Devious Designs logo

Electronic Zoo * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

There are what you might call some eccentrics writing software these days. It probably comes from some primitive instinct to shake off the worrying stereotype that proclaims that they are all sad men who sit in their bedrooms, at home with Mother, programming for all hours, only taking time off to readjust the Elastoplast that holds their NHS issue glasses together. Then again, maybe they are all just plain mad.

The chapette behind this is clearly no exception, as the scenario for this "interesting" puzzle game shows. A blighter named Dr Devious - ex-politician, ex-taxman, ex-DPP - has come up with a plot to hold the world at ransom as a revenge for his untimely demise from the forefront of public life. Using his immense scientific skills, honed and focused in a garden shed, Dr Devious built a weapon. A weapon so powerful and so, well, devious really that it scared the pants off him. While bending down to pull them back up he realised that he would soon be a very rich man.

The weapon was a feat of molecular manipulation, chemical control and physical fondling. Or something. It could turn any object into a cubist representation of itself (he fancied himself as a bit of an art bluff) and then juggle it around it renders the said object/monument/public toilet completely useless. Dr Devious has the power to put them all back, but it will cost the world's governments big money. This is where JJ Maverick comes in, controlled by your good selves. Only he, the world's best special agent, can save the day. Only he has the talent, the nerve and the dramatic aftershave to do it. If you want to know what he looks like, pick any guy from a Gillette advert, especially one of the yuppie types, and you've got it.

This is a weird game. The first thing you are presented with as you start is basically a collection of nondescript blocks that need to be moved into a transparant frame. When they are all in the right places, the screen updates to reveal what the object is - essentially an excuse to parade some truly fantastic artwork, and for you to pat yourself on the back.

The controls are unusual to say the least. After the tutorial style of the first seven or eight levels, JJ Maverick becomes fully mobile. This involves the rather disorientating concept of every vertical or horizontal flat surface having its own gravity, so JJ can jump out from a wall, then be attracted by the gravity of a surface at another angle and land on that. Very strange. To move the pieces, JJ can pull, lift and carry, throw or drop them into place. As the levels get harder it gets more difficult to work out exactly where you are going to move to and how the hell you are going to get that piece over there. It is all too easy to make one false move and end up in big trouble.

As if this wasn't enough, you get the added problems of irritants such as big things that shoot at you, bonuses to try to and to, and the whole thing is against the clock. What a complete nightmare.

It soon becomes one of the most frantic puzzle games this side of Lemmings, but because of the esoteric nature of the thing, and the iffy controls, it is definitely an acquired taste. But I've always been intro acquiring new and different experiences - just ask my [that's quite enough of that - Mary Whitehouse Dept].

Enjoyable, more challenging than Anneka rice, and excellent graphics - a worthy reward for struggling through the levels. Yes, it is eccentric, esoteric and some other word beginning with e and ending in ric.

The fifty levels there are will take a lot of playing, the hair-pulling factor is enormous and you won't stop battling with it for hours - if the joystick doesn't get through the monitor first. Fab.

Devious Designs logo

Cubist art is all very well and good, but when a megalomaniac scientist tries to cube the world things get out of hand. Cue strange puzzle game!

If you look up at this section of the building here, you will be able to see the delicate carvings of the overhanging ledges on each tower. These details give us the feel of the absolute patience and visionary scale of the architect's work. Now... wait a minute, where did that gigantic orange brick come from. Where's the church? Oh dear..."

The art world has always been an inspiration to many people, from the moving appeal of paintings to the awesome spectacle of extravagant architecture. One of the world's most influental artists is Pablo Picasso. His famous Cubist work has long been regarded as some of the finest abstract painting in history. Unfortunately, not everyone is inspired by his work in the same way.

Dr Devious, the famous abstract scientist, has been an admirer of Picasso for many years, his pride and joy was a cubist painting by the great artist which hangs in his laboratory. However his love for this style of art soon became an obsession, causing him to begin experimenting with machinery to make everything into blocks. One night, in a dark area of the misty city, a strange and mysterious figure in a floating chair, was stalking around in a dark and dingy back street.

Witnesses say that he fired a beam from the chair which turned nearby buildings into large orange blocks. Soon enough, the world became aware of this villainous activity, when the Pentagon was turned into a square and the Kremlin appeared as a cube.

Now accusations have been flying between the various nations, and a threat from Dr Devious has been transmitted to the various world leaders. He's perfected his machine and is now threatening to cube the Earth! Only one man can save us. A man who knows Dr Devious and has an insight into his warped mind. That man is super-agent JJ Maverick.

After receiving an urgent message, JJ zooms off to the Arctic, the last place the evil doctor was sighted. On his arrival, he notices an igloo has been cubed and split apart. Obviously Devious' plan requires the results of his cubing experiment to in no way resemble their original shape, otherwise the machine loses its power. All that JJ has to do is stack the blocks together to reform their original shape. Right, time to roll the sleeves up.

Devious Designs is a very original game which boasts a lot of interesting features

Squaring the Circle
You take control of JJ Maverick as he tries to reform various cultural icons that have been zapped by Dr Devious' manic experiemtn. Being a super-agent, JJ has a few tricks up his dinner-jacket sleeve to help him on his way. Not only can he pull, lift and throw blocks, but he can also drag them through mid-air, walk up walls ceilings. This allows him to grab the blocks from wherever they may be and reconstruct them into their proper form. However, Devious has spotted the brave agent in his task, and is determined to stop him from succeeding. Each area that JJ must work in is linked to a timed explosive. If JJ takes too long to completing his quest, then the whole place will blow up, taking anything remaining in the sector with it.

If this wasn't enough, there are also some of Devious' strange mutations prowling around, including deadly clouds, vicious dragons, mutated whirlwinds and manic Cossack dancers. Fortunately, |JJ has something to protect him - a flame gun. Using this weapon, he can fire a stream of deadly fireballs at his enemies, clearing the way for his quest. Additional items can be picked up to help him, including extra time and bonus bombs. Every 20th level is a showdown with the doctor in his flying chair - but all is not as it seems...

Don't box me in
Devious Designs is most certainly an odd little game. It combines shoot-em-up, platform and puzzle game elements in one package, not on separate levels as in many other games, but at the same time!

This combination works very well, providing some seriously challenging action. Some careful thought is needed to work out how each level should be tackled (especially on later levels) and you have to keep your trigger finger busy to take out the enemies.

The rather odd control method can be frustrating at times, causing masses of confusion as to which direction you're supposed to be moving the joystick. At times this makes completing the levels extremely annoying - especially when you know what you're trying to do on a particular screen. This aside, though, the puzzles are pretty challenging, especially when you are on later levels, and you will be kept on your toes as to what exactly is happening on screen. The graphic style is also quite intriguing, being very different from the usual cute and abstract puzzle games that appear, and the intro sequence sums up the feel of the whole package.

Devious Designs is a very original game which boasts a lot of interesting features, but the control method could prove too confusing for beginners to puzzling and downright annoying to those with experience in the field. If you can cope with this little quibble, you'll more than likely find Devious Designs quite a taxing affair, which makes it one of those games that are well worth digging out for a quick bash from time to time.

Occasionally items drop from the top of the screen to help JJ out:
Devious Designs: Bombs Bombs - Allow JJ to drop explosives on enemies along with firing his fireball shots.
Devious Designs: Fast Shots Fast Shots - Let JJ fire a stream of bombs and fireballs a lot faster than normal.
Devious Designs: Extra Life Extra Block - Fills a gap in the target shape. The blocks they leave can be shot if they're not needed.
Devious Designs: Extra Life Extra Life - Picking up one of these adds an extra life to JJ's lives counter.
Devious Designs: Extra Dynamite Dynamite - Picking this up causes a large explosion which destroys all enemies on screen.
Devious Designs: Extra Time Extra Time - Collecting the watch adds a few precious seconds to the level clock.
JJ can manipulate blocks in a number of ways.
Devious Designs: Grab a Block Pressing fire makes JJ grab a block. By pulling the joystick sideways, you can make him pull the block along. If JJ is standing in a corner of a block, he can actually pull it along through mid-air.
Devious Designs: Lift a Block After grabbing a block, pushing the stick away from JJ's feet will make him lift it over his head. He can then walk along until he is in the right place to drop or throw it.
Devious Designs: Throw a Block After picking up a block, he can then throw it sideways or upwards until it hits a block or a wall. Alternatively, he can shuffle it along above his head and drop it on the floor next to his feet.

Devious Designs logo

Die Welt ist rund. Falsch! Was dann, eine Scheibe? Auch nicht, die Welt ist nämlich ein Würfel. Oder zumindest wird sie es sein, wenn Professor Devious mit ihr fertig ist...

Aber wer braucht schon eine quadratische Welt - womöglich fällt man bei der nächsten Urlaubsreise irgendwo runter! Also muß dem schrulligen Erfinder schleunigst Einhalt geboten warden; denn daß sein Quadratur-Gerät funktioniert, hat er schon ausgiebig bewiesen: In 60 Leveln warten allerlei "verviereckte" Gebäude, Autos, etc. darauf, wieder in ihre ursprüngliche Form gebracht zu werden.

Diese geschieht, indem man "Tetris" -förmige Blöcke trägt, schiebt oder wirft, bis sie an vorgegebener Stelle landen - unter Zeitdruck, versteht sich.

Mit dem Ausknobeln eines Weges um die anderen Steinchen herum ist es dabei nicht getan, oft spielt auch die Schwerkraft Streiche: Mal ist sie abhängig von der jeweiligen Position des Helden, mal steht alles auf dem Kopf. Dazu stören ständig böse Gegner, alle zehn Level kommt gar ein Zwischenmonster daher. Natürlich kann man sich auch wehren (peng, peng!), Boni in allen Formen und Farben sammeln und dank Paßwörtern jederzeit bei dem Problem wieder anfangen, an dem man zuletzt gescheitert ist.

Ist Devious Designs also ein fesselnder Cocktail aus Geschicklichkeit, Action und Tüftelei? Leider nein, eher ein unausgegorener: Meist sind die Puzzles zu leicht, aber die Gegner zu unfair; stets ist die Steuerung zu umständlich.

Das ist besonders Schade, weil die tollen Musikstücke, edlen Soundeffekte und vor allem die prachtvollen Hintergrundbilder für dieses Genre schlichtweg sensationell wären! So aber bleibt unter dem Strich nur Mittelmaß. (rl)

Devious Designs logo

Ever since the success of Tetris, puzzle designers have been looking for ways of capturing the same voracious addictivity with a simple yet teasing game. Most attempts are clones - three dimensional variants or airbrushed replicas.

Devious Designs, however, deserves to be judged in its own right. The scenario concerns a deranged scientist, Dr Devious, who is obsessed with cubism. He's so hung up on the (outdated post-modernist) appeal of the style that he creates a machine to cube objects and tests them out on world famous structures.

This means everything from famous landmarks like the Arc De Triomphe to double decker buses are suddenly transformed into blocks. You control JJ Maverick, the only man capable of reversing the damage the Doc is doing.

The game unfolds as a series of levels, each of which has a background framing the object, and a group of geometric shapes created from blocks scattered about the screen. Transparant squares act by way of an outline demonstrating how the blocks must be manoeuvred in order to restore them to their real status.

This is effected by controlling JJ Maverick, a little figure, who can drag and throw the blocks about the screen until they form the correct shape. Each level involves a different way of solving the problem. The controls change each time and you have to work out how to shift the blocks around to their specific slots - and there's a clock against you, too!

The key to Devious Designs is mastering the knack of the game. The first eight levels give clues as to how it's done, after that it's down to you to work it out for yourself. Once you grasp the basic idea it becomes more of an enjoyable challenge and less of a frustrating grapple with the joystick.

The graphics are excellent: small, but colourful and precise, betraying the presence of ex-8 bit artist and IO creator Bob Stephenson as one half of the partnership responsible for Devious Designs. Sound effects increase the drama and level codes mean you don't have to plough through completed screens to have another go at the one that's causing the problems.

While DD doesn't have quite the simplistic genius of Tetris or even Klax, it's a thoroughly enjoyable challenge that's worth taking on.

As you grapple to solve the problem, your job is helped or hindered by bonus objects which materialise around the screen for you to collect. Grenades, timepieces and temporary squareds and shapes appear giving you smart bombs, extra time, ways of getting in the right position and points bonuses respectively, but you can lose lives as whirlwinds, monsters and objects block your path.