Dilemmas, problems, hassles. How, we wondered, can we review Batty? It's a good new game, so it deserves coverage - but it's just one sixth of a Hit Pak compilation, and can't be assessed entirely on its own. After all, you couldn't hand over 01.66 and ask for one Batty, hold the rereleases...
The solution: a brief rundown of the five old(er) games on 6-Pak Vol. 2 based on their CRASH reviews, and the complete treatment for Batty. After endless deliberation we decided against rating the compilation as such; make up your mind whether the good games outweigh the poorer ones.
The star of the 6-Pak Vol. 2 rereleases is Lightforce from FTL, a colourful and speedy shoot-'em-up which featured on the cover of Issue 34 (November 1986) and was awarded a CRASH Smash with 91% Overall. The first sight of Lightforce reduced Ben to 'a gibbering wide-eyed heap on the floor'.
Into The Eagle's Nest by Pandora got an Overall mark of 82% in Issue 39 (April 1987). This Gauntlet-style war game received mixed criticism from the reviewing team. Paul loved the graphics, a feeling echoed in the other two comments, but didn't find much lasting appeal; Mike, however, said 'it's playable and addictive'.
ACE from Cascade is the compilation's only simulation. You take the controls of an AWAT fighter and blast four colours of gut out of the enemy. This was hailed as 'possibly the Spectrum's best flight simulator' by Mike but it didn't keep Paul interested. Ace got 81% Overall in CRASH Issue 32 (September 1986).
International Karate, originally released by System 3, is felt by CRASH reviewers to be the weakest game in this compilation. The three original reviewers left it jumped on the beat-'em-up bus too late and simply wasn't done well. Still, it got a respectable 68% Overall in CRASH Issue 24.
Shockway Rider, FTL's second offering on 6-Pak Vol. 2 and also the newest of the rereleases got an Overall mark of 67% in Issue 38 last March. It tells the story of a 22nd-century man who rode in the fast lane of the Shockway (a new kind of public transport) and forgot to get off at his stop. Ben found the game 'appealing - because you can hurl bricks at innocent bystanders (and get points for it)'.
And now to Batty...
Batty, a small horizontally-moving bat, exists in a world of rectangular blocks. These blocks are arranged in different configurations at the top of the screen, and he/she/it fires a small ball at them; it then rebounds according to the pattern and consistency of the blocks.
Batty must try to stop the ball bouncing off the bottom edge of the screen, by obstructing its path. If Batty is not sufficiently quick or accurate, the ball disappears and the flattened batsman loses one of his/her/its three lives.
The multicoloured bricks have different characteristics. Some are easily destroyed by a single contact with the ball, others require several hits, and some are indestructible. For every block wiped out, Batty receives points.
Some blocks, when destroyed, drop things down toward Batty. By moving to gather these, Batty can gain extra points and lives, elongate him/her/itself, increase the destructive power of the ball, slow its speed, split it into three, or obtain a laser that quickly destroys blocks. Yet another feature allows Batty to capture the ball and carefully consider his/her/its angle of fire. And all these features add points to Batty's score.
When all the destructible blocks on a screen have been removed the next of the 14 levels is reached. But catching a jet pack gives Batty quicker progress - it automatically takes him/her/it to the next level.
Batty can possess only one supplementary feature at a time, and on collecting a new one loses the last (except when the ball has been split into three, in which case another feature can be added).
To create difficulties for Batty, magnets contained within some block patterns alter the predictable movement of the ball, and bomb-dropping aliens patrol the upper reaches of the screen. These alien swarms grow at higher levels, and progress further and further down the screen; their bombs kill Batty.
Batty can destroy the aliens by touch, by firing the ball at them, or by picking up the 'kill aliens' addon. It's a bat's life.
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: excellent, with lots of colour
Sound: limited, even on the 128
'Batty is really neat. The graphics are great, even though most of the screens are made of little coloured blocks, colour is well-used and the characters are well-defined. The speed is fairly consistent, with unpredictable speed-ups being far less common than In Arkanoid. 14 screens may not seem a lot, but the first half dozen are going to keep me happy for a while! There's enough gameplay to make this one last - Batty is everything Arkanoid should have been.'
MIKE ... 90%
'Paddles out again, chaps - it's time for Batty, the bestial freakoutm,,, game to grace the Speccy yet. It's NOT another boring old bat'n'ball game; Batty is different. The gameplay isn't exactly original - it's dangerously Arkanoidesque - but there are some ' excellent extra features which, along with the sensible controls, make Batty well worth the price of this 6-Pak. My only niggle is that there are just 14 levels - they're not easy, but I doubt they'll keep you busy for long. Still, Batty Is great fun!'
BEN ... 91%
Batty is one of the most unoriginal games I've ever eyed - Sinclair gave one iks this (Through The Wall) away with the first Spectrums, and of course there's Arkanoid with almost identical graphics. There are some neat touches in Batty, though, and the graphics make it better than Arkanoid.'
NICK ... 74%
Hello, hello, hello, wossall this then? Haven't I seen this aforementioned Batty somewhere before? In fact, is this your ca, sonny?
For indeed, YS's best ever cover game has reappered on cassette at a bargain cheapie rate. Well, it's a bargain if you haven't got the game already, which many YS readers probably have, but for those tragic, unfortunate readers who missed out, here it is again in its full glory. Originally deemed unreleasable by Elite because it so resembled Arkanoid, it's a devilishly addictive Breakout variant with 16 vicious screens. Only the most skillful gamesters get past Screen Five or so (another way of saying that I never quite managed it), but that won't stop you trying. Superb colourful graphics, speedy but consistent game play and thoughtful presentation make for a classic £2.99er. If it's not quite a megagame, that's because Arkanoid - Revenge of Doh came along afterwards and did it even better - but then you might say that without Batty, that itself would never have happened. Cracking stuff.
Spectrum, C64, Amstrad
Batty is an Arkanoid clone. Bounce your balls off the tiles to take them out one by one. Various power-ups can be caught to enable you to do this faster. Dozens of this type of game were launched about three years ago as the software industry demonstrated its traditional lack of originality. Still - the games are hugely addictive and Batty is as good a rendition of the genre as you are likely to see.
Spectrum Cassette: £9.95
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £9.95
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.95
NEW BALLS PLEASE
Balls are a bit 'in' at the moment. Especially, it would appear, when they are smashing multicoloured bricks to pieces. Breakout clones are suddenly appearing in vast quantities and spreading faster than Wordstar or Knight Lore clones did. Richard Eddy gives a personal run-down...
Taito, the company which produced the corky coin-op Arkanoid, are probably to blame for unleashing the craze, and then Ocean for producing a series of very competent conversions for the home micros. The ST version is undoubtedly the superior, retaining all of the arcade's original features - if it wasn't for the small screen you could almost think it was the arcade original. Imagine have just released it for the IBM PC.
Following in Ocean's footsteps came Gremlin's Krackout, which was somewhat jollier but slower and really didn't have the addictiveness Arkanoid provided.
Not to be outdone Elite shoved in their fourpenneth in the shape of Batty which now features on Hit Pak 2. Written by an ex-Ultimate programmer, Batty was polished and showed greater graphical sophistication than Arkanoid. And then everyone breathed a sigh of relief thinking that it was over...
'Not on your nelly!' shouted Audiogenic, Alligata, Pirate and CRL in unison, all proffering their latest versions which are: Impact, Addictaball, Smash Out! and Ball Breaker.
Apart from the games, comparing inlay storylines proves most interesting. Pirate's budget Smash Out! goes for a desperately-try-to-be-convincing story where the bat is supposed to be a spaceship lost in space and bricks are blobs of plasma, while Ball Breaker claims the ball is some chappie called Ovoid on a mission of annihilation. Personally I prefer Impact's 'Trapped in a 1970s arcade machine...' or Alligata's straight for the throat approach with '...I have difficulty imagining a bat is a spaceship... so let's call things a bat, ball and bricks - it's much easier!' And so it is.
I think you can quite happily disregard Smash Out; it is little more than a poor man's Arkanoid with measly graphics, nauseous sound and the addictiveness of drying paint. Okay, so it may have screen designer thrown in, but even this is fiddly to use and does nothing to push up Smash Out's credibility.
There's a lesson to learn here - if you are going to produce a clone you have to do it very well, or devise a novel twist on the formula. Which is what CRL did with Ball Breaker, originally released for the Amstrad CPC range, it took Breakout into 3-D and worked well with some great sound effects and a colourful layout. Ball Breaker is just released for the Spectrum and retains its playability - although to avoid colour clash the monochromatic graphics can make it difficult to see exactly where to position your bat. Complete with all the typical features, it also includes a laser gun which stays with you throughout the game. Ball Breaker adds up to a worthwhile buy if you fancy a different twist on the rest - and soon to be available on the Atari ST and Amiga.
Audiogenic, quiet for some time, return to our 16-bit screens with the elaborate Impact for the Atari ST and Amiga (and hopefully soon for the Spectrum and Commodore 64/128). Impact is quite the connoisseur's Arkanoid cleverly topped off by some great sounds (each brick, alien and the bat produces an individual sound, so occasionally it sounds like a decent tune gone wonky!). Graphically, it is what you would expect from 16-bit, utilising colour very well and sharp definition to add that extra bit of class to the aliens.
What gives it that little extra push is the novel way in which features, such as lasers, bat expand and catch are collected - a la Nemesis. Yellow tokens spin down from selected bricks when destroyed and, if collected, are stored in the power select pad at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Pressing the mouse button when one is collected makes the ball slow down, collecting two and then pressing the button gives you the catch effect and so on through divide (3 balls), expand, torch (to see hidden bricks), laser, smart bomb (to destroy aliens), missile and forcefield, which doesn't have the rebound effect off bricks, but simply continues to smash its way round the screen until hitting a wall where it bounces off.
With 80 screens and 48 more you can design yourself using the easy-to-use screen designer, Impact definitely wins my approval as being the best just for sheer addictiveness.
But coming a close second is Addictaball from Alligata, which doesn't quite make it to the very top for the simple reason that it falls down on presentation and graphics. The use of colour is very dull on the first levels - mainly greys, greens, and blues used for the bricks and surroundings - which doesn't do much to create an exciting atmosphere.
However, Addictaball proves to be quite novel in the way the bricks slowly scroll down the screen in one long trail - its great saving grace. The trail can prove to be frustrating when, having died, you are returned to the beginning, or one of the internal stages within a level. Two weapons, laser gun and thruster (which allows you to move up and down the screen) can be collected at the very beginning, though they have to be replenished frequently by hitting the correct bricks.
Along the bottom of the screen is a barrier preventing the ball from disappearing but this gradually gets destroyed by the shower of fireballs which come down the screen, unless the fireballs are destroyed with the bat before they reach the bottom. There are cars, bikes and the like to be battered along the way which, if nothing else, adds a bit of humour to the game.
So, now what? Do we dare breathe a sigh of relief or is the next parcel we open going to be Revenge Of The Mutant Bouncing Balls From Jupiter...?
STOP PRESS! No relief breathing yet! We have just received Reflex from Players priced at £1.99 for the MSX...!
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