Classic platforms and ladders

New Zealand Story logo

TIME is never enough of it. Some days, as I re-read H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, I ponder on the possibility of time travel, of the paradoxes, of what one could do if the past was mutable.

I was in one such mood of quiet contemplation when he who must be obeyed gave me an innocuous 3.5in disc and said: "Review this, Earthling".
Gratefully clutching his manna from heaven, I scuttled off to the corner and donned my cap on which the word Reviewer was writ large.

The disc drive whirred, the screen flickered into life, and something strange started to happen. Light blurred, colours streamed, time slowed, stopped, and then began to run backwards. The years rolled back, my midriff shrank to an acceptable size, a hairline receding faster than a Brazilian rain forest sprang forwards with a vengeance.

The year was 1984, with all its Orwellian connotations. The Olympics were starting in the city of the angels, it was the 169th anniversary of Wellington stuffing Napoleon at Waterloo, and the Great God Spectrum ruled the Earth.
Ocean Software had worked some arcane magic and brought me back all those years to play New Zealand Story, a conversion of a Taito coin-op.

You are a small fluffy chick out to cross the islands that make up New Zealand and rescue imprisoned poultry along the way. The chickens you are rescuing obviously aren't in a battery farm - there's only one victim per cage. Blimey, you could jam at least 50 more in there.

Anyway, you are that small fluffy thing leaping around those platforms, that is a bow and arrow you are carrying, the defenders of the coup are armed in a likewise manner, and you do lose a life ever time you get hit by one. It's more than the opposition gets though, so you should count your lucky feathers.

Leap from platform to platform, head for the cage before the timer runs out and your pecking pal ends up as six Chicken MacNuggets. Koala bear-like things and all manner of small not so cute animals attempt to get in the way, set snails on to you and fire arrows.

Thankfully the first two levels of these things are pretty easy, always making sure you don't get barbecued by running into an electric fence.
Every animal you kill is transformed into a piece of fruit, the collection of which boosts your score. Great for you, not so good for them. Occasionally you'll hit an animal that leaves behind a new weapon. The first one is an unlimited supply of bombs, which explode with a crispy crunch.

Just in case you were thinking this was all leapy-leapy, jumpy-jumpy, there are also aerial activities to consider. Clamber aboard a balloon or, as in level four, a flying bat appropriated from a luckless bear, and take to the airwaves, watching out for the planes with engine trouble or hydraulic failure.

The excitement is, of course, immense. This is state of the art platform action, with no colour clashing either. But then, as the disc flopped out of the drive, as I sharpened my piece of charcoal ready for the scribing to follow, Father Time started to catch up with me.

The Tories won another election, the release dates for Star Trek came and past, the hair fell apologetically on to my writing slate, empty beer cans appeared from nowhere, the belly resumed its previous portliness, and I was sadly back in 1989.

But you can take that trip back in time, back when Manic Miner was king. Be warned though, time is a previous thing, there never is enough of it.


New Zealand Story logo Format Gold

OCEAN £24.99 JOYSTICK

The Japanese have some wacky ideas when it comes to coin-ops: take Bubble Bobble, the tale of two bubble-blowing brontosauruses that went down a storm in the arcades and converted very successfully to the computer.

Another very wacky idea is to have a little yellow Kiwi, complete with white and blue shoes, running around rescuing chums that have been captured and locked in cages by a bad ol' walrus. Still, it worked in the arcades and even now, thanks to Ocean, every Amiga owner has the chance to play this enchanting game at home.

In case you had not guessed already, you control the yellow bundle of fluff in this oh-so-cutesy platform game that is not a million miles away from Bubble Bobble and Super Mario Bros. The action is all viewed in two dimensions, and there are five levels to play through, each level made up of four sub-levels with the fourth sub-level guarded by an end-of-level nasty that needs destroying before you can progress.

Again as if you had not guessed, the sub-levels are guarded by a bunch of... well, you cannot really call them nasties, because they appear to be teddy bears and snails! But contact with them will cause you to lose one of an initial three lives. For self-defence you are armed with a small bow, from which to fire arrows at the baddies (a bow and arrow? Well, you might have known, really). There are also other weapons, including bombs and lasers, to be obtained by shooting certain baddies: most baddies simply turn into juicy pieces of fruit, which are collected for bonus points. Some baddies fire back, though, so keep on your toes to dodge their shots.

As well as the baddies, there are objects in the scenery that can kill you, such as spikes on the floor that must be jumped over. The levels (and sub-levels) get progressively harder and puzzles start creeping in: for example, on sub-level three your chum is caged on the right side of the level but there is no obvious way of getting him. Until you realise that with careful timing you can shoot the teddy bears that float around without popping the balloon they float on, then hop onto an empty balloon and guide it over the top. But the bears can pop your balloon and tumble you towards the ground, so beware!

Another problem is the time limit: hang around on a screen too long and a big 'hurry up!' notice comes on. Ignore this warning, and a small Time Devil appears and prongs you with his trident, thus removing one of your lives.

New Zealand Story is incredibly cute, and at first you will think you are far too old to be playing such a game. But you are not. This is an incredibly addictive game, and the difficulty tuning has been set just right, increasing your determination to survive to the end of each and every level. Ocean have taken a great coin-op and produced a wonderfully good conversion, which you will no doubt find yourself booting up time and again.


GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Take big, colourful cartoon sprites that are beautifully drawn and wonderfully animated, add backgrounds that are highly colourful and then jolly tunes that play throughout, and you end up with a great-looking and great-sounding game that happens to be immensely playable too.

New Zealand Story logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Ocean
Price: £24.99

A kiwi that has his friends stolen by an Atlantic seal and has to rescue them by flying around on balloons throwing bombs and teddies riding inflatable ducks? Oh, please leave it out, what was the programmer of The New Zealand Story on when he came up with this game idea?

In truth, The New Zealand Story is a cleverly constructed example of that increasingly rare specimen hoppus frustratus, commonly known as the platform game.

Take control of the little yellow bird (Tiki to you) and make your way around the screens in an attempt to discover the other kiwis, imprisoned in cages. There are five stages and four maps to each stage, turning the game into an equivalent of twenty levels of mouth-foaming action.

The days of the platform game as a collection of levels that take you up and down in one dimension have long since passed, there are new variations here. The New Zealand Story is set in a national park where there is land, sea and air and the kiwi has to contend with all three environments. Thus odd sections require you to take him underwater. He is equipped with goggles and a very small supply of air to make it through to the other side. An oxygen meter shows you how much time is left.

Making your way around the platforms can be a tedious business so you can take to the air by shooting characters who float down from windows on teddy heads or balloons. Grab one and you move around feely. It is not a passport to completing the level though, because there are prickles and thorns everywhere not to mention all manner of creatures bent on popping your inflatable and ending your little furry life.

As platform games go TNZS conforms to the rule that they have to be astoundingly tough and desperately frustrating to play. It managed to achieve something of the cult status in the arcades, and there are obvious similarities here to that classic with cute characters, fruit picking (for bonuses) and a novel rendition of a well-worn theme.

Ocean's conversion is near perfect, though I swear I do not ever remember it being this tough. Graphically it is as close a replica as you could wish (and rightfully expect) whilst the sound is spot on too, right down to the little squeak the kiwi makes when he loses a life.

This is a must for all fans of the genre. It is an excellent conversion but beware you need patience to complete this. Me? I am off for a quiet game of Speedball or something a bit more relaxing.


Kiwi's Big Adventure...

New Zealand Story logo Zzap! Sizzler

Ocean, Amiga £24.99

Tiki and his friends are in trouble. Right Down Under in the land of geysers and Maoris the lovable kiwi has barely escaped capture by the Big Bad Blue, a large and totally vicious seal from the North. After falling out of the net containing his fellow kiwis Tiki unruffles his feathers and sets off to rescue his friends.

Exploring a distinctly surreal world of platforms, ledges and pits, Tiki is hard-pushed to rescue even one captive. Bluey has left behind minions which must rank as some of the oddest around; cats, killer stars(?), firework-throwing crabs, bears wearing sunglasses and many other, less easily identifiable creatures. Not even the most ferocious of kiwi beak snarling will frighten them off but a bow and infinite arrows sure comes in handy. Weapon-toting nasties leave behind weapon icons when they die - a fireball-casting wand, laser gun, a BIG laser gun, bombs and a handy water squirt provide firepower for this Rambo kiwi.

Tiki may not have to gift to flight but, wearing his smart trainers, our feathered friend can leap onto platforms and cross enormous gaps - well, they're enormous for a Kiwi.

New Zealand Story: Tiki

Tiki's mate is caged somewhere - often high up - within the maze structure of platforms making up the zoo. One way to reach greater heights is to leap up ledge by ledge, but water often bars the way so the Aqualung allows Tiki to do a spot of scuba diving. The other method of gaining height is to hitch a lift in a balloon. Watch out tough, it's a long way down and the spikes at the bottom take no prisoners.

Every fourth level a bonus screen pops up with Tiki taking on ice-dropping whales and suchlike. By progressing to the 20th level Tiki get to meet Big Bad Blue and his balloon.


Paul Rand It's not your normal run-of-the-mill kiwi, is it? Then again, New Zealand Story isn't your normal run-of-the-mill game, as far as quality and attention to detail is concerned. Near-cartoon quality sprite definition and animation, with colour slapped liberally throughout, are complemented superbly by some charming backdrops (I thought the brick walls with the kiwi spray-painted on them was a charming tough!). Bubbly sound effects and tunes add to the enjoyment. I've never spotted New Zealand Story in the arcades but, with this conversion, I don't think I'll ever need to. The best platforms and ladders game to appear for a long time.
Robin Hogg There's something that I found irresistible about the Taito coin-op with its immensely high level of playability and different style of action altogether compared with the mass of shoot-'em-ups - a breath of fresh air which is repeated on the Amiga. The conversion is simply arcade-perfect - the sickeningly cute Tiki is the spitting image of his coin-op brother with gorgeous backdrops to match his character. Sound effects are well implemented, especially Tiki's 'cheeps' when he fires arrows. If anything, 20 odd levels may not seem enough but things are far from easy, by level 3 you'll be sweating buckets and beyond that it's nightmare time. A superb conversion.