Have a rummage in the Bitmap's pockets

Magic Pockets logo

RENEGADE * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * OUt now

Pockets, eh? What bloomin' marvellous little fellas they are. Why, if it weren't for pockets then the fabric of our society would fall to pieces. Kangaroos would be pretty useless without pockets, and snooker players would be scuppered as well. Just imagine: a world without kangaroos or snooker.
Oh. Not so bad is it? So pockets aren't really that wonderful are they? In fact, they're not worth bothering with at all. So, enough banter, let's go on and check out the latest Bitmap offering.

It would appear that I'm not the only person to have problems of a pocket nature. The Bitmap Kid is having trouser respectable bothers as well. You see, Bitty has been blessed, with, yes you guess it, Magic Pockets.
Just what's magic about them? Well, they're big. Very big. Magically big in fact. Just like the Tardis, the Kid's pockets are a lot bigger on the inside than they would at first appear.
As well as having pockets that defy the laws of physics, they also have an equally spooky ability to provide the Kid with whatever objects he desires. For example, if he's lunging in the sun and he feels a tad thirsty, he plunges his hand into his pocket and produces a refreshing, cool can of Fizzy Trendy Pop drink. Great, eh?

Of course, there's a downside to all this pantaloon japery. It would appear that the Kid has accidentally lost four of his favourite toys dans la poche and now he wants them back. And what better way to do this than to whip a black hole out of his kecks and leap in after his beloved playthings?

Well, he could just pop down to Toys R Us and buy some new ones. No? Please yourselves. Once inside his trousers - calm down at the back - he finds himself in a world totally unlike any he has ever known. A world populated by strange beasts and bizarre landmarks.
It's Ashton under Lyne on a Saturday night! Except it's not. It's four levels of scrolling platform action played over 30 separate sub-sections, with one toy located on each level. And so we come to The Game.

Yes, it's a Bitmap Brother concoction, and yes, it's flaming marvellous. As with Gods, the bruvs have taken the standard platform formula and added a little twist to make it a compeltely different game from every other platformer.

A lot of the innovations found in Gods crop up here too, albeit in a slightly bigger way, but we'll get to that later. First of all, before we get into all the complicated bits, let's take a shuffle at how the game looks as a platformer.
The screen layout will be familiar to anyone who's played a platform game - and let's face it, that's practically everyone. You have the main character complete with a springy wee jump, some platforms to jump on to, some bogeymen to try and stop him, and an exit at the end of the level.

That's where the similarities end. The Bitmap Kid can fight back with a variety of weapons from his infamous pockets. On level one, he fires whirlwinds, level two brings clouds, the third level has ice blocks and the final level has snowballs.
Like R-Type, he can fire at double strength by holding down the fire button that little bit longer. This unleashes an extra large whirlwind/cloud/ice block/snowball which will trap the nasties, Rainbow Islands-style.

These extra strength power ups also have a second purpose, depending on which level you are on. For instance, on level one the whirlwinds can be used to fling the Kid all over the screen, allowing him to reach higher platforms. A sprinkling of tactical planning, will be required to puzzle your way out of certain situations, so don't disengage your brain when you pick up the joystick.

The sub-levels within each main one are designed so that no two levels will play alike. Some require you to navigate mazes of interlinked platforms, others demand quick reflexes, and others call upon puzzles solving skills.
At the end of each main level, there is a bonus one which involves using the toy you retrieved from that level in some sort of test. These range from the relatively normal, such as a bike race, to the positively bizarre: try a boxing match with a gorilla.

All of these little touches help to keep the game fresh and exciting by changing the formula every time you play. And that's it more or les. There are more "little touches" than you could shake a very large stick at, but you'll just have to take my word for it.

As you can see from the screenshots, the graphics are excellent. There are literally hundreds of sprites, and thousands of rooms - or so the Bitmaps claim, but who's counting? - all of them laden with detail. Each of the four levels represents a different environment and the screen change to reflect this. From underground caverns to snow covered mountain peaks, via the jungle and the lakes, the graphics remain at the highest standard.
The boring techy stuff like animation and scrolling is brilliant as well in case you were interested. You probably could have guess that though.

Soundwise too, things are as hot 'n' spicy as those bits they put on pizzas to burn your mouth when you least expect it. The music is provided by that stormin' rap vixen, Betty Boo.
Perhaps it's a bit of a shame that just as the game was being completed, Ms Boo got booed off stage for miming, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. Whether or not you're a Boo fan, the music is great and suits the game perfectly.
Thankfully you only hear that cheery "Doing the Do" refrain at the end of each level, otherwise there could be a lot of unnecessary violence committed against innocent loudspeakers. In game we are treated to some equally well suited FX, with little voices going "Yeah" when you power-up and so forth. And it's all very, well... bouncy really.

OK, now comes the bit where we find out just what the Bitmaps have done to make the game different.
Remember in Gods how some of the nasties were intelligent? Well, the same applies in Pockets, except that now we have many different grades of nasty.
Some are passive and won't harm you unless you walk into them, others are aggressive and pelt you after you the minute they spot you, while some of them are really vicious and will attack from off screen and follow you everywhere you go.

Some of the baddies are weak and can't get over the obstacles in your way, and some are even better at jumping than you and can scale even the most daunting walls. This system means that you'll never be able to waltz through Pockets just because you know when to expect the enemy. Pretty damn clever, huh?

Another new Bitmap invention is the gradable power-up. By killing nasties you can decide what power-ups you get when you trap a nasty. The more nasties you kill, the better the power-up when you trap and burst your next foe. Cunning or what? This isn't just a gimmick either, as later levels require you to plan carefully what power-ups you'll use and when - if you're to stand a cat in hell's chance to finish it.

That, in the space allowed, is as much of the game as I can tell you about. Suffice it to say that I didn't have room to tell you about the secret rooms full of bonuses, the fun reward bits when you're totally invincible and can just leap about killing things, the ability to kill nasties by tumbling on to them, the TV sets that give you a sneak preview of what's around the next corner, the bubble gum machines that allow you to float up to platforms, the plants that can be watered to grow into new platforms and the assorted helmets that give you all manner of special powers. Phew!

Yep, Magic Pockets is a big, big game and one that should keep most people glued to their joysticks for weeks on end. Those Bitmaps have done it again. What's next? A Bitmap beat-'em-up with an S-Express soundtrack? We can but dream...


Magic Pockets logo

Have the Bitmap Brothers got the Midas touch? Does everything they touch turn to Format Gold?

The Bitmap Kid is here. He fought his way on to TV's Motormouth and even muscled DPaint IV aside to star on an Amiga Format Coverdisk (Last issue - Ed). Now he wants to come and stay at your house. How long for is up to you, but there are a few things you need to know about this little scamp before you let him through the door.

The - oh he's so cute, what a little angel, look at his chubby cheeks - Bitmap Kid has lost four toys in his magic pockets. Naturally, he drops himself into these magic strides in a bid to get these toys back. Inside, he finds four whole worlds of trouble. Worlds guarded by fearsome beasties, but offering ferocious rewards if he survives. That's where you come in, playing his conscience and guiding him through 30 stage of leaping and trapping, dodging and running.

In the Pocket
The inside story of Pockets is a strange one. Rather than the bits of string and fluff that are commonly found in young 'uns pockets, these ones are filled with caves, monsters, mountains, lakes, bats, jungles and masses of sweets. Bitmap's mission is to charge into this world, recover his toys and collect enough sweets to make the trip worthwhile.

How can a young kid survive such a hostile environment? Well, shoving his hand deep into his pockets, the Bitmap Boy can conjure up shots to hurl at incoming baddies. They come in four different strengths which are increased by holding the fire-button down. With a flick of the stick these can be thrown looping up, straight down or ahead.

The style of the attack from the Bit Kid's pockets varies from world to world. On world one (caves) he gets a whirlwind, which can throw him into a deadly spinning attack - but he must keep spinning. Level two uses clouds, which help create platforms by bursting over plants and making them grow. Level three works with ice cubes that make the lake world freeze over and provide safe platforms. World four features snowballs which can be rolled ahead of the lad to protect him from incoming monsters in the mountains. Each one stresses different skills and so significantly alters the game's focus.

But there's more. The largest shot also gives the kid trapping power. Hurling a full-power shot out gives him a chance to capture a bad guy, if it lands on them. Once caught, BK only has to walk into the whirlwind/cloud/cube/snowball to generate a bonus, which is either a sweet or a power-up. And every time he hits full boost, both his life indicators and power bar change to show what bonus is on offer next.

The bonus system is tied directly to the score. Each time you kill a monster without trapping, the bonus cycle moves on a step. So if you keep a careful eye on the indicators, the kill count and the score, you can create everything from extra lives to super porky shots on demand. With a fresh power-up every 5,000 points, the world is your bonus oyster.

Battlezone
Waddling through a level, the Bitmap Kid gets a fair look ahead. You have to keep your eyes peeled to spot destructible blocks and monsters. When the heat's turned up and the foes start to flow, you need a cool head and sharp stick control. Will a nasty die from one shot or is it going to take more? Is the bonus counter showing something worth trapping for? Is discretion the better part of valour? Fast blasting abounds and things get a little tense while you're waiting for a full power shot and the beasties are crawling every closer.

Combat is the driving force behind the whole show. There are manipulative puzzles involving the landscape blocks that can be blasted away, platform plants that can be grown and lakes frozen over, but these are functional. You have to complete these tasks or you won't reach the exit. It is the battles that provide the challenge, although finding and using the correct technique to kill with that nastily-grouped, group of nasties without loss of life isn't always easy.


The Bitmap Kid's a chubby, bouncy kind of guy. Bedecked in T-shirt, shades and baseball cap, he's a child of the Nineties.

Bonus builder?
The very bonuses that are supposed to help BK along, though, often hinder play. Sure it's conceivable that some bonuses can be red herrings, but with the Bitmap Boy's lack of leaping mobility, it's often impossible to dodge them. This is particularly annoying if you're in combat and tred upon a sweet. Your next shot will be sweets, which earns you points, but doesn't help destroy the monster currently on your case.

The bonuses also provide the key to warping levels, but their inclusion means that there's no save game or passwords facility. Gods was a task and a half with three saved game points over 12 levels. Pockets is 30 levels long and to jump through you'll need to play early levels again, and play really well.

The Bitmap gloss?
The backdrops and sprites are immediately familiar to anyone who's played a Brothers game before. They have a textured feel that Mark Coleman always seems to manage to wring from 16 colours, with some neat new tweaks. The monsters are of the large, distinctly beefy, variety. They are well animated and are oozing with personality: yes, they've that kind of personality!

The Bitmap Kid's a chubby, bouncy kind of guy. Bedecked in T-shirt, shades and baseball cap, he's a true child of the Nineties. He doesn't so much walk as waddle and takes strange looping leaps to avoid bad guys and reach higher platforms. He blows gum into bubbles and uses his toys with slick animation.

The big graphic stumbling block, and stumbling is the ideal description, is the scroll. It works, no quibbles there, it lags behind just the way it should when the boy goes into super jump. However, as the kid waddles forward so does the screen. It's not massively irritating but it is noticeable and impairs the game's otherwise excellent graphic gloss.

Soundwise, Pockets digs deep. With a cracking Betty Boo tune (OK, so it's as good as any Boo tune can be) at the intro and renditions of it throughout: the music is memorable and for all the right reasons. The sampled bonus "wows" have a childlike authenticity as do the "oofs" when BK collides with a creature. The other spot effects of monster mashing and general mayhem are crisp too. Well integrated with the game, providing clues about the off-screen action.

Parental guidance
Magic Pockets has a lot to live up to. Following on in the shoes of Gods and Speedball 2, it makes a hefty attempt at the grade with a solid, semi-secret bonus system, gameplay twists with changing weapons, all backed up with strong graphics and excellent sound. Putting its scrolling foibles aside though, what it does, it does very well.

What Magic Pockets does lack, though, is any real sense of pace. The length of each world (five, six, seven and eight levels per world respectively), means that the backgrounds and monsters get repetitive even when design doesn't. There's little excitement nothing to drag you back in the game when the continues run out. It's not terminally boring, far from it, but it lacks that real hook.

A slick package, Magic Pockets works hard but doesn't have that cutting edge. The bonus system is excellent once you've mastered it, and there are some neat traps and humorous sprites. The elements are all there but some how the chemistry fails, the gameplay reaction just doesn't happen.
Magic Pockets is good, but only good.


Monster Mash!
Magic Pockets: Snails SNAILS - Shy little thangs, they are easily killed (one or two shots) but are invulnerable when hidden in their shells. Magic Pockets: Slimers SLIMERS - Really disgusting blobs of green stuff, they start off as easy meat but soon turn into spitting horrors. Magic Pockets: Bats BATS - Tough as old boots, these boys drop when hit, so don't stand underneath one!
Magic Pockets: Frogs FROGS - Tough, ugly and with a deadly long tongue. Stand too close and they'll lick your lives off in an instant. Magic Pockets: Rockmen ROCKMEN - These gruesome little tykes throw rocks, so kill them from afar or on the run! Magic Pockets: Bees BEES - Persistent swines. If you hit themn, they home in for a final sting.
Magic Pockets: Venus Fly Traps VENUS FLY TRAPS - The toughest veg in town. They may not get in the Green Giant Country Club but they don't seem to care. Magic Pockets: Snakes SNAKES - Familiar friends to Gods players. These are less nasty but twice as smart. Magic Pockets: Monkeys MONKEYS - When they beat their chests, run! They leap after you, regardless of the hits it costs them and they will get you!

Pick 'n' Mix
Every sweet has value, but knowing what that next bonus will yield is a vital part of a successful Pockets campaign.
Magic Pockets: Candy values

Magic Pockets logo

Wenn die Bitmap Brothers eines ihrer Taschenspielerkunststücke vorführen, hat das jeweilige Genre meist einen neuen Höhepunkt - diesmal leider nicht. Diesmal haben sie einfach nur ein ausgezeichnetes Platformspiel aus der Tasche gezaubert. Enttäuscht?

Enttäuscht ist auf jeden Fall der kleine "Bitmap Kid", als er feststellt, dass ihm die bösen Leute aus dem Pocketland sein ganzes Lieblingsspielzeug geklaut haben. Aber Enttäuschung ist schlecht, Suchen ist besser...

Die Wiederbeschaffungsaktion beginnt in einer Höhlenwelt, geht dann im Dschungel weiter, anschließend wird's recht feucht, sogar richtiggehend naß, und zum Schluß ruft noch der (Pocket-) Berg. Die vier Welten bestehen aus vielen, vielen Bonus-, Unter-, Geheim- und Sonstnochwas-Leveln. Alle müssen sie durchforscht werden, und alle enthalten sie neben dem gemopsten Spielzeug noch Milliarden andere Gegenstände.

Da wären einmal die "normalen", die einfach bloß Punkte bringen, wenn man sie einsammelt, andere erhöhen den Energiehaushalt. Dann gibt's noch Fahrräder zum schnelleren Vorankommen, einen "Xenon"-Helm, Boxhandschuhe, Eishockeymasken, 'nen Taucherhelm usw. Dazu hat man jederzeit einen Superschuß à la "R-Type", der ausgesprochen vielseitig verwendbar ist: entweder verwandelt er Gegner in Extras (so ähnlich wie in "Rainbow Islands") oder den Helden in ein wahres Sprungwunder!

Außerdem sehen die Geschosse von Level zu Level anders aus, im ersten wie Himbeeren, im letzten wie Schnee, und dazwischen geht's nicht weniger verrückt zu.

Der magische Pocker-Kosmos hat aber noch etliche Überraschungen mehr zu bieten: Urplötzlich steht man etwas vor einem Gorilla, der einen zum Boxkampf herausfordert - die Bitmaps finden die übliche Level-Endgegner Einteilung halt einfach etwas fade! Überhaupt ist das Personal hier nicht zu verachten. Piranhas, laufende Eier, Killer-Hasen und Schneemänner rennen rum, sogar der Yeti hat ein Gastauftritt (fehlen eigentlich nur Reinhold Messner und der Alpen Adam...).

Außerdem stößt man gelegentlich auf Fernseher, die einen Übersichtsplan des jeweiligen Abschnitts zeigen, Kaugummi-automaten, die Blasen spendieren, mit denen man fliegen kann, oder praktische "Levelwarps". Ja, ist schon eine ganze Menge drin und dran an Magic Pockets.

Leider zählen dazu auch ein paar technische Detailmängel: Die Grafik ist zwar super gezeichnet und toll animiert, erinnert jedoch etwas zu deutlich an vorangegangene Produktionen der Bitmap-Bruderschaft, ruckelt tüchtig und wird von fetten NTSC-Streifen eingerahmt. Dann ist die Steuerung manchmal etwas kompliziert, vor allem bei den extraweiten Sprüngen stirbt sich's recht leicht. Das frustriert, besonders weil Magic Pockets auch so schon schwer genug ist. Der Sound kommt dafür wieder astrein, sowohl effekt- als auch musiktechnisch (Betty Boo-Remix).

Wie schon gesagt: Kein Meilenstein, aber allemal ein wirklich tolles Plattformgame! (mm)


Magic Pockets logo

After the disappointing Gods, the pressure is on for those Bitmaps to come back with a real winner, but does Pockets have that magic?

And so we get to the second release through Renegade from The Bitmap Brothers, and yes, it's as professional and good looking as anything we've seen from them. Graphics are nice (don't worry, I'll get a bit more specific than that in a minute), there's lots of it, and Betty Boo warbles away in the background to good effect. General opinion around the office has it that this is a lot better game than the recent Gods, if again falling short of being a real Bitmap classic of the order of, say, Speedball 2.

Me, I'm not sure. If pushed I'd actually say that I enjoyed Gods a lot more. That was a game that initially seemed a bit, well, ordinary, but grew on me as I played it. Pockets, on the other hand, seems a bit ordinary and remains fairly ordinary all the way through. It's not bad as such - indeed, there's a lot about the game that's very good indeed - but it could easily have been two or three times better.

The simple fact is that if this game came to us out of the blue we'd be saying, "Hey, these Bitmap Brother folk look like guys to watch - iron out a few problems and they could go far." As it is, they're perhaps the most celebrated games creators in the country, and so anything less than excellent from them comes across as little more than a damp squib.

The first thing that you have to say about Magic Pockets is that it's a real what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort of game - something the Bitmaps haven't really involved themselves with since Xenon 2. That's not to say it hasn't got the secret rooms, hidden ways of collecting bonuses and so on that work so well in Rainbow Islands, Mario or whatever - because it has - but that there's nothing REALLY clever going on beneath all that.

No discernible artificial intelligence to the characters, no hardcore adventuring a la Cadaver, no particularly radical new ideas at all - this is a game that stands or falls on pure game design. And - oh dear- it might not quite have fallen, but it's certainly tripping up all over the place. Game design-wise this simply isn't all that good.

So, going into Mr Negative mode, what's wrong with it?
1) The graphics. Now Mark Coleman is a very talented gentleman with a very distinctive style that's worked very well on a lot of Bitmap games in the past - Xenon 2 and Speedball particularly - but on this eidence his style simply isn't suited to cute games. Try as he might, he can't seem to get away from htat distinctive blue/grey metallic effect the Bitmaps have used two or three times too many already.
Indeed, the first level of this is almost a re-run of Gods visually - though without the distinctive detailing of that game - and even when he gets out of the caves and into the forest and later levels his palate seems dominated by blue and brown.

The sprites have a similar problem - they're cuter than stuff he's done in the past, but still rather too menacing for a platform game. They don't seem to do anything very interesting either, but then that's not really his fault, is it?

2) The levels. Oh dear, oh dear. How many times have we seen a forest, a lake, some caves and a snowy mountain top? Quite a lot I'd say - this is as generic as it gets. If you're not going to have any real link between levels - and you don't seem to get one in Pockets - you should surely be able to come up with some better ideas than this.

Just to prove it's not that difficult, I'll try to think of some off the top of my head: how about one level set in heaven (with lots of clouds, angels etc.) and one set in hell (all red and lava-like?) Or what about a set of levels based on ancient cultures - a Viking level, an ancient Egyptian level, an Aztec level and so on? Or perhaps one level set in a burning building, one set in a sinking ship and so on, disaster movie style? Or one level that's all early '70s hippes, one that's all late '70s punk, another with New Romantics in and so on? (You could have pastiches of particular people - Gary Glitter, Sid Vicious, Boy George - as the baddies).
Okay, so some of these ideas might be a bit crap, but at least they're ideas - which is something you don't find (outside of small detail touches) all that many of around here. Honestly, I should have been a games designer.

3) The feel. Quite a vague one this, but you play it and you'll realise almost straight away that it's wrong. Kid is anything but light on his feet - he's too slow, he feels too heavy, and he's not particularly good at changing direction when umping. In Gods the pace seemed a bit slow - the main character clumped around fairly slowly - but as the game was a fairly methodical puzzle/fighting based thing it didn't matter too much. Here it's very out of place.

It gets worse though. This is - or at least should have been - an arcade skills based game. Since you've got a rather esoteric weapon system - the elemental weapons you thrown go in a (sort of) controllable arc - the skill should be in working out just how to hit any particular moving baddie. It SHOULDN'T involve you having to hit them again and again (and again) - many of them more than outstay their welcome and it becomes quite tedious having to bash away at them six or seven times to kill them off. More than a few people I've seen playing Pockets have complained that it's too repetitive, and 99 percent of the time this is why. A game of this size demands more of a challenge than just bashing away at an endless stream of rather characterless baddies.

4) The lack of character. I've touched on this already, but anyway...

We've already got ourselves in quite a lot of trouble for slagging off a game (Brat) for having an annoying central character so I'm not going to repeat the mistake here. It does have to be said though, the Bitmap Kid has little to recommend him. Some characters you feel for, some you simply don't - we'd take Tiki the kiwi from The NZ Story or Bub and Bob (Bubble Bobble) over this pixelised Danny-out-of-the-New-Kids any day.


I've got no incentive to play it beyond the purposes of writing this review

The baddies are a similar sorry story. Taken individually the graphics are all fairly good, but Mark Coleman has a problem - he draws everything the same. The overall style dominates more than any of the individual characters. The real problem though is that they all just wander about a bit - none of them are given anything particularly interesting to do.

But it can't be that bad, surely? Well no, perhaps it's not. When most people see this they go "Hey, that looks good!", and they're right. And does, intially look most impressive. Stylish, and packed with neat little presentational touches that lead you to expect much more from the fame than you actually get. Things like:
1) The little directional arrows that whiz up into the air, pointing out which way you're meant to go.
2) The (rather old fashioned and wooden looking) TVs that crop up along your route, freezing the action and putting you into a long-shot map view, allowing time to get your bearings. (Surprisingly, these turn out to be of precious little use when actually playing the game).
3) The vast selection of fruits, sweets, and other goodies - including cocktails, a rather suspect collectable for a seven year old! - for you to pick up en-route. Various involved ways of collecting extra points - too complicated for me to into here - provide a variety of other neat effects too.
4) The way that when the Bitmap Kid finally dies the world sort of closes around him, leaving him trapped outside on the black end of game screen.
5) The different weapons he gets to use. Now while I'm not convinced that one single upgradeable weapon - such as the rainbows in Rainbow Islands - wouldn't have been a better way to go, these do allow for neat touches. The way the snowballs can be rolled to create a big ball, the way whirlwinds can throw you about the room, the ways ice freezes water and clouds drop rain to grow forest trees (very similar to part of the upcoming Captain Planet) all have to be applauded.
6) As do individual spot effects - my favourite being the way Kid struggles when dropped in water without a helmet.

THE KID GETS A ROUGH RIDE
Phew. I've given Magic Pockets a bit of a rough ride, but I think it deserves it - it's simply a very game tarted up with lots of nice effects and presentation, and certainly a far cry from the sort of product we should be expecting from creators as talented as the Bros.

Attractive though it may look, I've got simply no incentive to play it beyond the purposes of writing this review, and while some folk seem to disagree with me, the vast majority of people who've played it seem to be expressing a similar sort of dissatisfaction. Indeed, there's a large groundswell opinion here that thinks it's a 60 percent game, but I think there's enough that's good about it to justify my mark. Dull.


ANIMAL CRACKERS (OR KNOW YOUR ENEMIES)
Rather annoyingly, the baddies in Magic Pockets don't seem to have any organised characteristics as such. Oh sure, they all tend to act in particular ways - as is outlined below - but any individual baddie can take between one and about six hits to kill, making planning your attacks difficult because you never know how tough your immediate opponent is. As far as we're concerned that's a big game flaw, but there you go. What we CAN tell you about each of the game's hostile critters you'll find below...
The Cave World The Jungle World The Lake World The Mountain World
Magic Pockets: Blobs Magic Pockets: Snakes Magic Pockets: Vultures Magic Pockets: Eggmen
Blobs
These little green things - they look a bit like Slimer from Ghostbusters - sort of slide about, occasionally jumping up and down for good measure. Watch out though! They spit smaller green blobby things when angry!
Snakes
Slither back and forth in an upright position, occasionally jumping from platform to platform.
Vultures
These flap around pretty much like the bats but - watch out! they dive bomb you when angry.
Eggmen
Ahem, yes. Not sure exactly what these are or what they're doing here, but watch out anyway! They throw snowballs at the Kid.
Magic Pockets: Bats Magic Pockets: Venus Flytraps Magic Pockets: Crabs Magic Pockets: Eagle
Bats
These flap around the place - unlike many flying baddies they actually seem to be doing a flying action - though occasionally they'll have a rest hanging from the ceiling.
Venus Flytraps
These act pretty much like the snakes, though when they open their mouths and spit it's a rather more spectacular effect.
Crabs
Scuttles back and forth, jumps around and, um, that's about it.
Eagle
Flaps about and then swoops at the Kid, much like the earlier vultures.
Magic Pockets: Snails Magic Pockets: Gnats Magic Pockets: Fish Magic Pockets: Yeti
Snails
Sometimes they hide in their shells (so you can't hurt them) but mostly just slither slowly after the Kid. Speed up when angry.
Gnats
Annoying little buzzing thingies.
Fish
Generally swim around, but can jump in an attempt to get at the Kid if he's standing too close to the water's edge. Apparently the jumping action is a sly reference to the enemy submarines from Stingray (if you remember that).
Yeti
Wanders around, then pounces when it spots the Kid.
Magic Pockets: Frogs Magic Pockets: Killer Bees Magic Pockets: Jellyfish Magic Pockets: Hare
Frogs
These tend to jump back and forth with a rather vacant look on their faces. Watch out for the long tongues though - these incerase their effective striking range quite a bit.
Killer Bees
Even more annoying, mainly because they're tricky to kill, and they all come after you at once.
Jellyfish
Erm, just swim around really. (They'd look pretty stupid jumping, after all).
Hare
Just acts sort of cute (for a nasty).
Magic Pockets: Rocky Magic Pockets: Chimps Magic Pockets: Clam Magic Pockets: Snowman
Rocky
These grey rockmen usually follow the Kid around, throwing rocks when angry.
Chimps
One of the best animated characters, these run around, swing from branch to branch and tend to stand and beat their chests just before attacking the Kid. (Hmm. Perhaps that makes them gorillas then, not chimps after all).
Clam
These sit there spitting white (or sometimes special black) pearls. The Kid can't swim without his diving helmet toy found on this level - which can be made more difficult if a clam decides it'll make a handy home and sits in it spitting pearls at you!
Snowman
Surprise, surprise! This too throws snowballs at the kid.

THE POWER'S IN YOUR POCKETS
Though it works in pretty much the same way each time, Magic Pockets actually gives you a different weapon to use each time. These are generally thrown by the Kid in a vaguely definable arc, making hitting characters standing right next to you impossible. Build up the power of your weapon (by holding down the fire button, R-Type style, and you get a super weapon with rather different properties. Like so...
Magic Pockets: Whirlwinds The Whirlwinds
Found on the first level. The giant whirlwinds can trap baddies (jump on them for a sweetie bonus),l or throw the Kid in an indestructible and baddie-destroying spin around around the room. It takes some getting used to, but can prove very useful for getting up to otherwise unreachable platforms.
Magic Pockets: Clouds The Clouds
This second level weapon operates much as the whirlwinds in small mode, but the big ones can be stood on, creating Rainbow Islands-like platforms. Water drops release by the big clouds grows certain tree formations, allowing you to climb up the screen. Jack-And-The-Beanstalk style (yes, you're right - almost exactly the same thing happens in Captain Planet.)
Magic Pockets: Ice Cubes The Ice Cubes
The big weapons on level three freeze the water, allowing you to cross it.
Magic Pockets: Snowballs The Snowballs
Roll on of these small level four weapons along and it grows in size, picking up extra snow (rather like a real snowball would, in fact).

Magic Pockets logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Before man invented the wheel he had a go at running a skyborne taxi service. Dan Slingsby catches a lift with a prehistoric high-flyer.

Don't be fooled. The Bitmap Kid may look cute in his shades and baseball cap, but he's as tough as nails. And he needs to be cope with the frantic antics in Magic Pockets.

On first sight it seems this game is strictly aimed at the kids. Wrong. Is it just kids who play Super Mario Bros? No, the appeal is universal. As the Bitmap Brothers' Sean Griffiths, the game's designer and programmer says: 'We've taken an extremely "cutesy" format and tried to beef it up so it will appeal to all ages.'

The plot is simple. The Kid has lost his toys when he put them in his pockets. His pockets, rather like Doctor Who's Tardis, are deceptive as there's more room inside than out. The toys have disappeared and the Kid has jumped through a hole in his own pockets to get them back. Erm, yes, quite!

Inside are four crazy worlds, crammed with comical creatures and monsters who pack a devastating punch. In each world he must rescue his lost toy. Easy? You've got to be joking.

The backgrounds for the four levels are pleasingly varied. In the cave section our hero must find his push bike (I said his pockets were roomy!) and in a steamy jungle the Kid has to hunt a lost boxing glove. An underwater helmet is the prize in the lake's section with a space hopper to be found in the mountain's stage. In each case, finding the lost toy will help you and the Kid complete each section. In all, there are thirty levels of play and hundreds of screens.

Besides completing the levels, Magic Pockets is really a game where you can make massive high scores.

In the caves, the Kid literally whips up a storm. Hitting the fire button sends out a stream of mini-whirlwinds to knock-out nasties. He can also pump up the power to unleash a huge whirlwind. Besides destroying the enemy he can also use the power of the wind to leap levels. All the time he collects sweets galore, bottles, cups, gold and silver stars, cocktails, coins, cool shades and magic potions, and these add to his score. Of course, the nasties also take a toll on the Kid. In fact, there's so much going on, with so many extra points and power-ups to be grabbed that it's hard to keep track of the action.

In the jungle levels all the whirlwind is changed for clouds. But he can still use them in the same way. Try whipping up a storm and letting it rain on the nasties. Acid rain, or what? Also, try watering the plants - some allowing you to climb to new levels. In the lake levels the cool cat Kid chills out.

Hurling ice cubes at the nasties and giving them the cold shoulder. Up the mountains the Kid takes on snowmen, yeti, and eagles galore with pelting them with snowballs.

Unlike many of the current games, where you constantly battle through hordes of monsters, there's no massive encounter at the end of the level. Instead, it's strictly for laughs.

As Sean says: 'We wanted to get away from the big nasty at the end of the level. I find it boring. We wanted to have fun'.

The fun includes a bike race against some stone-faced monsters, a boxing match against a gorilla, and a treasure hunt set against the clock.

What we have here is a seemingly simple game superbly executed, complex, challenging and a visual and aural delight. Above all, everything is designed to keep you playing. The music - Betty Boo's hit Doing the Do - is brilliant. 'Wow!' As the Bitmap Kid might say. A star is born.


BITMAPS BOO-GY ON DOWN

Betty Boo's Doin' the Do was a top-ten chart hit last year and Richard Joseph was the man responsible for sampling the original tapes and converting them for the Amiga version of Magic Pockets. Richard has also composed the sound effects for Millennium's The Adventures of Robin Hood. Stablemates of Betty Boo at Rhythm King Records have featured on other Bitmap Brothers games. Bomb the Bass provided the backing track for Xenon 2 with Nation 12 taking the musical honours on Gods and Speedball 2.

Magic Pockets was featured on ITV's Saturday morning children's show Motormouth for ten weeks earlier this year. Viewers phoned in to play a version of the game for prizes. But for some reason the TV chiefs changed the name of the Bitmap Kid to Mighty Mo.


Magic Pockets logo Zero Hero

David McCandless is a bit of a dab hand with his magic pockets (as witnessed by various supermarkets, banks and international jewellers). But at the Bitmaps' HQ he found a new use for them - 'borrowing' their copy of Magic Pockets with his magic pockets. Yo Ho! What irony!

The Bitmaps, eh? Cor - who needs 'em? Okay, so they bring out the odd 'good' game from time to time. Alright, so they're the 'popstars' of the computer industry. Yeah, and they might be close personal friends of Betty 'Wahay' Boo. But I bet they're all insecure and unhappy people. (Yeah, I bet. Ed.)

And all that insecurity and unhappiness reflects in their latest game - the sad story of a lone boy, trapped in a 28 level nightmare world populated by horrific beasts and psychosomatic manifestations of childhood complexes. (Sounds a bit dodgy to me. Ed.)

Level (or 'scene') one is set in a dingy underground cave. Lots of the usual scenic fare - rocks and stalagmites - all done out in the usual Bitmaps palette. Crossing this level are big snails, the usual Mark Coleman shuffling arthropods, bats and all sorts of warped icky blobs.
The levels travel from the cave to the jungle, under the lake and into the mountains. The nasties become apes and snakes and venus fly traps, then change into crabs and jellyfish and finally end up as scary snowmen, yeti and eggs on legs.

To combat these abominations your missiles change per level, starting with whirlwinds, then clouds, then ice cubes and finally snowballs. You can bombard the screen with baby missiles, steering their direction with the joystick, or you can hold down fire, power-up and release a mutha missile. IT will either simply blat the nasty or trap it. A trapped nasty is a good nasty. Straddle it and it'll pop, releasing bonus sweets and power-ups.

It's these power-ups that are secret to the game. Sweets like wine gums, jelly babies and lollies just provide big score bonuses. More violent bonuses come in the form of face visors (immunity), Speedball helmets (fatal touch), laser helmets (self-explanatory) and teleport doobries. These warp you to a special bonus room, where sweets and the occasional puzzle await you. As you knobble nasties the bonuses change in sequence, so the cleverer players (yep, that's me) can cunningly kill x number of nasties, slyly kill a beastie and deviously a shrewd power-up.

Amiga reviewMacca: (Sound of hypnotherapy tape on auto reverse.) "You will slag off this Bitmaps game... you will slag off this Bitmaps game... you will... " Oh God - it's depressing, isn't it? You set yourself up as the most world-weary, cynical games reviewer on the planet Earth and people like the Bitmaps give your deepest nihilistic frown a hard time. Magic Pockets, I loathe to say, is a rather good game (sigh).

On the technical side, it's faultless. Great scrolling, great graphics, and great music (Betty Boo's Doin The Do) combined with 'intelligent' nasties with their own strength, vision and motivation abilities. Too much strength, vision and motivation in my opinion (You shandy! Ed).

Each level, as well as being big, is rife with hidden features and bonus screens. And in a great swipe against arcade game convention, end of level beasties have been done away with. Instead we now have end of level 'tasks'- a bike race, a man v gorilla boxing match and a treasure hunt.

My only gripe, if indeed I am allowed to have one, is that these sub-games don't last long enough and don't present enough of a challenge. But this is just a mote in God's eye, a drop in the ocean, a pebble on the beach, a needle in a haystack, a cub scout leader in a thousand... (That's quite enough metaphors. Ed.) I get tired of using superlatives like 'excellent', 'imaginative' and 'the mutt's nuts', so I'll rely on that old biblical accolade - 'good'.
Magic Pockets is 'good'. Stop