Here's a professionally packaged, competently programmed, totally unoriginal and remarkably dreary little number from Anco.
Although the plot is full of good witches, evil sorcerers, merry goblins and skeletons, there's more than a touch of the Green Berets and Bazooka Bills about it. Which is not so surprising, as Anco are the people who gave us Legionnaire and Bridgehead.
The story of Magic Madness, apparently translated from the German (poorly, too) is diabolical. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin: "A long time ago, in a lovely country called Neverland, four magicians ruled and each derived his knowledge from a magic scroll..." Gripping stuff, huh? Fortunately, for all concerned, the wicked sorcerer Colo appears on the scene, kills off the magicians and generally tries to liven things up a bit.
The locals call in the good witch, give her some handy weaponry and other stuff - a cape, cross, wand and hour-glass - and send her off to do battle with Colo and his henchpersons.
The programmers must have had second thoughts about the cross and the cape, however, because on her way from the cassette inlay to the opening screen, the old hag seems to have swapped them for a flying scythe and a hefty bunch of fives. It's the sight of her jabbing to left and right with a fist twice the size of her head that is the first obvious similarity with those arcade commando games.
From here on, you're in familiar territory. The witch moves up and down between the four levels, selecting weapons to fight off the swarming baddies which attack her from left and right. Though she can move left, if she does so for any length of time she'll run into an invisible wall, so it's best to keep her moving ever eastwards.
Chests appear before her, and passing over these reveals the contents - more weapons, bonus points or extra time. She'll have to leap up and catch them, however, if they're to register on the display at the top of the screen. The object of all this, in case you've forgotten, is to find the magic scrolls. These are in the possession of guardian ant-eaters [Are you sure? - Ed] one on each level. Only when you've got all four can you destroy ol' Colo.
What lets the game down, besides the weary gameplay, are the uninspired, blocky graphics and the lengthy pauses every time you lose a life or end a game. Just about the only things going for it are the two-player option and the jaunty music - and the latter gets irksome within minutes.
A sub-standard beat-'em-up thinly disguised as a sub-standard arcade-adventure, Magic Madness is too cute for its own good and is unlikely to appeal to anyone. Particularly at that price.