Retail Price: £7.95
Author: Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond
In a far distant galaxy, many light years away, lie four worlds enslaved by an an evil empire. On each, unrest simmers, suppressed by the dictatorial Emperor who rules his territories from the planet Blacktooth. Neighbouring worlds look to the dark skies and wonder. In fear they send two spies from the planet Freedom, to kindle revolution upon the slave planets, and recover the crowns that have been lost. Only in this way can the might of the Empire be fettered.
The spies they send are Head and Heels, two bubble-bodied creatures living in unity. Both have different abilities, Head descended from flying reptiles and can jump twice his own height and guide himself through the air, On the other hand, Heels has legs like pistons, and is a powerful runner capable of leaping his own height. When together, Head sits like a lady's Sunday bonnet on Heels' head.
Their mission has not begun well, captured and separated, they have been imprisoned in the castle headquarters of the planet Blacktooth. All is not lost, but Head and Heels must use all of their skill to keep their eight lives intact, and escape from the strangeness of their prison surrounds.
Head and Heels can be moved independently with an illuminated icon showing which character you currently control, both icons are lit when the two are joined. The pair can move in four directions when on the ground, and upwards by using their jumping abilities. To escape from prison, both Head and Heels must pass through a series of rooms and corridors, some filled with such deadly obstacles as poisonous Marmite jars, electrified floors, and attacking monsters - touching these results in evaporation into a cloud of bubbles.
However, Head and Heels do encounter objects that can help them in their escape, though initially the purpose of each may not be obvious - Stuffed Rabbits give extra lives and abilities, Springs boing them through doorways, Prince Charles's head at last finds a purpose - being used as a sort of animated fork-lift truck, Reincarnation Fish give life after death (by returning the player to their collection point at the beginning of a new game), Doughnuts provide ammunition, and Teleports transport the two heroes from room to room. Only through trial and error can they hope to successfully use such equipment to best advantage and safely leave the castle.
Because of their separate and individual talents, it is occasionally necessary for Head and Heels to split up in order to negotiate certain obstacles. Decisions of this nature should be made when a puzzle appears to be accomplished by the dual creature, but in general it's usually a good idea to keep the pair together.
Once outside the prison walls, Head and Heels have to decide whether to return to their home planet Freedom, or join together as a team, and use their individual skills to continue their search for the lost crowns of the slave planets. Whatever they decide, they must make their way to Moonbase Headquarters, and teleport themselves away.
For any one slave planet to fail from Blacktooth's grasp would be disruptive, but its expansionist plans would roll inevitably on. Such is the Empire's power that with the slow passing of time, a single liberated planet would be re-enslaved, and its inhabitants crushed once more. Therefore all of the slave planets must be set free before the Empire's power can be finally destroyed.
Egyptus, with its city of huge pyramid tombs must tumble; the harsh and mountainous prison planet of Penitentiary must fall; Safari, the densely vegetated hunting-planet, whose natives live in wooden forts and set traps for the unwary, must be prised from the Empire's grip; and Book World, the vast planetary library of cowboy books to which only the Emperor's minions have access, must be turned against its master. On each the crown must be found and collected.
When the crowns of all four slave planets are collected, the Emperor can be killed, and with him the evil Blacktooth Empire. The emperor's death signals the end of Head and Heels' task, and they can return home to their planet Freedom, to be acclaimed as heroes.
Control keys: definable, up, down, left, right, jump, swap, pick up/drop, shoot
Joystick: Kempston, Fuller, Interface 2
Use of colour: monochromatic playing areas, with colourful icons
Graphics: excellently detailed characters and settings
Sound: adequate title tune and bright atmospheric effects
Skill levels: one
Screens: over 300
There have been quite a few games of this style lately - and pretty as they are, many have been severely lacking in gameplay. Happily, the two programmers have worked extremely hard to make Head Over Heels one of the most fun to play and absorbing games available at the moment. The problems are all excellent... some are fairly easy while others require a lot of thought, time and patience. The graphics are awesome, the meticulous attention to detail is similar to that in Nosferatu, but the overall effect is much better. The sound could do with a little tuning but it's generally good, there are loads of effects during the game and the tune on the title screen is bearable. Head Over Heels is a must for any self respecting Spectrum owner - what more can I say?
This is definitely the best Ritman/Drummond game yet - it's even better than Batman! Head Over Heels is the cutest arcade adventure yet, the characters are extremely detailed, very lifelike and cuddly. There are loads of puzzles to be solved, ranging from very easy to particularly hard brain teasers, which means it will appeal to all types of people. The sound effects on the 48K version are just as appealing as the 128K, although the tunes are a bit restricted. The presentation is superb, as we've come to expect from all Ritman/Drummond games. Head Over Heels is one of the most addictive, playable, cuddly, cute and fun games ever. Miss it at your peril!
Wow! this is the ultimate game! Head Over Heels has some fantastic graphics; it proves to all disbelievers that there is still something left in the forced perspective 3D world; the characters are superbly designed, and the animation has to be seen to be believed! The front end is brilliantly designed, and everything fits together perfectly, bringing some of Jon Ritman's excellent ideas to full fruition. The playability is beyond compare, as too are its addictive qualities - Head Over Heels is excellent value for money, and a must for anyone's collection.
Head Over Heels is offered no real gameplay enhancement by the 128K Spectrum - there are no extra screens, problems or worlds. The added extra, as usual, is musical - there's a tune that plays throughout, which tends to get on your nerves after a couple of hours. For those with sensitive ears there's an 'adjust the sound' option so you can turn it off altogether or revert to the 48K effects. A couple of changes have been made to the Front End to make things a little prettier, but maybe a few extra rooms or problems would have been a better addition. Despite the lack of improvement it's still highly recommended!
The Hit Squad
Head Over Heels is one of the classic Spectrum games of all time. Packed full of playability and cute graphics it couldn't fail. The game is all about two characters called (wait for it) Head and Heels. They've been imprisoned in the castle headquarters of pie-let Blacktooth. It's your job to get them out! The two characters have their own powers which help you in your task. Heels has no arms but strong legs which allow him to jump really high and Head is more of a carrying person and usually goes around sitting on his partner's shoulders.
Around the action packed 3D screens of the castle great surprises are in store. Objects can be collected to help: for example a fluffy bunny magically increases your powers and finding a hooter will allow you to fire doughnuts at the attacking monsters (providing you've located the doughnuts!).
In addition to impressive graphics Head Over Heels features an equally brilliant sound track. At the start you can choose to have sound effects, music or silence as you play, and having both effects and music releases a cascade of sound from your Spectrum!
Head Over Heels is one of the best 3D adventure games you can possibly get on your computer. You'll be totally addicted from the word go. Come on, have some fun!
Ocean's follow-up to Batman has had us turning somersaults! Marcus Berkmann flipped his lid, and now reports from Ward E, third bed on the right...
Game: Head Over Heels
Joystick: Cursor, Kempston, Fuller
Remember Batman? Who can forget it! Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond's Filmation-style arcade-adventure was a true-blue tie-dyed classic, a game that stands as one of the best ever seen on the Speccy. Combining razor-sharp graphics, endlessly fascinating gameplay and an excellent plot, it was one of Ocean's very finest hours (three o'clock being one of my own best). Virtually my favourite game ever, in fact. Until Head Over Heels came along, that is...
And guess who are responsible for this little beauty? Yup, the self same J Ritman and B Drummond. The newie's not a sequel to Batman - no jetpacks, no Penguins and no munching Pacpersons are anywhere to be found. But it's so similar in style and approach to old Batty that it might as well be. What's especially corky about Head Over Heels is that the plot's just as good as Batman's - but totally different! Instead of one character, you control two, Head and Heels. Both come from a bizarre planet called Freedom, where creatures are made up of a pair of symbiotic animals who operate together as one (Are you sure about this? Sounds grubby to me! Ed) H and H are spies attempting to overthrow the evil regime on the planet Blacktooth, whose empire extends to four nearby planets. As you start the game they've been captured, separated and imprisoned in the castle headquarters at Blacktooth. You've got to get them together and then liberate the odd planet or two before legging it.
A HEADY BREW
Not an easy task, especially when there are over 300 screens to negotiate. It'll take you long enough just to get Head and Heels together, and longer still to get them off Blacktooth. Some of the puzzles are fiendish - either hard to work out (yup, it's lateral thiking time) or requiring finely honed arcade skills (you know, the sort I don't have). Virtually every screen has a different conundrum to solve - some seem impossible on first, second and 43rd sight, but may depend on whether you've chosen head or Heels (or both) to tackle them. Each has different abilities - Head can jump a long way, and fire doughnuts at nasties, while Heels is swift on his feet and can carry things around the screen. Put them together and their abilities are combined.
As you move around the course, you'll often have to split them up temporarily - which can cause problems if one or other gets knocked off, 'cos the survivor is unlikely to get out of the labyrinth without his little friend's help. Sometimes you'll need to split 'em up, put 'em back together and so on, all on the same screen. The combinations are almost endless.
In a way you can't help envying the format, which must be one of the most inspired and adaptable in all computer gaming. Most objects and characters are based around a 3D block size, and all have different capabilities. Some blocks can be moved around (and therefore picked up by Heels) and used to get H and H up to otherwise unreachable higher levels. There are also some rather more static blocks, plus conveyor belts, blocks that vanish when you step on 'em, springs, ladders and switches (to turn off the nasties) - all the classic features of this type of game. You'll also find reincarnation fish (which let you restart at that location when you're killed), cuddly stuffed white rabbits (which magically enhance your powers in various ways), doughnuts, a hooter and even hush puppies!
DOWN AT HEELS
There's loads more to Head and Heels, but half the fun is finding out for yourself. Like Batman, the game has an addictiveness and a compulsive quality which personally I have never found in any other came. Whenever you solve a problem, there's always another one just around the corner - and when you've become skilful enough I get through a screen, you don't find that it holds you up when you play the game again, so you don't get bored. Besides, thanks to the carefully placed reincarnation fish, it's possible to spend hours and hours on just one game, if you're not too careless with your spare lives early on.
If there's any important difference between the two games, I'd say that Head Over Heels is marginally easier to play, but marginally harder as a set of puzzles. Mind you, having played Batman to death, I'm used to placing characters on the last pixel of a block before pressing the jump button. And besides, I'm biased. It may not be everyone's cup of Ovaltine - it's scarcely lightning fast (except where it wants to be) - but it's my bet that Ocean has a real winner here. You'd be batty to ignore it!
As those modern philosophers Status Quo once said, "Down down deeper and down, down down deeper and down." MARCUS BERKMAN trips in the stairwell...
Reviewer: Marcus Berkmann
Long-serving readers of YS may remember my total obsession with this game when it first appeared in Spring 1987. Three years! it certainly doesn't seem like it. In fact the whole idea of the Clinic was inspired by the game - for the first four or five months it was 'Dr B's Head Over Heels Clinic', until the letters started to ask questions about other games. Playing it for the first time in ages, I have to admit I can see what all the fuss was about. It's brilliant - possibly the best game ever released on the Spectrum. It's beautifully programmed, superbly designed (nothing else has ever come close), as addictive as any game can be and absolutely gorgeous to look at. It's so good, in fact, that no-one has ever dared to do a 3D isometric game again, because there's no way you could top it. Arcade skills, imagination, lateral thinking, willingness to experiment, speed of thought and of movement - you need the lot. But the real mark of genius is that you're constantly learning, and getting better, and going a bit further, and working out puzzles you thought could never be solved. This, Tetris and Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo would be my Desert Island Games - it's a timeless classic, and not surprisingly it plays best of all on the humble ol' Spectrum. An essential purchase.
LOOKING FOR AN OLD ANGLE
From Ultimate's classics to the cute and quirky Head Over Heels, we've had our arcade adventures in the strange 3-D of isometric perspective.
But, says WILL BROOKER, some of those first tentative steps in the new dimension work better than today's glossy games.
Way, way back when Hungry Horace was still a national hero, 3D Ant Attack sneaked out under the Quicksilva label. Its Softsolid graphics of the walled desert city Antescher were hailed as astounding, and 3D Ant Attack wedged itself firmly into Spectrum history as the first game with truly three-dimensional views.
The next isometric blockbuster was Vortex's Android 2, released in the spring of 1984. In gameplay it's just a 3-D version of the old arcade game Berserk, but the graphics (which CRASH gave 96%) brought it up to this magazine's Game Of The Month standard.
Programmer Costa Panayi followed this up with the impressive TLL - a fighter-plane simulation with a carefully worked-out dynamic playing area. There's not a lot of game behind it, but the flying is enough.
The Softsolid technique was soon followed by the first 3-D 'adventure movie' - Hewson Consultants' The Legend Of Avalon. Its adventure element is a bit dubious, and the term 'arcade adventure' would be disputed for years after its release, but the game was a great success with its colourful, pseudoisometric graphics.
In 1985 the spate of high-quality isometric games continued: Ultimate's classic Knight Lore was followed by another Vortex game, Highway Encounter, and the next technical advance was Filmation 2. An Ultimate invention, this allows graphics of Knight Lore's quality to be scrolled smoothly over a large playing area. Filmation 2 was used for Ultimate's Nightshade, but was soon knocked into a cocked hat by The Edge's Fairlight.
Even back in the golden year of 1986 there were unimaginative clones which sometimes threatened to swamp all the review pages with their identical, and by then extremely boring, isometric screens. But some games brought a breath of fresh air to the already tired genre: the humorous Sweevo's World from Gargoyle Games, Ocean's surprise hit M.O.V.I.E, and Hewson's Quazatron. A Spectrum version of the Commodore 64 hit Paradroid, Quazatron amazed everyone by being superior to the original.
Not so original but also well-implemented was Ocean's Batman, and Quicksilva's Glider Rider deserves a mention along with Design Design's Rogue Trooper for taking a gamble and nearly succeeding.
Last year Ocean had a megahit with Head Over Heels, M.A.D. had a budget Smash with Amaurote, and Gargoyle brought out the first (and probably last) Hydromation game, Hydrofool - the sequel to Sweevo's World. CRL's 3D Gamemaker utility now enables everyone to rewrite Knight Lore, and last November saw the first real isometric adventure, Incentive's Karyssia.
Of course, whether isometric perspective presents a 'true' 3-D view is arguable - the player in these games is 'positioned'somewhere up in the air, outside the playing area, so any game using the technique looks forced, like a technical drawing. Though its representation of object and rooms may be highly effective, if we're going to nit-pick we can't say isometric perspective gives a realistic view.
But the technique has proved perfectly satisfactory for countless games, and it's pointless to damn them all for lack of realism.
More significantly, it will be interesting to see if the market for isometric graphics ever dries up, and if the public will one day reject the genre as outdated and overused, just as it once refused to accept any more Pacman clones.
HEAD OVER HEELS
97% Issue 39
'The best Ritman/ Drummond game yet - it's even better than Batman!'saAd CRASH. We read on: 'cuddly', 'cute'.
I agree; and that's probably what puts me off Head Over Heels. I can do without poisonous Marmite jars, stuffed rabbits, reincarnation fish and doughnuts, especially when their purpose in the game bears no relation to their appearance (why should stuffed rabbits give you extra abilities?).
The scenario is unoriginal (two spies from the planet Freedom are out to destroy the Evil Empire), and the graphics look like something you see on early-teatime children's ITV (not that I watch it). Yes, they're detailed and well-animated; yes, they're cute if you like that sort of thing; but there's nothing to link them all together.
As isometric arcade adventures go this is probably the best of its kind - there are lots of features. and the graphics are technically the best yet - but no way is it 'the ultimate game'. I like mine a little less silly and with a lot more logic behind them.
WHAT A BARG!
Summertime, summertime, summer, summer, summertime! Hurrah - summer is here! And what better way to celebrate the advent of sunny, carefree days than by locking yourself in your bedroom and playing a load of Speccy games? With the seemingly unstoppable spread of budget software, we here at YS thought it would be quite a wheeze to sort out the brass from the dross. So take your seats and upset your neighbour's popcorn as JON PILLAR whisks you with shameless bias through a roundup of the best £3.99ers around.
SHOOT 'EM UP GAMES
3. Head Over Heels
Hit Squad/Issue 56
Reviewer: Jon Pillar
It seemed that Knight Lore-ish games gone just as far as possible when Ocean scampishly loosed this 'un. Head boasts two characters to control and puzzles that only one or the other, or both working together can solve. A surprisingly big playing area and a satisfyingly full game.
Head Over Heels is either - depending on your mood - yet another 3D arcade-adventure featuring Ultimate-style graphics with impossible problems and lots of rooms, or another improvement on a tried and tested game-style involving a complex map and many genuinely interesting puzzles.
Finding myself in moderately good spirits on the day of writing, I can safely assure your that Head Over Heels is definitely of the latter type.
Reason to be cheerful No 1: HoH (previously titled Foot & Mouth) is the latest creation from Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond - previously responsible for the vastly popular Batman. Reason to be cheerful No 2: Ritman has excelled himself with this one.
It's space again. A planet called Balcktooth has been making a bit of a nuisance of itself lately. What with invading other planets and ruling over people in a fashion regarded as not entirely free and easy, the rulers of Blacktooth are beginning to put the wind up many an intergalactic leader.
Freedom - a planet as yet not controlled by the bad guys - decided to take the matter by the horns and do something about it. It is decided that a secret agent should be sent to undermine the Empire of Blacktooth and free the oppressed beings.
Things go sadly awry, however, and the agent is captured, adding another level to the problem. Before you can free the innocents, you must free yourself. Fortunately the secret agent which you portray has the ability to split into two parts - a head and your heels. Each part has it's own useful features just as each has negative attributes. The crux of the game is learning which part of you is best at coping with the situations in which you find yourself.
For a large part of the game, it seems almost impossible to get Head and Heels in the same room together without something preventing contact. Once you manage this, though, the results can be most rewarding - providing you with a single unit that can jump, run fast and fire doughnuts. Certainly a force to be reckoned with.
On your travels, you'll encounter an extremely wide variety of creatures and objects. The Reincarnation Fish is probably the strangest. By touching it, you can cause a sort of Saved game to be stored in memory which means that when you lose a life later in the game, you can make yourself re-appear at the point at which you ate the fish. All pretty crazy stuff.
Cuddly Stuffed White Rabbits are very silly indeed. Each one does different things, so until you get the hang of which does what, it's all guesswork.
There are lots of other things to be impressed with too. All follow the same sort of screwball logic.
Room-wise obstacles such as big walls, spiky pits and Blacktoothian guards stand in your way.
The graphics in Head Over Heels are really very special. The characters are both amusing to look at and easy to use. By paying close attention to exactly how far their feet are off the edge of pinnacles/ platforms, it's possible to judge tricky jumps with far more precision than in previous games of this ilk.
Head Over Heels is quite brilliant. The action remains fast and it's extremely rare that you run into a complete block. There are lots of puzzles to keep you very confused indeed for a long time. Doughnut miss out - get it.
Author: Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
Aargh! Cutesy games! I hates em! Still, you have to admit that Head Over Heels is, ha-ha, head and shoulders above horridnesses like Blobsy Goes to Weebletown, so it's good to see it re-released at a budget price. This is the acceptable face of cuteness, an isometric perspective multi-room masterpiece by John Ritman and Bernie Drummond, and it's interesting to note that there hasn't really been anything better since.
The graphics are monochrome, but excellently derailed, and as with all these isometric thingies, the challenge is to work out how to solve the puzzle in each room, then actually solve it using pixel-perfect joystick skills.
Ici, c'est la plot. Our two disadvantaged heroes, head, who doesn't have any legs, and heels, who hasn't much up top, have been captured and imprisoned in the castle of the evil Blacktooth. Your job is to get them out of prison, help them to meet up, then escape the castle and visit several slave planets in search of stolen treasure. Wooh, exciting!
The various chambers are filled with a weird assortment of animal life including the Reincarnation Fish, eating of which can restore you to that position if you die; the Cuddly White Stuffed Bunnies, which give you extra lives, protective shields, high jumps and go-fasters; Hooters, which can be used to fire doughnuts at attacking monsters (can you believe this?); Hush Puppies, which teleport themselves away without warning; and Guardians, which are no fun at all. To overcome this lot there are carrying bags, teleports, springs, switches, conveyor belts and all the usual paraphernalia to learn to use.
The user-definable swap key switches control from Head to Heels or vice-versa; an icon lights up to show which you control. You soon learn that there are some tricks you can only do if the two are joined together, Head sitting on Heels' shoulders, such as jumping upwards into a chamber above you.
Great graphics, fiendish puzzles and original gameplay more than make up for the cuteness overload of Head Over Heels, so if you want a change from Blast-The-Mutants, check it out.
Label: Hit Squad
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
C64, £8.95cs, £12.95dk
Amstrad, £8.95cs, £14.95dk
IBM PC £19.95dk
Jon Ritman's follow-up to Batman, that once again takes the 3D arcade adventure to new heights of excellence. This time you're in control of two characters called Head and Heels. Individually they have useful powers, but together they form a much more effective being.
It's got twice the number of locations of Batman, the same delightful graphic design, more devious puzzles than you dreamed possible, humour, originality and challenge.
The alternative dynamic duo cue search of five crowns in Blacktooth Castle. Each one comes from a different area of the Empire which they can teleport to. Here they will need to act together sometimes to solve problems, but at other times they have to go separate ways to overcome a hazard.
A classic game that nobody should be without.
(Transcriber Note: Although this is an Amstrad review the review itself could easily refer to the Spectrum version as, apart from the Amstrad version being more colourful, they are practically the same game. As there is no review in C+VG for the original release of Spectrum Head Over Heels it has been included as it's such an important game in the Spectrum's history.)
At first sight of Head Over Heels I thought I was back playing Batman, programmer Jon Ritman's last game. To tell you the truth I could have been playing any of the classic Ultimate games and the horde of clones.
It's very slick, very professional, very pretty and very addictive. And like Batman - remember the massive map C+VG printed? - it appears to be a huge game, packed with puzzles, tricks and complexities which should keep you occupied for hours. You'll probably end up bald from tearing your hair out!
In fact, programmer Jon Ritman says Head Over Heels is around twice the size of Batman. Gulp! How can you possible get all that into a computer?
On to the plot. The evil empire of Blacktooth has enslaved four worlds, subjecting their people to a rule of tyranny. And the empire's expansionary dreams are not yet fulfilled - and that fills neighbouring planets with a growing sense of unease.
The planet Freedom has decided to send a spy into the Blacktooth empire with the aim to ferment rebellion among the slave planets. To do this the spy must find the four crowns lost when the empire took over.
Why I say spy I should say spies, a pair of creatures which can operate individually but can also unite to form one entity. And those symbiotic creatures are Head and Heels.
The game opens where Head and Heels have been captured separated and jailed in the castle headquarters of Blacktooth.
The two creatures are separated by a wall. They both can set out to explore their surroundings. It appears to be a good idea to unite Head and Heels. I couldn't, but that's my problem. Once together and successfully joined their icons will light up.
Besides the world of Blacktooth, there are the following worlds to explore.
Egyptus, a planet with the emphasis on corpses, wrappings and stone pyramids. Could this be a clue to the layout of the place?
Penitentiary, the prison planet. Mountainous and hostile. Beware the pit. "Don't fall in," warns the cassette notes. If only I could find the pit I'd willingly fall in.
Safari, jungle, natives and traps await you.
Book World, a world devoted to the emperor's love of western books.
Scattered around the screens - all the ones I came across were graphically immaculate - are various objects which must be collected or can be used to help you negotiate the problems.
To be honest when I first started to play Head Over Heels I wasn't too keen. Another Ultimate rip-off, I thought. But before long I found myself lured into it and, quite frankly, I was having a good time.
The nasty baddy Blacktooth has captured Mr Head and Mr Heels and enslaved them in his solar system which consists of five planets. You have to liberate each planet before taking on the head guy and beating his ass into the ground. Only snag is, Head and Heels have been split up and, as Head is only good at jumping and heels is pretty hot off the mark when it comes to covering ground, you're going to have to get the pair together again before things can really happen. And in the meantime, you've got to deal with such hazards as remote controlled Prince Charles Daleks, electrified toasters and other weird and not-so-wonderful nasties! This, the most involving of the forced 3D perspective games of around three years ago is still one of the best to date, and sports marvellous monochrome graphics, speedy, jumpy gameplay and a tough and challenging mission across the five different worlds. Arcade adventure fans will love it!
Amstrad CPC £2.99
Head Over Heels is one of those isometric games so characteristic of the Spectrum, this one unusual in that you control two different creatures. Head and Heels are spies from the planet Freedom and have been slammed into different cells on the evil Blacktooth Empire's prison world. The Empire holds tyrannical power of several planets but they can be liberated by the removal of Blacktooth crowns. Head and Heels have made it their job to steal the crowns.
Head can jump high and, with the right equipment, fire deadly doughnuts, but moves slowly, while the swift Heels is bad at jumping but can carry a bag for storing items. Patrolling robots endanger their lives and object-oriented puzzles and dexterity tests impede progress.
The Knight Lore style graphics are highly detailed and sprites have great character. Spectrum and C64 versions are almost completely monochrome but the Amstrad has extra spots of colour. For such a game, speed on the slothful C64 is excellent.
Head Over Heels takes a lot of getting into and plenty of mapping. After much practice you'll be able to reunite the two leading sprites, by which time you'll be well and truly hooked. Puzzles become highly devious and it's brilliant the way Head and Heels can be used both as individuals and as a team. Arcade skills, brainpower and cartography are needed for this definitive isometric game.
THE AUTHORS OF BATMAN RETURN WITH ANOTHER HIT.
Once upon a time Ultimate released a game called Knight Lore which had real 3D graphics, a cute hero and lots of traps and things. And lo, the sky parted and millions of games with real 3D graphics, cute heros etc, rained down upon the firmament until the firmament was crawling with the blasted things and the arrival of each new game was greeted with yawns and "Oh look, another Ultimate style 3D game."
Most of these games had the look of Ultimate's games, but didn't match the 'feel', the combination of tricky problem solving and playability. Then Ocean released their Batman game, which had some character of its own and stood out among all the other Ultimate clones. Now, the Batman authors, John Ritman and Bernie Drummond, have produced Head Over Heels and have improved the format even further.
The plot of the game concerns the Blacktooth Empire, a group of four planets enslaved by the rulers of the planet Blacktooth. Your task is to recapture the four crowns, one hidden away on each planet, in order to cause an uprising, and finally to get the citizens of Blacktooth itself to revolt against their masters. Boiled down, this means 'wander around and find the objects', but it's the execution not the plot that makes it so enjoyable.
BROUGHT TO HEEL
You are put in control of two beings called Head and Heels, who have developed a symbiotic relationship allowing them to exist separately or to join together and combine their abilities. Head is a winged reptile with the ability to glide, but who is completely legless (in a literal sense), while Heels has developed powerful legs but seems to have misplaced his arms.
At the start of the game Head and Heels have been captured, separated, and imprisoned in different parts of Castle Blacktooth. Graphically the game looks just as you'd expect - rooms with various moving objects, monsters, and problems to solve - but it's with the two characters you control that the game departs from the usual format. Your first task is to get both Head and Heels out of the castle so that they can be reunited. To do this the program allows you to switch control from one character to the other. This might not sound revolutionary but it's an original touch that adds a whole new element to the game. Each character has to find his way out of the castle by a different route, and has his own supply of extra lives, objects to collect, and so on. This makes it like playing two games at once, yet you also nave to organise things so that Head and Heels can still get together for the later stages of the game. It's no good getting Head out of the castle with all hnis lives left (up to ten available) if Heels is left trapped somewhere with just one life left.
Sometimes their paths almost cross and you can find Head and Heels in the same place, but they can't quite touch each other because of some sort of barrier, so you have to send them off in different directions again.
In addition, it takes a while to figure out quite what each character is capable of. Head's gliding abilities can come in very useful, but it takes a bit of experimenting to discover how best to control him. There are some tasks, such as climbing ladders, that took me ages to get the hang of. Heels is easier to control as he just hops about a little bit, but being the strong one he carries most of the important objects.
Scattered around the various locations are such exotic items as the Reincarnation Fish (a sort of save game option which allows you to restore the game to the stage where you first found the fish), the deadly donuts, hush puppies, cuddly stuffed rabbits, teieports. and all the weird paraphernalia that you'd expect in this sort of game.
Once you've reunited the dynamic duo your problems still aren't over as you've got the four planets, comprising around 300 screens, to explore. The problems that lie in wait for you are all cleverly thought out - hard enough to take a bit of thought, but not so hard that they're discouraging. What makes solving all these traps and obstacles so intriguing is the fact that Head and Heels, once united, can still split up and function separately. This means that whenever you're faced with a problem you have to work out whether it can be solved by Head or Heels as individuals, or the two of them together.
I've played other games where control is divided between two or more characters, but these have always seemed rather fiddly and cumbersome to play, but here the game has been thought out so that the choice of which character(s) to control is actually part of the challenge and adds to the game.
I'd thought that this style of game had more or less been milked dry, but Head Over Heels proved an unexpected surprise, and one that will keep you occupied for hours.
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