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-
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-
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.