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Arcade: Platform
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K

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Jon Pillar
Chris Bourne

Helter skelters, eh? How I remember them well! Trogging off down the fairgournd just to climb up to the top and sit on one those horrible barbed wire mats that always threw you off when you spun round the first bend. Ah, those were the days.

And as a matter of fact, Skelter the game has absolutely nothing to do with those towers of fun and friction whatsoever. Instead it's actually about balls. Bubble Bobble sort of balls in fact. You, as Billy (the ball), have to advance through 80 screens (with handy passwords to get straight to each set of 10) by squashing all the monsters that are wandering around the platforms of each one. Only one monster is vulnerable at any one time though (an arrow points to him to let you know which one), and if you hit any others by mistake then they split up into 2 smaller beasties, messing up the squashing order and thus making your task a whole lot harder.


Each screen has a very tight time limit, although this can be increased if you can grab one of the occasional bonus tokens. (Others help you freeze monsters, make them vulnerable, stop the clock, and bounce onto the next screen.) If you're very lucky you might catch the letters E-X-T-R-A and gain a bonus ball. Although somehow it's doubtful. What you'll probably be doing instead is cursing the programmers for coming up with the most frustratingly enjoyable control system since the trackball hit the arcades.

It's another one of those 'real physics' jobby, you see. Rolling the ball left and right, you bounce around by pressing Fire and by doing so exert a 'downward force'. So if you're on a platform, this pushes down against the floor, which in turn shoots you up into the air. Once you're in the air you can make your next bounce higher by pressing Fire on the way down, or shorter by firing on the way up (don't worry - it's much easier to grasp than it sounds).

All this means you can drop the ball on the target monster with pin-point accuracy (either that or ricochet around the diabolically-placed platforms like Cauldron 2 gone mad!). And it's all absolutely diabolically addictive! Since the vulnerable monsters only reveal themselves one at a time (ie you aren't told the order to squash them in), you can spend ages trying to blip one, only to find yourself with 3 seconds to get off the platform, deftly dodge the remaining beasties, drop through a miniscule gap and then bounce onto... damn! (But there's always next time.)


Because just like Bubble Bobble, the real fun starts when the second player joins in (as Billy's cousin Bobby). Then you get to plan the rolling most effective routes around the screens, divide up the workload, and even double-cross your pal and grab the bonuses for yourself! Hurrah! (And best of all, you've got someone else to blame!)

Sounds like value for money to you? And I haven't even told you about the screen designer yet! Now instead of playing alongside your friends you can completely confound them with fiendishly complicated and/or totally-impossible-to-complete levels! It's a gas!

There are a few niggles. The cutesy graphics and rinky-tinky sound are good, but some of the backgrounds tend to wrench your eyes out and you can't turn them off. And it may just be I'm a tad crap at the game (No. Surely not. Reader's voice) but it seems there's not much of a learning curve - you can be muddling along quite happily, getting the knack, when suddenly the program throws in a real bast of a screen, you lose all your lives and muscular control, and have to have a quiet lie-down to recover.

But it's difficult to really complain about Helter Skelter. It's beyond a doubt the best cutsie plattormer since Pang (not that there've been too many of them inbetween but you know what I mean) so you'd better go and grab a copy pretty darn pronto.

'Wicked' cutsie platform game that's more addictive than a very addictive thing.


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Here's who to whack and waste and where to go (sort of).

1. Billy.

2. Bobby.

3. These edge rolling blocks stop you rolling off a platform and are the peskiest things in the game.

4. This A is part of 'EXTRA'.

5. This dividing block is easier to hit than the floor.

6. 'Someone' has rather bodged up dodging the other monster - hence these little baby ones. Tch!

7. Feast your eyes on this horrible background!

8. This is the next vulnerable monster. Can our heroes get there in time?

Er, no.

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Ball coming down! Look out below! (Squish!) Sorry!

Hurrah! Billy's managed to get to screen 11! (What a ball!)