Peter M. Harrap
1984
Arcade: Platform
£6.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Unspecified custom loader

44,45,47
Ross Holman
Chris Bourne

Monty Mole is probably the most similar to Manic Miner but there are many similarities to Quicksilva's Fred as well.

This time, you get to play a mile whose graphic is on four cursors, thus avoiding any confusion that this game is based on Manic Minder. Your task is to guide the mole around a series of caverns - about 21 in all - until your eventual escape. This package received a lot of media attention a few weeks ago due to its supposed connections with the miner's strike and its inclusion of an Arthur Scargill character. How Gremlin Graphics conned the TV companies into believing this, I'll never know - I've been through the whole game and can find no real links at all with the current industrial situation.

Anyway, back to the game. On the first screen you guide Monty over a river to collect a coal bucket in which to steal your coal - but the owner's not too happy about this and starts chasing you down the nearest available mine shaft. Once there, you can start collecting the twinkling pieces of coal. (For all you bug-hunters, try carrying on running towards the house and jumping just before you reach it - with any luck you'll find yourself in the coal-miner's house and he can't do a thing about it.)

The caverns are, in essence, very similar to those found in Manic Miner, with platforms and graphics characters trollying along, and up and down. Ropes have also been added for Monty to climb up and down (a la Fred), and extending platforms are also used quite effectively. You'll also come to hate the Coal Crushers that appear in most screens - they are totally unpredictable, except for the fact that you can assure yourself that whenever you decide to walk under them you'll be crushed! Another nice feature is the Antics-like technique of being able to change events by dong certain things; carrying certain objects around with you makes various walls disappear when you enter the screen, allowing you to explore still more of the caverns.

The program has a number of slightly off-putting characteristics which don't enhance its playability - for example: the graphics routine allows you to stand on any INKed pixel; you can get Monty actually standing in a graphic and still not have the fact that you've collected it registered; and if you die in a room having just caused a wall to disappear, that wall will appear with your new life and there's no way you can get past it!

Despite all this though, I still thought Monty Mole the most challenging of the three - even though it's the most blatant clone of Matthew's Manic Miner.

9/10

Screenshot Text

Here's the miner - perhaps the only reference to this game having anything whatsoever to do with the current industrial dispute!

And here's our hero, Monty, already dead from a nasty case of 'free-fall'. You can fall a certain distance without harm - but watch you don't try jumping from too great a height.

These ropes can be useful, especially when making a quick exit from a tight spot.

Be careful you don't slip in one of the ponds or you'll come to a swift, watery end.

The crusher in all its lethal splendour. It seems to be totally unpredictable in its movements and you'll have to be nimble to get through - just don't hesitate... or you're dead!

This here's a shower - and if you manage to go and collect it, you'll be able to negotiate the moving tap below without a problem.

Here we see poor Monty failing to collect the shower and falling foul of the tap.

Even if you do manage to get through to this tap, you may have difficulty getting past it. This game demands that certain objects have to be collected in order to progress; so, if you touch one and die, you must have forgotten to do something on a previous screen.

While he's down in the pit, Monty must collect all manner of objects to progress further in other levels. Here, Monty must get the drill so that he can power-drive his way to the next cavern.

Each time you die, Monty's ghost ascends to the top of the screen and you begin again from the point you entered the screen. Trouble is, anything you've collected is taken away from you and you've got to through the whole process again!

On this level, Monty has to climb all over the pipes to get through. Who'd be a coal-miner? Any takers out there...

There aren't all that many moving menaces in Monty Mole, but usually the few that exist are pretty lethal. Watch out for the mining truck that nips back and forth at the bottom of the screen - it always seems to be wherever you don't want it!