The Pairs Are Gone/Spy4K (Paradize Games) Review | RGCD - Everygamegoing

RGCD


The Pairs Are Gone/Spy4K
By Paradize Games
Atari ST/Falcon

 
Published in RGCD #5

Paradize return to the pages of RGCD, with their two 2008 16-Bit Atari game releases covered in a double-bill review.

The Pairs Are Gone/Spy4K

Paradize are certainly prolific; since starting RGCD back in 2006 we've reviewed Znax, Nuclear Waste Dump and Poker Square, and this issue features two new 2008 titles (The Pairs Are Gone and Spy4K), bring the total to five releases in just over two years. That's pretty impressive for a small group working in their spare time - and as with the Reservoir Gods and D-Bug it has to be said that the Atari scene wouldn't be what it is today without the hard work of Paradize's Cooper, Simon Sunnyboy, Minz, Marcer, GGN and Orion.

The Pairs Are Gone

So, first up in our 2008 review double-bill is Cooper's latest ST(E) release 'The Pairs Are Gone', a gorgeously presented casual puzzler based on a mini-game from the Nintendo DS update of Super Mario Brothers and coded exclusively for the ST Offline Tournament. Using graphics borrowed from the popular match-three hit Zoo Keeper, Pairs is a simple yet enjoyable snap-variant; the aim of the game is to match up pairs of cards by linking them horizontally, vertically and diagonally. Link two matching cards together and they vanish, the rest of the table shuffles up, and with any luck you're left with more matches to join. Clear the table and you are awarded with both bonus points and a 1up (presented by a cute little animated rabbit), whereas if you get stuck you are penalised 100 points for every card left, lose a life and have to face the puzzle again. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Well, actually that's the problem - The Pairs Are Gone is a little too easy for my taste.

Now I'm no gaming guru, but even I managed to complete all of Pairs' 25 levels on my first go with three lives left and achieve a score well over 120K. I have to admit I had fun during the 10-20 minutes it took to beat the game, and I'm sure I'll return to play it again in an attempt to beat my previous record, but all the same, the extremely lenient difficulty level has to be seen as a flaw. However, it's hard to see how the game could have be improved - adding further levels wouldn't have increased challenge as the difficulty already maxes out at around level 20 due to the limited number of set pieces.

Having said that, Pairs is certainly an above average game. The intelligent scoring system means that there's some strategy required to break the 200K barrier, and the audio and graphics (although 'borrowed') are really well implemented. STE owners even have the added bonus of proper sampled DMA music, but it's worth noting that the option to listen to DMA-SC's original chip soundtrack is still available via a quick press of the 'M' key at the title screen (those short loops can become a little tiring after time). The little animated characters on the level complete and highscore screens are really cute, and as with all of Paradize's recent releases, you get a genuine feeling that a lot of love and pride has gone into the game's creation. It's just a shame that Cooper didn't choose a slightly more complex game concept!

Spy4K

Next we have Orion's Spy4K, a cute 4KB game released at Christmas as a gift to the Atari scene. Essentially a remake of Nick Kouvaris' 'Spy' (lightforce.freestuff.gr/spy.php), I actually found myself returning back to this little game over and over again during the last few months of RGCD #05's development, and I've definitely put in considerably more time playing it than The Pairs Are Gone (which in itself is quite an attainment for a 4KB game).

At a glance it may look like a minesweeper variant, but Spy4K is actually quite original in concept (well, it's new to me anyway). You are presented with an 18x18 grid full of random numbers and your goal is to complete the specified number of moves on each level without causing your little green character to cross it's own path, run into a bomb or wander off the grid. Each number represents the number of steps your character will take when you move on to it; for example, moving left on to a '6' will shift you six squares in that direction and deduct six points from your 'moves left' counter. It starts off really easy, but after a few levels you'll find yourself starting to strategically plan ahead to avoid becoming trapped - it's addictive stuff.

Thanks to Tao's infectious chip tune melody and the randomly generated levels, Spy4K is a joy to play again and again. Despite being a port of a casual flash game, I have to salute Orion for creating a solid little release in such a tiny file size - however, it does beg the question why on earth Paradise didn't consider entering it in 2008's minigame competition (minigamecomp.org.uk)...

So in all, 2008 was a good year for Atari gamers and a real step forward for Paradize in terms of quality releases - let's hope that we see more of the same in 2009.

James Monkman

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