Cool Spot logo

Virgin have taken the most undesirable of undesirables - namely a facial blemish - and turned it into a computer game. Tina Hackett goes dotty over Cool Spot.

Platformers come and go without so much as a second glance from the games playing public. So why should Cool Spot be any different? What's going to make this release stand out from countless others? Have faith, believe me - this is different.

First I saw the console version, and gobsmacked by it I was too! I awaited the Amiga release with baited breath. I screamed, cried, sulked and blackmailed my way to reviewing it. I mean, a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do. And boy, it was worth the effort.

Smoother than the guy's chin off the Gillette adverts, faster than a Ferrari, and more playable than your little cousin's Scalextric, Cool Spot is quite something. OK, so the game is based around a small, red dot, but hey, who cares? Certainly not me guvner, and especially when playability is this darn good and the little character so well animated. He lolls along, huge trainers and all, arms swinging at his sides looking as if he hasn't a care in the world, not even looking even slightly perturbed that all his friends have been kidnapped and locked in cages, and that he must rescue them.

He must collect a certain number of red tokens which can be found around the level, before he can locate and then blast open the cage containing one of his chums, thus rescuing him. Other objects can be found and will help Cool Spot considerably such as super-cool counters worth seven normal tokens, or one-ups usually hidden behind parts of the scenery.

The scenery itself can also help. Cool Spot can get around by means of floating balloons, blobby bubbles and bouncy bubbles. Parts of scenery can also be moved by pushing against them.

Cool Spot is armed with fizzy drinks bombs which he must fire at the various enemies he will encounter throughout the many levels. Cool Spot must make his way through beaches, where he must avoid nipping crustaceans, cupboard shelves, manic mice who throw cheese at him, and piers invested with dive-bombing bees - to name but a few.

The gameplay, although not all that varied, remains challenging for a fair while, especially with three levels of difficulty to choose from. The platforms you need to jump from will tax even the most coordinated gamesplayer.

The exceptionally wonderful graphics and brilliant sound effects will ensure that you don't become bored, too. The funky/jazz/reggae music will cater for all tastes and is well above some of the usual platform dross. Nice touches, such as the way Cool Spot yawns when left standing, or wipes his sunglasses, show the huge amount of attention to detail that has been lavished on this release.

Mr Cool is definitely the spot with the lot - platformer addicts everywhere will lurve it and want to have its babies.

Cool Spot logo

Look at this little fellow go. All arms and legs and... just a minute, this bloke's a spot. No-one likes zits. Pimples are just not cool. How do I know - because I have seen that advert about the bloke who goes to see his mates in the pizza restaurant after using some acne cream that allegedly works and suddenly he's a handsome hero. And before that they had been calling him 'pizza face' or some such cruel jibe. Anyway, that is not important right now.

Cool Spot has got something to do with promoting fizzy drinks - apparently he comes cheaper than Michael Jackson. Seems that Virgin like their platformers to tie in with something. Remember Global Gladiators and those tasty hamburgers? But more of that later.

So what is the problem here then? There is usually some sort of trouble otherwise there would be no point to the whole affair. A wily Wild Wicked Willy Will chap has kidnapped Cool's mates (also spots) and his task is to free them in time for tea with the King at the big castle on the hill. Or something like that. Armed with only a constant supply of gassy bubbles to chuck at the baddies, our Ray-Ban sporting hero sets out on a crazy adventure to the sound of the surfmungous Wipeout tune.

Cool Spot has been converted from the MegaDrive version, in the process losing a few colours and a bit of screen speed although Cool himself is slightly more pacy. The sprite is incredibly, er, spritely.

The idea is to collect as many red spots throughout each level and free the trapped spot from the cage at the end. Collect a certain number of the circular red things and you qualify for a Bonus level against the clock. Unfortunately, there are baddies aplenty out to stunt your progress, upon whom you unleash your raging torrent of gassy bubbles.

The game is very similar in feel (if not looks) to Global Gladiators which is not surprising because the same programmers were involved in both projects.

Both have the same sort of general feel, movement, sound effects and slightly jerky scrolling which upset many who played the eco-friendly Gladiators. But it never bothered me, and even though Cool Spot adds nothing new or original to the platform genre, it is still fun. And that is what platformers are meant to be, isn't it?

Cool Spot is an endearing character, full of little quirks, and it is quite good fun to jump and bounce around collecting spots and pick-ups, diving between balloons, shooting crabs and flies and other beasties. And that's that - there is nothing much else to write home about.

The control of the sprite is occasionally annoying, particularly when you are attempting to fire bubbles at diagonal angles and sometimes when you move backwards and forwards quickly the scrolling bonkers.

But, gripes aside, Cool Spot is by no means perfect, this is solid if unspectacular platform fun, overprice by a few quid.


Cool Spot logo

Auf Sega- und Nintendo-Konsolen hat sich Virgins cooler Plattform-Punkt schon eine beträchtliche Fangemeinde erhüpft - jetzt soll auch die "Freundin" seinem lässigen Charme erliegen.

Mehr noch, auf dem Amiga zeigt Cool Spot seine Kapriolen sozusagen umsonst! Na ja, zahlen müßt Ihr für das Game natürlich schon, doch bleiben Euch im Gegensatz zu den Konsolisten (aus rechtlichen Gründen) alle Werbeeinlagen wie Energie aus grünen Limoflaschen der Marke "7 Up" erspart, hier süffelt das einstige Reklamemaskottchen seinen Lebenssaft auf unetikettierten Pullen. Kein großer Verlust...

Am launigen Gameplay hat sich indessen nichts geändert, immer noch turnt Cool Spot durch ein Jump & Run, das seinen Mangel an Innovationen durch viel Witz wettmacht: Die Gestik des Helden ist schlicht eine Schau, etwa wenn er während einer Ruhepause den Sand von seiner Sonnenbrille putzt, Jo-Jo spielt, Saltos schlägt oder ein bißchen Wellenreiten übt.

Zwischen den Pausen warten elf Plattformlevels, in denen der rundliche Retter unter Zeitdruck jeweils einen gefangenen Kollegen aus einer versteckten Zelle befreien soll. Das klappt allerdings erst, wenn er genügend rote Drops aufgeklaubt hat. Und sollte sich nach Laden... äh, Levelschluß mehr als das verlangte Pillen-Kontingent im Sammelsäckel finden, geht's ab in eine Bonusrunde, wo man von Luftblase zu Luftblase hechtet, um Extrapunkte und Continues zu ergattern.

Zusätzliche Energiepakete und Zeitboni sind natürlich auch außerhalb der Bonusstages zu finden, und Gegner (tausenderlei Krabben, Muscheln und Mücken) krebsen hier auch reichlich herum. Je nach gewähltem Schwierigkeitsgrad ändert sich neben dem Aufkommen der Feinde auch ihr Erscheinungsbild; die aggressiven Stechmücken bekommt man z.B. bloß in der Profi-Einstellung zu Gesicht.

Wie es sich für ein Sprudel-Maskottchen gehört, hält sich Cool Spot das Gesocks durch den Beschuß mit Kohlensäure vom kugelrunden Leib. Ansonsten sind Gefahren eher dünn gesät, und sollte doch mal eines der drei Leben über den Jordan wandern, findet die Wiederauferstehung bei der letzten Wegmarkierung statt.

Mag das Gameplay auch nicht übermäßig originell sein, ausgefeilt ist es allemal, dazu kommen eine Familienpackung lustiger Grafikgags (schon mal Krebse in Unterhosen gesehen?) und jede Menge kleine, aber feine Details: Zwei-Button Pads/Sticks werden unterstützt, die Nachladepausen fallen kaum ins Gewicht, und die Animationen sind wie gesagt eine Wucht.

Einzig das manchmal etwas "eigenwillige", dafür aber butterweiche Parallax-Scrolling der Strand-, Hafen- und Spielzeug-Szenarien könnte man bemängeln, denn auch die Musikuntermalung mit ihren Calypso-, Salsa- und Heavy-Klängen paßt prima zum Geschehen, genau wie die reichlich vorhandenen Sound-FX.

Okay, die fehlenden Levelcodes sind ein echtes Manko, aber dennoch: Für flotte Bildschirmhüpfer ist Cool Spot die beste Pille gegen Frühjahrsmüdigkeit! (rl)

Cool Spot logo

Oh it's the red thing off the green can.

Hmm. I'm probably not really the right person to this job. I've played Cool Spot so much on so many formats already that I've almost forgotten how excited I was the first time I saw it. I borrowed the Mega Drive version from one of our sister mags, intending the usual 'sit-down-with-the-latest-superhyped-Mega-Drive-game-and-finish-it-in-two-hours' kind of nice relaxing start to Saturday morning that sets you up so well for the rest of the weekend (don't you find?).

Late Sunday afternoon dully arrived with the shopping still undone and the metaphorical car still unwashed, and I found myself in the unusual situation of going back to work on Monday and enthusing to skeptical colleagues about the delights of a Mega Drive game. I was totally entranced, and I don't mind admitting it.

All the same, even at the height of infatuation, I knew that this was a personality thing - Cool Spot the character was an absolute star, with his yawning and yo-yoing and cart wheeling antics, while Cool Spot the game was all very fine, but ultimately pretty standard platform stuff. The only vague innovative thing about it was that it didn't have any end-of-level bosses, which made a nice change, but also made for a sedate, constant kind of pace.

But hey, let's get back to that character for a minute. Do you want to know how cool Cool Spot is? Here's how cool. You know how every video game character under the sun these days, when they stand at the very edge of a platform, waves their arms around and flaps about until you move them? Well, Cool Spot's smarter than that. Move him to the edge of a platform and he'll wave with his arms and flap about for a second, sure, but then he gets a hold of himself and stops and stands and looks at you as if to go 'Well? What's next? Get on with it'. He's so cool.

Other than that, you've probably heard all about the wonderful animation on the little red spot dude by now - he yawns, he swoons, he cartwheels, he plays with his yo-yo, he takes off his shades to polish them (revealing a complete lack of eyes underneath, natch), he brushes himself off when he falls down, and he's just generally adorable (it's not just him, either - the baddies in this game are some of the loveliest around, from the crabs in their boxer-shorts to the nightshirt-clad cheese-throwing mice and the banditos and coalminers of the train level).

In fact, it's undoubtedly true that he's directly responsible for the game getting significantly better scores than it really, strictly speaking, technically deserves (as is going to be the case here). And that's fair enough, in my book. After all, isn't the whole point of playing games to make you feel good? That was a rhetorical question, by the way.

Sadly, though, Amiga Cool Spot isn't the feel-good game among feel-good games that it might have been, and the main reason is the graphics. If you've seen the Mega Drive or SNES versions of this, playing Amiga Cool Spot will give you a slightly inferior feeling, as garishly-coloured backdrops judder around in a fairly-unpleasant-scrolling kind of a way.

The first level's alright, but from then on it all gets a bit disappointing - if you saw our Work In Progress on the game a couple of issues ago, you'll have seen the state of some of the later backdrops, which at the time we were told were still unfinished, but which have turned up in the completed game in pretty much the same state. That's not all that much of a loss in itself (you'll be too busy looking at Cool Spot himself most of the time to notice the scenery), but coupled with the jerky scrolling it really starts to affect the gameplay after the first stage (level two in particular, if you zip around it at a reasonable pace, is a real eye-waterer).

In fact, while the game actually scrolls very quickly, I suspect a bit of slowing down to reduce the effects of the shudder-and-shake would have been overall a more desirable state of affairs. Still, you do get used to it after a while, so it's not a total game-destroyer. Start writing letter to Virgin now demanding an A1200/CD32 specific version, where we might get proper 256-colour backdrops and smooth scrolling, because it really would make all the difference.

Pace-wise Cool Spot's surprisingly good

But enough of such cosmetics - let's talk gameplay. As I've said, there are no end-of-level bosses in Cool Spot, which I kind of like. What you get is 11 levels of pretty straightforward platforming stuff, where you have to collect lots of little spots before finding cages containing your imprisoned spot friends.

There're three difficulty levels, which mostly just after the number of spots you have to collect before you can unlock the cage (but also make a few subtle changes to the levels themselves), and you start off with no continues, which is another pleasant change. To earn extra credits, you have to collect yet more of the spots on each level, which then allows you entrance to a time-limited bonus level where your continue is hidden.

You can choose from one-button joystick or two-button joypad control, and have any combination of music and sound effects you like, which wouldn't be worth mentioning if it wasn't for the disturbingly large number of recent games which have failed on even this elementary level of presentation competence (And while we're on the subject, yes, Cool Spot DOES recognize the presence of extra disk drives. Phew).

There's not really a great deal else to be said on the matter, save perhaps to notice that while at the very start the pace of the game might seem a little sluggish (though no slower than any other version), it's a bit of an illusion - it very quickly gets more than busy for all but the most pointlessly diehard speed freak.

Indeed, pace-wise Cool Spot's actually surprisingly varied - on the one hand you get levels like the paddling-pool one, where you have to pick your way across the sky very carefully and slowly over collapsing flying-saucer platforms and treacherous curved surfaces (and if you fall off you invariably land right back down at the bottom of the level, if not actually in the deadly water, which is intensely annoying), but on the other hand there're stages like the Rails, where you're constantly careering up and down a series of ramps and lifts with no flat bits to stand and draw breath on at all.

And of course, you've got to balance your playing style between racing to the end of levels as quickly as possible to minimize the danger, and exploring them painstakingly to find every last spot and earn those elusive bonus lives and continues.

Oh, and I haven't actually mentioned the sound yet, which is a bit slack of me - it's really smart, with very groovy tunes, fizzy and crackling effects and a great line in squeaking from Cool Spot himself. I especially like the scratchily raw version of 'Wipeout' on the title screen and the Western-style Bonanza-ish track that accompanies the train level.

Really, though, that's it. Cool Spot is a very standard platform game with a few nice touches and a fabulous character. The Amiga version is technically a bit crap, but not to any crippling degree. It's reasonably difficult but not enormously so, and it's just interesting enough to keep you playing all the way through. Apart from that, I haven't got anything to say about it (I'm kicking myself for giving it four pages, if the truth be known). So I'll stop.

Cool Spot logo


He bends, he flips and he's got very cool glasses. He's also one of the hottest characters to appear on the Mega Drive, with thousands of console addicts falling for his charm and character. Spot is a bit of a console hero, but what most console owners don't realise is that the character was first used in an Othello-style puzzle game called Spot, where his flipping and bending just didn't seem to fit at all. So Virgin took him, loosened him up a bit, and stuck him in a platform game of his own.

Spot isn't very tall, so many of the levels are set in oversize environments, like the beach where deckchairs are hundreds of feet tall. This makes room for some unusual enemies, such as oversize spiders or rats in raincoats who fire small pieces of cheese at you. What it also makes room for is some of the best character animations seen on the Amiga. Cool Spot stretches, yawns, taps his feet, polishes his specs, flips, leaps, spins, bounces and generally does as much as he can, and it looks great. There are dozens of frames of animation for every action, and that goes some way to explaining why the Mega Drive version was such a success.

Unfortunately, Cool Spot was designed for the consoles, and used their custom graphic chips well. On the Amiga, it just plays far too slowly. The problem with all those frames of animation is that it takes a hell of a long time to get through them all, and as a result, Spot ends up crawling all over the screen when he should be sprinting.

A well polished game, with plenty of small touches and all the other forms of garnish that make a good game great, but the lack of speed just leaves the game entertaining to watch, but a drag to play.