Potatoes are funny vegetables, aren't they? But they can play a mean puzzle game, as you'll find out in Plotting! Controlling said vegetable, the action involves throwing tiles emblazoned with different coloured shapes at other tiles bearing identical designs. Each level is timed, and the idea is to clear each screen of a set amount (shown in the status panel) of tiles. You start each game with three special tiles: your little potato pal's lives. He starts each level with a special tile, which he chucks at the stack of tiles. Having destroyed one tile, another tile comes flying back into his hands and then this tile can only be thrown at a corresponding one. It's easier to play than describe, but you get the idea.
Tiles can be thrown at tiles at the side of the stack or, by using a big yellow arrow as a pinpointer, at the tiles at the top. You play like this until the timer runs out, you run out of special tiles or the tile held doesn't match the tiles in the stack: then it's game over.
In later levels obstacles such as pipes appear, which block a tile's trajectory. This can get very frustrating!! My straitjacket size is large, by the way. From the start, this is great fun. Each move must be planned because one false move means a life is lost.
Graphics are good, but then the sprites are very simplistic (a few tiles and a potato shaped hero). Sonics are also pretty impressive (in 128k mode) though title and in-game tunes are a little twee for my taste. Still, they're jolly and bouncy and add a lot to the atmosphere. Plotting is a very playable puzzle game, but it falls just short of being completely amazing due to limited content.
MARK ... 85%
'Plotting - it's simple, but it's dead hard! What a rummy game this is, and a strange fish from Ocean; y'see it's an arcade puzzle game. With the objective of clearing each level of a set number of tiles, Plotting's gameplay can be easily learned, but it'll take hours of play to master. Well presented, graphics are clear and colourful, make it look and feel more exciting than many other puzzle games. The first few levels get you into the style of play and you can whizz through these after a while. It's after level four that things get tricky, but also very addictive. And just because there's a jolly 128K tune warbling in the background doesn't mean you can lose concentration; to succeed in Plotting careful studying of the blocks and planning strategic play is all part of the fun. Though arcade blaster fans will probably find it tiresome after a few plays, all gamesters who like to use their brain will get their money's worth here.'
RICHARD ... 86%
Bags of colour, crispy clear sprites, and gameplay identical to the 16-bits (or, indeed, the arcade original) - how often can you say that about a conversion, eh, Specchums? Plotting is just the sort of game that transfers perfectly to the Speccy (there's no need for scrolling, and just a bunch of bricks to animate), but why look a gift horse in the mouth? This is exactly the same game as the original.
Luckily then, the coin-op was a rather appealing little puzzler. You play the cutsie 'potato man' (or whatever) in the bottom left-hand corner, and it's your job to get rid of all the coloured bricks stacked across on the right-hand side. You do this by throwing the brick you have in your hands (well, it'd be in your hands if you had any) at a like-minded brick - if you've got a red circle-coloured brick you throw it at a red circle, if you've got a Taito sign-splattered brick (the blue triangle-thing) you throw it at a Taito sign. Things aren't limited to your throwing the thing straight across the screen though - you can bounce it off the knobbly ceiling onto the top row of the stack too.
When the two bricks hit they both disappear (of course), and you receive the one placed immediately behind them, which you've then got to get rid of in the same way. And so it goes on, extra points being awarded if you manage to do anything clever like clear a whole bunch of blocks at once.
It all sounds easy enough so far, doesn't it, so what's the trick? Well, lots of concentration is required for one thing (always a bit of a problem, I find). You have to think out each move before you make it, you see - it's no use landing yourself with a block you're not going to be able to get rid of next go (because there's no suitable exposed partner), is it? Scupper yourself like that once and you're given a 'wild card' block which you can use to take out anything you like, but do it enough times and it's game over, matey.
And that's it, just about. Obviously things get a bit more complicated later on (pipe-things appear in the air between the ceiling and the blocks you want to hit, for instance, limiting the angles from which you can attack from above) but the basic gameplay is all pretty simple and appealing.
So what's the verdict? Well, as you could probably have predicted I'd say right back at the beginning, it really all depends on whether you like puzzle games or not. This is quite a good one - colourful, professionally-presented and smooth-playing, and with a fair smattering of cutsie appeal. However, it's probably not got the lasting appeal of, say, Plotting (also reviewed this issue). Each screen is just too similar to the one before - it's not a fault of the Speccy programmers, simply a limitation of the game design, which can get repetitive and samey. My attention tended to wander at times, meaning I didn't pay enough notice to planning my next move - a potentially fatal way to go about things. It's not to say I didn't enjoy the game though - far from it - just that there've been 'simple yet incredibly addictive' puzzle games one too many times already. Somehow they just don't seem quite so original anymore - which is a bit weird for a genre where original-but-simple gameplay is the stock-in-trade, isn't it?
Velly stlange, these Japanese. You always feel that their game plots result not from in-depth planning sessions, but from nightmares induced by an overdose of bad sushi.
Plotting, (and that must be one of the oddest titles for a computer game ever). Is a coin-op conversion, and it's all about blocks. A bit like Breakout, really, only with elements of Rubik's Cube and Tetris in it. Oh, and a bit of Pacman, but only in the sense that the hero is a little yellow blob.
Here's how it goes. The little yellow blob can move up and down on the left-hand side of the screen. On the right-hand side are piles of blocks, and a sloping roof again composed of blocks, the layout of which changes on each level.
Blobby has a block in front of him, and the idea is to fire it at the pile of blocks, trying to hit one bearing the same design; a Taito symbol, cross, red circle or green square.
If you hit a block of the correct design, the next block along, whatever its symbol, flies through the air to land back in front of Blobby. But, you ask, what happens if you can't see a block of the right design? Well, you can try moving to the top of the screen and bouncing your block off the roof at 90 degrees; this allows you to hit blocks on the top of the pile. A flashing yellow arrow shows you the point you're aiming at, but doesn't actually indicate whether it's a worthwhile shot or not.
If there's a row of blocks of the same design, you can wipe out the whole lot in one go, earning big points bonuses. The ultimate idea is to clear a certain number of blocks (not necessarily the whole amount) in the time allowed, which decreases for each subsequent screen.
If you manage to completely miss a block of the correct design, you'll still get a block back, but instead of one of the normal patterns it will bear a terrifying lightning flash. This means that you've lost a life, but the lightning block can be used to hit any design. Your game will come to an end, though, if you put yourself in a position where no blocks of the current design are accessible; "Sorry, you have no current move" appears, and that's your lot.
On later levels the plot is complicated by tubes which appear dotted over the screen. These prevent you from hitting some columns of the pile, but let you shoot through them to hit others. What with these, the decreasing time limit and the increasingly demanding numbers of blocks required to qualify for the next level, Plotting should keep you occupied for level after level (if you're a bit mad).
The graphics are pretty plain. I don't see any reason why the same gameplay couldn't have been accompanied by a few slobbering space aliens or massive explosions. But if you're the sort of chappie who says "I know it looks simple, but the gameplay's great!", then you should check out Plotting.
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
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