Psygnosis have had a tough time just recently. Their CD32 enigma, Microcosm, was digested by reviewers like a thrush trying to swallow a Doctor Martin boot - despite its pioneering technology.
Likewise, their film licence products have taken an absolute pasting. Both The Last Action Hero and Cliffhanger have been tried and found guilty (and rightly so) by reviewers of breaking the trade description act in calling themselves computer games.
Now, Psygnosis are returning to the software fray with Digital Illusions, the Swedish programmers who introduced Amiga owners to such delights as Pinball Fantasies.
Benefactor finds us in the pleasant company of the Merry men of Lullyat. These jolly little soles possess a love of practically everything and anything. In fact they are the proverbial soft touches.
A love of their homeland led them to develop their protective rainbow which fills the Lullyatian daytime sky with a cascading array of visual beauty.
The rainbow is produced by a machine, aptly called the rainbow machine. This has a dual-
But were they the cerebral high climbers that they supposed? We think not, because one particularly merry day the Lullyatians invited the people of a neighbouring planet, Minniat, for a guided tour of the planet and the rainbow temple. The dignitaries of Minniat took one look at the awe and splendour of Lullyat and decided they want it - obviously no holiday brochures on Minniat. A plan was hatched, and by the cover of darkness the Minniatians positioned a spaceship over the temple, stole the machine and imprisoned the Merry Men that guarded it.
Imprisoned on the six moons of Minniat and guarded by the Minniatians favourite pets, the plight of the Merry men seemed hopeless. That is, until one day some of the Merry Men escaped and sent an SOS into deep space.
At this point the ex-happy little chappes got extremely lucky because their plea was picked up by none other than Ben E. Factor.
Lucky is somewhat of an understatement, because Ben is equipped with just about every hard man skill available apart from the obvious ones like punching, kicking or shooting guns.
Playing Ben you must rescue the Merry Men from the six moons using your acrobatic skills and puzzle-
The basic aim of Benefacor is to free an imprisoned group of furry Lemming-types from their evil captors. To achieve this act of mercy you have to use Ben's acrobatic skills in conjunction with the help of your furry little friends.
While you, playing Ben, jump and roll to avoid falling to your death, the Merry Men gladly operate lifts and other machinery that aid completion of the level - which is a hell of a relief after the complete idiocy of the moronic Lemmings.
While it's up to you to solve the level and place the tiny Merry Men in the correct position, the overriding sensation is that there is an element of teamwork in Benefactor. For instance, to help you the Merry Men can operate winches and a whole range of mechanical devices, that is, if you can negotiate the little critters into the correct position.
Each of the levels has a rather snappy little synthesizer tune attached to it. News like this might have you reaching for the ear plugs, but fear not.
On the whole the tunes are a happy collection of ditties, they won't have you throttling your monitor after the first half hour of play and actually seem to add atmosphere to the game.66%
Digital Illusions has given a very Lemmings-
Despite his size, our hero Ben E. Factor is extremely well animated. His movements are concise and leave the player in no doubt as to what is supposed to be happening.
Aside from the usual jumps, flips and rolls that our pint-sized superhero meticulously carries out, he is also capable of other, surprising feats of athletic graphical ingenuity.
During play don't be surprised to see Ben bungie from treetops, swinging from bars or being wound from platform to platform with a trapeze.
The Lemmings comparisons are not only due to the miniaturised character sprites that occupy play. The second similarity stems from the amount of each level that's visible on-screen at one given moment. In comparison to the miniscule characters, the backgrounds and platforms that fill Benefacor are supremely drawn. They add an extra depth to the title and what'smore, make the game look very attractive.
There are over 60 levels that make up Benefacor and they place you in a variety of locations. For instance, there are ancient Egyptian levels, cave, ice and even mud levels. Each level has a slightly different look to it, features different foes and has different puzzles to work out before you can continue.70%
Benefactor is the best thing Psygnosis have released in a long time. It feels like a montage of Flashback (the US Gold title) and Psygnosis' very own genocidal pets, the Lemmings - indeed there's a Lemmings tribute level on the Egyptian world. Both the graphics and sound have been implemented very well. The variety of both location and puzzle aspect of Benefactor make it an engrossing challenge.
This is a title with a very unique feel to it. In many respects Psygnosis and Digital Illusions have created somewhat of a curiosity in Benefactor. But, I predict that Benefactor will be snapped up by the games-
Benefactor is the type of title that will keep the most dextrous platform freaks and puzzle lovers alike twiddling well into the wee hours.