My word, another McDonalds tie-in. We've already had the distinctly average McDonaldland platformer from Virgin, and now the fast food-sters with the disturbing clown mascot (am I the only person who's frightened by Ronald McDonald?) are in our face again with this Mega Drive conversion. Can you tell you're in for a product-endorsing, '80s-style hard-sell because there's paragraph at the beginning of the manual - which has got that little ™ mark after every word.
It really is in your face too - Mick™ and Mack™ are sitting in their local McDonalds™ emporium, which sits atop a lovely green, unpolluted grassy knoll where the sun always shines and the Ozone Layer™ is totally intact.
They're eating hamburgers™ and fries™ voraciously and poring over their Global Gladiators™ comic and saying things like "Wouldn't it be groovy to be a Global Gladiator™?" when all of a sudden, up pops Ronald McDonald™ himself, from nowhere (told you he was scary).
"So you fancy a blast, eh guys?" he rasps through rattled teeth (sorry, that's my characterisation), and zaps them into the comic. Git. Next thing you know you're in Slime World™, armed only with a GooShooter™ dust-busting your way through the ecological horrors of the world, cleaning up pollution, and picking up tons of McDonalds™ Arches™ on the way. Hmmm.
Now, it would be easy, you know, to just sit here and write some embarrassingly cringe-worthy right-on polemic about how McDonalds has no right to lecture us about the dangers of toxic waste and un-ecological attitudes towards pollution. Especially since... no, I'm sorry, it would be too easy. I'm prepared to accept that they have a genuine concern towards the planet's ecology, and let's face it, who else is putting ecology on the agenda in their platform games? Nobody, that's who.
You're in Slime World, armed only with a Goo Shooter
Well. Oh sod it, just give me a paragraph. You see it could all be a McDonalds marketing ploy, not only to tie their product in with a computer game, but also shift the public's perception of the company from that of destroyers of rain forests with a nice line in non-bio-degradable cartons to right-on soldiers of ecology, democracy and the American dream.
I'll leave you to decide, and apply myself to the task of playing this game and telling you whether I think it's any good or not (Hey, revolutionary concept, Tim! - Rapidly-Losing-Patience Ed). 'Nuff said.
Now, where were we? Ah yes, Slime World, the first of four worlds, each with three levels. Yes it's a platform game, but here ends my hiherto admittedly-cynical tone, because it's a very good one. And one of the freshest on the Amiga in fact.
First off, though, a disappointment. You're given the two options of playing either Mick or Mack, but not (as you might expect) a two-player option featuring both of them. What a shame. They both have totally similar attributes too, so the only difference is that one's black, the other is white and they've got different colour T-shirts on. Is this a race thing? Weird.
Whichever you choose, you're going to have a great time bouncing him around this excellent game. The animation of the character is superb, and the by-now-accepted tradition of platform characters being active even when you're not moving them is superbly implemented.
Mick (or Mack, obviously) gives you some groovy looks (especially when he stands on an invisible platform - it's really funny), snaps his gum, spins his GooShooter and generally looks like a real little man who's actually alive (Do you want to take some time off, Tim? - Ed).
The pace of the game is fairly leisurely, but you can also build up an impressive speed when you need it. The baddies are in severe proliferation, and they are all wonderfully characterised, including my favourite, the Slime Pig, the lovely Goober, a pneumatic drill with a face called Jack (that is, the pneumatic drill's called Jack, I don't know what his face is called), and a trash can who chucks all manner of garbage at our heroes.
You need to collect 30 Arches to get out of the level, and if you collect 70 of them you get to play the Bonus game for extra points. The Bonus game is a real treat, involving you running around catching falling litter and depositing it in the correct litter bin (Wahey! - Ed). It's pretty tricky, but thankfully there's a menu option which gives you the chance to practice it.
He looks like a real little man who's actually alive
The levels are extremely well-designed too. They're all fairly large, in some cases huge, and there's always something else to explore, or a different route to take through the same level.
There are three difficulty levels, but even on Easy you'll find it a fair challenge, and it'll certainly keep McDonalds at the forefront of your mind for quite some time (ooh dear, bit of cynicism there).
The graphics on all levels are suitably toxic-looking, but I have to say I do miss the gorgeous backgrounds of the Mega Drive version. Not for their own sake, you understand, it's just that there are times when you're out on a limb with no other platforms nearby and there's literally nothing to offset the action. It's a bit disorientating seeing your character leap into empty space, with only a graduated backdrop providing any sense of perspective. Still, if it meant sacrificing the speed or the animation, then the programmer has made the right decision.
Talking of jumping into empty space though, there are more than the permitted number of suicide jumps in the game (according to our guidelines outlined in AP's "How to write the perfect platformer"). A suicide jump is one in which you have no idea what you're jumping into because the screen won't scroll down to show you.
Half the time you land on a platform, but the rest of the time you end up in the drink, on a spike or straight into the arms of a baddie. This is not fair, and I don't like it. Admittedly, familiarity with the game improves the situation, but it's still not a good thing, so I'm going to dock, ooh, 7% off the final mark for that.
But let's not stray from the main tenet, which is that Global Gladiators is an excellent platform game, an extremely faithful conversion from the Mega Drive and well worth your cash - and even if you are fed up with platform games.