One of the first things anyone ever did when the optical medium (CD-Rom/Laserdisc) was first used on a computer system was attempt an interactive cartoon. In case you need reminding, that particular name went under the name of Dragon's Lair.
The world was wowed by the fantastic graphics and sound, but when anyone actually tried to play the thing, they tended to walk away quite disgruntled. The problem was that it just wasn't playable at all, being more a case of remembering the required joystick movements for each screen rather than actual interaction. Since then there have been various interactive cartoons, but almost all of them have failed.
Now Gremlin Graphics are giving it a go with Litil Divil, a game that has been in production longer than most of you have had an Amiga. In its time it's been a floppy disk based maze game, then a PC CD-Rom based puzzle game, then a combination of the two, and now it's made its way onto the CD32, and to be honest it's the closest to a fully interactive cartoon yet, but that doesn't make it a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination.
GARLIC BREAD WITH CHEESE
You play Mutt Divil - a young but enthusiastic denizen of hell, who has been unfortunate enough to be selected for the annual Mission Impossible to travel to the bowels of the underworld, through five levels of sheer, well, hell, and then return with a pizza to feed the higher members of the council.
Every year a likely candidate is sent to get the food, but not once has one returned with a 'deep pan meat plate hold the spicy pork oh and could I have some anchovies on that' delicacy. As you can imagine, the elders are getting disgruntled about this, so anyone who doesn't return is threatened with a fate worse than death.
Unfortunately, if you don't return, then you probably are dead, but then again this is hell, and so it all works out somehow.
Enter Mutt - the man (of sorts) with a mission. Essensially he has to travel through the five enormous levels of the underworld, collecting all the cash he can find along the way and solving puzzles in all the rooms he can find.
There are fifty of these rooms in total, and jolly entertaining they are too. As a rule, solving one of them will either up another section of the maze, or give him an item which he will need for a later room. Whatever the case, there is one ruin that always come into play when you enter a room, you are never told what it is you actually have to do.
In many cases, the solution will be painfully obvious from the start, but in others you really need to work through it to get there. Take the Marmaid room for example Here you are shown a mermaid with an evil glint in her eye sat in a large oyster, in front of her are three rather vicious looking piranha fish. She raises her hand, and a mystical symbol appears.
Jumping on the fish also produces a symbol, so it's quite obvious that all you need to is jump on the right fish to produce the same as the mermaid shows you to complete the screen.
In a more obscure vein however, is the large snake's head that spits spiders at you. This is right at the start of the game, and you can't solve it right away. No amount of stamping on the spiders will complete the screen. Instead, you need to get hold of a can of insect repellent, which you spray into the snake's eyes to destroy it. OK, so you've got no way of knowing this the first time you enter the room, but once you've been to the hop, you should know all about it.
Sorry, didn't I mention the shop? Why did you think you had to collect cash as you ran around the maze? (At the end of the level you have to pay a toll to get to the next level, but that's not the only reason to collect money).
At the start of each level you'll find a shop with just some of the items you'll need to get through the puzzle screens. You don't actually know which screens require which objects, but due to the nature of the rooms, you don't actually need to know. You can only use the right object in the right room, so if you don't have it, nothing will happen when you press the blue button.
Litil Divil is an incredible looking game, but with all those years of development behind it, it should be. The animation is smooth and characteristic, wit lots of fun spot animations and effects thrown in. Every action has a separate animation and sound effect, and after hearing Mutt hum to himself every time he picks something up, I soon managed to drive the office to distraction by humming the same tune every time I picked something up.
So far, it all sounds marvelous, but unfortunately Litil Divil isn't quite as fantastic as it first appears to be. The problem comes down to the size of the levels. Each level is an enormous maze that doubles over and under itself, and contains tunnels and bridges over different parts of the maze. As there are only about ten puzzle rooms per level, this means that there is a hell of a lot of walking around to be done, which can get very boring very quickly.
Also, the hazards in the tunnels screen just can't be seen most of the time. The view window in the tunnel is quite small, and the sprite of Mutt running into the screen is quite large, making it hard to see anything at all. That plus the fact that while thing scrolls quite quickly means that more often than not you run into spikes and holes rather than manage to avoid them. This soon becomes frustrating, I can tell you.
So Litil Divil finally appeared, and to be honest I feel a little disappointed. It has come so close to being a great game that it's a real shame it has been spoiled by being too big. Not that there's anything wrong with a game being big. It's simply that if you are going to stretch something out over a thousand screens, then you need to make sure that there is enough game in there to fill a thousand screens.