Now and again a game pops out of the sky and knocks you for six. Ugh! sauntered into the Amiga Format office looking like a harmless platform caper, but it's a game that has taken us by complete surprise. The star of the show is a hairy caveman who has the hots for a blonde cavebimbo. The problem is he hasn't th' funds to keep his love in the manner that she would like to become accustomed.
So how does our hero raise the capital for his love? Well, while dosing under a tree an apple falls on his fuzzy bonce, and a fun-raising idea springs to his small prehistoric mind. The wheel? Fire? Nope, nothing so basic, he dreams up a man-powered helicopter, then starts up the world's first door-to-door taxi service. You play the daring young man in his flying machine, ferrying his neighbours around from platform to platform - for a nominal fee. So far, so good, but not everything on this primeval land is as simple as it appears. For example, helicopter design doesn't lend itself to underwater conditions and if you land with too much of a bump you 'copter is firewood.
Though Ugh! might sound like just another platform game, it does have a special something that others in the genre don't. Many of the levels involve you having to plan your route first, otherwise you'll come across various obstacles like knocking the more mature citizens into the brink (the oldies, unlike the younger residents, can't swim, they just float for a while and then drown).
The levels go from being very difficult to incredibly tough later on in the game; where all the obstacles that were introduced earlier in the game all gang up against you. For example: smaller gaps between platforms, more dinosaurs, unmarked platforms and rising water levels all make for hard going, but all of them are 'do-able', eventually.
As you go through the game it becomes obvious that Ugh! is not only a good-looking game with great graphics (though sometimes the characters are hidden against backgrounds of the same colour) and fun to play to boot, but it is also very well put together. The collision detection is excellent. You can't balance on the end of platforms; at least half of the helicopter has to be on the platform before you can deliver anyone or pick anybody up. And the control system works well, though it takes a while to get used to, but soon enough you're fighting your way through gale force winds and torrential rain.
As you might expect with a cutsie platformer, there has to be some cute music, and yes there is some cutsie platform music. The sound on the other hand really stands out; it blends brilliantly with the game and is perfectly coordinated with the game and is perfectly coordinated with the action on-screen. In fact the sound at times is an ally, listening out for danger is often your best defence, especially when avoiding head-on collisions with oversized scaly birds.
What's the saying? The pen is mightier than the spear? In Ugh! it's a case of having to be quicker on the draw than Billy the Kid ever was. The level codes appear so briefly and are written in such a horribly bubbly font, that getting them down on paper requires a great deal of determination.
The two-player option and the difficulty level choice add even more interest, if you're a little heavy handed then playing on the easy level can give you an edge, while the hard level is only for those with the most delicate joystick control. The two-player option is straight of Sesame Street: cooperation is the key (if only taxi drivers today would take a leaf out of that book).
The sign of a bad game is you get so frustrated with it you want to take a 12-bore shot gun and blast the coders to kingdom come. Ugh! doesn't get you annoyed with the game or the coders, but frustrated with yourself for not being good enough to beat it. But not so angry you don't come back for more, and believe me you will.