Microsphere
1986
Adventure: Graphic
£6.95
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

32,33
John Gilbert
Chris Bourne

Sam is da strangest detective. He speaks like Bugs Bunny, does somersaults to earn his dough and regularly gets hurled off the tops of buildings by agents of the Fat Man.

It's all part of the action in The Case of The Bali Budgie part of Contact Sam Cruise, Microsphere's long-awaited Skool Daze follow-up.

Budgies sing, so Sam's not surprised when he gets a message from a dame willing to spill her guts about the case on the top floor of the Hotel Royale.

He checks his antiquated detective's kit and prepares to leave the office, located on the second floor of a super-seedy tenement block. OK, so it's the 1930's and not so antique, but there are no laser scanners or fingerprint kits in this game.

Before he leaves Sam has to don one of his eight disguises because there's a contract out on him. There's a chef's costume, a postman, bar-room flossy and an old man. Some of them, the ones displayed in red, are known to the police, whereas the blue ones are unknown to villains and cops alike.

Sam needs the disguise because as soon as he steps outside his door, as himself, he'll be gunned down.

As he moves from one window to another, down and across the building, you'll detect that the playing area is one vast scrolling view of city streets and buildings. You may not be able to see Sam going downstairs but he is. believe me.

When Sam hits the street, turning left on his way to the hotel, he finds gun men hiding in doorways and alleys, policemen on the beat and money drifting along da pavements.

Sam catches da dough by doing handstands and snatching it up in his teeth (seems reasonable enough). It's vital that he perfect his technique as his money dwindles during the case and if he goes broke that's the end! Somersaults are also useful when dodging the hit men. The bullets may hit our hero but, because he's looping the loop in the air, their effects are minimal.

The technicolour 'tec - yes there is some colour clash - goes into the lobby of the Hotel Royale and slowly, very slowly, up to the top floor. He passes janitors and guests and janitors, all going about their everyday business - but any one of them could be a murderer!

Sam discovers a body on da top floor. The phone rings and a greasy voice slips into Sam's ear. The Fat Man's left the key to Number 19 at Number 31. As well as receiving strange calls in the middle of murder scenes, Sam can also make them. To kick off with the only number he knows is his own, but he'll collect others as the case continues.

He won't be making any now, however, as the police have arrived to arrest him for murder. A slow trip down-town to the police station, an interminable wait for bail.

Now try to get Sam into house Number 31 where the key to mysterious Number 19 is. He knocks on the door. If it opens he knows he's got the key. If it doesn't he could break- in and risk getting arrested yet again - da police don't like Sam.

Once inside Number 31 Sam's on his guard. The villains are there and, if they grab the arm of his trenchcoat, they'll drag him on to the roof where it's a three-storey free fall to the technicolour spread on the pavement. If he's lucky he'll end up with a hangover and an empty wallet, while fun lovin' Daisy - his long-suffering secretary - goes off with the James' Gang.

Most of The Case of The Bali Budgie comprises getting arrested, being released, doing somersaults, being thrown off tall tenements and changing into ridiculous disguises. It's supposed to be a satirical look at the stereotype of an early '30s gumshoe, right down to the cliched language and situations. Some of it is funny. Some of it isn't.

The city plan is large, but by no means massive, and because the whole screen scrolls, the action is slow.

That's not to say that Sam Cruise is a bad game. It takes ingenuity to play and has the hallmarks of an excellent strategy/adventure.

It is not, though a fast arcade bash. There's little action but lots of thought.

Label: Microsphere
Author: David Reidy
Price: £9.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: John Gilbert

****

Sometimes unwittingly hilarious detective spoof with bold, irregular graphics. Not a case for arcade gamers.

4/5