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.
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...)
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.
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