As Henry Vth said, it's "One mole to the breach, dear friends" because Monty's back in Impossamole. Since his demise in the mid-'80s fans have been clamouring for the return of this furry funster. Unlike Oliver, their plaintive pleas of "Please Sir, can I have some mole?" have, at last, secured a whole new series of games for software's first superstar.
Impossamole finds Monty enticed from retirement by a band of aliens. They give the little guy super powers so he can defeat the Five Guardians. Ever ready for a challenge, his batteries fully charged after five years off, MM says "Yo!" And hi, hi, it's off to fight we go!
Monty was the platform adventure king. Leaping around multi-level arenas, he collected odd objects, dodged traps and found secret rooms. Impossamole sticks rigidly to this formula, adding an extra something to the game - namely, decent graphics.
The Five Guardians Megamole has to find are tucked away in five different locations. The first four can be tackled in any order, but only when all these have been beaten can our boy burrow into number five's hidey hole. Whichever one you pick, though, it's a tough starter that gets more dangerous and more confused by the moment. Whether you kick off in Iceland, the Klondike, the Amazon or Orient, you'll find life's hard as a one foot tall earth-mover in a cape.
Iceland, as one would imagine, is a land of ice, where the platforms are snow-drifted logs and cable cars. Puffins hunt the mole on a mission, continually stripping him of energy by touch. Mountain men fire blunderbusses and abominable snowmen sentinels stand guard. Here, as on all the levels, MM must work his way through each screen, picking up grub for energy, coins and weapons. Unlike the bad old days - when one slip cost Monty his life - new, improved Wondermole (ozone-friendly with no artificial additives) has a small amount of energy to help him survive ham-fisted play.
The Amazon's no better on the foe front. Humming birds patrol instead of puffins, and cheeky monkeys hide coins. The recent population explosion amongst triffids and snakes does little to aid restful sleep, either. Oriental land is filled to overflowing with ninja and other martial arts nutters, while the Klondike's just plain dangerous.
As superheroes go, Mont' ain't nuthin' special. He can't leap tall buildings in a single bound, isn't faster than a speeding bullet and definitely is unable to bend steel with his bare paws. All he gets are a few extra bits of energy to see him through. There's one special 'smart bomb' superweapon to use once a level, although he can carry loads more. All in, even with his special powers, the mole who came in from the dole is much as he was.
Playing Impossamole is a voyage into pure frustration. The leaping has to be exact - a millimetre out and you fly to the ground below. Not much fun when you land on an alligator's head. The bad guys are incredibly resistant to damage and mightily persistent. Most annoying, though is the fact that you don't see how the mole dies. An integral part of puzzle-solving has to be learning from mistakes and if you don't see the terminal ones the game can stall.
Tough games last longer, every game you play unravelling a little more of the puzzle. Until, eventually, you know every single enigmatic variation and can breeze through level after level. Impossamole fails here because there's no reward factor. With only one life and a small energy supply, you have to get through whole levels in one go! Mess it up at the end and you restart back at the very beginning - a one-way ticket to annoyance city. The guns collected on Monty's travels only work on half the enemies, while the food stashes are a long, long way apart.
While the game plays well, the odds are monumentally stacked against the player. Rick Dangerous - Core's previous outing! - featured both multiple lives (balanced here by the energy bar) and was littered with restart points, yet Microprose still had to re-issue an easier version! Impossamole is equally vast, and as hard, but lacks, even the limited player-friendliness that pervaded Rick.
Veteran gamers will find Impossamole a gas, a real blast from the past. But therein lies the rub. Graphics aside (the Core's are vastly superior) Monty games haven't changed. They've been given a shot in the arm but the format itself has been mined to exhaustion in previous seasons. With nothing really revolutionary added, Impossamole therefore appears as a little more than Monty Mole: the '90s Re-mix!
Monty Mole is ace. Great platform action that hasn't lost any of its charm.
Impossamole sometimes goes invisimole!
Don't break anything in anger!
P. Monty looks good for his age!
P. Great scenic backdrops.
P. Smart theme tune.
Grab Factor 33%
N. Simpy too aggravating for words.
N. No re-start points!
Staying Power 75%
P. Masses of rooms to explore.
P. Five huge levels - if you can face them!
P. Colossally frustrating re-vamp.