Mat Recardo has a host of impressive Spectrum games in his portfolio so far and, since he went so far as to specifically name "Robot 1" when he was stranded on the Ship Of Doom, I sort of had this funny feeling we might be seeing some further adventures featuring him. And I was right - having escaped from the Ship Of Doom (What do you mean, you haven't managed that yet? C'mon, it's certainly not hard!), he's teleported himself to the nearest planet. The planet of death, in fact. Sounds like an enchanting place... Still, what's in a name? It might not be so bad, after all.
Sequels are often difficult to get right. They have to tread the fine line between being as familiar as the original yet better. They also need to introduce something so that they don't just feel like the retread of some old ground. The good thing is that Planet Of Death does both - for if Ship Of Doom was a homage to Jet Set Willy, Planet Of Death is a homage to that other Spectrum classic Dizzy. The trundling Robot 1 remains the same, but the game is a much less stressful affair. There's no countdown to doom in the corner of the screen, and the whole environment is a much more pleasant place to hang out. To begin with, it's coated in lush greenery, presided over by giant oak trees and there's a host of animals and humanoid creatures inhabiting it.
As with the initial jaunt, Mat Recardo's impressive machine code routines are complemented by another bouncy AY background tune provided by Sergey Kosov. Also, like the original, the game is available on two labels (£3.99 from Psytronik or £12.00 from Bum Fun), or free to download if you don't care about a physical version. As before your robot is able to fall from any height without incurring damage. Unlike in the original though, he no longer needs constant recharging (He now has a lives system and an energy bar), and there are more game controls to master. It's necessary to talk to some of the characters in the game to see what they want (key K) and the puzzles are of the "bring an object to a certain spot then put it down to activate something that allows you to get further in the game" type. (I allowed myself an immature giggle after bringing the banana to the peasant to see if he was hungry - try putting it down in the long grass in front of him; looks plain wrong!)
Despite superficially appearing to be very similar to the original, Planet Of Death is a very different kind of game. For one thing, you spend a lot of time jumping from branch to branch up the large trees that are scattered around. Frankly, this a bit of a pain - the colour clash as Robot 1 merges into a red tree makes it difficult to judge the jump accurately. On the other hand, the trees themselves appear to be home to some shy additional beasties too - because a nice touch is their eyes, blinking at you from the hollows within them!
Like the original, the graphic adventure is flick-screen. Unlike the original, when you snuff it, you get a familiar tune that any Spectrum owner worth his salt should recognise instantly... To my shame, I didn't. Well, not until I thought about it. I won't say more in order not to ruin the surprise.
Overall then, a fairly respectable graphic adventure. It's not really an improvement over the original. It's just bigger and less frantic. Those two elements probably mean you'll play it for a bit longer. A good little budget game.