Steer naughty boy Nathan through dreamland

Brat logo

Publisher: Imageworks Price: £19.95

Have you noticed that despite how utterly wretched a child may be, the parents still think that they're a little angel? Whether they're running around the supermarket pelting each other with rice crispies or throwing stones at passing cars, the parents always turn around and try to justify the child's actions by claiming that their child is too young to know otherwise.

Of course we all know that this is far from the truth. Fact is, kids are pretty smart characters. Take young Nathan, for example. During the day he's a pretty lovable sort of fellow, but as the sun sets, Nathan changes into something quite terrible - he becomes a brat. As his bodily self rests, Nathan's mind goes into overdrive, taking him to a land where he's a really cool characters, complete with leather jacket and shades.

Even in his dreams poor Nathan wanders around in a daze, unable to look after himself. Scattered around dreamland are many hazards that will cause Nathan to wake if he runs into them. Being a rather young chap, he needs as much sleep as he can get, so it's up to you to ensure that Nathan's journey around dreamland remains wake-free.

Unfortunately, you can't directly control our little brat hero. Instead, you must use the mouse to lay down guiding arrows that will point Nathan in the right direction. These must be laid directly in his path. As soon as he walks over an arrow, he changes direction depending upon which way the arrow points.

Along the way he can also pick up objects with which to make the going a little simpler. These include dynamite and even stop signs which can be used to halt traffic.

Brat is a lot of fun. Although frustrating, you'll soon find it to be a source of many hours of entertainment. Once again, it seems ImageWorks have delivered the goods.

Brat logo

IMAGE WORKS £24.99 Mouse

Nathan has an attitude problem. It's not so much a problem during the day, but at night we are talking serious trouble. During the daylight hours he's a little darling, the kind that Grannies stand over for hours, coo-ing and going gaga. At night however, he gets wrapped up in dream world, where his toys have been scattered in a landscape where a wrong step could stop him reaching the grand-old age of two.

Brat is cute in an anti-cute sort of way. Once away from mummsy, he becomes a cool, struttin', dude around town; leather jacket, shades and all. And as tey say 'when your mum's away the brats will play'. This wouldn't be a problem if you didn't know him, but you've been given the task of minding Nat' for the evening.

You are the one who is personally responsible for his well being and making sure he doesn't awake from his dreams screaming, whooping and hollerin'.

Parental guidance
While the nipper kips you have to guide him through his dream - is this the first Freudian therapy game? Each dream world is a hovering landscape with a void of nothingness on either side. Falling off it would certainly wake the nipper in just the wrong way.

Lying all around are Nat's toys. Most are harmless and the little 'un wants to get them back. Some, however, take on a mischievous life of their own in Dreamland and want revenge on Natty for the ill treatment of the day. Toy cars will try to run him down, Jack-in-the-boxes spring surprises scaring Nat' back to reality and toy sharks try to much him in the water sections.

Problem child
The problem lies in the fact that Nathan has dreamed a scrolling world. He starts at the top while the screen rolls up from the bottom, which means if Nathan doesn't get his nappy in gear he will be eclipsed and wake up.

Nathan struts down the isometric 3D landscape at precisely the same speed as the screen scrolls. If he continues to walk straight on, though, he will fall off the edge and into a waking state, unless you can guide him down the screen.

You, as the sub-conscious baby-sitter, must intervene and lay a trail that even a one-year old could follow. Guiding him along a safe route to the bottom of the screen, and collecting as many toys as possible.

Getting this lovable (pahh!) kid across each world couldn't be easier in theory. You've a bevy of directional arrows (well nine actually) which have to be picked from the icon selection section and laid on the landscape. These arrows have to lead on from each other. Otherwise he just walks ahead oblivious to any danger.

As well as the directional arrows, you've a stop command and a stop scrolling icon, which when Brat walks onto them - everything must be laid down so he steps over them - gives you a chance to get your directional head together.

Some of Brat's toys, 11 in fact, can also be carried if Brat walks over them and picks them up. The fluffy rabbits go straight back to the real world, but the more useful ones such as dynamite (some toy!) can be stored in his jacket pocket for later use. You can't pick anything up, remember this is Nathan's dream, but you can slap them back on the map to destroy or nullify a Brat-waking trap. These include lead weights which can suppress sprung toys, explosives which blow a path clear for the nipper and bridge blocks.

Quite why Nathan decided to dream a world which doesn't totally connect is one for the shrinks, but you have to continually lay building blocks to bridge gulfs in the landscape so that the Brat won't fall.

The pace of the game's stems from the ever scrolling screen which matches Brat's walking pace. If he is kept moving he will remain in the centre of the screen, if you divert him to collect a toy or avoid certain doom, then he begins to lag behind and the top edge threatens.

The game itself is a trail-laying test, but you must judge in advance where the trail will lead. Limited to manipulating what is on screen, means continually flicking between the icon bar and map, sticking arrows here, bridges there and dynamite everywhere. The mouse pointer with which everything is laid, quite cutely is a dummy!

Another problem, though, is Nathan is destined to be a banker in later life as laying the trail costs you cash! Honestly, you're trying to help the kid get a nights sleep and he wants to make you pay!

Arrows are cheap but bridges cost an arm and a leg, so you have to be economic with the trail. To regenerate capital Natty has dreamt gems and coins into the landscape, but they are always in the most inaccessible places. This forces you to divert Brat to collect the baubles, as well as the toys. The mouse goes into overdrive as you try to link as many objects as possible on his treasure trail.

To make matters worse one dream leads to another, and the deeper sleep that Natty gets into, the wilder the game becomes. The landscapes become more sparse, the toys more plentiful, and the cash levels lower. It's a logistical puzzle where you have to know what comes next and what special items are needed. This means repeated playing, a good memory and then performing perfectly 'in game'.

Luckily Nathan likes secrets, and each level has a special name, which if you whisper to him will make him begin the dream at a later level.

That's life
The idea of a baby being the hero of a game may sound lame after the arcade heroes and star-cruiser brigade. The theme therefore demands ultra-tight graphics to convey the brightly coloured world of a nipper to the screen, and Foursfield - the coding team behind the game - handle it well. The Brat is small and perfectly dumpy, a good pastiche of his older kin in a baseball cap and a leather.

The landscapes are solid and all the toys are immediately recognisable. Don't believe the hype about the anti-cute nature of the nipper, because the whole concept smacks brilliantly of twee kindergarten designs and logic.

Besides what's anti-cute about a strong-willed baby making life hell? That ain't fantasy, that's life.

Brat's cot is firmly supported by excellent opening titles and seriously silly sound effects. An animated scene shows Nathan throwing off the diapers of the day, crushing a toy and becoming Brat. A failure to make the next level ushers in another sequence. The problem child falls to the floor from a dream platform, rudely awakes and leaves you in no doubt as to whose fault it all really is.

Brat is in many respects akin to Lemmings. The major difference is that here you have only one person in your charge and not a herd. It's a different style of challenge though, because you have to guide him in three dimensions not the Lemmings two!

That same manic frenzy of cursing follows any mistake, where you generally know what went wrong, why it went wrong and blame the game for not letting you avert it. This spurs repeated play as levels become challenges of the personal kind.

Brat is a cute game to watch and a vicious beast to play. It calls for pixel perfect mouse work, inventive thinking around problems and excellent timing. Colourful graphics supplement the game, adding character but they never overpower the core concept. It's a puzzle game in a cutie's clothing, and as so works better than the usual collection of blocks.

Guiding the nipper away from doom ain't easy and won't appeal to everyone, but those who take the Brat on board are guaranteed sleepless nights, full of attempts to get the kid snoozing. Just like the real thing,

Brat logo

Möcht Ihr süße kleine Babies? So richtig knuddelige, mit Rosa Jäckchen und Schleife im Haar? Dann seid Ihr hier falsch. Der Held dieses Games macht zwar auch noch in die Windeln, aber ansonsten ist er ein ziemlich harter Brocken!

Als Intro gibt's einen entzückenden Cartoon samt Sprachausgabe, wo man der wundersamen Verwandlung von Nathan dem Süßen in Brat den Ungezogenen beiwohnen darf: kaum hat sich Mamas Liebling mit Lederjacke, Baseballmütze und Sonnenbrille ausstaffiert, sieht er nicht nur aus wie ein Rüpel - er benimmt sich auch so! Auf diesen Schock folgt das Hauptmenü, in dem man sich zur Frage der Musik- bzw. Effektbegleitung äußern, Levelcodes eingeben oder sich anhand von drei verschiedenen Demos auf die kommenden Herausforderungen einstimmen darf.

Die Aufgabe des Babysitters besteht darin, den schlafwandelnden Hosenscheißer sicher durch alle 46 Traumlandschaften zu führen. Diese bestehen aus labyrinthartigen Wegesystemen, die von schräg oben zu sehen sind ("isometrische 3D-Perspektive") und vom milupagestältchen Helden durchwandert werden müßen.


Das Wandern besorgt er ganz alleine, bloß die Richtung muß man ihm vorgeben. "Bloß" ist gut - bei den Milliarden von Kreuzungen, Ecken und Weggabelungen ist das die reinste Schwerarbeit! Sobald der Junior auch nur einen Schritt vom Pfad der Tugend abweicht, stürzt er in einen tödlichen Abgrund, darüber hinaus warten unterwegs allerlei böse Überraschungen, wie Killerspielzeug, Felsbrocken oder unaufmerksame Autofahrer.

Und als ob das alles nicht schon stressig genug wäre, müssen auch noch möglichst viele der herumliegenden Gegenstände (Dynamit, Kristalle, Lutscher, etc.) eingesammelt werden: Erstens bringt das Punkte, und zweitens braucht man einige davon zur Überwindung bestimmter Hinderniße.

Was die Angelegenheit so nervenaufreibend macht, ist die Tatsache, daß nicht nur Brat unablässig von oben nach unten dahinwandert, sondern auch die Landschaften unerbittlich weiterscrollen - sollte der Bengel vom oberen Screenrand eingeholt werden, ist eines seiner drei Leben futsch (tröstlicherweise gibt's Continues ohne Ende). Der Gag dabei ist die Steuerung: Auf der rechten Bildschirmseite befindet sich eine Iconleiste, die (unter anderem) verschiedene Richtungspfeilen, Stopschilder und Brücken enthält. Mit der Maus pickt man sich das gewünschte Icon heraus und plaziert es auf dem Weg, unser Traumbaby folgt dann der Beschilderung...

Grafisch und soundmäßig wird ein ziemlicher Kindergarten geboten, der aber durch das abwechslungsreiche Leveldesign, die hübschen Animationen und die witzigen Soundeffekte gut erträglich ist. Vor allem hat Brat ein recht originelles Spielprinzip vorzuweisen - ein Hauch von "Lemmings" umweht die Träume des kleinen Rackers. Ganz so unterhaltsam wie die der suizidgefährdeten Wühler sind Nathans Abenteuer zwar nicht, aber wer sich einmal auf's Babysitten eingelassen hat, kommt so schnell nicht mehr davon los! (Hugh Myashirov)

Brat logo

Part Lemmings, part Roger Rabbit, the cartoon invasion continues, with the arrival of Mirrorsoft's new baby, Brat.

You know, the software industry isn't the big, friendly, cuddly, happy family that you might think it is. Sometimes it just gets so bitchy it'd make you want to curl up into a little ball and go and hide behind the fridge, recoiling in horror like someone who'd just tried to plug a fluffy little kitten into an electrical socket for a joke and had it go BLAM! All over their brand new suede jacket.

Such is the case with Brat, a new game from Image Works. It isn't a coin-op conversion, it isn't a movie licence, it's a completely original arcade puzzley thing with a lovably nasty sweet little baby as its hero.

So why does everybody hat it as it was personally responsible for the death of their favourite auntie? Well, on the one side it's been suggested that the character may have been, ahem, 'borrowed' from the Bitmap Brothers' forthcoming Magic Pockets, while on the other side the gameplay looks like it's been, erm, 'heavily influenced' by Lemmings for a start. Somebody around here even slated it as a semi-copy of Spindizzy! I don't know, you'd think no-one had ever been inspired by anything before.

So, enough of all this nonsense, I think it's time this game was reviewed on its own merits.
It's a pretty little thing, this Brat - cartoony graphics scroll smoothly at a gentle pace up the screen, accompanied by happily twittering music. The game itself is a major-league toughy, a real case of learning from experience coupled with a fine mix of forward planning and lighting reactions being the only way forward. At the same time though it's highly playable and easy to get the hand of when you first pick it up. It's beginning to sound like all those whinges were little more than sour grapes, eh readers?

So why don't I like it very much? Well, I'll tell you why. ('Thanks' - reader's voice). I don't like babies at the best of times, but Nathan (the Brat of the title) is the most nauseating little git I've ever come across in twelve years of video gaming.

With his nappy, his leather jacket, his ridiculous shades and his baseball cap on sideways he looks like a grown-up member of EMF, but without the saving grace of some service-ably groovy teen-pop to back him up. And curiously enough, the words 'back' and 'up' (as in 'gets my') also figures heavily in the effect that our 'hero' has on me.

The second-rate Bart Simpson clone that is Nathan irritated me so much that all I wanted to do was see him die, and since getting him killed isn't ah a hard thing to do, the game's lasting appeal clocks in at a number of seconds. In all fairness, this is a pretty good game in itself, but unless you're a lot more tolerant of precocious toddlers than I am (and that's a big zero on the tolerant-o-meter, statistics fans), it's going to be more than you can stomach.

It's certainly not the remarkable bit of game creating many people seem to be making it out to be - flawed, and heavily overladen with features to try and make up for it.

Brat logo

With Lemmings, Psygnosis created a brilliant extension of the puzzle genre, by adding cute characters and zany humour in an almost arcade form. Now it's Mirrorsoft's turn to enter the field with Brat, which also features cute graphics ad puzzle-orientated gameplay.

Nathan, the brat of the title, is stuck in Bratland, a world filled with dangerous enemies and surrounded by a bottomless chasm.
Unfortunately, Nathan has lost all control of his limbs and the only way he is ever likely to escape the four worlds that make up the dreamland is thanks to the intervention of an unseen force - you.

The player is given the task of guiding Brat to the end of each stage by using a series of icons to change his direction and bridge seemingly impassable potholes. The bulk of the action is depicted as a smooth-scrolling 3d play area to the left of the screen, and the all-important control icons are located to the right.

Using the mouse, the icons can be picked up and positioned in front of our wandering cherub, altering his direction or maybe halting his progress temporarily. However, the perpetually scrolling screen acts as a time-limit, and whilst it can be temporarily halted using a 'stop' icon, should Nathan wander off the screen, one of his three lives are lost.

In addition, lives are also lost if he comes into contact with the myriad of deadly creatures who line the route or if he's allowed to wander over the edge of a chasm. What's worse, losing a life means that Nathan's repositioned at the very start of the stage, and that the entire route has to be retraced - this is totally unnecessary and extremely tedious, particularly if you are within inches of the next stage.

Comparisons of Brat and Lemmings are inevitable, and the Psygnosis game is by far the more addictive and enjoyable of the two. While Brat has better graphics and some very nice sound effects, the actual gameplay is tedious and long-winded. Eve though the four worlds have been broken up into sections, being sent right back to the start is extremely frustrating.

Similarly, the puzzle element isn't as strong as that of Lemmings, and the result is an uneven puzzler/platform romp which is impressive to look at but fails in the gameplay stakes.

Brat logo Zero Hero

Brat is something of a novel game. That's to say there aren't really any concrete genres to slot the little blighter into. This is good news for our man Duncan MacDonald, because he's always wanted to create a genre-tag all of his own. And at last he gets a chance. And it's all thanks to Mirrorsoft. Hurrah!

Brat - it's not a vertically scrolling shoot 'em up. It's not a horizontally scrolling beat 'em up. It's not a viewed from above maze game. It is, in fact, something else - but the thing is, because there's nothing in the genre books to cover it, I'm going to have to furnish the definition myself.

Here goes: Brat: it's an inexorably scrolling, zig-zag down the screen 'em up. (Seriously pathetic, and not entirely accurate anyway. You could have said it's a bit like Lemmings. Ed.)

Here's the basic outline. After an infuriating title screen with digitised speech (the nappy-wearing brat trashing his toy mouse), you move onto the front-end where you can opt for a demo (set in Toyland) or a level-code entry. (Obviously you haven't been given any level codes yet, and you probably won't for some time, as this game's a bit of a bast - in fact, if you're crap you may never get one, so keep tuned to Crystal Tips.)
Anyway, the third option on the frond-end is the 'start game' option. So let's start the game... very soon you'll see a screen. A screen not too dissimilar to the one below, in fact...
Right, so what's going on, you may ask. Read on...

 1 This is Brat. You've got to tell him where to go and what to do by placing icons (from the panel on the right) in his path. And when action is frenetic it's easy to miss, or to pick up the wrong icon.

 2 This is the top of the screen. In 10 seconds it's going to start moving down towards Brat, and it's going to keep on moving. If it overtakes him, it's curtains for the nauseating child. (No bad thing, I say.)

 3 This is void. It's blackness. It's a near-bottomless ravine. You don't want Brat to drop down there, do you? (Who said "Yes"?)

 4 This is a milk bottle. Handy things, milk bottles, because if you possess one you can start from where you got killed (and don't get flung back to the start again - very annoying).

 5 But unfortunately, this is a rock. Brat can't climb over it, so it has to be destroyed. But how?

 6 With one of these, of course - a stick with a dynamite. Once Brat has walked over the dynamite icon it'll disappear from the main screen and appear in your inventory box (so you can use it by placing it on 'something'. The rock in this case).

 7 The empty warning triangle is a 'stop scroll' icon. If you place it on Brat's path and he treads on it, the inexorable upward landscape scroll becomes slightly less, er, inexorable. (i.e. it stops. But only for 10 seconds).

 8 This 'stop sign' icon stops Brat in his tracks, and he'll only move again once you've placed a direction arrow under him. The scrolling will continue however.

 9 These are the direction arrows. Six of them, from '12 o'clock', through '6 o'clock', er, back to '12 o'clock' again. They tie in with your cash box at the top.

10 This is the cash box. Walk over gold coins, collect money and the number, obviously, will increase. The amount of money you possess is directly proportional to the amount of arrows you can use (i.e. no cash, no arrows - rendering Brat uncontrollable. End of game).

11 The inventory box. Here is where the 'usables' (dynamite and loads more besides on further levels) are stashed. In the centre you'll see a bridge. The number beneath it tells you how many you have left.

12 This box is empty for the mo, but if you're lucky you'll be able to fill it with an arrow that allows you to reverse the scrolling for a few seconds (if you find you need to backtrack)/

13 This is a 'cute thing'. There are loads of different types of 'cute thing', but basically they're score enhancers.

14 This shows how many milk bottles you have. If you were paying attention, you'll know what they do.

So there you have it. The first moments of a game of Brat. All the icons from the right hand panel can be picked from their respective boxes by positioning the mouse cursor over them and clicking the left button. Drag them to the ideal position on the mains screen, click again, and they'll be dropped.

A good idea would be to talk you through these initial moments of the game, because it carries on in much the same vein, only getting more exasperating minute by minute, with new challenges (in the shape of roads with moving cars, dive-bombing planes etc.) being thrown at you. Are you ready? Steady? (Have a calming sip of shandy)... Go!!!

Oh dear, the screen's going to scroll in a few seconds. Quick, drag a '2 o'clock' arrow next to the rock (aiming at the milk bottle). Bung another arrow (pointing back the way you came) on top of the milk bottle. Corks, the scroll's started, and Brat is on his way. Right.

Stick a 'stop icon' just above the first arrow you dropped and wait for Brat to pick up the dynamite for you. Okay, it's in your inventory box now, so grab it, place it on the rock and... kaboom! But the top of the screen is now very near our now stationary brattish 'chum'.

Bung a '5 o'clock' arrow underneath him to get him moving again and then, quick smart, stick down a 'stop scroll' icon in front of where he's going to go. He turns right, stomps on the thing and, phew, the screen is frozen. Then he trundles up to the milk bottle, collects it, senses the 'seven o'clock' arrow and heads back that way. But what's coming up next? Well, until the scrolling starts again, you won't know - so your reactions are going to have to be razor sharp. It's a long way to the end of stage one - and even when (or if) you reach it, there are three further stages before you can take a brief respite as level two loads in.

Yup, it's that sort of a game. An inexorable sort of game. The sort of game that inspires this sort of conversation with someone who's playing it:
Non Player: Hey, did you see the Grand Prix?
Player: Yeah, I - oof - get over there you bast! No, no, not that arrow... that one. Phew. Er, sorry?
Non Player: Did you see the Grand Prix yesterday?
Player: Yeah, I - aaaargh, no, no, no. Quick, milk bottle, milk bottle. No! Aaargh! Stop scroll, stop scroll! Phew. Er, sorry?
Non Player: Did you see the Grand Prix?
And so on. It's a bit like Lemmings.

Amiga reviewDunc: As well as the Lemmings comparison, what also hit me is that the feeling you get while playing Brat is akin to the feeling you get when playing Skweek. (Remember Loriciels' Skweek?) The control modes are totally different, it looks nothing like it, but there's that all-consuming sense of urgency, which, I suppose, is one of the main ingredients that goes into producing 'a seriously addictive game'.
These sorts of games make your body produce the kind of chemicals that, could you synthesize them, you'd be able to sell a fortune to athletes and weight-lifters.

There are twelve levels overall, each comprising three stages, and I reckon that if you sat down and finished the game in one sitting (if it were possible, which I doubt), you'd be reduced to a jibbering wreck. The graphics, as you can see, are very nice - everything moves well and the screen layout is great when it comes to the user-friendliness stakes (mind you, if your mouse is crap you may be of the same opinion).

Yup, Brat is original and compelling stuff, it has to be said. My only worry is whether the compelling side of it is quite 'compelling' enough, as at times it can (I found) turn into a bit of a memory test (and my memory is virtually non-existent). That aside, though, there's one thing I can say without a shadow of a doubt. This game is no duffer! In fact it's the dog's!

No. 1 - Prince William.
'Wills', eh? What a right royal little cherub. With such fine manners and regal bearing it's not surprising he's next in line to the throne after Charles. Hooray!
(Translation: Prince William, eh? What a precocious little gitbag.) (There goes your OBE. Ed.)