Hopeless / Radarsoft 1986
Screenshots: play/stop

Al "Dutch Meat" Bluntz, ex-galactic sportsman and bartender, was spending a quiet day with his girlfriend Jane one day, when she was kidnapped by the evil Manic Munk and taken to the deadly faraway solar system Milton Keynes. As Dutch Meat, you have to navigate your way through the platform-style lair of Manic Munk, avoiding his robotic henchmen and nasties.

The game is a split-screen platform game, with a massive playfield. The top half of the screen is where the action is, and the bottom half is the status board.

The object of the game is to kill off the nerve centre of the Milton Keynes solar system, which is kept alive by 14 heart-terminals. Deactivating a heart-terminal will open one of the fourteen gates protecting the nerve centre.

The game itself is based around a massive platform-style scrolling map. You control Al Bluntz, who is in a spacesuit. Bluntz has two modes of movement – on-foot and in-air – which you can toggle by pressing the F1 key. Walking around is the most energy-efficient mode, and also allows you to interact with certain items; whereas flying mode is necessary to get around the map.

Along the way are computer terminals that you can log into by pressing Down and Fire. Different terminals have different functions. For instance, there is a Compass Terminal, where you can scroll around the map and set a destination. Then, when you log out of the terminal, the compass (which is on the lower-left of the screen) will show you the direction you have to go to get to that destination. Other terminals give you extra fuel (for your jetpack and laser); extra energy (lost when you come into contact with nasties); Teletransmission Terminals (allows you to scroll around the map and find another Teletransmission Terminal, at which point you will be immediately teleported there); Two-way Switchboards (basically a switch that affects a doorway or other part of a map); Four-way switchboards (as previous but with four states); an Out-of-Use Terminal (just there to frustrate you!); extra power (to give you more running and kicking energy); a Viewer (where you just view the map); and the all-important Heart Terminal, which will open one of the fourteen closure points to the main heart... unless it's a fake one!

Bluntz has three defensive modes, which can be selected by the F3 key. First is the energy field – basically a shield that is generated around Al's body. This takes up energy when enemies come into contact with the shield. Bluntz also has a lasergun, which fires a high-energy bolt in the direction he's facing. Quite short range but very effective. And energy-hungry! Third, there's an energy-free Karate chop and kick sequence, which will dispose of any baddies within bodily contact.

The game is a combination of the platform and puzzle genres. There's plenty of ladder-climbing involved, as well as flying around. The map, as mentioned, is very big and should keep the hardened adventurer occupied for a good amount of hours. It seems overwhelming to start with, but once the Teletransmitter and Compass Terminals are found and put to good use, finding the Heart Terminals is made easier.

Controls are a little unwieldy, however. Moving about is done in the usual way. On a platform, Bluntz will continue to walk in the direction that you set him off until you press Fire or he senses danger (like a forcefield). This works quite well; it's the selection of flying/walking or defensive modes, by pressing the F-keys, that could have been made a little easier. If you quickly need to take off, for instance, you have to look down at the keyboard to find the F-key. A joystick combination – like the Down-and-Fire needed to access a Terminal – could have been used instead. Having said that, a seasoned player would get used to it.

Graphics are simple, effective and colourful. Bluntz is easy to follow, as are the nasties. The title screen has a simple tune which gets a little nauseating, but in-game there are spot FX that are actually quite amusing to listen to, and does a good job of telling you what's going on in the universe.

Overall, Hopeless is a great platform/puzzle game. People who aren't fans of either of the genres may find this too boring to get into, but persevere and you'll soon be wanting "just one more go".

Reviewed by Boz.

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