Timekeepers logo

Reviewed by Adam Phillips

Vulcan Software are from the old school of software companies. With no backing from the likes of Virgin, Electronic Arts or other corporate powerhouses, they have taken the brave move of being one of the only independents still operating commercially in the Amiga gaming arena.

Their first release, Valhalla, caused quite a stir - some magazines proclaimed it as a great white hope, while others slammed it for fundamental game design faults, this magazine among those critics. Timekeepers, their second release, has fortunately made a hit much closer to the playability bullseye.

From scanning through the instructions and looking at the screen set-up, the first reaction instantly rings bells of recognition - it's that damn game Lemmings again in a different guise. In all fairness, though, on playing Timekeepers there are enough differences to warrant some of the game mechanics as original and interesting.

The back-of-the-box-blurb comes up with the usual creaking at the joints story - Evil bad guy has decided to dump 20 nuclear missiles in four different time zones. The elite police force, the Timekeepers, have decided to send back 15 officers to dismantle the devices.
The four time zones are Hieronymus Land 2m BC, Medival Land, Vietnam Land and Space Land 2001. Each zone has 15 landscapes to traverse before reaching the bombs. Starting with 15 troops, each landscape is a vertically scrolling obstacle course.

Looking at the icons, there are obvious similarities between Lemmings and Vulcan's title. Like the classic puzzler, each troop walks quite haplessly into a fiery pit if its path should cross such a hazard, and the little blighters need to be told exactly what to do and where to go. There are several options for manipulating them though.
Troops can be told to move in a certain direction, to jump, ente3r combat with any foe that may be blocking the path, to operate a switch, to wait, or to start the level again. The main and most important difference to Timekeepers from its legendary distant cousin, Lemmings, is the actual implementation of your commands to the troops.


At £12.99, Timekeepers offers good value for money and packs a healthy amount of playability

Instead of clicking on them at the right time when they come across an obstacle, Timekeepers allows you the benefit of time by clicking on the desired icon and then leaving a trail of instructions on screen for the troops to follow when you decide to unleash them proper. When they step on the order placed on the ground, they carry it out.

This usually involves much mindbending as you work out the best route for all the little fellows to reach the exit point that leads to the next through many of the one-way systems, opening doors, setting up bridges and more so that the others can follow at a later stage.

This lack of oh-god-they're-all-going-to-die commonly found in Lemmings makes a refreshing change and leaves the player with plenty of time on their hands to concentrate on working out the fiendish layouts. One of the best parts of the actual puzzles are the amount of red herrings the designer has left for you to follow - this really is the thinking person's game.

Despite the lack of time limit, mistakes can be easily made - a directional arrow pointing in the wrong direction, a jump command erased by troop confusion so that the next blighter that comes along ends up in boiling lava, and so on. It is possible to use just one troop and finish all the levels, but to hinder lazy gamers it is necessary to have a certain amount of troops remaining to defuse the bombs, depending on which time zone you're in.

There are plenty of nice touches in Timekeepers, such as the transport and finding vital paths through the treacherous landscapes - punch a switch and a bird will pick you up and carry you over a previously insurmountable mountain, or flick another switch and a lava-buried bridge is winched up to form a walkway for your troops.

Graphically, the whole thing is very much in the style of Valhalla, with murky colours and smudgy-looking graphics. While these work and move effectively, it would have been nice to see some more vividly defined graphics.

As is the norm with Vulcan Software, there are various amusing sound effects and speech samples littered liberally throughout the game - the commander of the police force regularly calls out at the beginning and end of each level, and the various in-game effects are of a quality standard such as the shouts and screams given when a troop enters battle.


Final Word

There's no doubt that this is Vulcan's best release so far, with an engaging game system that is easy to use and rewarding when your plans are successful and your troops drop through the exit one by one. At £12.99, Timekeepers offers good value for money and packs a healthy amount of playability to whitter away the hours. The game is only available from Vulcan themselves, so for ordering information give them a call o 01705 670269.

My only problem with Timekeepers is that it could become repetitive after a while - perhaps it would have been nice to see more commands that could be issued to your troops in later levels to extend the addictiveness of the game.

Despite this though, if you only have a few pounds struggling for space in your pocket, give them a breath of fresh air by sending them off to Vulcan and buying a copy of Timekeepers.


Timekeepers logo

Once they wore mighty dungarees 'til they were left naked but for green underpants. Steve Bradley investigates the dilemma that is Timekeepers...

There's a short animated sequence at the start of the game, right, and all these little ET wannabees (they are the Timekeepers, as it happens) are about to be transported to the first level.
They're all wearing what appear to be blue dungarees and standing on a teleport, when, in the winking of an eye, a large finger appears, presses a button and their dungarees drop to the ground revealing, and we kid you not, green underpants. GREEN UNDERPANTS. Oh, the humiliation.

So, Timekeepers. Sixty puzzle levels split into four worlds: Hieronymus Land Two Million BC (in Belgium), Medieval Land 145, Vietnam Land 1966 (hmmmn) and Space Land 2001. Their tasks, to disarm 20 nuclear devices. I'm sure you missed one, eh lads?

Anyway, I'm on one of the Belgian levels and I'm two men down (still got 12, though). Sensibly, I freeze the frame. Fires blaze in front of my weary Belgian liberators. If I don't drop in three upward and downward facing arrows pronto, six will perish before you can say "Valhalla: Before the War".

Valhalla meets the Lemmings in a maze. In the dark, and in the middle of nowhere.

Then there's the sneaky chap who's about to cross the bridge WITHOUT MY BLOODY PERMISSION (just think of Michael Caine when you read that bit) and unbeknown to me there is a fire just over the other side. And this bridge, it has a special seat, so only one can go over at a time, and if the fellow perishes in the fire on the other side of the bridge, the seat, obviously, remains on the other side, leaving you stuck.

By Jove, is this game not difficult enough without requiring the reflexes of Andre Agassi before you start? And the worst thing is, despite the horrendous design of this level, I'm enjoying the game.

I like the way you manoeuvre one chap around the level to face an alien foe before clicking on the aggressive fanged teeth icon. When the two meet face to face, they holler at each other before the alien perishes. Clutched my sides for a while, I did.

Be in no doubt that Timekeepers is immensely tricky. Even the early levels bedevil you. It's like Valhalla meeting Lemmings in a maze. In the dark. Those with the patience of Job should find solace while mere mortals will screech at the screen, simply because Timekeepers expects you to think of so many things at once. However, it's fun, if frustrating, and Valhalla fans will surely rejoice the speech.


Timekeepers logo

Besser gut abgekupfert als schlecht erfunden - eine bewährte Programmiererweisheit, die Vulcan Software auch voll verinnerlicht hat: Nicht nur die treuherzig dreinblickenden Tierchen auf der Packung ihrer Echtzeit-Knobelei erinnern frappant an "Lemmings" und Konsorten...

Es war einmal...
Beim Tanz unter dem Vulcan mutierte soeben Bullfrogs "Theme Park" zum "Hillsea Lido", und aus dem Psygnosis-Klassiker bzw. seinen Ahnen wie den "Humans" oder "Worms" derivierte Firmenboß und Chefprogrammierer Paul Carrington ("Valhalla", "Orpheus") jetzt eben eine weitere actionreiche Denksportaufgabe mit indirekter Steuerung.

Die Titelhelden müssen in vier aufeinanderfolgenden Epochen (Steinzeit, Mittelalter, Vietnamkrieg und Raumfahrtzeitalter) jene Atombomben entschärfen, die ein durchgeknallter Kriegstreiber dort immer im letzten der jeweils 15 Levels versteckt hat. Wie nicht anders zu erwarten, laufen die kleine Wichte ohne anderslautende Befehle erst mal stur drauflos, bis sie auf ein Hindernis stoßen - dann geht's schnurstracks in der Gegenrichtung wieder zurück.

Das Szenario
Die einzelnen Welten umfassen zwei bis fünf vertikal scrollende Bildschirme, die aus der Vogelperspektive gezeigt werden. Man beginnt das Spiel mit 14 einfarbigen aber unheimlich süß animierten Zeitwächtern und lotst diese möglichst unbeschadet zu einem der meist mehrfach vorhandenen Ausgänge.

Die Steuerung erfolgt mit Hilfe der Maus und der Iconleiste am unteren Bildrand, auf der sich acht Symbole (vier Richtungspfeile, Benutzen, Warten, Springen, Kämpfen) anklicken lassen. Das ausgewählte Kommando legt man dann einem der Jungs buchstäblich vor die Füße, der es durch Darüberlaufen aktiviert und pflichtschuldigst gleich den entsprechenden Befehlt ausführt. Auf diese Weise schreibt man dem Burschen genau vor, wie er die anstehenden Aufgaben erledigen soll, um der restlichen Bande den Weg zu ebnen:

Zum Reparieren von Brücken und Verschwindenlassen von störenden Wänden müssen in der Regel etliche Schalter betätigt werden; ein scheinbar zufällig herumstehendes Signalhorn ist dagegen zum Herbeirufen von Flugechsen oder Hubschraubern gedacht, damit die stummelbeinigen Helden ansonsten unüberwindliche Hügelketten überqueren können.

Nichts als Probleme...
Die höchst vertrackt aufgebauten Levels machen eine vorausschauende Planung zur überlebensnotwendigkeit, denn diese Irrgärten strotzen nicht nur vor Baumstümpfen, Mauern, Bergen, Sackgassen und ähnlichen Hindernissen, sondern auch vor Gefahren aller Art.

Je nach Zeitzone sind da z.B. Lavaseen, Tretminen oder Falltüren im Angebot, über die man sich nur mit einem waghalsigen Sprung hinwegretten kann. Außerdem lauern an allen Ecken und Enden (unbewegliche) Trolle, Roboter und Söldner, denen man besser nicht zu nahe kommt.

Allerdings lassen sich diese Feinde fast ausnahmslos mit recht originellen Mitteln unschädlich machen, indem man ein Kämpfen-Icon direkt vor ihnen platziert. Mit dieser Methode kann man etwa einen Neandertaler durch einen automatisch ablaufenden "Brüll-Wettbewerb" einsargen!

...Und ein paar gute Nachrichten
Da man im letzten Abschnitt jeder Zeitzone mindestens genauso viele Männchen benötigt, wie dort Bomben versteckt sind, kann die Zahl der noch verbliebenen Trippelbrüder manchmal (zu) knapp werden. Das ist aber kein Beinbruch, weil sich der aktuelle Level beliebig oft neu starten läßt, zudem kann man sich in jeden bereits bewältigten Abschnitt zurückbeamen lassen.

Wer dagegen am Zeitenende noch ein paar Wächter übrig hat, bekommt, diese quasi als stille Reserve für die nächste Welt gutgeschrieben. Wie anno "Lemmings" oder "Humans" birgt gerade dieses Feature ein erhebliches Suchtpotential, denn dadurch entwickelt man beinahe zwangsläufig den Ehrgeiz, möglichst viele Timekeeper durch sämtliche Abschnitte zu lotsen - was den an sich moderaten Schwierigkeitsgrad plötzlich in ungeahnte Höhen schraubt..

Am Ziel
Seinen Spielerischen Nährwert bezieht das Game ganz klar aus dem schamlos abgekupferten, aber immer noch genialen Grundprinzip von "Lemmings". Das ist schon mal die halbe Miete, um nicht zu sagen die ganze, denn recht viel mehr sollte man sich auch von der Präsentation nicht erwarten: Die Grobklotzige, in langweiligen Brauen- und Grüntönen gehaltene Optik gleicht dem mißratenen Vulcan-Abenteuer "Valhalla: Before the War" wie ein Häufchen Elend dem anderen.

Die originelle Animationen der kleinen Wuselmännchen macht das jedoch zum Teil wieder wett - erhalten sie von ihrem menschlichen Gebieter einen unausführbaren Befehlt, schauen sie ihn treuherzig an, und die hinreißenden Saltos der Brüder sind ebenfalls die reinste Augenweide.

Als zusätzliches Trostpflaster gibt es ulkige Sound-FX und ein bißchen englische Sprachausgabe, während auf Begleitmusik weitgehend verzichtet wurde.
An die indirekte Steuerung muß man sich zwar erst gewöhnen, aber danach funktioniert die Bedienung reibungslos. Das Programm läuft ebenso reibungslos auf allen Amigas mit zumindest 1 MB Arbeitsspeicher, und der Nachschub ist auch in Sichtweite: Außer der komplett deutschen Version ist zusätzlich eine Mission-Disk mit weiteren Denksportaufgaben der zeitkritischen Sorte angekündigt.

Fazit: Originalität, Innovationen und eine sehenswerte Präsentation wird man bei Timekeepers nicht finden. Aber eben doch eine spannende Action-Knobelei, die ihren offensichtlichen Vorbildern schon wegen des ausgeklügelten Leveldesigns kaum nachsteht! (md)


Timekeepers logo

Such suited lackeys who wait upon you at lunch and easily lose their tempors.

Let's say you own a small castle in the middle of Derbyshire. It's surrounded by a moat. Owing to an interesting disease, were you to fall in the moat you would die. How do you leave the castle? (Having been airlifted there by a Huey UH-1N, the type of helicopter used extensively in Vietnam, or you were born there, or something, look, it's a metaphor, leave me alone.)

You employ two firms to solve the problem. The first laboriously builds a series of platforms leading up from the courtyard, angling diagonally between the walls until it crests the parapet, leaning at a shallow angle over the water eventually to reach the ground.
The second firm presses a button and lowers the drawbridge.

This, then, is the fundamental difference between Lemmings and Timekeepers, apart from the disparate viewpoints and contrasting graphical styles. And the calculation of expendables, and the use of monsters. (And the booby traps.) Lemmings 'make' but timekeepers 'do'. I much prefer Vulcan's approach: for me, the crushingly pedantic reliance upon pixel-perfect lem placement soiled the first Lemmings, and by the third game provoked wishes of violent death for the programmers.

No such problems in Timekeepers - everything's done in squares, so you can only alter the route, not change the landscape. Further pleasantness comes in the solidity of the little blokes (the tims, if you will). (And you, I fear, will - Ed.) There's never a confusing morass of threshing bodies, because if one time hits another, he turns away. Nor is there a time limit, or lock on the number of icons you can place upon the board. (You influence tims by laying commands in their paths - the four directions, a clock to stop them awhile, a foot to oblige them to jump, a, er, 'doing action', a, um, (cripes) 'being aggressive' and a rubber to erase unwanted instructions.) In all, nothing that is out of your control appears in the game.

TUCKER
We'll now step through as if playing a level of the game in the fine tradition of AMIGA POWER, and not because it's eight o' clock in the evening but ludicrously still too hot to think of something clever, having instead to use old jokes and probably resort to the 'as well' device to append a sudden fact that won't easily fit where it should but can't reasonably be omitted.

The screen appears. It is overpoweringly green and brown except on the space levels where there is some dingy silver. "Platoon ready", barks the overseer in one of only three pieces of speech in the game. (Phew). You have a moment to spot obvious traps as the tims blink into existence, but can't access the icons until the last one appears and the tims look up at you.

At that moment they pause for half a second and start walking. If you've not been quick enough, three or four of the sixteen instantly fall down some holes. This is by far the worst part of the game and harkens unnecessarily to the panicky reflex of Lemmings. Fortunate, then, that you have indeed been quick enough. Your tims are safely tottering back and forth. An opposite time to scroll up and down the level, so you do.

A plan begins to take shape. You can coax a single tim from the pack and set him to work. Switches are thrown, doors opened, holes bounded over, a monster shouted into submission (one of a number of entertaining and curiously affecting animations_ and the exit pinpointed.

But of course, circumvented, because of the one-way door trap your tim tripped means his fellows would be stuck. Instead you carry on down the corridor and open a second path. Only now do you arrange the rest of the platoon, sitting back in satisfaction as they spring dutifully around your track finally to escape.

A pity that your trailblazer tim carried on unchecked to fall down a hole, but you know from an introductory message how many tims you can afford to lose before reaching the final level of the fifteen in each section (in this last you don't escape, but have to guide four or five tims simultaneously to defuse bombs) and can return at any point to an earlier one to save more. Death is not the end.

NORRIS
This is the brilliant thing about Timekeepers: the levels are amazingly complicated but only four or five screens long. Typically you'll pass the same point three times, each time in a different direction searching for a different switch, but because everything's packed tight you don't slip into feeling you're plodding back and forth.

There's obviously an element of being led by the nose, but after a couple of introductory mazes Vulcan start putting in deliberately drawn-out dead ends. And alternative routes that get the doors open, but trap your trailblazer. (You can always save him, which is a Good Thing. Whereas Lemmings had a hundred of the blighters whose passing was marked by a figure decreasing. Timekeepers' sixteen blokes get individual portraits in the border. When one gets killed, his picture fills in with a cross. Truly, were lems are numbers, tims evoke feelings of empathy. I wanted them to win. Especially when they got flummoxed and leaned back and looked up and blinked twice.) And exciting-looking bridges and vehicles that painstakingly deliver the tims into minefields. Damn them.

The bad thing about Timekeepers is this: there's nothing to take you by surprise. The first of a new set of levels is always a massacre, because you don't know what is jumpable, what's fightable and what kills you on contact. In space, for instance, I was baffled by a set of what I took to be mines impeding my egress (a word, incidentally, that hung above the exit in PT Barnum's show tent.

When it became too full, Barnum would shout "To the egress!" and lead an excited crowd to the curtained doorway, reasoning they would excuse the trick for its roguish ingenuity. And he ended up being played by Michael Crawford, so there you go.) Only by chance did I attempt to fight one, so discovering it was an 'alien embryo'. (But which - curses - left holes in the deck, necessitating watchfulness and quick jump placement.) Once you've identified the players, you can count on the game not piping up with something new before the next 'zone', which is strangely disappointing.

Remember those number puzzles, with a fringed square of plastic and tiles numbered one to fifteen and a gap? You might have one in a drawer somewhere, or perhaps in a box under some old clothes. Such a puzzle is a fine metaphor for Timekeepers: apparently simple, fiendishly complicated but with a compelling quality to it. I was never irritated by the game, but would always concede defeat gracefully, only to return with renewed library books and vigour.

It is cheering to see Vulcan's mission as a company - to impress us - has succeeded. We like Vulcan. They are impeccably polite. They don't take reviews personally, were sporting enough to let us put It's a Skull on the coverdisk and don't beat their wife. We just wish they wouldn't release such poor games as Valhalla and its sequel. We'd in fact prefer them to carry on writing games like Timekeepers, which is terrific fun (and apparently set for a data disk frenzy). And the box is really sweet as well.


Timekeepers logo

Price: £12.99 Publisher: Vulcan Software 01705 670269

It's Time Cops, converted to the Amiga before any other format! (Er, no it isn't actually, it's a non-budget budget game from Vulcan.).

Only £12.99? Surely this game should be in the budget section? Nope folks, this little belter is a new series of direct mail games from Vulcan Software, and they went to great pains to get us to stress to you that this is not a BUDGET game. It's a low cost full price game apparently.

Anyway, regardless of the prices, Timekeepers is all about a bunch of tiny cops who have a desperate mission. They are a carefully chosen futuristic police force who've been sent to protect the 4th dimension from a chap called Wilheim, a psychotic warlord trying to destroy Earth. In his bid to muck up the planet he's hidden four nuclear devices across four different lands: Hieronymys Land in 2 million BC, Medieval Land in the year 1245, Vietnam land in 1966 and Space Land at the turn of the century. It's up to you and your band of merry bobbies to work your way through each land and get to the nuclear device before our gorgeous globe goes boom.

Lie of the land
Anyone familiar with Vulcan's Valhalla series will feel at home with Timekeepers It has the top-down perspective look and feel of the Valhalla series. Like Valhalla, it is a puzzle game but the similarity ends there. In TK the puzzle element is not of the 'find the chicken leg, cook it and then hand it over to the hungry soldier to receive a key' type; the pace is a lot faster.

At the beginning you are faced with 14 little men running frantically to and fro at the bottom of the screen. Your object is to move them to the top of the level, which is roughly five screens up, to defuse the bomb. To do this you need to scroll through the screens to check out the lie of the land and plan ahead where you need to get to and the best way to get there.

Control Freak
There is a control panel at the bottom of the screen which contains commands. These must be placed in front of the soldiers to get them to go in a specific direction, operate something, jump or fight. Use the mouse to select the icon you want and click to place it on a tile, where it will remain until replaced or blanked.

Starting off each level at the bottom and scrolling up through to the end of the screen you'll be able to spot exactly where the flashing orange circle is that you need to get to. But before you can send your men on a homeward bound journey, you've got to do some homework.

Each level and world has its own seemingly insurmountable obstacles to contend with. It's not easy, you've got 14 men and all you can see in their path are ponds of molten lava, broken bridges, angry looking creatures, closed off passageways and plenty of strange looking levers and boulders. The best way to find out the easiest route to the transporter is to send one man on ahead to open up passageways and fix bridges, thus making the way clear for all the other chappies.

Normally, this involves pressing a lever or two. But be careful: press the wrong lever and your unfortunate cop could be swooped by a rather nasty eagle, for example, who carries him off to oblivion. Sometimes, though, these eagles come in handy as they can carry you over to otherwise inaccessible areas.

The sound is quite good, though the sargent major barking orders and various screaming bad guys can shatter your nerves. A handy save game feature and the option to go back to the point where you had the most men alive also prevents hair pulling frustration.

Timekeepers is an engaging puzzle game that should keep you engrossed for a while. At this price it's worth a look.


It goes something like this...
This is a completed level made up of about 5 screens. The path to the flashing orange circle is mapped out using directional arrows to make sure that the cops don't run into any lava and die. The shoe icon makes sure they leap over any obstacles like walls or rivers of lava. Before this path could be set up I had to send one bobby ahead to open up all the passageways (usually done by operating levers). Once you've set the path up you can then get all the men to follow it straight to the end. In later levels it gets a bit trickier and you might have to quickly change directions to get around some obstacles.
Timekeepers: Walkthrough of the first Level and Explanation of Icons
Commands
1: Undo a command
2: Go up
3: Go down
4: Go left
5: Go right
6: Wait a little while
7: Jump
8: Operate on an item
9: Attack any foes
10: Freeze game
11: Go to earlier levels
12: Load/save
Where to get Timekeepers?
Timekeepers is part of a new collection of direct order low cost games from Vulcan. Called the mail order mini-series they hope to release a new game every few months on the label. If you want one of these titles you can contact Vulcan Software at 72 Queens Road, Buckland, Portsmouth PO2 7NA or call their credit card hot line on 01705 670269.

Timekeepers... ...Expansion Disk logo

Reviewed by Andy Maddock

Vulcan Software have delighted us continually in the past with releases such as the excellent speech adventure Valhalla and more recently Hill Sea Lido, the seaside management simulation. This time their data disk is for the excruciatingly frustrating puzzle game, Timekeepers.

It was sometime last year when it was reviewed and for its efforts managed to receive 80% and quite rightly so. It was an excellent puzzle game destined to frustrate even the most patient of people. It was viewed from above the action and the idea was to guide these little things into this kind of hole.

Sounds easy, but no. There were loads of obstacles and annoying gadgets that liked to prevent you from being successful.

The data disk has finally arrived containing 60 new levels over four different worlds, but the main area of improvement is the difficulty level. If you thought you were a bit of a professional then think again because the difficulty level has been increased tenfold. Along with the brand new levels there are slight graphical enhancements and nod doubt it is generally made better.

If you're a big Timekeepers fan, £5.99 is really cheap for the package and you could do a lot worse. So don't delay, update your copy of Timekeepers today.



Timekeepers... ...Expansion Disk logo

If you thought the first incarnation of Timekeepers was hard, then check out this. Coders Vulcan have gone and written 60 REALLY TOUGH levels. Steve Bradley tears his hair...

Timekeepers arrived slap bang in the centre of the 'warm front' last Summer, and you'll remember it was hot, really really hot. The difficulty of some of the levels had me gnashing like Dennis the Menaces black-fleeced canine chum. The heat cannot have helped in retrospect, our award of 65% was perhaps a little harsh for a game which was only £12.99, a game that required both patience and perseverance in equal measures. Still, 65% in an exam would get you're a B+ so maybe it was fair. C'mon, only the swottiest among you wouldn't settle for B+.

Anyway, Timekeepers is a puzzle game, a point 'n' click fellow in the Lemmings mould only a little less exasperating (speaking as someone who never quite took the Lems in the first place). A platoon of alien fellows (who happen to wear green underpants) need to be led from one side of an arena to the escape hatch at the far side. In the way are broken bridges, fire, lumpen objects, enemy soldiers - in fact just about anything you'd care to mention will get in the darned way.

You have various icons at your disposal which make the chaps jump, bellow, walk in certain directions, click switches and the like. Imagine if you took a party of 15 small French children on a tour of the sights of London in the middle of Summer. It's that kind of hair tearing scenario.

The first game has 60 levels split into four distinct worlds (in effect, different time zones). The update disk has 60 levels split into four distinct worlds. Only it costs less, although you do need the original game to use it.

Graphically, there isn't a great deal of difference. No, our friends at Vulcan Software have only gone and spent their time on MAKING THE GAME HARDER.

So it's more of the same, only trickier. You cannot help but get rather attracted to the little fellows you send out to scout a route to safety for the rest of pack. To hear their anguished squeal after they walk into an enemy soldier or a fire is a mite painful, particularly because their death was down to your carelessness.

If you enjoyed the original 60 levels (what do you mean you completed them?) and more-of-the-same-but-harder sounds like a fine thing then hesitate not. It's only £6, after all. And what can you get for that these days? OK, we didn't mean during happy hour.


Timekeepers... ...Expansion Disk logo

If you thought the first incarnation of Timekeepers was hard, then check out this. Coders Vulcan have gone and written 60 REALLY TOUGH levels. Steve Bradley tears his hair...

Re-reading the extraordinarily rare issue 52 for its review of the original Timekeepers, several things drew themselves to my attention. One was the enormous Doom feature, with pictures of the electric BB machine-gun sadly didn't work. (The prop company had mistakenly packed it in grease as you would the real thing, gumming up the mechanism).

Another was Tennis Champs, Air Taxi and Gloom on the coverdisks. Yet a third was a screenshot of Switchworld, an exciting-looking Doom - but on the Amiga contender that mysteriously never came out.

A fourth was an apology for the smaller size of the issue, and an associated fifth was Rich Pelley's funny speculation on the future of AMIGA POWER while introducing some Gravity Power tips. There were even three or four of our five hardy jokes. It hardly seems like ten months ago, and yet it was - exactly - which is a heck of a long time to wait for a data disk by anyone's standards, wrapping that bit up rather neatly and thanks awfully.

Timekeepers, readers who haven't answered their doors at an unusual hour to be severely beaten by three drunks in a mistake over house numbers will recall, is a hellishly devious Lemmings curse of working a level out but then having actually to compelte it pixel-pefectly, while the overhead view invited me to criss-cross the smallish screens and deal entertainingly with busy tim junctions.

Beaming, I bestowed 82 marks upon it. Something akin to watching their wife rocket-launchered by a crime boss has clearly happened to Vulcan in the intervening months, for all emotion has been burnt out of them.

The Timekeepers data disk is uncompromisingly harsh, building upon the original's cunning with booby-trapped dead ends and convincingly lengthy false trails leading to utter disaster. I who have completed the original game took upwards of 20 minutes to beat the first level, which is just how it should be.

As with the original game, you can return to a completed level within a time zone (there are four, of fifteen levels each) to try for more rescued tims (you need at least five of the sixteen to defuse the nukes at the end) but foolishly can't move between zones to revisit a favourite.

And I remain thoroughly unconvinced by the initial race to stop half your tims falling down holes. If I wanted to put aside mental agility in favour of battling with the mouse, I'd go back to Lemmings. Except I won't.

Don't even consider the data disk unless you've conquered Timekeepers itself - barring slight graphical tidying, there is nothing new to be found within. It is simply a set of levels of such deadly ghastliness as to make the original's look like a flan.

My congratulations, Vulcan, although you of course realise I will triumph in chapter twelve, unmasking you as the kindly industrialist Mr Wallinghim and escaping as your headquarters collapses about your thwarted ears.



Timekeepers... ...Expansion Disk logo

Price: £5.99 Publisher: Vulcan Software 01705 670269

ARE YOU READY? Vulcan extend their special forces.

Vulcan Software from Portsmouth have an unusual approach to producing Amiga games - they don't sell any of their software over the shop counter. They operate instead via mail order only so you buy (or don't buy as the case might be) directly from them. This advantage enables them to keep production costs down and because of this they hope to continue producing Amiga software in the long term.

Can you feel the force
Timekeepers is a very playable game involving an elite police force from Earth's future who must protect the 4th dimension from total destruction (don't try this at home kids). An evil warlord has placed 20 nuclear devices in four various time zones of Earth's history and your job is to take control of four platoons of 14 diminutive bobbies, travel back in time to locate the bombs, and save Earth's future.

There are 60 levels that are absolutely littered with devious designer puzzles, obstacles and traps and we were very impressed with the title when it was first launched last year.

So now we have the long awaited Expansion disk for you to battle through. By using the new disk you replace the original Timekeepers disk two and although the graphics and sound have remained unchanged there are tons of new levels for the fans to pore (and sweat) over.

The game still plays like a dream as you once again travel through the centuries in a bid to locate new nuclear devices set to threaten Earth's future once again.

A bit quick
One significant criticism is that when you start the game you still have just nano seconds to make a crucial decision that may save some of your men from instant death by falling over cliffs and down holes, just like in the original. Also, the inclusion of music while playing could have generated atmosphere that would have got the pulse racing. There are only sparse sound effects at times, and this could have been fixed in the data disk I feel.

The game still reminds me of DMA's Lemmings (that's a good thing though) only this time we have an overhead perspective which gives us something more to think about while laying out your pathway to success. It's not as cute because of this.

No matter, I wholeheartedly recommend that you resurrect your original Timekeepers disks: these 60 new levels will bring back all the fun again. It's a steal at £5.99. If you don't have Timekeepers then I would heartily recommend that you get a hold of it. It's been out nearly a year now but it stands the test of time very well. This data disk enhances it more than ever.


TEENY WEENY

To fit everything into the small amount of available space the graphics have undergone some radical miniaturisation. They're not bad or anything, in fact some of the sprites are pretty detailed considering their size and are delightfully animated. It's just that there's a constant feeling of crampness within the game, and they eyes do begin to strain after a while. I know it's only an aesthetic thing, but it can make a difference to the game as it's very easy to miss something vital.

Switches and traps are also very obscure at first, although this is mainly due more to the Spartan manual (if you can call what resembles a few postage stamps stuck together as a manual) than the actual game engine itself. Shane Kelly, our work experience lad (who was forced to play Timekeepers all day) felt that this expansion disk was on the hard side and was very annoyed at having to keep ploughing through levels he'd nearly completed again and again because he'd made a slip up.
We still love it though. Vulcan's best.