Bograts: The Puzzling Misadventure logo AGA

Hugh Poynton baby-sits Vulcan's latest cute 'n' slimy critters.

When opening the Bograts box, I thought to myself, 'a new scrolling platform game, that'll be nice, unchallenging and relaxing to play on a Thursday afternoon in the office'. I've got news for you. It wasn't unchallenging or relaxing, indeed it was probably more challenging than trying to pull in a nunnery.

Vulcan's new release Bograts is without doubt one of the most deceptively hard arcade puzzle games I have every played. Trying to work out how to get through the 60 levels of simple looking, yet bloody hard, screens uses as much brain power as Einstein used to figure out that whole relativity business.

Although it looks like a cute arcade game it is rather more. The baby bograts you guide through the different levels behave exactly like the little rodents in the classic, Lemmings.

Oblivious to danger, they just walk into any obstacle waiting for them. The only hint as to where the baby Bograts are going to go is that they walk left and then right. With this in mind, ou can attempt to selectively open strategically placed doors and remove certain obstacles in front of them so as to avoid the various dangers.

Stupid as they may be, these baby bograts aren't just an annoying liability, they do serve a purpose. Both babies have special skills. Despite looking cute, the blue baby bograt is actually as hard as nails. If you run into any Fungus creatures, blue bogster will dispatch the rum fungus lad with a blood curdling roar.

Red baby bograt is as hard as marshmallow but is the only one of the three characters who can pick up keys and unlock doors. More importantly, there are large sections of the levels only accessible by the baby bograts so you must plan ahead and get them to reach whatever you can't. Each screen requires an entirely different strategy and it really is worth perusing the screen for a couple of minutes first.

If you get to level two and think things are difficult, wait till you get to ten - there are 60 levels in total. A couple of days playing this and you'll be doing pretty accurate Mr Gumby impressions - my heeeaaaaaadddddd huuuuuurrrrtttsss!

The sound effects are brilliant, whenever you jump up and collect something, be it a heart or an egg, a little daaannngggg noise sounds. Run into a big bunch of eggs or hearts and the game suddenly sounds like it's got a drum 'n' bass sound track. Your teleport to the next level is always heralded bya little bograt baby making a noise like a cross between a hiccup and a full on chunder. Worse still when the bog babies shuffle their mortal coil they make a weird and rather distressed miowww noise.

Graphic-wise the game is well presented and original. It has loads of fun little features that make it stand out from standard scrolling platform games. Hidden about the various levels are springs which shoot you across the screen at supersonic speeds, flames which suddenly flare up and roast you to a crisp and big red blocks that can be shoved into strategic locations to prevent the baby bog rats getting themselves killed (careful where you drop them, it's a bit gutting to drop a brick on your little bogsters).

Another bonus is the ridiculous, but hilarious, introduction animation. IT shows the two bograt babies being read a fairy tale by their mum. Mommy Bograt is speaking the most stupid sounding gobledegook heard since Mr Blobby. For example: 'Umum umum, ajurp, urp baya, urp baya'. This cross between burping, grunting and breaking wind is followed by a long rather dodgy sounding sigh. What the developer was on I don't know, but I want some.

My main criticism of Bograts is that it can be just too hard - to the point of being really annoying. However, do bear in mind that I'm the bloke who spent the best part of a year trying to complete Solitaire. I found after my first hour trying to figure out how to guide the baby bograts through five measly levels I wanted to head-but something.

Completing all 60 levels of Bograts would probably be more difficult than completing Quake.

Bograts is well up to Vulcan standards. The game is fun, massively challenging (for a spanner like me) and the concept is pretty original. With so many levels (all no doubt rock hard) to complete, there is little chance you would finish this game within about 6 months. Bograts is a tough, fun and instantly addictive game. Go buy it.

Bograts: The Puzzling Misadventure logo AGA

You need a licence to fish but, apparently, even Andy Smith can be a parent...

Tricky blighter, Johnny Sprog. Before you know it they're out of nappies and off wandering round enchanted castles. There's none of this 'crafty fags and games of doctors and nurses behind the bike sheds' anymore. It's all magic eggs and spikey pits. Oh lorks.

Bograts is one of those puzzle games where you're manipulating the environment in order to facilitate the progress of a dumb character. The dumb characters here just happen to be a couple of small green things called Bograts. They wander around aimlessly, simply changing direction whenever they come into contact with an obstacle (wall, block, whatever) or dying when they wander into something that kills them (spikey pit, flames and so on), where upon they re-generate at the level's start point and start wandering aimlessly again.

Clear the way
Your task is to get everything out of their way so they can wander aimlessly into the exit - yeah it's sounding a bit like Lemmings, but let's delve deeper. There are 60 levels to guide your chums through and Vulcan have decided to restrict the simple, learning curve, beginner levels to the minimum.

After the first couple of levels you're in the thick of the action as you have to figure out in just what order switches should be thrown, blocks should be pushed and lifts operated to get your chums to the exit. Fortunately there's no time limit, but they pay-off here is that you have to work to save your position.

You're all heart
Littered around most levels are red hearts - collect 20 of 'em and you can save your position I one of the five available slots. This becomes very important later as youf ind yourself having to step back a level or even two when you die because you haven't been able to save your game for a while.

How do you die? The hearts you collect also equate to the amount of damage you (and your Bograts) can take. When someone meets death at the hands of an enemy blob you can say goodbye to five hearts. The game doesn't end until you can't afford to lose any more hearts. And you wanted to save your position? Tough luck, bucko.

Defeating enemies is not as straightforward as you'd think either. Only one of your two Bograts can deal with baddies, and he/she/it does it very well without any help from your good self, but this does mean you then have to think about timing your switch pull or whatever so that the baddie-eating Bograt meets the baddie first. And in the same vein the other Bograt is the only one of the pair that can pick up keys which you need to open doors. Again, you've got to plan your actions to get the key-picking-up Bograt to the keys. Oh yes, it's tricky stuff alright.

Plan ahead
Damn tricky stuff. Each and every level will have the ol' grey matter chugging away, which is excellent. What isn't so excellent is just how unforgiving the game is should you make a small mistake. OK, so that's part of the gameplay and you should learn not to make even small mistakes, but sometimes it's unavoidable.

The graphics are not the best in the world. They look alright but sometimes they're confused, it can be difficult to see where a platform ends until you've fallen off the damn thing. And once you've done that there's no chance of getting back. See what I mean about the importance of collecting hearts?

And it's not just a case of having to think about the solution that keeps you playing, once you've figured out what you've got to do, the actual doing bit is just as important - especially as in most cases you're only going to get the one shot. You'll find yourself hitting the space bar and loading up the latest save after even your slightest error.

Ends well
Having said that, the consequences are a great sense of achievement, nay relief, and happiness as you see the last little Bograt trundle into the exit which is what every good game should give you. And this is a goodie. It's better than the applaudable but not quite wonderful Blobz (AF 90 71%) but it's not quite Format Gold material. It comes very close, but the confusing graphics take the edge off it (I mean why have platforms that are obvious because they have brown lines describing them and then go and have the same brown lines along areas that definitely are not platforms?

Forget that though, Bograts is a corker. Very little is left to chance (though when you do manage to pull something off more by luck than judgement you'll be pleased. No, you will!) and some of the levels require a long and complicated sequence of actions to pull off.

The chances are you're not going to get it right first time though. Progress is usually achieved by tackling each of the level's puzzles one at a time - tricky when you have to keep doing the same preceding piece over and over and over again!

Bograts is great, I like it a lot. If you're at all tempted by games that can be solved with a bit of thought and application then you're going to like it a lot too.


Because we're such helpful people here at AF, we've reproduced a typical Bograts level with some simple instructions. Don't panic, but be prepared to think some.

Bograts: The Puzzling Misadventure
  1. Ladder controlled by switch number 11.
  2. A baddie that can only be killed by the blue Bograt.
  3. Ladder controlled by switch number 10.
  4. Key that must be collected by the red Bograt.
  5. You have to re-start the level from here.
  6. Ladder controlled by switch number 7.
  7. Controls ladder 6. Currently the ladder's off.
  8. You. Accessing the terminal that gives you a map view.
  9. A moveale block. Use this to put fires out.
  10. This lets the Bograts reach key 4.
  11. The first switch you pull to start the Bograts off.
  12. Your lovely offspring. Bless 'em.
  13. Lots of lovely hearts that are crucial to collect.
  1. Pick this up and have an extra bomb to play with.
  2. Switch to control the direction of belt 19.
  3. A handy spring to bounce you back to 10.
  4. Collapsing walkway. You only go over this once.
  5. White key needed to open door 20.
  6. A two-direction conveyor belt.
  7. Collect key 18 and you can open this door.
  8. This block can be destroyed with a bomb.
  9. Push block 9 over this fire to put it out.
  10. A pit full of deadly spikes. Put block 9 here.
  11. Key number 4 needs to open this door.
  12. This block must be blown up before...
  13. ...reaching the exit here. Wasn't too tough was it?

Bograts: The Puzzling Misadventure logo AGA

Price: £12.99 Publisher: Vulcan Software 01705 670269

Vulcan Software have produced some of the most addictive games for the Amiga over the last few years. Can they do it again?

Looking back, it would seem as though - as well as becoming a classic in its own lifetime - Lemmings has done as much for the world of games as any other puzzler and you can think of (er... like Tetris. And that's it!)

Though it's always hard to describe exactly what sort of a game Lemmings was (no simple beat 'em up or RPG-like monikers can easily be attached) the key element was the fact that you were no longer controlling the main character (or characters) on the screen but rather the environment in which they lived.

Sure, you 'kind-of' controlled the little lems, but you weren't doing it in the traditional 'move joystick left to make them go left' way. If anything, you'd have to refer to Lemmings, and subsequent copies such as Troddlers, as protect 'em-ups simply because the purpose in each game always seemed to revolved around getting a set number of somethings to a particular safe area on the screen.

Psygnosis themselves followed Lemmings with Benefactor, a sort of cross between Lemmings and a Lode Runner-esque platform game, and now (he said, conveniently forgetting about a thousand other copies and linking weakly) we found ourselves once more at the doors to the ever-inventive Vulcan Software, ready to forget characters that say annoying things like "it's in my pocket" and instead welcome the Bograts - the new Lemmings!

Unlike Lemmings, you do have a physical character on-screen in Bograts: taking on the role of Mummy Bograt; charged with protecting her two offspring and (yes, you guessed) getting them to a safe location on over 60 levels. This involves much pulling of levers to activate ladders, moving blocks to either clear the way or neutralise hazards such as fiery pits and spikey holes, and lots and lots of forward planning.

Exactly how the game works is quite hard, but it's down to lots of trial and error, with tons of forward planning to boot. The two Bograt children have different skills; one being able to eat baddies and the other collecting and using keys, so controlling their direction also needs to be an important part of your thinking.

You yourself have a number of bombs to blow up blocks, but often you'll (all too late) realise that you've destroyed a necessary piece of landscape and have to restart (d'oh!) but that's not as simple as it sounds.

Begin again
Whereas most puzzle games will let you make as many mistakes as you like. Bograts is actually quite harsh as you can only leave a messed up level to return to the very beginning or to one of five saved game positions. However, though you may think that sounds OK, you have to earn the right to save games by collecting twenty hearts left around the platforms.

This means that you're constantly risking wasting your hearts on an easy level, or getting right to the end, suffering a right old cock-up, and then having to go back to the beginning of the last saved level. Now you might think this is a good, longevity-enhancing feature, or a right nightmare. I'm not sure, but it certainly adds an element of danger to the proceedings!

And that's your lot! It costs £13, should last you quite a while and is actually quite a well-thought out little game. The graphics aren't particularly conducive to good visibility (with the Vulcan trademark brown and grey giving it the large one throughout!) and it's often difficult to know what's background, what's foreground, and what's an object, but other than that gripe, it's pretty user-friendly. A nice little effort, and no mistakin'!