Dreams, eh? The source of ideas for authors, the source of inspiration for poets, the source of a truly awful song for Captain Sensible. The best bit about dreaming is that you do it when you're asleep, so you don't waste any time. The worst bit is that you only know you've been dreaming when you wake up unexpectedly and completely forget all the best parts. The other worst bit is having a nightmare, which is where Potsworth comes in.
Potsworth, y'see, is a dog with a difference. He is uncommonly intelligent, speaks with an upper-crust accent, leads the nightmare-busting Midnight Patrol and has three dots on the end of his nose. The character came into being when two slightly eccentric Brits looked at their mad spaniel and thought people would enjoy reading about his ludicrous adventures. Amazingly they were right, and Potsworth became a minor success. The slightly eccentric Brits then set their sights substantially higher, and sidled up to Hanna-Barbera with an idea for a weekly cartoon show.
After making a few adjustments, such as changing the title, fiddling with the format and bunging a load of Americans into the cast, the H-B machine swung into action and Potsworth and Co bounded onto BBC 1. Attracting five million viewers, the show leapt to the top of the charts, and the canny canine has never looked back. Except to see whets happening behind him.
From all this talk about dreams and nightmares, you've probably guessed that the plot to the game is pointedly strange. It seems that the ruler of the dream zones, the Grand Dozer, has been stricken with insomnia. Instead of prescribing a glass of warm milk and a quiet sit-down with the latest issue of Chat magazine, the powers that be call upon Potsy and the gang to fetch back the spooky Potion of Slumber. The magical equivalent of a Mickey Finn, its a special mix of five snoozesome ingredients, and paint my left earlobe an unsuitable shade of maroon if these haven't been scattered around the dream zones by the wicked Nightmare Prince.
On each of the five levels you play one of the members of the Midnight Patrol, and their special abilities subtly affect the gameplay. Skip down to the helpful boxout for more info if you like. For those of you who prefer to keep your reading in a sensible, orderly fashion, each level is built around an enormous search-'em-out platformer.
THE STUFF DREAMS ARE MADE OF
Commendably eager to sweep away the memory of such horrible games as Top Cat and Hong Kong Phooey, Hi Tec have come up with a game of startling playability and addictiveness. The funny thing is, there's really nothing new in the game - it's just that all the parts click together to form a satisfyingly chunky whole. The gameplay borrows elements of everything from Manic Miner to Switchblade, with loads of secret passages, unexpected monsters and hidden bonuses. Best of all, the game isn't linear - you can go wandering off pretty much where the fancy takes you.
Each level is made up of five or six big areas, connected by such devices as lifts, swinging girders and fairground rides. As you're not strong enough to set off these by yourself, you need to find heavy objects and shift them around 'til you can drop them on the control buttons. Needless to say, some objects are cunningly concealed and require mucho questing from our heroes. There's even less need to say that the levels are crawling with baddies, but I will because it's only polite to do so. The levels are crawling with baddies. (Ahem.) Some are susceptible to a quick blast of firepower, while others are indestructible. How do you know which type is which? Thats right, you don't. Get the idea?
Potsworth is an ace game. The fact that you aren't noticeably inhibited as you scuttle around adds to the attraction - rather than being led on by the programmers, you can choose your own routes around the levels. Its not an easy game, but certainly not so difficult as to put you off. If you've got a fairly good memory and a razor-sharp trigger reflex you'll have no probs getting around. TaIng a leaf from the Japanese console games, Hi Tec have kept the same basic gameplay for each level, but bolted on extra features to keep interest from flagging. The graphics are tip-top, with excellent detail and smooth animation. The sound's also pretty good, with plenty of 128K effects and ditties.
Neatly tying everything up, the inevitable multiload is offset by the fact you've got oodles of credits. Yes siree, ol' Potsy has got himself a winner here. In a shocking break with tradition Hi Tec have done the licence proud, producing a fiercely playable biggie. It'll take ages to complete, and even after you've done so there are plenty of nooks and crannies to go back and explore. In fact, I'll dispense with the customary payoff line, and just urge you to rush out and swap seven grubby coins for this sponkadicious computer game. You'll have hours of fun and be supporting full-price Speccy software at the same time. And you can't do better than that.
Loopier than a twist of peel, and stormingly playable. Get it. Now.
MEET THE SNOOZE CREW
Who's gallumphing through your dreams tonight?Rosie - a hyperactive loudmouth who prompts everyone she meets to say, "Hello, aren't you suspiciously like Lucy from Peanuts?" Rosie is stuck in the Warehouse, where the props for everyone's dreams are stored, and incapacitates the wondering monsters by shouting at them. Honestly.Nick - or, as he prefers to be known, Super Duper Man. Oh dear. Nick leaps around all over the place, attempting to reach the top of the Suspire State Building. He can lug weights around and buzz them at monsters, as well as making Super Duper Leaps to higher platforms. His personality profile has been handed over to Dr Hackenbrush, who guffawed expressively.Potsworth - Potsy is at large in Candy Land, where all the sweets of the dream zones are kept. He has no offensive powers, so has to dodge the baddies. Look, he's a talking dog. What else do you expect?Carter - the artist. He's one of the screamingly annoying people who remain calm in any situation. He can make his artistic scribblings come to life, a special ability which is of course completely different from that of the ancient Whizzer and Chips character Chalky. He's at large in the Rainbow Zone, and has to paint a soothing picture for the Grand Dozer. Hmmm.Keiko - the skateboarder. She whizzes around Carnival Land, with the aid of such mechanical marvels as the dodgems, waltzers, log flume and ferris wheel. Does she remember to bring back candy floss for the others? Does she heck.Freddy - the mad killer. (You're fired. Ed.)
On 14th April 1957, sixty-eight percent of the world's population dreamt that they were standing on a mound of green tie-clips, singing the theme from It's A Knockout to a Belgian tailor named Jeremy Wench. This has been officially confirmed as the sixth strangest even in history, as It's A Knockout wasn't televised until the 1970s.
"Hurrah!" cried Nick. "I can fly!" (And he could, too.)
As a precaution against failing to save the universe, Rosie practised moving crates for a job in the world of furniture removal.
Down in the dank, dark depths of the dungeons, Rosie stood on a box and pouted. She was that kind of girl. Elsewhere, a badger fell asleep.
Nick took a deep breath and jumped. It was a gamble - but it paid off. With one flourishing sweep of his hand, he signed his name on the wall.
Super Nick was slightly hampered by the marbles stuck to his head.