Your Sinclair

Butcher Hill

Author: Matt Bielby
Publisher: Gremlin
Machine: Spectrum 48K/128K

Published in Your Sinclair #41

Butcher Hill

I'm a bit young and a bit English for Vietnam to have meant very much to me, but goodness knows I've played it enough times on the Speccy. You can imagine my chortles of delight at Gremlin giving me yet another shot at the blooming thing then. Ho hum.

Butcher Hill comes in three loads, with a level on each. The first takes you (in a rubber boat) along the river deep into the jungle. In the second you make your way through the undergrowth towards the enemy camp at Butcher Hill shooting gooks as you go, and in the third you attack their camp, blow it up and rescue all the prisoners of war. Yep, I guess someone at Gremlin's been watching too many Chuck Norris movies again.

In level one, which seems to go on forever, you steer your rubber dinghy down a long winding river. You begin with six lives, but can add to these by driving ocer extra stamina barrels which are floating in the water. Similarly, you can pick up more bullets from other barrels. However all's not sweetness and light - there are floating mines to be avoided, reeds which send you temporarily out of control and rocks that bounce you up in the air. Added to this, planes make constant straffing runs at you, their bullets hitting the water in a neat effect. There's no way to shoot them down unfortunately, but you can blow up the mines if you're quick enough on the trigger. This is done with a floating gunsight (a la Operation Wolf) and a fast eye - for until you get very near them, the mines and the reeds are nearly identical, and you don't want to waste precious bullets on a bunch of bull-rushes, do you?

Butcher Hill

Occasionally the planes that pass overhead are on your side and drop bonuses to be picked up, one of the most important being a compass that you'll need in the second load. Eventually you reach the first of three jetties where you are meant to land and enter the second load. Oh, this is okay, I thought. I'll just... Ker-Blamm! Oops, I appear to have hit the jetty and blown up.

Let's try again. I fought my way through the first level again until I reached the jetty. Right, let's be careful here, let's take it gently and tie up just so, let's... Ker-Blamm! Oh dear. Let's try it one more time. Careful, careful... Phew.

I'm now in the jungle, and a bit stuck because I've failed to pick up the compass. But I don't care, 'cos this is where the game gets a lot more ambitious in what it's trying to do, and so even though it doesn't always work too well I've got a bit more time for it.

A gunsight hovers in the middle of the screen and behind it I can see the jungle. We're talking serious Operation Wolf here. I waste a few rounds on the jetty trying to pick off non-existant enemies then head on into the jungle, which is most surreal and weird. It's all very dark and green and though I can, in theory, turn around 360' and head off in any direction, I mostly just bump into trees and the screen shakes rather disconcertingly. Two or three directions lead towards visible clearings though, so I head off along one of these paths for a while. Occasionally I come across enemy soldiers and have a shoot out with them. More often than not I die (There are land mines underfoot and all sorts of other trouble too. Yikes!)

Finally, level three which I have to admit I didn't get to, but which involves blowing up every building on the hill with grenades before you've won. And that's it. All pretty unmemorable and unremarkable, really, and of course absolutely nothing to do with how the Vietnam war was actually fought. I (luke)warmed slightly towards the gameplay of level two, but the whole thing had a slightly unfinished feel to it and can't really be recommended.

An uninspiring idea for a game tackled in a pretty uninspiring way. No Operation Wolf (no matter how hard it tries).

Matt Bielby

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