Diced carrots time folks...

Rodland logo

STORM * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out September

This game is billed as "So cute it'll make you puke". Hardly one of the most enticing or attractive pieces of copy-writing I've ever encountered. In fact, I think "Milwaukee, home of the serial killer" is a far more inviting, erm, invitation.
So what is this Rodland platform game gubbins all about? Well, it all starts in the fairy village - don't they all? - where something is definitely up. The formerly chummy, pally, dog-foody inhabitants of the village have been possessed by an evil force that was only previously kept in check by the presence of Mom.

The sad thing is that our Mom has been kidnapped by the nasty chap who started buzzing this evil force around in the first place. This, of course, means that none of the wee little furry things that ran around, shall we say, er, fouling, your garden can now resist this force.

They soon become furry freaks that run around angrily messing in your garden as well as trying to kill you. And while all this is going on, poor Mom is locked up at the top of the Maboots tower, screaming and wailing for help.

Of course, anyone called Mom really ought to have some sprogs. She does two as it happens. Tam and Rit are understandably miffed at their Mom being kidnapped.
There is only one solution: they dash off to the Elder to grab his Rainbow shoes and arm themselves with the Rods of Sheesanomo, a gift from their magically inclined father. Now they are fully equipped to go around and wop all the angry furries over the head in an extremely violent, but insufferably cute manner.

These creatures take many forms, from long eared rabbits to poly-morphs that lay out a very long tongue in an effort to catch you, not to mention the boomerang throwing starfish, or the sharks that try to elicit sympathy by crying before you give them the final blow of the three that all creatures must take.

This is slightly misleading, in fact, because you don't hit them but use your rod to pick them up and swing them back and forth over your head banging them against the ground until they disappear. If you're lucky they will turn into a bonus pick up - see details at the top right of this screen.

The pick-ups can range from bonus points to flying bombs and sticks of dynamite, all of which can be used to destroy the creatures for even more points. Strangely enough, Tam and Rit also have a remarkable talent for summoning ladders from thin air. Quite what relevance this magical ability would have in everyday life I'm not sure. It's nearly as useful as a camel that can swim, but in a platform game the benefits are marvelous.

At will, Tam and Rit can summon a ladder to give them access to areas of a platform that may be blocked by the possessed creatures. Or, should the level allow it, they can take a ride on some of the balloons that float up from the bottom of the screen from time to time. The malicious among you will take great pleasure in bursting your companion's balloon in a two-player game.

Every level is full of pretty flowers that, when collected, give a small bonus. If you collect them all before you kill all the creatures you are zapped into a bonus game where every creature left is turned into a radish that runs around in the usual aggressive manner. Every radish that gets bashed relinquishes a little ball that cycles through the letters of the word EXTRA - collect all the letters and you will receive a massive bonus.

This bonus is most useful in two-player games where one player takes the role of Tam and the other Rit. Between fighting for the bonuses and collecting as many flowers as you can, teamwork goes out of the window as the pitched battle for points rages onscreen.

One-player though is nearly as much fun as you dodge, climb and panic your way around the lumbering potato sacks, pathetic sharks and the radishes. Not only do you have the day-to-day style creatures, after every five levels or so you face a really big animal that can be a mutant bull, huge sperm whale (schoolboy humour alert!), or dangerously large crab. What fun it is!

This conversion of the Jaleco coin-op is better than the original, which suffered from being an average copy, gameplaywise, of Bubble Bobble. But this version adds to the gameplay and introduces some nice graphic touches.
These appear when time is beginning to run out on the level: just before where the creatures turn into blue meanies and chase around madly, they find a piece of food and eat it. It is this that turns them into the aforementioned Lennon/McCartney creations.

For example, the rabbit will find a carrot, the monkey a banana and so on. It all adds to the fun and the rest of the graphics match the colourful, though admittedly simple, screens from the coin-op.

Sound is unashamedly stereophonic, collapse on one side of the screen and the sound will come from the corresponding speaker. The playability is pretty good too. It's not too easy to begin with but the 40 odd levels should ensure that you get your money's worth, especially if you get the chance to play it with a friend.

The only down point is that the gameplay might be considered by some to be a tiny weeny bit repetitive, but with the humour, the speed and the mixture of different creatures you soon forget that all you are really doing is building ladders.

Rodland: Zippo icon Rodland: Crystal Rodland: Bomb icon
The Zippo icon gives a massive flame instead of your rod. Extremely useful. This bomb sends a plume of white light in either direction, wiping out everything on your level. The crystal is one of the best, pick it up and it spews out a shower of smaller crystals which destroy anything they touch.
Rodland: Speed icon Rodland: Colourfull ball Rodland: Zippo icon Rodland: Bomb icon
The Speed icon makes you just that little bit quicker. Pick this up and it will send four colourful balls whizzing around the screen killing anything they touch. This bomb sends a plume of white light in either direction, wiping out everything on your level. Run over the bomb and it flies off in the direction you are facing. Be careful not to waste them because anything they destroy gives a bonus.

Rodland logo

It's the attack of the cuteness as Storm try and break their arcade mould and go all soft with fairies, flowers and pretty colours...

Hitting you like a 10 ton Tonka truck speeding out of Toy Town. It's garishly bright, silly to the core and playable in the extreme. It's also the first non shoot-'em-up that Storm have attempted and they seem as well adapted to coding overpowering cuteness as they are unstoppable firepower.

Based on the Jaleco coin-op it's a platform cum maze spectacular, pulling you in fast and putting you through the gaemplay wringer over 44 levels of joystick twisting chaos. It's a tale of fairies, flowers and fearsome foes, but that's not important right now!

Tam and Rit, the two hero fairies, have to dash around each game screen killing monsters and running over flowers to collect them. At their disposal are two magic skills, the first is the ability to conjure up a ladder to reach higher or lower platforms. This allows them to avoid the monster filled ladders that the screen provides and create a personal route to the bonus flowers. The two little tykes can also kill monsters by trapping them, then swinging them over heat and bouncing their bonce on the floor. Bash an enemy three times and they disappear in a shower of bonuses and points. Of course, the fairy folk have to stand still while they kill and that makes them vulnerable to attack.

Chirp and cheerful
It's the graphics that hit your first. They're cheerful to an almost painful degree. Each monster has a cute 'stunned' animation and a downright daft walk. The heroes are no better, wobbling across the screen and winking during loads. The graphics, though, disguise the game, dressing it up as a comic affair, which it most definitely isn't.

The ladders and monsters bashing take some skill to use without endangering the life of the little fairy. You have to time jumps to miss sharks' tears. Trap and bash creatures only when their friends can't sneak up behind and bite you in the head. Profitable play is a matter of priorities, do you want to collect flowers and try for a lives bonus or go for all-out slaughter? If you don't clear a level fast enough the monsters hit Blue Meanie mode, becoming quicker than ever.

Each level has its own tricks, a refinement of the standard techniques that suit that particular layout. The levels become easier once you know where to run and where to hide, but it is never easy. Remember, these are creatures of the cartoon kind and do the most improbable things just when you need it least. This makes new levels even more hazardous than ever, because you have to suss the safe spots out while the screen scrolls up.

Each of the 44 levels get progressively tougher and you move sequentially through them all in a bid to rescue your kidnapped Mom. Every tenth screen is filled with a hugely comic and plain huge guardian which has to be defeated. These spit tiny effigies of themselves out, which have to be killed along with the major nasty. These guardians look too comical to be dangerous, but prove deadly.

There are no passwords or continues so the game forces you to try for the bonuses unless you're very good or very lucky. If all the flowers from a level are collected then the game goes into extra mode, where slain monsters yield the letters "E, X, T, R and A". If you can nab a whole set the level ends and a boss lady fairy gives you bonus points and an extra life.

As Tam and Rit only have the life they're using with two spares tucked away on the score table, long-term play has to feature in these extra bonuses. 44 screens may not sound a lot, but the tight gameplay make it feel more like a 1,000!

Bubble pac
Storm have obviously slaved over Rodland. The machine itself was pretty and used some classic gameplay concepts because it is similar in style to Bubble Bobble and even Pac Man. You have to operate in a small environment, dodging beasties and collecting bonuses that gives you power over them. The arcade was slow though, and featured only 30 odd levels The coders have not only replicated the original in look and spirit, but they've speeded it up and designed some levels of their own to add to the game's life.

Rodland still retains that arcade heritage, it is best played in short insistent bursts. It's no rambling epic, it has one clear objective that will take much waggling skill and memorising of levels to beat. This either weighs in its favour or not, depending on how you like your games. If you're a coin-op pro you'll love it, but probably finish rather quickly. If you're an occasional arcader it'll take longer to conquer but the book won't be as strong.

Rodland delivers. Full colour cuteness in overdrive, great game design and a real sense of fun! With the two fairies working to clear a level, but competing for the extra bonuses it's a hectic brand of chaos that pays dividends. The 44 levels do prove to be a little short, but if you're after crispy, cutesy coin-op entertainment, then look no further.

Rodland logo

Plattformspiele von der niedlichen Sorte gibt es am Amiga gar nicht so viele, wie man meinen sollte: Auf Oceans "Rainbow Collection" ist ja fast schon alles versammelt, was in diesem Genre Rang und Namen hat. Nachschub ist da immer willkommen - auch wenn es sich nicht unbedingt um einen Klassiker von morgen handelt...

Tam and Rit sind zwei kleine Feen, denen ein böser Wicht einfach die Mami geklaut hat. Verständlicherweise sind die zwei Süßen deswegen ziemlich sauer, weshalb sie sich auch ihre Leitern und Zauberstäbe schnappen, um damit ins gefährliche Plattform-Land aufzubrechen.

Dort warten schon viele gemeine Monster und noch gemeinere Schlußmonster, aber auch ungemein hübsche Blumen auf sie. Die Blümchen müssen gepflückt werden, die Monsterchen verdroschen (mit den Stäbchen), und die Leiterchen brauchen sie, damit sie auf die Plattförmchen klettern können. Unsere Schnuckelchen können nämlich vorzüglich rennen, aber kein bißchen hüpfen, und da nicht genügend Leiterchen herumstehen, haben sie ihre eigenen mitgenommen - raffiniert, was?

Erwartungsgemäß verwandeln sich viele der Gegner (nachdem sie Haue gekriegt haben) in Extras, und die unzähligen versteckten Räume sind zwar schön, heutzutage aber auch nix Besonderes mehr. Es ist halt alles so ähnlich wie bei "New Zealand Story", "Rainbow Islands" und Konsorten - nur um einiges simpler gestrickt.

Grafik und Sound sind so zuckersüß, daß man fast Karies davon bekommt, die Steuerung ist völlig unproblematisch, und der Schwierigkeitsgrad eher ein Leichtigkeitsgrad. Was die Action-Spezialisten von Storm ("SWIV") hier abgeliefert haben, ist also bestimmt kein Muß, aber auch immerhin auch kein Bäh. (mm)

Rodland logo

After experiencing the 'anti-cute' in Brat, Storm now offer an arcade conversion which is billed as 'so cute it'll make you puke'. Yes, but is it any good?

'So cute it'll make you puke', eh? This sounds like a job for a man with a strong stomach, the kind of guy who can play Beast Busters for hours without getting even a little bit squeamish, someone whose idea of a relaxing afternoon is one spent playing Life & Death, taking people's kidneys out for kicks. Inconveniently though, Colin's on holiday this week so I've got to do it instead.

Rodland is a conversion of a Japanese coin-op by Jaleco, although it's not one that's been seen much in this country. It's a simple and rather old-fashioned arcade game, where the only real objective is to massacre screen after screen of baddies.

In fact, what it is is nothing so much as an updated version of Universal's ancient classic Mr Do's Castle. Now, before you all (well, the four of you who actually remember Mr Do) write in complaining that it's nothing like it at all, I'm referring here more to the style, structure and mechanics of the gameplay than saying it's the same game. Nonetheless, if you've played Mr Do the feeling of familiarity is almost overpowering. Still, we're not here to get bogged down in technical irrelevances, so let's find out what else there is to see on a trip to Rodland...

Skipping past the usual 'Rescue Mom/Dad/Grandpa/Champion The Wonder Horse from the Evil Depraved Meanies' plot-line, what we have here is 40 or so screens of platforms and ladders, all infested with meanies which have to be purged by the game's twin heroines, Tam and Rit.

Despite being a couple of fairies they're no soft touches. They deal with the baddies by catching them on the end of their magic rods (ouch) and then smashing them side to side against the floor until they die. It all looks not a little like something from a Tom And Jerry episode, and it's one of the grooviest methods of meanie-despatching I've seen since Bubby and Bobby's magic rainbows in Rainbow Islands. If the monsters aren't dealt with quickly, they get angry and rush around after Tam and Rit. Our chums will find themselves in big trouble if they don't get their tutus in gear.

a pure arcade game with absolutely no pretensions of depth

Luckily, Tam and Rit have another trick up their sleeves to help them out, in the shape of the magic rainbow ladders which they can use to create a quick shortcut between platforms, or just to climb up out of the way of the nasties. Also, when some baddies are killed they leave behind an extra weapon of some kind (a rocket or bomb or somesuch) which can be used against the remaining enemies. This, it has to be said, is a particularly satisfying way of getting rid of the little beggars.

The remaining item in Tam and Rit's arsenal is connected to the little flowers which grow on every screen. If they can pick up all of the flowers, the monster turn into turnippy-looking things, which when bashed reveal the letters E, X, T, R or A.

Collecting all the letters completes the current level instantly, and also nets an extra life (courtesy of an extremely cute fairy with funny ears), something which is all the more important when you note that Rodland doesn't have a credits system. When all your lives are lost, it's Game Over, and that's that. Which suits me fine.

So now you know what to do. But is it worth doing? You bet your life it is. Like R-Type II a couple of months ago, this is a pure arcade game with absolutely no pretensions to depth whatsoever and I love it to death.

The gameplay is simple but compulsive, the controls are natural and instinctive, the graphics are cuter than the cutest thing ever, with a bit more cuteness on top, and... I could give you a shopping list of its good points all day. Mind you, since I can't think of any bad points right at the moment, I'd better keep at it for a while until I can come up with some.

a perfect arcade-like experience

Rodland isn't a perfect arcade conversion - it's better than that. Storm's programmers have added a few neat little touches of their own to this accurate conversion of the game, but nothing that affects the gameplay. For example, just before they get to the 'angry' stage, many of the baddies will perform a little animated trick of some kind, like when the rabbits find and eat a tiny carrot. The squirrels, in particular, have a very definite character to them - if you stun but don't kill them, they sit up and shake their heads, and just for a second a mean, determined look comes over their lovely furry little faces. In a game that's already dangerously cute, stuff like this threatens to push the needle on the cute-o-meter right off the scale, but it's always on the right side of the fine dividing line between adorably sweet and annoyingly twee.

Tam and Rit's method of defence is superbly versatile, too. Not only can you kill a baddie by biffing it around, you can also use it to whack and stun other ones which might be attacking at the time. You can flip baddies over your head just to get them out of your way (if, for example, you want to get past a monster to reach some flowers, but without killing it, so you can get a letter from it later), or you can sneakily deposit them right on top of the other player in a two-player game, in an attempt to get your opponent killed and bag all the points and glory for yourself (ha!).

And then there's the general presentation, which is faultlessly slick throughout, creating a perfect arcade-like experience. Generally then, this is a flawless arcade game, strongly reminiscent of the Mr Do games, but then that's no bad thing in my book. Rodland looks gorgeous, it sounds gorgeous, and it plays like the kind of dream people usually write worried letters to agony aunts about, wondering if they're unconscious perverts. And if you don't like this, you probably ARE some kind of unconscious pervert. Lack of depth? Get a life.

Rodland: Lobster
A lurking lobster with his extending claw.
Rodland: Monkey
The mad monkey just runs about the place.
Rodland: Rabbit
Rabbid rabbits make a bee-line for carrots.
Rodland: Shark
Shifty sharks cry killing tears.
Rodland: Snake
The slippery snake is, erm, bloody slippery.
Rodland: Squirrel
Sly squirrel, erm, shakes his head a lot.

Rodland logo CU Amiga Screenstar

'Even though it isn't as technically advanced as, say, Afterburner, it's still a tricky conversion,' claims Rodland programmer Ronald Pieket Weeselik. 'In a game such as this the gameplay is all-important and if it gets messed up, then the entire game is ruined'.

Bearing this in mind, it makes his conversion of the Jaleco coin-op even more impressive. What Ronald has done is integrate all of Rodland's original features and plus points with a series of gameplay and graphical improvements.

'The original game was good, but I felt that some areas could have been refined to aid the playability,' Ronald continues. 'For instance, the original machine allowed you to bump the creatures in mid-air and still kill them. That went for starters along with a few quirks.'

In case you aren't familiar with Rodland and its many intricacies, it is the tale of two cute woodland fairies, Tam and Rit, who are on a multi-screen mission to rescue their mum from the clutches of the bull-like Maboot.

This bovine baddy is obviously a BSE sufferer, and has holed the twins' mother in a castle deep within his lair and filled the surrounded area with mutant wildlife.

In a typical rubbish Japanese scenario, the twins set out to rescue their mum by traversing the forty-one screens standing between them and Maboot - the first major enhancement to the original's gameplay. The coin-op boasted just thirty stages so Ronald added a few more of his own invention, and the second large improvement is noticeable in the odd assortment of creatures which patrol each stage.

The layout of each screen follows a more or less identical pattern throughout the game. Each is made up of a series of platforms and ladders, and scattered on these are the aforementioned enemy sprites and little posies of flowers.

'My main problem was adding artificial intelligence to ehe enemy sprites,' says Ronald, 'as the coin-op characters didn't have any.'
This new intelligence that the enemy sprites have been blessed with becomes more and more apparent as the levels progress.

Starting as deadly but aimless Corn Cobs and lop-eared Bunnies before the ranks of what appears to be sabre-toothed Colons and spitting Sharks join in the fun, they meander all over the screen, climbing the odd ladder and falling off the edges of platforms.

Coming into contact with these misshapen wood-=dwellers results in the loss of one of Tam or Rit's three lives - as can be expected, though, they aren't unarmed and this is where the titular Rods come into play.

At the start of the game, a little introductory sequence sets the scene with Tam and Rit given 'the Rods of Sheesanomo' and a pair of magic boots, both of which are activated within the game using the fire-button, the former used as a weapon, and the latter which effects a magic ladder that can be used repeatedly.

Whenever a nasty gets too close for comfort, pressing the fire-button activates the infamous Rod and hitting fire again sends the ensnared creature slamming into the ground in a manner not dissimilar to the Droopy cartoons.
Three bashes are all that's needed to kill the hapless nasty, and they can also be used to fend off the unwanted attentions of other creatures.

However, as mentioned, the creatures can only be bashed against solid ground to kill them. 'It would be ridiculously easy, otherwise,' says Ronald.

Easy, though, isn't the word I'd use to describe Rodland. Each level is choc-a-bloc with dozens of fast-moving creatures, which Ronald has endowed with their own personalities and traits. There are snakes, for instance, that launch themselves at your heroes at full pelt when they catch sight of them, and boomerang-lobbing starfish who really do have to be seen to be believed.

In addition, later levels combine a puzzle element which requires just as much use of the old gray matter as it does of the reflexes, and these ensure the game's lasting appeal will hold out.

The only way to complete a screen is to empty it of its scurrying occupants, but there are a number of ways to achieve this. Simply killing everything onscreen is the quickest method, but along the way a wide range of bonuses and goodies can be had. For instance, by collecting all of the flowers which brighten up the platforms, the enemy are transformed into beetroot-like things which, when killed, reveal the letters of the word EXTRA.

When collected, these are then stashed away in the score panel to the right of the play area until the whole word is completed and a Bubble Bobble-esque extra life screen appears. As with the Taito classic, if a nasty is left to its own devices for too long, it mutates into an errant cloud and starts whizzing around the screen at a far greater pace.

This pattern of screen clearing is repeated untila larger 'Boss' creature appears every ten or so levels. Ronald made another worthwhile addition here, as the coin-op's mid-stage guardians followed a random pattern and this made play both frustrating and unrewarding.
''Although there is a rough pattern,', he says, 'I expanded these patterns slightly to make them easier to spot, yet I have also tried to avoid making them too easy - after all, who wants a game they can complete in an hour?'

The bosses include a family of spitting crocodiles and a trapezing elephant, and all are killed in the time-honoured method of hitting them until they keel over, but, as Ronal promised, each creature has a particular weakness or pattern which, if exploited, will lead to their downfall a lot faster.

I really do find Rodland hard to fault, both as a conversion and as a stand-alone game. Not only does it ape the coin-op perfectly - even down to the introductory and mid-game scenes, cutesy sound effects, and the addictive playability - but it also add to it as well.

The later stages sport balloons which can be used to access the higher levels and extra weaponry, and these add a little extra zest to an already superb game.

In addition, Ronald has actually looked at the coin-op's faults and improved on them, creating a rounded and playable conversion. It's almost two games in one, and you can't fault that value for money. If there's ay justice this should fly up the software charts.

THE LAND OF ROD... Although it looks as if Rodland's play area has been reduced, Ronald insists no reductions have been made.
'The orignal coin-op screen was 286 pixels across,' he says, 'and the Amiga screen is 320 across. The only reason the coin-op looks different is because the pixels are larger. Luckily, though, I think that the extra pixels I have been afforded give the game a higher-resolution look than the coin-op'.

During the course of the conversion, did anything have to go?
'In terms of gameplay, no. Obviously, the colour palettes had to be changed as each coin-op sprite has its own palette of sixty-four colours, and there's no way the Amiga could handle this so they were all done within sixteen colours,' says Ronald.

So what's Ronald's next job? 'I don't know yet,' he says. 'I'd like to experiment with 3D sprite-shifting and create a good game within that game structure, but I honestly don't know what I'll be working on next'.

Rodland logo

Ben Caudell was rather intrigued at the thought of The Sales Curve's Rodland. Was it about the antics of Rod 'Sexy' Stewart? Was it about Rod 'Emu' Hull's exploits? Or was it all about Rodney 'Plonker' Trotter from Only Fools and Horses? Well, er... it wasn't about any of them, actually...

Rodland isn't about anyone called Rod at all (shame!) The rod in question is the fabled 'Rod of Sheesanomo', given to fairies Tam and Rit to help them save their kidnapped mother. She's been imprisoned at the top of a tower for no reason, other than that she has green hair! Tam and Rit have crazy-coloured hair too (pink and blue respectively - yummy).

The multi-coloured brother and sister partnership have to work their way to the top of the tower, defeating large numbers of deceptively cuddly-looking nasties on the way up. You have to get past monkeys, lobsters with claws, Japanese starfish who throw boomerangs and, best of all, the Viz-like pathetic sharks who start to cry when you hit them with the rod. That's what the rod's for, you see - bashing these crap nasties around with.

Press the fire button when you're next to one to trap it, then keep hitting fire to toss it backwards and forwards over your head, slamming it on the floor until it rather pleasingly goes splat!

The rod isn't Tam and Rit's only exciting piece of equipment - each of them also has a pair of cunningly-fashioned rainbow boots which allow the wearer to create a ladder between platforms. Killing off certain nasties leaves bombs and missiles that explode, killing even more of them, while all the time you collect bonus points for picking up pretty little flowers. Aaaaah, how sweet!

Amiga review

Ben: The one thing that you can't deny about Rodland is that it's cute - cute with a capital C (and a capital U, T and E).

Although Rodland is basically 'just another platform game', the super-sweetness of even the most devilish of the baddies gives the game that little soupcon of something special. In this respect, The Sales Curve have actually improved on the Jaleco coin-op Rodland is converted from - the characters all have their little quirks, with chickens that find worms and slugs that stick their tongues at you!

There's more levels than the coin-op, with forty screens to go through, each with a colourful backdrop and even more cuddly but potentially deadly creatures out to get you.

And every so often you will come across a huge beastie - the enormous elephant that swings on a trapeze while spitting smaller elephants at you springs to mind - which tends to slow your progress a bit, but with that magic 'Rod of Sheesanomo' in your greasy palms you can make short work of most things that come your way. With the help of 'a chum', you can gang up on the nasties when playing in simultaneous two player mode, to dispatch them even more rapidly!

While Rodland is 'just another platform game', it's not a bad one - especially when played in two player mode. It's rather fun to play and yes... it's super-cutesy-wootsy!Stop