It's a bit of an 'almost' game this one, I'm afraid. I wanted to like it, I really did. (Heck, I wanted to write lots of lovely things about it, give it a Megagame, say "Welcome, back, Monty, why'd you stay away so long?", things like that.) But, um, I can't really. Impossamole is... okay. Erm, well perhaps it's a bit better than okay, but it's no Rainbow islands, no New Zealand Story, no Rick Dangerous and no Wonderboy. (Perhaps we've just been spoilt by the frighteningly high standard of graphics and gameplay in coin-op conversions recently, I don't know.)
Don't get me wrong though - Impossamole isn't a terrible game, just a disappointing one. It could (and should) have been a lot better than it is, not the slightly old-fashioned, rather empty and a tiny bit ill-conceived plodder we've ended up with. To beat the Japanese at this sort of thing you've got to be perfect or near as dammit (just like they are), and 'perfect' isn't quite the word that springs to mind when you first see the new-look Monty Mole. (I think 'silly' is closer, actually.)
I mean, just look at the poor chap. Not only does he resemble a rather unhappy pig with a cape on more than any sort of mole I've ever seen (something confirmed by his basic fighting move - a kick - which reveals him to have trotters!) but he looks faintly uncomfortable throughout the game. Take his tree-climbing posture (please, take it!). Is that a fat slug wiggling away there, or what? His bat like gliding pose is even worse! (What was wrong with going for a much simpler main sprite, that's what I'd like to know. In Rainbow islands, Wonderboy - and even Dizzy! - our heroes were hardly animated at all, and worked perfectly. Monty tries too hard and comes across a bit dumb.)
The general standard of gameplay 'isn't quite there' either. Collision detection is generally ropey, attack patterns poorly timed, there's too little to collect and not enough to climb. Baddies are sadly thin on the ground too, and Monty himself is much too plodding, weak and slow. (It's not a beat-'em-up - he shouldn't have to faff around hitting baddies two or three times before they die.)
On the plus side, however, all five levels seem to be of a pretty high standard graphically, with lots of colour (and a fair amount of colour clash appearing too, unfortunately). Most of the sprites are quite well drawn (though nothing stunning), but I was a bit disappointed at how little has been done with the various themes of each level. The mine bit and the jungle are pretty run-of-the-mill, while I played the Oriental level about four times before realising it was meant to be set in the Far East! I thought it was an orchard or something, and those blokes attacking me were gardeners! How disappointing.
Actually the best of an uninspired bunch is probably the Switzerland-styled mountain bit, though even here there's far too little to do, only one way to go, and some very jerky scrolling messing the gameplay about a bit (a flip screen might have been a better idea if they were having these problems.)
(By the way, if you're like me you're probably trying to puzzle out what the connection is between these four very different locations. And if you're like me you've probably come up with an answer - there isn't one, they just seemed like a good idea to someone somewhere at the time. What a pity they didn't make each one a bit more interesting.)
And so to the conclusion. Despite lots of colour, some occasionally nifty touches and the return of an old favourite character, Impossamole is a bit of a disappointment. What it lacks is any really well thought out puzzles or gameplay. Throughout the games there's just one way to go, one way to avoid (or confront) a problem, one baddy to fact at a time, and, well, there should be a lot more. There should also be more things to collect, more platforms to climb, more secret rooms, more of everything really.
Sorry, but Impossamole comes across as a mid-'80s Spectrum character all tarted up with coin-op style trimmings and ending up looking faintly ridiculous. It's too slow, too pedestrian, too ill thought-out and too empty of interesting characters! perhaps I've been very hard on what is, after all, a reasonably colourful and pretty platform game, but I was expecting, or maybe just hoping for, a little more. It's not just that things like Rainbow Islands are incredibly hard acts to follow (though they are), it's that Impossamole isn't really inspiring by any standards, even by those of the old Monty Mole games.
My sources reveal that Impossamole is in fact the fifth and last in a long line of Monty Mole games, I can't actually recall what they were all called off-hand, so I'll subtly and cunningly drop them in mid-review when I remember.
But Impossamole. Is it the best of the lot or what? Well, in a word beginning with 'n' and ending with 'o', no. In true tradition it's still largely a platforms-and- ladders game (scrolling every now and then) with the customary baddy to stun, object to collect and puzzle to solve along the way. Although it was an improvement on the original two in the series where each screen played more as an individual puzzle (er, Wanted Monty Mole and Monty On The Run), it seemed to be taking rather a step back from Auf Wiedersehen Monty (the third) which quite brilliantly interlinked the puzzle element into a huge playing area. (Monty appeared for the fourth time sellotaped to the cover of YS in the exclusive Moley Christmas, of course.) Specific complaints included such remarks as "not enough platforms, ladders, or puzzles," "predictable movement patterns', "dodgy collision detection", "rather unsatisfactory graphics" and "a bit of a 'plodder" (a word which I've just made up to describe games which plod' along a bit too slowly for comfort).
However, these complaints are, and were, the sort of things that should have been said when reviewing the game as a full-pricer, and as a re-release barg I'm sure we can be a little more lenient. The five large levels (which can be played in your favourite order) certainly mean you're getting value for your moolah. And, well, it's good clean fun. Certainly worth a look if you thought "Hmm. Well, shall I buy it or not?" beforehand, and then didn't.
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