FROGGY GOES A-COURTIN'...BUT MARCUS BERKMANN IS ALREADY SPOKEN FOR, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit. It's a frog s life on the Spectrum sometimes, even if you are partial to flies. Pity poor Mervyn, then, a sorceror's apprentice who, while trying to concoct a potion to make him tall, dark and handsome, turns himself into something short, green and extremely slimy - a frog. Still, it helps him survive an invasion of evil warlocks - now he's just got to go round and destroy them, all 96 of 'em on eight labyrinthine levels. Or rather you've got to.
This is the scenario behind Rana Rama, a fast-hopping megazapper from the magic keyboard of Hewson's Steve Turner. Okay, so it does look a bit like Gauntlet - lots of games will from here on in - but it doesn't play like it, no sirree. You've got to think while playing this one - something that may not appeal to fans of the great glove.
You're stuck in a massive dungeon of eight interconnected levels and about four by four screens per level. You see only the rooms you've visited (50 to 100 per level), and meanies are only visible in the room you're in - a clever touch that peps up the game no end while no doubt saving lorryloads of memory. The network of rooms is deliberately complex, and you often have to go around the houses to reach one you've missed.
Throughout the game you carry with you four spells - Power, to keep you going, Offence (or firepower to you and me), Defence, and Effect, a sort of catch-all category that gives you certain useful (and occasioned, bizarre) powers against your enemies. Spells can be upgraded, though it's a complicated business. Every time you touch a warlock, you're launched into a subgame where you must rearrange the letters R-A-N-A-R-A-M-A (helpfully muddled by the computer) in the right order pretty darn swifly. Get past this, and Mervyn has the chance to pick up a maximum of four magical runes which flash onscreen.
Runes are vital if you're to get anywhere in Rana Rama. With them you can bump up your spells and make yourself more powerful. For this reason the most dangerous part of the game is the first bit, when you're at your most vulnerable. When you've got some runes to play with, you can afford to take more risks. But at the start, concentrate on damage limitation.
As you'll see from the table, some runes are rather better than others. The really whizzy ones you'll find on on the lower levels, but occasionally you'll get a good one on level 1 when you pick up all the four runes going. If possible try to tempt the warlock into a smaller room, 'cos it'll be easier to grab the full rune complement.
There's a random element in which runes you'll pick up, but generally they'll be more high-powered the more trigger-happy the warlock.
The spells you start with are mainly Base Magic spells which, honestly, aren't up to much. The one exception to this is the power spell, where you start as Psychic. When you're killed - and you will be - you revert to level 1, Mortal. Die again and the game's over, so go to Psychic as soon as possible after your first demise it you want a buffer between you and oblivion.
What sort of noshes must you cope with? The warlocks (and on lower levels the necromancers) are of course your main target, as they provide the valuable runes. Don't fire at them, walk into them - this is in effect a challenge to the warlock and leads to the subgame. Warlocks are normally surrounded by Magic Minions, which are usually recognisably animal in shape (if only just) and limited in number. They come in many forms, from Dwarf Warriors (relatively easy to kill) to Gargoyles (rotten meanies). Kill the lot of 'em.
The third type of meanie is the Magical Weapons. These come from small square or rectangular generators and are endlessly renewable, unless you destroy the generators. It's vital, then, to knock off any generators as soon as you enter the room - even before going after the warlocks.
While warlocks fire at you, their minions and weapons will walk into you to harm you. As you weaken, your frog will begin to flash and his croaking will grow louder and more desperate. To stay alive you'll need to find one of the many gyrating little energy capsules which, like rozzers, are never around when you want them. When you need a capsule, it'll fizz loudly as it whooshes into you - if there's no fizz, you've wasted it.
And there's more. Secret doors are scattered liberally across the dungeon, so don't be misled by what seems like a dead end. If minions appear through walls, that's where the door is. Alternatively, the map that's activated by the See Glyph (displayed as an eye) show's all the secret doors.
Rana Rama is one of the best games I've ever played on the Spectrum. Fans of that little charmer, Gauntlet, find Hewson's entry less than gripping - it's all a matter of personal taste, I s'pose. But I'm hooked - two and a half hours last night, battling my way down to level 6. There's just so much to do and think about, and it's a treat for the peepers. So my advice is, hop off and snap it up - it's toadally brilliant!
One if the game's nicest features is the way you slowly build up the map of the level you're exploring. The See Glyph shows you which rooms you've visited, and exactly where you are in the grid (a flashing light). Lifts to other levels are also highlighted. With a See Spell you'll also be able to spot wandering warlocks (red squares), but again only in parts of the maze you've already explored. The map also displays any secret doors you may have missed. Starting up, though, can be tricky, so here's the first level complete and unsullied by warlocks...
Born To Rune
Here are the first five levels of spells and the runes you'll need to get 'em. The warlock is the man to get the runes off, then use them wisely. With offence and defence it pays to upgrade at every opportunity. Bear in mind that power spells can be lost, returning you to the ranks of mere mortals, so it's up to you whether you want to invest in an Electra or an Elemental or settle for a Psychic. You'll soon decide which of the Effect spells you like best - note that when you upgrade you lose the Effect you had before. The Effect spell is activated by standing still and firing - if you do this quite a lot, consider carefully which one you'd prefer to use. I prefer the Find and See spells myself, especially on levels I haven't been before. Jump, which sends you randomly to another place in the grid, is often more trouble than it's worth.
AT THE HOP
This corner of the first level (the top right hand corner on the map) is always one of the busiest - although you can't see them now, the other two rooms are just groaning with meanies of every description. Destroy those generators quickly, or else your position will be hop-less!The Sorcery Glyph displays your spell status and rune list, and lets you scroll through the available spells. Head for this immediately after grabbing some runes to stock up your spell larder.Harassed by minions? Stand on this glyph and many of them will go west. There's a random element to it, though, so you may kill the lot or none at all. Disappears after use.It's a nice effect when you do blow up a generator, and you could well find that you can now reach parts of the room other beers cannot reach. (Eh?)The See Glyph shows you a map of all the rooms you've visited. And as with all the glyphs, land on this and the meanies can't get at you.Grab this energy capsule when you start flashing, otherwise it's curtains. A nice trick to know is that when you've knocked off all the warlocks and moved on to another level, there'll be loads of energy capsules around if you come back - so pop up now and again to refuel.This thing's harmless, but unlike the little generators it can work to your advantage. Not only can you use it as cover but you can shoot over it and zap your enemies in relative safety. Neat, huh?Generators produce the warlocks' Magical Weapons, so they need to be destroyed as soon as you enter the room. Otherwise you'll have munchies and energy balls all over you - nasty!Way Glyphs take you down to another level, but watch out 'cos they may take you further down than you're ready for. And you can't always get back either. So stock up with some heavy duty spells before you contemplate moving on.Dwarf Warrior? Looks like a troubadour to me. They're dangerous little characters, nonetheless, so wipe 'em out!Although you don't get points for "killing" weapons, you do have the satisfaction of knowing they're not going to leap out behind you all the time. Generators, incidentally, are worth 500 points.
Death SerpentSpawned from the heads of dead warriors - yeeugh. 5th level minion that'll need five zap shots if you want to see the back of it. You'll need a Buzzball or better for instant results.GhoulA 6th level fighter that's barely visible. That doesn't stop it from draining you energy at a scarifying rate, of course.ArachnaeAren't spiders vegetarians? Possibly, but not these. No nut cutlets for these vicious octopeds - they're much keener on froggies (and we're not just talking about legs).GargoyleYou'll have to venture to the very deepest levels to find these sweeties - and you'll soon wish you hadn't bothered. Swift, cunning and deadly to anyone without high-powered defence.WarlockThe stronger a warlock, the keener he'll be on touching you and forcing combat. Only the weakest warlock will succumb to missile attack, but don't bother anyway - otherwise you lose your runes!NecromancerVery nasty characters, these, to be found manly on the bottom levels. Avoid unless you have at least 4th level power and defence. Level 8 necromancers are the most powerful meanies in the game, so go well prepared!
Power: Mortal - Uses your won life energy. When expired you are doomed.Offence: Zap - Better than nothing.Defence: Protect - Standard defence.Effect: Find - Will cause hidden doors to appear.MysticismPower: Psychic - Uses energy of the mind.Offence: Missile - Improved firepower.Defence: Shield - Reduces hits.Effect: See - Displays warlock on map if room has been explored.WitchcraftPower: Symbiotic - Uses life force of others.Offence: Plasma Bolt - Bane of mortals.Defence: Wall - Better defence against physical attack.Effect: Jump - Transfer through space when in real trouble.MagecraftPower: Electra - Uses electromagnetic force.Offence: Fireball - Deadly firepower.Defence: Barrier - Muncher of mortals.Effect: Demon - Unleashes an ally.RunecraftPower: Elemental - High power from the elements.Offence: Buzzball - Electric firepower.Defence: Unseen - Mortals cannot see you.Effect: Foolbane - Will cause mortals blind panic.
Warlock by name, warlike by nature. To get his runes, just bump into him and you'll play the speed test subgame. It's best, though, to get rid of some of the other meanies before doing this, 'cos otherwise they'll get in the way when you're rune-hunting.