Reviewed By Dave E In EGG #003: Spectrum
From where I'm sitting, Monty Mole has something in common with Star Wars. Both of them were massive in the Eighties, and yet I missed them. To this day I've never played the original Monty Mole, and I've never seen the original Star Wars movie. I have, however, seen the original Indiana Jones movie - Raiders Of The Lost Ark - a rather exciting jungle jaunt in which Harrison Ford plays an archaeologist attempting to uncover the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do. And that's fortunate, because Monty Mole And The Temple Of Lost Souls is a crossbreed of that very movie with Monty cast in the lead role.
This is a flick-screen graphic adventure, plotted mostly in monochrome but with that peculiarly Spectrum effect of having a different two colours for certain sprites. So our moley hero is rendered in white, whilst the temple walls are in yellow, with the odd creeper in green poking through the floors.
There's no great backstory to the game - you're simply told to find your way out of the temple and to collect as many artefacts as you can. You start the game with six "souls" (lives) and lose one on contact with the scaley inhabitants of the temple, being pulped by the boulderesque traps which lie in wait, or speared through the groin by the hidden spikes.
Nasty, but hold on a moment because it's time for a rant. The title of this game is Monty Mole And The Temple Of Lost Souls, and the only souls that seem to get lost here are your own, each time you take the controls. Why not use the title, to borrow from the sequel Indiana Jones movie, Monty Mole And The Temple Of Doom? That title would make a lot more sense. I mean, it's not like the objective of the game is to lose your souls. In fact, the objective is to escape, not lose all your souls in the attempt!
And breathe... Ok, the title's confusing if you think about it but I suppose in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter.
What does matter is the quality of the game itself and, considering I've reviewed quite a lot of mediocre titles released by Bum Fun now, I'm almost relieved to be able to proclaim wildly that the quality is high. In fact, Monty Mole And The Temple Of Lost Souls is one of the best new Spectrum games I've played in a long time. It draws a lot of its power from the roar of the famous Indiana Jones theme which plays throughout the game (128K only) and the rest from its superior loading screen, screen design (catacombs and tombs) and the dexterous Monty.
The game fills the whole screen, with a status bar at the bottom informing you of how many relics you've collected (It has five leading zeroes so I guess that means there could be up to 999,999 artefacts to find...? Surely not, I've only managed 15 so far!) and how many souls you have left. In some respects the game reminds me of the classic Rick Dangerous, but it's not anywhere near as unfair, and you can't shoot or drop bombs here - merely run left and right and jump.
But the whole here is more than the sum of its parts. What makes this game a real winner is the combination of a stalwart Spectrum hero (Monty) with the Eighties classic Indiana Jones. The result is a pure injection of nostalgia, and it's done so well that it instantly elevates this title to one of this year's "must haves". Other than that odd name, I didn't find anything to moan about either - collision detection is fair, it all runs at a fair old speed, playability is high and that musical score is faultless.
And there's one more point in its favour - you'll remember that I, for one, had never met Monty Mole. Perhaps I'm not as unusual as you might think. Perhaps there are many others out there who missed the mole because they spent the Eighties playing with their Jet Set Willies instead (Not a euphemism!). If so, then this has to be the very best way to make his acquaintance and perhaps pick up some of his other adventures - there's even another also on Bum Fun's own label - Monty's Honey Run.