Monday, 3 February 2014

Spindizzy C64

Back in the day, there was quite a few ways to release a game. You could have written it as part of a professional team; you could have made it in your bedroom and sent it off to a publisher. You could have half-arsed a game and sent it to a publisher infamous for not giving a ripe fuck about the quality of the game and in such cases, we end up with Spindizzy.

No, not Dizzy, that game series featuring an animated egg and obscure puzzle/platform sections with item A being traded for item B and so on. I'm not talking about that here. This is a game that was relatively well received in the UK and applauded by a great number of reporters who didn't really know what a good game was, nor how it should be reviewed.

The game is a simple premise (as are most of the c64, but not all) where in you control a geometric shaped character and where the shape has no bearing on how you move or perform. Ball, spinning top or inverted square based pyramid, means no difference in the game itself. You are "it" and you are off to explore an Isometric 3D world, collecting gems, solving puzzles and all that before you run out of time/energy and your machine creature thingy shuts down and the game is over.

This already sets alarm bells ringing in the design and concept of the game.

For a start, this means there is a maximum distance you can travel in EVERY game. Which also means that you'll have to make choices to navigate one way and not another and not be able to explore those ways until you start the game over again. You will never be able to collect every gem in a single game either. You will also have to navigate the same areas REPEATEDLY in order to get to somewhere new and then explore a fork in the path you've never navigated before.

Assuming of course you can even get there in the first place. The game's control system is always confusing on the Isometric system of display. Up, moves you Up and Left, Down moves you Down and Right. The problem with isometric displays is that the translation of controls is never consistent. In this game the controls are set, though the inertia and speed can take a lot of management to get used to in order to be able to successfully navigate around 80% of the rooms in the game.

Not only are there the issues of moving around the game but there's the fact that you'll have to rotate the game world to see around pillars, obstructions and other such fun. The ability is there to be used, but you'll have to use the keyboard to in conjunction with the joystick to get around the map. On top of this, is the ability to speed up by use of the joystick fire button which can give you enough of a speed to make certain leaps and jumps (but not too big though, you can't handle too much of a landing impact). Conversely there's the lovely little ability to slow down by using the space bar, though try handling a joystick and a keyboard when performing some very intense and precise movements in this game.

The game is however, a good idea. But the lack of speed and power of the C64 means that dying (or falling off and resetting) can take a while before you have to load up the next screen, fall, bounce off a wall, load up the previous screen, fall, bounce rinse and repeat. While other times might have you falling off one level into an abyss on the next screen with NO CLUE that you're unable to go in that direction until after you've taken a Peter Pan swan dive off the fucking level.

The idea of exploration and puzzle solving is not exactly a novel one by this point but it's a brave attempt just executed poorly. The puzzles within the game are just the idea of hitting switches in a certain order to attempt to bring together a set of lifts and platforms. Making walls appear and disappear, high floors and low floors fading in and out of existence, lifts above lifts to get to higher points etc. There's potential but sometimes it's not so easy to realise.

This brings me onto another big gripe with this system. Perspective. It's hard at times to realise WHERE blocks and floors are in relation to yourself. On top of that some rooms are PURPOSEFULLY designed to obfuscate and confuse you, lead you into a false sense of awareness so that a floor that LOOKS like it's under you is actually 40ft behind you into the level and when you fall, you're absolutely nowhere near it and end up going sailing past the edge of the room and into the abyss that is reloading back where you fell from and wasting more time failing to get to rooms you now cannot access as you'd run out of time.

Nice idea, poorly executed.