PC REVIEW: Magic Pockets Preview

 Love them or hate them, the one thing that has to be said for the Bitmap Brothers is that they know the difference between a good game and a bad one. Unlike many other developers, they have yet to insult PC owners by churning out bad conversions of good ST and Amiga games, and on the basis of Magic Pockets, there is no sign of them doing it in the immediate future.

 If you haven't yet heard of the infamous Bitmap Kid, then let me tell you that the little so and so made his debut in a special game for ITV's Motormouth and is now the star of Magic Pockets. The plot concerns all of the kid's toys becoming lost in his infinitely deep pockets. He has to get them back of course, but the only way to do this is to climb inside and enter the strange worlds within.

 Like Gods, the Bitmap Brothers' earlier PC platform game, Magic Pockets breaks away from the jump, shoot and run mould. The way that the Kid uses the weapons at his disposal, for instance, allows for a greater variety of gameplay than you'll find in other platform games. On the first level he throws whirlwinds, which can be powered up to create bigger whirlwinds. Each of the creatures in the game has a particular number of hit-points, and the larger the whirlwinds are, the more hit-points they destroy.

 Larger whirlwinds can also be used to trap creatures, and if they are subsequently burst by the Kid hitting them, they will turn into bonuses and power-ups. Even these show the usual Bitmap Brothers' inventiveness: the caffeine-filled coffee cup, for example, gives you fast fire.

Walk into a whirlwind and the Kid will be sent into a furious spin which will catapult him in the direction he is going. Not only is this useful for reaching otherwise inaccessible places, but the Kid is invincible while he is spinning. The Kid will also go into a spin if he falls too far.

 Weapons take on a new twist on the second level, in which whirlwinds are replaced by clouds. The Kid has to use these as temporary platforms to get to certain areas. They also produce raindrops and, if correctly positioned, can be made to grow new platforms. This adds a whole new element to the gameplay on this level.

 One example of the way the PC version has been improved over the original 16-bit versions is the TV set. This feature is a mapping device which enables the Kid to see twice as much of the surrounding area. On the ST and Amiga this effect was achieved using a shrink table. This told the program how to draw the background and each sprite using half the usual number of pixels. On the PC the game utilises a high resolution mode so that a larger area can be displayed without losing any detail. Another example of attention to detail is in the animation of some of the creatures. The bats, for example, actually look as if they are flying. They have a very bat-like bobbing motion as they move. If you stun one it will stop flapping and consequently fall towards the floor.

 As with Gods, there is a level of artificial intelligence built in. Initially creatures will march dumbly back and forth, but at later stages they become more devious in their attempts to attack you.

 The toys, when found, become the basis for the end of level sub-games. The first toy is the bike, but when initially discovered it is being ridden by a rock man. The bonus sub-game is actually a bike race, in which the Kid races against the rock men.

 Although the sound has not yet been implemented, the effects will be created by Richard Joseph. Additional music is a possibility and the intro music will be the same as that used on the Amiga and ST. Taking adavantage of the Renegade-Rhythm King relationship, this is a Betty Boo track with the samples stripped out of it.

 If you thought that PC wasn't a good machine for action games, think again; the Bitmap Brothers are not only creating a worthy conversion of Magic Pockets, they have even improved on the already excellent Amiga and ST versions.

PC Review, ??? 199? p. 15

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