The Great Escape

by John Heap, Bob Wakelin
Ocean Software Ltd
Crash Issue 35, Dec 1986   page(s) 16,17

Producer: Ocean
Retail Price: £7.95
Author: Denton Designs

DENTON DESIGNS have been rather quiet recently, but with a pedigree that includes Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Shadowfire, they're back in the fray with a game for Ocean.

You play an English POW trying to escape from a German camp in the last war. The main screen display reveals a section of the scrolling prison compound - or if you are indoors the room is shown from the usual 3D game angle. To begin with it's a good idea to leave the controls well alone - the hero goes, about the daily grind of prison life with the other prisoners and you get an idea of what's going on. A normal day consists of parades, meals and exercise periods, all marked by a bell displayed in the status area which rings out loud and clear. A message window gives an update on events in the camp and explains the reason for the bell's clamour.

A flag flying from a pole to the left of the main play area serves a number of functions. The higher the flag flies, the higher the morale of the central character. Whenever a Red Cross parcel arrives or the hero succeeds in picking up or using an item of escape equipment, his morale improves. Morale is lowered with searches and arrests and gradually diminishes as time elapses. Once the flag reaches the bottom of the pole, the potential escapee loses his will to rejoin the war and becomes resigned to plodding around the camp with the other prisoners. You lose control, and have to start a new game.

While the flag is green you have limited control and the hero can only be searched by the Camp Commandant - should he find any contraband, it's off to the cells, so it's wise to keep out of his way. The flag turns red as soon as the escapee breaks with routine and moves off limits. While the flag is red objects can be picked up and dropped, but the would-be escaper is liable to arrest and search by the guards.

Once you've established the routine of the camp, it's time to play for real and start planning the escape. Unfortunately, only two items can be secreted in the old greatcoat, so it's a good idea to find safe hiding places for useful items - if the guards find objects, they confiscate them, returning them to their original location.

The guards are fairly predictable fellows - once they've been assigned a patrol route by the Commandant, they follow it regularly and can be timed. So long as you don't cross their line of sight they won't notice you, but they are mindful of the wrath of the patrolling Commandant who moves around the camp inspecting them, so the guards keep alert. To begin with, security is fairly lax, but the Commandant steps up security when the hero is caught out of bounds and avoiding the guards becomes trickier. During the night, searchlights sweep the courtyard and prisoners outside the huts get arrested on sight. Maybe wearing German uniform might help here?

Points are awarded for escape attempts and for collecting and using objects. There are a number of routes out of the camp: use a tunnel, cut the wire, or bluff your way past the sentries at the main gates. Whichever way you go out, once outside you'll need a compass and some papers or you won't get very far..


Control keys: redefinable: up, down, left, right, fire
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: really easy to use
Use of colour: minimal, understandably
Graphics: excellent scrolling, minute detail
Sound: not up to the rest of the game's high standards
Skill levels: one
Screens: large scrolling play area

The Great Escape is definitely one of the best games ever seen on the Spectrum. I was extremely happy to see that OCEAN have introduced a scrolling play area - the flip screen method annoys me. The playing area is superbly drawn, with some very large and detailed buildings - all with 'en suite' stove and cupboards, and even a chimney to let those heated arguments out. The game is brilliant fun to play as you actually feel that you are trapped in the camp. There are lots of clever features and the game is very easy to get into - I found that I could explore a large area of the camp and tunnels without any keys or wire cutters. The instructions are well written and complement the game well. The Great Escape is bound to be a major contender for the top Christmas game this year.

Some filmation games have nothing going for them except pretty graphics and completely lack any sort of enjoyable gameplay elements. The Great Escape, I hasten to add, is not one of them!! it does have superb graphics, but also plays very well - quite well enough to justify long hours of playing. I don't know how long it'll take an average player to complete, but I will certainly play it as much as I can: presentation is of the highest quality, the graphics are superb, and the game is very playable. Well done Ocean!

The Great Escape is possibly the best game in this vein that I've ever played. To get wholly engrossed in the game and its plot all you have to do is read the instructions and watch your character wander around the camp doing his daily chores. By the time you understand how the game works there is no way you can possibly leave it alone. The graphics are superb, the characters are excellently animated and the playing area scrolls well and is expertly detailed. The sound is a little dull - there is a beeped version of 'It's a long way to Tipperary' on the title screen but not much in the way of spot effects during play. I loved The Great Escape and I'm sure you will too if you give it the chance.

Use of Computer: 95%
Graphics: 96%
Playability: 96%
Getting Started: 95%
Addictive Qualities: 96%
Value for Money: 94%
Overall: 96%

Summary: General Rating: An excellent game - one to buy.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 74, Mar 1990   page(s) 46,47

The Hit Squad
£2.99 (rerelease)

A classic Spectrum game. What more can I say? Well OK, that's only nine words and I need 300 - I'd better say some more! You may think The Great Escape is another boring 3-D style game, but Ocean made a really good job of putting this together, it's got a brilliant story line, lots to work out and do.

The setting is Germany in 1942. You've been captured and put in a high security Prisoner Of War camp. Your only hope is to attempt to escape using the objects dotted around the camp. This would of course be easy if the place wasn't surrounded by barbed wire, swarming with German guards and their fierce dogs who'd rip your leg off rather than lick your hand!

The graphics give the game an amazing sense of realism. You feel as if you're looking down on the camp from above, playing god by controlling one of the prisoners and watching the consequences of your actions - brilliant.

You can't just walk around the whole camp until you find the correct objects to escape. You have a daily routine to follow along with the other prisoners. This involves attending roll call, breakfast and exercising. All this is supervised by guards and if you miss any of these events you will soon be caught and put in solitary.

You can get hours of fun out of The Great Escape just by going through the daily routine with the other prisoners. But with all the puzzles you need to solve to escape added too you will be occupied for hours.

Of course, you could always cheat and use the POKEs, tips, map and solution printed in earlier issues! Take it from me, this is brilliant!

Overall: 90%

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 13, Jan 1987   page(s) 86


From the first moment when the jaunty tones of Colonel Bogey and other war toons waft from your Speccy, you know you're onto a winner. With The Great Escape, Ocean has come up with a Chrimbletide cracker. If not, you can spike me to the nearest barbed wire fence for my foolishness. (It's a deal! Ed).

It's a 3D escape strategy game that looks a little like Fairlight at first. It has a touch of the maze about it but you'll also need all your arcade skills - you have to be pretty nippy whizzing round camp avoiding the Jerry guards. Your task, in true Tommy style, is to make good your escape from the Colditz camp. Fortunately, there's more than one way to walk the wire - you can try tunnelling, snipping through the perimeter fence or just plain bribery and corruption.

But the real skills are in preparing for your big breakout. Camp life follows certain set routines: day break, roll call, breakfast, exercise. If you're not in attendance or you're caught out of bounds, your morale takes a tumble. The flag on the side of the screen shows how healthy it is. It's your job literally to keep that flag flying. Exploring new parts of the camp, finding and hiding objects, such as money, poison, your passport and so on, will ensure you're not flying at half-mast for most of the game.

Finding the objects that are crucial to your completion of the game is best done in the times between the daily routines. So, it's worth studying the pattern of camp life so you know where and when to sneak off. If you leave your man to his own devices, he just melts back into the crowd and follows the flow of the other POWs. Of course, you haven't got a whole war to while away, but it's more patient gamesplayers who'll win out in the end.

Trouble is, even when you think you've sussed the guards' movements, those of the Commandant seem to be completely random. Just when you think you're on top and on your way to Blighty, it's Hande hoch, Englander and you're marched off to the cooler.

As for the objects, it's vital that you have the right articles for your chosen tactic. It's no good tunnelling without the torch or confronting the guard dogs without the poison. They don't respond to cries of "Walkies".

The action all takes place on a smoothly scrolling screen that takes you round the perimeter wire, the grounds, huts, exercise yard, tunnels and castle. And although the main screen area is black and white to get round programming limitations, this is cunningly turned into a bonus. At night, it gives the camp an eerie moonlit gloom, broken only by the violent splash of a roaming searchlight. And when you're tunnelling it's positively claustrophobic - remember Bronson in the film?

My merest quibbles are that all the prisoners, including our hero, look identical. Must confuse Fritz at roll call, what? No wonder Albert R.N. got away with it! Plus there's no team work option - no vaulting horse tactics possible here. Mind you, a few of your fellow prisoners are open to a bit of bribery if you want them to set up a diversion.

The Great Escape is a well presented, gently humorous, tense and brain teasing winner. Don't let this scorcher escape your clutches.

Graphics: 8/10
Playability: 9/10
Value For Money: 9/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 50, Feb 1990   page(s) 46


A bumper New Year collection of cheapie rubbish (whoops!) from that king of the skin-flints, Marcus Berkmann, and his preppy pauper (ha ha) Jonathan Davies.

The Hit Squad
Reviewer: Marcus Berkmann

As indeed is this, one of the most thoroughly ripping (if not top-hole) games to emerge from Manchester in a long while. The Clinic is still inundated with letters about it - no doubt there'll be yet more now. It's a 3D isometric game, which like Movie and the later When Time Stood Still attempts to evoke a specific and recognisable scenario rather than just dumping us in computer graphics land. Here it's a German prisoner of war camp, and you have to amass various important bits and bobs (keys, rope etc) and get the %$Ł& out of there, before Johnny Hun catches you and forces you to eat bratwurst. Not easy, but enormously challenging and, unlike so many games, solvable. Smug gamesters who can complete everything in two seconds will now say, "But once you've solved it, what's the point of playing again?" just try solving it first, smuggies. Graphics are superb - better than Fairlight, and of the same order as When Time Stood Still - while, if not terribly fast, the game certainly keeps your attention. (Back issue fans, there's a very useful map in issue 14...)

Overall: 85%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 57, Dec 1986   page(s) 64,65

Label: Ocean
Author: Denton Designs
Price: £9.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Andy Moss

The year is 1942 and the place is Germany. You're at war and whilst out on a secret hush-hush mission (probably to locate Hitler and photograph him for the family album) something goes wrong and before you can say jackboots, you are incarcerated within a high security POW camp.

Being a pretty modest fellow, you casually let slip that no POW camp has ever kept you prisoner (in fact as Rambo in a previous Ocean game, you single-handedly freed a POW camp, stole a helicopter and destroyed as much of the enemy as you could lay our bazooka on).

Quite simply, Great Escape by Denton Designs (who did Shadowfire amongst other things) is brilliant in both concept and design. It has a wonderful action-packed story, some very clever routines and is graphically superb.

The aim of the game is to escape - not an easy task obviously.

Camp life is a series of routines: an alarm bell signifies when to get up. when to have breakfast, go to roll call and when to exercise, etc. Left alone, you, as our hero, will dutifully follow everyone else at their tasks. However, you can take over the controls at any time, thereby galvanising our hero into action.

Letting your man just fall in with everyone else at first is best as you can monitor each guard's moves. Once familiar with all this you can quietly slip away and explore the various huts and offices, being careful to return to the pack on the alarm bell call.

The layout of Great Escape is very similar in design to Fairlight with its black and white diagonal presentation, which scrolls beautifully as you move your little figure around the camp disappearing behind buildings and walking behind barbed wire. No attribute problems here. The movement is lifelike: guard dogs jump up at you if you venture too close to the perimeter wire and sentries in the control towers march up and down in sequence - don't move when they're looking your way.

Great Escape is all about finding objects, (keys, torches, tools, etc), locating a safe place to stash them, and working out a decent escape route. There are various routes to choose, each needing its own type of equipment, and once you've got everything you wait for night to fall and away you go. At night powerful searchlights constantly scour the camp and it goes without saying that if you're caught in the glare, the alarms go off and you're sent into solitary confinement for a while and all your equipment is confiscated. This is also true if you happen to bump into the commandant on his rounds - so be warned.

In my hut, I discovered the entrance to a tunnel (obviously a previous guest didn't like the cooking or took exception to the sleeping arrangements), and I found a labyrinth of old drains under the camp. These are fun to explore and a torch is a must here due to the lack of any electrics.

The whole game generates a very real atmosphere of actually being there, and you do get very nervous if you're stuck in an office when the roll-call bell sounds - what to do, miss roll call and have everyone searching for you, or leave the office you've tried so hard to find and scurry back to the pack? Not an easy choice.

Morale is the key to success and you can monitor your morale level by a flag on the left of the screen. When you're performing like a model prisoner, the flag is green - once you start misbehaving it turns red. If you do get caught the flag drops down the pole, and if it reaches rock bottom you become a mindless POW - all thought of escape is now the furthest thing from your mind. Your score is monitored on a list of ribbon-held medals and it is the medals themselves which display the score. Very clever!

Ocean has made a few boo boos lately, with some very average releases like Knight Rider and particularly Street Hawk, but with Escape, they have a sure winner.

The fascinating part about it is once you've escaped it's not the end, 'cos you can always try a different route and see what happens.

Great Escape is terrific fun to play, highly original and for once isn't just an exercise for wholesale slaughter (in fact there's not one dead body in the game).

A future No 1, I'd say.

Overall: 5/5

Summary: The best thing Ocean's done for ages. Highly imaginative plot, gameplay and graphics. Miss it at your peril.

Award: Sinclair User Classic

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 94, Jan 1990   page(s) 61


Yes! We're going back in time to take a lok at some games of yester-year. Why? Because they've all been re-released for £3 each and they're in your shops now!

Label: Hit Squad
Price: £2.99

It wouldn't be Christmas if The Great Escape wasn't on the telly; Steve McQueen riding his motorbike over loads of Germans, David "Dickie Darling" Attenborough doing his "woo-err I'm bonkers" act, John Wayne shooting lots of indians, (Wot?. JD). But anyway, this isn't The Great Escape the film, it's The Great Escape the game, and pretty great it is too (and escapist, for that matter).

Set in a WW2 prisoner-of-war camp, The Great Escape is one of those 3-D isometric monochrome thingies pioneered by Ultimate. This one is more realistic than your Alien 8's and Knightlores; the characters are properly in scale with the backgrounds of huts, fences and guard towers. The clever bit is that your hero will move around of his own accord, maintaining the camp routine (no, I don't mean dressing up as a woman) until you take control and make a break for freedom. Lots of objects to collect, tricks to figure out and perils to avoid - absorbing stuff. I think The Great Escape has been pretty extensively compilationed and freebied, but if you've missed it, don't miss out this time.

Graphics: 89%
Playability: 90%
Overall: 89%

Summary: Show those bally Jerries a thing or two, chaps!

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 62, Dec 1986   page(s) 22

The Great Escape - a camp caper for tough guys. Hardship, degredation, cruelty. We've just got to get out of this place.

The year is 1942, the setting a Prisoner of War camp in the grounds of a castle in Germany. Colditz in everything but name. The aim is to escape. Suffice to say that the camp commandant and his goonish guards don't want to lose your company.

The camp is enclosed in a barbed wire fences. You can explore the grounds, exercise yard buildings and offices: searching for keys, tools and uniforms which may help you escape. Beneath the camp are old drains and secret tunnels. Can you find their entrances?

The furtive exploration of the camp is set against the strict regime of camp life - meal times, roll calls, exercise periods. The camp is constantly under supervision. At night spotlights sweep the area. Fierce dogs patrol the perimeter fences.

The characters in the camp are the commandant - nearest thing to God - the guards, other prisoners and you.

If you don't control your character he will join in with the other prisoners in their mundane everyday tasks. It's a little like looking at an old black and white movie.

The majority of the screen is taken up with the 3D scrolling graphics of the camp. Remember Movie? We think they're similar in look and concept.

A flag pole indicates the escapee's morale. The higher the flag, the better he is. The colour of the flag changes depending on whether the POW is in a particular restricted area. If it's red, watch out. If the guards or commandant catch you, it's 24 hours of solitary confinement. Objects found are displayed at the bottom often screen together with a medal score table, and alarm bell.

One of the easiest ways to move round the camp is to find a German uniform. If you wear this the guards will not challenge you. Only the commandant will see through the disguise.

Thanks to a secret map supplied by Ocean I've managed to track down a few vital items. But I'm still trapped. It could be that I'll only escape with outside help. Any offers?

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7/10
Value: 8/10
Playability: 9/10

Award: C+VG Hit

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue 12, Dec 1986   page(s) 46

3D Action

Anyone who has spent Christmas in the U.K. cannot have failed to see The Great Escape. With a cast list which reads like a Who's Who of the 1960s, the film was undoubtedly the greatest war/escape film of all time. Now, Ocean gives you the chance to be part of it with its latest game, named after the film and involving escape from the Nazis.

Life is difficult for captives imprisoned in the grounds of the old castle on the peninsula but, as well you know, it is an officer's duty to try to escape, so you must keep on. To contain you there are a series of barbed wire fences, ferocious dogs and continual searches by guards. Any attempt to change routine must be planned perfectly, or trouble is almost certain to ensue.

Once the game has started, the computer semi-controls your player. You can allow him to do as he should and appear at all the roll calls and other compulsory activities. On the other hand, you can dash into any of the outhouses and see if you can discover anything. Hidden about the area in which you can travel are tools, keys and, for the more experienced, even a few tunnels - so long as you are not Charles Bronson.

Although I have seen only the Spectrum version, even that has a good rendering of the theme tune and one which has you humming it for days. Graphically, too, the game is excellent, with very accurate three-dimensional graphics which make judging distance a great deal easier than the more usual Ultimate-esque graphics.

To complete the game you must escape from the camp but even first-time players will find the game both easy to play and frustratingly complicated. That is its strength. It has so much depth that I believe it will still be a favourite this time next year. Anyone who wants to spend a few rewarding days at Christmas will find it difficult to beat this game which is just as classic as the film.

Graphics: 5/5
Sound: 4/5
Playability: 5/5
Value For Money: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue 35, Mar 1987   page(s) 8



Locked in a prison camp your daily routine consists of roll calls, exercise periods and escape attempts.

If you're indecisive for more than a few seconds you'll automatically follow the daily routine of sleeping, walking and eating. If you want to try something else then a press of the fire button regains control. Now you can explore the camp, search and find potentially useful objects and scout out possible escape routes. But you must return to the camp routine if you want to stay out of solitary.

Swapping in and out of this "auto prisoner" mode is essential if you are to escape as it ensures you get to roll calls, eat and sleep but allows you some time to explore the camps without raising the alarm.

Get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and you'll be sent to solitary to cool your heels. This also destroys your morale and can also increase the number of guards that are assigned. A constant escort of three guards makes escaping almost impossible.

Your morale is extremely important and illustrated by a flag at the side of the screen.

As escape attempts fail and objects are confiscated your morale drops. The lower it gets the less likely you are able to break out of "auto prisoner" and escape until finally at zero all player control is lost and the game is over.

After recent Ocean disasters such as Miami Vice and Knight Rider I was surprised at how good this game was. It takes a little while to get into it as you just observe the normal prison routine.

Then you can find the opportunities to duck through a door, search the room contents, steal anything interesting and be out before the guards notice you're missing.

You can only carry around two objects at any time and so you have to find a safe place to stash them before the big escape.

A good hiding place and a possible escape route is the tunnel that you can find by moving the boiler in your room! Unfortunately, the tunnel network is complex and difficult to navigate in the dark, but if you found a torch...

The game graphics are excellent as the camp is created from 255 scrolling 3D screens full of prisoners, guards, dogs, barbed wire, buildings (most of them off limits) and searchlights.

All night the camp is enclosed in darkness that allows you to explore freely if you can avoid the patrols and the searchlights.

The odds however are against you and you'll probably spend the rest of the night in solitary.

A brilliant idea, superbly implemented, Ocean's best ever Spectrum game!

Award: ZX Computing ZX Monster Hit

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue Annual 2018   page(s) 58

As the Crash annuals are still for sale ZXSR has taken the decision to remove all review text, apart from reviewer names and scores from the database. A backup has been taken of the review text which is stored offsite. The review text will not be included without the express permission of the Annuals editorial team/owners.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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