Hudson Soft have done it again. Not content with giving us one of the most addictive bomb 'n' run maze games ever in the form of Dynablaster, they've now gone and developed a gob-smacking platform game that's destined to become something of a classic on the Amiga.
The star of BC Kid is a prehistoric Charlie Brown-lookalike with plenty of attitude. Not for him any club-wielding antics, this guy actually head-butts the opposition or, even better, performs a flying leap through the air and nuts them when he's falling back to Earth. If any nasties should get caught in this way, they are immediately flattened and dispatched off the screen.
So why is our nappy-wearing primordial skinhead such a violent headcase? Well, his girly, the beautiful Moon Princess, has been kidnapped by the evil king Drool and to find her, our cave-dwelling hero must first roam the game's five levels and numerous sub- stages in an attempt to track her down. Unfortunately, this being the Prehistoric Age and everything, there are an awful lot of improbable-looking dinosaurs littering each level as well as other obstacles such as erupting volcanoes, quick sand, lava pits and huge end-of-level bad guys.
The first level begins with our rotund little friend setting off on his head butting quest. Early on things are a bit tame with few dinos to nut and even fewer obstacles to overcome. It's a bit like an appetiser and merely serves to familiarise the player with the style of play. The green smiling crocodiles are dispatched with just one kiss of the forelock while the axe-wielding dinos can be put out of action with a double header.
As mentioned, it's also possible to flatten approaching nasties with a flying head-butt. This is done by pushing up on the joystick and then pressing the fire button while the kid is in mid-leap. This turns him upside down so that he returns to Earth with a diving header. The advantage of this move is that all nasties can be taken out with just one hit.
Further on in the level things start to get a bit more difficult as you're suddenly eaten by a huge brontosaurus. From here, you're transported into the dinosaur's murky bowels complete with saliva pits and the murky remains of previously eaten beasties. Once you've battled your way through that lot, you're suddenly dumped into an underground cavern where you have to do battle with an end-of-level dino. To defeat him, the Kid has to bounce up and down on his head, nutting him continuously until the egg shell that's stuck on his head is shattered.
As well as the enemy sprites to take care of, there are also a number of special plants scattered about each stage. The first type act as trampolines and jumping on these allows you to collect energy giving bonus fruits and reach inaccessible platforms or caves. The second type of plant life release energy bonuses after they've been bounced on, but beware as some also contain a few nasty surprises such as an evil spirit which pogos along the stage sapping your energy.
MEAT IS MURDER
Other plants and some of the bounced-upon nasties also release huge meat kebabs which, when collected, transform our hero into a rampaging maniac and really make him let off steam. These come in two sizes: the smaller donna grants the Kid a super butt capable of flattening any nasty with one nod of the head.
As an added bonus, cracking his head on the floor will also freeze any nasties who are on the screen for a few seconds. The larger kebab grants the Kid with a few seconds of invincibility, time enough to charge around and send everything you come into contact with flying off the screen. As well as going a very dark brown when he's in such a mood, a bright green Ready Break glow surrounds his body. There are a surprising number of these power-ups included in each level and they come as a welcome find when things start to get tough.
As well as the kebabs to munch on there are also a number of special smiley faces to collect on each stage. These are either released after bashing certain enemy sprites or found in some of the game's more inaccessible areas. It's important to collect as many of these as possible for at the end of each level the total is added up and if you've collected enough your energy will be topped up.
After the first 'trainer' level is out of the way, the action proper begins. Level two includes swampland, caves, woodland, quicksand, open stretches of water and a Tarzan-like section which requires the Kid to swing from vine to vine high up in the trees. Each stage adds something new to the proceedings, be it a new enemy or new skill to learn, and things get decidedly tougher the further into the game you get. This is what keeps things from getting dull and provides the 'just one more go' addictiveness that'll keep you coming back to this game until you've completed it.
LIVE AND LET DIE
In all there are more than 20 stages to complete. My only criticism is that it's a tad easy in parts. You begin the game with three hearts and two extra lives which slowly decrease after every hit and after you've exhausted all that lot there's the option to use three continues. Although these only take you back to the beginning of the current level and not a particular stage, it still means you can gallop through the initial few stages.
I doubt whether most players couldn't finish this in less than a week of constant playing. There's also an extra life granted at 10,000 and 20,000 points so the game's designers have given you every opportunity to complete the game.
That said, BC Kid is still worthy of a Superstar for the sheer inventiveness and originality of its design. Of course, the tech-heads amongst you will immediately moan that the game hardly pushes the capabilities of the Amiga, but that's not the point. BC Kid doesn't have to push back the boundaries of computing as it's already damn near perfect as it is. Any superficial tinkering, such as introducing parallax scrolling or extra colours would only serve to distract from the already brilliant gameplay.
As it stands, the graphics in BC Kid are fun and very detailed. The level of animation is superb with the kid's many facial expressions and bodily contortions adding massively to the game's humour. The sound, too, deserves special mention. There are several in-game tunes to choose from and each one is so catchy you'll find yourself humming them constantly. But you'll be able to find all this out for yourself as there is a BC Kid demo attached to this very issue. Are we good to you or what?!
Comparisons will obviously be made to Core's prehistoric platformer, Chuck Rock, which was released last year. Whereas the star of BC Kid head-butts his opponents, Chuck used his belly to bump the nasties off the screen. Another note of similarity is in the incidental humour and amazing facial contortions of all the on-screen characters as well as the lush graphics, fine in-game tunes and special effects. It's also possibly true that if you enjoyed then you'll get a kick out of BC Kid- but Ubisoft's offering is definitely the superior game, thanks to the ingenious game design which always offers something new for each stage.
What all this amounts to is one of the most enjoyable platform romps I've played in a long, long time. Forget the likes of Fire and Ice, The Addams Family or Parasol Stars - if you're into platform games, then this is the essential purchase to make. You won't be disappointed.