Your Sinclair1st August 1990
Published in Your Sinclair #56
Look, I'd like you all to quiet down for a moment if you will and put on your serious faces, because I'm going to let you in on a little secret. You see, sometimes (just sometimes) I take a look at the games we review in Bargain Basement (the £2.99 jobbies) and then at some of the regular reviews, and I really can't see that much difference. Maybe it's because anything a little bit complicated tends to get rendered, almost automatically, in monochrome these days ("because the Speccy's not very good at colour") meaning that at first sight many premiere products look no more impressive than, I don't know, the latest Codies Simulator or something.
So imagine my joy when a game comes along that has 'full price' written all over it - like this one for instance. It's big (big! Big!), it's varied (varied! Varied!), it's more colourful (colourful! Colourful!) than you'd ever believe - it looks like it's worth every penny basically. A minor miracle, doncha think?
But less (less! Less!) of the superlatives - what's Turrican all about? Well, for those who missed the Megapreview a couple of issues back (shame on you! Where've you been?), it's an absolutely whopping (five worlds, each divided into a number of fairly lengthy sub-levels) shoot-'em-up packed full of some of the most spectacular graphics ever seen on the Speccy.
Your little man (a rather characterless chappy in a silver space suit. who looks nothing like the butch Robocop lookalike of the adverts) runs, jumps, ducks and occasionally flies (there are jet packs you'll need to collect for a couple of the levels) all over the place, collecting power-up icons and blasting the living daylights out of all sorts of baddies. Starting off on a sort of deserty landscape (blue skies, yellow brown rocks and the occasional shrub) you work your way along numerous platforms, across a couple of waterfalls, down some tunnels and into just about the most humungous underground maze system ever. Somewhere at the end of all this you'll find Morgul, the man (or rather, flying head thing), responsible for 'all the fears and nightmares of mankind' (!), and obviously have to work out some way to bump him off.
One of the great strengths of the game is the sheer number of extra weapons you can collect along the way. They're thick on the ground all over the shop, as are extra power icons, often hidden in 'secret' rooms behind false walls or floating in space Super Mario Brothers style. It's wise to go off the beaten path sometimes and search out a rich seam (unusually for this sort of game you don't have a single 'correct' route but can wander off at a tangent for a bit if you wish) Walk left instead of right at the start of Level 1.1 for instance and shoot about in the air a bit - you'll be glad you did!
Weapons include such goodies as Energy Lines (acting rather like smart bombs, they send walls of force outwards from your character, killing most everything by they touch), Giro-mode (where you turn into an indestructible spinning top, useful only for bouncing down hill), Megablast (like a giant Star Wars light sabre) and so on. (The Megablast is especially useful - not only can it kill aliens, it can help locate hidden power icons, often placed out of normal reach overhead, and uncover secret passageways hidden behind fake wall blocks with ease.)
However, the real stars of the game are the backdrops - from the Alien-influenced World Three to the giant mechanical stars of Level Four (depicted with some neat parallax scrolling rarely seen on the Speccy) they are incredibly colourful, spectacular and usually very well designed - not like usual Speccy screens at all actually. The monsters are good too - from the giant armoured fist you encounter early on to the massive mechanical, um, doobries (I can't really think how to describe them) of the later levels. These are things which'd be major set pieces in many other games but here they just flash by, almost thrown away.
So. Its been a bit of a rave review so far, hasn't it? Bad points to the game? Well yes, there are some. For a start there's the scrolling - though eight-way and generally quite smooth, there were occasions (particularly in the flying sequences) when I felt it was actually going too fast for me! There I was, being whisked past all these fabulous graphics at a phenomenal rate, almost as if I was on a giant conveyor belt. Whisked by too fast really - I often felt vaguely out of control and resented being dragged into enemies through no real fault of my own. Mmm.
Then there's the animation - I already said Turrican himself is a bit of a characterless fellow, but what I haven't pointed out is how silly he can sometimes look. Though generally well animated, there are sections (like when he's running up and down the sloped platforms in the Alien bit) when he seems to be hobbling along with a broken leg or something - not ideal.
Still, let's face it, these are minor quibbles. Even if for some reason I can't quite get a firm focus on Turrican (although Rainbow Arts stuff has improved vastly of late it still carries slight traces of the days when everything they brought out was a direct and slightly soulless rip-off of something else - remember Great Giana Sisters?) it's still a spectacular achievement. I can't wait for the next one (something called Apprentice, I believe) because if they manage to combine the sheer professionalism and hard work that's been put into this game with a truly original concept or a strong, distinctive character (heck, Little Puff In Dragonland has more soul than this!) the results would be absolutely spectacular! Still, let's not knock it - as a technical and graphical achievement this is one of the best games of this year, and a bit of a 'Must Buy'. Hurrah!
Massive and spectacular shoot-'em-up, though it does lack a bit of character. Still, buy it!