Hocus Focus

by David Whittaker, Ste Pickford, Steve Hughes
Quicksilva Ltd
Crash Issue 28, May 1986   page(s) 32

Producer: Quicksilva
Retail Price: £8.95
Author: David Whittaker and Steve Hughes

After committing some horribly sordid and particularly nasty crime arch professor eccentric, Dr Augustus Dopper, has been taken into the police custody and is in severe danger of having to eat large amounts of porridge. Left within his Hyde Park residence are a number of yet to be submitted patent applications. Though the dear old Prof was far more than the odd marble short, stupid he wasn't and the various potential patents are of a very interesting nature indeed. The Daily Shocker is one of the organisations that the new inventions have managed to interest. Why? Because their readers have a right to know? Because some rather mind-stimulating and in-depth articles could be written about them? No, the Daily Shocker isn't that sort of paper. It's because the headline 'SICKO BOFFINS STARTLING INVENTIONS' would sell plenty of copies to the type of reader that the rag attracts.

Hacker Harry, editor in chief, soon assigns the best man on the staff to the job of getting into the Prof's labs to photograph the pat. pending papers left around the place. His name is Jeremy, he is a punk and is a YOP trainee photographer.

Old Augustus Dopper had a very strange mind indeed and for some peculiarly unexplained reason the professor's workplace is decorated with a number of palm trees and a hole in the ground. Since the palm trees are a bit dull Jeremy decides to jump through the hole and into the multi-layered caverns that make up Augustus's secret lair. Within this subterranean psycho bin there are some very strange objects to be found and not all of them are as benign as they may well seem. The major concern of Jeremy's travels is to seek out the number of pots that proliferate in the caves, for within these lie one of three items: a vacuum, a nasty or a patent. The first causes no trouble, just disappointment. The second is surprising and steals any objects in Jeremy's inventory. The third should be photographed instantly and recorded for posterity.

Once the film is full it has to be developed, an activity which is carried out at the place where Jeremy came into the scene. It's also worth resurfacing for the fresh air as it blows away any form of radiation that may have infected Jeremy. Because of the strange nature of Dr Dopper's experiments there's more background radiation about than there is on Cumberland's beaches and popping back to the outside world drains off the millirads at a reassuring rate. Another thing to be wary of are the baddies ready to spring into Jeremy's path if he trundles over a Jeremy sensitive pad, plodding after him, they trounce the punk person and steal all of his loot.

Hocus Focus is a game that takes place within 'windows'. There are four in all and the main window should keep your eye for most of the time. It contains a centrally placed Jeremy sprite with his background around him. As Jeremy moves with his left, right and jump keys the pretty scenery scrolls smoothly by.

To interact with his environment far more than the normal directional controls are supplied, two of the other windows relate to the implementation of the icon system. Hocus Focus is also an adventure type game and a quick pound on the icon key freezes all action and activates two little windows. Up and down cycles through the various actions available while fire selects that command. This section is needed quite a bit for peering in vases, taking photos and developing film type activities. As in all good adventures, objects can be picked up and manipulated, in fact they have to be to finish the game.

All is over once the complete set of patents have been celluloidally captured by the punk cub reporter.


Control keys: O/P left/right, M to jump/activate icon, A for icon mode, Q & A to scroll icons
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor type, Interface 2
Keyboard play: responsive
Use of colour: monochromatic main screen with colourfully pretty windows.
Graphics: nice animation though the backgrounds are a bit bland
Sound: not amazing and barely audible
Skill levels: 1
Screens: multi-level playing area

Hocus Focus is a very well presented and neat little game, although I feel it suffers from the same problem as FGTH in that you need a good few hours to play through the whole game. Despite this awesome task I got quite involved in it, and quite enjoyed trudging through the deep recesses of some tropical island. The play area scenery is well detailed but suffers from being cramped up in a small little box at the top of the screen - after a while I felt the strain on my eyes as this little box is where 95% of the action takes place. Hocus Focus was easy to get into but presented no further challenge in keeping the same going - all that is needed is lots of time and patience, as the baddies (that incidentally look like martians from outer space) become very annoying after a few minutes or so. I enjoyed playing Hocus Focus the first time but wouldn't bother to go back to it again.

A strange little release this and rather pleasant it is too. As an interpretation of an adventure without text it works very well indeed. The icon system is one of the easiest to use that I've yet seen, change between arcade action and ponderous decision is very easy indeed. The graphics, though monochromatic, work quite well, the animation is especially nice. The scrolling is noticeable by its quality, very smooth and fluent indeed. Overall a neat little release that would be well worth a look at from any person into this type of thing.

This is a straightforward game in terms of gameplay - patience and a good mapping arm are all that's needed to complete it successfully. It's a well finished, tidily produced product with excellent scrolling icon control that is fun to play - for a while at least. At times the game can be very frustrating, particularly when a meanie pops out and steals your film which is full of useful snaps, but if you make a mistake it's not fatal! The animation is quite neat - I particularly liked the punk hairstyle of your hero cub reporter - but the actual playing area is, perhaps a little small. All in, not a bad game, but not a great game.

Use of Computer: 78%
Graphics: 77%
Playability: 71%
Getting Started: 81%
Addictive Qualities: 71%
Value for Money: 68%
Overall: 70%

Summary: General Rating: Quite a neat game that is actually original in some respects.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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