Dumber than dumb isn't necessarily such a bad thing - take Ugh! for example. The concept is incredibly simple, and not a little old-fashioned - it's the sort of game which probably could've been conceived over a good strong cup of tea, then knocked out using AMOS in a week or two - and yet it's got a certain something.
Look, can I just get straight to the point? I love games which have simultaneous two-player options. I'd much rather play a computer game with, or against, someone else than sit around with only the Amiga for company. And while Ugh! makes Asteroids look like a NASA mission simulation in terms of complexity, it's got cute appeal, play-and-learn controls (there's plenty of inertia and gravity here - the things which made the coin-op Joust such a masterpiece), and a simultaneous two-player mode going for it.
The cute appeal mainly comes from a Flintstones-esque prehistoric man scenario, based around that age-old profession - the taxt service. Added problems with floods and various unfriendly dinosaur types complicate things a tad - to the point where it all reaches Pythonesque proportions of silliness, in fact - but the basic game is very simple indeed.
So how exactly does it work? Well, each player (it is possible to play solo, but that's not really what it's all about) controls a little crate with a rotor blade mounted on top. The mission is simple - cavemen (and cave-babes and cave-OAPs, come to that) will walk out one of a number of on-screen caves, hail a taxi (you) with a speech bubble, and tell you a destination. The player must then swoop down and land (taking care to miss the passenger!) nearby, he or she'll then climb aboard, and it's off to the required cave. Each cave has a handy little number posted on a sign outside, so there's no guesswork about where anyone wants to go. Complete several taxi runs, and it's onto a more complicated screen.
That's not quite it though. While all this taxi palaver is going on there's a grub meter slowly but surely decreasing at the bottom of the screen. If this gets to zero it's a life lost, but the problem is easily remedied by picking up a rock, dropping it onto a palm tree, and collecting the fruit it then deposits. (Logical, huh?) Later screens offer more complex cave layouts, the introduction of various dinosaurs (the breathing of some is enough to buffet your crate!) and the added danger of a rising water level. (It is possible to fly the taxis underwater, but, being light, they pop to the surface very quickly.)
This stuff is all just so much fancy dressing, however - the root of the game lies in the inertia-overload control system, as it does in games like Thrust, Asteroids et al. Gravity constantly conspires against the airborne taxis, any over compensation with the joystick easily sending your fragile create hurtling into a nearby rock. It's this that makes the game.
Good fun then, but if you suspect it of being rather slight, well, you're right. There's just not enough variation from level to level to keep the interest up for any great length of time, and I doubt the fly-around-collecting-passengers concept is really the sort of thing classic games are made of. Fun, then, but a little too lightweight for the price.
The Bottom Line
A laugh and a half, Ugh! offers excellent (one or) two-player fun, for a while at least. Not the sort of thing you'll still be playing next year, though.