I can scarcely bring myself to say it, but it is a dark and stormy night. The balmy summer's day I spent playing in the park with my family gave way to a cool, brooding evening which, in its turn, has become a turbulent, thundersome night. Flashes of jagged light streak the sky and a dark rumbling threatens to drown out the artfully produced mid-70s progressive rock sounds of Pink Floyd playing in the other room. It's no good. I might as well ask them to leave. A-ha-ha- ha. Ha-ha.
I've been playing Humans 3 a lot lately. Not because I've been addicted to it in any old fashioned computer gaming sort of way, but because I found myself almost completely unable to believe it and I've had to keep having 'just one more go' to make sure I hadn't dreamed it. I have not had a very good week.
Actually, the storm's getting pretty bad now. Just give me a minute and fit shut the patio doors and put some headphones on to drown out the noise. Much better.
Humans, as you might well recall, is a puzzle game very much in the same style as Lemmings. Humans 2. the sequel, seems to have passed pretty much unnoticed by everyone to whom I've spoken on the subject. And now there's a third one of it.
Here you have to take a band of, well, humans, from the bottom of a platformy thing to the top within a specified time. To assist you, each of the humans has different abilities, and it is only by means of co-operation (Big Bird would be so proud) that they are able safely to reach their goal. All is much as it was in Humans - The First One. except that here evolution has already taken place and the characters are a bit more varied.
There's a caveman and a Viking and a Chinese philosopher and Merlin and an Egyptian pharaoh and a ninja and Robin Hood. But not in that order. And you visit levels appropriate to the time and place of each of them as you progress through the game. If you can be bothered.
It all started to go wrong when I tried to follow the hard drive installation instructions in the manual. It all seemed very helpful and friendly until the point when I inserted Disk 1 and found that the required file wasn't there. Nor was it on Disk 2. Nor Disk 3. Disk 4, too, lacked installers. Pah. I had to play it from floppies.
It got worse. I'd been prepared to read installation instructions, but I was damned if I was going to plough through reams of tedious wibble to find out how to play a simple puzzle game. My idleness cost me, dear. I beg your pardon, I mean, 'My idleness cost me dear.' Dearly.
The control system is very fiddly and I wasted a great amount of time before going back to the manual to find out what I should be doing.
Ah, but back to the controls. I couldn't find my joypad so I opted to use the mouse instead (this turned out to be the only thing I could have done because the 'joypad' in question is the CD32 joypad and not, for instance, the Mega Drive joypad I prefer to use - although I could have configured the game for 'joystick' and then used the MD pad, but I'd have been sufficiently confused by this point that I'd have had to take a break and listen to some soothing music for a while).
I was damned if I was going
While we're on the subject of listening to music, I must, since this is the last opportunity we'll have to speak, commend my headphones to you. They're AKG K240s and I bought them in 1980 for £48. It was a lot of money at the time but they're still producing a wonderfully rich, yet crisp, sound so I rather think it was money well spent. You can hear ev... Did you hear that? Was it on the CD or was it outside? Hang on, I'll go and have a look.
I'm sure it was nothing. There seem to be some strange shadows moving about down by the shed (perhaps we could get them to do a couple of choruses of Apache to lift our spirits - A-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha), but it's probably something to do with the lightning. And not, for instance, a Thuggee assassin inexplicably transported half-way round the world and 140 years forwards in time who has mistaken me for the handsome yet brutish Colonel Judd and intends to strangle me to death with the sturdy cable connected to my high quality Austrian headphones. No, that would be silly.
Once I'd found my way round the controls (lots of 'left click here, then move the pointer, right click there, move the pointer to the menu bar, right click again, no, left click, no, oh damn, he's fallen off and I'll have to start again'), I began to see lots of other things I didn't like. Here are some of them.
Pixel-perfect jumps are often required, sometimes to the extent that a character has to be positioned with his feet seemingly in mid-air. Beyond the first few 'familiarisation' levels you get a choice of humans to take on your mission. You may only take four, but you can choose from six or seven. And you have to choose them before you've seen the level.
And even when you're playing the level, there doesn't seem to be any way of finding out where your goal is. (In Lemmings, for instance, you see the whole puzzle, work out a strategy for solving it and try to implement it. Here you try to keep your characters together while moving them up the screen, but you never really know why.) And the time limits are preposterously short.
And if you get fed up with a level there's no way to skip it. There's no way back to the main menu to switch off the music or to swap from mouse control to joypad. Or anything. And the characters don't do any of their special actions unless they're facing left or right - in moments of idleness they face out of the screen and you can't do a damn thing with them. And it's infuriatingly fiddly to control. And all the sections of each of the seven worlds look broadly similar. And I hated it.
No, hang on, I definitely heard something that time - I'm sure that was the patio door sliding open. I'd better go and see wha...