Misadventures of Flink logo CD32 Amiga Computing Bronze Award

Platform days are here again courtesy of Psygnosis. But will it refresh the parts other platformers have failed to reach or just become another cash-in on a tried and tested formula? Tina Hackett takes a look.

INTRODUCTION

Psygnosis, not content with bringing out the third in the Lemmings series this month, are also releasing their latest offering for the CD32. Originally written for the Mega Drive, Flink is now here boasting 'better graphics' and a musical score that utilises the CD32 for all it's worth.
Although, at first glance, all seems to be usual platform stuff, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

FLASHBACK

Platformers always raise cynicism whenever they are mentioned. However, what Virgin and Disney have achieved with their latest releases ( & ) has to be seen to be believed and has contributed a great deal in showing that platformers can be a respectable thing to play once again - even if you are over 15!

However, Flink probably does not have the wide appeal that would reach an adult audience. It is perhaps a little 'twee' for a more cerebral gameplayer's taste, but for a younger player I could not recommend this highly enough.

It maybe does not have the charm of some of the latest released or the huge amounts of wit that some have, but it more than compensates with inventive gameplay that would be ideal for introducing a child to the rudiments of computing.


 

STORYLINE

Imagica Island - a place filled with sunshine and peace-loving folk who like nothing more in life than to cast helpful spells. Life is all very pleasant until Wicked Wainwright, the evil wizard, gets a bit nasty, captures the four wise rulers and takes over the Island. Unfortunately for the wizards he also takes their spirits, bundles them into four crystals and scatters them throughout the island

Wainwright also causes a few pollution problems with his volcanic HQ which gives off black smoke. All is lost until: Enter superhero (fanfare please) Flink. Granted he does not look much like a hero but he is an apprentice wizard - so it is a start.

It is down to him to clear the clouds, find the magical ingredients to cast spells and recover the crystals. He can then face Wicked Wainwright and recapture the Island for the forces of good.


 

SOUND

Again the rather cheerful standard platform tunes are used. They are not all that original but work well with the gameplay and surprisingly, they do not grate on the nerves. There are 16 tunes in all, and each varies from the more dramatic 'beat the clock'-types to the light and jovial.

Actual effects are varied and for nearly every action there is an appropriate sound. Forty six different effects are used from splashes of water to springs, and there are also the usual 'boings' and 'twangs'.

70%

 

 

GRAPHICS

Graphically, Flink really holds some nice surprises. Although it is not perhaps the most original of games, especially with the design of the sprite or some of the enemies, it came across as a particularly polished effort. Consoles have pretty much ruled the roost as far as good-looking games go, and it is nice to see the CD32 is getting a look in.

Animation, from the smallest enemy to the main sprite, is smooth and goes a long way in bringing humour. For instance, when Flink creates the wrong spell the cauldron picks him up and knocks his head from side to side in a typical show of cartoon violence - complete with stars around the head!

The backdrops, though, are by far the most impressive feature. Beautifully illustrated scenes have been cleverly constructed to create the make-believe island of Imagica. Foreground detail shows pretty much what you'd expect and contains all the platforms essential to the gameplay, but the scene fades into the distance and uses many layers to create depth.

So rather than having just background and foreground features, there is a wealth of different details that give a wonderful impression of the many settings. These include mysterious forests, lakes and woodland tree tops.

90%

 

PLAYABILITY

The different elements all combine to make a thoroughly enjoyable game. The platform sections have been designed well to test both joystick dexterity and careful coordination. Puzzles are introduced in the form of magic spells - you collect various ingredients and as you find the scrolls they inform you of how to create certain spells. This works well and will ensure longevity.

A map system means you can revisit levels to collect extra magic energy and spell ingredients. Certain spells allow access to other parts of the world, such as a Spirit world spell which allows Flink to visit a metaphysical world, or a Shrink spell that can make him small enough to get into a secret zone - therefore, the game can be played in many different ways.

As every platform fan will know, 'collectibles' are an integral part of the gameplay. This game uses treasure chests that can be found and broken into, and will contain a collectible like a Scroll - some of these contain information, others will tell you how to perform spells. This is a much better idea than having to keep referring back to a manual.

The magic objects need to be collected from the thieves, but they have to be caught first which makes a nice change from having to simply collect them. Other enemies need to be disposed of too by being jumped on or by throwing objects found in the scene, such as rocks or treasure chests.


 

OPINION66%

At first glance it is easy to dismiss Flink as yet another cutesy platformer. To some extent this is true but it has been created with such fine attention to detail that it really stands out among other games of this type. To see a platformer of this quality for the CD32 is a good sign and will be a great step forward bringing the machine to a younger audience. Even for the older platform fan, this offering is of good enough quality to think about buying.

Considering the game is available for a mere £14.99 and there are a massive 52 levels to get through, this has got to be value for money. The game has a good learning curve and, while being taxing, it does not have some of the highly frustrating found in some platformers.

All the features work well, from the gorgeous graphics and the sound to the addictive playability. Do not expect to have your flabbergasted in the originality stakes, but for a good example of a platformer you should give this a try.


Misadventures of Flink logo CD32

Psygnosis * 0151 709 5755 * £20

This is an incredibly pretty platformer with lots of lovely parallax backgrounds and strange creatures inhabiting a surreal magical world.
Collect ingredients, build up magic energy by jumping on enemies' heads and cast spells. The spell-casting can aid in the fight against the nefarious denizens of the enchanted world, but more importantly it can help Flink gain access to the secret zones and metaphysical worlds.

In all, it is a nice attempt at injecting some interesting intriguing puzzley gameplay. Distractingly, some of the most annoying mechanisms that can be put into a platformer are evident here - pixel-perfect jumps and instant death if said leaps are not executed competently. Considering that a lot of the charm of the game and the incentive to play it, lies in using the spells, instant death for a minor mechanical mishap is not appreciated. It detracts from the appeal that Flink undoubtedly has and casts a dark shadow on its addiction factor.

If you can live with that, the you will find that there is much of Flink that will appeal in a gentle, nothing-outstanding, kind of way.


Misadventures of Flink logo CD32 Amiga Joker Hit

Zwei Jahre nach der Premiere zählen die "Lionheart"-Plattformen immer noch zu den besten am Amiga - auf CD kehren ihre Macher jetzt mit einem sagenhaften Hüpfical zurück: sagenhaft schön und sagenhaft spielbar!

Nach der Thalion-Pleite haben sich Erwin Kloibhofer (Programm) und Henk Nieberg (Grafik) nun also für Psygnosis ins Zeug gelegt, was für die dröge Vorgeschichte ihres Hüpficals allerdings nur mit Einschränkungen gilt: Ein böser Magier hat die vier Weisen des Phantasieländchens Imagica entführt, und nur der kleine Zauberlehrling Flink vermag sie zu befreien. Also nicht gerade nobelpreisverdächtig, was das Intro hier mit animierten Bildchen erzählt. Doch um so origineller und umfangreicher ist das anschließende Gameplay:

Man beginnt das Turnabenteuer auf einer begehbaren Landkarte, wo auch bereits absolvierte Abschnitte zu einem erneuten Besuch und damit zur Punktesteigerung einladen. Von hier aus begibt sich Flink auf die Reise durch rund 60 Levels mit knapp 100 verschiedenen Gegnern und fünf screenfüllenden Oberbossen. Man trifft bereits im ersten, recht sumpfigen Abschnitt auf feuerspeiende Mini-Dinos und hinterlistige Diebe, mißbraucht herabschwebende Blätter als Brücke über reißende Gewässer und bekämpft zum Schluß einen früchtewerfenden Gorilla.

Der Nachwuchs-Merlin erledigt sich der Gegner dabei gern durch ein Hüpfer auf das feindliche Köpfchen, greift sich aber auch Steine, betäubte Passanten oder anderes Treibgut und funktioniert es zur Wurfwaffe um. Herumstehenden Schatzruhen ernimmt der Held dann Nützlichkeiten wie Extraleben, frische Energie, deutschsprachige Tips und - Kochrezepte. Korrekt vermischt, entstehen aus Goldringen, Wurzeln und anderen Sammelzutaten nämlich feine Schutzschilde und magische Smartbombs, oder man zaubert sich Plattformen irgendwohin und erlangt so Zugang zu vorher unerreichbaren Abschnitten und Welten.

Der kleine Flink läuft also mit einer beneidenswerten Ausrüstung durch die atemberaubend gepinselten Berge, Städte, Sphären- und Meereswelten, in denen die Entwickler alles untergebracht haben, was dem Genre lieb und teuer ist: wegbrechende Erdböden, Sprungfedern, rotierende Aufzüge, wippende Morgensterne und Schwimm- bzw. Flugabschnitte ebenso wie Endgegner auf Stelzen und imposant aus dem Hintergrund heranzoomende Riesendrachen. Der mit unendlich vielen Continues gesegnete Practice-Modus läßt auch ungeübte Spieler einen Großteil der Pracht miterleben, doch wer das große Finale erreichen will, muß mit drei bzw. fünf Weiterspiel-Möglichkeiten auskommen. Könner am Joypad sind also gefragt, und das, obwohl das Leveldesign bei der Konvertierung vom Mega Drive einige Gegnerformationen eingebüßt hat. Andererseits geht es hier nur selten richtig unfair zu, zudem endet nicht jeder Gegnerkontakt mit dem Verlust eines Lebens - und im Fall des Falles fehlt es auch nicht an Rücksetzpunkten.

Daß ein unterhaltsames Gameplay ohne die passenden Präsentation bloß die halbe Miete ist, weiß auch und gerade der Grafiker Henk Nieborg, weshalb er an tollen Optik-Leckerbissen nicht gespart hat. Die überaus detaillierten und parallax scrollenden Landschaften mit ihren wunderschönen Farbverläufen sind ebenso Hingucker wie die gelungene Mimik von Flink und dem gesamten Rest des Personals. Das minimale Ruckeln schmälert den Spielspaß dabei in keinster Weise, nur akustisch wäre schon ein wenig mehr drin gewesen; Die Sound-FX untermalen das jeweilige Geschehen ja noch recht ansprechend, doch die CD-Musiken hätte man sich eine Nummer peppiger gewünscht.

Ein wunderbare Gelegenheit zur akustischen Nachbesserung wäre natürlich eine A1200/A4000-Umsetzung - doch Konvertierungspläne jedweder Art hat Psygnosis wegen der unklaren Commodore-Situation vorläufig auf Eis gelegt. Zum Trost hüpft Flink auch über CD-ROM-bestückte AGA-Amigas, wobei eventuell vorhandene Hardware-Extras (Turbokarten etc.) sogar für zusätzliche Animationen genutzt werden. Wohl dem, der die richtige Ausrüstung hat, denn dieses technisch und spielerisch anspruchsvolle Jump & Run ist schon ein Sahnestückchen! (rl)


DREI FRAGEN AN ERWIN KLOIBHOFER
?: Erwin, du kommst aus Österreich. Wie ist da eigentlich die Zusammenarbeit mit Henk Nieborg zustande gekommen - er stammt doch aus Holland?
EK: Wir kennen uns bereits aus alten Demotagen, die Szene ist ja international. Irgendwann bin ich von zu hause ausgerissen und nach Holland, wo wir gemeinsam ein kleines Jump & Run namens "Ghost Battle" entwickelt und Thalion angeboten haben. Es wurde zwar nie veröffentlicht, trotzdem hat es uns einen Arbeitsplatz in Gütersloh gesichert.
?: Wo dann gleich "Lionheart" entstand?
EK: Genau. Nach der Thalion-Pleite haben wir uns mit Psygnosis zusammengetan und Flink fürs Mega Drive entwickelt. Es war mein persönlicher Wunsch, davon auch eine CD32-Version zu machen - und hier ist sie!
?: Der Konsolen-Flink ist gerade mal ein paar Wochen alt, wie hast du ihn nur so flink rübergezogen?
EK: Nun, das passierte nicht ganz freiwillig, denn Psygnosis wollte das Teil unbedingt vor Weihnachten fertig haben. Also mussten wir mehr oder weniger eine 1:1-Umsetzung machen; ich hätte lieber noch ein bisschen länger daran gearbeitet.
?: Na, Vielleicht tröstet es dich, dass auch Redakteure ständig mit einem unbarmherzigen Zeitlimit zu kämpfen haben...
 

Misadventures of Flink logo CD32

Go ahead Flink. Make my day. Aha ha ha.

The nincompoops. They have clearly sweated over Flink for months. The graphics are delightful - Psygnosis at their best, with pretty scenery and lovingly animated characters. (We were particularly amused by the expression of terror on Flink's face as he runs out of control down really steep hills). It is packed with ideas. Not all of them are successful and most are simply plundered from other games, but at least there are some. The spell-casting system adds an extra dimension, for example, and you can pick up stunned baddies and hurl them at other baddies, as with the Koopas in Super Mario World. The music is, sadly, from the beat-box of Beelzebub (Steve's line), but that is only to be expected. There are some cracking end-of-world bosses. And there are loads of secret bits to discover. Basically, a determined effort has been made to create something special, something that can be sold to you, the game-buying public, without the crisis of conscience which must surely accompany the release of so many platform games.

WIZARD
Why, then, does Flink, your character, react to the controls like a cretin? When you press left or right he walks forward arthritically slow for a few seconds before suddenly lurching up to speed, frequently plummeting from the platform to his death or crashing into a monster. A child of three could spot how feeble an attempt to simulate inertia this is, so why did it escape Psygnosis's team of playtesters? Furthermore, Flink has a frustrating tendency to slip through the edges of platforms when he should clearly have landed squarely on them. Neither of these flaws is enough to seriously compromise the game, and you do almost become blind to them eventually, but to take so much care over everything else while messing up something as fundamental and straightforward as the way your character walks about is criminal.

Flink begins, innovatively, in a Forest World™. You run along from left to right, kill some baddies using the erratic and much-hated (by me) but traditional jumping-on-their-heads system, and collect power-ups, and that is largely it. But things soon liven up with the arrival of fire-breathing monsters, rotating platform-wheels, showers of falling leaves which you have got to jump on, and forced scrolling levels (more of which later).

SORCERER
There are some mildly entertaining puzzles, too, involving dropping rocks on see-saws to catapult yourself into the air, and tossing other rocks onto platforms so that the weight causes them to sink within reach. And later there is a tremendously exciting bit where you have got to try to escape from a herd of stampeding boars by heaving yet more rocks into their path. Flink hardly heralds the arrival of a brave new era of platform technology, but at least it makes the effort, and it is never dull.

It is also tautly structured. There are four worlds, each divided into several levels. These are further chopped up into short sub-levels, with the result that no one section lasts for more than a minute or two. And, as there are plenty of baddies all over the place, the game feels pacy and action-packed.

Further examples of inept design do rear their distasteful heads, though. Those forced-scrolling levels, for example. The idea of forced scrolling is to keep you moving, to make you think fast, to deny the chance to stand around getting your breath back. Flink, however, uses it to slow your progress. You jump onto a platform and find it sinking into the water beneath your feet. If you do not jump off quickly, you will die. Except there is nothing to jump onto because the next platform has not scrolled onto the screen yet. You were, in fact, supposed to wait it to do so before jumping onto the first platform. Ridiculous.

Even worse are the occasional bits where you will see a barrel floating temptingly in the water. The waves are making it bob up and down - so much so, in fact, that it keeps disappearing off the bottom of the screen and reappearing again. So you jump onto it. But - oh no - as soon as the barrel disappears off the screen and your character follows it across the level's arbitrarily-chosen cut-off point, you die. Preposterous.


Some cracking end-of-world

WARLOCK
But Flink rallies bravely with lots of nice bits. The bosses look excellent, with special CD32 rotating bits, although they are rather routine to actually kill, and one of them makes the scrolling slow down to a judder. I was deeply touches by the baddies who run around with bags on their backs with spell ingredients poking out of them. If you kill the baddie he drops the ingredient, which is much nice than having it simply appear from nowhere.

The continues system seems just about right, too. There are no passwords, but you can choose between three or five continues, or practice mode. In the case of the latter you can continue as many times as you want, but you won't be able to tackle the final boss and complete the game. What this does mean, though, is that if you want to play the game through to the end you will have to do it in one sitting - a save facility might have been slightly more convenient.

It is fun, then. But how long will it last? Hmm, I would not really like to say. Although it is big, it is not all that hard (and particularly clever), and I'd seen pretty much the whole thing by the end of my first day's play. What is more, I was getting ever so slightly bored of jumping around the Tree World, and having apples fall on my head. And the controls were starting to get on my nerves again. And 98% of it we have already seen elsewhere. (Just wait till you get to the Runaway Mine Cart™ level. No, really.)

Flink is good, then. But there are annoying bits. And it is not very original And it is not entirely clear why it will only work on the CD32.


Misadventures of Flink logo CD32

Price: £14.99   Publisher: Psygnosis   051 709 5755

W ainright is a bloke who enjoys walking. A lot, in fact, to the extent that he wrote books on the subject something, which I think is rather sad, as I consider the old 'piece-a-terre' to be something that only happens when your car breaks down.
It is curious, then, that Psygnosis has chosen the Wainright monicker for the baddy in its second CD32-only game (Microcosm was the first). Curious, because Flink is neither dull nor boring, and has only once noticeable thing wrong with it. More about that later.

Flink, you see, is a young apprentice wizard. He's charged with the retrieval of his four masters, who were banished to the ends of the earth by the aforementioned Wainright. It is a slow, thoughtful platformer, with nothing more bloody and violent than bouncing on the odd baddy to dislodge him and steal his belongings. It looks very much like Thalion's Lionheart; and not surprisingly, really, because it is written by the same team!

Cracking surrealists
The levels span six different graphical scenes - including a rather surreal 'Metaphysical' level. One of the main differences between this and Lionheart though, is that you can also go back to previous levels, to have another crack at some of the puzzles that maybe you could not solve earlier. Ingredients must be picked up, spells mixed and cast. We are not talking Eye of the Beholder or Call of Cthulhu but it is certainly more mind-taxing than most games of this sort.

For example, perhaps you need a spell to shrink you down to get through a tiny door; but the spell you need does not show up until later on in the game. So, you mark the points where you get stuck, and then return to them later with a fresh approach and a few newly-created spells. It manages to weave this sort of semi-cerebral puzzle cleverly into the action, which means that it even appeals to young arcade-loving upstarts like me.

But then, of course, it is also a rather excellent action game, albeit a reasonably slow-paced one. Faster than Mario, slower than Sonic, it uses some of the most stunning graphics you will ever see on an Amiga (hell, on any format) for the backgrounds, the main isometric 3D-map, the huge sprites - making brilliant use of the CD32. The guardian baddies, too, are incredible; huge, screen-sized monsters made up from many sprites move smoothly and slickly. I defy you not to be astonished by them.

Up with the best
In almost every way, Flink is up there with the best Amiga games. Almost. There is one huge, glaring omission that does not so much kill the game off, as place a large, ugly wart on the side of its nose. Where, oh where, are the level codes? Not giving you the option to save your position in an adventure game of this kind is bad; but forcing the player to return to the beginning after ploughing through many of the large, gruelling levels is unforgivable. I must have played through the first few levels a good 20 times before I got anywhere near the end of the game; and I would, quite frankly, have killed for a save-game option. Oh, how I will never understand software publishers.

But there is a positive counter for even this. Just as I was to rate Flink at a well-above average, but mildly-flawed 81%, news came in that Psygnosis has signed an exclusive deal with the game chain Future Zone, meaning that Flink is to be sold at a meagre £14.99. Hey, it has got a flaw, but it is not that bad - and for a little under 15 sovs this is, quite possibly, the CD32's finest hour. Buy, and enjoy.