Rasputin Software, renowed for their successful flight sim, Jetstrike, are venturing into the platformer market with Charlie J Cool. However, the games scene is crammed with platformers to say the least, so what's going to make this release different from countless others?
Well, actually describe it as a ‘jump ‘n' run'game, but the premise is still pretty much the same – travel through the levels negotiate platforms and kill lots of baddies. You play the part of Charlie J Cool, the sprite with attitude, who must decide his fate by completing a quest.
Slightly strange this one but here goes: Charlie just happens to be walking along the street when he gets stuck in some super glue and a Piano falls on his head (it might happen!) He then sees his own body lying on the pavement and his soul is promptly whisked off to a Netherworld.
Because he's died rather unexpectedly, the records of whether he should go off to Utopia (a heaven-type state) or Pandemonium (hell) aren't complete, so he must go off on a journey to see whether he leans more towards good or bad.
He must travel to a place called Midway, and through all seven lands to complete the journey. Only two forces exist here, that of good and evil, and by the person's actions it is decided which they are. So if you kill lots of fluffy bunnies you're obviously evil, but if you kill the nasties you are good. Straightforward enough, I suppose!
The storyline in Charlie J Cool revolves around the idea of there being a concept of heaven and hell, and your actions in life determine which state you spend your eternal life in.
The word Pandemonium as used in this game refers to the hell-like state that Charlie would go to if his actions were bad. The actual word, meaning confusion and uproar, or a screne of this, was used in Milton's Paradise Lost to mean a place of Demons. The word comes from the Greek PAN + Daimon (Demon).
Platformers come and and go these days without so much of a second glance – that is of course, unless they're really special – some aspect that makes them different from the norm. Take Ocean's Kid Chaos for instance, a brilliant example of everything a platformer should be. Great graphics, tons of playability and highly addictive.
Charlie J Cool takes the same kind of character and concept but it certainly doesn't have the same brilliant gameplay. This doesn't mean it's a bad game by any means – it's just not up to the same standard as the more exceptional platformers.
It is also a lot slower than other games. You can't just whisk your way through the levels as you can with those like Zool. You have to stop and plan your moves carefully. This means you have to negotiate your route more carefully which provides a challenge, but on the other hand it was quite fun just to whiz through a level.
Ruff ‘n' Tumble from Renegade was another great game because it combined a good puzzle element. Charlie J Cool is certainly playable enough and it is a big game, but somehow it doesn't have enough new featuers to make the grade.
With the many other platformers that are about to bombard the shops very soon, like Virgin's Aladdin, it is going to come up against some tough competition.
Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven
Milton, Paradise Lost
There are plenty of different tunes in the game to keep it varied and they fit in nicely with the action. The worlds all have appropriate tunes and fortunately don't start to grate on the nerves.
The sound effects are adequate for the job but they aren't particularly spellbinding. They are the usual boings and bashes but nothing out of the ordinary.40%
The different worlds have been rather nicely based around themes. On his mission he travels around the Seven lands of Midway and each land is created in an imaginative way to provide variety.
Although the cutesy sprites have been well drawn they are more likely to appeal to a younger audience, but they do look good and fit in with the feel of the game. The main character of Charlie has been nicely animated, for example, if you leave him standing he will tap his foot or start reading his newspaper. The levels look attractive and have been carefully thought out to ensure the gameplay works nicely.
Examples of these are how well the obstacles are set out and the fact that the foreground platforms are distinguishable from background detail. Graphically it does rate highly and a lot of attention has been paid.60%
The game has plenty to offer both in presentation and playability. It looks pretty, the levels are packed with baddies and the action is fun. However, the gameplay doesn't have enough variety and mainly consists of jumping carefully across platforms and finding the key for the exit to that level – which is more about joystick dexterity than clever thinking.
Interest is added to the game with the different objects you can find scattered around the levels. For instance, the switches which can turn platforms on or off shields which turn him invincible, eyes which can be collected to reveal the entry point to secret rooms and question marks which may or may not help!
The password system is a nice touch because the game is so big and to start from the beginning each time would be very frustrating.
The different lands he travels through also make the game more interesting. Each one has different themes and obstacles such as Forestia with the Pits Of No Return, Medieva with Rolling Rocks or Ice Lands where you must look out for frozen icicles.
For the younger gamesplayer I would definitely recommend the title. It is simple to get to grips with, looks great, sounds good and is very playable.
The way your success in the game is shown is unusual and works well. A bar is shown and where Charlie is standing on it indicates whether he is good or bad. This will be nice for a younger player rather than looking at points all the time The actual objective to the game is also unusual and gives more of a purpose to the proceedings. But for older players who prefer more mentally challenging games, then Charlie J Cool won't be for them.
For platform fans Charlie J Cool is a nice addition to the genre but it is up against some tough competition at the moment. Its fairly limited gameplay may let it down a bit against those contenders that have a good puzzle element to them.