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Piranha
Don Priestley
1986
Arcade: Adventure
£7.95
£2.99
Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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49
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

Usually licencing deals work like this: a film or TV series becomes very successful, and a software house pays several grand to use superficial elements of the plot in a software title.

Trapdoor has it all back-to-front. The game is out now and the TV show isn't screened until the autumn.

Trapdoor, the TV version, turns out to be a highly bizarre childrens' series. The plot involves a large furry monster called Berk and his attempts to feed the Thing that lives upstairs. Whilst Thing is sometimes contented with innocent pleasures like fried eggs on other occasions it demands yukky stuff like fried slimeys. The eating of unpleasant slimey and/or squidgy foods seems to be an obsessive theme in the program.

The computer game has been written for the new firm Piranha by Don Priestley (the ex-DK'Tronics Popeye and Minder programmer) and it's marvellous. So good, it actually makes me want to see the TV show.

The main characters in the game are huge sprites which are nevertheless very smoothly animated and, more amazing still, don't change colour as they move over different backgrounds. The inventive animation gives the assorted monsters a great deal of individuality. Berk really does seem slow and stupid but in a well-meaning monsterish way.

In the plot Thing gives Berk a series of tasks which must be accomplished within a time limit. Each task involves a number of separate actions, which though odd, follow a sort of bizarre logic. Trying to figure out what on earth you are supposed to do with what forms a good 50 per cent of the game. For example, when Thing asks for fried slimeys the first thing you need to discover is which of the large number of little monsters jumping and squirming around the screen are slimeys.

Trapdoor contains superb graphics with an ingenious plot. There are only half a dozen or so screens to explore but that isn't the point. This is not a game of the platforms and ladders school. In fact in the way that it requires a problem to be solved via a complex but logical series of actions reminds me of an adventure game.

That this 'adventure' features a large dopey looking monster, is based on a kids program involving cooking nasty meals may seem a major obstacle to its success. I hope not, it's the most original game I've seen for ages.

Label: Piranha
Author: Don Priestley
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: Various
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

*****

As original to play as it is to look at. Trapdoor may be one of the most imaginative games of the year.

5/5

Banner Text

TRAPDOOR

The key element of the game. Beneath the trapdoor lurks an assortment of oddly shaped monsters. You introduce them into the game by opening and closing the trapdoor. Some are vital for completing the tasks. Most, though, are useless and either irritating or dangerous. For example, the very peculiar fire-breathing monster is sometimes necessary to heat things up, but equally when let loose on the world it trudges around after Berk snorting fire at him. Once released, the assorted nasties can be very difficult to round up and get rid of. Open the trapdoor with care and shut it down again as soon as you can.

HINTS AND TIPS

Slimeys are not like worms.

Spooks can sometimes be spotted early by looking for their flickery half-image in the backgrounds.

Spooks can be usefully fed if you are holding something edible when they zap you.

Bones (the skull) can, if you get totally stuck, give you helpful clues merely by having Berk pick them up. The 'price' of each clue is the loss of some of the points you could have gained.

Use your imagination and apply lateral thinking. For example putting things on the trapdoor and then quickly opening and closing it can form a kind of launch mechanism.

There are at least two ways of heating things: with the stove and by using the fire breathing monster.

Always close the trapdoor and always get rid of any monster once you have 'used' it.

To abandon a task and start again move Berk through the open trapdoor. This is the equivalent of monster suicide.

To get objects into other objects that are too high to ordinarily tip things into, you could get up on to a balcony and tip them in from there.

Try everything, some of it may work!

Screenshot Text

Stunning the bird produces an eggzagerated response. How to stun? Perhaps the hapless creature and a sudden opening of the trapdoor could help. Pick up bones (the skull) for clues.

A pot for cooking things. But how to get them in the pot? What to carry them in? Perhaps there are other ways to get objects into the pot than simply walking up to it.