B ehind all the exploitation of Maria Whittaker in Barbarian lurks a very playable game. However, Martech’s Vixen seems to have been produced by ploughing 95% of the game budget into getting Corrine Russell to pose pathetically around a selection of plastic plants and spending the rest programming just anything to stick in the box.
Vixen the game is set on the jungle planet Granath, where the human inhabitants live in fear of the dinosaurs that dominate the land. All but one, a powerful lone female complete with synthetic whip and high-heeled shoes. Abandoned as a child and raised by a clan of magical foxes (can you believe this?), the Vixen is bestowed with magical powers, but more of that later. Vixie’s quest is to penetrate the many levels of the dino’s domain. Not surprisingly this is done by running in true Thundercats/Rolling Thunder through the jungle cracking evil monsters about the head with her magical whip.
The characters that attack Vixie are all based on a dinosaur-type theme and range from shuffling green lizards and blue crawling spiders to the big T-Rex himself. Vixie’s life force does not come in the form of an energy bar, so any contact with a meanie will result in the loss of a life. As mentioned earlier, Vixen is protected from such attacks ‘cause she has got a magical bullwhip wot she can send lashing out (nice grasp of English, Gaz! – Ed) disposing of any meanies in the immediate vicinity with nothing more than a quick stab of the fire button. To make things easier, the sprite collision is quite generous so a nasty has to get very close before it hits you, allowing you plenty of time to whip it.
Along the way, Vixie will come across quite a few different objects that will aid her on her mission, most notably balls that hang on chains from palm trees (must be Christmas – Ed). It does not sound like an invaluable mission aid at first, but if Vixen cracks her whip at it, it turns into a foxhead which can be collected. If she collects enough of these to fill a ‘foxtime’ bar at the top of the screen, when she completes a level by crawling into a cave at the end she mutates into a fox (wow) and enter a bonus level that is completely free of nasties (hounds, huntsmen, etc.), but rife in bonus points in the shape of gems just aching to be collected by the shefox. As well as standard gems, megagems are also on offer. When Vixie collects one of these it appears at the top of the screen and is used to increase your scoring potential once you get back overground.
Apart from a few extra factors like megawhips (kill all the nasties in one shot) and the obligatory holes in the ground to be jumped, there is not a lot more to Vixen. Just like Thundercats and Rolling Thunder it is a simple and basic formula, but it differs from those two as it actually manages to be slightly playable. Even though for the most part, the graphics are quite basic and the scrolling just a bit jerky, the Vixen herself has supposedly been digitised and as such the animation as she runs and crawls is really quite effective. This is complemented by an enjoyable jungle soundtrack complete with sampled bongos to produce quite an enjoyable atmosphere. The gameplay however, sometimes tends to be frustrating as jumping over holes in the grounds is not the easiest thing in the world to do, due to the sluggish stick control.
Rolling Thunder, Vixen and
Thundercats all offer the same kind of thing. Vixen deserves to be your last choice because of its stupid sexism.
CU Amiga, December 1988, p.p.50-51
Sensibly equipped with bikini and leather lash, she jogs along, leaping chasms, climbing steps and whippings crowds of prehistoric blobs into the ground. Hitting headstones reveals bonus objects and fox time icons. Collect enough of the latter and you're granted access to an underground bonus level. Zzap! Issue 43, November 1988, p.77
Martech, £19.99 disk
n those days when the bus is late, there's a bumper edition of Gardener's Question Time and you can't find your deodorant, cheer up - life on other planets is EVEN WORSE. Granath, for instance - a planet full of whopping great prehistoric monsters constantly on the lookout for a tasty bit of lunch.
The only human beings still left alive is Vixen, who was raised by foxes and is mistress of a pretty nasty whip. Her struggle to survive this hostile environment is depicted in the form of a series of timed horizontally scrolling levels.
At this point the foxy lady stops being a lady and turns into a fox. Underground goodies include mega gems and mega whips. Collect them all and you're back on the surface resuming the whip-lashing battle to survive. Epic, huh?
The Vixen publicity campaign has really fallen flat, splat on its face. If the box weren't covered with pictures of Corinne Russell, it probably wouldn't so noticeable that the Vixen sprite doesn't look like her at all. With no face, a gait like a limp chicken and a limbo-dancing death throe, she doesn't look as if she could survive a tiny tots' disco - let alone Granath. The appalling graphics wouldn't matter so much if the gameplay made up for it - but it doesn't. Hour upon hour of crouching and whipping is about as fun as eating ten raw elephants with false teeth. Bleugh! The controls are awkward and so is the scrolling. If you feel like splashing out, splash out on something else.
I didn't think much of the 64 version when it came in, and, deary-oh-me, the Amiga version is no better. Gameplay is still the same pointless move-right-crouch-whip stuff that had me slumped over the 64 keyboard, which is no more than you would expect, I suppose. 'But the graphics and sound - surely they're improved, Paul?' Well, not really. Miss Foxy Amazon lopes along like a reluctant jogger to the beat of some insipid jungle disco sounds, and Granath's itinerant fauna still consists of poorly-animated mutant… things… which don't resemble anything that could evolve by Darwin's processes of Natural Selection. Sound effects don't exactly recreate the mystery and excitement of the jungle, and even Vixen's deadly whip makes a noise like someone clicking their fingers. Suffice to say that the game lives up beautifully to the very tacky packaging, and is deserving no-one's money.
Vixen, in my opinion, got off to a bad start with the public, relying on the software buyers' perviness and a stream of controversial publicity to promote sales. All the hype seemed to me to be built up around a load of pretensions, and we find, as expected, that the game doesn't live up to these pretensions. The jungle-music soundtrack soon becomes tedious, and the graphics look as dated as an episode of Lost in Space, except Vixen is in colour, worse luck. I say 'worse luck' because the colours are hideous. I mean, green and orange monsters, yeeeuurg! However much Martech charged for this it would be too much. Actually, you'd have to pay me to have this! Vixen is dreadful. Really dreadful. Got the message?
Unless you count the Corinne Russell poster - nothing special.
Featureless main sprite surrounded by prehistoric alien blobs.
Average in-game tune plus Tarzan drumbeat.
Curiosity keeps you playing until you get to the bonus section...
…but not much longer. OVERALL 25%
A totally unoriginal collect 'em up with nothing at all to get in a lather about.
Sensibly equipped with bikini and leather lash, she jogs along, leaping chasms, climbing steps and whippings crowds of prehistoric blobs into the ground. Hitting headstones reveals bonus objects and fox time icons. Collect enough of the latter and you're granted access to an underground bonus level.
Zzap! Issue 43, November 1988, p.77