"As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," begins Coolio's Gangstas' Paradise, but he might just as well have been rapping about The Lost Treasures Of Tulum. This new game for the Spectrum 128K is an Aztec-themed "illumination" game. By which I mean, one of those games where you can't initially see much further than your hand in front of your face. You therefore fall into pits of spikes before you even know they're there, and progress is made by dying on every level - several times! - and learning where the traps are, so you can avoid them the next time. Imagine playing Rick Dangerous in the dark...
The game has one of those convoluted backstories that the Spanish deem necessary but this is actually a game that it's easy to pick up and play. The trouble is that it's hard. Too hard. The sprites are nice and the game is responsive, but you barely see anything around you at all. If the illumination stretched just a little bit farther then I think it would work - Yumiko In The Haunted Mansion is a similar type of idea, for example, but there the light stretches out more than eight pixels. In Tulum, and to quote Gangstas' Paradise again, "death ain't nothin' but a heart-beat away"...!
Darkness is always a bit creepy too. In the world of the platform game, I'm not altogether sure if it's a good mix. Most platformers rely on bouncing about for their fun factor. It's hard to imagine Bubble Bobble with quite the following it has if only a small area around Bub was illuminated at any one time. Personally, I really didn't like it but I can certainly respect the fact that it hasn't been done before. The Lost Treasures Of Tulum is a neat idea, and it deserves some brownie points for daring to experiment with the illumination concept. The scene setting instructions are pretty heavy - all legends, gore and death - so an all-pervasive feeling of dread suits the game quite well. You also cannot argue with the amount of love lavished on the game itself. It's a wonderfully produced product, complete with loading and opening screen and lavish cover art. (Back in the day, Retroworks used to supply physical versions of their games and they continue to operate as if they may do so again.)
As with Rick Dangerous, if you persevere with the game, you'll end up getting further and further. And also like with that platforming classic, Tulum is a great game to torture your friends with. Once you've played it a few times, you can make completing each screen look like a breeze... then hand over the controls to your friend and snigger as he wanders into trap after trap. (This is also a great way to get rid of friends you don't like.)
I had high hopes for this game after classics such as Brunhilda and The Sword Of Ianna, but it doesn't feel as if it's destined to be remembered as fondly. I do think it will find its fair share of fans though.