Sleepwalker logo Gamer Gold

After the disastrous WWF 2 and Cool World, Ocean are back with the quite literally charidee-tastic Sleepwalker. Zzz zzz zzz...

There is a certain air of mystery about Ocean. One minute they will put out the most unbelievable pile of second-rate trash that you have ever seen in your life, next they'll put out a totally original and brilliant piece of software that makes you rub your eyes in disbelief.

Sleepwalker is in aid of Comic Relief and due to the massive publicity and the fact that every computer gamer you know will want it, Ocean can't afford to put out a stinker this time around, otherwise they'll be off down the dole office before you can say "charidee".
The year is 1993 and the mass media has found the computer game. Almost every major newspaper has a computer column, but they also run dodgy stories about computer games causing epilepsy and that they can turn your kids into mini Hannibal Lecters. Pretty sensational stuff, but scaremangering nevertheless.

Turn on your TV and you'll find computers mentioned. Whether it's the king of the double entendre Dominik Diamond - or Andy Crane, the man with the cast iron hairdo, you can't escape them.
Pop, TV and film stars wouldn't be seen dead without their hand-helds when they're out on the town. Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario are slowly becoming international stars, on everybody's lips from eight to 80. Let's face it, computers are the in thing and they're taking over. It's not surprising then, that some bright spark from Comic Relief saw this incredible phenomena and decided to get in on the act. Not a bad idea seeing as computers are one of the fastest growing markets in the world with billions of pounds spent in the industry every year.

If you buy Sleepwalker, over ß4 will go to help fund projects in Africa and the United Kingdom. It's not a big percentage of the ß25 asking price, but every little amount helps.
Normally Gamer is sent all software for free, but in our case we were feeling rather guilty, so out came the Gamer wallet and we decided to buy it, just so we can say we did our bit.
In Sleepwalker you play the part of Ralph the dog and the idea behind the game is probably the simplest since Space Invaders.

Going walkabout
Lee, your young master, has had been having problems in the sleep department. While he's asleep he decides to go walkabout. Not, this isn't too bad - normally he just walks around his room for a bit and gets back into bed.
This time someone has left his bedroom window open and Lee decides to stroll around town. As his four-legged friend you must save him from all the dangers that await him in the dark streets of, ahem, Kipsville.

As if by chance Ralph has suddenly found himself with super-canine powers. Ralph can not only run, jump and bridge gaps, but he can survive being squashes, run-over by trucks and even roasted.

Ralph might survive all these dangers, but Lee is not quite as indestructible. The idea is not to wake him up or you'll lose a life. At the top of the screen is Lee's sleep bar and whenever Lee is hit or damaged in any way this bar will deplete - when it's fully depleted he will awaken. Things like water will wake him up almost instantly.

The objective is to guide Lee safely through the entire level until you manage to get him out of the exit. Dotted around each level are various icons which will give Ralph or Lee a special ability. For instance, the whopee cushion will make you invulnerable for a time, the novelty ear muffs will replenish the sleep bar, and so on.

Comic collection
Also scattered around the level are five bonus noses. Each nose has a letter on it which when collected will spell the word "comic" and will also let you access the bonus level.

Ralph must run around and collect red balloons. Every 20 balloons generate an extra life. There are also extra icons which, when collected in the correct order, spell out one of the hazards which Ralph, in his dreams, would like to see happen to Lee. For instance, if you collect certain icons in a certain order you can activate a dream sequence, such as the one where Lee comes a cropper with a lamp post.

The graphics are almost like watching a cartoon off the telly. And there's a 1200 version, so that means the graphics and sound will be even better. What lucky people you are! The animation is top notch and the game is actually quite funny.

The introduction and in-between game sequences are brilliant little animations with the sound effects and voices of the characters provided by funny man Lenny Henry. Sleepwalker is definitely the best presented game I have ever seen from Ocean in a long time.

What you're probably saying to yourself is "wait a minute, most Ocean games have good graphics and sound, but are let down by poor playability!" Well don't worry because there's no problem on that front. Everything has obviously been thought through and works as it should.

Sleepwalker is not one of those games you can sit down and progress through level upon level on your first go. The first thing you have to do is get used to controlling Ralph the dog. There are several different things he can do and it's not just a case of going left and right and stabbing fire a couple of times.

You practically need to be in complete control of Lee all the time or you will fail miserably. This means you have to run ahead of him like a, ahem, mad dog and check for hazards and traps - and believe you me there are plenty to check for.

Sleepwalker is my favourite game of 1993 so far. It combines brilliant graphics and sound with cool playability and is very addictive. Hey, it's also an original idea and original ideas impress me a lot, plus, it's all for charity.

Even if it was fairly average I would have thought the British pubic would have bought out of the goodness of their hearts, because for starts it's better than sitting in a tub of baked beans for 24 hours.


Sleepwalker logo

Ocean have had a bad run recently, with the release of Cool World and the appalling WWF 2. But their latest game heralds a return to form, with the help of a dog called Ralph...

If somebody said to you that they had come up with an idea for a game which is incredibly simple, yet maddeningly addictive, it would be difficult to believe them with today's style of games. With the range of platforms games, shoot-em-ups and adventures which flood the games market, it takes a clever mind to think up an original idea.

Sleepwalker, the latest game from ocean, is exactly that sort of game. It has the kind of storyline that makes you kick yourself and shout "why didn't I think of that!". The storyline goes: a boy sleepwalks his way through the major hazards of a city, while you control his dog in an attempt to stop him waking up. If the boy hits an obstacle, he loses some sleep. That's it, the complete story. So why the hell hasn't someone thought of that before?

Anyway, someone has now, so it's too late. It would be a real bummer, though, if the game turned out to be a dog. After all, £4.32 from each sale of the game goes to Comic Relief, so hopefully it will be good enough for you to want to go out and buy it. Fortunately for Ocean, Comic Relief, and you, the prospective buyer, Sleepwalker is actually very good.

Sleeping dogs lie
The sleepwalker in question here is called Lee. His mum carelessly leaves Lee's window wide open at bedtime, and so (of course) he somnabulates his way out of it. On his way he manages to tread on his dog, Ralph, and the faithful hound takes it upon himself to keep Lee from harm.

Lee continues walking and walking until he reaches some kind of danger, and if this danger happens to be, for instance, the edge of a rooftop, a nightclub bouncer or even an open sewer, he will just merrily wade in and take the damage as it comes. As he gets more and more hassle, he loses more and more sleep - and if the little chap awakes from his slumbers you lose a life. Got that so far?

OK, so how does Ralph protect him? Fortunately, he's a big, strong dog who's able to push and kick Lee around without too much effort, and he's also armed with a truncheon (which helps against the bad guys).

Generally, though, Ralph's job is to run around and find the places where Lee is likely to get hurt, and make them safe. The screen's scrolling always follows Ralph around, so it's quite possible to lose track of Lee's position - and this is where the strategic part of the game comes in.

When you run away to disarm the danger, you must always keep an eye on Lee. The way he manages to get himself into trouble is quite amazing - but kind old Ocean have provided an on-screen map to help you along. When you view the map, time stops, so you can have that cuppa or go to the loo.

RED NOSE!
Is life really that simple? 'Course not, silly - the map only displays the places where you've already been, so you're constantly running blind. You have to check all directions - dead-ends, tunnels, sewers - in the hope that you're going the right way. If you really need the map to plan your strategy, you'll have to find a dunce's cap and pick it up - this fills out all the missing pieces of the map.

While we're on the subject of pick-ups, there are several other bits and bobs lying around which will help you on your travels. These include a red nose - extra life, a whoopee cushion - invulnerability, and a custard pie - builds a bridge over water.

Also scattered around each level are five bonus noses. As you collect them, the word COMIC is spelled out on the top right-hand side of the screen - collect them all, and you can enter the bonus level - see 'Give the dog a bone-us'.

Control of Ralph is via a joystick - and preferably one which can cope with diagonals easily. If you walk into Lee face on, you will stop him, carry one, and you'll push him in the other direction. If you're pushing Lee, or any other object for that matter, you can swap positions by pulling down on the stick. Stand behind Lee and press the fire-button, and you'll kick him upwards on to a higher platform. The control method is very simple, but difficult to master - in fact, that statement could easily apply to the whole game, and it's one of the trademarks of a classic.

After playing Sleepwalker for a while, you begin to realise the scale of the game, and also the amount of fun that the creators must have had in putting it together, and playtesting it all. They have obviously got a good sense of humour - when Ralph runs off the edge of a building he hangs there for a while, then looks down, grimaces, yelps and only then does he drop.

Further on in the game you're likely to find him being burned, steamed, electrocuted, squashed, sauteed - you name it, it happens. In case there are any children reading, you needn't worry - Ralph is never hurt, only delayed by these horrible accidents. Other neat touches that endear you to Ralph include the way in which he leans against a wall for a breather when you leave him alone, and his teetering motion when he stands right on the edge of a huge drop.

Yes, comedy abounds everywhere - but then so does cruel humour. The options screen at the start of the game gives you the chance to select either easy or hard gameplay, but selecting easy simply lures you into a false sense of security. The game could never, under any circumstances, be called easy. Don't get the wrong impression, it's not too difficult either - it's a good balance between the two. Anyway, to introduce you to the game a small training level is provided, with arrows and messages on screen to point you in the right directions.

Phew!
Sleepwalker is one of those games that is addictive, testing and madly infuriating when you go wrong. You need to have a quick thinking mind to keep track of Lee while you rush about discovering the danger points. It's not really a case of 'Oy Lee, stay there while I go ahead and sort that trouble out,' because Lee is constantly on the move. He walks quickly, but Ralph is able to jump ahead of him and rush around much faster - so it's all down to your dexterity and concentration.

Sleepwalker is a brilliant mix of arcade, puzzle, strategy and platform styles, but what sets this apart from the rest is that all these elements are mixed together so well that you can't see the join.

The graphics are so good-looking and varied, with excellent use of parallax scrolling, that sometimes it's almost possible to believe that you're taking part in an interactive cartoon.

Games like this don't come round very often: Sleepwalker is original, playable and good-looking, with superb sound effects and music, and large enough to keep you playing for ages - I'm gobsmacked. Buy it, but don't borrow it or steal it - that's cheating. Remember, it's for charity, mate.


RALPH, THE KAMIKAZE STUNT DOG

While chasing after his master, Ralph gets into some extraordinary situations - and each of them are represented by some stunningly cute animations. Falling and leaping are two of the most common, along with being burnt, squashed and electrocuted.

Sleepwalker
He's just hanging around... Ralph makes a brdige so his master can walk all over him.

Sleepwalker
Ralph, being a quality actor, can even make teetering on the edge of a vast precipice look fun...

Sleepwalker
Being pushy is just one of Ralph's many talents. Few canines would be able to handle Lee like this.

GIVE THE DOG A BONE-US

If you manage to collect five red noses from each of the first few levels, you will be transported to one of five bonus levels. Here, you must collect three items which spell out a phrase - which Ralph then uses as a form of revenge on Lee...

Sleepwalker
Aw, this one is easy. All you need to find are a + sign and a - sign, and you're well away. Can you see what it is yet?
HONEY POT - POT + BEE = HONEY BEE
Simple, yes? Now Lee will find himself in a nightmarish situation involving being stung by a bee.

Sleepwalker
Now this one's even easier. Come on, no clues - you must be able to get this one. I'm waiting - right, got it now? The answer is...
ACT + ION + MAN = ACTION MAN
OK, got the hang of it now? Well let's give you one more example, just to be on the safe side.

Sleepwalker
You need to collect the objects in order, with the mathematical signs in-between. In this case, that means collecting...
LAMP + POST BOX - BOX = LAMP POST
Lee will come to a fateful end - but don't worry, it's only in your dreams.

LET ME TAKE YOU BY THE HAND, AND LEAD YOU THROUGH THE STREETS OF KIPSVILLE...

Sleepwalker
Level 1: Kipsville. Leap from roof to roof while walking tightropes and dodging radioactive waste.

Sleepwalker
Level 2: Zoo. Stand on the back of giraffes while observing the interesting flora and fauna.

Sleepwalker
Level 3: Graveyard.. Under no circumstances should you wave your socks in Lee's face.

Sleepwalker
Level 4: Construction Works. Electricity can be dangerous for small dogs and young children.

Sleepwalker
Level 5: Factory. Lee seems to have a passion for furnaces - use all your might to stop him...

Sleepwalker
Level 6: Kipsville returns. Dodge the noisy alley cats, and remember - keep off the grass...



Sleepwalker logo

Obwohl bei Ocean ja immer mit einer Filmversoftung gerechnet werden muß, hat das neue Spiel der Engländder nichts mit dem gleichnamigen Movie nach Stephen King zu tun - schon eher mit "Brat" oder "Lemmings".

Aber auch diese Gemeinsamkeiten beschränken sich auf eine indirekte Steuerung, denn in Manchester wurde diesmal weder abgekupfert noch umgesetzt, sondern eine ebenso eigenständige wie originelle Variante des bekannten Selbstläufer-Themas geschaffen.

Man schlüpft dabei in das struppige Fell von Ralph, einem hochintelligenten Hund, der sein Herrchen Lee sicher nach Hause geleiten muß. Der Titel des Spiels verrät schon den Haken an der Sache - Lee ist Schlafwandler und darf keinesfalls aufwachen, während man ihn an den überall lauernden Gefahren vorbeibugsiert!

Es ist eine geradezu überhundliche Aufgabe, die unser gutmütiger Vierbeiner da auf sich genommen hat, denn die sechs Level sind riesig und führen das ungleiche Paar kreuz und quer durch die ganze Stadt Kopsville mit ihren Wolkenkratzern, Baustellen, dem Zoo und einem Friedhof. Bevor der kleine Schläfer endlich wieder in seinem Bettchen liegt, sind Dutzende von roten Ampeln, dampfenden Abflußrohren, Disco-Türstehern, Drahtseilen, Trampolinen und gähnenden Abgründen zu überwinden.

Gottlob ist Ralph vom Leben auf der Straße so gestählt, daß ihm weder Schlägereien noch giftige Quallen oder tiefe Stürze etwas anhaben können - selbst scheinbar hundertprozentig tödliche Situationen bewältigt der rasende Flohzirkus auf lustige Comic-Weise im Stil von Tom & Jerry.

Während der Traumtänzer Lee einfach immer nur dahinschlurft, bis ihn irgendein Hindernis zur Kehrtwendung überredet, ist der eigentliche Held also gezwungenermaßen hochaktiv: Sobald sein Herrchen mal kurz in sicherem Gelände herumtrödelt, läuft er eilends voraus, um Hindernisse und Gefahren auszukundschaften bzw. aus dem Weg zu räumen. Dann hastet er zurück und dreht Lee in die richtige Richtung, schiebt ihn an oder verpaßt ihm einen Tritt in den Allerwertesten, damit er Stufen, kleine Mauern etc. überspringt.

Außerdem kann das einsatzfreudige Tier Brücken aus (Hunde-) Fleisch und Blut bauen und Gegner mit seinem Knuppel ausschalten. Um dieses immense Pensum zu schaffen, muß Ralph natürlich unheimlich schnell sein - und je länger man den Joystick gedrückt hält, umso schneller wird er. Einerseits ist das zwar sehr praktisch, um nicht zu sagen notwendig, andererseits wird der Bremsweg dadurch manchmal auch gefährlich lang.

Als zusätzliche Hilfe darf der kluge Köter eine Übersichtskarte anrufen, die leider nicht ständig am Screen bleibt, obwohl zumindest ein kleines Radar dort schon sehr nützlich gewesen wäre.

Wirklich nicht gespart wurde dagegen an Extras und Boni aller Art. Einmal gibt es die bekannten Geschichten wie Zusatzleben, vorübergehende Unverwundbarket oder frische (Schlaf-) Energie. Letztere füllt den "Schlümmer-Balken" nach, der den Spieler ständig über die Schlaftiefe Lees auf dem laufenden hält. Der Junge verliert seine drei bzw. fünf Bildschirmleben (je nach gewählter Option) nämlich nicht nur durch simples Sterben, sondern auch durch unzeitiges Erwachen - und jeder Rempler, den er kassiert, führt ihn ein Stück weit aus dem Reich der Träume heraus.

Daneben schwirren noch Extras zur Kartenverbesserung, dem leichteren Brückenbau etc. herum, aber so richtig geht der Punk erst ab, wenn sich aus den aufgeklaubten Buchstaben das Wort BONUS (in der englischen Version COMIC) ergibt. Dann gelangt man in einen Sonderlevel, wo es neben Sammel-Ballons zum Ergattern von weiteren Extraleben auch über 70 Symbole gibt, mit denen sich Ralph selbst eine kleine Freude bereiten kann. Wir wollen keine Spielverderber sein und verraten deshalb nicht, welche Überraschungen Euch da erwarten, aber gelungen sind sie allemal!

Gut, langsam ist's an der Zeit, den Hund aus der Hütte (oder war's die Katze aus dem Sack?) zu lassen - wir schreiten zur Bewertung: Negativ dürften viele den happigen Schwierigkeitsgrad empfinden, was durch das Fehlen von Paßwörtern oder Save-Option noch verschärft wird. Man wird bei einem Lebensverlust meist auch ziemlich weit im jeweiligen Level zurückgeworfen, weil die Stellen für den Wiedereinstieg relativ dünn gesät sind. Kurzum, Ausdauer, Geschick und das richtige Timing sind angesagt, und Fehler sollte man möglichst überhaupt keine machen. Daher kann der mitgelieferte Trainings-Level gar nicht dringend genug empfohlen werden, zumal hier auch wichtige Tips zu holen sind.

Komplimente haben sich dagegen die gewöhnungsbedürftige, ansonsten aber einwandfreie Stick-Steuerung und die Präsentation verdient: Vom Intro über das eigentliche Spiel bis zur Endsequenz wird man grafisch durchaus verwöhnt, noch schöner dürfte freilich die angekündigte Spezial-Version für den 1200er ausfallen (laufen tut aber auch die normale Ausführung auf Commos Jüngstem).

Das multidirektionale Scrolling verrichtet astrein seinen Dienst, und von der Option, die entzückenden Animationen abzuschalten, wird wohl kein Mensch je Gebrauch machen. Zumindest etwas interessanter ist da schon die kleine statistische Auswertung der gezeigten Leistung nach dem Game Over. Okay, die Musik ist eher was für Schlafwandler, und die Sound-Effekte sind selten, dann aber recht witzig.

Unter dem Strich hat Ocean mit Sleepwalker also ein wirklich nettes Spielchen abgeliefert, dem zum Hit eigentlich nur das letzte Quentchen Abwechslung in den höheren Leveln fehlt. Na, denn schlaft und wandelt mal schön - und vergeßt nicht, den Hund zu füttern! (mm)


Sleepwalker logo

In celebration of Red Nose Day, Ocean have a way of getting you to part with cash (for a good cause).

Xerxes, king of Persia, once said on surveying his army, 'I am moved to pity, when I think of the brevity of human life, seeing that of all this host of men not one will be alive in a hundred years' time'. And after a couple of days of playing Sleepwalker, I am beginning to understand how he felt. Because I had an army of Ralph The Dogs instead of the single more or less indestructible one you get here, I would be cruising for an assassination myself in no time. Now I know what you are all thinking. 'Oh bloody hell, what is the useless prat on about now?' Well, it is simple.

What I am on about is that this is a tricky, difficult and frustrating game to play, but I still cannot put it down. Controlling Ralph The Dog on his near-impossible mission to save Lee (The Stupid Kid) from certain Death By Somnambulism, I have had poor Ralph falling under speeding cars, swimming into electric eels, colliding with swinging demolition balls, crushed by industrial steam hammers, getting bitten by poisonous snakes, beaten up by nightclub doormen, turned into a bat by Dracula look-alikes and all manner of other unfortunate mishaps, but every time that he just picks himself up, dusts himself down and sets off bravely again on his appointed task, I cannot bring myself to leave him to manage on his own.

'Manage what?' I supernaturally hear you all cry. Well, it is like this. Lee, the Sleepwalker of the title, is a little boy with a problem. His problem is his predilection for falling out of his bedroom window and wandering in a trance through the streets of his hometown. This is, of course, a Bad Thing, because the streets are, of course, filled with all manner of hazards.


Waking up a sleepwalker is an Extremely Bad Thing

THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT
Bumping into one of the said hazards would almost certainly cause our, er, hero to awaken from his slumbers, and as we all know, waking up a sleepwalker is an Extremely Bad Thing. Looks like Lee is in trouble then.

Ah, well, not necessarily. You see, Lee has a guardian angel. Ralph The Dog, his devoted pet, takes it upon himself to shadow Lee on his nocturnal travels, taking out hazards in his path and gently guiding his sleeping charge in the direction of safety, while all the time taking the utmost care never to wake him up. Of course, this means that Ralph himself more often than not falls victim to the things which would otherwise get to little Lee, but hey - it is a dog's life, don't you know?


It has been excellently put together and it plays dreamily

So there you go, that is the game plan. All this stuff takes place over five scrolling levels, filled with hazards both natural (like water which Ralph can swim through but Lee must not fall into) and not so natural (like weird monsters who will scare the little poppet to death).

There are actually very few enemies as such, most of the game's difficulty coming in guiding Lee through the mazes of platforms. There is plenty of that, though - even in level one you will be cursing and swearing at the little bleeder as Ralph's increasingly-frantic efforts all come to nothing as Lee blindly walks straight into walls and sewers.


You really begin to feel for the poor put-upon pooch

You will need plenty of arcade talent as well as map-reading ability if you are going to make any progress at all in this game, but at least you do get a training level (in the style of Wizkid and Putty) which prints helpful hints on the screen to guide you through a sample stage and let you get the hang of the controls.

Mind you, you ar not going to need much else. There is no depth in the game at all, which means you might well get a bit discouraged by the time you get past the first couple of levels. Sleepwalker does its best to keep you interested by means of bonus levels, little cartoon sequences which you only get to see if you complete enough of the previous level, and lots of funny new bits in each new level, but the basic gameplay does not change all the way through, and the difficulty level might just be enough to put you off before then.

Still, this is all a bit picky, and it does not detract from the enormous fun that you will get out of Sleepwalker. It has been excellently put together and it plays dreamily, and the tone is just right too - you really begin to feel for the poor put-upon pooch, and the dream sequences where he imagines what he would like to see happen to Lee if he was not there to stop it are really sweet. I like this game, and if it can help save a few people from starving to death, then so much the better.


ALL FOR CHARITY?

All of this, of course, is very lovely and heart-warmingly stuff. But just out of sheer Ebenezer Scrooge-type nasty-mindedness. I have been wondering something. Not just me, either - we have had several letters on the subject, and the subject is this. Now it might seem a bit petty, but it strikes me that out of a £25.99 selling price, £4.32 going to Comic Relief seems a bit, well, small. I mean, I remember when Band Aid and all that sort of stuff happened, the big deal was that about 90% of your money went straight to charity, but with Sleepwalker we are talking about just over 16%. Is someone making a killing out of starving babies? To set the record straight, we spoke to Ocean's Gary Bracey.

'The first thing to point out here is that things are happening this way at the insistence of Comic Relief themselves. The reasoning behind their attitude is that if people are doing something for nothing, they are unlikely to make their best efforts. If everyone who gets behind this is still making money from it, albeit at a heavily reduced rate, then the product will do a lot better. A percentage of the profit from a real effort will be at least as good as the total profit from a half-hearted one.

We have never tried to pretend we were breaking even on Sleepwalker. People are still making some money from it, but why shouldn't they? Sleepwalker was not a game specifically designed for Comic Relief, it was a top-quality product that we had already spent two years developing and had high expectations of making lots of cash from.

We could have just re-released Shadow Warriors or come up with a compilation of old stuff, as happened before with Soft Aid, but we put up a really good game that we could have sold normally. The programmers have to eat, we have to pay for our company overheads (incidentally, Ocean pay for ad space for Sleepwalker as normal, but all the money so received by Future is donated straight to Comic Relief. - Ed), the distributors and retailers take their cut, and of course there is £4 in VAT coming off straight away. Everyone is doing this in good faith - we are not releasing anything else at the same time to compete with it, we are not sticking plugs for ourselves all over the game, everyone's margins have really been hammered. And anyway, the more money we make, the more money Comic Relief makes.

At the end of the day, we are hoping to raise at least half a million quid for Comic Relief. The reality of the question is, 'is it better to do it than not to do it?'.



Sleepwalker logo

If you've bought the nose, worn the T-shirt and watched the 24 hour TV show, now's your chance to play the game. Tony Horgan [miserable, stingy old git that he is] donates his right hand to Comic Relief.

Call me a miserable stingy old git if you will, but I used to find all those 24-hour TV charity shows such a drag. Nothing but an endless stream of boy scouts singing 'Ging gang gooly', and bank managers presenting giant cardboard cheques, all to the constant raucous applause of a hyped-up studio audience.

That was before Comic Relief came along and showed us all how it should be done. Swap Judith Chalmers and Michael Aspel for a bunch of the country's best comedians, scrap the boy scouts and replace them with quick-fire comedy sketches, and cut out all that depressing music on the serious bits. The cash they raise speaks for itself. For this year's event, as well as the T-shirts, splats and noses, Comic Relief have teamed up with Ocean to release Sleepwalker. For every game sold, Comic Relief get £4.32.

Yeah, yeah, but the game's bound to be a load of rubbish, right? Being the sceptical sod that I am, that's what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it's actually a pretty good little game.

CARTOON CAPERS
Did you ever see that cartoon, where a bloke gets out of bed one night and starts sleepwalking down the street? His dog has to save him from countless grisly deaths, as he marches obliviously through building sites and across busy roads. The Ocean boys must have seen it, because that's Sleepwalker in a nutshell.

It's a funny old game. Instead of controlling the sleepwalker, you play the part of his faithful hound. It all begins like Jamie and the Magic Torch. Lee, your master, climbs out of bed, steps on his dog, but instead of going for an under-bed adventure (as Jamie would with his magic torch), he strolls straight out of the open bedroom window! Fortunately, he doesn't plummet two storeys to his death, but finds himself on the roof of the house next door. If he had any sense, the dog would just get him back through the window and into bed, but that would be too easy. Instead, he decides to guide him around six life-threatening levels, before eventually getting him back to bed.

As lee is intent on marching around like a brain-dead zombie, you've got to be brutal. You can push him, stop him, or give him an almighty kick up the backside. Apart from that, he's free to wander where he likes. It's not enough though, to just push him from one end of the level to the next. Each level is an assault course of pitfalls and traps, so most of your time is spent clearing the way for Lee.

A NIGHT ON THE TILES
Level one starts on the rooftops of Kipsville, with Ralph desperately trying to stop Lee falling to his death from a four-storey building.

Although you control Ralph, it's Lee's life that you're concerned with - you're invincible. For a little kid, Lee's a pretty rough and ready kind of guy. If you do let him fall off the roof, he probably won't even wake up. Even so, every time Lee walks into a wall, or drops from a height , his sleep-o-meter takes a knock. If he wakes up, you loose a life, as you do if he manages to kill himself.

Leaving him to wander around on his own for a while, you can try to find a route through the level. There are a few places you can leave him marching up and down between two walls. This keeps him safe while you work out how to disable the traps ahead. He's never entirely safe though - constantly walking into brick walls takes its toll.

Water is Lee's worst enemy in the first level. Someone's left the manhole cover off the sewers, and if he drops into the contaminated sludge flowing underground, it's curtains. Other hazards include open skylights, leaky boiler tanks, traffic, and an excitable night club bouncer. You're armed with a baseball bat, which comes in handy for subduing the dog catcher and the bouncer.

Most of the static traps simply have to be avoided. Lee can be kicked over many hazards, including gaps in the platforms. If the gap's small enough, you can make yourself into a human bridge (well, a canine bridge really, but you know what I man).

IT'S NO JOKE
Humour plays a big part in the game. Ralph's animated with a load of exaggerated expressions, not far off the goggle-eyes of Wile E Coyote. He's also given momentum, so if you change direction suddenly, he skids, then turns and runs back the other way. It all helps the comical look, but doesn't do much for the gameplay.

Okay, so Mario skids when he turns round, but Sleepwalker takes the idea a bit too far. If you land just on the edge of a platform, instead of either falling off or staying on it, he spends a few vital seconds flailing his arms around, and then falls off. By this time, Lee could have done himself a mischief, or fallen from the top of the level right back to the start. As you can imagine, it's extremely frustrating to see all your work go down the pan, just because Ralph was too busy being funny.

It's not all bad - far from it. It's the humour that makes the game. Making Ralph immortal was an excellent idea. He could be put through an industrial size meat mincer, and he'd still live somehow!

It would be easy to call Sleepwalker a Lemmings clone. There are a lot of similarities, but here you get much more of a feeling of involvement. The only real problem I can see is the longevity potential. It boils down to a game of trial and error, so you end up going through the motions for each level, until you get to a new section. Despite this, Sleepwalker is a good laugh, and should keep platform addicts amused for a while.


IT'S DOG LIFE

Sleepwalker
...zapped by blobs of radioactive waste...

Sleepwalker
...beaten up by night club bouncers...

Sleepwalker
...run over...

Sleepwalker
...electrocuted by flying eels...

Sleepwalker
...and squashed to a pancake by falling boulders...



Sleepwalker AGA logo AGA

Hit Squad * 061-832 6633 * £12.99 * Reviewed AF30 80%

Some of you may be thinking that it's a little too late now to buy Sleepwalker, enhanced version or not. After all, Comic Relief '93 has long since passed. Actually, you couldn't be more wrong. OK, so the A1200 version isn't a massive improvement over the original A500 game, but then the original is one hell of a good game.

The improvements to the game are mainly cosmetic, really. The most noticeable change is in the sound department, because they upped the sampling rate so that the effects are much cleaner-sounding.

Unfortunately there still isn't a background tune playing during the game, but the tunes which play while the animation sequences are running are still there. The other main difference, although less noticeable, is the addition of a few extra colours in the background graphics.

Sleepwalker is on four disks instead of three, but that doesn't cause problems. It scores less than the original - that's because more enhancements could have been made. As it is though, it's neat.


Sleepwalker AGA logo AGA A1200 Speziell

Schlafwandler sind die Leute bei Ocean bestimmt nicht, denn bereits wnige Wochen nach der Standardausführung ihres originellen Plattform-Ausflugs ziert nun eine Spezialversion für den 1200er die Händlerregale...

Daß sich dabei am tollen gameplay (Test im letzten Heft) absolut nichts geändert hat, versteht sich quasi von selbst, doch kündet ein güldener Packungsaufdruck von der aufgebohrten Grafik und dem verbesserten Sound. Daher machten wir uns eilends auf die Suche nach den versprochenen Präsentations-Genüssen und... entdeckten erstmal nichts!

Als auch ein zweiter suchender Blick nichts Augen- bzw. Ohrenfälliges zutage förderte, hielten wir doch lieber Rücksprache mit den Jungs in Manchester. Dort teilte man uns zwar mit, daß sowohl die Normal- als auch die Spezialversion gerade mit deutscher Sprachausgabe versehen und in dieser germanisierten Fassung demnächst bei den Händlern auftauchen werden - aber die speziellen Vorzüge der speziellen 1200er-Version konnte man uns auch nicht näher beschreiben.

Immerhin erhielten wir den heißen Tip, mal beide Varianten nebeneinander anzuschauen, im direkten Vergleich würden die Unterschiede schon auffallen...

Okay, das haben wir gemacht, und jetzt wissen wir es ganz genau: Die Sound-FX sind vielleicht ein bißchen "fülliger" geworden, im Intro hat man das Zimmer des verträumten Helden frisch tapeziert, und die Hintergrundgrafiken wirken nun etwas farbiger. Wenn man sie nachzählt, sind es zwar immer noch so viele bzw. Wenig Farben wie zuvor, aber durch ihre bessere Verteilung entsteht doch ein etwas "bunter" Effekt.

Fazit: Haben sollte man das Game schon, aber bestimmt nicht in zweifacher Ausfertigung! (ms)



Sleepwalker AGA logo AGA

It's got more colours, but what else?

The 1200 hasn't been around too long, but already we're starting to see software companies taking it seriously. First Zool, one of the better selling Amiga games of last year, and now Sleepwalker, which is certain to be a smash hit.

Stuart reviewed Sleepwalker last month and gave it the thumbs up and a score of 84%. Now we all know it's for charity and if we slagged it of we'd be seen as 'uncaring and unfeeling baby slaughters' basically, as Stuart said, this is a game that would be worth of your attention (and cash) whether it was for charity or not. So I looked forward to the 1200 version with great anticipation.

For those who missed the original review, here's a quick recap. There's this kid called Lee, who's prone to sleepwalking, and he sets off on this particularly dangerous nocturnal romp. You control the actions of his pet dog Ralph who's trying to save the poor kid's life as he encounters lethal hazards. As Ralph you must ensure that he doesn't come to any harm, and also that he doesn't wake up.

In essence it's a platform game given an original slant with the idea of saving Lee. It's very funny, and the game is filled with humorous hazards awaiting the boy, and indeed Ralph. It's also a tough game - it really will take a while to complete, and the later levels especially get really nasty.

So what has this 1200 version got to add to an already excellent game? Well, the presentation of the non-1200 version was superb - the intro sequence and animations between levels are impressive and tastefully done.

In this 1200 enhancement you get the same sequences but in 256 colours instead of 32. That's a lot more colours, but to be honest it really isn't that noticeable, and anyway it's got nothing to do with the actual gameplay. So let's move on to the game itself.

Well, again it's a case of more colours, but this time only eight more than the original's 16. It's the backgrounds that benefit from this, but it doesn't really make any difference to your enjoyment of the game. The original was impressive enough, and this is just slightly more so. Oh, and there are some new sound effects courtesy of the 1200's ability to store more samples in memory. Again, nothing to astound you.

Perhaps we're approaching this all wrong, expecting tremendous enhancements because of the 1200's countless potential. Perhaps this should be seen as the game itself and the other as a cut-down for the less powerful Amigas. This seems to be the case here, and other software companies are talking about producing games this way in the future. Which is fine, but I must admit I was hoping there'd be a bit more from a game aimed at the new mean machine.

When you put a 1200 besides a 600, it's hard to believe that the only difference in the gameplay will be an extra eight colours. And it's a bit depressing if it is.



Sleepwalker AGA logo CD32

Programmers: CTA Developments * Publisher: Ocean 061-832 6633 * Price £25.99 * Release: out now * AF Rating: 83%

Comic Relief's all over now, so you forget about being charitable. The question is: can Sleepwalker CD32 stand up to close inspection, now the hype is all over?

You play a cute animated dog called Ralph in a platforming adventure centred around your sleepwalking master, Lee. The aim of the game is for you to safely guide Lee through the hazardous streets of Kipsville and get him safely to bed.

The first thing you realise is that Ocean have done this on the cheap. The plastic CD box does not have any special artwork or information on it and you get a copy of the standard Amiga manual with a slip of paper showing you which keys to press on the CD32's controller. Tut, tut.

Sleepwalker also loses points for being almost unbearably frustrating. You think you have got little Lee into the perfect spot for a good kick up the side of a building when he trundles off and spoils your plans.

However, with six massive levels, stacks of puzzles, bonus sections and some genuinely funny moments, Sleepwalker turns into an addictive and absorbing platformer. This CD32 version has all the gorgeous graphics, sound samples and animations of the AGA incarnation as well as some very Christmassy music. It is a shame Ocean have not included extra levels or animations (though there is a rolling Inferno demo) but this is still a brilliant game to get for CD32, despite the cheapskate packaging.


Sleepwalker AGA logo CD32

Oceans Plattform-Schläfer und sein Hundeführer haben seit ihren 1200er-Tagen wenig dazugelernt, lediglich die verträumte CD-Musik fällt positiv auf. Weil das Game aber recht nett ist und außerdem ein beeindruckendes Demo des kommenden CD-Flugis "Inferno" mitgeliefert wird, bekommt man für seine 79,- DM hier immer noch 70 Prozent (rl).


Sleepwalker AGA logo CD32

Ocean £25.99

I hope someone starts bringing out some original CD32 games soon. It is getting pretty hard to think of new and interesting ways to say 'Well, it's exactly the same as the A1200 version with a new CD soundtrack'. In fact, I cannot think of any at all, so I am going to stop right here.