Don't you just love being in control? Puff and Blow, the eponymous Super Methane Bros, do. Which is why they're less than happy when their sensible, mundane, ordered lives are turned upside down by evil mystical forces. The full story of their tragic plight is far too cliched to go into here, but suffice to say that the upshot of it all is that the twosome are trapped inside a giant clocktower, and the only way to escape is by tramping through each of the tower's 125 platform-endowed chambers.
Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds, mainly due to the marauding nasties who are intent on Puff and Blow's demise. Quite why they hate our cutesy heroes is never made clear, but I'm sure they have their reasons - perhaps P&B didn't wipe their feet before entering the tower and have been treading mud into the nice carpets.
Luckily, the boys are armed with special methane guns with which they can trap the baddies in gas bubbles. Once ensnared, the helpless baddy can be sucked up and then blasted into any nearby wall, whereupon they'll metamorphose into a shower of bonus items. You can't help feeling a double-barrel shotgun would be a lot simpler and far more effective, but you know what these cutesy game characters are like.
Should Puff and Blow gas and bash all the nasties, they get a few seconds to mop up any goodies left lying around before they're whisked off to the next single-screen level. Along the way there are power-ups - both good and bad - to collect, secret features to discover, a variety of foes to defeat - in short, all the good things you've come to expect from modern platform japery.
You'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to notice that Super Methane Bros bears more than a passing resemblance to the classic coin-op Bubble Bobble. In fact, if the two games were any more similar Taito would probably be 'phoning their solicitors and issuing writs. Of course, there's nothing wrong with such blatant, er, 'tributes' (as far as the gamesplaying punter is concerned, anyway) as Team 17 proved with the superb budgeter Qwak. Sadly, however, Super Methane Bros falls some way short of being a classic. It's the playability of the thing that's its main flaw - the sprites, although pretty, are just too large. This, combined with the slightly stodgy control, makes skillful manoeuvring around the cramped screens a real headache. The laborious task of trapping, catching and then bashing the meanies is not that fun or instinctive either, and after prolonged play it rapidly becomes a bit of a chore. The two-player mode is lacking too, as it's very hard in all the claustrophobic confusion to work out who's sucked up a nasty and who hasn't. On the plus side, however, there are loads of interesting secrets to discover, which helps prolong the game's longevity. Don't get me wrong - SMB isn't a bad game and there's a fair degree of enjoyment to be had here, but if you're on the look-out for a decent Bubble Bobble clone I'd advise you to save fifteen quid and seek out Qwak instead.
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Super Monaco GP, Super Hang On, Stormlord, Secret of Monkey Island, The, Paperboy 2, Switchblade 2, Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge AGA, R-Type 2
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