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Hubble bubble toil and trouble in Titus' latest platform romparound.

If ever a word deserved to be banned form the computer game world then that word must be "cute". Cutesy happy smiling platform games rear their lovely contended heads more often than any other type. I really hate them. Whatever the subject it is turned into a cutesy frolic. I suppose the designers are trying to impress the kids but if any of them had taken the trouble to ask a few then they might have brought out a better class of product.

Consider the facts. Kids like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator, but they don't like him in Kindergarten Cop. Kids don't want bloomin' cutesy bunny rabbits, flowers and heroes that fire hearts as weapons. Kids want death and killing! They want muscle-bound heroes with a gun that fires bullets as big as a house.

They want aliens and monsters that will tear open the hero's stomach and devour his intestines. They basically want everything that isn't ina cutesy happy-go-lucky platform game. This genre has just about had its day now. I can't really see anything coming out that is going to be better than Zool or Rainbow Islands.

The last remotely dark platformer I can think is Switchblade 2 and even that was a bit wet and more futuristic than anything else.

If ever a computer game contained mass killing and plenty of blood 'n' guts and was well done, then I honestly believe it would go straight to the top of the charts. There has been a lot of press hype about the fact that computer games influence kids to go out and become criminals, but in fact they are no more to blame than films and television. Kids aren't stupid! They won't go out and shoot someone just because they saw someone do it in a game.

Anyway I'm wandering form the point. Okay, cutesy games I hate, so what happens when I delve into the post on a fateful Monday morning? I find Super Cauldron, and takes a guess, dearest reader, that type of game it is.

A flight simulator? Nope. A hard-edged full of blod platform romp? You're half way there. A cutesy sickly happy platform romp? Yep, you got it. Oh dear. You play the part of Zmira, a brave little witch. Now you can sue me if I'm wrong, but ever since I saw the Wizard of Oz I was brought up to believe that witches were horrible hags with green faces and warts who cackled a lot and were generally not nice to know.

The witch in Super Cauldron is cute. A cute witch? That's like saying Claudia Shiffer (schwing) is ugly! God damn, when will these game designers ever learn? Oh well, I've got a cutesy sickly sweet platformer to review, so I may as well grit my teeth and get on with it. One thing I can guarantee, it certainly won't be the last cutesy platform game I'll come across.

I'll summarise the plot for you. Kingdom... happy... evil sorcerer... discover... cursed chests.... magic formula... entered Haunted Castle... enslave good people... spreading doom and gloom... Zmira... games heroine.... has to cross three worlds.... free people... look for lost magical powers and spells.... destroy evil sorcerer... regain peace and happiness.

Well, you get the general idea of what it's about - it would have taken much longer to explain it all, and in any case you've heard it all before.

Zmira has to discover and conquer four worlds - the forest, the fields, the city and ultimately the haunted castle. The little, and dare I say it cute, witch must battle ogres, goblins, bats, birds and just about everything else including the kitchen sink.

At the end of each world Zmira must find a key. Each opens the door to a chamber containing a Magic Book and the secret which allows Zmira to pass from one world to the next, and thus approach the sorcerer's castle.

Zmira is a beginner when it comes to spells, but dotted throughout the worlds are a fair number of spells which when collected can be stored in the Book of Spells. The 'stone' spell is unlimited and is the one you start the game with.
When you use it on an enemy they, in true witch tradition, change into a slimy frog. Zmira may change spells as often as she likes, but unfortunately some are limited.

What every decent witch needs is a broomstick, and our heroine is no exception. Placed around various parts of each level is a broomstick icon which when picked up can be used to great effect. This is a neat little idea which stops the game play becoming too similar. The broomstick only lasts for a limited time, but there are plenty of icons to be found.

That's all there is to the game, because it is only a platformer after all, but I suppose you want to know what I think of this cutesy "play till you puke" platform adventure?

Initially Super Cauldron didn't impress. The scrolling was fairly jerky and horrible and it seemed incredibly difficult for a platform game. Then after playing it for a couple of hours things did improve. I started to find secret underground levels and then I was well away. Cute or not, it has a certain addictive quality which left me at the end wanting yet another go.

The graphics are quite nice, but don't look different form those in any other cutesy offering. Super Cauldron has plenty of funny quirks and some of the gameplay could have benefitted form a little more time spent on it. There are times when it gets really frustrating.

The sound leaves a little to be desired. The tune is OK - and the sound effects are not bad, but you cannot turn off the music.

Titus have come up with a couple of crackers - look at Blues Brothers and Titus the Fox - but Super Cauldron is just a fairly standard cutesy platformer and isn't going to set the games world alight. If you like this sort of thing then I'd recommend it, but personally I'd chose Zool or Superfrog.

Stone: This is the only spell you possess at the beginning of the game. It never runs out and has ability to turn enemies into frogs. Teleportation: Spell depicted by a coin which you throw to the area to which you want to be transported. Good for getting out of difficult situations.
Fireball: Spell of medium power only, still it does provide you with straight, rapid fire. Multiplication: Thing you did in maths. With this spell you can clone yourself and thus gang up on particularly difficult enemies.
Flame: Spell of medium power, fires into the air and burns the ground upon landing. Would come in handy if you ever decided to go to a riot. Circular saw: You can buy them from B&Q. Once thrown it follows the contous of the scenery and will eliminate everything in its way.
Bowling ball: A powerful, but slow spell. Can be used to neutralise strong enemies and also handy for playing ten pin bowling. Lightning: A highly powerful spell that will destroy everything on the screen. Uses up a lot of energy, so use it sparingly.
Magic staircase: Allows you to create steps. You can thus grab an useful object or find a raised exit. Steps disappear after a few seconds. Metal melter: A weapon with little power which nevertheless allows you to destroy all metal doors. Handy if you're stuck in a room with surrounding metal doors I suppose.
Bomb: Big black thing that goes boom! weapon of medium strength, but highly important in the game. It will help you to reach places that at first seem totally inaccessible. Magic bridge: A spell with no power at all, but very useful as it allows you to build a temporary bridge.

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This is what we want to see, a heroine with sensible clothes and a plucky disposition. Evil forces have enslaved the kingdom of Cauldron and spread desolation on its people. Only Zmira, a plucky little witch with the combined powers of all the witches, can save them. It sounds like just another platformer, but this is no walk in the park. This is serious stuff.

Zmira has three lives to spare, four worlds to get through and meets an awful lot of enemies along the way. The creatures who live in the forest are all baddies now thanks to the Evil Sorcerer. There is help in the form of a spell book, with one spell in it when the game begins and broomsticks which can be picked up for a short time. Once Zmira moves around, dodging the rats, bats, vultures, snakes and very butch-looking men, she can collect other spells to help her defeat the sorcerer.

Some enchanted heaving
The adventure starts in the Enchanted Forest and it is up to you to help Zmira find the key and fight one of the sorcerer's goblins. You then get the Magic Book which will allow you to pass to the next level. This is not easy. The enemies regenerate as soon as you walk away, and your broomstick only works in short bursts.

Along with the blood-crazed animals there are pumpkins who try to squash you and there are traps hidden along the way. When you kill something, it may be changed into a toad which will increase the power of your current spell.

There are 12 spells to collect, and you will need all of them to complete the game. At the start all you have is the stone spell. The spells can be split into two types: the weapons and the 'really useful things'. The first category includes fireballs, lightning and bombs, while the second contains all the weird stuff.

There are magic staircases and bridges, teleportation, a circular saw and my favourite - multiplication. Stop raising those eyebrows, here you can split Zmira into four little clones. They run off killing the enemies surrounding you as they go. Another 'useful' is the metal melter which, strangely enough, melts metal doors.

We are surrounded Captain
This is probably one of the hardest games I have ever played. At least most adventure games give you a chance to think. This one fires cute little animals at you like bullets with your name on them. You cannot afford to stop and scratch your head for a moment, because some vulture or bat will try to rob you of your precious energy.

Super Cauldron is difficult - much harder than, say, Arabian Nights. And each play seems to be over too soon, but you have to launch back into the fray, refusing to let a simple puzzle/adventure/shoot-em-up get the better of you. If you are a mean match with a joystick then you will probably find this challenge holds your interest in the game for longer than normal, but if you have still got your 'L' plates on, I would steer clear of it. Now, does anyone know how to pronounce Zmira?

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Schon lange hatte Palace einen 16Bit-Nachfolger der 64er-Legenden "Cauldron" und "Cauldron strikes back" geplannt - doch der Pleitegeier war schneller. Jetzt hat sich Titus den Hexenkessel unter den Nagel gerissen.

Die Chancen auf ein neues Jump & Run mit Kultcharakter sind durch den Herstellerwechsel jedoch keineswegs gesunken, schließlich haben die Franzosen längst mit "Titus the Fox" und "Blues Brothers" bewiesen, daß sie das Plattformhandwerk beherrschen. Und tatsächlich, wenn man von der belanglosen Vorgeschichte um einen bösen Zauberer mal absieht, stimmt hier vom Gameplay bis zur Technik wirklich alles!

Der Ort des Geschehens setzt sich aus vier "Hauptlandschaften" (z.B. Wald und Schloß) zusammen, die nochmals in mehrere Unterabschnitte unterteilt sind. Als kleine Hexendame Mizra gilt es hier, kreuz und quer durch die Lande zu reisen, um vier magische Bücher zu finden, die dem finalen Obermotz den Garaus machen sollen.

Mizra kann selbstverständlich laufen und springen, sie kann ihre Gegner mit Steinen beharken und ihre Fähigkeiten durch Aufsammeln der am Weg liegenden Icons enorm steigern. So ermöglicht der Besen einen zeitlich begrenzten Ritt durch die Lüfte, während der Teleporter-Stein enge bzw. unzugängliche Stellen passierbar macht - wozu ist man schließlich eine Hexe? Auch Bonuspunkte, Extraleben und Zusatzwaffen liegen bereit, so daß Mizra mit Flammengeschossen um sich werfen oder magische Bälle an landschaftskonturen entlangfeuern kann.

Einmal aufgesammelt, befinden sich die Extras ständig im Hexen-Repertoire und sind frei anwählbar, wobei sich Feuerkraft und -distanz genau dosieren lassen. Getroffene Gegner geben manchmal eine Kröte frei, die man zwar nicht zu küssen braucht, aber wenigstens mitnehmen sollte; schließlich hilft das Tierchen dem schwindenden Energievorrat wieder auf die Beine. Und Energie kann man für die dicken Endgegner bzw. den Schlußendlichen Oberübler gar nicht genug haben...

Bis dahin ist es freilich ein weiter Weg, jedoch auch ein lohnender - das Gameplay ist einfach eine Klasse für sich! Unfaire Stellen gibt es praktisch keine, und beinahe jedes Hindernis läßt sich durch wohlüberlegten Einsatz der Extras beseitigen, was natürlich manchmal etwas Hirnschmalz erfordert. Auch die Technik macht dem Spielspaß keinen Strich durch die Rechnung: Das (teilweise parallaxe) Scrolling in alle Himmelsrichtungen klappt soft und sauber, die Grafik ist sehr abwechslungsreich und bunt gezeichnet.

Okay, die Gegner sind etwas fuzzelig geraten, doch überzeugen sie durch flotte und witzige Animation. Ähnliches gilt für den Sound, der zwar keinen Grammy verdient hat, sich andererseits aber durchaus anhören läßt.

Nach den "blauen Brüdern" und dem "flinken Fuchs" hat Titus mit Super Cauldron also ein weiteres Game abgeliefert, das in der Masse der Plattform-Hüpfer angenehm auffällt. Weiter so, und demnächst dürfte ein Joker-Hit fällig werden! (rl)

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From the Titus kitchen - it's hubbling, it's bubbling, and it's really quite troubling.

When you've been doing this job for as long as I have, you begin to appreciate the little shortcuts, the things that make life just a little bit simpler. Things, in fact, like the Super Cauldron instruction manual. Most particularly, things like the bit headed 'AMIGA CONTROLS', where it states quite happily that you can choose between the 12 spells available to your character in the game by using the keys F1-F12. Anybody spotted the mistake yet? Mmm. There's a special prize for the first reader to find the F11 and F12 keys on the Amiga.

Now this might seem like nitpicking (since a phone call to Titus or a particularly close manual inspection reveals that you can access the spells via a bit of fiddling around with a menu screen and the cursor keys. Well, it says 'cursor keys' in the manual, although it actually means 'joystick'), but when you see this kind of thing in a manual, you just know that you're not going to be looking at a state-of-the-art, we-put-25-hours-a-day-into-this-one kind of game. What you're likely to be looking at, in fact, is a sloppy put-together slapdash cash-in rush job.

And what Super Cauldron is rather belatedly attempting to cash in on is, or rather are, a couple of old b-bit games, called (none too surprisingly) Cauldron and Cauldron 2. The first was a strikingly pretty shoot-'em-up/platformer hybrid, and the sequel was a straight platform effort, but with a weird bouncing control system that gave the game a unique feel.

Both were hugely popular on the Speccy and the C64, and rightly so, for both were gorgeously executed and fairly original in concept and style. The more naive and optimistic readers among you, then, might be hoping that this Amiga release would continue the tradition, but making use of the obviously superior hardware quality to produce a stunning-looking variation on the existing well-worn theme. Frankly, if that sounds like you, I think you might be reading the wrong magazine.

Okay, first let's get the 'what you do' paragraph out of the way quickly. You're wandering around a selection of levels (four worlds' worth, each with several little sections, linked by er, lots of disk accessing), looking for a key to the next world.

You're initially armed with stones which you can (rather pathetically, it must be said) flick at baddies and beasties which invest the various stages, but you can collect spells which offer powered-up weaponry for a limited period (dependent on how much energy you've got rather than a time limit). I think that's about it, really. Time for the 'first impressions' section of the review now.

Oh dear. Super Cauldron doesn't get off to the best of starts. Opening up with, believe it or not, and yes I know this is 1993, a choice between music OR sound effects, things don't improve on the first screen of the actual game, which looks like one of the duller sections of the Spectrum version of Cauldron 1.

A sloppily put-ut-together slapdash to cash-in rush job

The first screen is populated by two little bat creatures which come at you in a laughable 1985-style 45-degree-angles-only flight path, but they're actually quite fearsome opponents due to the sad way you throw rocks around and the horrible gravitationally-challenged way you jump.

Carrying on through a couple more screens of nothing whatsoever, you find a broomstick (you play a witch, but the way) and jump onto it, deciding to go for a quick fly. Noticing the crap push-scroll you have to endure whenever the game tries to scroll vertically, you quickly return to the ground (pausing only to note that the push-scroll can, when you fall to the ground, leave you right at the top of the screen and hence extremely vulnerable to attacks by bats and suchlike which you quite literally can't see until they've hit you). Still never mind, eh? Things only get better. Time for the ; in a little more depth' bit now, wouldn't you say?

Oh dear. Just a little way into the game, and I seemed to have run out of places to go. Another, even closer, inspection of the manual revealed nothing in the way of suggestions as to how I might get out of the first tiny little forest section. Bummer. Trudging dejectedly back and forth, I decided to try and get into a ruck with a troll standing on a bridge. Tugging down on the joystick to avoid his one and only fireball, I was shocked and stunned to pass right through the bridge and land in the water below. Instead of dying, though, I found myself in another section! Hurrah!

Okay, it was another crap section with lots of jumps which were half-impossible to make accurately with the awful controls, leapi-into-thin-air-and-hope-for-the-best bits aplenty, and deadly traps concealed behind bits of token parallaxing foreground scenery, but another section nonetheless.

Flushed with success, I went on to discover that the other sections in the first world were found in similar ways, namely by ducking down when standing beside innocent-looking tree stumps and so forth. Oh, and I was then surprised to find that other bits of water found scattered around the level were not, in fact, gateways to further sections but deadly to the touch. Must have been polluted or something, I suppose.

And in the midst of this rush of thrilling discoveries, I also ascertained that going through a 'doorway' and then going back through it again the other way often sends you somewhere completely different. Oh dear, getting short on space, now. Better cut straight to the euphemistically-named 'summing up'.

Super Cauldron is completely crap.

Most games these days come complete with a lengthy intro boasting lots of luscious pics explaining the storyline and building up the atmosphere to a point where the player, panting in breathless anticipation, simply can't wait to grab the joystick and get stuck right into the action. Here at AMIGA POWER, we often like to show you a few scenes from these intros to pretty the pages up a bit, and Super Cauldron's going to be no exception, other than in that on this particular occasion, we're going to show you the entire sequence in all its near-cinematic glory. Aren't we just too good to you?

Super Cauldron
The intro opens up with this night-time shot of a spooky cottage on a hill. Whooo! (scary, eh?)

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Excitingly and evocatively, a couple of bats wing their way onto the screen and swoop around a bit...

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...soon to be joined by another couple of bats. Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds didn't have anything on this.

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As tension reaches breaking point, note how the bat hanging from the rocky outcrop flaps its wings. Cor.

Super Cauldron logo CU Amiga In The Bin


This was one of my favourite games a good few years back. Cauldron featured a small orange pumpkin bouncing his way around a bat-infested landscape avoiding witches like the plague. Super Cauldron turned the tables and had a witch avoiding pumpkins, set out against a slightly more extravagant plot.

Essentially, an evil wizard has set up residence in a haunted castle, and from here is terrorising the entire population of the planet. Only you, as the good witch Zmira, can save the day. Mind you, after playing the first level, I doubt you'll be all that bothered.

The game itself is a fairly standard scrolling platform game, with portals set into the floor letting you travel freely between a number of parallel levels. The major difference between this and, say, Woody's World is that this is complete and utter pap. To begin with, you're armed with a pathetic little stone, which is almost impossible to aim and has very little effect on the things you shoot. For example, early on in the game you meet a fire breathing snake, which takes no less than 30 full-power hits to kill.

This would be fine if it were an end of level guardian, but as it appears at the start of the level, and is quickly followed by another two... it's just tedious to have to keep shooting at the same character. Add that to the fact that there are a few invincible characters too, and you can never quite be sure whether or not the thing you've spent the last two minutes shooting at is ever going to die.

Anyone who owned a C64 in the mid-eighties will feel their pulse quicken when they read that Super Cauldron has been released on the Amiga. To those people I have to say, gently and sympathetically, once they have sat down in a chair with a nice cup of tea, that it is a fairly pathetic conversion. Where the former was dark and scary, the latter is fun and jolly.

Where the original game was addictive and playable, this 'new improved' version seems dated and infinitely dull and tedious. Titus, you've let us down.