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VIRGIN * £19.99 Joystick

When a magazine is as successful as Viz, with its circulation topping a million copies every two months, it's not surprising that it should have its characters licensed for use in a computer game. Viz - The Game features many of the toon folk found in the comic's strips, including Bertie Blunt (and his unpleasant parrot), the Pathetic Sharks and those luscious, beautiful Fat Slags.

The player has the choice of playing one of three characters - Biffa Bacon, Johnny Fartpants or Buster Gonad. The game takes place over various sites near and around the thriving metropolis of Fulchester in the guise of a charity fun run.
There isn't many evidence of charitable exploits however, since each of the three characters tries to win the race using whatever methods they can muster.

Along the stages, the racers will come across various obstacles, which are relevant to the current stage. For example on the country stage tree stumps and fences block the way, while in the town, potholes and parked cars must be avoided. Each player must stick to their own lane as much as possible, otherwise Rodney Rix will make an appearance and hurl a piece of hefty masonry at the straying racers.

In order to qualify for the next stage, your character must cross the finish line first. Lose and you will have to run the stage again.

Garlic-flavoured luncheon meat
The initial reaction to the Viz game is one of amusement, since the characters from the comic have been translated to the computer pretty well.

The graphics capture the feel of each character, but unfortunately, their actions don't really reflect their page-persona very well at all. The game employs some elements of each character's personality but only in a kind of superficial way, so the package as a whole isn't really that funny after five minutes.

The gameplay itself tends to be rather frustrating, especially the sub-games. For example, in one of Buster's token-grabbing exploits, the idea is to rise as high as possible with guff power, but fall back down from a particularly lofty height and you lose all your score!

The race sections are alright, if a little mundane. All that is required is to run down to the race track dodging the odd obstacle or character. Seeing the Viz characters for the first time on new levels is a laugh for a couple of minutes, but the novelty soon wears off and it won't be long before you return to the comic itself to get your laughs.

Viz: Biffa Bacon
Viz: John Fartpants
Viz: Buster Gonad

Despite being nobbut a young 'un, Biffa is THAT hard. His special powers involve him thumping anything that gets in his way, so that he can knock a safe path through to the finish. Initiating his superpower sends him into a 'lager frenzy', in other words a blinding fit that smashes anything barring his way.

Biffa collects tokens in two ways. The first is a beer-drinking race, in which he must drink pints as they are hurled along the bar to him. The second is an exercise in timing, in which Biffa must punch, butt and kick bricks that are thrown at him.

'The boy with the musical bottom' uses his pump-prowess to pop out a fruitful burst to propel himself over obstacles. Johnny's superpower is a high-powered mega-guff, which carries him forward and over traps at great speed.

In order to use his powers, the prince of parps gathers tokens by either inflating balloons with his gaseous behind, or bursting skyward with a high-power chuff, which is measured on a pole. The higher he manages to get, the more trump-tokens he earns.

Buster spends most of his time in the race running along holding his plums off the ground, but he can use a ball-bounce to avoid obstacles along the route. Occasionally, he can get over the problems caused by his impressive appendages by taking out a wheelbarrow and wheeling his balloons along at top speed.

Buster's tokens are earned by working in a pancake factory, where he uses his titanic testicles to flatten the pancake dough. Another round has Buster bouncing on his mighty bollocks to get as high as he can.

Viz logo

Fnaar, fnaar! Right, that's got the gratuitous VIZ references out of the way - now is it any good?

Hyped as 'The biggest rip off of them all' and coming complete with the promise that 'You'll never play a bigger load of crap', Viz - The Game clearly has a lot to live up to.

Programmers Probe have got off to a good start by setting out to produce a game that's unashamedly Not For Sale To Children - it's packed to burstling with steaming great limps of rude language and toilet humour. Thus we get some highly impressive graphic renditions of many of the comic's most popular characters and some deeply crap music, slapped into a horizontally scrolling race game featuring Johnny Fartpants, Buster Gonad and Biffa Bacon.

Your task, as one of the three, is to race through five areas of Fulchester (the beach, the park, the disco and so on), hindered by the entire Viz collection of characters (with the extraordinary exception of Billy The Fish).

To improve your chances, you can utilise your own special 'gifts' (Johnny farts, Biffa fights, and Buster bounces on his unfeasibly large testicles) to clear obstacles or avoid a particularly 'sticky' patch - but only a limited number of times per level, the number determined by how well you do in a couple of sub-games. These are nearly all of the joystick waggler variety (well, what did you expect), and feature events like Biffa drinking or Buster bouncing. But what's that I hear you cry? ('Never mind all the nobby waffle, is it any good?', it sounded a bit like). Ahem.

Well now, Viz - The Game is a funny old kettle of hatstands. It's very, very simple indeed, but - well, actually there isn't a 'but', it's probably one of the shallowest games ever seen on a 16-bit computer. You run from left to right, you avoid baddies, and, um, you fart occasionally.

The game compensates for this lack of depth with a very high difficulty setting (which would be fine if it wasn't for the long wait between games), and of course the irreverent (to understate things just a touch) humour. This is generally well in keeping with the Viz style (especially the Top Tips), but you get a couple of problems transferring them to a computer game. One is that after you've seen all the jokes once (which doesn't take long) they aren't funny anymore, but the other is that what works on scrappy, throwaway, fanzine-style bog paper looks too calculating and out of place in this high-tech setting.

All this makes the game sound completely crap, but Viz is actually the kind of thing that you'll find yourself coming back to, simply because it's fun to play. It's an irritating kind of fun, because how you do in the race can depend on which lane you get put in at the start, but fun it nonetheless is. And frankly that's about all there is to say about it. Viz - The Game is as two-dimensional as its paper counterpart, and if £25 seems to you like a lot of money to pay for a simple game featuring much the same jokes every time you play it, well, yes, you're probably right.

Viz logo CU Screenstar

WARNING Viz - The Big Soft Floppy One contains language that teachers, moral guardians, and Mary Whitehouse may find offensive. If you think that you fall into one of these catagories, then please stay at home with a cup of tea.

Despite the many imitations floating around, Viz is still THE best adult comic. With an all-star cast comprising the likes of the Flat Slgs, Millie Tant, and Big Vern, it takes the Mick out of the Dandy and The Beano, along with every rag you probably read as a kid. As well as the customary comic strips, it also lampoons the tabloid newspapers and the Photo Love comics with stories of fifth and sixth Beatles and undying love.

Thus, when Virgin announced that they had secured the e rights for a game a year or so ago, eyebrows were raised as to how they could possibly recapture the brilliant smutty humour of the comic and its characters. The end product is a horizontally-scrolling race game starring Biffa Bacon, Buster Gonads and Johnny Fartpants, and is a pointed move away from the dull arcade/adventure scenarios too many of these licences fall into.

And the result is a humorous assault course with cameos by practically everyone who has appeared in the comic, and the action is padded out with a number of energy-building sub-games and humorous inter-level sequences.

Set in Fulchester, you must guide one of the aforementioned characters through its dangerous streets and countryside, past the many obstacles that you meet along the way - which take the form of the many Viz characters who are peeved at not being given given a starring role.

For the most part, these are easily avoided by a burst of speed or evasive action, but when the likes of the Fat Slags are out for a snog (well, worse actually!), or Bertie Blunt's parrot drops messages from above, you will have no resort but to protect yourself.

Depending on which character you are controlling, each has a special power that can be used in self defence. Buster, for instance, can use his unfeasibly large plums as a space hopper and leap over danger, whilst Johnny and Biffa use their flatulence and fists respectively - complete with a sampled effect, which is guaranteed to crack you up whenever Johnny protects himself! Meanwhile, Roger Mellie is on hand to bring you live commentary as the race progresses.

The game's scenario revolves around a disaster at the local Co-Op which has sent hundreds of valuable Co-Op stamps drifting across the town.
As well as surviving everything thrown at you, between levels you will be entered into a sub-game, and depending on your prowess when farting, punching or bouncing, you will be rewarded with stamps which allow you to purchase extra power for your unique abilities. These new powers will then protect you from the likes of The Parky, Big Vern, Spoilt Bastard, and countless other characters, each of whom has a different method of getting in your way and are out to stop you reaching the finishing post.

Should you come into contact with any of them, one of your three lives will be lost, and this will eventually cause you to pull out of the race in embarrassment - effectively, "Game Over".

Unfortunately, though, due to some dubious sprite detection, collisions with the said characters is sometimes unavoidable - particularly in the case of Rodney Rix (he throws bricks) - and results in an unnecessary loss of life. Likewise, for some reason, your character reappears on screen directly in front of the object/person who stunned him, and this also results in another wasted life.

With the exception of the annoying collision detection, there is very little to fault in Viz. After a while, the humour does tend to repeat a little too often - particularly during the starting line scenes - and this is a pity as by adding a few alternatives the problem could have been rectified. Still, the actual gameplay is basically fine (although the few niggles that are there do tend to grate with repeated play), with a nice assortment of characters making an appearance, all of whom are instantly recognisable and perform in character.

In addition, the backdrops and the in-game tunes and effects are suitably jolly and suit the raucous action perfectly. I really had my doubts about Viz as a computer game, but this is good, adult fun contained in what is a simple but playable game. Recommended.