Do you remember Colditz on telly? Surely no one can forget the episode where the man pretended to be mad (largely through the cunning ploy of dribbling his porridge) to get himself released from Colditz. Hurrah! One in the eye for old Fritz. Then of course it turned out he really had gone mad. Oh how we wept and how we made sure that we only ate our porridge in easy to manage portions. For a few years events in Oflag IVC dominated television like Ramsey Street does today.
Then along came the board game which enlivened many a Christmas or rainy Sunday with frenzied arguments about whose turn it was to be the Germans. Fortunately, things have changed since the board game has become a computer game - the cry goes up "At last no arguments about who has to be the Germans." In fact there need be no arguments about anything since the game is, to all intents and purposes, for one player. (Though since you can flick between four prisoners it would be possible - if a little laborious - to play it as a four player game.)
The object of the game is to get all four prisoners out of the castle successfully (no surprises there then) with the right equipment to see them over the border. Equipment for both the escape and the border crossing can be found lying around the castle. However, it must be picked up without running into the prowling guards. Once spotted somewhere you shouldn't be, such as the courtyard or Eva Braun's shower (oo-er), the call goes up for your arrest. Trying to avoid arrest might well buy you a few crucial minutes extra freedom but it might also get you a rather vicious bullet in the back. All the stern stuff of prison life is here. Tunnels in the chapel, keys in the stairwell and roll calls at the most inconvenient times imaginable. In fact the only things that are missing are the theme music and an "eat porridge" option.
Paul: I've never really got to grips with this escaping malarkey. To be honest if I were captured in a war my first thoughts wouldn't be "It's every Officer's duty to escape" but "Coo I'm well out of that, think I'll put my feet up for the duration." Ah well, that's what comes of being descended from Lord Henri de Lakin, The Cowardly Count, a man who changed sides almost as often as he changed underwear. However, in computer games the sprites do all the dying for you so I launched myself into Colditz with relish. If it needs pigeonholing Colditz is an arcade adventure, in as much as you need to collect items to overcome obstacles. But it's not a linear game since you don't progress by stages; escapes have to be built up and carefully planned. When arrested you lose all your equipment so the careful escaper builds up equipment, uses the four prisoners in conjunction and proceeds with caution.
If your dream game is a shoot 'em up, then all this will be a bit dull for you. However, I found it fairly addictive. The graphics fit the theme well, although they get a bit jerky when the screen is crowded and sprite control is a bit dodgy on staircases. One strange effect is the way buildings in the courtyard vanish and appear as you walk around. This is so you can see yourself when you walk round a corner or outhouse but it's a little disconcerting nonetheless. The prisoners' movements are rather more effective: when in walk mode they shuffle around hands in pockets like veteran scroungers.
The game is challenging enough and not one that is going to be completed in five seconds. There lies its fatal flaw. There's no flippin' Save Game option. How many people can spare three hours or more at a time? Even reviewers have other things to do with their time. This means that Colditz the computer game has the same drawback as Colditz the boardgame - no one's got time to play it.
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