Dave E checks out a new game from Retrosouls
Retrosouls, the publishing name of one Denis Grachev, has build up a solid reputation in the Spectrum homebrew community, so a new game from "them" is always worth checking out. Their latest is Gluf, a platform game featuring a froggy hero who is charged (literally) with energising all the "blocks" of each screen before proceeding to the next. Sort of like a 2D version of Q-Bert then, except that, without power, Gluf can't change the colour of the square that he bounces on. So the aim of the game is to find a generator, squat on it for a few moments to charge him up, and then power up all the squares you can safely reach.
Wandering each screen are the usual patrolling nasties who conspire to obstruct Gluf from his completing his mission and, between the platforms, are elevators which will immediately transport him up to the platform above, or down to the one below. The small window on the platform area means that there is a possibility of transporting right on top of an enemy you can't see. Likewise, this possibility also exists when you bounce off the end of a platform, knowing that there's a platform below you to land on. The game tries to adjust for this by allowing the Up and Down controls to scroll the playing window up and down. This takes a bit of getting used to, but it does work. It just feels slightly clunky having to "look down" to make sure you won't land on a baddy before jumping. On elevators you need to stand to the side to operate the scroll, as once you're in an elevator, Up or Down will operate it, sending Gluf in the requested direction.
You have infinite lives so it's one of those games that just gets more and more difficult. Very simple early screens give way to progressively more complex ones which introduce different types of blocks (such as disappearing ones). Beware of jumping off the edge of a platform too... it's a long way down to your certain doom if you do!
The levels themselves present a considerable challenge, both in working out the optimum route for Gluf to carry a charge and avoid the patrolling nasties which, unusually for a platform game, are not restricted to certain platforms but also tend to fly from one to the other when you're least expecting it! Indeed, this is actually where most of the challenge of the game lies. It's easy enough to work out what blocks need to be charged up, but a collision with a baddy resets the whole level. You often end up sort of "hanging around" waiting for a baddy to bounce or glide away from the area you need to get to, only for him to return once you start energising it. You then have to scuttle away and hang around again. Which is a challenge I found tedious quite quickly.
That said, the game is fun to play, it all looks cute and it's well up to the usual Retrosouls' high standards. The scrolling is very smooth, there's no colour clash at all and the bouncy AY music accompaniment is delightful. I suppose the problem is that, as a game concept, it's not something that I haven't played hundreds of times before. What has really appealled to me in the past about Retrosouls' games has been their inventiveness. By contrast, this seems good but a little disappointing. Because it's nowhere near as clever, it's nowhere near as engrossing to play.
If you're new to such a format though, by all means give it a whirl.