For 10,000 years the world has been at peace, thanks mainly to the mystical Fireblade. But now disaster has struck. The blade has been shattered into sixteen pieces by the evil Havok and scattered across the land. The destruction of the sword has allowed Havok to send his minions on a rampaging spree. It's up to you, as Hiro, the last of the Blade Knights, to find the sixteen splinters and, after sticking them together with super glue, kill Havok.
But as we all know, life isn't simple (or indeed fair). You start the game with nothing for protection but your knuckles and size ten kicker boots. However, as you explore the maze-like underground caverns weapons present themselves for collection. These include Scorchballs, Darts, Spinblades and Needle Bolts. With or without a weapon, keeping the fire button pressed down increases the powermeter at the bottom right of the status panel; the higher the level of power, the harder the hit (or stronger the shot).
As you progress through the caverns, scenery gradually unfolds. So, you may pop down a ladder into a new section only to find a small room. But is that a cracked wall? Can it be a pushed over? Yes it can! As you walk through your newly created entrance, the whole screen lights up with many more obstacles for you to overcome. Keep your eyes peeled for points bonuses, power-ups, speed-ups, invulnerability shields etc.
Havok's minions are out in three and you must be on your guard. Watch your energy because one too many hits and the last of the Blade Knights will snuff it (sob!).
Graphically, Switchblade is very good: well defined, last-moving sprites battle it out in the vast underground caverns. Cartographers are well catered for - if you don't draw a map you're very soon up the veritable creek without a paddle. My only niggle is that gameplay becomes a tad repetitive, shoot an enemy guard, grab a bonus, shoot another guard, grab another bonus etc. In short, Switchblade is a good arcade/adventure game that loses out slightly on the playability stakes.
Switchblade is a strange little game. Well, actually it's not little - there's a huge area to explore, but it is strange. The graphics put me off to begin with: the small main sprite gets lost in the background as all the graphics are in monochrome, reminiscent of Rick Dangerous but without the colour. After adjusting my eyes I started to enjoy the game. The way the little bloke is controlled also takes a bit of getting used to. You have to jump and kick well ahead of lime so forward planning is essential, but just two or three plays will have you addicted; you can spend hours finding all the hidden bonuses and secret walls. I'm totally addicted to Switchblade. it's a fun game with plenty to keep you busy, though going over the same territory all the time can get a bit tiresome.
We've got a bit of a soft spot for old Gremlin here at YS. When other people are concentrating so much on the 16-bitties it's jolly heartening indeed to see a smaller company spreading its games with equal enthusiasm over all the formats. And what games, eh, Spec-chums? Phew-ee! Shadow Of The Beast and Lotus have helped the boys raise their image no end, and there's more to come in the shape of Toyota Celica Rally and Hero Quest (see p66). Bit of a shame really that they've kept us waiting so blimming long for Switchblade then, isn't it?
For those of you who were around for last years May Megapreview - (ahem indeed) you may remember (although the odds are probably against it) that this was an underground platform-and-ladders arcade adventure, a bit along the lines of Rick Dangerous. And spookily enough it still is! Lets have a quick reminder the plot.
You play Hiro, a member of the Switchblade clan. Unfortunately a bloke called Havoc has just come along and smashed up your people's sacred sword, the Fireblade, scattering its 16 pieces across the Undercity. Boo-hoo. Since you're lucky enough to sport a rather spooky cyber-arm it's unanimously decided that you'd be jolly good for the job, so off you tromp 'down under', looking for the bits of the sword to stick back together again.
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM
The game starts above ground. Once you find a way in, well, you get a bit of a shock - you land in a tiny little room surrounded by pitch-black darkness! Eek! And here's where Switchblade 'spins its twist' - you see, the Undercity is made up of lots (and lots) of separate rooms which you have to find your way into before they show up on the screen! (In this case you move on by climbing down a ladder - in others it's a matter of punching and kicking a hole through the wall and stuff.) It's a bit like a jigsaw really, with you staring at a wodge of black screen trying to a) work out how to get to the hidden bits, and then b) fit them together with the ones you've already got.
Oh, and talking about kicking through walls, you'll often find quite a few pick-up objects while you're at it. These range from protection against baddies to seven different weapons that you can fire out of your cyber-arm! Actually, you may as well wallop just about everything you see - boxes and steps that you bounce upend down on, anything really they can all hide little goody objects to ease your way through the labyrinthine tunnels. And, boy, will you need them! You've only got a pitiful 5 lives to start with and this game is absolutely blimming humongous! If don't start scribbling down a map immediately you're going to get lost pretty pronto!
SO WHAT'S THE GEN?
Absolutely corkeroony mega fantastic! (Basically.) It's not often you get a game as 'monster' as this - Switchblade has to be one of the finest examples of game design, expert programming and good old value-for-money that we've seen on the Speccy for ages. And I'm not just talking about the breadth of play (the number of rooms, and tunnels, and baddies, and weapons, etc etc). Just look at the screenshots! Okay, so it's all in mono, but then if they'd added colour it wouldn't have been half so clear (all that natty detail would've been lost and gone all fuzzy).
Not to say that don't have my one small grumble though (sorry to spoil it, boys!), and that's that it can seem a bit characterless at times. For example, your little Hiro chappy is sort of half-cute but not quite cute enough - a touch of humour would have worked wonders. Plus you don't get an incredible feeling of danger (like you did in Beast for example).
But having said that you tend to notice this a lot more at the beginning of the game than when you've really got hooked (which isn't at all hard to do!) The slightly clinical feel remains, but getting to your next room and finding your next piece of sword begins to fall a little higher on your list of priorities.
Nope there's very little doubt about it. Gremlin have triumphed again. If you're looking for a really, really big (big! Big!) game then Switchblade will more than happily light your candle.
Aha! I've been waiting for this to appear on budget. The last time we saw Switchblade it was in issue 63. Andy Ide (that old hippy, remember?) gave it a Megagame and 92'. And it well deserved it.
The idea of the game is to explore a load of underground passages and chambers, populated by baddies, traps and various other sorts of unpleasantness.
You play a little character called Hiro, who happens to be in the special Switchblade gang. Everything was going brilliantly until a dude called Havoc wandered along and nicked your sacred Fireblade thingy. Fed up, you decide to go and get it back. Or rather get all the bits of it back, because as he half-inched it, Havoc managed to bust it into 16 pieces. Silly fool.
So you wander along the surface of this weird planet until you come to a mineshaft. Drop down and you're into the realm of the Switchblade.
Instead of the usual fighting techniques, Switchblade forces you to learn a whole new system. You've got a power meter which, if you hold down the fire button, winds up to full strength. When you release the button, Hiro kicks out with all his might. Aliens, stoneware bottles and even some sections of wall will fall apart when this happens. This method of doing violence takes a wee bit of getting used to, but once you've mastered it, Robert is your father's brother.
As you chug along, each section of the labyrinth reveals itself out of the darkness bit by bit. It's a clever little device, and makes Switchblade dead atmospheric. You're never quite sure what will be round the next corner. It could be a secret cavern, it could be a massive alien or it could be Jeremy Beadle in a stupid disguise, trying not to snigger.
But, we have to ask ourselves at some point on our long quest-like journey, what makes Switchblade a spectacular and entertaining game? Why do I enjoy playing it so much? Can we define this so-called quantity of 'playability' in spatially aware terms?
The answer is, er, yes and no. Probably Switchblade is a most excellent game because it's tough but not too tough, it's fast and smooth, it's got loads and loads of rooms and it's dead satisfying to explore. I mean you wouldn't believe the number of Switchblade maps we've been sent by you lot. It just goes to show, doesn't it?
Finding the bits of your sword will keep you glued to your screen for ages, mind. This is one big game. How they managed to cram it into only one Speccy will forever remain a mystery, unless the programmers decide to tell us. There are plenty of dead ends, loops and false corners, so prepare to be frustrated as well.
If you're into high-quality platform games, you'll probably be the proud owner of Switchblade already. If you haven't got it, the best thing to do would be to rush out to your local bakery, go into the cooling room and check underneath all the freshly-made baps for a copy of the game. Also, while you're there, could you pick up a French stick for the Shed?
Yep, Switchblade was a Megagame before and it's a Megagame again. Three loud cheers for it!
On the cyber world of Thraxx, chaos has returned. It's always the same isn't it, just when you subjugate a galactic empire and impose the rule of law across the interstellar spacelanes, things start going wrong.
In Switchblade, the chaos takes the form of the evil warrior Havok, who has exterminated the Bladeknights and shattered the ancient Flreblade into sixteen fragments (doesn't it ever occur to these warriors, wizards and heroes to invest in less shatterable weapons?)
Your quest, as the last remaining Bladeknight, Hiro, is to explore the labyrinth of the Undercity, reassemble the Fireblade and use it to defeat Havok. You start off armed with a reprogrammable Cyberarm (with of sorts of attachment like a bottle-opener, nailfile and so on), and must pick up extra weapons as you proceed.
Switchblade is described as a 'self-mapping' arcade adventure - all this means is that the display doesn't show you parts of the play area until you have entered them, but once revealed they remain on screen.
You start off on the surface of the planet, an annoying yellow-on-yellow colour scheme, but soon plunge into the stark monochrome world of the undercity. The flip-screen effect between scenes is very smooth, but the characters are very small and not particularly detailed, which makes for a rather cluttered and confusing display.
The challenge is a combination of arcade skill - finding your way around various platforms and walkways, climbing ladders, demolishing blocks, leaping over gaps - and combat action as you fight off monsters. The baddies include reptilons, scorpoids, flamehogs, kobras, and bonus monsters such as the Spikelouse, Cybat and Roborganism. To fight them you have your bare hands and feet to begin with, and as you find weapons icons, more destructive armaments like blades, scorchballs, darts, spinblades and needle bolts.
To fight, you hold down the fire button until Hiro's power bar rises to its maximum, then release the button to strike. You can strike high or low, depending on the position of the joystick.
Bonus points can be accumulated by smashing flasks, catching orbs and collecting bonus letters (what is this, an intergalactic pinball game?).
There are apparently 128 screens in all, but I managed to get fairly deep into the game without finding too much in the way of excitement or variation.
Despite good music and competent programming, there just isn't enough originality or striking novelty on Switchblade to make it rise above the ocean of other similar arcade adventures. Hard to recommend.
Label: Gremlin Graphics
Price: £10.99 Cass, £14.99 Disk
Program By: Jeff Calder
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
I actually quite liked Switchblade but must agree that after a short time it becomes apparent how little variety there is in it.
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