Go nuts over bolts through space

Bio Challenge logo

UNHAPPY with your washing? If you take the Bio Challenge, it'll come out with the extra halfbriteness you like. And we think you wouldn't go back to using your old powder... Now hold on there. The French may be many things - most of them repeatable - but not even the most wacked-out of their number could produce a game about washing powder adverts. Not even after an evening on the calvados.

No, the real subject matter of Bio Challenge is genes. Not 501 type, the DNA type which don't come with a teaspoonful of abrasive grit in each pocket. It seems the human genetic system is getting weaker and sooner or later it's going to guru with no left button to click. This is seen as a very tiny hindrance, the merest setback in peoplekind's relentless advance.

In order to counter the loss of human strength, those omnipresent technobods have managed to shoehorn a human brain into a high strength mechanical body and still keep things working OK. Being technical types, and therefore exempt from most bounds of reason, the machine is called Klipt.

The field test of the first Klipt takes place in a fairly typical set of strange dimensions where there are a number of planets linked by 'teleporters'.
In order to escape to the next dimension Klipt's got to collect four parts of the magic amulet and enough dead robots to destroy the end-of-level guardian. Klipt's only weapons are its ability to somersault, jump and spin - guns and other things that might cause people harm have been ruled out.

You run on oil, and everything else in these dimensions is partial to the odd drop of lube now and again. This is going to be no picnic, there are millions of them and only one of you.
Energy platforms litter each planet, hovering in space for some unknown but probably fairly plausible reason. If Klipt jumps on to one and somersaults the correct number of times it will come crashing to the ground, hopefully wasting the nastie that is lurking beneath.
Ground-based nasties roll about in a set pattern, so sharpen the skills you learnt for Manic Miner all those years ago.

Spinning is mostly used to despatch the weeny flying monsters which buzz about like wasps on an August afternoon. They're fairly harmless, but you do get points for them, so waste 'em all the same. Spinning can be combined with jumping, and this can be used to bump off platforms sideways, wasting more crawlies on the ground or one of the rather nasty bouncing snakes which lurk on the platforms.

Some nasties leave behind a spinning cauldron which can be cracked open for bonuses. One gives you a kind of smart bomb, another allows you to hurl the little flying things about in the vain hope that they might splatter a robot or two.

Once you have all your bits and bobs, rush back to your sphere and onwards to deal with the guardian. This one is more famed for its general unpleasantness rather than its typos. You have very little ammo to spare. Once destroyed, on to the next, much harder, level.

Each screen seems to have rather more colours than is usual, even in EHB mode - about 180 according to Palace boss Pete Stone, who isn't sure - a tribute to the skills of the folks of Delphine Software.
Delphine also has strong links with the music business and has got someone who knows a quaver from a semibreve to do the equally clever sound. So Bio Challenge is definitely special in the technical department. The gameplay is, erm, different, and takes hours of practice just to get used to the controls.

If you enjoy really mastering a game, Bio Challenge is probably for you. But for the occasional time and robot wasting session, there are alternatives that won't cause so much angst and cursing. Very good, but very hard.

Bio Challenge logo

Delphine Software
Price: £24.99

What would you expect from a new software label which has grown out of a Paris-based independent record company? Style? Class? Gauloise smoking adventurers? Or some very pretty graphics and music? You certainly get the latter with Delphine Software's first release.

Bio Challenge is an arcade game which is based in the distant future - when mankind has become so weak that the only way for you to survive is to have your brain grafted into a metal shell. But as K.L.I.P.T., Half man, half machine, you can nonetheless perform pretty nifty feats of acrobatics.

Numerous globular beasties roam around, each one with the intent to sap your life-giving reserves of oil. It's up to you to crush them out of existence by dropping onto them the numerous, floating anti-gravity platforms that are around. Do this by somersaulting on one, or stand to its right or left and do a high spin. Both actions have the effect of weakening a platform.

A squashed monster can yield points or one of the four pieces of amulet which you'll need to progress to the next level. Now and again you will need to return to the sphere at the beginning of play to deposit remains. You can teleport between planets, and on your travels you'll come across various flying cauldrons which brings you such bonuses as increased armour and additional oil capacity.

Without this added protection, you will have to destroy the flying beasts by doing a high spin. You don't have to kill them, but doing this will earn you extra points, and if you collide with them when you're not in a spin you will lose a little oil.

Once you have all four pieces of the amulet you go back to the sphere and gain admission of the Guardian's cavern. The standard end-of-level nasty dwelleth inside, and this section at long last gives you the chance to fire off a few bullets as you are transformed into a flying common. Do watch out, though, as you only have a limited amount of ammunition at your disposal.

While the plot of this game hardly breaks new barriers, the death-by-cosmic-paving-slab scenes are a very nice touch, and finding the various pieces of amulet is a neat puzzle. When I heard that Richard Clayderman's producer was responsible for the soundtrack I must admit having visions of 'Housewives Choice' and Mantovani strings. In fact, the score ain't half bad. It's very French sort of movie sounding - not quite "Betty Blue" but reminiscent of the chase scenes in the Gallic thriller, 'Diva'.

It's a truly pretty game, too. The future à la Bio Challenge may be inhospitable, but many of its views are colour coordinated like an interior decorator's dream. Lots and lots of subtle shades and bog house pastel hues.

Bio Challenge is definitely worth a look. It isn't the most absorbing game you'll have ever played, and there might have been just a little more to do. It's nevertheless an impressive release, and it's quite the cutest post holocaust game I've seen in a long while.

Bio Challenge logo

Delphine Software, Amiga £24.99

Far off in the future, mankind is becoming weaker with every generation as their gene structures struggle to keep up with the environment. A race of robot frames with human brains are the only hope for the future.

At present they're undergoing rigorous testing in the bio challenge.
The special test dimension consists of six levels, each of which can contain up to six planets. Your objective is to collect four pieces of amulet, obtained by destroying enemy robots, by crunching them by dropping a power slab onto them. Once this has been done, a special guardian must be destroyed *using ammunition collected on previous levels) to allow access to the next level.

Gordon Houghton It's nice to see someone coming up with a fresh aspect on a familiar theme instead of churning out the normal scroll 'n' shoot Amiga game. Bio Challenge is quite a weird game when you first play it, but you are soon dragged in by the atmospheric presentation and quickly adapt to the strange control method. Even when you think you've got it sussed, the odd alien thingy can stomp on you making you just that little bit more determined to come back and win next time. Right, I'll get you this time you metal son of a...
Maff Evans The most striking thing about this is the superbly atmospheric presentation, complete with a very Tron-like transformation sequence at the start of the game. The in-game appearance is equally impressive, with some excellent graphics and very good sound. The game itself is rather fiddly to get into, since the control method is a little out of the ordinary, but only in much the same way as when beat 'em up games first appeared with their strange control configurations. Once you get used to it, it's quite hard to drag yourself away from the machine. Don't be fooled by the naff painting on the box, 'cos inside lurks a well presented and highly playable - if somewhat unusual - game.
Zzap's Back: This is weird! Zzap's Front: Yep, you're a tell in me!