If you gaze into the night sky, you may see a small star - just to the left of the Dog Star's hind quarters - shining its little heart out. That's the world of dreams, central planet in the belt of unreality. In few years, time this will become a holiday playground for the rich, famous and seriously deranged. For on this planet - especially during the season of high unlikelihood - anything can happen. It's the kind of place where the idea of tackling millions of nasties while tiding a bubble of poison gas seems a sensible, nay even probable, way to spend a vacation!
Yup, that holiday maker is you. To escape this recreational wonderland a thin balloon, filled with the deadliest gas ever even thought of, has to be bounced through a variety of caverns and caves. In your hands is a blunderbus (don't ask questions about narrative logic, just shoot) to fend off the hordes of nightmare creatures heading your way. To complete each level, four pieces of a magical skull have to be collected, before the bats and baddies puncture the balloon you're sitting on.
The bubble just bounces, to many heights and over great lengths. The trick is persuading it to leap onto the upper platform and beneath the overhangs, enabling you to grab the jewelled skull. Bats, gnomes, skeletons, and multiple other monsters - more suited to nightmares than dreams - are out to spoil your holiday. Your only two options are bouncing out of their energy sapping path (impossible) or shooting them (extremely difficult) because every time they touch the bubble it gets one stage nearer to bursting point. When it bursts, then the poor little rider (your own good self) rapidly chokes to death as evil chemical vapours fill the air.
Psycho Hopper is a real "hand ache'er" if you try to play it using a joystick. It's one of those games where you try to force the 'stick a little harder to help your man make that jump. Time and time again the bubble will narrowly miss its target, sending you rebounding into a fang of bats (ok smarty, what's the collective noun for bats then?). It's extremely frustrating, mind-boggling so in fact, trying to negotiate the correct route without falling down a hole when you shouldn't, or onto those rather nasty-looking spikes.
You have a generous upper limit on blasts from the blunderbus, which is just as well, as there are a vast number of heavy weight beasties out there in Dreamland. Three lives help in this respect too, as much time and many hits are taken, while you try to get on the right track. Death, it seems, is a popular way of spending your summer holidays if you are rich, famous and/or seriously deranged.
Cast a glance at Psycho Hopper and your initial response is disbelief, "This is a budget"? The graphics exhibit real character with a bold use of colour and imaginative sprites. It simply looks too smart to be on sale at £2.99. Play it for a while and you'll soon see why it never made it on the full price circuit though. It's addictive and fun, but too darned difficult. On a scale of one to ten on the toughness front, this baby scores a mighty 23.7!
There's an awful lot to be said for games that are hard to finish, but this one's hard to start as well. Completing the first level is possible, but not without losing at least one very valuable life in the process. Games should be graduated, so as you learn to play, you tend to stay alive for longer, thus earning more points. In Psycho Hopper, this is patently not the case. You can get rather good at the game and still see no noticeable change in your score potential, which is a little disconcerting.
A solid budget title, this has everything from a great game concept through to excellent graphic implementation. It falls down heavily on its playability. After a few tense hours of bouncing and blasting, even its bubbly fun wears thin and you are left with a game in which there's precious little chance of success. And it would be nice to see the rest of the game, because it should be a stunner. These levels will, alas, just have to remain a mystery, at least until Uncle Phil gets his paws on it!
Bouncing on a space hopper is a novel way to travel, but it turns out to be the most irritating form of transport since British Rail!
Finish level two.
Plain backgrounds mean good green visibility.
P. Humorous nightmare graphics.
P. Way about the normal budget pics.
P. Neat spot effects, all boing and bang.
N. Shame about the wobbly music.
Grab Factor 45%
N. Hard on the beginner.
P. Hard on the veteran too!
Staying Power 54%
P. A real monitor punching game...
P. ...it's just too hard!
Great idea, but far too difficult!