Hmm. I'm probably not really the right person to this job. I've played Cool Spot so much on so many formats already that I've almost forgotten how excited I was the first time I saw it. I borrowed the Mega Drive version from one of our sister mags, intending the usual 'sit-down-with-the-latest-superhyped-Mega-Drive-game-and-finish-it-in-two-hours' kind of nice relaxing start to Saturday morning that sets you up so well for the rest of the weekend (don't you find?).
Late Sunday afternoon dully arrived with the shopping still undone and the metaphorical car still unwashed, and I found myself in the unusual situation of going back to work on Monday and enthusing to skeptical colleagues about the delights of a Mega Drive game. I was totally entranced, and I don't mind admitting it.
All the same, even at the height of infatuation, I knew that this was a personality thing - Cool Spot the character was an absolute star, with his yawning and yo-yoing and cart wheeling antics, while Cool Spot the game was all very fine, but ultimately pretty standard platform stuff. The only vague innovative thing about it was that it didn't have any end-of-level bosses, which made a nice change, but also made for a sedate, constant kind of pace.
But hey, let's get back to that character for a minute. Do you want to know how cool Cool Spot is? Here's how cool. You know how every video game character under the sun these days, when they stand at the very edge of a platform, waves their arms around and flaps about until you move them? Well, Cool Spot's smarter than that. Move him to the edge of a platform and he'll wave with his arms and flap about for a second, sure, but then he gets a hold of himself and stops and stands and looks at you as if to go 'Well? What's next? Get on with it'. He's so cool.
Other than that, you've probably heard all about the wonderful animation on the little red spot dude by now - he yawns, he swoons, he cartwheels, he plays with his yo-yo, he takes off his shades to polish them (revealing a complete lack of eyes underneath, natch), he brushes himself off when he falls down, and he's just generally adorable (it's not just him, either - the baddies in this game are some of the loveliest around, from the crabs in their boxer-shorts to the nightshirt-clad cheese-throwing mice and the banditos and coalminers of the train level).
In fact, it's undoubtedly true that he's directly responsible for the game getting significantly better scores than it really, strictly speaking, technically deserves (as is going to be the case here). And that's fair enough, in my book. After all, isn't the whole point of playing games to make you feel good? That was a rhetorical question, by the way.
Sadly, though, Amiga Cool Spot isn't the feel-good game among feel-good games that it might have been, and the main reason is the graphics. If you've seen the Mega Drive or SNES versions of this, playing Amiga Cool Spot will give you a slightly inferior feeling, as garishly-coloured backdrops judder around in a fairly-unpleasant-scrolling kind of a way.
The first level's alright, but from then on it all gets a bit disappointing - if you saw our Work In Progress on the game a couple of issues ago, you'll have seen the state of some of the later backdrops, which at the time we were told were still unfinished, but which have turned up in the completed game in pretty much the same state. That's not all that much of a loss in itself (you'll be too busy looking at Cool Spot himself most of the time to notice the scenery), but coupled with the jerky scrolling it really starts to affect the gameplay after the first stage (level two in particular, if you zip around it at a reasonable pace, is a real eye-waterer).
In fact, while the game actually scrolls very quickly, I suspect a bit of slowing down to reduce the effects of the shudder-and-shake would have been overall a more desirable state of affairs. Still, you do get used to it after a while, so it's not a total game-destroyer. Start writing letter to Virgin now demanding an A1200/CD32 specific version, where we might get proper 256-colour backdrops and smooth scrolling, because it really would make all the difference.
Pace-wise Cool Spot's surprisingly good
But enough of such cosmetics - let's talk gameplay. As I've said, there are no end-of-level bosses in Cool Spot, which I kind of like. What you get is 11 levels of pretty straightforward platforming stuff, where you have to collect lots of little spots before finding cages containing your imprisoned spot friends.
There're three difficulty levels, which mostly just after the number of spots you have to collect before you can unlock the cage (but also make a few subtle changes to the levels themselves), and you start off with no continues, which is another pleasant change. To earn extra credits, you have to collect yet more of the spots on each level, which then allows you entrance to a time-limited bonus level where your continue is hidden.
You can choose from one-button joystick or two-button joypad control, and have any combination of music and sound effects you like, which wouldn't be worth mentioning if it wasn't for the disturbingly large number of recent games which have failed on even this elementary level of presentation competence (And while we're on the subject, yes, Cool Spot DOES recognize the presence of extra disk drives. Phew).
There's not really a great deal else to be said on the matter, save perhaps to notice that while at the very start the pace of the game might seem a little sluggish (though no slower than any other version), it's a bit of an illusion - it very quickly gets more than busy for all but the most pointlessly diehard speed freak.
Indeed, pace-wise Cool Spot's actually surprisingly varied - on the one hand you get levels like the paddling-pool one, where you have to pick your way across the sky very carefully and slowly over collapsing flying-saucer platforms and treacherous curved surfaces (and if you fall off you invariably land right back down at the bottom of the level, if not actually in the deadly water, which is intensely annoying), but on the other hand there're stages like the Rails, where you're constantly careering up and down a series of ramps and lifts with no flat bits to stand and draw breath on at all.
And of course, you've got to balance your playing style between racing to the end of levels as quickly as possible to minimize the danger, and exploring them painstakingly to find every last spot and earn those elusive bonus lives and continues.
Oh, and I haven't actually mentioned the sound yet, which is a bit slack of me - it's really smart, with very groovy tunes, fizzy and crackling effects and a great line in squeaking from Cool Spot himself. I especially like the scratchily raw version of 'Wipeout' on the title screen and the Western-style Bonanza-ish track that accompanies the train level.
Really, though, that's it. Cool Spot is a very standard platform game with a few nice touches and a fabulous character. The Amiga version is technically a bit crap, but not to any crippling degree. It's reasonably difficult but not enormously so, and it's just interesting enough to keep you playing all the way through. Apart from that, I haven't got anything to say about it (I'm kicking myself for giving it four pages, if the truth be known). So I'll stop.