The licence to Tarzan always seemed an obvious one for some software house to grab.
Rope swinging techniques have been perfected since the days of Hunchback and so it would have been an easy option to do a Pitfall-in-a-loincloth where a large flickery (although predominantly green) sprite would be required to swing on ropes, jump holes, dodge arrows and bounce over crocodiles, the idea being to rescue Jane (poor girl kidnapped by natives and facing one of those mysterious fates that are worse than death.
Martech's Tarzan features: spears to dodge, ropes to be swung on, holes to jump and a Jane who needs to be rescued. But it isn't what I expected at all.
Far from being a dressed-up Pitfall, Tarzan is stunning looking game with some of the most beautifully designed backgrounds I've ever seen.
The most immediately striking feature is the way each location is framed in the foreground by a black outline of trees and twisted vines. You seem to be looking 'through' the undergrowth peering through a gap in the dense trees to a clearing where the action takes place.
Tarzan himself is a largish sprite and aside from running and jumping, can be persuaded to punch people - Exploding Fist-style - with high or low blows and somersault in mid-air.
There is no unnecessary complexity in the 'dealing with your adversaries' part of this game. Tarzan just punches them and/or runs away. The animation both of punching and of running away is full of character and is smoothly realised. Tarzan's mighty leaps (though looking a little like he's jumping over a skipping rope) are similarly effective.
It isn't all greenery: no matter how impressive, all that foliage would get pretty tiresome after a while and Tarzan has for reasons to be explained in a minute, to search a series of caves - all craggy detail and rocky fissures - which contain some rather cute looking spiders last seen in the immortal Horace and the Spiders arcade game. They are less friendly than they look however and Tarzan has to deal with them.
There is also this forbidden temple that occupies the later section of the game and in which Jane is held captive. This is another impressive location and looks just like forbidden temples look in the original Tarzan movies. Lots of rough-hewn rocks, native artifacts and flaming torches. The detail, as ever is excellent.
It is only after an hour or so of wandering around the jungle quite happily that you start to wonder about the plot.
Sure, there have been spears to dodge (although actually being hit by a spear is not deadly. Tarzan is not allowed to die under the conditions of the contract and simply looses energy - loose enough and he sort of goes to sleep and wakes up again at the beginning) and he gets a few ropes to swing on as well as some natives to thump. But gradually this 'what am I supposed to be doing?' feeling grows.
To release Jane Tarzan must collect seven gems scattered around the jungle. These are exchanged for Jane's freedom.
Collecting seven gems - however hard I looked at it - is basically not a terribly original concept.
Actually, getting the gems involves some thought, it must be said. And this is where the 'useful objects' part of the game comes in. Any game which isn't a reaction test usually depends on 'useful objects' for its gameplay. Scattered around the jungle are, among other things, ropes, torches and the odd monkey. I think its not being overly blabbermouthed to reveal that torches light up dark places and ropes are for swinging on. What seems apparent is that this 'using objects' part of the game was introduced at a late stage - the objects are designated by a box that Tarzan stumbles across in the jungle. When you go to the Select Object screen the entire current location blacks out disturbingly for a couple of seconds whilst the location is redrawn. It hardly matches the elegance of the graphics. There is no 'animated' use of the objects either, just having and selecting the Use Torch will suddenly result in a previously dark location becoming lit. Again, whilst it works, it's an inept element in an otherwise classy-looking game.
Better is the monkey which romps around entertainingly and has a specific function in the game in the spirit of the original. No clues though.
Having spent many hours wandering around the Tarzan jungle beating up a few natives, and swinging on a few ropes I was struck by a number of things.
Tarzan is stunning to look at and superbly animated.
The gameplay is utterly simple however, more the kind of thing you'd expect in a bog-standard budget game.
There may be 250 screens but your actions are restricted to a little punching here and there, some swinging and some falling in marshes. The challenge is really only finding your way around the maze and finding the objects.
I think you'll find the game entertaining if you really enjoy map-making but, beautiful as it is, I really don't think there is much of a point.
Try to get a look at the game. Certainly you'll be impressed but it could be that you won't want to keep playing it.
Just like the original movies really, the plot isn't up to much.
Author: Jason Austin
Reviewer: Graham Taylor
Beautiful to look at and slickly animated - but with hardly any plot. All dressed up and nowhere to go.
HINTS AND TIPS
Make a map (believe me).Monkeys are good at climbing.A good attacking move - somersault over opponents, turn around quickly and punch them.High punch has more effect but the lower punch is easier.There is a way of avoiding spears, spiders and flames.
Top: Alone in the jungle. Tarzan nuts thin air.
Above: Inside the caves where spiders lurk and exits are hard to find.
Right: A gap in the trees. A panther zooms past.