Marvin's Marvellous Adventure logo AGA Amiga Computing Bronze Award

Moving away from its Pinball series of games, 21st Century Entertainment go platform crazy. Jonathan Maddock grabs his joystick and gets a pizza of the action...

INTRODUCTION

A company which will always be associated with the hugely popular Pinball series of games is 21st Century Entertainment. Pinball Dreams, Fantasies and more recently Illusions have delighted gamers for the past couple of years, but because of their enormous popularity this causes a slight problem for the company.

I'm sure that the Oxon-based software house wouldn't want to be labelled as 'that' company that created the pinball games. No, I'm sure they would rather be known in the future as a damn-fine company that creates some of the best computer games that money can buy.

The first step in this march towards software success is the introduction of Marvin's Marvellous Adventure - a platformer that dares to stray away from the theme of pinball.

STORYLINE

After the creation of his latest invention, a fantastic brain scanning device, the old Professor decides to celebrate with his favourite food - pizza. After ordering a large deep-pan pepperoni with extra cheese, the Prof decides to take a short nap before his food arrives.

An evil being called the Dark-One takes his chance to steal an important piece of the brain scanner in order to blackmail the Professor. When Marvin the pizza boy arrives, the professor awakes and goes to answer the door.

Before he gets there, the Dark-One switches on the brain scanner and fires it at the Professor. He disappears, but the ray continues to bounce off the laboratory equipment until it hits the Dark-One.

Marvin, during this time, is getting a little impatient and opens the front door, only to trip over a loose power cable and fall directly into the ray. Marvin goes the same way as the previous two victims of the ray and disappears.

The ray has zapped Marvin into another dimension and it's his job to make his way around many weird locations to find and rescue the Professor. Marvin must also retrieve the missing part from the brain scanner and thus defeat the evil Dark-One.


 

SOUND

Hmm, I have a problem with the tunes in Marvin's Marvellous Adventure. If you own a A1200 the you get an array of second-rate, heard it all before, cheesy musical offerings - basically the sort of tunes that you thought had died a long time ago.

If, however, you're the proud owner of a CD32 then you get a cracking tune that helps make the game flow around at a rather nifty pace. It's all very Whigfield, but at least it's got a quality bass-riddled drmbeat thumping in your ears as you hop over platform after platform.

The rest of the sound, in both the CD and A1200 versions, is virtually the same, with a smattering of tings, bings and bleeps in all the right places. CD owners get the extra sound of a 'Bill and Ted' guitar riff whenever they complete one of the levels. A tale of two games. The A1200 version gets a thumbs down and is ordered back to music school, while its CD counterpart gets a thumbs up and is promoted to top of the class.

70%

 

GRAPHICS

The first thing you notice about the presentation side of things is just how small everything is. The main sprite is incredibly tiny, but thankfully he is reasonably well animated and jumps and bounces around the screen just as well as any other platform character.

The graphics are all displayed in a wonderful 256 colours via the AGA chipset, although due to the bright colour scheme you sometimes don't realise this fact. The backgrounds are well-drawn in a cutesy/cartoony kind of way and the six layers of scrolling help turn Marvin's Marvellous Adventure into a full-blown console platformer.

The animated introduction screens are nicely done and give you a good run-down on what Marvin's adventure is all about. The introduction doesn't feature 256 coloured ray-traced graphics or a pounding atmospheric soundtrack, but you'll soon be skipping past it to start the game anyway.

Graphically, Marvin's doesn't astound you with anything that you haven't seen before. The chunky and brightly coloured graphics will make it appeal to the younger section of the games market.

75%

 

OPINION50%

With its chunky and bright graphics, you may be thinking that Marvin's Marvellous Adventure is aimed at the younger end of the games market. It is, in a way, but with its 60 huge levels Marvin's will be a tough task to complete, even for the most platform-hardened games-player.

The various levels feature a host of puzzles and sub-games which start off relatively easy and get progressively harder and harder. Most players will have to be fairly proficient with their joysticks as the game contains a lot of jumping, most of which has to be spot-on otherwise you'll lose one of your precious lives.

There are some nice touches in 21st Century Entertainment's platformer, like the help boxes which contain either a helpful piece of information about the level or a highly useful passcode.

One of Marvin's biggest problems is that it gets quite boring after a while. There doesn't seem to be anything in the game to excite and make your platform-thumping heart race. These are the days where platformers are abundant in the software charts, each and every new addition simply has to have something that sets it apart from the rest to make it succeed. Marvin's Marvellous adventure doesn't have that vital something, which is a shame in a way because it has got some very good points.

I guess if you're a platform addict then you might fancy 21st Century Entertainment's latest offering, but other gamers might want to steer clear.

It was a big and brave step away from the highly successful three pinball games and although Marvin's isn't going to be that successful, I'm sure it won't be long before the 21st Century Entertainment is back invading the charts with something else.



Marvin's Marvellous Adventure logo AGA

Some people say that when you've seen one cute, scrolling platform game you've seen them all. But, asks Steve McGill, have you seen all this one?

Plots in platform games serve two purposes. They let the publisher of the game invent a setting and a character and then let them talk about said character and their world as if they're real or cute or interesting or different.

Their second purpose is that of space filling for the journos writing about them. It usually runs along the line of: "Oh God another platformer with another stupid plot. But for what it's worth..." and then the plot is regurgitated to the hapless punter.

OK, so the same sort of introductory device has been used here to fill space because there isn't all that much to be said about Marvin's Marvellous Adventure. It's a collect-em-up with a cute central protagonist and a colourful backdrop that tries hard to keep you interested but never quite manages it.

The whole package consists of four disks and it runs on the A1200 only. There are five worlds to be explored and conquered and each of these is split into several little levels of varying complexity.

The first thing that strikes home about Marvin is the tedious left to right linear scrolling. Marvin can't climb any higher than one screen, so the only direction he can travel is from left to right, which is a pity.

Marvin is slightly more playable with a CD32 controller, which uses the red button for jumps, green for kicking, punching and firing weapons and blue to drop from one platform to the next. No matter how much the CD32 controller improves the game's playability there isn't a great deal of playability going on.

The game's too simple, too linear and too boring. Nick Veitch likes Marvin because he thinks it's cute. But sometimes he can be vacuous and girlie like that. Marvin's a good game for young children, anyone else should give it a miss.



Marvin's Marvellous Adventure logo AGA

Nun hat 21st Centurys hüpfender Pizzabote also sein Liefergebiet erweitert: Nur vier Wochen nach dem Einstand am CD32 werden die Teigfladen jetzt auch zu AGA-Amigos gebracht - quasi ofenfrisch.

Bei so viel Frische blieb für größere Änderungen des Plattform-Belags freilich keine Zeit, die Floppy-Variante unterscheidet sich vorwiegend durch die nunaus dem Sound-chip statt von der CD tönende Begleitmusik. Die Ohren werden somit einen Tick schlechter bedient, Augen und Joystick-Händchen müssen keine Abstriche in Kauf nehmen:

Das horizontale Parallaxscrolling der bonbonbunten Wälder und Wiesen hat nach wie vor WeichspülerQualität, und die darin heimischen Sprites sind immer noch winzig, aber wohlanimiert.

Die wahre Größe eines Hüpfhelden zeigt sich aber ohnehin im Gameplay, und da ist Marvin durchaus ein Hüne - seine sechs Welten à zehn Levels konfrontieren den Spieler mit kritischen Sprungpassagen oder versteckten Bonusscreens ebenso wie mit bis zu einem Dutzend Angreifern gleichzeitig, porösen Brücken, Katapulten und Bonushaltigen Blöcken.

Ein kleiner Rempler fördert also je nach Ausführung schützende Begleitsatelliten oder Wurfwaffen zutage; ansonsten darf man den Gegnern auch die genreübliche Kopfmassage verpassen.

Nein, spektakuläre Innovationen sind keine zu finden, aber doch ein faires Spieldesign, das neben Rücksetzpunkten und Continues auch Abwechslung bietet.

Besonders hervorzuheben wäre noch die astreine Anpassung an den A1200/4000: Die HD-Installation klappt kinderleicht, die Screentexte sind wahlweise deutsch, das Game erkennt ein angeschlossenes CD32-Pad automatisch und nutzt die zusätzlichen Buttons für ein verbessertes Handling. Na, denn mal guten Appetit. (rl)



Marvin's Marvellous Adventure logo AGA

"GOT ANY GAMES FOR ME TO REVIEW?" hollered Rich. "Yes we have," we replied.

I woke up at 8:35, decided that I wasn't ready to face the world yet (let alone have to review a game, especially on a Saturday), and went back to sleep. I re-awoke at 9:14, bathed, dressed and made myself breakfast, for which I had a bowl of Ricicles, a piece of toast, a cup of tea and a small argument with my Mum about me leaving offensive mug rings on the sideboard. Suitably fueled, I decided I'd better get my act together and get on with my review. It was 10 o 'clock.

BUMP
At 10:40, I accidentally mistimed a jump and landed on some spikes; forty minutes, that is, into the game, on my first go ever. Marvin, you see, is ridiculously easy, and that is the entire problem. At 10:52 my concentration slipped as I glanced out of the window to see what sort of day it was (it looked like rain, inevitably), and fell into some lava. Two lives lost, but the quantity of extra ones I had gained during my first 52 of play still had the life counter going off the scale. At 11:06 I paused and went to the loo.

Crikey, I thought as I searched in vain for some soap and rinsed my hands under the tap, I'm going to have a bit of a tough time reviewing this game. And, sure enough, a mere four hours and thirty-two minutes later, not including the break (and cheese on toast) I had for lunch, I finished the game.

I really am having problems reviewing this little banana. I've decided the best way to show you what it's all about is to include lots of screenshots, and explain the individual bits as the happen in order for you to get the gist of the game.

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure's pretty standard platform fodder, divided into sixty continuous levels (ie, there aren't ahy end-of-world baddies or 'World Complete' messages), the five worlds providing subtle variations in backgrounds and baddies.

LUMP
From these screenshots you'll be able to see that it does indeed look great, all sun-setty and AGA-rendered. It looks cute, and Marvin looks cute as he pulls himself up onto platforms, or turns his head to look out of the screen and winks when you leave the joystick alone for a while. A thumbs up, at least, to the graphic artists.

So then, I enjoyed myself thoroughly for the four hours and thirty-two minutes it took me to play through Marvin, but it has to be said that I have no reason ever to want to play it again.

There are no bonus sections or extra screens to find (or at least, the ones there are are so obvious you're bound to find them first time around anyway), so basically I've seen everything the game has to offer.

My credibility would have been elevated yet further if I had actually finished the game on my first game ever, but in truth it probably took me around, ooh, ten attempts. Using the passwords I gained along the way through, natch.

Er, so a score. No one in their right mind would want to spend £30 on a computer game which will only last an afternoon, and although I'm no expert at computer games (He's joking, of course - Ed), I'm sure no-one who has played their fair share of platformers would take more than a weekend to finish this game. So this suggests that Marvin should be scoring an extremely low mark. Or do we assume that Marvin is aimed at (pause of disbelief) The Younger Player? If it is, then 21st Century really should have said so on the box, or in their press release, or to us, or, at least, something.


I search in vain for some soap

SLUMP
Apparently the programmers even referred to issues of AMIGA POWER when writing the game, noting our immediate hatred of platform games riddled with just the sort of niggles we like to iron out in Kangaroo Court each month.

Marvin suffers from none of these things. Never will you have to take a leap of faith, never will you curse as a hidden spike pierces you through the ground without warning, and never will you think "how was I meant to know that was going to kill me?" In fact, Marvin has to be the fairest platformer I've played since Rainbow Islands - every time you die you know it was your fault, and not an irritation of the program design, and you'll only get frustrated with yourself, not with the game.

The only problem is, as I'm near bored of mentioning, that it's far too easy. And I can offer little suggestion of how 21st Century could make it any harder, without them resorting to just the sort of nuances we've spent the last four years persuading softies to avoid, or basically completely re-writing the game.

We frown here at AMIGA POWER on games aimed at 'The Younger Player', clenching our teeth at the idea that just because at the last minute someone realised that a 'grown-up' game is far too undemanding, it can be flogged off to the 'kids', and flaring our nostrils at the idea that age bears any relation to computer gaming skill anyway.

CRUMPLE
Marvin is just such a game. We admire the effort that has been put into making sure it plays smoothly, but we scowl forlornly with utter distaste at the lack of effort it takes to play. Buy it if you want to boost your ego, or for a younger sibling or cousin, but otherwise, in a round-about-concluding-don't-bother-kind-of-way, don't, and you know what I'm going to say nether, bother. (Eh? - Ed)


PLAY DEAD
There are a number of ways baddies can be killed in Marvin. Don't expect to be too surprised, though.

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
You can kick them. A bit like this.

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
Or a bit like this.

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
Or you can jump on their heads. A bit like this.

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
Or similarly a bit like this.

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
Or, as this screenshot hints at, you can shoot them.

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
Yep, that's the way.

EASY PEASY

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
Oooh - those spikes look nasty. Not to worry, all you have to do is to stand on that caterpillar's back.

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
Ouch - that mid-game hammer looks a bit tricky. But don't fret - all you have to do is to kick the cannon balls towards the cannon and let him have it.

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
Oo-er - what on earth is this near end-game jet-pack level all about? Ah - I see. All you have to do is move about and shoot things.

MARIO MADNESS
A third box out? Er, well, although it plays nothing like it, there are a number of bits in Marvin that are heavily reminiscent of Super Mario World on the SNES. See if you can spot them, readers.

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
It's an expanding snake of blocks. Work out which way they are going, and follow them along else you'll follow into the water and die. Hmmm, looks familiar.

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
A helpful message balloon box. THat's a good idea. Although, hang on a minute...

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
Jump up and hit the blocks with your head to reveal all manner of bonuses. How, is it just me, or have I seen this idea corporate into a game before?

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
A big tunnel of stars to roll down. Actually, this looks a bit like Sonic.

Marvin's Marvellous Adventure
Jump down that well and you'll get to a big room full of goodies. Strange, but for some reason I thought it ought to be a pipe.



Marvin's Marvellous Adventure logo CD32

Price: £29.99 Publisher: 21st Century 0235 851852

Poor old Marvin. One day he's a happy pizza delivery boy trying to earn a few extra bob for his student grant, and the next he walks in on a row between a nice friendly professor inventory type and an evil shyster.

Before you can say 'heavy on the cheese, hold the olives' he's been zapped into another world full of dangerous bees, nasty kangaroos, and treacherous blocks to name but a few of the evil one's henchnmen... er, objects who are trying to stop Marvin helping the professor.

This quest takes Marvin leaping from platform to platform over 60 cutesy colourful levels in six cutesy and colourful worlds. And there are plenty of sub games thrown in as well.

Drop down some of the wells, for example, and you're into a sub level where you can pick up some extra points in the shape of stars and some of those handy moons for firing at anything that gets in your way - those annoying clowns that rocket towards would be a good place to start.

Just in case things get too tough, there are little help icons dotted around the game which dole out handy hints, on how to get up to those really high platforms i.e. Jump twice really quickly.

Totally cute and totally playable is the best way to describe Marvin's Marvellous Adventures. Everything in the game is just so sweet. All things sugar and spice are in this game from the primary coloured backgrounds to the little moons with wings who become your friend. Even your enemies look nice to do any damage. I mean, could you really believe that tomatoes with little legs, and furry kangaroos could do you any real harm. No, I thought not.

So, if you like blood, guts and gore keep away, if cutesy playable platform games are you then you can't go far wrong with Marvin. The sprites may be on the small side and the game becomes repetitive at times but that doesn't detract from the fact that it's one good platformer.



Marvin's Marvellous Adventure logo CD32

21st Century * 01235 851852 * £29.99

There is a problem here. Marvin, the star of the show, is quite possibly the least interesting character to appear in a platform game. He's a small, blond chap who apparently delivers pizza. But enough of the plot. You can jump on things, collect other things and run along ledges. The scrolling is smooth, the backgrounds colourful but it is linear, tedious and adds absolutely nothing to the genre. Competently dull, and rather easy.



Marvin's Marvellous Adventure logo CD32

Nicht überall, wo Adventure draufsteht, ist auch ein Abenteuer der alten Schule drin: Bei 21st Centurys Knuddelhelden ist eher eine besondere Sprunghaftigkeit gefragt...

Auf den ersten Hüpfer erinnert das Gameplay frappierend an Jump & Run-Oldies aus seligen 64er-Tagen, doch einige Proberunden später macht sich Suchtgefahr wie bei Nintendos Superstar "Mario" breit.

Ihre nahe Genre-Verwandtschaft können die beiden Italo-Helden angesichts der auch hier knallig bunten Bonbon-Optik (mit zahlreichen Krümelsprites darin) eh nicht leugnen, erst beim Beruf scheiden sich die Geister: Während der Nintendo-Schnauzbart ja angeblich Klempner ist, hat Marvin sein Herz an die Pizzaherstellung verloren. Deshalb darf er nun auch einen dieser Teigfladen ausliefern, wobei der hungrige Kunde am Ende von sechs horizontal scrollenden Welten zu je zehn Levels wohnt.

Dies verschafft dem rasenden Pizzaboten genügend Gelegenheiten, am Wegesrand noch schnell ein paar Tomaten und Zwiebeln aufzukleben - und sich dabei allerlei Ameisen, Schaben etc. zu erwehren. Letzteres geschieht in der gastronomischen Praxis durch einen bzw. mehrere Hüpfer auf den Kopf oder das Werfen mit den begrenzt vorhandenen Sammelobjekten; also ungefähr genau so wie bei der Konkurrenz.

Abwechslung kommt in Marvins Plattformwelt vor allem auf, wenn Abgründe durch millimetergenau abgepaßte Sprünge zu überwinden sind, dann sorgt plötzlich ein gutes Dutzend anschwirrender Insekten für Hektik, und im nächsten Moment findet man sich vielleicht auf einem der vielen versteckten Bonusscreens wieder.

Netterweise waren die Designer auch bei den Beilagen nicht geizig, an kleinen Fein- und Gemeinheiten herrscht somit kein Mangel: Da bilden mal bröselnde Felsen eine unsichere Brücke über tiefe Schluchten, Kanonen katapultieren den Helden in ungeahnte Höhen, nach hinten wegkippende Plattformen bauen sich ein Stück weiter neu auf, und extrahaltige Steinblöcke revanchieren sich fürs Anrempeln mit diversen Bonusfrüchten oder gar "Begleitssatelliten", die sich selbständig auf böse Gegner stürzen.

Und selbst wenn im (stets fairen) Gameplay gerade ein ruhigere Phase angesagt ist, herrscht immer noch Bewegung am Screen. So kräuseln sich die Wellen auf dem Wasser, ein Specht spechtet am Baum, und die mit Rücksetzpunkten versehene Landschaft scrollt währenddessen flott und flüssig in drei Parallax-Ebenen dahin.

Die farbenprächtige Optik ist sowieso das Wunderbarste an Marvins Abenteuern; die reichlich enthaltenen Sprites glänzen zwar nicht durch enorme Größe, aber durch wohlgefällige Animationen. Dazu gibt es knallige CD-Musik, die passenden Sound-FX und ein äußerst flexible Steuerung, die saubere Salti ebenso ermöglicht wie das seitliche Festkrallen an Plattformen.

Einzig seine fehlende Eigenständigkeit vermasselt Marvin daher den Sprung in die Platform-Oberliga, aber wer sich daran nicht stört, darf hier (oder bei der kommenden A1200-Fassung) unbesorgt zugreifen. (rl)



Marvin's Marvellous Adventure logo CD32

21st Century/£30
AP45 26%

No glamorous rendered intros here. Marvin is exactly the same on CD as it was on floppy - a bright and cheerful platform game utterly devoid of any form of challenge. You'll romp through level after level, chuckling at the rainbow-hued graphics and gradually succumbing to the onset of brain death. And before terribly long you'll have reached the end, and will let out an anguished cry: "I have been dupsed!"



Marvin's Marvellous Adventure logo CD32

Price: £29.99 Publisher: 21st Century 01235 851852

Marvin first appeared on the A1200 not so long ago. Now he's followed that well-trodden path across to the CD32. The plot remains the same: pizza delivery boy Marvin (that's you) walks in on a feud between a mad professor and an evil villain, only to be zapped into another dimension wher eyou must leap your way through five funny little worlds, from platform to platform to free the professor.

And there's plenty of other stuff to do, such as running over mad clowns, hitching rides on the backs of caterpillars, and collecting millions of little moons and stars along the way.

But there's only so many platforms that you can leap onto without getting a tad bored. Even ducking down the odd well into one of the numerous sub games can become a bit tedious.

The background scenery remains cute throughout, so cute that you want to puke sometimes. Even more frustrating is the fact that when you die you get sent back to where you originally started the current position of the level, which can become boring after a while - having to trundle through the game manoeuvres all over again.

However, there is a password system so you don't have to restart the whole game from scratch if you happen to lose all your lives. Another niggle is that the CD32 controllers aren't really used to their full potential either. There are the same moves, as the A1200 version and in some cases I had to swop over to the joystick to help me reach those out-of-my-vision platforms.

Another moan is that the music is enough to drive a woman insane. It's a sort of supermarket-come-Euro rave type medley. I could only stand it a few moments and then had to turn it off.

Maybe, I'm being unfair to Marvin, I liked the A1200 version and was looking forward to the CD32 game, but I feel cheated. OK, the graphics are really nice and the game is good enough but it is no different to the A1200 version at all, except that the music is extremely irritating.

Take Beneath A Steel Sky, for example - Virgin took an excellent game and made it even better on the CD32 by adding new sound effects and even more personality to their in-game characters. Marvin should have been better on the CD32, but isn't. Pity.