What d'you get it you cross Jet Set Willy with Daley Thompson' s Decathlon? You get what? Leave this page at once, that's positively disgusting! Of course, you get Phantomas, one of the first releases from a new software house called Codemasters. And for an opener that won't rock your pocket. It's not at all bad.
Yes, it's JSW only the sprites are a bit bigger. Plenty of nasties going up and down, plenty more going from right to left and plenty of platforms so that you can avoid them. Only one life though, but you can replenish your energy by picking up the little coloured squares that are scattered around the screens. And there are plenty of screens.
You play the thief, Phantomas, out to 'alf-inch the jewels hidden on the planet. But first you have to get hold of the strongbox they're kept in by switching 36 separate levers. So, it's jump, dodge, switch on, swan out. Like all good platform games, it comes down to timing - in this case, have I got time for just one more go?
But why? There's nothing really remarkable about the game. On a scale of one to ten it scores minus four for originality. Even some of the sprites are stolen straight from JSW. But it's fun with a capital Ph. And it's full of good things. Like the music. One of those tunes that you end up humming weeks later. Like Phantomas, a real nobody of a computer character. No body, just a head on a pair of feet. Like the variety of screens. Each one holds the promise of a surprise. And yes, like Daley Thompson. On one of the screens you're whisked away in a helicopter and deposited on a planet surface with yet another switch. Throw it and you're told that to run you need the keys V and B. Now run. If you don't you're squashed flat by a large rolling boulder. No body, no head, no game.
This is one of the best arguments I've seen for still comparing budget games with the full-price stuff. There's a couple of days solid playing here at a quarter of the price. Sure, if you're heartily sick of Willy clones, steer clear. Otherwise, give it a spin. It doesn't rate a megagame; not nearly original enough. And it has a few annoying faults that would've been ironed out of a full-price game (I hope).
But i'll play Phantomas again. Phor the sheer phun of it!
Code Masters' one-company campaign to revitalise the platform game has certainly had its moments, but this ain't one of them. Vampire's another attempt at the Dracula legend, but this time transferred lock stock and laser bolts to the 30th century when the thirsty Count has somehow managed to take over the world. You are Brok the Brave, as played by Peter Cushing, I imagine. Dumped in the counts castle it's up to you to fight past all the various nasties, pick up crucial objects like keys, crosses and stakes, and finally knock off Dracula to save the world. All fine and dandy, except that to do this you have to play a multi-screener of stultifying boredom and breathtaking unoriginality. It's slow, flickery and prone to crash at any moment, and everything about it is at best third-hand - the sprites, the gameplay, the screens, the lot.
So my main question is, what is Vampire doing in the charts at number 10 this month? Has the world gone mad? Code Masters can do so much better - so why is it bunging out tat like this? Count Drac would turn in his grave.
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