I can't believe it. I'm sitting here in this stuffy old office, it's lovely and sunny outside, there are bikini-clad lovelies bronzing themselves in the park down the road (© Mike Gerrard 1989) and I'm reviewing a computer game and not complaining! Why? Because The New Zealand Story is the most fun I've had with my Speccy in ages, that's why.
Okay, the cynics in the office will scoff a bit and tell me it's not all that good really, but I'm not listening. I'm simply a hopeless sucker for anything platform-and-laddery. (My one man campaign to make Rick Dangerous a Megagame rank's as one of the most annoying things the office has seen this year, rivalled only by the day Farty came to 'visit'.) So, bearing in mind that I'm not a 100% reliable witness, here's why I think The NZ Sloq is pretty spiffy.
For a start there are the characters. This topsy-turvy view of a couple of very beautiful but very empty islands at the other and of the world just really appeals to me (don't ask me why). Our hero, Joey the Kiwi, is a little ball of fluff with big feet, more canary than kiwi in fact) - dead easy to animate, but dead fetching all the same. When he rescues his mates they jump up and down in glee flapping their stumpy wings and, awww, ain't they cute?
The baddies are pretty neat too, ranging from sheep to pigs to penguins to tortoises - hardly the scariest collection of animals to start with and the idea of them all floating around on balloons shooting at each other is just too screwy for words. But I love it! Despite the monochrome, they are all immediately distinguishable from each other, and have their own bizarre characteristics to wtach out for. Even the big boss characters at the end of each level are absolutely ludicrous, ranging from a ship to a seal to a giant whale who flops around in front of Joey like, um, a big floppy thing. He's perhaps a little easy to beat, but then this is only the first level, and you've had to get past numerous tricky traps and trappettes to get this far.
The next neat thing is the structure. Each level is divided up into sub-levels, numbered, 1-1, 1-2, 1-3 and so on, just like in Super Mario Brothers. At the end of each, you rescue one of your feathered chums, have a little breather and get ready for the next bit. There are a generous number of lives and you get trillions of goes at each bit. The computer only wacks you right back to the beginning of a level if you've made no progress at all. How nice of it.
What else is great? Well, for a start, there's the sheer complexity of the platform and ladders mazes Joey must cross. Even more so than Mario, which was more or less only played on two levels, The NZ Story takes you up, down, around and across all sorts of things, with arrows indicating the direction you want to go in when it isn't clear. There are spiked floors and ceilings to avoid, numerous holes to leap and, just before things get repetitive, you are obliged to change your mode of transport, whether it be to don a diver's mask and swim underwater (if you can hold your breath long enough) or to leap aboard a passing balloon, space ship or other temporary aerial ride.
Each has its own control mechanism. For instance the balloons will constantly fall if you don't counteract their movement with the up key, while the space ships will hover around quite happily. The usual fruit for points and extra weapons can be picked up from dead nasties too, though the standard bow and arrow is sufficient for most needs and lots more useful, for instance, than the rather crap bombs which only throw about six kiwi-lengths. Musically it great too, with a cute little music box tune and an endearing canary-cheep each time ol' Joey kicks the bucket.
"But! But! But!' you say. "How can you possibly tell us it's so great when it's all in horrible yellow monotone (as so much Ocean stuff seems to be these days) and aren't kiwis and all that stuff just a bit, well, girlie anyway?"" Hmm. Well, ahem... (Yikes, looks like you've got me there.)
Well, okay. The screens we've printed here and elsewhere might not look as exciting as some and I would be the first to admit to some initial disappointment with the look of the thing. All I can say to counter that is that if it makes the game clearer and smoother to play then it's an easy sacrifice to make. As for it being girlie, well, if you really hate cute games so much what have you been doing reading this far anyway? Why don't you bum off to another page and read about Gemini Wing instead? Right, that's got rid of that lot. For those who are left, erm, well, yes, it is a bit girlie. Maybe the man in the shop will give you a plain brown bag to carry it home in.
So, to sum up. The New Zealand Story has got a character all its own. It's as funny, addictive, pleasingly put together and playable as you can get. It's the nearest thing I've played at home to the arcade classic Mario, and I'm giving it a Megagame whether you like it or not. Here, have a Megagame. (Tweet) You're welcome.
Whew. (I think I'll go down the park now.)
Totally screwy. Totally wacky. Sickenly cute and rather marvellous. Can I have another go please?
Hurrah! You're just about to rescue one of your mates (he'll be soooo pleased to see you!). It's nearly as good as the bit where you get killed and make the most pathetic little cheep in Spec-history. Aww.
Eeep! Joey's kicked the bucket! Cue pathetic chirps? The assorted balloon-riding beasties look surprised, but what do they expect from a bird whose only contributions to world culture are fruit-that-tastes-like-water and shoe polish?
Yikes! It's a great big Ice Whale! (He's the first level guardian, Spec-chums.) Get away from that cute little kiwi, blubber bucket! (Actually he may be big but he's not very tough. Shoot him enough times and he pops his flukes, though you do have to dodge the ice crystals that he rains down on you.)
Blimey! No wonder little Joey is on the run! From left to right on the top row are the Boomerang Man (his 'weapon' only goes a few feet so you're okay), a shell (it fire the spikey star thing that's dropping down the hole), another Boomerang Man, a boomerang, another shell, and, erm, that's it. Baddies all!