On the back of the box, it says 'One of the most spectacular platformers of all time'. What a load of old tosh. I mean, take a look - does the word 'spectacular' leap even anywhere near your mind7 No, it doesn't. Why do people write rubbish like this? Your average punter's going to take one look at it in the shop, say 'That's not spectacular, don't be stupid', and immediately put it back on the shell, which would be a shame as it'd mean they were missing out on one of the year's best games to date. I mean, as it is nobody believes me that it's brilliant, simply because it doesn't look very impressive at first glance, so spouting rubbish like that is just going to turn your potential consumers off at source.
Anyway, to the game. It's fabulous. No, really. It's the third Bubble Bobble sequel that never was, it's Rick Dangerous the way it should have been, it's everything platform games should be but almost never are. It's simple to play but with a sharp difficulty curve that'll start to give you problems before you're halfway through the first world, it's got a simultaneous two-player mode which isn't hopelessly hamstrung by scrolling problems (because there isn't any scrolling), it constantly introduces new features but never gets confusing... it's fun, y'know?
I like it more the more I play it. Here's how it is. There are five worlds in Naughty Ones, each made up of several single screen-levels (the first world has 11 levels, but the number increases as you go on). In most of the levels you have to collect a key to open the door to the exit, but as you progress things get slightly more complicated, with switches to throw to make blocking walls disappear and operate pulleys and stuff as well. Sometimes, in the super-complicated bits, the switch will be on a different screen to the wall (although never more than one screen away). Lots of bad guys litter the levels, and you can kid them if you like. You don't have to, but you get points, and if you kill them in a specified order (indicated by a big arrow above the head of the one you're supposed to get next), you get more points, extra lives and all that kind of thing. I can't think of anything else you have to do.
I'm not really sure how to make this sound more convincing. I saw early demos of Naughty Ones, and wasn't impressed. I only picked it up when it arrived in the office because no-one else had come in yet, and I felt like killing a few minutes before I started work. And yet, five minutes in, I was sitting on the edge of my chair, going "Argh!" and "Eek!" and "Oh no, took at that!" and all kinds of things. Which was stupid, because there wasn't anybody there to hear me, but I couldn't really help it. At first I thought, "Well, I'm always a dead sucker for a cute single-screen platformer. I shouldn't read too much into this", but as I went on and the whole story, as it were, unfolded. I began to find myself thinking "No, actually, it's not just me, this is really good. From straightforward arcadey beginnings, it gradually pulls you into more thoughtful areas, with screens that you have to study lot a bit before you go racing off, and decisions to make about routes, and secret rooms to find, and gambles to risk for extra lives and power-ups and allsorts (literally and metaphorically). It starts like Parasol Stars, but after a while it's really like Rick Dangerous, except without all of those unbelievably annoying invisible hazards that you've got no way of knowing about until they kill you. It's really tricky in parts, but purely in terms of demanding skill from the player, not by overwhelming you with speed or numbers or things you can't see - even with an infinite lives cheat I was struggling to get through some of it. You don't get any continues or passwords or anything, so you actually have to be good to get anywhere, and even when you've been through a screen a dozen times, you still have to be careful, despite the fact that bad guys don't come back after you've killed them and only the indestructible hazards remain. And isn't it great to have a game that comes on a single disk with practically no accessing?"
Well, by the time I'd finished thinking all that, the rest of the team had arrived. I docked them all a day's pay for being late, and said "What do you think of this?" They said "We think it's a bit unfair, actually, it's only quarter to ten", and I said "No, no, what do you think of the game?" But they were too busy moaning about their wages to form any constructive opinions, so, er, that's that sketch knackered. Um...
TYKES ON BIKES
Don't you just hate it when you lose your concentration and wander off the subject like that? What I'm trying to say here, I suppose, is that I've kinda shot myself in the foot again (like with Cool Spot two issues ago), by giving three pages to a really simple game that there isn't anything to say about except "It's really good, buy it." The difference with this one, though, is that you probably won't. It's from a company you've probably never heard of, it was written by foreigners (no!), it doesn't look earth-shattering, it doesn't have an amazingly cool central character, and it won't be on GamesMaster. I feel safe in predicting a low-20s chart position, at the most. Prove me wrong.
But anyway, I guess the only part of the review left to do is to decide on the mark. At first I reckoned somewhere in the mid-80s, but then I realised that I'd be being just as bad as I'm ranting at you lot for, in marking it down simply because it's not 'big' or glamorous. So then I thought high 80s, but suddenly I remembered I'd given Team 17's Qwak 88%, and while that's a really smashing little game, it's not as pretty, varied or involved as this, so it really shouldn't get as high a score. Oh, what the hell, I haven't given anything 90 in ages. I'm going to give it 90.
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