Black Lamp

Publisher: Firebird
Machine: Commodore 64

Published in Zzap #36

Black Lamp

Jolly Jack the Jester, basher of bladders and singer of songs, is in love. The object of his desire is Princess Grizelda, daughter of King Maxim, whose kingdom, Allegoria, has been plagued by discord ever since the nine enchanted lamps were stolen by a clutch of evil dragons.

Wily King Maxim eventually succumbs to their pleas of marriage on one condition: that Jack seeks out the Dragons and returns the nine lamps to their rightful places, thus restoring happiness to his kingdom. Mad, besotted fool that he is, Jack agrees...

Jack's quest takes place across the land of Allegoria and is displayed as individual static interior screens, and horizontally scrolling exteriors. Exits are found in any of four directions, to front and rear of the screen through doorways and gates, and by leaving the screen to left and right.

Black Lamp

The lamps are placed randomly within the landscape each time a game is played and the jester can only carry one at a time, so he must deliver each to one of twenty chests before picking up another. The eponymous black lamps are held by dragons, whose fireballs are severely damaging. These take many shots to kill before depositing their treasure.

Jack's actions are controlled from joystick and allow him to fire magic bolts, walk, jump and climb up and down ladders. The jester also has seven lives and a magic belt buckle courtesy of his friend Pratweezie; armed only with three and his gymnastic abilities, he confronts a host of opponents who reduce his energy in a variety of ways: werewolves bite, buzzards drop exploding skulls, imps unleash flashing flames of evil. Similarly, falling from heights severely depletes his strength.

Objects are collected which endow the Jester with assorted abilities: for example, shields provide limited immunity to enemy missiles and food replenishes energy. For every weapon collected, Jack is given fifteen lethal shots. As the game progresses, the action grows ever faster and more frantic.

Should his quest prove successful, Jack's reward is the Princess's hand in marriage, and the restoration of harmony to Allegoria.


Platform games are becoming sadly scarce on the C64, but every so often a good one comes along. Black Lamp is such an example, and has plenty of platform action set across a sprawling map.

The going is extremely tough, and the poor old Jester is mobbed by hostiles from the very beginning - but put a little thought into your actions, and watch the creatures do, and it isn't too diffiult to avoid their attentions. Compiling a map is essential if Jack is to retrieve all the lamps and make his way around Allegoria's maze of villages, green meadows and huge castle without getting lost.

Supporting the enjoyable gameplay are some big and nicely animated sprites, colourful backdrops and a really psychedelic tune. The scrolling is a little on the poor side, but otherwise there are no flaws. Black Lamp is extremely challenging, very addictive and comes thoroughly recommended to platform fans.


Underneath the glam exterior of Black Lamp, there lies a very simple game struggling (and occasionally managing) to get out. The graphics are startlingly good, with loads of nicely animated beasties tearing about the quaint and detailed backdrops.

In fact, this proves to be one of its major faults: there are so many creatures hurling physical abuse, and they're so difficult to hit, let alone destroy, that you constantly feel part of an uphill struggle.

I became quite annoyed by this incessant rain of missiles, and Jack is unable to duck or jump high enough to avoid the barrage.

Once again the cartography crew should enjoy the exploration on offer here, but the blasting is too intermittent and the platform action too weak to be considered an extension of those genres.

I would think twice about adding Black Lamp to your shopping list, but one pleasant feature that awaits potential purchasers is the incredibly good soundtrack, especially backing the high score table, which has some very 70's riffs and runs!


Had greater care been taken over setting the difficulty level and redefining the control method, Black Lamp could have been something really special. There are many points in its favour: a large, informative and humorous instruction bookley, an attractive range of characters and some cutely-conceived backdrops.

The music is excellent throughout, but unfortunately, there are no sound effects, so when the soundtrack grates, silence is the only alternative.

The game has some graphical flaws: the scrolling is occasionally juddery and some of the characters are a bit chunky - the main sprite, however, is very appealing in his stripy trousers and jester's cap. The chief fault lies in the gameplay: it's slightly too difficult because the screens are always busy with creatures, most of whom are faster and more powerful than you; even though you're given seven lives, these can drain away very quickly.

The control method only compounds the mistake: it's very awkward to face front or back, so that climbing ladders or exiting can be time-consumingly clumsy, with a resultant loss of energy.

If you can overcome these annoyances, however, there's enough in the gameplay to maintain interest and enjoyment.


Presentation 80%
Humorous instruction booklet, good screen display, but initially awkward control method.

Graphics 86%
Cute, varied, detailed and pleasantly colourful.

Sound 86%
Excellent soundtrack and equally good in-game tune; no sound effects, though.

Hookability 71%
High difficulty level and awkward control method could be repellent to many.

Lastability 70%
Once hooked, the wealth of locations and creatures, plus the frantic search 'n blast action proves quite addictive.

Overall 78%
A very appealling, but difficult platform collect-'em-up.