Bombs away - it's the...

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CORE DESIGN * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

Doodlebugs. They were those strange looking bombs with wing-like things used in the Second World War, weren't they? And correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the contemporary term refer to both the larva of an ant-lion and indeed a non-scientific device to aid in the location of minerals?

Impressed? Don't be - I found all this out from the dictionary. The first and only thing that sprang to ind when this disk arrived in the office was that awful song from a few years ago, whereby the banal chant "Do-do the doodlebug" was repeated about 300 times to the lacklustre rhythm of a couple of snare drums and an acoustic guitar.

Given the above information then, you would be forgiven that this page is dedicated to a strategy game set around 1945, where you as the hero invade hostile territory atop a flying bomb in search of minerals (using your non-scientific device) which you must feed to the larva of an ant-lion.
Or possibly not. Doodle Bg is in fact a cartoony platformer set, astonishingly enough, in the world of Cartoonia.

The king of Cartoonia is up in arms - his beautiful daughter, the Princess Lady Bug, has been kidnapped, spirited away in the dead of night by a large shadowy figure with an evil cackle.

Herein lies the problem - obviously the king would like his daughter back fairly sharpish but Cartoonia, but its nature, is a bit short on large, shadowy evil people who might be up to the job of rescuing her.

You see, most inhabitants of this unlikely land are small, bright and friendly, and much better suited to working as a stunt double for Tweetie Pie than as a destroyer of dark overlords.

There's always one though isn't there? In this case it's you - a 'brave little bug-like creature' who steps forward to answer the king's plea, namely to travel through distant lands battling with dozens of creatures about eight times your size until you reach the princess prison, where you must release her and return her to her ever-loving pappa.

The king is grateful of your offer - so grateful in fact that he promptly presents you with a few magic pencils and various other pieces of brightly coloured stationery to assist you on your quest.

A long-handled sword, a pocketful of grenades and the odd automatic weapon would have been nice, but hey - you got pencils! C'est la vie.

Toyland is your first port of call, and very nice it is too. Jack-in-the-boxes, aeroplanes, clowns and that's just the nasty elements. Things are moving around everywhere and Doodle Bug can even get help from one or two of the nicer people in town who'll talk and give him advice.

It is here where you realise that the magic pencils aren't quite useless as they first appeared. For instance, when thrown, the blue pencil turns into an umbrella which will slow down your descent should you, say, fall off a doll's house or something.
Other pencils will turn into balloons (to tale you to higher places), potion bottles (for temporary invincibility) and stopwatches (freezes the enemies a few seconds).

Don't despair if you find yourself in a tricky situation - Doodle Bug carries a rubber at all times which rather handily doubles as a kind of smart bomb for instant disposal of hostile creatures.

Other levels are in a similar vein - bright colours and cute creatures asunder relating for the theme - Forbidding Forest and Fortress to name but, erm... two.

What else then? Well, Doodle Bug has quite a nifty spin attack with which he can do away his adversaries, and there's loads of stuff to collect such as money, fruit and power-ups, all of which add a little to your paltry armoury.

The sound throughout is really good - Liz the art girlie is driving me mad humming the tune as I write. Amiga owners will be chuffed with the numbers of effects, and the graphics are great.

Although they don't come right out and say it, I guess this game is aimed at the younger market, just in time for Christmas.
The truth is, I had a good time playing it - it's a little bit easy, but fun, and there's loads of going on so you, or your beloved off-spring, won't become bored too quickly.

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Core Design * £25.99

Doodlebug plays a lot like the fabulous Zool. The hero of the story (who, strangely enough is called doodlebug) runs around a lot killing weird and wonderful creatures, picking up bonuses and spinning lots.

A basic platformer, with extra speed, you can fire a very strange collection of weapons at your enemies in the land of Cartoonia. Most of these weapons are in the form of different coloured pencils that not only destroy your foe, but also lay down a bonus for you t collect. For example, a yellow pencil will draw a stop watch, freezing all your enemies for 10 seconds, while you whiz on past.

There are loads of pick-ups to bemuse and delight you, some good and some quite nasty. And there's lots of gold for you to collect and save for that shiny car, or even better, a submarine.

Doodlebug is nothing new, it doesn't even stand out in its field. But if you've already got RoboCod and Zool it might well be worth giving this 20-leveller a bash.

Flotter Käfer

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Mögen Plattformen als Spielprinzip auch noch so platt sein, derzeit ist das Genre ganz Groß in Mode. Also haben die Modeschöpfer von Core Design den ultimativen Plattform-Käfer ausgeheckt!

Ultimativ deshalb, weil das wehrhafte Insekt die besten Eigenschaften der einschlägig vorbelasteten Konsolen-Ikonen "Sonic" und "Mario" in sich vereint: Doodle Bug kann laufen, springen, schwimmen, Blöcke mit dem Kopf zertrümmern und einiges mehr. Originell ist das zwar nicht, aber solange das Gameplay stimmt...

Fünf Welten gilt es Abschnitt für Abschnitt zu durchqueren, wobei Holzsoldaten und Clowns zur Eröffnung eine Spielzeugstadt unsicher machen; später kämpft man gegen Giftpilze, Obermotze und anderes Getier. Sämtliche Gegner lassen sich durch todbringende Saltos auf den Kopf oder Abschießen beseitigen, auch Fallschirme, Schutzschilde und Smartbombs erweisen sich als nützlich.

Der Plattform-Krabbler verkraftet einige Feindberührungen, ehe die drei Leben bzw. Continues stiften gehen - also wahrlich keine unlösbare Aufgabe, zumal Einheimische mit Tips zur Seite stehen und gegen Barzahlung sogar nützliches Equipment (U-Boot, Flugdrachen etc.) herausrücken.

das präsentiert sich vor knallbunter Kulisse mit Kindergarten-Flair; das multidirektionale Scrolling klappt ordentlich, bloß die Animationen sind halt nicht eben berauschend, und die Musikbegleitung ist arg düdelig.

Dafür kann die Steuerung überzeugen, wenngleich die Kollisionsabfrage sehr sensibel reagiert und zu tiefe Stürze gnadenlos geahndet werden. Alles eine Frage der Gewöhnung - lediglich an den niedrigen Schwierigkeitsgrad werden sich Profis nicht gewöhnen können, dazu sind die mit 20 Leveln viel zu schnell fertig. (rl)

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Cute platformers starring insects seem to be in vogue at the moment. Here's the latest from Core.

Cute Console-esque! Platforms! Quite good! Etc! Will that do? Thought not. One day they'll let me get away with that, y'know. One day they'll realise that there's really nothing to be said about this kind of game that you can't instantly work out for yourself simply by looking at the pictures on the pages and the percentage box at the end.

It's a cutesy platform game, in that style that we jokingly refer to as 'console-esque' for no other reason than consoles are the flavour of the month and if we making something sound like it could have come from Nintendo or Sega, you lot are much more likely to actually go out and buy it.

The fact that 90% of real console games are actually crappy beat-'em-ups or scrolling blasters goes conveniently un-noticed. Truth of the matter is, games like this are about as 'computer-esque' as it's possible to get - from Miner 2049er back in 1873 or whenever it was, platform-leaping has been the staple diet of the computer gamer. These days, if you're an 8-bit computer owner, it's practically impossible to buy anything else. Maybe we should just call this sort of game 'Spectrum-esque', hmm?

But (as usual), I'm getting away from the point, I suppose you want me to talk about Doodblebug now. (Yes please. - Ed).
Doodlebug is subtitled Bug Bash II. which for those of you with short memories refers to a game reviewed in our PD column way back in issue six (three stars, if you're interested). It's got next to nothing in common with that game, though, as Bug Bash was a simplistic and pretty dull scrolling shoot-'em-up, so forget I mentioned it.

Or just try not to think about it. Actually, come to think about it, there was somehting I was wondering about the name. How much is there to be gained from associating what you're trying to push as a big, bright, sexy, 'console-esque' platform game with a frankly not much cop PD shoot-'em-up from about two years ago? (Bug Bash was a £15 'budget' game, before it became a sort of PD thing, y'see.) It doesn't seem like particularly smart marketing to me, Then again, what would I know about it? But I'm digressing again.

The game is made up of five levels, each with three sub-levels and a big boss screen. The graphics, as befits a game allegedly set in the kingdom of Cartoonia, are cartoony and colourful and all that sort of stuff, and depict the usual kinds of worlds that are found in this kind of game - forests, icy wastes, creepy castles and so on. There's some rather nice parallax scrolling, lots of cutesy sprites, and plenty of incidental stuff that you can see for yourself in the screenshots.

The difficulty is just about right for most players

Soundwise we're also in familiar territory, with bouncy little nursery-rhyme tunes and twinkly effects, and it's all very pleasant.

In the gameplay department, though, there's a distinct suggestion of some new stuff. While the majority of the game is spent running around picking up treasures and killing baddies by jumping on their heads, Doodlebug has a novel theme at its centre.

By selecting one of five icons along the bottom of the screen (by the convenient method of simply pulling down on the joystick to cycle through the list), the game's eponymous hero can throw out one of five different colours of magic pencil (assuming he's collected some, that is). The pencils will kill baddies if they hit them, but more importantly, if their flightpath is uninterrupted they'll swiftly draw one of four useful devices that Doodlebug can use to help him on his quest.

An umbrella saves him from death by long fall (yes, after a long absence the Platform Game Where You Can Die By Falling A Long Way is back in vogue), a balloon gives him a quick lift past some tricky obstacle or other, a magic potion renders him completely invulnerable and a clock stops the time limit from counting down a while.

The fifth pencil (not actually a pencil at all, but an eraser) fulfils a smart-bomb function. What these little doobries do is not so much make your life easier (it's possible, as far as I can tell, to complete the game without using any of them) but add a neat extra element to the gameplay which gives you a bit more to think about than where the next baddies to jump on's coming from.

It's a double-edged sword, of course - they also tempt you to venture into dangerous places where you'd otherwise not go in search of that useful extra smart bomb - but then that's part of the appeal of all great games, the balance between risk and reward, the gambling on your own skills.

So there you go. Everything you need to know about Doodlebug that you hadn't already ascertained for yourself from playing the demo that's impossibly handily sellotaped to the front of this very magazine. Except, maybe, that while later levels do get nastier (more baddies, needing more hits to kill and so on), they never really get viciously nasty or horrendously long, so if you're a real gaming hero you might get through this a bit quicker than you'd expect.

That said, I reckon the difficulty is going to prove just about right for most average players, so if that sounds like you and you're a bit fed up of games that you never get to see the end of, this might be just what you've always been waiting for. It's certainly enough fun to make it worth trying.

Although, as an insect, he should have three times as many feet as anyone else, Doodlebug still doesn't have to wear them out by walking everywhere. Not when there are all these handy vehicles to be used...

In Toy World, 10 gold pieces will secure this Yellow Submarine (altogether now...)

The forest level is populated by, amongst others, this cute little gnome dude...

...who'll quite happily sell you a powerful baddie-proof buggy to trundle around in.

The Creepy Castle's Arthur Daley is a wizard. Or is he just the gnome in a hat?

Whichever, he'll still rent you this not-especially-useful dragon.

The ice world (I hate those) boasts... insert your 'chopper' gag here...

As with all the vehicles, inside the helicopter you're totally invulnerable.

Is there intelligent life on Earth, os ir this alien only visiting?

Who cares? He's prepared to sell his UFO to you, that's the main thing.

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Always one for a bit of scribbling, Jon Sloan grabs his pencils and puts some colour into Core's latest platformer.

Did you hear the one about the small unlikely hero who volunteers to rescue the princess from the evil kidnapper? If you haven't then where the hell have you had your head buried? For those more enlightened amongst you the plot for Core's new platformer will seem familiar.

The hero is Doodle Bug, a brave little arthropod, who has come forward to save the Princess Lady-Bug from a shadowy abductor. Armed only with a handful of coloured pencils and an eraser, he scours the length, breadth and platforms of Cartoonia for the poor princess.

Cartoonia, being an unlikely land, is populated by a bunch of unlikely bad guys, including a ball tossing clown and a street musician whose notes are lethal. Fortunately for Doodle, his pencils are magic and, once thrown, immediately draw a variety of useful objects. Unfortunately, he only has a limited supply, although these can be increased by picking the extras up which are scattered over the various platforms.

Apart from the magic pencils which can also be thrown at enemies, Doodle has one further line of attack. He can leap boldly into the air and perform a somersault, just like a rather spiky console character I could mention! If you managed to get Doodle from one end of the screen to the other, and within the time limit, he has to take on the 'oh so familiar' end-of-level guardian. These seem daunting at first but have a very predictable pattern which can be learnt and beaten with a little practice.

There's a lot to see on screen, most of it in garish colors. All the characters and backgrounds have a bright cartoony feel to them. Doodle himself is a cute little character with a crash helmet. He is drawn well and moves competently, but there is nothing really special about his animation.

Overall, this is a capable platformer. However, Doodle is seriously deficient in the originality stakes. Many of the game and plot features are close copies of, if not blatant rip-offs from, many better and slicker console games. If you are really desperate for a console type platformer you would be better off investing 25 quid in Zool.