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Fifty years after the bouncing bomb, Grandslam introduce us to a new kind of dambaster in the furry form of Beavers.

Over the years we've all become accustomed to an absolute menagerie of heroes from the animal kingdom. Well here's the latest, Jethro the beaver! Apart from having an extremely soft name for anyone (let alone a beaver), our Jeth is an axe-swinging rock 'n' roller in a band. Now if you were thinking it, you're absolutely right. I's yet another surreal plot for dare I say it, yet another platform game.

So right now what I'm not going to do is give you a full-blown lecture on the ups and downs of this particular genre, and how for every classic like Zool and Putty there's a level guardian full of rubbish. Ah! Did I lecture you? Oh well! On with the "plot"...

According to the loading screens, Jethro has a furry female friend who has captured the attention of the game's bad-ass. In this case it's a gun-toting rabbit, who does the dirty and kidnaps Jethro's piece of "beaver".

Now what the hell this rabbit wants with her I honestly can't imagine. If I remember the birds and bees well enough, rabbits get together with other little bunnies, not strapping great log-eating beavers. But whatever turns you on.

I suppose you've guessed it by now anyway, but rather than going round to said rabbit's hutch and shoving your carrot (that's quite enough... Ed) and you have to bounce and spin your way through 20-odd levels of platform pranks.

There are four different types of screen that go together to comprise the action. They vary between underwater sections to extremely slippery snowy levels. But by far the hardest are the auto-scrolling sections where the slightest hesitation with the joystick results in the untimely demise of our hero.

Of course there are other aspects to the game. We all know the bonus hoops in the Sonic games. Well sure enough Beavers follows suit completely. The only difference is that it's starfish rather than hoops that guarantee points for prizes.

Apart from that there is the usual variety of frustrating traps, puzzles and nasties. On the subject of nasties, every sixth level sports an extremely large nasty who pops up to hinder your progress.

Overall there isn't a great deal I can comment on regarding the gameplay. It's all fairly straightforward with plenty of jumping around, flipping the baddies with your tail, pressing the odd switch here and there to operate lifts and searching for Davy Crockett hat (don't ask me why) to complete the stage. The graphics are what I can only describe as cuddly and are reasonably well animated.

The level guardians that crop up from time to time are very large sprites and are fairly well defined. But the backdrops are nothing to write home about, in particular the borders, which are both bland and crude.

In the sound department, Beavers rates as reasonable. The sound effects are decent enough but the theme tune doesn't seem to tie in too well with the gameplay and ends up being about as useful as a beaver with foam teeth.

Overall my main gripe is the total lack of response from the control system. When using the joystick, especially in the auto scrolling levels, absolute dexterity is imperative and this just doesn't happen. This feeling of lack control over your destiny has a serious effect on the addiction of this game.
It becomes, to be frank, bloody frustrating, and I ended up switching off to watch my colleague pick his nose.

To sum up, Beavers is fairly cute, cuddly and in places quite entertaining fun. But once you've set eyes on all the graphic styles, messed around in the water and generally beavered about, it's all pretty repetitive stuff.

I can't help feeling that if gamers are going to be tempted into parting with the very best part of £26 then programmers are going to have to stretch the parameters a mite further up the log flume in this rather exhausted game genre.
To be honest, in this instance Grandslam are as guilty as the next because Beavers really is run of the water mill!

Beavers logo

First came Donk and now Beavers has entered the platform game contest with a water-dwelling hero and plenty of bizarre characters, locations and tasks. Before considering Beavers it's important to realise that not only is its hero unable to swim, but that moving the joystick about frantically during the game won't pluck Mr Beaver out of danger, but will leave him swivelling on the spot or whistling to himself. Beavers is weird.

There's no doubt about that once you've witnessed the introduction - a macabre display of violence in the form of an irate bunny, upstaged in the cuteness stakes by our tree-felling friends, who kidnap Mrs Beaver with the help of a rodent-sized Sten gun. The intro ends on the point of being absolutely horrific and then the game itself loads,which comes as something of a relief. Mrs Beaver isn't dead, but has been abducted and now languishes somewhere under Mr Bunny's evil control, presumably in a warren behind a frightening array of traps, evil henchmarsupials and piles of droppings.

On the level
Don't let the game's cutish exterior fool you into thinking it's easy, though. A fiendish first level requires you to run at speed across a marshland area, avoiding bears, the odd albatross and, er... water. While the main character doesn't move particularly fast, you've got to be fairly adept on this stage to avoid slowing down and being consumed by the edge of the screen as it leaves you behind.

This game would be ideal for children (those 'violence in the hutch' scenes aside) if it wasn't so difficult to play. Spinning around with a downward pull on the joystick enables you to dispose of some of Mr Beaver's adversaries, while pushing up on the stick starts your character whistling innocently, apparently so that he can sidle through doorways without arousing suspicion. But for all the little guy's athletics, the game is hard, and no mistake. If only he could spit woodchips.

The sound of Beavers ranges from a series of good cartoony effects to a honky-tonk theme on each level that gets a little repetitive but, nevertheless, does seem quite beaverish. The cartoon scenery is well-drawn and creates a variety of obstacles which must be negotiated by acrobatics or some other, slightly bizarre activities.

An important part of each level is the collection of stars which give you loads of points and award you extra lives at the end of each level. A lovely little touch is the way that they wiggle temptingly as you draw closer and glance in your direction as if to invite you to collect them

Worlds apart
On every level, the enemy suit their surroundings. Frankenstein monsters and blobs of slime roam the second level that's a kind of graveyard setting, while gun-toting dogs and gruesome, living boulders patrol the third level - a network of electricity pylons in the canyons of some mountain range.

Beavers isn't a marvellous game, but it is competently written and introduces another likeable character. But looking at legends such as Sonic (who, to be fair, is hardly very much further along the evolutionary scale), it feels as though Grandslam could have made so much more of their new invention.

Der Abgenagte Nager

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Bei Grandslam ist der Biber los: Im Zuge der allgemeinen Plattform-Euphorie darf hier ein zotteliger Langzahn nahmens Jethro durch küterbunte Landschaften hüpfen - hat uns das Tierchen gerade noch gefehlt?

Eigentlich nicht, denn spielerisch ist Grandslams Biber doch eher ein Langweiler. Und das, obwohl der possierliche Nager von Arc-Developments in Szene gesetzt wurde, also jenem Programmier-Team, das sich seinerzeit durch astreine Automaten-Konvertierungen wie "Crackdown" oder "Forgotten Worlds" einen Namen gemacht hat. Doch diesmal müssten sie halt ohne Vorlage auskommen, und so erschöpft sich das Gameplay in einer langatmigen Plattform-Wanderschaft. Dass man unterwegs einen Häufen Sternlein einsammeln darf, ist ungefähr genauso originell wie die finale Befreiung der Freundin aus den Klauen des obligaten Bösewichts.

Zu Beginn scrollt die Landschaft automatisch von rechts nach links und lasst dem Biber-Dompteur vor dem Monitor kaum je eine Verschnaufpause; später darf man dann selbst entscheiden, wohin man laufen möchte. Doch wohin es auch sein mag, allerorten lauert akribische Millimeterarbeit: Exakt getimte Sprunge über tödliche Abgründe gehoren zum Pflichtprogramm, die Gegner tauchen meist in den ungünstigsten Momenten auf und sind so ganz ohne Waffen auch nicht gerade einfach zu besiegen - oft genug geht der dafür vorgesehene Drehsprung böse in die Höse. Dennoch kommt man mit seinen drei Heldenleben schon eine Weile zurecht, weil bei Feind beruhrungen nur ein Stuck des Energievorrats über den Jordan wandert.

Bloss, ob's die Mühe wert ist? Hier mal einen Bonusgegenstand aufklauben, dort ein Mini-Rätselchen lösen und gelegentlich einen extradicken Obermotz beiseiteräumen, ist für sich alleine genommen nunmal nicht wirklich abendfüllend.

Doch die Abwechslung haben die Programmierer bei Beavers halt leider für die Optik reserviert. So wartet praktisch jeder Level mit neuen Wald-, Höhlen-, oder Winterlandschaften auf, und die Gegner würden allesamt so herzallerliebst animiert, dass man sie am liebsten in den Arm nehmen und knuddeln möchte - was freilich wenig daran ändert, dass die Sippschaft meist stur auf den Plattformen hin- und herwäckelt und dass die Feind-Formationen schon bald alte Bekannte sind. Andererseits klappt das multidirektionale Serolling einwandfrei, ein flottes Intro gibt's auch, es bleibt die Wahl zwischen (guter) Musikbegleitung und (läschen) Sound FX, die Steuerung erkennt sogar Zwei-Button-Sticks an, und trotz fehlender Zweit floppy-Unterstützung brauchen die Disks nur selten gewechselt werden.

Summa summarum ist Beavers ein solides Jump & Run, dem es an eigenen Ideen fehlt, um es mit der derzeit schier übermächtigen Konkurrenz aufzunehmen.Denn wenn allein in dieser Ausgabe noch zwei in jeder Beziehung bessere Spiele aus dem gleichen Genre warten (die Rede ist natürlich von "Arabian Nights" und "Superfrog"), dann braucht man nicht lange zu überlegen - da wird der Biber wohl auf Granit beissen... (rl)

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On patrol! Our favourite way of getting kicks, is building dams and gnawing sticks.

These days, we seem to be in the middle of something of a platform game renaissance. We've had some corkers recently (Arabian Nights, Flashback), there're some great-looking ones coming up very soon (Yo! Joe!, Soccer Kid), and now we've got the long-awaited Beavers.

This is a game that's gone through a few changes since we first previewed it donkey's years ago, but it's still a platformer at heart. You play Jethro Beaver, whose beaver babe's been kidnapped by some evil rabbit dude with a machine gun, for unstated but doubtless immoral purposes.

Of course, you can't just pop round to Bad Rabbit Dude's place and sort 'im out - nope , in true traditional style, you have to slog through 20-ish levels of platform-leaping japes, meeting tricky traps, perplexing puzzles, mixed-up machinery and nasty, er, nasties on your way. The usual, in other words. But hey, that doesn't make it a bad person...

I have to make a point before we start. Something that I thought we'd left behind a long time ago has reared its ugly head recently rather too often for my liking. I'm talking about multi-disk games which don't recognise the presence of a second disk drive.
Beavers isn't the only one this month, but in completely arbitrary and unreasonable way I'm going to single it out, mainly because right now I can't remember what the other ones were.

Aargh! Annoying slippy-slidey snowy worlds

In these testing times, this kind of thing is simply grist to the mill of those who say computer games are old hat, tedious and incompetent compared to the latest flash-bang technical wizardry on the consoles, and what's more it's a slap in the face to everyone who's invested in the future of the Amiga by forking out hard cash for the extra hardware that can make a gamer's life so much nicer. Sort it out, programmers.

But back to the game. There isn't really much I can tell you about Beavers that you can't figure out for yourself by looking at the pics. It's pretty basic stuff, lots of jumping around, taking out the odd baddie with a swipe of your spade-like tail, flicking the odd switch to operate lifts and suchlike, and searching each level for the Davy Crockett hat that'll enable you (for reasons best left to the imagination) to go through to the next stage.

There are about four different types of level, including underwater sections,tough auto-scrolling bits where a second's hesitation will result in your being squashed to death by the side of the screen, and - aargh! - annoying slippy-slidey snowy worlds where (surprise!), Jethro's inertia takes on a life of its own. Every sixth level you meet a big boss, and that's about your lot.

It's all engaging enough, but it does get pretty repetitive once you've seen all the graphic styles, and the control isn't nearly as precise as it ought to be in a game with the unforgiving collision detection that this one's got. Truthfully, the word that came mostly to mind while playing this was 'Next!'.

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Rolling in some five pounds cheaper than our Chuck comes the eager Beavers (Grandslam 081-680 7044, £24.99, 67 per cent) and it's an unusual platformer in that you have to constantly stay on the move because the screen scrolls continuously - slow up and you're consumed by the edge of the screen. It's about as easy to do as standing on a log.

Again, it's a kidnap sceanrio - this time Mrs Beaver - and despite your doubts about wanting to rescue the old bird in the first place, you are required to traverse marshland, a graveyard and various other places of scenic interest.

Beavers is a bouncy affair with simple graphics and some pretty effects, but as far as lasting interst is concerned... oh, I've forgotten what I was going to say about it.

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Schon beim ersten Auftritt vor gut einem Jahr überzeugte der Langzahn Jethro mehr durch seine süßen Kulleraugen denn durch inhaltliche Qualitäten - und bei CD-Amiganern dürfte der Hüpfer erst recht auf Granit beißen!

So putzig der heldenhafte Biber sein mag, so altbacken ist er auch: Die Vorgeschichte singt mal wieder das alte Lied von der entführten Freundin, und das Gameplay mit den Plattformen, Bonus-Sternchen und gegnerischen Viechern (Vögel, Fische etc.) ist ebenfalls keine Offenbarung.

Manche der Feinde kann man dabei per Spin-Attacke niederrotieren, andere nicht; dazu kommen natürlich Endgegner, ein paar kleinere Rätsel und ein, zwei Speedabschnitte. Was fehlt, das sind Extras sowie an vielen Stellen die gebotene Fairneß.

Wer nun hofft, daß man den faden Einheitsbrei für die CD zumindest mit ein paar zusätzlichen Farben, verbesserten Animationen oder Parallax-Scrolling gewürzt habe, den müssen wir leider enttäuschen - bei dieser Silberscheibe handelt es sich offensichtlich nur um einen Schnellschuß, der nochmals ein wenig Klimpergeld in die Kasse bringen soll.

Die Meeres-, Höhlen- oder Baum-landschaften sind also but wie eh und je, das Scrolling klappt perfekt, und die zuckersüßen Sprites verursachen Karies beim bloßen Hingucken; allerdings alles in der gewohnten 16-Bit-Qualität.

Daß die Steuerung nun auch das Sechsbutton-Pad des CD32 unterstützt, ist in diesem Fall ja eher eine selbstverständliche Notwendigkeit... Ob es allerdings auch notwendig ist, daß man hier per einfachem Tastendruck und damit schnell versehentlich einen Spielreset auslösen kann, sei einmal dahingestellt - vielleicht war's ja wirklich weise Voraussicht?! (rl)

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Grandslam, £25.99
Amiga version: 71% AP26

A below-par cutesy platformer, which somehow looks altogether sadder when it's running on a 32-bit wonder machine. There's a new and improved control system, but apart from that you have to wonder if we weren't being unnaturally kind to it first time round Although that's just not like us.