Hoppin' Mad

Author: Gary Whitta
Publisher: Elite
Machine: Amstrad CPC464

Published in Computer & Video Games #82

Hoppin' Mad

Those of you with a good memory will have taken one look at the screenshots accompanying this review and thought, "Hey, that looks remarkably similar to Cataball, one of the games on Elite's ancient three-game compilation Trio". And of course you'd be absolutely right, 'cos Elite were obviously quite chuffed with the original concept for that game and have released a follow-up in the form of Hoppin' Mad.

Taking control of four shiny bouncing balls (no smutty jokes please), your objective is to guide them, in a long caterpillar-like string, across a series of surreal landscapes, collecting floating balloons as you go.

Collect ten balloons and you can progress to the next level. It sounds simple, but as you would expect, there are lots of nasties who are just aching to puncture your balls (stop laughing at the back!).

Hopping Mad

Nasties come in various shapes and sizes, including a strange plant that looks like a cross between a Venus Flytrap and a Triffid, nasty mutant seagulls, fish and oooh, just loads of other things. The levels have been reasonably well designed.

There's a Wonderboy style forest section, Roman ruins, a desert, a seaside and an aquatic underwater level as well as a few others that I haven't seen yet (because the game's so difficult).

And the gameplay. Rather than each ball on screen representing one life as I thought it would, each life is represented by the entire string of four, so you can lose one ball and the rest will keep bouncing on undaunted, until you lose all four and are sent back to the beginning of the level. The controls are simple enough; left and right (to accelerate and slow down) and the fire button to jump.

I wasn't disappointed by Hoppin' Mad at all, mainly because I wasn't expecting much in the first place, having seen Cataball. If Elite had wanted to release a sequel, they should have done something to spruce up the gameplay and graphics rather than just add on more levels, as all they have succeeded in doing is turning a boring game into a long boring game.

Hoppin' Mad is one of Elite's few titles not to be linked to some famous coin-op or personality which just goes to show that Elite should stick to what they do best; arcade conversions or, if they're going to carry on producing original titles, make sure they're playable ones.

Gary Whitta