Welcome to the life of a clown, your task is to gather up all the hats on each level! After which you shall proceed to the next level. But as this is a clown game, the levels are known as 'rings'. Clowns perform in rings not levels! But.. before you think that's all to it, there are indeed obstacles in your way. I've figured that you have to be quite strategic if you want to collect up all the hats. The evil clowns that are out to get you can be quite clever. You also really have to get the knack of jumping from platform to platform, as that can be quite tricky. As you progress up through the rings the game gets harder, the clowns get more evil, and your jumping skills need to improve.
Big Top sets itself apart from Jumpman by having each ring span onto two or more screens. I thought this was rather nifty myself :). With sparkly CGA colours, and the PC speaker blatting out the sounds this game is all fun. The sounds aren't too annoying, and the graphics are actually quite good considering the game is 20 years old.
Undoubtedly Michael Abrash's masterpiece, and one of my most favorite games of all time, Funtastic's Big Top is an incredibly addictive "ladder" game that adds so many extras and nice touches that set it apart from the likes of Lode Runner. The goal is straightforward: in each level (called "ring" in the game), you must retrieve all of the circus Ringmasters' hats that are scattered around the level while avoiding evil clowns. What makes Big Top special is the amazing level design and very good enemy AI -- you'll actually have to *think* your way through each level to minimize damage, and carefully observe the evil clowns' pattern. The levels, naturally, get more and more difficult, but they also get much bigger. One of the things I like about the game is how each ring is not only one-screen big, but spans at least 2 screens (e.g. lower and upper level).
Like most Michael Abrash's games, Big Top is very immersive-- you'll hold your breath when making seamingly impossible leaps across platforms, and you'll be staying late into the night trying "just one more ring" to see more devious levels where the exit always seem out of reach. If you like fast, fun arcade games, look no further than Big Top. A true classic in every respect.
Note: This download includes original disk image of the game (it's a self-booting game), and Flopper program to run it. You'll need to first install Flopper, then play the game from 3.5" floppy. I could have waited for Demonlord to make MS-DOS version, but the game is so good I can't wait :)
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