Ringo (RetroSouls) Review | - Everygamegoing


By RetroSouls
Spectrum 48K/128K/+2/+3


Denis Grachev spends a lot of time on his games, and it shows in the quality of the final product. His best remembered games so far are probably Alter Ego and its sequel. Ringo is another platform game in something of the same style, and yet it's also radically different, and much easier.

Regular readers of my reviews may recall the Cronosoft Spectrum game Splattr, which 'gets around' the Spectrum's colour attribute issue by having extremely big, multicoloured, 8x8 sprites. Now I'm sure Splattr wasn't the first Spectrum game to use 8x8 CHR$ blocks to compose sprites, but it was something of a landmark release in that, by means of doubtless heavily intricate machine-code programming, it allowed these same sprites to scroll smoothly around, in effect creating a new style of game for the Spectrum. Ringo works on the same premise. The playing area in which Ringo is free to roam is thousands of times bigger than the area you see on your Spectrum's screen, but whilst Splattr was an overhead game, Ringo is a bouncy little platform affair.

The sprite designs are relatively cute, similar to those that appeared in the classic Rainbow Islands, although, as you might expect, decidedly more blocky. You can make Ringo run left and right, jump, jump down through platforms and use the fire key to place and remove blocks. Fire alone will place a block directly in front of Ringo, in whatever direction he is facing. Fire combined with the up or down control will place a block one place up or down. The instructions inform you that your mission is to collect up the stars from each level, although this doesn't seem to be mandatory. Instead, each level of the game presents you with a puzzle to solve - find the key and open the door to escape to the next one. In fact, this is one of those games where you don't really need to read the instructions, as the first twelve levels introduce all the puzzle elements in 'tutorial-style'.


You'll find that the key is sometimes, although not always, hidden in a rock. And that you can jump down through a platform at the bottom of any level to land at the top of the level. You'll also find that some of the patrolling nasties (the staple of every platform game) can be 'boxed in' by placing blocks in their path, whilst others are strong enough to bat the blocks away after a collision or two. Some skill is required in deciding whether to 'box in' enemies or simply jump over them, but the nice scrolling which keeps Ringo in the centre of the screen means that, whichever method you decide upon, you'll eventually meet with success.

Another two points in Ringo's favour is that the game gives you infinite lives, and levels do not have a time limit. In totality, with its tutorial mode, and these features, it plays more like a modern game for mobile phones than a traditional Spectrum game, and I guess that's no bad thing. It does tend to make you play for longer too...!

There's a suite of music by Oleg Nikitin accompanying the action, with a new masterpiece every six levels or so. There are also effects like falling snow in the foreground which are unexpected aesthetic pleasures not often seen in Spectrum games. With a nice loading screen to boot, it's all polished stuff and I can put my hand on my heart and proclaim this one of the best Spectrum games that I have played from 2022. In fact, it's tempting to declare that it's Denis Grachev's greatest game yet. However, in my opinion it's actually just a little bit less good than Alter Ego 2: Dreamweaver. Why? Well, simply because the puzzles in Ringo are less puzzling, and the 'place blocks to create paths' dynamic isn't new, whereas the mysterious 'ghost twin' dynamic of Dreamweaver makes for a remarkably head-scratching affair. Others may disagree; Grachev has set the bar so high now that there's very little to criticise about his games per se, so all I'm left with is to compare Ringo to his previous works.

To try and put the brilliance of Ringo into context however, consider this. 2017 saw the release of a Spectrum game called Castle Capers which was professionally released by Monument Microgames and was a much lesser version of the same 'place blocks to create paths' dynamic as Ringo. Ringo is all that that game could have been and more. So, in providing a version of Castle Capers "done right", it's brilliant, and it's so much better than Castle Capers that there's no doubt it deserves the same professional release treatment. Maybe Bum Fun or Phoenixware will pick it up eventually, but in the meantime, you can play it online at https://zxonline.net/game/ringo/ or download it from the same place. Do so, now.

Dave E

Other Spectrum 48K/128K/+2/+3 Game Reviews By Dave E

  • Jonathan Trick Or Treat Front Cover
    Jonathan Trick Or Treat
  • Fist-Ro Fighter Front Cover
    Fist-Ro Fighter
  • The Fantastic Mr. Fruity Front Cover
    The Fantastic Mr. Fruity
  • Phantomasa 2 Front Cover
    Phantomasa 2
  • Down The Pipe Front Cover
    Down The Pipe
  • Save The Trees Front Cover
    Save The Trees
  • S.O.L.O. Front Cover
  • Battery's Not Precluded Front Cover
    Battery's Not Precluded
  • Misifu Front Cover
  • The Lost Treasures Of Tulum Front Cover
    The Lost Treasures Of Tulum