Retail Price: £8.95
Author: Dave Harper
Toadrunner - half man, half frog - has been trapped inside a tortuous maze. Hidden within the maze is the beautiful Princess who would be rather glad to be rescued, even if it is by a one-eyed, slimy frog being. No doubt when she bestows a girlie kiss on his revolting forehead he'll turn into a handsome prince - but there's a lot to sort out before that can happen.
Mr Toad must scamper around the colourful rooms in the Stone Master's castle looking for objects to assist him in his quest to destroy the Stone Master and release the Princess. The intrepid natterjack must collect those which he thinks will help him and ignore those which are useless. Toadrunner has four pockets and they can be used to store objects until he can think of a use for them.
Only four objects can be carried at one time and these can be dropped or picked up when necessary. If the toad wants to use an object, then he must first make sure that it is nestling comfortably in pocket number four. A press of the fire or'use' button brings it into action. All the objects in the game are displayed on the menu screen before the game starts, with labels to assist identification.
The Stone Master's castle is a sinister hole and quite unpleasant even to a horrible warty toad. It is filled with nasty winged sprites who mercilessly pursue the toady hero, sapping his strength with every onslaught. The Stonemaster's ugliest henchmen guard the exits from some of the rooms - their touch is usually deadly, and there are only five lives to play with. The guards can be disposed of eventually, but the right object has to be in Toady's pocket for each guardian...
Exits are marked by gaps in the dungeon walls. They may be attended by the nasty guardians or they may be open. Sometimes, there is more than one exit, and this is where Toad starts to with that God had given small amphibious creatures psychic powers. Only one of these triple exits leads safely to the other room. The other two lead to certain death, and it's no use trying to memorise which of the three exits is the right one, because they change every time Toad tries to pass through a set of portals.
Although toads can remain out of water for a white, evolution has not yet provided them with the ability to survive indefinite spells on land. After seventy-five Toad Time Units have elapsed, our hero dehydrates and death is usually fairly imminent. After six Toad Time Units have elapsed, a thief appears on the screen. He snatches any object he can get his hands on. Fortunately, the thief can only carry one object at a time and is very greedy with it. If he sees another object within close proximity, he drops the original object and snatches the new one. The robber can be killed, but despatching him while he's holding an object means that object is lost from the game - and may make finding the Princess impossible.
A percentage readout in the status area shows how much of the adventure has been completed. The contents of Toad's four pockets are revealed, together with the energy icon which turns black as energy is lost. A clock keeps track of Toadtime.
And all for the love of a Princess.
Control keys: redefinable
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair and Protek
Keyboard play: fairly responsive
Use of colour: very colourful
Graphics: quite well drawn
Skill levels: one
Toadrunner's bears an immediate resemblance to the ELECTRIC DREAMS release, Riddlers Den. Briefly, the scenario concerns one lovesick prince in the guise of an overweight reptile. He searches for his princess in the hope she'll transform his slimy body to something more desirable. Original? I think not. Graphically, it's no more than adequate, with our reptilian hero wobbling through the game. Gameplay is all too familiar it's an average arcade adventure with no features that haven't been implemented better elsewhere. Fans of David Harpers earlier game will no doubt love this one, but it's a bit too expensive to my mind.
I must confess to not having seen Riddlers Den, so I approached Toadrunner with a completely open mind. The presentation of the game is very neat and colourful, with some good drawing on the loading and title screens. The sound is a bit of a let down, as it only consists of a few whirrs and clicks. The graphics are very colourful and to avoid character clashes, the author has made sure that the characters don't invade each other's character space. I felt that Toadrunner was good to look at, but the actual gameplay was very poor unless you are into puzzles. It's a bit hard to play and suffers from poor collision detection.
Definitely Riddlers Den II, except that this is probably near to impossible to complete. The graphics used are colourful and fairly well drawn. The characters move around the screen nicely and your frog has a novel wobble! The sound is generally run-of-the-mill stuff, with effects during the game and a loud shrieking noise when you begin or end a game. The game itself is infuriating: the random triple exits tend to kill you off rather suddenly and introduce a frustrating element of pot luck into the game. You'd have to be very persistent to complete the game - one for Riddlers Den tans and masochists everywhere!
D'you ever get that feeling... you know, like when you're a toad who's really a prince, 'cos you've been transformed by a wicked witch? And you're looking for the princess who'll snog you back into a prince again? Yeah, you know the feeling. And you have to kill the Stone Master? Yep, happens every day, dunnit?
This is the next step in world domination from the programmer of Riddler's Den, a somewhat similar tramp through the catacombs in search of arcade adventure. Although bearing some resemblance to Riddler's in its gameplay - the use of four numbered pockets for example - it's a completely different toadgame.
You've got to find the Princess... but that's not quite as easy as it sounds, 'cos in your way are a drooling host of the Stone Masters evil minions. To foil these foul pests (spit) you have to manipulate objects you encounter, shuffling them round in your 'pockets' until you devise a method to see them off.
As a game it's an entertaining plod across the lily pad, but not a particularly thrill-powered one. But having said that, I'd probably play it quite a lot, 'cos I like a challenge... Just one major criticism, though. There's something called a triple exit - a fiendish device consisting of three 'out' doors. Concealed beyond the screen are deadly hazards that lurk in just two of the exits. Until you go through one you don't know which ones hold the hazard. If you guess wrong, you're not only dead for your current life, but you lose all your remaining lives too! Okay, so you restart the game and decide to try the triple exit again, this time trying a different exit. Then you find that the hazards are set up randomly each time you restart the game! How are you meant to win? There are several of these unguessable trails in the game, just sitting there waiting to sow untold frustration and sudden death on an unwitting player. So, be warned!
However, it's actually quite a good game - the graphics are very twee, especially the little froggy character. In fact I like being a frog so much that I might not even bother finding the princess at all!
The problem with Toadrunner is that it isn't a budget game. It has all the makings of an absolutely classic budget offering but Ariolasoft are trying to get top wack for it.
For £8.95 you get a program which is colourful, smoothly animated, moderately well designed and quite enjoyable. It is also exactly the sort of thing that Mastertronic are putting out for £1.99 or £2.99.
The original for Toadrunner was probably Atic Atac (that was in the days when Ultimate made influential programs). Similar screen layout, same sort of mixed bag of large but immobile or small but bouncy sprites, same assortment of curious objects to collect and use.
My feeling for the game rarely developed beyond the wildly indifferent but credit where it is due: there are a few moderately original touches - various points where you must choose between three routes, two of which mean instantly frazzled frog, and the right exit is found by reading the clues in the arrangements of rocks and boulders which surround the gateways.
Playing the game is your standard, wander-around-collect-objects figure-out-what-objects-solve-what-problem (kill what nasty, mostly) and avoid losing energy. The quest is for a Princess, having first disposed of the head baddie.
Presumably the big finish involves the Princess kissing you.
In a couple of hours I had solved some of the problems in the game, working out many of the boulder clues and swiping at some objects with the axe, so I think that the whole game is probably only moderately difficult. Some of the sprites are very nicely designed and animated, a sleeping Dragon in particular caught my attention and at the same time burnt me to cinders.
The problem with it - and a good many other games beside - is that Mastertronic and Firebird have upped the stakes. What would have been highly rated a year or so ago is a budget game now.
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, Cursor
Reviewer: Graham Taylor
SUPPLIER: Bubble Bus
Every now and then, a new idea on an old theme pays off. This time it's Toadrunner from Ariolasoft. This game is your sort of "Wally come Sabre Wulf" type, and I think it may be set to become a classic.
The aim of the game is to... wait for it... find the princess and then who knows what you might receive! But first you must find the Stone-master, and kill him. Classic scenario, eh?
Your character is, of course, the hero, a big toad who is quite intelligent - I think he may have been a prince once.
You must use objects found around various screens to solve lots of diabolically devious and logical puzzles. Great stuff!
When you start off you find yourself in a room with a room with a rather nasty looking sort, making strange vacuum type noises. You must first sort out how you are going to get past him, and then you notice a lighter which he appears to be standing on.
So what do you do? Well if you remove the lighter, it's fairly easy, they guy will move down away from the exit allowing you to pass. Simple.
You then find yourself faced with a problem of multi-exits, one of which is safe, the others deadly.
One feature which makes the game a little difficult is the thief, a sly type who goes around pinching objects. But as with all nasty types, he's a bit dim and will drop whatever he is carrying to pick up something else. You can kill him, but if he is carrying a vital object you may not be able to complete the game, so keep an eye on him.
As with most games you have lives and Toadrunner is no exception. You have a jar of energy which runs down a little everytime you hit something horrible.
Amstrad & Spectrum
You have had a bad day. The wizard Stone Master has turned you into a frog - a letdown for a Prince. So, to get out of the tight spot, you have to find a Princess with a penchant for puckering-up to amphibians. On the way you should dispose of the Wizard, plus many assorted hazards around the maze.
Although the 2D maze consists of a mere 60 screens, the vast amount of to-ing and fro-ing involved in solving the various problems makes it seem far bigger. It is all done against a limit of 75 toad time units or you dry out and go to that great lily pad in the sky.
Your toad is equipped with four pockets in which to put the various objects needed to solve the problems. They often involve the combination of two objects at once. You have five lives, various objects drain your energy, but you can fight back, hacking things to pieces with your axe.
The game is very colourful, with plenty of pleasant animation - like snoring dragons or berserk bees. Just solving the problems will be difficult and it will take you a great deal of practice to be able to solve them quickly enough to complete the quest.
A WARTY HERO IN SEARCH OF A PRINCESS TO GIVE HIM A MAGICAL SMACKER.
If you are an ambitious toad wanting to be returned to your princely form you can't just hang around on the nearest lily pad waiting for a smoochie princess. In Toadrunner the animated amphibian has decided to take some positive action and makes off to find the royal antidote.
In his way are many hazards, enemies and problems strewn through over 50 locations, which may not sound very many but this is plenty to keep you occupied on the way and the triple exits between some screens add an extra element instead of just wandering from scene to scene. There may be three exits to the next screen but only one is passable, the other two lead to swift termination. At first these exits must be tried at random, which can be infuriating as the safe exit may change every game. There are however subtle clues in the rocks around each entrance to give you a hint on which exit to take, but it takes a while before you can read these signs with confidence.
Many potentially useful objects are scattered around the locations and any four can be carried at one time. Using an object is simplicity itself - just make sure it's placed in the toad's "fourth pocket" and hit the fire button. An axe-wielding toad is especially effective in dealing with some of the creatures who guard entrances.
After a while (six toad units we are told) a flitting thief appears in order to spread confusion by stealing any objects that might be around. He can only hold one and can drop what he's filched any second to nick something else. He's a nuisance but not indestructible, killing him takes up a lot of your energy and make sure he's not carrying something vital to finishing the game before you finish him off because in his case he can take it with him.
Toad death is a little complicated. He is given five lives and loses one each time his energy runs out. Taking the wrong triple exit and getting squashed do. however, mean the wiping out of all lives, which seems a bit harsh and means you face a lot of annoying restarts before you really get into the game.
A screen display at the top of the screen shows the objects you are holding, toad units ticking away and percentage of the game completed. I managed to complete 15 per cent and it kept me busy for a good while so don't be put off by the apparent low screen count - it's not quantity but quality that counts and Toadrunner offers good value. It may not be the most original game in the world and spotting the forerunners to Toadrunner could be a game in itself but despite this it's an enjoyable game with enough perplexing problems to keep you on the hop.
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