Gimmick! Yumetaro Odyssey

Author: Dave E
Publisher: Matra
Machine: Spectrum 128K/+2

Gimmick! Yumetaro Odyssey

There's something magical about 128K - it's almost like it's the exact "right" size of memory. It's big enough that a passable version of almost any game can be squeezed into it, and small enough that whatever project you're working on isn't likely to grow beyond a manageable size. In fact, it's a shame that there weren't more games designed specifically for the 128K Spectrums - most Spectrum stuff seemed to be for the 48K machine, with an "enhanced" version for the 128K. And by enhanced, we mean some in-game music and all the levels loading into memory rather than being accessed serially from tape.

Oddly enough, this situation continues even today - when was the last time you saw a developer going all out to produce a 128K only game? Off the top of my head I can only really think of Crystal Kingdom Dizzy 2017, whilst I could reel off at least fifty games for the 48K machine that came out last year alone. So it's quite refreshing to see Gimmick is unashamedly 128K only - you'll need either a +2, a +3 or a Spectrum 128 to load it (or more likely, an emulator of one of these machines). The cassette contains a version in English on Side 1, and a version in Spanish on Side 2 and, whilst this is a big game, loading time is surprisingly short all things considered.

So have Matra used the Speccy's memory wisely? Well, Gimmick is a platformer created with The Mojon Twins' MK2 engine (The most famous game written with this engine so far seems to be Ninjajar) so perhaps it's unfair to credit Matra for how the game handles. What they can be credited for, however, is the imagination employed in its design. Gimmick truly is a chameleon of a game - featuring elements of many different game types and dutifully paying homage through its varied screen designs to such instantly recognisable games as Super Mario Bros, Sonic and Ghouls And Ghosts. Thoroughly professional from the off, this plays more like a console game than something written for the humble 8-bit.

Gimmick! Yumetaro Odyssey

The plot centres around Yumetaro, a sort of cute Japanese pet-thing (you know the type of character: half-cat, half nymphomaniac, with a huge head) that has been "absorbed" into a Nineties home computer. Well, at least that's what the instructions say. The miserable old man who lives in a house inside the computer begs to differ. Floating around with a jetpack on his back, he seems to think your arrival is something to do with the seven magic balls scattered around his lands, and entreats you to go forth and gather them up (More Japanese weirdness: Why is this man using his jetpack inside his low-ceilinged house?).

Take up the challenge and you'll get to visit mushroom world (Mario) first, then Ninja world (Sonic) and in time a plethora of worlds, all of which have bright, attractive graphics, exclusive bouncy little tunes that are similar but not identical to their inspirations... and a whole host of bad guys to avoid. Colliding with one of them, or with spikes or other stationary nasties, causes the loss of a life. You don't need to worry unduly however, because as long as you don't lose all of your lives within a world, you can visit the hospital to have your health restored. Don't get too complacent though because each world culminates in a big boss battle - so you want to be saving at least a few lives for that confrontation.

Essentially, many elements of Gimmick are depressingly familiar - flick-screens, platforms, jump, shoot, blah, blah. It's hard therefore to point to what it is that makes it so much fun to play. However, I'd hazard a guess that it's a combination of the sheer lunacy of the characters, the imagination of the levels and the fun feel of the graphics - not to mention the fact that it uses the whole 128K memory. These elements give it a real lift. The ease of health restoration also makes everything feel very encouraging too... if you die, you simply get returned to the area outside the entrance to the world that caused your demise. You can therefore either try again without having to go all the way back to the beginning, or try a different world instead. In some worlds you can also fire bullets, giving the games within these worlds a whole new variant of variety.

All in all, a highly polished platformer that mixes those crazy Japs' mangaesque design with everything classic Nintendo and Sega ever brought to the party. Slap it in your Spectrum tape deck today, you won't be disappointed!

Dave E

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