JONATHAN SMITH, who has adapted Mikie from an original arcade version by Konami, has inscribed his name not only misspelt but backwards, as if to disclaim full responsibility. An ominous sign, but the game is not quite as bad as you might fear.
Mikie is set in an American high school - it helps to know this as some of the graphics are not instantly recognisable to those of us unfamiliar with things like locker rooms and cheerleaders. The thoroughly un-British plot involves Mikie's attempts to get a message to his girlfriend - and here any resemblance with reality as we know it ends.
To achieve his aim, Mikie has to rush around collecting the hearts scattered around the school building. The game starts in the classroom where, each time a heart is gathered, one letter of a message is displayed at the top of the screen.
When all the hearts have been picked up, and the message completed - including exclamation mark - the classroom door miraculously unlocks, and Mikie is able to proceed to the hallway, which in turn leads to the locker room with more hearts and another message to be completed. The locker room is followed by canteen, and then the gym, and finally the schoolyard where, if all goes well, Mikie can convey his meaning to the young lady.
The scenario may seem novel, but this is a classic platform and ladders game, with the rows between desks, lockers or canteen tables replacing the traditional levels and stairways. As in earlier examples of the genre, the hero has to accomplish certain tricky tasks on each level, while keeping out of the way of those out to thwart him.
On the first screen, representing the classroom, the task is to pick up the hearts lying under the desks of the other pupils - who by some strange quirk of the American educational system all seem to be girls. To get at the hearts, Mikie must first dislodge the desk's occupant by 'hip-zapping' her three times and then walking over the heart.
Hip-zapping, which uses a direction key and fire key simultaneously, and picking up the heart both require very accurate positioning, and meanwhile the class teacher, who is unusually persistent and hard to shake off, is in hot pursuit. Caught by the teacher, or zapped by the false teeth (?) which he hurls when in a rage, Mikie loses a life.
In the hallway, a janitor, aided and abetted by a dustbin, is determined to stop Mikie from reaching the door of the locker room. Inside the locker room, things get even more difficult, as there are three people in authority out to get Mikie, and three hearts to be retrieved from each locker before the message is completed.
The next screen is slightly easier, as Mikie is able to stun his pursuers with the chickens which have conveniently been left lying around on the canteen tables. But things hot up again in the gym where what looks like the sultan's dancing girls, but are apparently cheerleaders, can paralyse Mikie with a kiss. Wow.
Mikie e may well prove to be as much a test of your patience as of your skill. Every time you lose a life, you keep your score, but you have to start collecting the hearts and building up the message on that particular screen all over again.
After you have lost five lives, which doesn't take very long at first, you go right back to the title screen and a Beatles medley which becomes more infuriating every time you hear it. However, if you persist beyond the extreme frustration of the early stages of the game, you will inevitably get better at it, and find your progress more satisfying.
Patience is also the key to completing each screen. Mikie has only a limited amount of time before his persecutors catch up with him, but he can also collect the hearts in stages - for instance, he can hip-zap once, then make himself scarce and come back to finish the job later. So the secret is to concentrate on losing the attackers, rather than being in a hurry to pick up hearts.
Don't be misled by the screen shots of the arcade version featured on the inlay. The graphics are competent but hardly distinguished. Mikie's manic Charlie Chaplin walk is amusing, and there are nice touches like the pupils forever putting their hands up, but mostly the graphics consist of various square shapes denoting desks, tables stairs and the like, and a lot of bustling figures and flying objects. The humour, as represented by false teeth, dustbins, and chickens is not to everyone's taste and certainly didn't have me rolling in the aisles.
Having said all that, Mikie is a worthy game, with enough suspense and difficulty to keep you interested in plugging on from screen to screen. Provided you are the sort that doesn't give up easily, it should keep you entertained for a while.
Programmer: Jonathan Smith