Raf Cecco - worra guy! He's a star, isn't he? In fact, I'll even lay my big (and rather scabbed and smelly) toe on the line here and pronounce that he's the BIGGEST star the Speccy's ever seen. Mel Croucher? Don't make me laugh. (And he doesn't.) Kevin Toms? Ha! John Ritman? When did he last look at a Speccy? Nope, despite having the kind of name usually associated with poncy North London disk jockeys, the boy's quite a little achiever. Exolon, the two Cybernoids, Stormlord - corkers all. And blow me down if Hewson haven't cottoned on to the fact and re-released each of these four stompers in one glorious package! Dope!
Been here before? Of course you have. Megagamed way back in August '87, this horizontal-flipper splashed its colour across the shoot- em-up spectrum (if you see what I mean), wowing everyone with a main sprite that actually walked. It didn't trip, stumble and break both knees, it walked. Plod plod plod. And when it wasn't walking it was jumping. And when it wasn't jumping it was beaming itself up and down between teleportation 'shower cubicles', dodging the merry parade of missiles, bullets and balloons coming its way. "Ooh!" we squealed. "Two different walkways to trudge along! Strategy in a shoot-'em-up!" Exciting stuff indeed.
And it's still pretty hot poop. What's there has obviously been surpassed a thousand times since (not least by Monsignor C himself), but the strong, bold colours, fluid gameplay and surplus of 100 problematic screens, each with its own 'solution', will still entertain those not familiar with it. Comparatively simple fare, yes, but a tasty treat nonetheless. (Burp)
'90 Rating: 78'
Again, what can I say that hasn't been said already? Adopting the rather weathered and weary spaceship shoot-'em-up genre (some things never change, eh, Spec-chums?), Raf plowed bucket-loads of innovation back into it to deliver a lethal May '88 Megagame, bursting out all over the shop with skull-scratching strategy and blasterama pyrotechnics.
Plunged down into the Massive Federation Intergalactic storage depot (well, it's hardly going to be Tiny if it's Intergalactic, is it?), your task is to bamboozle your way through a myriad of tunnels, disposing of as many pillaging pirates and their defence installations as you can. Thus you reclaim the territory. Thus you win the game. And it really is a pain in the bot. Essentially, Cecco is using the framework of Exolon but moulding it into, by this time, something much more fresh, advanced and invigorating. Like its predecessor, it demands precision reflexes and a compendium of screen-by-screen experience to conquer - but it's a hell of a lot more finickety. And his chunky, clear graphics have come on leaps and bounds too - in fact, that's exactly what they do. There are more fizz-pop spurts of Technicolor here than you could shake a bag of sherbet Rainbow Crystals at. A classic.
'90 Rating: 90'
Faced with the chance to stretch the original to its limits and pocket a tidy sum of money (probably), this Megagame hit the shelves in late 88. More elaborate arsenals, more spit-splatting explosions, more sleepless nights. As a sequel it's nigh on perfect - restricted by the environment handed down to it but innovative enough to boast its own identity. As such, it may well have been the hardest game to program. But even then it's hard not to imagine Cecco's alma mater quietly plotting away at its next project. Which was...
'90 Rating: 91'
Ooh ah eeh eeh oooh! (Sorry, getting a bit carried away here.) But what a joy, eh? I mean, forget about the game itself for a second and just look at that info box at the bottom of the screen - it's just so groovy (in a spooky art-deco kind of way). All too often details like this are overlooked by Speccy programmers (and if they're not they tend to be at the expense of gameplay), but without it Stormlord's atmosphere simply wouldn't have been so intoxicating.
Another horizontal-flipper, it sees you bouncing along a wicked fantasy 3D landscape, collecting, swopping and utilising various objects to help you rescue all your cute little fairy nymphets from the heinous clutchings of some nasty witch. There are still loads of perenially-difficult obstacles to dodge and duck (like Hubba-Bubba-coloured worms and acid rain) but, whereas Cecco's previous offerings were variations on one theme (ie shoot-'em-ups), here he's decided to fine-tune his 'puzzling' skills and devise an arcade adventure instead. And he's gone the whole hog - from the primitive beginnings of Exolon's choice of two walkways, here you have to spring over into the screens either side of you to suss out what you need to achieve and in what order. It's all a bit of a step forward - but watch out for those mushrooms!
'90 Rating: 92'
This is a magnificent compilation, totally unblemished by the usual inclusion of one or two dodgy games. If you're one of the very, very, very few Spec-chums who've never got round to allocating these four chestnuts pride of place in your collection then get up from behind the sofa (honest, we won't laugh) and (ha ha ha ha! - no, just jesting) dart down to your local software emporium NOW. Even if you've already got two of them it's still a barg. Or even all four! Cecco's Collection is not only a fine three-year record of one bloke's achievements, it also serves as a pretty snazzy and succinct history of Speccy programming to date (well, starting circa '87). And if it doesn't get those of you who've seen it all before jumping around, squawking with gleeful excitement and frenzily pulling your Lord Anthony anorak zippers up and down (ho ho), just check out what's reviewed back on page 26!! (Blimey! I think I'm going to have to sit down - the excitement's made me come over all funny.)
Fat Cat Cecco and la creme de la creme - you won't see a better compilation all year.
The Cybernoid squasher - Cecco always includes something like this in his games. Well, why mend what ain't bust?
Stormlord - springboards lead the way!
The very first screen of Exolon - by Jingo, the boy's come a long way since then!
Better get your Ray-bans out, folks - Cybernboid II refreshes the parts most bonfire nights cannot reach!