We make no apologies for giving this more space than the normal budget reviews, as Ocean have set a new standard for cut-price titles. Listening to Joe Public's constant moaning about 'how the oldies are the best', Ocean have dipped into their impressive 8-bit back catalogue and have converted one of their classic titles. Originally written by Match Day maestros, John Ritman and Bernie Drummond, Head Over Heels was the duos second attempt at the popular isometric adventure genre. Pioneered by Ultimate and their legendary Knight Lore and Alien 8 games, over the following years the 3D arena was choc-a-bloc with all manner of dross contenders to the Ultimate throne.
However, it was Ritman and Drummond's brilliant Batman and Head Over Heels that set the new standard. Drawing its name from its principle characters, the Amiga version of Head Over Heels has been given the complete works, and the monochrome graphics of the Spectrum version have been upgraded to make use of the machine's basic sixteen colours. The result is a game that knocks the spots off any other arcade/adventure.
Set in the sprawling land of Blacktooth, both Head and Heels must locate a series of crowns which will rid their world of the evil despot currently throwing it into chaos. These crowns are secreted within the hundreds of rooms that make up the Empire, and using their assorted skills, both heroes must eventually team up to fight the good fight against evil.
Each of Blacktooth's graphically stunning rooms contains a series of puzzles and objects, which must be solved and manipulated before our heroes may pass. To conquer these, both Head and Heels have specific abilities. The trumpet-faced Mr Head, for example, can protect himself by firing any collected doughnuts through his unusual schnozzle, but his movement is restricted due to a severe lack of feet. However. Mr Heels, a fine canine-looking fellow, scoots around at a fair pace on his paws, and can collect objects in his handbag(!). By positioning Mr Head on Mr Heels' shoulders, though, the two creatures' special properties are united, creating a 'Super Being' who can run, jump, fire and collect useful objects. On the downside, though, if the piggy-backed heroes come a cropper, two lives are lost rather than the one when they are independent of each other.
With its many tricks and traps, Head Over Heels can quite easily claim to be the best arcade/adventure the Amiga has seen. Blacktooth's many rooms are overflowing with puzzles, which range from creating a staircase from a series of blocks, to guiding a 'Charlek' (a cross between Prince Charles and a Dalek) with a joystick to bridge seemingly impassable gaps. In addition, teleporters take the duo to deeper areas of the Blacktooth Empire, which include graphically superb libraries and laboratories, all of which contain suitably weird inhabitants. Graphically, the game is great, and the
Amiga's processor makes for a far faster game than its 8-bit predecessors could handle. In addition, although not exactly world-shattering, the game's many ditties and effects have been faithfully recreated, adding to its surreal atmosphere admirably. In releasing Head Over Heels after all this time - and on budget - Ocean have taken a worthwhile risk which they have pulled off perfectly. Head Over Heels is a must for every Amiga owner, and could hopefully pave the way for some of the better past licences and original products to eventually make it on to the Amiga.
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