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Palace Software
1987
Adventure: Graphic
£9.99
£2.99
Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

69
Rachael Smith
Chris Bourne

"But Rachael", they said, "this isn't your sort of game!"

"Let me at it," I snarled, "I go for anything that's not floppy."

"But it calls for brains..."

"Gimme!!!"

Okay, so they may think I'm just a tottie sans gorm, but I can tell you - I'm the sort of girl who just lurves a stiff upper lip. Maybe I'm not up to text adventures (lets leave the typing to that bearded hunk Mike Gerrard), but if you can find an alternative form of input, I'm game.

Alternatives are just what Stifflip is all about - alternatives to traditional arcade adventuring, alternatives to tatty presentation.

What its all about, oh my little wobbly ones, is rubber. Count Chameleon, master of disguise, has bounced back with his Rubbertronic ray, which is strong enough to take the starch out of a trainspotter's Y-fronts.

Some time between one and two (World Wars, that is) the balloon goes up. Wing collars will take a crash dive, upper lips will droop and moral standards will slowly deflate, unless somebody calls for the Viscount. Not the chocolate biscuit, but Viscount Sebastian Stifflip, all-round hero and general good egg.

With him are his redoubtable team of Colonel R G Bargie (whose initials were later adopted for a famous interface); Professor Braindeath, who keeps himself alive with a solar-powered toupee: and Miss Palmyra Primbottom, the chap-ess responsible for putting the gingan-goolie in the Girl Guides.

Action in Stiffy is presented in a series of frames, just like a comic strip, which peel over as the action progresses. Watching the 'page turn' is only one of the joys of the program's presentation.

Before you can investigate though there's one big problem to beat. You're all being held captive by an evil general-isimmo! How to escape his clutches? It took me a lot of brainbending until eventually the aid of Mr (my middle name's MENSA) Hughes was enrolled. Be prepared for same extremely lateral thinking.

Most of your actions are easily achieved by going to the correct symbol. You want to move to the next location, for example. Choose the 'Beetle off' icon and it shows you what exits are available. Now select one with a direction key, then press fire while it's still illuminated and the picture will peel to the next frame.

You'll also find 'Chinwag' useful, as it allows you to talk to other characters, both from your team and the enemy.

Sometimes talk just isn't enough though, and if you're faced with one of Chameleon's thugs you'll need to thump first and ask questions later. This leads to the 'Fisticuffs' screen, a sort of fairground simulation of throwing a punch which is, to say the least, tricky. This difficulty is probably the game's greatest weakness.

You can always opt for the effective but unsporting below-the-belt punch, but two or three of these and as the caption has it 'The celestial umpire' will strike. Swiping a gaucho in the goolies just ain't cricket.

Stifflip is simply superb. There's really no other adventure like it. You'll keep running into brick walls until suddenly you put two and two together and stop getting five and three-quarters (my hat size, so stop taking the pith helmet) and you're off into a whole new group of locations. This is definitely one Stiffy you won't want to stifle!

Adventuring for adventurers, aracides, anyone. Hilarious and stylish, only the too-complex combat system lets it down.

9/10
8/10
9/10
9/10
9/10

Screenshot Text

The main screen is simple to understand, with the current action in the bottom frame. the previous activity above. Your colleagues appear on the right, though if they're out of action they'll be behind bars, while fatalities are registered with a black cross. If you want to keep your team together you'll need to keep on switching between its members, but if not you'll be given a warning when one of them strays into danger!

The notorious combat screen! First choose the type of punch with the joystick (1), by pressing a direction then fire. The target (2) will start to spin and you have to centre the crosshair then fire to swing. The spinning fist (3) indicates the power of your punch, while you and your opponent's strengths are compared on the 'ring-the-bell' machine (4). Opponent's punching power is registered by the spring (5).