Can you dig it?

Evil Garden logo

GIVE an infinite amount of designers an infinite amount of time, coffee and money, and it is easy to make a completely original computer game. If the coffee is a problem, you could always set about taking an old idea and "originalising" it. For example, you could take Centipede and add some of the ideas which made Arkanoid different from Breakout. The resulting game would end up tolerably close to Demonware's Evil Garden.

The box is the first hazard, not merely is it huge, silver and difficult to open, but it has Beware of Demonware written large in red all over it. Somehow I think this is meant to be a threat rather than a warning.

The plot: You, a successful mercenary, have the job of clearing a garden planet of mushrooms, alien centipedes and other beasties. Centipedes are relatively innocuous, they are only nasty on contact and the bits you have shot off them become mushrooms.

The spider usually haunts its web under the score panel, but once in a while it comes out to bounce around and drop mines.

Fleas fall from the top of the screen at an enormous rate. They are very hard to hit and leave a trail of mushrooms behind them. Other beasties appear every so often to say a big Hi and drop the occasional bomb on you.

This plot will be familiar to both of the Millipede fans, Atari's less successful Centipede sequel. What is new is the pumpkin, which gives bonus weaponry when shot. The standard issue peashooter-on-a-stick can be upgraded, with a little luck, to a shielded turret with bouncing bullets and an orbiting follower. As in Arkanoid, extra lives and a doorway to the next level can be got by picking up pumpkin remains.

Not surprisingly, there is the standard issue mystery prize, which is often a feature which stops you shooting quickly. In the Equally Nice department is the little pill which turns all the mushrooms into centipedes. The screen becomes full of the beasties, all heading your way.

Every so often you get a bonus screen which has a huge Audrey II type plant spitting things at you. Hit it often enough and it is biggus bonus time. Apart from that, there is nothing really new. Nothing new apart from a full PAL screen, chock full of fast moving (small) sprites.

Two, three or four players? No problem. Two players simultaneously? Likewise. All this and 1 meg enhancements too.

A useful few minutes can be spent reading the manual while the game loads - it takes far longer than you would expect. In fact, Evil Garden seems to take at least twice as long to load as it did the last time you loaded it. Even when the drive light goes out, it is only pausing between loading sessions. Once you have run out of lives the disc graunches away and takes at least five seconds to tell you that it is game over time.

Despite the minor loading groans, and the irksome "Type in the word" routine - which only gives you one go and swaps Y and Z around - Evil Garden is quite some game.

The learning curve has been set just right, so you won't feel left out at the start. What does worry me is that the last Centipede clone I saw cost £1.99. Although it did not have half the prettiness, it had most of the features.

Evil Garden logo


In a piece of dodgy German translation, the front of Evil Garden's manual has "Beware of Demonware" written across the bottom. They could not be more right if they tried. I knew this was going to be painful when, after taking a good two minutes of loading, the game asked me to enter a word from a non existent page. I did not realise at the time that it was trying to be kind.

Booting it up a second time turned out to be a grevious error. Evil Garden is a garish, low quality Centipede rip off. Everything takes hours to load. The sprites are tiny. The sound effects poor and the gameplay weak to indifferent. There is a kind of mellow tedium that sets in after ten or fifteen minutes effortlessly blasting through screens of centipedes, but you would be in need of the most fearsome kind of aversion therapy if you parted with twenty quid for this load of old guff. Evil Garden is weedy.