last Ninja 2 - Scrolling beat-em-up
This looks like a pretty fine compilation at first glance, especially when you
see that two of the games were programmed by the ace programmer Peter Scott,
and also when you consider that most of the games were great hits for Superior
at their time of original release. So here is the review, it is broken down
into sections for each of the games on the compilation.
Programmed by Tony Oakden, this makes a change from his normal style of Arcade
Adventure games (Camelot, Quest and Star Port) and onto the well worn path that
is the shoot-em-up genre. The plot is thin, and as always with shoot-em-ups,
unnecessary. Who wants to be bored with the standard you are trapped in an
alien world, shoot everything and you will win scenario? Luckily this one
doesn't get too stuck in with padding out this thin plotline, and thus the plot
is left to one or two lines at the start of the instructions. So what you do
get then is a pretty impressive piece of programming, a fast moving parallax
scrolling shoot-em-up with a variety of four different weapons, the Standard
Issue Laser, the Multi Directional Laser, the Anti-matter Torpedo, and the
Smart Bomb Launcher.
The game is pretty much endless, and is more of a high-score-getting game than
a game with fixed objectives and levels, this makes a change from the objective
-based games of today. The gameplay itself is superb, the graphics are quite
good, even though the colours are a bit on the psychedelic side, and they move
with such speed and fluidity it makes you wonder what went wrong with all those
badly scrolling games that there have been over the years. The screen size is
impressive as well, as most shoot-em-up games have a need for speed, the window
must be reduced, too much and this can lead to people going blind from
squinting at a stamp sized window on the screen (you only have to look at a
game called War from Martech to see what I mean), too little and the game
becomes slower than a one-legged hedgehog. The game play is nice and fast and
furious, and very very hard, just like shoot-em-ups should be. The only bad
thing I have to say about the gameplay side of things is that the enemies are
not as varied as they could be, there are only really three or four different
enemies to encounter on your journeys.
Sound is not exactly brilliant, very limited in fact, but this doesn't detract
from what is probably among the best shoot-em-ups on the Beeb, perhaps only
beaten by Firetrack from Aardvark and Nevryon from The 4th Dimension. The
weapons in the game are very nicely done, and just when you get bored, up pops
a new weapon for you to slaughter the enemy with...wonderful!
The first of the two games on the disk by the mystical Peter Scott, who in his
day (don't know what he's doing now) was probably the most consistently good
programmer on the BBC, his softography is extensive to say the least. This is
one of his best genres, the arcade adventure, with the quirky quaint type of
characters in it that give his games a style all of their own. This one sees
you, the sort of squashed egg cup shaped thing (the name is never mentioned as
far as I know) trying to construct the Flynche machine by collecting all of its
20 parts. To hinder your progress there are aliens and dangerous objects which
must be negotiated so that you lose as little of your energy as possible (shown
by a bar at the top of the screen). This task is made easier with the
inclusion of a laser, with which you can shoot said beasties, but be warned,
this laser has only a limited amount of energy (shown by another bar at the top
of the screen).
The first thing you notice about this game is its size, it is pretty huge, but
organised neatly into single screen areas, it is flick screen rather than
constantly scrolling. The main things you have to do on this game are jumping
and avoiding the baddies, this is not as easy as it sounds, and the game is
actually quite hard, especially when you have to use the moving platforms, as
you must match your movements to those of the platforms, they will not carry
you along with their own movements. There are also other things to negotiate
including springs which can be bounced on, lifts, and the especially nifty
teleport machines which can move you to the other teleport machines (you have
to have seen them before to teleport to them). The game moves along quite
nicely, but it is perhaps too hard in places, especially at the start screen
which is a task all of its own just to get out of, once you get used to how the
game works though, it is nice and user friendly.
The game uses low-resolution Mode 2 graphics, but these are very well drawn,
and the colour palette varies constantly throughout the game. The graphics
detailed, though not as much as in games like Pandemonium and Thunderstruck.
The whole thing is very well programmed, there is hardly any sprite flicker,
even when there are a number of moving objects on the screen, and the graphics
move very smoothly. The colours are well combined, and there aren't really any
where they clash with each other, they go rather nicely with each other in
The sound on this game is pretty poor, no music anywhere in the game, and the
sounds are actually exactly the same as in most other Peter Scott games. This
means just a sound when the energy goes down, and various other bleeps and
pings for accomplishing things in the game. It could have certainly done with
a bit of music in game. Overall though, it isn't a bad play, although it isn't
Peter Scott's best work.
This is what you could call the 'premium' game of the bundle, it was actually
released before the compilation was made, and is one of the biggest selling
Superior Software games. In this game you play 'Sprat' a ball shape, who can
only roll around and bounce in order to achieve his goal. The objective of the
five levels included is to find the hourglass in each level, and then teleport
out of the level, you get a password for each new level that you visit, so you
don't have to go through all of the levels every time you play. Although the
passwords are available, they aren't really supposed to be used to complete the
ultimate goal, to go through all five levels in one game, without stopping,
this will uncover the secret message!
Although not exactly original, this is quite a fun game, the way you have to
work out which points to bounce from and in what direction so that you can
reach otherwise unreachable platforms. This adds so much more to the arcade
adventure genre, instead of just climbing up and down ladders, you have bounce
through narrow gaps to reach things, and generally it is more interesting just
moving around the levels than it is in most other arcade adventures. The
password feature is excellent as well, as on most other arcade adventure games
you cannot really save your game in any way, and they are normally very hard.
By splitting this game into separate levels, you get the game in bite-sized
pieces, which can be played separately, and then you can decide when you want
to attempt the whole thing at once. The difficulty level is set just right, it
is nice and easy at the start, to get you into the game, and once you are in
there, it doesn't just slack off but the whole game seems to move up a gear.
The good thing about the keys on the game (which you must collect to open
doors) is that the keys are marked with letters, and these are shown if you
have the key in your inventory, also when you move to a room with a door in it,
the letter of the door is also shown, so you can easily tell if you have the
right key straight away, instead of relying on special colour coded doors and
keys. Everything about this game seems to have been designed so that you get
the most time puzzling and wandering around, and not wondering what key goes
where or what the hell the object actually is that you just picked up. This
has to be in my top three most playable adventure games on the Beeb, a classic,
right behind Castle Quest and Citadel.
The graphics on this game are very nice, extremely finely detailed and very
well drawn, they really do push the Beeb to the limits of it's sprite-handling
technology I feel. The graphics colours are well chosen, and they never clash,
even with the frequent palette changes which take place throughout the screens.
The sounds of the game are nice enough, if very bland, in fact this whole
compilation seems to be one of the most devoid of sound out of the whole 18
PAS's! Sound is limited to beeps and bleeps, not too interesting really.
Something which is good about the game is the fact that there is a nice little
message scrolling by on the title screen, it is quite funny, and you can read
it for ages, it never seems to end!!!
The Last Ninja 2
The Last Ninja was one of the few games that managed to keep my interest right
until the very end of the game, and it never felt like a hard slog through the
later levels, so I was pleased to get hold of this game, as I expected more of
the same. The game is written by Peter Scott, a very accomplished author, and
it pleased me that this game was a change from his usual style, and even more
that it was nicely done. Basically, you are a Ninja in New York, and you have
to fight through the six levels of the game, killing everyone, and also finding
time for a small bit (and very easy at that) of puzzling.
The game is played in a pseudo 3D sort of style, from a fixed viewpoint, but is
more detailed and has chunkier sprites than some of the Isometric 3D games,
prime examples of these come from Ultimate Play the Game. Anyway, it is
basically easy to move through the game, the puzzles are easy enough, but the
fighting at times seems impossibly hard. Until you get one of the various
weapons in the game (there are some nice Ninja weapons available, the Sword,
Numchukas, Stick, and my favourite, the Shuriken Star!) it is very hard to kill
the people who chase you, and many of your six starting lives can be lost at
only the start of the game. Once you do get a weapon though, the game becomes a
lot more fun, and although the baddies are not exactly very artificially
intelligent, they are quite hard. There is a good range of baddies to conquer,
from Policemen to other Ninjas, and some pack a pretty hard punch with their
weapons! Aside from the fighting, there are also other parts of the game which
are more puzzle-orientated, for example, in the first level (Central Park)
there is a stream of lava (!?) and you have to step on the stepping stones to
get across the level, this is hard, especially as you have to pick the right
jump key (there are three, small, medium and large) this adds some variation to
the game, so you don't feel like it is punching all the way.
The graphics on this game are extremely impressive, the 3D (even though it is
not exactly true 3D) is good and works well, and the colours are nice. There
are a lot of different objects in the game, and the screens are always packed
full of details. One minor gripe about the graphics engine is that sometimes
it goes a bit wrong and you end up actually walking through solid objects!
This is quiet annoying and looks a bit stupid at times. The rest of the
graphics are excellent though, and very well put together. The main character
is very well animated, with kicks, punches and jumps.
The sound (as I've said before about this whole compilation) is very minimal,
and again is limited to small beeps and buzzes. A bit more imagination for the
music would make this game into a classic, but as it is it is a very good game,
it seems to me that Peter Scott was a bit of an all-round great programmer.
A nice blend of games make this one of my favourites PAS's, it has some great
games, and they will all last you for a long time, two are huge graphics
adventures, there is a nice beat-em-up to play which has some nice puzzley
elements, and a good old fashioned shoot-em-up to relax with. If you only buy
this for Ricochet (definitely the best of the bunch) then you may be pleasantly
surprised by your other three acquisitions.
Score: 89% - Recommended