Basil The Great Mouse Detective is yet another in a succession of 'cute' Walk Disney cartoon rodents. Gremlin must have paid big bucks to get him. And then what do they do? They turn him into a ye olde platforme game!
I was expecting Basil to be like one of those Infogrames thrillers where you use staggering deductive powers to nab the villain. Well, it's nothing like that. There's no real sleuthing to be done.
Imagine yourself in Victorian London - "Cor, real pea super tonight, guv'nor". Your dear and chubby friend Dr Dawson has been kidnapped by the dastardly professor Ratigan. Your job is to make your way through seedy old London town, collecting clues in order to rescue him.
The game has three levels: shops and docks of London, the sewers and Rattigan's den. To proceed from one level to the next, you must have collected the right number of correct clues. Like most platform games, there are nasties to be avoided, in the shape of Ratigan's henchmen, er henchmice. Your energy slowly goes down should you bump into them, only to be replenished by finding and eating a piece of cheese.
Throughout the game, you see things from a mouse-eye point of view. So in the first level, only the bottom third of shop doors can be seen as you proceed along the street. Boxes, barrels and sacks on the waterfront become huge obstacles that must be hopped onto and jumped over. Basil's movements are restricted to left, right, jump and climbing stairs.
Now for the clues. The blurb tells you that there are a total of thirteen objects on each level. Only five of them are real clues. The rest have been planted by Rattigan to put Basil off the scent. Basil has five pockets (depicted as five empty squares at the bottom of the screen) in which to store them. When he's got five, you press the '?' key and a number appears telling you how many are correct, but not which ones they are.
Only when you've got all five correct clues in your pocket will a message appear, telling you where to go to find the exit to the next scenario.
So, how do you find clues and pick them up? The blurb tells you that you'll find them when you examine objects like jam jars, tin cans, small sacks, carpet bags, chests, etc. All you need do is position Basil in front of one of these and press the spacebar. If an object is there, its picture will appear in the magnifying glass on the bottom right of the screen. You then have an option to pick it up or leave it. If you pick it up, it will appear in one of the five squares representing your pockets.
Deciding which clues are real or false involves little thought. It's just a matter of putting the hours in. It works like this: if you collect five clues, press the '?' and find none of them are right (it happened to me) you now know which five of the thirteen are false. So that cuts your range down to eight.
And so it goes on until you get the five correct ones - not much to it, really. The only problem is collecting five before your energy runs out. By the way, clues are never in the same place when you start a new game.
There are mousetraps dotted around which can be picked up and then dropped in the path of Ratigan's nasties to stop them following you around. The nasties will only follow you along a particular level and never from screen to screen. Mousetraps take up space in your pockets so you'll have to drop them in order to give five clues.
Graphically, the game is competent but not special, the scenes being about as adventurous as any platform game you've ever seen. Basil himself is adequate in size, but compared with Yogi Bear or Berk in The Trap Door, he's just not in the same league. The baddies are disappointing too, they look just like Basil. One nice touch is that Basil can scramble through the letterbox of various shop doors in the first level. This puts him inside the shop. The same happens when he clambers out of the back door.
Another thing I found disappointing about this game was the number of bugs in it. The game supposedly ends when Basil runs out of energy. Well, it finished on me twice before the meter was even half depleted. There are also lots of instances in which Basil seems to manage to walk on thin air. And if he gets stuck, say between a barrel and a henchmouse he's caught in a trap, there seems to be no way of getting him out except to turn off the computer and reload. With four good clues already in your pocket, this can be pretty annoying.
I can't say I enjoyed this game very much. Basil could have and should have been much better. It's a reasonable idea which, to my mind, has been wasted by presenting it in the form of just another platform game.