I don't normally talk to myself but when the title screen and credits for Gryphon came up, I caught myself saying "Wow!" But then Tony Crowther games have that effect on lots of people, and this is his latest.
From screenshots I'd seen, Gryphon looked fairly tame - but it's about as tame as a Bengal tiger. The credits weave their way through a landscape that's layered to give a 3D effect, with trees, fences and brick buildings in a beautiful range of colours.
The music is impressive too, and I was content to watch the words for a while just to appreciate the sounds and silk-smooth scrolling. The game is Currah Speech compatible, but not having such a unit I can't tell you whether there's a cry of 'Gryphon-Busters' as well.
In this game it's the Gryphon that does the busting. The game starts in the mystical woods, and you naturally control the Gryphon, which looks like it's strayed out of a Babycham advert until you press the Fire button - whereupon it shows it could out-spit a llama at fifty paces. It's just as well, because the mystical woods are haunted by a variety of creatures, beginning with plain old spooky ghosts on level one.
Gryphon's way out of the woods lies across several screens to the right, but it's a tunnel over poisonous waters - take the waters and it's one dead Gryphon. He (or she - Gryphon-sexing was never my strong point in biology) has to lay stepping stones over the water by transporting gold bars one at a time from a pile on the left of the woods.
The Gryphon can either walk or fly, but in order to take off, it must get up a little speed on the ground first - there's another patch of poisonous water close to the start; you can't afford to hang about.
Once in the air it's all hands on the joystick (or keyboard, but I don't recommend it) to zap the ghosties and weave your way through the woods to the escape tunnel.
The spooks have a nasty habit of lurking behind the brickwork of the derelict buildings you have to fly through on the way - so keep firing before you try to pass behind them yourself. Creatures also lurk behind the foilage in the trees, though you can nearly always spot them because they move about so much.
Getting through the woods to the escape route isn't easy, and will test your joystick skills, not to mention your eardrums if you turn the sound up. One problem is that you have to try to keep flying, as once you're down on the ground it can be tricky to get a clear run to get up in the air again with all these white-sheeted creatures fluttering about. The best results I got, oddly enough, with the Kempston joystick borrowed from my Spectrum, after varying degrees of success with a couple of different Commodore kinds.
Once across the screens you carefully approach the tunnel and drop the gold bar to make the first stepping stone, then you have to get back and repeat the process another five times. All this on just three lives! That man Crowther's a sadist.
Pick up the second bar and the ghosts turn into what seem to be large black tennis balls, then level three is chomping skulls, followed by two more levels of funny little robotic creatures.
After a few days' fairly regular playing I've managed to transport five bars, not enough to get me into the Surreal Cities of the second stage, let alone the final Deadly Darklands.
Losing a life isn't too bad: at least you can admire the colour changes (the background goes blood red), and by hitting Run/Stop and Fire button you can be into a new game instantly.
With a high-score table, bonus lives, pause features and general all-round compulsion, Crowther has struck again. The blast-'em'up approach might prove repetitive in the long-run, but meanwhile grab yourself a Gryphon and discover that nothing sparkles like a Crowther game.