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Whatever happened to the boy who cried wolf? He is living in Linoleum, that is what - under the pseudonym of Cosmic Spacehead. This young lad has told so many lies that none of his mates believe him when he boasts about finding the legendary planet Earth on one of his travels. So he sets out on yet another epic journey to go back and take some photos as proof of the infamous planet. After all the camera never lies, as dodgy tabloid press photographers say.

The only problem is that Cosmic is not the brightest of Linoleum's inhabitants, so he needs your help to find his way back to that weird planet. There are two styles of gameplay to deal with here. You start off in a Monkey Island-style scene, telling Cosmic where to go, who to talk to, what to pick up and give to people by means of a joystick-controlled cursor point-and-click system.

However, as soon as you want to travel to another part of the planet, you have to bring your platforming skills to the fore. That is wy you have not got the option of mouse control on the adventure sections - you would be forever swapping and changing between control methods, and as we all know too much wear and tear on a joystick port can mean a visit from Wang.

Pity about the platform
The adventure-style sections of Cosmic are well executred, with lovely cartoony graphics and a built-in sense of humour. In fact, with a little higher difficulty level set into the puzzles they could make a fair stand alone game. But there is no way on this Earth, or any other, that the platform bits could stand on their own. This is the sort of stuff we got fed up with a few years ago - just jumping around the platforms, over baddies and collecting the bonuses.

There are other little inbetweeny games like asteroids, robot attacks and a diddy overhead racer which you must win to get off the first level, but none of them are stunning.

Every section of the game is set at far too low a difficulty level, it is as if the programmers set out to make a little kid's game, which is a mistake in my book. Even five-year-olds like to think they have got a challenge ahead of them. It must have seemed like a great idea at first, to combine all these different forms of gameplay. But that is not a good enough excuse to skim on the playability of any of the sections.

It is a pity to have some smart looking and humorous (if a bit easy) gameplay overshadowed by a poor-quality platformer, because there really are some nice touches here. Hopefully this is a starting point for a host of better things to come.

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Für ihr zweites Vollpreisspiel nach "Micro Machines" haben uns die Billigheimer von Codemasters ein Plattform-Abenteuer im Stil von "Mario" versprochen - geliefert haben sie bloß einen lahmen Aufguß...

...der zudem stark nach der bekannten Budgetkost schmeckt. Dabei ist die Story ja noch recht lieb: Um seinen Mitaliens die Existenz des Planeten Erde zu beweisen, will Raumpilot Cosmic hinfliegen und ein paar Schnappschüsse zurückbringen. Aber wie stellt man das an, ohne Raumschiff, Fotoapparat und Geld?!

Na, indem man in 15 Spielabschnitten erst mal alles aufsammelt, was nicht niet- und nagelfest oder ein Feind ist. Cosmic rennt und hüpft durch die horizontal scrollenden Plattformlandschaften, wo ihn massenhaft stumpfsinnige Monster erwarten.

Da deren Berührung sofort mit dem Verlust eines der vier Heldenleben geahndet wird, ist verstärktes Aufklauben der in Extraleben umtauschbaren Bonbons anzuraten.

Diesem Arcadeabschnitt folgt eine Adventureeinlage, bei der mit Hilfe der Verben am unteren Bildrand ein paar Gespräche geführt und ein paar Gegenstände eingesammelt werden können. Nach diesem Strickmuster geht es immer weiter, wobei Cosmic zwischen den Abenteuerabteilungen via Teleporter wechseln und bereits gemeisterte Plattformlevels ohne weiteres überspringen darf. Außerdem gibt es ein Spiel im Spiel, das aus einer von oben gezeigten Tortenschlacht für zwei Teilnehmer besteht.

Leider sind das einzig Kosmische am Spacehead das ruckfreie Parallax-Srolling und die gelungene Steuerung. Die primitiv animierte Grafik, die nervige Musik und vor allem das höchst stupide Gameplay bewegen sich dagegen eher auf sehr irdischem PD-Niveau. Da bleibt die Erde vielleicht doch besser unentdeckt... (md)

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How do you review a game that is deliberately aimed at a specific age range? This is the problem that befell me when Cosmic Spacehead turned up from those nice Codemasters people complete with a press release proclaiming that "Cosmic Spacehead is created especially to suit the ever-growing younger players market".

Blimey, problem city, seeing as I am rapidly crashing towards my mid twenties and the last time my age was in single figures was way back in the late 1970's. My argument was this - If this theory of targeting an age group works, then surely I am the wrong person for the job? However, the powers that be were having none of it, decreeing that it is my job to review games (and we do not have any nine-year-old writers anyway), so I'd better flipping well get on with it. Sigh.

The blurb behind the game reads like a typical platform game, with Cosmic being an adventurous type of juvenile alien who blasts across great tracts of uncharted space to land upon the planet Earth. Upon returning to the planet Linoleum he is shocked to find that everyone just laughs at him and goes "Oh, Chinny reckon" when he tells them about his previously undiscovered planet. No one likes being called a liar, least of all little Cosmic, who decides to get photographic proof of his exploits.

Oddly enough, (especially for the Codies, wo are famous for producing them) this is not a platform game at all, it is an adventure game. All the elements are there, the graphic window, the inventory, and even the list of commands such as 'pick up', 'look at', 'use' and so on. I played it for a good few hours, but still was not convinced that I should be reviewing it.

This conflict was eating me up, so I phoned Professor Matthews-Finn, the unconventional scholar who I admired greatly during my days at Bournemouth University. He listened as I poured out my problems, and asked me to visit him. Within hours I was at his doorstep, and a few minutes later he put me into a state of deep hypnosis. What follows is a transcription of a tape recording of these events:

Prof Finn: As you go deeper, you can feel the years fall away. Deeper, deeper. How old are you know?

Me: I'm 17. I'm sitting in a hal taking my A-level maths paper. It's hopeless, I've got two hours left and I've already answered everything I can. I'm drawing a cartoon on the back of my paper.

Prof Finn: Hmm, fascinating. You need to go abck further, much further. Ten years fall away in as many seconds. You are back in primary school. It is 1977 and you are dressed in a stupid tight T-shirt and ridiculous flared pants. You're talking with your friends. What are you saying?

Me: I'm saying that I'm Chewbacca, and that Paul is Han Solo. Rooawwwghhh!

Prof Finn: Excellent, now take a look at this screen, what do you see?

Me: I see Cosmic. He is a funny little man in an odd street. It is like a cartoon, it's like The Jetsons from TV.

Prof Finn: Indeed, the graphics are deliberately retro science fiction, aiming to emulate both The Jetsons and a 1950's vision of the future. Take this joystick and tell me how easy it is to control Cosmic.

Me: It is funny because you do not control him, you point to the part of the screen where you want him to go, and then press fire. It is horrid and nasty and annoying, because he won't go through doors, even when you point at them. You have to use the command 'Use Door' which is vewy silly indeed.

A lickle platform game wiv funny baddies

Prof Finn: Fascinating. Now move off the screen and tell me what is happening.

Me: Ha ha ha, it is a lickle bitty platform game full of funny baddies. All I have got to do is jump across the screen avoiding them and picking up Cosmic Candy. Oh look I've got 12 candles which gives me an extra life. Weeee, that was good, and now I'm at another place.

Prof Finn: Now that you have completed the particular arcade section, you can now move freely between the two locations. In all, there are 33 arcade sections, how do you feel about that?

Me: Wellll, I think that I might get a bit bored playing them, especially if they are the same as that one, but they are the only bit where you get killed. Also, there is the game of Cosmic Pie Splat, which is sort of a tank game. I like it and you do not even have to play the adventure to play it.

Prof Finn: Indeed. Supporters of these arcade sections might say that they add an exciting element to the game, and link your progress through the adventure with your reflex abilities. To the more cynical observer - harrumph - myself included, they appear to be there purely to increase the length of time it will take to finish the game. How are you finding the adventure?

Me: It's good. There's no disk swapping and new locations appear quickly. Some of the clues and puzzles are easy-peasy but I'm still getting stuck on others. It's fun but not vewy funny, and the jokes in Cosmic's joke book are vewy poor. I like this game lots.

Prof Finn: Hmm, fascinating. Is there anything you do not like?

Me: I hate that horrid bloopy music, can you turn it down please?

Prof Finn: With pleasure. I was wondering about the music, because you know, in my day it was all very different, we used to...

I will end the transcription of the tape here, but you may be interested to learn that under deeper hypnosois, Professor Matthews-Finn discovered that I was able to remember details and events of past lives with alarming clarity.

These include a wandering tinker in the mid 1850's called Joseph Fretwell, a Polish vodka distiller called Olaf from the time of Peter the Great, and a serving wench named Tess at the court of King Arthur. Professor Matthews-Finn and I will be touring the country in the early spring with our fascinating show and we are now taking bookings for birthdays abr mitzvahs, wedding receptions and hotel functions. I thank you.

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Sounds like a new kind of drug user doesn't it? Paul Presley should be on safe ground then. Hold on. Cosmic Spacehead is nothing to do with narcotics of any kind, although to come up with the idea of combining a LucasArts style adventure (except without any of the playability) with a number of arcadestyle sub games, you'd have to be on something. I'd hazard a guess at an IV drip filled with coffee.

This game's storyline of an intergalactic tourist trying to prove Earth's existence is told in the main by a rather unfriendly point 'n' click adventure (all run, rather curiously by a joystick rather than a mouse - the mind boggles), calling on arcade style platform games to link the various screens together.

Does it work? Can the concept of two totally dissimilar games working hand in hand be a successful one? Can a brick whistle the first two lines of Nessun Dorma? Of course it doesn't work. There's no felling of cohesion between the two factions, no sense of attachment. It is as if they were just put together because they could be.

At no time does the act of jumping from precarious platform to precarious platform influence the overall story in any way and it is the single most frustrating thing in the world to have spent the past half hour going through the adventure motions only to lose all your work because your reflex skills aren't up to the job. This is why arcade games in adventures are always very simple affairs. The audiences are different and don't need some sort of bridge to come together.

Of course it wouldn't have been so bad if the adventure side had been up to much but here too we just see a tired attempt to mirror someone else's format. The lack of mouse control is simply pure laziness on the part of the programmers and the actual puzzles are woefully simple.

You might say that it was aimed towards the younger element of the gamesplaying public, but since we all know that the younger element are far more likely to want to play Street Fighter II, that argument barely holds water.

In fact the whole product is as leaky as a sieve with too many holes in it. Best to let it just wash right away.