Amstrad Action1st April 1991
Published in Amstrad Action #67
Monsters, monsters everywhere, in your beer, and in your hair. Big ones, little ones, cute ones, ugly ones. But they all have two things in common... they are all monsters, and they are all dead meat.
Helter Skelter is a fairly old platform game which has only just made an appearance on the Amstrad. Platform games are ten-a-penny these days, and so originality and style are essential if a game is to stand out from the crowd. So how does Audiogenic's latest cutting fare?
The object of the game is a simple one. You control a bouncing ball called Billy, whose only aim in life is to kill monsters. Fortunately, the world he finds himself in has no shortage of monsters to kill.
The joystick controls the direction your little ball moves in, while hitting Fire makes him bounce. Simply leap onto the monsters and squish the little suckers. Easy, huh? Well, no, not exactly. The monsters have to be wasted in the right order, that order being indicated by a floating arrow hovering above the next monster due for destruction. Hitting a monster out of turn causes it to multiply, meaning you have even more critters to kill within your allotted, and very short, time limit. Speed and patience are required.
The physics of the game are very important to any kind of progress. The ball can be made to perform several different kinds of jump through either prolonged or staccato use of the Fire button, and it takes a great deal of practice to get it right. As you complete each screen things start to get harder - more beasties, and infinitely more tortuous mazes of platforms - making the monsters much harder to reach.
A fairly novel feature of Helter Skelter is the screen editor. This is very simple to use. You can quickly build incredibly difficult platform setups, or for that matter outrageously easy screens.
The graphics look fine at first glance, neither spectacular, nor colourful, but competent and well-drawn... until things start moving, that is.
The animation of the monsters and the main Billy sprite is absolutely abysmal. Billy jerks spasmodically from place to place - unforgiveable in a game where pixel-perfect jumping is essential to success. The control method is poorly implemented, and almost unworkable at times. The ball just won't do what you want it to, and most of the tiny time limit is spent trying to get the damned thing under control!
Sonics are reasonable, but nothing special. Presentation is professional, and further enhanced by the inclusion of the screen designer. What could have been an excellent platform game, however, has been spoiled by poor programming, and the whole thing has the appearance of a budget game. Games seem to be going up in price these days, and if software houses insist on these price hikes (part of the continuing struggle against piracy) then they should at least justify the extra expense with a half-decent game, and this one isn't.
It really is a bit of a shame, because the idea behind Helter Skelter is a good one. Sadly, the whole thing has been poorly implemented, and Amstrad owners deserve more than this for ten quid.
Helter Skelter starts off OK, but before long you find yourself getting more and more frustrated by its difficulty, horrible time limits and fiddly control. About the only use for the screen designer is to build a game you can play!
First Day Target Score
Try not to smash up your Amstrad.
Drab graphics are not helped by diabolical animation.
Totally and utterly average, bordering on grim.
Grab Factor 69%
Initially inviting, and often cute, it is quite easy to get into.
Staying Power 56%
The control method's much too tough to keep you playing.
Totally bogus, dudes. Not incompetent, but it looks and plays like a budget game.