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Dominoes abound in Ocean's latest platform puzzler. But does it live up to the hype? Follow GI Ant on the trail of Colin Curly's fave cheesy snacks.

Once there was a little old ant, Thought he'd move a rubber tree plant, Anyone knows an ant can't, Move a rubber tree plant, But he had high hopes, Yes he had high hopes, High in the sky, apple pie hopes...

High hopes and a lot of determination are what you're going to need, especially if you want to crack Ocean's latest, Push-Over. Colin Curly of Quavers fame and GI Ant team up to bring you cheesy flavour crisps, high-profile television adverts and now a cutesy platform game for your Amiga. Now that you've been taken in by the hype and have parted with your hard-earned cash, was it worth it? You will be pleasantly surprised to find out that this particular combination of marketing strategies does work as a game. It's nice to know that big sponsorship deals don't have to mean duff games.

Colin has done his usual trick and totally freaked out over the total cheesiness of his favourite crisp. In the mayhem that ensued he lost his quavers down the one and only anthill that's around (hands up who out there hasn't done exactly the same with their car keys down a gutter). Help is at hand in the form of Colin's little soldier ant friend, who has volunteered to brave the depths of the hill to find his mate's crisps (smacks a bit of product placement, doesn't it?).

GI Ant, without even a tiny glimmer of fear, dives straight into the opening, ready to risk life and limb for his pal. Little did either of them know of the parallel universe that existed right beneath their feet, Domino Domain. And what does he find down there? Dominoes, that's what, hundreds upon hundreds of the little yellow bricks.

So any time you're getting low
As anyone who's seen the Guiness Records will remember, the Japanese have a fetish for setting up dominoes in wild and wacky ways. Teams spend months designing and setting up their thousands of coloured dominoes, so that when one gets pushed over, all the others fall and make pretty patterns on the floor. Well worth it... not! However this sparked off a passion for such things that culminated in the creation of the most obscure toy in history, Domino Rally (ask your dad if you can't remember it).

The basic aim in Push-Over is to set up your blocks in a certain way, so that when you make your one-and-only push, all the dominoes will topple. The trigger block, distinctively patterned with three red stripes, should fall last. If all dominoes were alike, it would be a dull world to live in and, guess what, they're not. The yellow blocks are differentiated by red stripes and diagonals, each pattern representing different attributes, including tumblers, which seem to have mastered the art of perpetual motion, ascenders, which appear to have never heard of the law of gravity, and exploders that, well... explode.

Instead of letting go
Those who like their games to do more than make pretty noises when you kill big blue aliens will love Push-Over. It introduces you gradually to the ideas behind the gameplay, then slowly builds up to levels that could push the self-destruct button in your brain. The whole aim is to collect the ten packets of cheesy-flavoured snacks that Colin lost, which you get every 10 screens or so. But, to tell the truth, when you get further into the game, merely completing a level (Quavers or no Quavers) is reward enough.

Push-Over comes on two disks, not that the game is so complex it needs the space, but because an amusing intro sequence takes up most of the space on the first floppy. Admittedly, the animation and bluesy sound track would take pride of place in the demo section of Amiga Format, but when you've seen it, you've seen it, and it's pretty unlikely that you'll want to sit through it again. Unfortunately, you can't skip the intro. That's understandable when you consider the sponsorship deal but it's still a little frustrating when all you want to do is solve the puzzles.

Just remember that ant
It is tempting to put Push-Over in the same bracket as the classic Lemmings. Both need careful planning ahead and split-second timing to master. One of the most noticeable differences is, of course, that dominoes don't move along with cute bouncing blue hair. Push-Over is a puzzle game unlike any we've ever seen before, original ideas and a lot of elbow grease have gone into making an addictive product.

We thoroughly enjoyed putting Push-Over through its paces and won't be shoving it to the back burners until we've eaten our way through thousands of packets of those very curly Quavers. Although we may turn the sound down after a while.

Whoops there goes another rubber tree plant...

Clare Hodgson With a little help from Sammy Cahn and Jimmy van Heusen


YOUR GUIDE TO 'BREAKING THE WORLD DOMINOES RECORD, WHILE DRINKING A PINT OF GUINESS'

Still not got the picture? Well here's a run through of one of the levels with bridgers, tumblers and ascenders to boot.

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So let's start from the very beginning. It's a very good place to start. But which blocks to move where?

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The first thing is to move the normal plain yellow block out of harm's way. We'll come back to it later.

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Next place the ascender (with one red vertical stripe) right next to the three-striped trigger domino.

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Put the normal domino in position behind the Vanisher (two horizontal stripes) and push.

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Stand watching while the ascender starts the thumbler rolling off the platform to hit the stopper below.

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The tumbler turns and knocks the bridger (one horizontal stripe), then finally we're home.

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You've only got one push per screen, so make sure you use it well. But if you cock up a screen you can try, try and try again, from the beginning, as many times as you like.
LEFT: A splitter domino splits into two when hit by a falling block - bloomin' useful when there's a block on either side of it.
RIGHT: A Tumbler will defy the laws of momentum and keep on tumbling until it is stopped by a fallen block or turned around by a red stopper.



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Ocean, normalerweise auf Filmversoftungen und knallharte Actionspiele abonniert, ist plötzlich und unerwartet ins Müsli-Lager übergewechselt: Das aktuelle Knobelgame wurde doch tatsächlich von einem namhaften englischen Frühstücksflocken-Hersteller gesponsert!

Die putzige Tüftelei umweht ein Hauch von "Lemmings" was sich bereits beim kurzen, aber sehr hübsch gemachten Trickfilm-Intro zeigt, aus dem auch die Hintergrundstory zu erfahren ist:

Dem Cartoon-Köter Colin Curly ist der gesamt Vorrat an Cornflakes Marke "Quavers" abhanden gekommen, all die feinen Flöckchen sind durch ein Loch zur Dominowelt hinunter gefallen. Glücklicherweise ist sein Ameisenfreund "G.I. Ant" schon zur Stelle, um das Zeug zurückzuholen - heldenhaft stürzt er sich in die hundert, mitunter recht kniffligen Level...

Die kleine Ameise ist netterweise mit unendlich vielen Bildschirmleben ausgestattet und muß im Prinzip einfach in jedem Abschnitt alle herumstehenden Dominosteine umwerfen. Aber natürlich hat die Sache ein bis zwei Haken: Sie sollte das mit einem einzigen, herzhaften Stoß schaffen, außerdem muß ein ganz bestimmter Stein als letzter fallen. Das klappt freilich nur mit dem bekannten Domino-Effekt, der wiederum voraussetzt, daß sämtliche Steinchen richtig plaziert sind.

In der Praxis ist man daher hauptsächlich mit dem Ausknobeln der korrekten Fall-Ordnung beschäftigt, schließlich müssen die Klötze auch noch entsprechend umgestellt werden.

Gleichzeitig erleichtert und erschwert wird das Unterfangen durch neun verschiedene Sondersteine, die beispielsweise explodieren, sich teilen, Abgründe überbrücken, eisern stehen bleiben oder nach oben fallen. Diese tollen Teile sind farblich besonders markiert, ein jederzeit einblendbarer Infoscreen klärt Vergeßliche über ihre Funktionsweise auf.

Am Levelende erhält man dann den Paßcode für einen späteren Direkeinstieg (sogar ein Merkblatt zum Eintrafen der Codes liegt in der Packung) und ein "Token", mit dem sich einzelne Abschnitte überspringen lassen, die man gar nicht, oder zumindest nicht innerhalb des recht großzügig dimensionierten Zeitlimits schafft.

Die putzige Grafik ist nett anzusehen, vor allem der ungemein süß animierte Ameisen-Held zieht die Blicke auf sich, obwohl er nur wenige Millimeter größer als ein Lemming ist. Sound und FX sind dafür bloß durchschnittlich, ganz im Gegensatz zur ausgezeichneten Steuerung, die per Stick oder Tastatur gleichermaßen überzeugt.

Bliebe nur noch die allesentscheidende Frage nach dem Suchteffekt von Push - Over. Nun, einerseits ist das Teil originell und eingenständig, andererseits vermag es ähnlich stark zu fesseln wie der leicht artverwandte Psygnosis-Knüller.

Wenn es dennoch nicht ganz für einen absoluten Spitzenplatz reicht, dann einzig und alleine deshalb, weil der Schwierigkeitsgrad durch die vielfältigen Hilfestellungen und die Unsterblichkeit des Hauptdarstellers auf Anfängerniveau absackt - aber die werden begeistert sein! (rf)



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Ocean's first original puzzler in years is this odd platform/dominoes mongrel. But is it ant-astic?

An Ocean game without a high profile established months before release? Without a six month build-up of stylish advertising? Without umpteen work-in progress features? In other words, an old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness, hype-free original game? Well, no, not quite.

You see, Pushover may have been a bit hugh-hush up until now, but a tie-in with Quaver (you know, the crisp things promoted by a bulldog called Colin with the voice of Lenny Henry) resulting in a half-million pound TV ad spend is certain to change all that. (Well, it worked for Mario and Walkers crisps).

Oh great, you could be forgiven for thinking at this point, another of those half-baked cartoon game things, but this time featuring the dubious delights of Curly Colin, and maybe some digitised speech from our Lenny.

Well, no actually - the TV hero only really enters into it during the intro sequence and on the occasional animated rest screens which offer the brain a bit of R&R. (The Quaver packs themselves have a slightly higher profile, actually appearing in the game themselves. Well, occasionally).

No, the real hero of Pushover - the character the player controls - is, in fact, an ant (an escapee from Ocean's new Sim game, presumably), whose task it is to help Colin find his missing Quavers. And if he seems to have next-to-nothing to do with the famous curly snacks, wait until you see the basic game itself - a sort of arcade puzzle game featuring platforms, ladders and lots of toppling blocks.

Imagine Lemmings crossed with dominoes and you won't be far out - the more you look at the game, the more obvious it becomes that Ocean had this scheduled for release anyway, and the Quaver connection is very much an (admittedly welcome) last minute add-on. Still, if it gets the game on TV.

DOMINO DANCING
If I as the kind of reviewer who went on to explain exactly how the game works at this point, I'd tell you something like this. For a start, I'd let you know that the screens are littered with various types of domino, which, when pushed by another domino, react in assorted different ways.

And I'd tell you that your task in the game is to topple all the dominoes on the screen by moving them about the place a bit (your ant can carry one domino at a time) and then knocking them all over in one go, against a time limit of course.

And since, of course, I am that kind of reviewer, I'll also go on to say that otherwise impossible looking screens are in fact do-able only because some dominoes actually defy gravity (when hit, they will rise until they bash into the underside of a platform above), while others will explode, leaving a hole in the platform on which they stand. Others split into two dominoes, some simply disappear, while one type continues rotating along the platform, instead of simply toppling over. Thankfully a chart of the various domino types can be called up at any time to remind you of what they all are.


A pretty groovy little puzzler

All clear? No? Then let me talk you quickly through a sample screen. The objective, you see, is to knock over the target or 'trigger' domino (one with three horizontal stripes - so called because it triggers the exit) you see somewhere on the screen - and within a time limit. The fact that this must be the last domino hit (and no other may be still moving or left standing) and that, unlike the other doms, the target domino can't be moved about the screen at all, adds extra complications to an already complex game.

Completing the screen in the specified time (it varies between screens - the final one gives a ten minute countdown) results in the player being awarded a token. These tokens can then be used to advance a level when you find one too tricky. Completing a screen outside of the time limit means either repeating the exercise or using a token to get any further.

DOMINO THEORY
What we've got, then, is a game which relies on cause and effect. As only one domino push is allowed per screen, the bulk of the game sees you chasing around the platform and ladder networks, attempting to guess how each domino's fall will affect the next one, and shifting them about to get them to fall as you intend.

All that's left to do, then, is select a domino to set the chain reaction in motion, hope for the best, and run for the exit. (Or that's true most of the time - in reality, some screens complicate things further by making you move some dominoes after the chain reaction has been initiated. Speed then becomes paramount).

Of course, most of us are too thick t work out how each screen will work out in our heads all the time - in reality, play often throws pre-planning out of the window, replacing it with hunches, guesswork, and blind trial-and-error/suck-it-and-see tactics. After a few frustrating screens, the concept of Chaos theory seems that much more familiar...

QUAVERING HEIGHTS
Decision time then - is it a hit (hurrah!) or a miss (boo!)? First let me make the obvious comment - yes, Pushover does look a bit like Lemmings, though as you play it the comparison soon retreats from your mind. No, if it really resembles something from Psygnosis, it's their yet-to-be-released Tomato Game. The idea of building up a stream of objects then setting the ball in motion (as it were) is almost identical. (Of course, the execution differs greatly between the games, but the resemblance is there).

That comparison firmly squashed, then, what else can we say about it? Well, I must admit my first reaction to Pushover was something along the lines of 'Oh, is that it?' - it didn't look anything to write home about. A few more plays brought things to the level of 'Mmm, this game's got something'. Then there was the period of 'Pity about the dull graphics and tenuous (and slightly desperate) tie-in. Finally I achieved oneness with it, at which point I attained the level of 'Hey, this is a pretty groovy little puzzler after all'.

Well, alright, it's not exactly a state of nirvana, is it? But then, I don't think Pushover is the sort of game which is capable of doing that. Sure, it's fun. And yeah, it's damned addictive. But Pushover is not a Lemmings, a Populous, or a Monkey Island. It's not an event, a landmark game, a humbling experience. It's just quite groovy, in it's own modest little way.


A TASTE SENSATION

The problem with Pushover is that there isn't a very good connection between pushing dominoes and the Quavers snack. Ocean have obviously pondered this one, and decided the best way to get around the problem is to provide a natty intro sequence which somehow manages to tie-in an ant dominoes games with Colin and his Quavers. It may be silly, and it might be tenuous, but it works - after a fashion - and you can't deny it both looks and sounds (you'll have to take our word on that one) rather groovy.
A picture's worth a fair old number of words though, so let's take a look at that intro sequence in full...

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Here's everyone's favourite person (dog? pig?) called Colin, now in his very own game (sort of). Here's the intro sequence.

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There he is, wandering along, minding his own business, grinning out at the camera and working up a mighty hunger.

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Aha, what have we here but a crunchy Quaver! There's nothing for it - it's time for a quick snack, thinks our Col.

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Wow, talk about a taste sensation! Colin goes all wobbly, knocked over by that incredible Quaver flavour!

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But what's this? A dimunitive Quavers fan realises that help is needed, and gets ready to dart to the rescue.

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Phew! Caught Col just in time, but - oh no! - the pack of Quavers has fallen down their hole. Cue the game...


IT AIN'T NO PUSHOVER

Here we are at level 89 of the game's 100 levels. Surprising, then, to find it's so easy...

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  1. This is where it all started. Our ant pushed this one solitary domino - time to cross your fingers and hope...
  2. Here we can see the domino effect in, um, effect. The tumbling will continue in both directions along the platform, with one block toppling down onto the platform below to the left there.
  3. The timer - always counting down (unless you use the crib screen - see below). The time allowed varies from screen to screen.
  4. The dominoes here need to be transported to the area below, so that the chain reaction will continue to the target domino (hidden behind the bottom of the ladder). The fact that the sequence will topple these dominoes if left here means time is of the essence (as they say).
  5. The hero of Pushover is this ant. A tad small and indistinct, isn't he?


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PUSHOVER out now from Ocean on Amiga/ST, £25.99 and PC, £29.99

DUNCAN MACDONALD reviewing a puzzle game? Well, it was a bit of a PUSHOVER (from Ocean).

AmigaPushover is all about dominoes. You control a little person who enters a screen through one door, picks individual dominoes up, moves them around, outs them down again in different places and then gives one of the dominoes a shove. If things have been well planned, all the dominoes will fall over, allowing the little person to leave by the second door.

Sounds very easy, doesn't it? Well, to make things more 'interesting', there's a timer ticking away, but the time limits are 'overly generous' to say the least.

I have to admit that Pushover gets much too hard much too quickly for me. Okay, I may not be the cleverest member of the human race, but the Pushover learning curve has got a giant concrete wall sticking out of the top. It's whether you can pass this hurdle or not that'll make the game either infuriatingly addictive or infuriatingly infuriating.

It's that simple really, because the presentation is great, and the proceedings flow along at a nice chugging pace. In fact, Pushover has a similar feel to Lemmings, and it even looks and sounds a bit like it.

So there you go. If you know that you love this sort of game, and that as far as you're concerned the harder they are the better, you'll be at it for months.


LEVEL ONE - IT'S A CINCH
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First of all, you get your little chap to pick up domino A and move it to position X. Then you return back to your original position and knock over domino B. This will result in all the dominoes going down. There's something you should know about domino K - see it's got three stripes? That's because it's the Trigger Domino - it has to be the very last domino to topple, or you don't progress to the next level.

DOMINO LINE-UP

There are ten types of domino in all, and they all look slightly different. Here's a quick run through of the things they do - their 'special powers'.

STANDARD
Push Over You've seen it all before, it just falls over, a bit like Oliver Reed at two o'clock in the morning.

TUMBLER
Push Over This one just keeps on keepin' on, head over heels. It only stops when it hits something, and then it starts going the other way.

BRIDGER
Push Over Got a gaping hole in one of your platforms? Not after this has toppled onto it you haven't.

VANISHER
Push Over Ping! This one magically disappears when you touch it.

STOPPER
Push Over These little chaps are just blockers really - they're there to stop other dominoes falling over, and don't need to be toppled themselves.

SPLITTER
Push Over If any domino falls directly onto the top of this one, it'll 'split' into two. One half will fall one way, the other half will fall the other way.

ASCENDER
Push Over If this is hit, it rises vertically and so can trigger the toppling of dominoes on higher platforms.

EXPLODER
Push Over Topple this one and it will explode, blowing a small hole in the platforms on which it stood. The domino which knocked it over will then fall through this hole.

TRIGGER
Push Over Now here's what it's all about. This is the one you want to fall over last. If it tipes over too early (or doesn't fall over at all, for that matter), it's 'have an other go' time.

DELAY
Push Over This takes a second or so to fall over. And as timing can often be crucial, it's worth its weight in gold.