Core go to the movies and come up trumps with a platform game, done the Warner Brothers way. Well, if it works for old Bugs Bunny...
You know that game, where you have to guess weird things like what type of car Mel Gibson would be if he was a vehicle, what meal Michelle Pfeiffer would be represented by? Well, stupid concept or not, it at least gets me past that difficult first paragraph if I link in by explaining that had Bruce Willis entered into this world as a computer game, he'd probably be Premiere.
First And Last And Always
What Core have obviously set out to do with Premiere is to take the visual expertise so excellent utilised in Heimdall [Not that Premiere's anything like Heimdall, of course - Matt Bielby] and transpose it to a more 'sympathetic' game style and plot. The result is a platform romp based around six sets in a movie studio - with each level featuring action on and behind the sets, with a theme-related bonus stage following the level's completion. The reason for these shenanigans is explained a bit more visually in that wonderful box up above, but the upshot is that the player guides a movie editor, going by the wonderful name of Clutch Gable, around one movie set at a time, attempting to recover a canister of stolen film.
This being a platformer, there are several essential ingredients which Core have dutifully added: platforms (obviously) and ladders, stairways and lifts to reach them, bad guys who roam around/shoot/hide until you're near, and bonus energy and ammo.
It works, then, by offering a scrolling movie set constructed from various enticing backgrounds, with walkways, pits and various objects in the foreground. Doors lead to the other side of the set, where the other side of the movie set offers a secondary play area. Here signs proclaim 'stage left', 'props' and suchlike. The baddies are still present, however. Presumably, they're milling around, waiting to shoot the next scene of their movie.
The fact that the game's based around six different movie sets has resulted in a film-related look for each level, with appropriately-themed nasties and weapons to boot. So level one, for instance, is a cowboy film set, with buffalo, cowboys, indians and Wild West maids all trying to thwart out hero's canister-recovery programme. Of course, a six-shooter is on hand to do the Clint Eastwood on the bad guys, and progress can soon be made (via a simple, but excellent shoot-out scene) to a black-and-white Egyptian movie set, where Clutch has bags of flour (plain, I think) as his main offensive weapon.
Stairways offer another form of attack. Here Clutch can perform a mean and speedy roll down the steps, sweeping any assailants off their feet in the process. It saves on ammo, and besides, it looks really cool.
It's also worth noting that the play area actually features two levels of 'depth'. Clutch can move 'into' the screen (i.e. towards the walls) by holding the joystick down and pressing the Fire button...
It Is The Reel Thing
...which brings me to my first complaint. I realise that most Amiga owners only own a one-fire-button joystick, but surely there could have been a better way to make this move into/out of the screen executable. For one, it takes too long to do. Time and time again I was hit by a nasty or a projectile while fumbling with the controls in an attempt to leap out of the way. Secondly, it's all too easy to actually press the fire button first, then push the joystick down. This results in Chuck shooting/lobbing a weapon, then crouching down - a waste of time and a waste of ammo.
The ladders are similarly frustrating. I guess it's a matter of timing, but once too often I found Clutch getting blasted while beginning his slow ascent. And the bad guys themselves aren't exactly what you'd call versatile. Some leap out of barrels. Some walk from left to right. Some even shoot at Clutch. And some just stand there. None of them displays any particular level of intelligence, and for a game based on such a simple concept, that's a risky idea.
But call me Captain Morgan and request one more verse of The Tide Is High, if Premiere doesn't have some Really Neat Touches. The main guy for one, is superbly designed - being quite versatile, and full of character. And the basic storyline (visually, at least) really does hold it all together. At the moment, I can't think of another game where the plot was actually this relevant.
The levels are pretty well designed too, maximising the space of the play area. And what about that smooth scrolling, eh? And the excellently appropriate music score? And its simplicity is arguably no bad thing. Even the disk-swapping is unobtrusive (unusual for a game this visually appealing). Gosh, it all sounds so much more likeable now, doesn't it??
Gameplay-wise, I detected definite echoes of Bonanza Bros. The collection of objects while exploring levels and stairways has been used many times, granted. But the sometimes the fel, and even the place of Premiere's platform antics are uncannily similar. That's no real complaint, though. Although Bonanza Bros was no world-beater, it did have charm and no small amount of playability. And that's rubbed off on Premiere too. Of course, Bonanza Bros did benefit greatly from a two-player mode (a much needed boost - because as a one-player game it simply proved too repetitive and ponderous), so just what does Premiere have to lift it into the same league, or - gasp! - even higher?
Right Turn At Albuquerque
Where I reckon the secret of Premiere's success is consolidated, is in the bonus stages. Although more simplistic than the main game (and hence eventually alarmingly repetitive), these sections all offer their own little challenge (often a re-working of early '80s computer or arcade games). More importantly though - they add greatly to Premiere's sense of style. It's these sub-games, along with the intro sequence and between-game screens which bring Premiere closest to the concept of a game as cartoon. Sure, the graphics of the main game are sweet, but it's really standard (though effective) platform fare dressed up in a Looney Tunes costume. The gameplay of the main stages remains firmly rooted in the platform style.
So there you have Premiere in a nutshell: packed with Really Neat Touches to make you smile, amazingly easy on the eyes, and wildly entertaining in doses. The downside is that it's not as deep as you may expect, and ultimately it's perhaps just a little too much of the same thing. Just like Bruce Willis really.
The Bottom Line
Uppers: The best union of cartoon animation and satisfying gameplay yet. Premiere manages to capture the thrill of movie studios and cartoons in much the same way that Roger Rabbit (the movie) did.
Downers: The six levels are pretty much the same, despite the neat graphical variation. And the gameplay is perhaps just a little too basic - kind of like a one-player Bonanza Bros.
Definitely the most successful attempt at this sort of thing to date. Premiere has its faults, but I suspect its warmth and all-round cute-appeal will be enough to win over most people.