Vital Light logo

This strapline was going to be a joke about margarine. But let's face it, you'd have to be a real saddo to try something like that.

Too many companies are prepared to trash out formulaic games and then blame poor sales on piracy or 'market forces'.
But Millennium have come up with a new slant on an old idea. Vital Light is sort of a combination of Klax and a Galaxian-style shoot-em-up in which you control a sphere which is the equivalent of your spaceship.

Simple Simon
It looks a bit like a bastardised version of Simon (an old 70s simplistic microprocessor which controlled a randomised sequence of lights which had to be remembered by human opponents). Only this time, Simon's got five colour buttons that form a horseshoe around the northern half of the sphere.

The sphere is confined to a rail that runs along the bottom of the screen. Running above the sphere and parallel with thi rail is a forcefield. Blocks falling into the forcefield eventually destroy it. If that happens, you lose your life and have to start over again.

Each of the colour buttons on the sphere can align with a tube connected to your sphere that can extend to the top of the screen. This tube is your sight to fire beams of light at coloured blocks falling towards the bottom of the screen. To be rid of a block, you have to ensure that it's made up of only one colour.

The blocks start off simply, consisting of no more than three or four blocks with only one of the colours needing to be changed. These become progressively more difficult with patterns of random colours, rotating colours and blocks falling at varying speeds.

And if that wasn't difficult enough, obstacles occasionally appear along. These obstacles can be broken, but that takes time. Time in which the blocks are reaching your precious forcefield. In later levels, these obstacles help you die very quickly, especially when more than two of them block your path. It's not all one-sided thought. By shooting various flying objects you can collect power-ups that include te Joker which gets rid of rail obstacles very efficiently.

To add extra interest, there are also a couple of two-player games. In the first you co-operate with the other player. No prizes for guessing what you do in the second.

One of the main criticisms of Vital Light is the lack of passwording. Nobody wants to keep playing a level they can do in their sleep to get to the one that's causing them problems. The restart function doesn't prolong the game life much either.

The second criticism is aimed at the control system. It's slick and well implemented, but a second and possibly even a third fire button would be appreciated.

It's the method of firing your beams of light and rotating the sphere that causes problems. They're too slow for the gamer to keep up with the action. To rotate, you have to press the fire button and then either move the joystick left or right. To fire, you press the joystick in the up direction. Power-ups are activated by pulling back on the stick.

We tested Vital Light with four joysticks - Zipstick, Cheetah 125, CD32 controller and Cheetah Bug, fine touch control was non-existent. Invariably, when the blocks speeded up, we ended up over rotating to the wrong colour. Over reliance on joystick mechanics is not acceptable in a game that needs fast reactions.

Millennium could have included a routine that detected the presence of a CD32 controller. That way, the rotate function could be carried out by pressing a shoulder button. As it stands, joystick mechanics hold the game back from its full potential.

Vital Light
  1. Power-up
  2. Obstacles you have to break
  3. Your craft
  4. Energy Indicator
  5. Spheres rail
  6. Forcefield
  7. The blocks
  8. Puffy, blowing geezers

Licht aus!

Vital Light logo

Der Ideenfundus von Klassikern wie "Tetris" und "Logical" ist schon so oft geplündert worden, da kommt es auf einmal mehr nicht an - nach diesem Motto gestaltete man bei Millennium eine neue Hektik-Tüftelei.

Immerhin sind hier ein bis acht Spieler gefragt, wenn es darum geht, von oben ins Bild sinkende Würfelketten von fünferlei Farbe und zweierlei Helligkeit durch Vereinheitlichung zur Explostion zu bringen, bevor sie einen tödlichen Energiebalken erreichen.

Man darf sich 80 Levels lang also solo oder im Turnier langweilen... Wenn man nämlich allein vor dem Screen hockt und eine Trommel am unteren Bildrand entlangbewegt, um damit die Kettensegmente anzuvisieren, ist das ziemlich einschläfernd - wenn es hingegen zwei Spieler im Duell versuchen, behindern sie sich oft gegenseitig.

So eine Trommel verfügt über fünf (Farb-) Kammern, die mit einem der beiden Feuerknöpfe am Joystick rotiert werden. Der aufs Korn genommene Block wird dann mit dem zweiten Knöpfchen umkoloriert, auf daß einfarbige Ketten verschwinden. Sollte das nicht gelingen, ehe der waagerecht über die untere Bildschirmhälfte verlaufende Energiebalken erreicht ist, gibt's erst mal Punktabzug; im Wiederholungsfall dann das Game Over.

Mit ausreichend Zählern auf dem Konto steht der nächste Abschnitt an, wo es wieder einen Tick hektischer zugeht. Natürlich ist das ziemlich öde, woran weder die punkteträchtigen "Joker" noch die vorübergehende Blockade der Trommel(n) durch einen gelegentlich auftauchenden Sperrstift etwas ändern.

Abgesehen vom netten Intro ist die Präsentation trotz wechselnder Hintergrunde ebenso dürftig wie das abwechslungsarme Gameplay, weshalb dieses Lebenslicht in Wahrheit allenfalls eine Sparflamme abgibt. (md)

Vital Light logo

Light, certainly. But vital? Certainly not.

There are moments that make working with computer games worthwhile. Moments such as the arrival of Guardian, for example, untrumpeted and fantastically good (and, incidentally, with keyboard control on the A1200 version if you select the joypad option and use the arrow keys; cheers Mr Programmer; no cheers Mr Instructions), or being asked what's wrong with a game and having those criticisms acted upon, or being introduced to Knights of the sky, or being sent set It's a Skull (the Valhalla remix), or finding a photograph of Louise Brooks in the pile of largely terrible magazines we keep being sent, or pulling off a Gravity Force 2 power-swoop from the top of the level to hit the other ship three-quarters of the way down and pummel him into submission before he quite realises what's going on.

And then there are moments like the arrival of Vital Light. Why have Millennium released Vital Light? Five minutes into playing this game I knew, to the marrow of the bones of my soul, that it was wholly, hopelessly, fundamentally, irredeemably terrible, and I refuse to believe the company's playtesters could have missed that and still have been able to look each other in the eye.

The game is a wannabe puzzler where rows of coloured blocks fall and where you, with the aid of a rotating disc firing coloured beams, have to turn all the blocks in the row the same colour so the row disappears before crashing down on a rickety barrier. Complete a level and the barrier moves up a notch so you've less room to manoeuvre. Complete eight levels for a password, and complete fifteen levels to move to the next stage.

No cheers Mr

Vital Light is extremely boring. Blocks fall, you count how many green ones there are opposed to red ones (say), you select from your finite supply of green or red appropriately and you shoot them. The only possible trick comes with being able to turn blocks any colour, so if you couldn't be bothered reaching blue (or whatever), you could turn the entire row yellow. Of course, you'd then quickly run out of yellow and be scuppered. So all you do is remember to use the 'correct' colour, as having more such blocks than you had ammunition to paint would clearly be impossible.

There's an attempt to complicate matters by having two shades of each colour (a hit cycles from light to dark and back again) but it just means more shooting. Power-ups do things like freeze the blocks, some blocks have to be made specific colours, some rows fall faster than others and obstacles appear occasionally to get in your way or knock out your gun, but Vital Light is still a game of sitting there and shooting things with coloured beams.

It's only when lots of small blocks fall or a faster row brings down a wedge of blocks that things change, but even these moments are only mindlessly panicky and irksome rather than exciting. The computer opponents are a joke - there's an option to 'meet' them, but this involves mere watching while they rattle off a feeble cross-talk routine (rather than, for example, being able to challenge a different one or betting that you'll win the next match, or something), and they don't appear in the game itself. (They're supposedly the people dropping the blocks).

Even the two-player mode is pitifully dull - you play exactly the same game, but split the playfield down the middle in co-operative mode, or bang into your opponent to put off his aim in combative mode. And, as a shiny, cherry for the game's unpleasant sundae, the blocks in a level fall in patterns so if you lose the first time round, you know what to expect in the rematch.
Vital Light is crap.

Vital Light logo

Puzzle games might seem old hat to some people, but Tony Dillon sure was surprised when Millennium came out with the puzzler for the nineties.

If you were to take the best bits from The Chaos Engine, Tetris and Space Invaders, and then mix them all together, what do you think you would end up with? Not what you would expect really, as Vital Light quite clearly demonstrates.

On a very basic level, it's a simple puzzle game, but the presentation is so good that it rises far above the norm - so far in fact that I am quite happy to state that it is more addictive than Tetris. A bold statement? Well that's just the kind of guy I am.

The game doesn't have a plot of sorts but don't let that get in your way. The end result is that you have to control a small paint gun that contains five different coloured paints, and destroy blocks that are falling toward you by making them all the same colour. Incredibly simple, but then the best games usually are.

Your paint gun is on a roller at the bottom of the screen, and horizontal strips of coloured blocks fall from the top of the screen at varying speeds. Holding down the fire button and pushing left or right changes the currently selected colour, and sometimes you only just have enough time to get the right colour before the blocks smash into you.

As the blocks fall at varying speeds, there are times when an avalanche is set off by a slow block being hit by a fast moving block above it. This is a game that gets very, very frantic.

The secret to any good puzzle game is the tactical element, and this is one thing that has been thought out very, very cleverly in Vital Light. There is a definite learning curve, which means that beginners will have no problem at all getting through the first 10 of 80 levels in the game.

For the first couple of levels, the horizontal strips are never more than about six blocks long, and are mostly the same colour, so it's very easy to work out which is the best colour to use.

As the levels progress, the blocks become more and more mixed, until you have to almost completely paint a strip of a dozen or so blocks before they disappear.

As I've already said, the presentation is phenomenal. There is a real shine to the game that most just don't have these days, from the glorious metallic backdrops to the silky smooth animation in the game.

For example, on either side of the roller that you paint guns is mounted on, there is a face, which blows or sucks depending on which direction you re moving. It's a small thing, and it doesn't add a lot to the game itself - in fact, when playing the game you probably wouldn't notice it. After all, it's not as if you have time to admire the scenery!

Vital Light is a very unusual product, and although it seems to have borrowed bits and pieces from a lot of other games, it's a very original game. Whether you like puzzle games or not, Vital Light is one game that will grip you and keep you playing for weeks.


One of the strangest aspects of the game has to be the mini soap opera that is played out between groups of levels. A small horizontal strip appears on screen, and four well animated faces appear and act out small scenes, which seem to have little or no relevance to the rest of the game. After level seven, for example, you get to see two of the characters have a bubble gum blowing competition while the other two place bets. OK, so it has nothing to do with the game, but it adds a lot of character to an already enticing product.

Vital Light Vital Light
Vital Light

Licht aus!

Vital Light logo CD32

Seit letztem Oktober sorgt Millenniums knobelige Mixtur aus "Tetris" und "Logical" am 500er für gediegene Langeweile, jetzt darf man sich unter verbesserter AGA-Grafik einschläfern lassen - auch von CD.

Dabei geht es ja eigentlich recht hektisch zu, wenn sich hier bis zu acht Spieler duellieren oder im Solo-Modus hintereinander antreten: Von oben fallen Ketten aus zwei bis 32 in fünf Farben und zweierlei Helligkeitsstufen colorierten Würfeln ins Bild, die von der horizontal beweglichen Trommel am unteren Screenrand Quader für Quader umgefärbt werden sollen.

Dazu ist sie mit fünf Farbkammern ausgestattet, die via Pad rotiert werden. Einfarbige Reihen explodieren dann, und zwar tunlichst ehe sie die Laserbarriere erreicht haben, da sonst nach einigen Fehlversuchen das Game Over droht.

Der Lohn der Mühe sind Punkte und ab einem gewissen Score ein beschleunigter Spielablauf nebst neuer Hintergrundgrafik.

Weil das allein aber niemand so recht motivieren kann, tauchen zudem nur durch mehrmaligen Beschuß zerstörbare Bremsklötze und punkteträchtige Bonussteine auf. Freilich ist das Spiel trotzdem doof, zumal sind im nett gemeinten Simultan-modus die Trommeln der Kontrahenten auf derselben Laufbahn befinden und daher gegenseitig behindern.

Daß die dürftig animierte Optik nun einen Tick weniger Grobkörnig daherkommt und der Sound hörbar nachgebessert wurde, vermag den Tüftler somit ebensowenig bei der Stange zu halen wie die hier 200 Levels, das kleine Intro, die Continue-Option oder die zumindest für Solisten gut gelöste Steuerung.

Kurzum, Vital Light bleibt ein stereotyper Langweiler, dessen Anschaffung sich nicht lohnt - auch in den identischen CD- und A1200-Versionen nicht. (md)