Wanted: Monty Mole


by Peter M. Harrap
Gremlin Graphics Software Ltd
1984
Crash Issue 09, October 1984   (1984-09-27)   page(s) 8,9

The inlay says that this game has caused quite a stir with games experts, the national press and television. Television was naturally interested because the game contains a caricature of Arthur Scargill, the Miners' Union leader. In fact a sequence was shown on TV News at the height of the strike. It's been released simultaneously for the Spectrum and the Commodore 64, but reviewers in the CRASH office feel that, with all the Commodore's better looking graphics, the Spectrum version is the better game of the two.

The story goes that it's a long, chilling winter, and Monty Mole makes a daring bid to raid his local South Yorkshire pit to snatch coal. Battling through flying pickets, man-eating fish, coal crushers and drills, he escapes to emerge in Arthur's Castle. Seizing his only chance of toppling the great man, Monty collects the secret ballot papers and vote casting scroll. But Arthur's no fool when it comes to the heavy stuff and his personal bodyguards put up a struggle.

So much for the blurb - what about the game? Instant viewing will bring Manic Miner/Jet Set Willy to mind, and not without some justification, for Wanted: Monty Mole is a complex platform game with a jumping character and interlinked rooms to the maze. There are also a few guessing tricks involved and a strategic element to finding the route through a room or series of rooms. Monty himself is an endearing character likely to reappear in more games, who has an attractive walking gait and an athletic jump very reminiscent of his mining cousin from Surbiton.

Unlike Manic Miner, which ends on the surface, Monty starts on the top in a screen with a bridge over troubled waters, squirrels dropping acorns and a steaming bucket. The bucket looks tempting - it should be, for without it coal won't even appear in the mine shafts to be collected. First timers, take heed - grab the bucket and run like hell! The mine shafts contain ropes, moving platforms and dice-with-death crushers as well as ghosts, monsters and deadly machines. There are also objects to be collected but only the coal lumps score points. The objects do, however, have their uses, and it will no doubt be the cause of much speculation and playing hints in issues to come, as to what does what. One thing is certain, some useful objects cannot be collected until a particular tool on the screen has been collected first. In all there are 21 rooms, or levels, to get through.

COMMENTS
Control keys: Q/A up/down, O/P left/right, B to SPACE = jump
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair ZX 2
Keyboard play: very responsive, good positions
Use of colour: excellent
Graphics: very good, sensible scale
Sound: good
Skill levels: 1
Lives: 3
Screens: 21


'In my view Monty Mole will be a future Spectrum hero and there will be posters of him adorning every wall in Britain. After hearing about this game on the News, I thought it would be a winner, and when it arrived I found I was right. If you liked Manic Miner (is there anyone who doesn't?) you will love Monty Mole because it's a classic platform game, more complicated and, in my opinion, better than Manic Miner. The graphics are certainly up to MM standards and with no serious attribute problems. As to the sound - well the Spectrum's never been up to much on sound, so don't expect too much! I found this game fun to play and certainly addictive this has got to be one of the best games for the Spectrum this year and definitely worth buying.'

'Monty Mole is a fantastic Jet Set Willy type of game with excellent graphics and a good use of colour throughout. I liked Monty because he is well detailed and animated, as are the flying pickets, hair sprays, debris and so on. It is very addictive, and I will be coming back again and again. The only thing is that a bit of continuous sound wouldn't hurt.'

'This program carries on where Manic Miner left off on a similar platform basis, again in the mining industry. As the game progresses, the dangers increase dramatically. Monty is very well animated, and moves about with ease from the well positioned control keys. Well into the game the elusive Arthur Scargill appears with a big head and a huge conk. Overall I got completely immersed in this well thought out and highly addictive game which I think will provide many hours of fun.'

'One of the major distinctions between Monty and Willy, is that Monty requires a deal of luck in certain situations, like the crushers. While this might be thought to reduce the playing skill element, it does add one of sheer thrill and nerves. The graphics, design and animation of all the moving characters is excellent, amusing and attractive, and that adds quite a bit to the playability of the game. Whether Monty Mole is better than Manic Miner will have to remain a question of the near future, and more hours playing. I suspect it might be better by a touch; better than Jet Set Willy? I don't know that either, pretty much as good though.'

Use of Computer: 86%
Graphics: 94%
Playability: 95%
Getting Started: 88%
Addictive Qualities: 96%
Value For Money: 90%
Overall: 92%

Summary: General Rating: Highly addictive, excellent value.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Spectrum Issue 09, November 1984   page(s) 44,45,47

Monty Mole is probably the most similar to Manic Miner but there are many similarities to Quicksilva's Fred as well.

This time, you get to play a mile whose graphic is on four cursors, thus avoiding any confusion that this game is based on Manic Minder. Your task is to guide the mole around a series of caverns - about 21 in all - until your eventual escape. This package received a lot of media attention a few weeks ago due to its supposed connections with the miner's strike and its inclusion of an Arthur Scargill character. How Gremlin Graphics conned the TV companies into believing this, I'll never know - I've been through the whole game and can find no real links at all with the current industrial situation.

Anyway, back to the game. On the first screen you guide Monty over a river to collect a coal bucket in which to steal your coal - but the owner's not too happy about this and starts chasing you down the nearest available mine shaft. Once there, you can start collecting the twinkling pieces of coal. (For all you bug-hunters, try carrying on running towards the house and jumping just before you reach it - with any luck you'll find yourself in the coal-miner's house and he can't do a thing about it.)

The caverns are, in essence, very similar to those found in Manic Miner, with platforms and graphics characters trollying along, and up and down. Ropes have also been added for Monty to climb up and down (a la Fred), and extending platforms are also used quite effectively. You'll also come to hate the Coal Crushers that appear in most screens - they are totally unpredictable, except for the fact that you can assure yourself that whenever you decide to walk under them you'll be crushed! Another nice feature is the Antics-like technique of being able to change events by dong certain things; carrying certain objects around with you makes various walls disappear when you enter the screen, allowing you to explore still more of the caverns.

The program has a number of slightly off-putting characteristics which don't enhance its playability - for example: the graphics routine allows you to stand on any INKed pixel; you can get Monty actually standing in a graphic and still not have the fact that you've collected it registered; and if you die in a room having just caused a wall to disappear, that wall will appear with your new life and there's no way you can get past it!

Despite all this though, I still thought Monty Mole the most challenging of the three - even though it's the most blatant clone of Matthew's Manic Miner.


Use of Graphics: 9/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash - Crashback Issue 21, October 1985   (1985-09-26)   page(s) 50

Use of Computer: 86%
Graphics: 94%
Playability: 95%
Getting Started: 88%
Addictive Qualities: 96%
Value for Money: 90%
Overall: 92%

Monty Mole was released at the height of the miner's strike and caused quite a stir with games experts, the press and television. This was mainly due to the caricature of Union leader, Arthur Scargill that appeared in the game.

The story goes that it is a long chilling winters day and Monty makes a daring bid to snatch coal from a South Yorkshire pit. Monty must find his way through the pit collecting bits of coal and other assorted items in his bid to escape with the goodies. He finally emerges in Arthur's castle where he must collect the ballot papers to topple the great man but first you must get past Arthur's personal body guard of flying pickets and nasties.

The game looks very similar to Jet Set Willy but in Jet Set Willy you could easily visit other rooms without collecting items from them. This is not so in Monty Mole. By collecting particular items you are able to proceed through some of the nasties or a wall opens up to allow access to another room. This means that it not a straightforward platform game and some thought is needed to play it. Some of the problems include how to get past the wall on the seventh sheet and how to get past the railway sheets. This all adds up to a highly enjoyable game.

I remember reviewing Monty Mole when it was first released and thinking that it was an excellent game. If it happened to come into the offices to be reviewed now I think I would like it just as much. The graphics are superb with few attribute problems considering that it is a very colourful game. Monty Mole is just as playable as the third game in the Monty trilogy, Monty On The Run, and is certainly addictive. If you still haven't got it then pop out and buy it now!
RC

This game, of course, was voted Best Platform Game of 84 by CRASH readers, and looking at it again now, I can see why. Although it only has 21 main screens, most of them are deadly tough and you have to go through one or two of them twice. On top of that, the physical layout and the way the screens link make it an exciting looking game that really hasn't dated at all.
LM

(Rob) I wouldn't alter the ratings at all; Monty Mole is still an excellent platform game.

(Lloyd) And neither would I!


Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 36, October 1984   page(s) 40

MACHINE: Spectrum
SUPPLIER: Gremlin Graphics
PRICE: £6.95.

It's not often that the release of a computer is a big enough story to warrant it a couple minutes airtime on ITN's News at Ten.

The added ingredient that caused the interest in Gremlin Graphics' Monty Mole was the inclusion of a famous headline maker in the starring role - namely the president of the NUM, Arthur Scargill.

The scene is set deep down a coal mine in South Yorkshire. You play the part of Monty Mole, a spy who has been hired to infiltrate Scargill's underground fortress and wreck the secret ballot by stealing all the voting slips.

The graphical representation of the characters is good and overall the screen effects are pleasant. The colours used also make it easy to see what you are doing - a fact often overlooked by a lot of software houses and their programmers!

But, to be honest, the game offers very little that is new. Monty Mole is just an amalgamation of Manic Miner and Bug Byte's Antics and The Birds and the Bees.

Climbing games packed with ladders, ramps and conveyor belts are very old hat. And I'm sure there are very few people who would disagree - even Gremlin Graphics themselves.

This is not a wholesale criticism of the game's worth or playability, but I could not justify recommending Monty Mole to the readership of this magazine, knowing that this review could prompt owners of either Manic Miner or Antics to buy the game.


Getting Started: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Value: 7/10
Playability: 7/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Personal Computer Games Issue 11, October 1984   page(s) 46, 47

MACHINE: Spectrum 48K
CONTROL: Keys, Kemp, Sinc
FROM: Gremlin, £6.95

ARHTUR SCARGILL'S MOLE

How do you get a computer game featured on TV? Simple! Base it around a current major talking point, such as the miners strike, and then include a controversial figure like Arthur Scargill as one of the characters.

Thus it was the people at Gremlin managed to get Monty Mole on News at Ten and ensure themselves thousands of pounds worth of free publicity.

Mind you, the game deserves it - it's very impressive. Or to be more precise they're very impressive; the versions on the Spectrum and '64 are almost two different games.

On both, the aim is to guide a very cute mole around a mine collecting coal and avoiding such horrors as flying pickets, mammal-eating fish and coal crushers. They're both platform games, so you might be permitted a groan at this point on the assumption that these are simply new renderings of Manic Miner.

Well, there are enough differences to give these games an original feel. For a start the depiction of the mines is graphically very impressive. In both games, but especially on the '64, there is great variety in the different screens: huge crushing pistons, ropes for climbing, lakes, sliding floors, vertical conveyor belts and much much more.

Your task is also different from previous games in the genre. In the Spectrum version, there are 20 screens divided into four regions. You can move freely from screen to screen within a single region, but your progress beyond that will be barred until you've collected all the coal in that region.

Once the coal is collected a wall will dissolve, and you have one (and only one!)) chance of getting into the next group of screens before the wall reforms.

Another innovative feature on the Spectrum version is the provision of weapons you can collect. Each weapon allows you one safe contact with an attacker. Just as well, since some pieces of coal would otherwise be unreachable.

One of the main differences in the '64 version is that you don't have separate screens. Instead the picture scrolls as Monty moves, in similar fashion to programmer Tony Crowther's earlier game Son of Blagger.

In this version the mine contains 14 'master switches' which you must operate in order. Each switch creates (somewhere!) a piece of coal which must be collected and an energising 'box of worms'.

Finding the latter will restore the energy which is constantly being depleted by contact with the mines inhabitants. But you only get one point for each piece of coal collected - so you could be halfway through the game and only have seven points. The Spectrum version is a bit more generous.

What about Arthur Scargill? Well, he doesn't appear until the final stages when you have to collect a set of ballot papers in a bid to topple him. I failed to do this, which must be one of the few things I have in common with Margaret Thatcher.

One criticism of both games is that the instructions are inadequate. For example, they only hint at the fact that in the first screen there's a bucket which must be picked up if any coal is to be collected at all. And in the '64 game, the function of the master switches is not explained.

I also found control of the mole a little difficult in both games, even with a joystick (the Spectrum version is compatible with Kempston and Sinclair Interface 2).

One really poor feature of the Spectrum game is the hymn tune which plays when you die. It sounds horrible. Sound on the '64 game is a lot better, with a very attractive rendition of Colonel Bogey as a background tune.

In my view, platform games still have a long way to run. If you can put up with a measure of frustration, Monty Mole will unearth a great deal of action for your money.


Monty Mole owes much to Miner Willy and seems set to become as big a star.

The graphics on this game are magnificent, as good as any I've seen on a Spectrum. The movement is very smooth. Monty himself is a graphical masterpiece, and his walking, jumping and climbing is a delight to watch. The sound effects are not brilliant but otherwise this is a marvellous game.

Peter Walker

This game was given a lot of free publicity by being featured on television - it looked good then and graphically is brilliant. However, as a game concept it leaves much to be desired.

A couple of years ago it would have been hailed as a great step forward in computer programming. Now after games like Jet Set Willy, the 'exploring unknown caverns filled with craaazy hazards' is rather old hat.

The graphics are without doubt the best ever on the Spectrum, though Monty is difficult to control, being so large, and this causes some problems when trying to get out of a tight corner quickly.

Martyn Smith

Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 4/10
Originality: 4/10
Lasting Interest: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

Award: PCG Hit

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue April 1985   page(s) 16

The idea behind Monty Mole can hardly be described as original, but this does not mean the game lacks in addictiveness! The game is based around the character Monty Mole, who, having to face a long and cold winter, must venture deep down into his local coal mine in search of coal to keep him going for the winter.

But as always, this is not as easy as it sounds! While he is in the deep dark recesses of the mine, in order to collect the pieces of coal scattered all over, he must dodge robots that move in regular patterns (similar in style to Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner), and he must also watch out for the Crushers, which can squash him. These Crushers move up and down with random pauses in-between, so getting past them is more a matter of guess work and luck rather than skill and timing. And, if that is not all, bricks and other objects fall through open shafts above Monty when he is in the mine, and of course, there is the old hazard, familiar to all you Miner Willy fans falling from great heights. Not forgetting the dreaded moving platforms that can disappear from under your feet. Sound difficult? Well it is!

In my opinion the game is a cross between Jet Set Willy, Manic Miner, Fred, and The Alchemist. The fact that Monty has to climb ropes in order to travel to the different screens, must have been influenced by Fred. The screens are very much like those of Miner Willy games and The Alchemist.

All the above action is created in excellent smooth cartoon quality graphics. When the game has loaded, the computer presents you with a menu asking you if you want to use keyboard/Kempston/Sinclair joystick. On the first screen of the game, you have to jump across a broken bridge and then avoid acorns dropped on you from a less than friendly squirrel sitting in a nearby tree. Having survived all this, you have to steal a coal bucket left outside a house. After stealing the bucket, an angry miner will come running out after you, while you have to dodge the acorns and jump across the bridge again! From then on, we say goodbye to the angry coalminer and head off to the actual mine where all the action takes place.

Your measly three lives will have you banging your head against the wall with frustration. Everytime you lose one of these lives you will see poor Monty collapsing, and an angel floating upwards on little wings! Instead of collecting all the items on one screen, in Monty Mole you have to collect all the items from one series of screens to get into the next. Stopping you from getting onto the next series of screens is a brick wall that will magically disappear when you have collected all the items!

There is not much sound during the game - just as well too, the game is annoying enough! One criticism of the game being that there are other items which you can collect and in turn these enable you to kill some robots, but allow you to get killed by collecting other items. Not much information is given about these items, but this does not subtract much from the enjoyment of the game. Another criticism is that the game is slightly too hard, making it a bit annoying to play.

It is a game that requires practice to become good at, and I believe that it has the edge over Jet Set Willy, but will not rank as high in the charts mainly because, at the time Jet Set Willy was released, the standard of games then was lower than it is now, so Monty Mole has a harder struggle to the top. The game supports both Kempston and Sinclair Joysticks. All in all, I think Gremlin Graphics have a winner on their hands!


Overall: Not Rated

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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