System 3/Bob Pape
£9.99 cass, £14.99 disk
Indiana Jones certainly casts his influence on this game, and to good effect. Tusker lives up to the film series' spirit much more effectively than US Gold's recent Last Crusade, and offers a truly sprawling arcade adventure.
You are Tusker, whose explorer father has disappeared during an expedition in deepest Africa. Searching through his papers you discover the clue to his whereabouts. Maps of the tabled and as yet undiscovered Elephants' Graveyard send you to the Dark Continent in search of your dad and the Graveyard.
The three load adventure starts off in the desert. You're not welcomed by the nomadic tribesmen who are quick to use their scimitars. Surviving on fist power alone does not seem to be a good idea, so some solid exploration of the huge playing area is called for. And true enough, a variety of objects vital to the expedition can be found. Luckily, among these are weapons, machettes, daggers, stones and even a gun if you can find the ammo. Using the gun obviously makes the natives very vicious, so beware. You eventually you come upon caves which lead you to a vast complex of underground caverns full of snakes, crocs and a huge praying mantis. But vital information lurks here too.
You soon find yourself in the jungle, and unsheathing that machette you picked up (you did, didn't you?) you hack through the undergrowth. Warthogs, monkeys, boneaxe wielding natives and dinosaurs all gang together to hinder your quest. A land that time forgot and full of danger and puzzles to be solved awaits. A tribal village populated by bouncing skulls and a devious witch doctor holds more hair raising traps (acid spitting totem poles). But you must go on, the Elephants' Graveyard awaits - and knowledge of your father's fate.
Graphically the game is rather good, the character sprites are monochromatic, but the programmer has successfully put a lot of work into the backdrops, impressively adding atmosphere to the proceedings. Gameplay is absorbing, so if you enjoy exploration requiring a fair bit of brainpower, Tusker is highly recommended.
This is the type of game all Indiana Jones fans will love. The puzzles are devious, the resident bad guys all take their jobs of explorer-bashing very seriously, and the poor old player is left in the middle of it all wondering just what the heck is going on. The scenery is varied enough to stop you nodding off to sleep (there is nothing worse in a game than seeing the same couple of trees, buildings etc. all through the levels) and the brain-teasing puzzles will have you jumping around in pleasing frustration.
System 3 - they thrilled us with Last Ninja 2, they went a bit wobbly with Dominator, and now they're entering into the Indiana Jones explorer-type domain with their latest offering. Tusker. And, you'll be pleased to hear, it bears much more of a similarity to the former in concept and gameplay than the latter. Hurrah!
You take the role of the intrepid explorer trying to realise your dad's ambition, just like in The Last Crusade. Only whereas Indy's pop was obsessed by the Holy Grail, your dad's obsession was... Calvin Klein aftershave! Ho ho, only joshing, readers. No, what he really dreamt of finding was the fabled Elephants' Graveyard. The only thing was that on one of his expeditions he popped his clogs! So, being the loyal son, you venture forth to continue his work.
Like Last Ninja II, it's a sort of 3D scrolling arcade adventure. Unlike Ninja though, it has three multiload levels instead of six. But then again the backgrounds are all in colour this time and feature some nice touches, like the way your sprite is half obscured when he goes behind solid background details or up to his waist in water. It's a bit weird the way that you're also obscured by foreground detail, 'cos it means it's possible to get creamed by an Inca type with a big mallet without seeing what's going on! Still, the overall impression of the graphics is very good - these allow for exciting Indy-type situations, in which bad guys appear from behind huts when you least expect them! The sprites themselves are in monochrome, as are the objects and weapons that you collect, and the animation is pretty neat too. You can punch high or low, you can kick, you can pick things up and you can use different weapons and objects (or both). Choose a knife and you can stab, choose a water bottle and you can drink, choose a gun with bullets and you can shoot. Get the picture? There are all sorts of beasties to be killed, including zombies (which creepily reassemble from piles of bones in front of your very eyes!), man-eating plants, and even bloomin dinosaurs!
The best thing about it though is the way Tusker captures that certain 'je ne sais quoi' feeling (as the French would say) - that element in the Indy movies which made them so exciting and fun-packed. For me it's the way Indy solves certain puzzles and overcomes problems using the unlikely objects to hand. This is what you have to do in Tusker. Present the right object (or combination of) at the right time and in the right place, and you'll get a clue to help your quest. There are loads of objects to be picked up and these can be used to fulfil different purposes.
If, like me, you loved the Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade game but bemoaned the fact that the problem solving and puzzle element of the movies was a bit lacking, then try Tusker for size. An arcade adventure with the emphasis on adventure, with some pretty spiffy graphics and a good many hours worth of puzzling. Mappers and tippers will be in their element!
Imagine the sun bleached skies of Africa, alive among the shrill cacophony of the jungle and the distant cries of the native bingo callers. This is Africa, a land rich in beauty where only the strong can survive and the only place for the weak is a seat in the once monthly Link game. Or no seat at all. If you're too slow, you're likely to have you're bottom ripped off, which in the jungle means you've got nowhere to go (geddit?). There are many ways to get rich, one way is to build your own Bingo Hall, the other is to find the last resting place of the largest land mammal in the world. The elephants' graveyard. The tooth fairy may leave you a couple of bob for your old teeth, but where the elephants die, they leave a fortune behind them in ivory.
Luckily for you, your father Mr Tusker Snr, has made it his life's work to find this hallowed ground but he's given up the ghost and it's up to you to take up the task. You must work your way from desert to Jungle, through underground labyrinths. native villages, crocodile infested subterranean pools and you go and killing the odd bingo caller.
Control is along the four main compass headings, with the fire button being used to kick or thump opponents or to use things that are picked up along the way.
Icons at the top of the screen show two fists. The left hand holds objects and artifacts that you may need to use and the right hand shows the various weapons that you have at your disposal. Energy is shown as the bar on the left and a bar on the right shows water which you can use to replenish your energy - if you have a water bottle of course!
Play begins in the desert, where nomadic tribesmen with long, curved scimitars will try to hack you to bits. Just say no, and until you pick up any weapons, run away. Once you've picked up a few bits by a down left/right, fire motion, you can select between them by pressing A for Artifact and S for weapons. This will flip between icons of things that you have in your possession. Once you're carrying a weapon, the kick, punch directions become different heights of chopping and hacking so you can vary your attacks.
The graphics are really quite pretty and characters can move behind and in front of parts of the scenery giving the game a real feeling of depth. The movement of your character can however, get a little difficult from time to time and the tribesmen seem to home in on you in a fairly simplistic fashion.
Tusker is a large game, with lots in it, combining arcade and strategy in a colourful combination that would add to any artists palette. I felt that the arcade side of the recipe was slightly lacking but still yields a game that should keep the interest of any adventurer whilst arcade junkies could find themselves not entirely satisfied.
Label: System 3
Author: In house
Oh, oh, this is a rather unfortunate re-release especially as ther is now an international ban on ivory trading. Only a reckless fool would ever dare to enter deepest Africa, by himself, in search of untold treasure with so many armed poachers about.
Well, U.S. Gold managed to find that reckless adventurer. They named him Mr. Tusker and they sent him off with a pack lunch to hunt out a mythical elephant graveyard, deep in Africa and simply brimming with ivory. Luckily Tusker's dad had everything well researched in advance, being a bit of an expert on elephant graveyards, so no the wayward lad is definitely hot on the fortune trail.
Said trail leads him through a hot desert, a dense jungle, scary underground labyrinths, a fascinating native village and some crocodile infested pools. While on this danger fraught journey, Tusker must deal with nasty local tribesmen (not all local tribesmen are nasty of course!) And a tasty variety of wild and dangerous beasts.
The 3D style graphics are reasonably well defined and there's a good sprite separation, allowing clear movement in front of and behind objects and weapons to pick up along the way, and remember if you don't have a weapon try Big Al's favourite tactic: Run away!
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter
ALAN: Tusker falls in between the categories of arcade adventure and strategy game and rests rather uneasily there. Nevertheless it's a big and clever game and worth a look.
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