Alter Ego (Retrosouls) Review | - Everygamegoing


Alter Ego
By RetroSouls
Spectrum 48K/128K/+2/+3

Alter Ego

It's not often that a game appears almost simultaneously on two formats as different as the Spectrum and the Nintendo. The systems are worlds apart in terms of capability.

It's even rarer when that game seems to have been released specifically, with a poetic nod to its subject matter, for those two particular consoles on purpose.

The game in question is Alter Ego from RetroSouls in which the central premise is "mirrored" reality. If you know your retro computer history, you'll be aware thirty years ago, the mirrored computer reality was the British with their hands full of Spectrums, and the Americans busy with their Nintendos. I'm bowled over by RetroSouls' marketing nous to echo its game concept with the history of the consoles in that sort of way. This is, however, what they have done.

Alter Ego

And, on top of that, this two man team (Richard Armijo on NES; Denis Grachev on Speccy) have created an amazing platformer/puzzler too. At first glance a typical ladders and levels game, its short instructions reveal only that you will be accompanied throughout your quest by a mysterious, ghostly alter-ego. Your quest is simply to collect all the jellies from each screen. But as soon as you start to move, you'll see him - a spooky see-through half-man that glides through the scenery either horizontally or vertically, echoing every move you make.

He isn't actually your problem. The demon skulls that pace the platforms of each level, the bridges which collapse beneath your feet and the puzzles that will have you tearing out your own hair in frustration are Alter Ego's big headaches. The ghostly figure is in fact your key to outwitting each of them. By a tap of the 'Switch' key, you and your alter ego switch places. Which, essentially means that, instead of the usual "jump" key, you can transport to another area of the screen.

That's Alter Ego, exactly the same game on each format, with exactly the same layout of screens. You must run left and right, and climb and descend the ladders, avoiding anything that moves. If you're in danger, you need to position yourself ready to use one of your limited 'switches' - you and your alter ego then whizz across the screen to change places. You can even do this whilst falling or climbing ladders. The number of 'switches' you can make changes each screen, and screens do not scroll; what you see is the puzzle you need to solve - and sometimes you don't need to 'switch' at all! A cunning inclusion, that.

Alter Ego

Having played both versions, the Nintendo version slightly has the edge over the Spectrum one, with a larger number of tunes, more beautiful sprites and some nice "Level Clear!" and "Game Over" Americanisms that RetroSouls decided us Brits didn't need.

Both of them do also suffer the same irks though. The first is that the ghostly alter ego and the boy you control are actually pretty similar-looking. It's easy to confuse the two and, instead of running the right way, end up running the wrong way as the "other" character...

Alter Ego is also very difficult - it has 25 levels but I can't get further than level 10 due to the perfect timing involved in outwitting some of the adversaries.

As Alter Ego came out at the beginning of the year, the ZX Vega also already includes the Spectrum version - so if you get one of those in your Xmas stocking this year, you can play this game instantly!

Dave E

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