Joe and Mac Caveman Ninja logo

Elite * £24.99

Here's a prehistoric game in which you control one of two cavemen as they trudge their way through danger, chasing the kidnappers of their women-folk, pausing along the way only to club a few dinosaurs to death and adjust their trendy underwear.

Armed only with a trusty set of axes, your cavemen set off fighting their way through 13 levels of colourful, cartoon-style fun, murdering and maiming T-Rexes everywhere they go (and we wonder why dinosaurs become extinct).

With clear graphics and well-drawn backdrops the game almost stands off the screen. Unfortunately the game is a bit shallow, your cavemen amble along and the levels are linear and allow no exploration. These factors reduce the enjoyment value of the game and spoil an otherwise excellent product,



Joe and Mac Caveman Ninja logo

In der Spielhalle schlagen Data Easts Neandertaler schon seit zwei Jahren ihren Gegnern die Keule um die Ohren - Zeit genug für Elite, eine Konvertierung der Spitzenklasse hinzukriegen. Oder etwa nicht?

Auf den ersten Blick läßt sich jedenfalls kaum ein Unterschied zum Arcade-Original entdecken: die Comic-Grafik ist genauso bunt und witzig, die Begleitmusik düdelt locker-flockig vor sich hin. Doch wehe, man nimmt die Keule bzw. den Joystick in die Hand...

Ehe wir das tun (Geduld, Brork!), wollen wir uns aber erstmal den beiden urzeitlichen Hauptakteuren widmen; schließlich leiden die Jungs derzeit böse unter Liebeskummer, denn neidische Nachbarn haben ihre Herzdamen entführt! Was ein aufrechter Mammutjäger ist, der schlüpft da sofort in sein Kampffell und macht sich auf die Brautschau.

Der Weg zur trauten Zweisamkeit führt meist durch horizontal, gelegentlich auch vertikal scrollendes Gelände; der Gefahren lauern viele: Höhlenmenschen streifen blutlüstern durch den Dschungel oder machen in urigen Holz-Helikoptern den Himmel unsicher, Flugsaurier starten luftige Attacken - selten gab es so witzige Fieslinge zu sehen!

Die Endgegner (Dinos, menschenfressende Pflanzen etc.) überzeugen zudem durch ihre übergröße, anders als die kleineren Widersacher lassen sie sich jedoch nicht durch einen Sprung auf den Kopf erledigen. Daher haben Joe und Mac stets auch Keule bzw. Wurfaxt parat; außerdem liegen extrahaltige Sauriereier am Wegesrand, die neben Nahrung und Bonuspunkten auch Bumerangs, Feuerbälle oder Steinräder enthalten.

Durch längeres Drücken des Feuerknopfes läßt sich das Handwerkszeug jederzeit auf die doppelte Größe hochpowern, und wem das noch nicht reicht, der lädt einfach seinen Partner auf die Schultern und wirft ihn durch die Gegend.

Soweit so spaßig - wenn nur nicht in vielen Details derart geschlampt worden wäre! Beispielsweise ist die Handbuchabfrage nicht nur lästig und fehlerhaft, sondern zudem auch überflüssig, weil ohnehin ein Kopierschutz auf Diskette jegliches Duplizieren (bzw. Installieren auf Festplatte) verhindert.

Auch am Gameplay fehlt der letzte Feinschliff, denn unfaire Stellen sind nicht selten. Und sowohl sogar Zwei-Button-Sticks wie etwa das Sega-Pad unterstützt werden, verliert der Spieler durch die träge Steuerung oft unverschuldet eines seiner drei Bildschirmleben.

Zum Glück bleiben dann noch zwei Continues übrig, und bei der Technik hat man sich ja auch ins Zeug gelegt, so daß der Amiga-Caveman seinem Arcade-Cousin ansonsten kaum nachsteht: die witzigen Grafik-Gags sind praktisch alle enthalten, Musik, bzw. Sound-FX dürfen getrennt angewählt werden, und das Scrolling klappt stets soft und sauber.

Alles in allem wissen die ulkigen Steinzeitmannen also schon zu gefallen, vor allem im Zwei-Spieler-Modus ist die Gaudi enorm. An die Klasse ihrer Zeitgenossen "Chuck Rock" und "B.C. Kid" kommen die Plattform-Brüder aufgrund der erwähnten Mangelerscheinungen jedoch nicht ganz heran. (rl)



Joe and Mac Caveman Ninja logo

Joe and Mac may well be cavemen... but Ninjas? Be serious?

Y 'know, when you've been this job for a while, you begin to get a little blasé about reading instruction manuals. After a time, you've pretty much seen al the game styles there are, got to grips with anything that's likely to be flung at you, and you can pick up almost anything and play it without having to plough through all the tedious 'plot' and fatuous 'instructions' (although you can get some real treats if you do - the manual for the Amiga version of Road Rush included lots of information on what the 'fire' button did, then added a helpful little labelled diagram just to make it quite clear which one the 'fire' button was, in case you were confused). I wasn't expecting anything different from a simple arcade conversion like this. You'd think I'd learn, wouldn't you?

Words, eh? Don't you just hate 'em? The programmers of Joe And Mac obviously do, I can't imagine why else they'd go away with them completely and give this game the kind of options screen that you'd have to be a professional semaphore operator to penetrate.

I had to spend almost five minutes reading the manual just to work out how to select which of the two pointlessly-complicated joystick modes I wanted to use ('Oh, I think I'll have the one where you waggle the joystick up and down to do the big jump that you need to get almost anywhere and waggle the joystick down and up to jump down from a platform, please. It's dreamy'), and I still haven not quite got to grips with how to toggle the music and sound effects. WE CAN READ, YOU CRETINS, STOP DOING THIS TO US!

Still, by wiggling the stick and hoping for the best, you can eventually get into the game itself. Big mistake. First off, you have to adjust your eyes to some of the cheap 'n' nastiest-looking graphics seen on the Amiga in recent memory.


The game's levels are all fairly short and tedious

It would appear the Amiga's palette simply isn't up the task of reproducing the coin-op's subtleties of shading and colouring, but there isn't any excuse for everything being this square and crude. Really, Kid Gloves looked slicker than this.

The music's no more annoying that the average cute arcade platformer, but in the actual game department Joe and Mac is so lacking you have to suspect that it was playtested by Stevie Wonder. When he was drunk.

Given the tragedy of a control system (at this point it would only be fair to mention that there is an option to use a Mega Drive joypad for control, which improves matters a bit, but I'm not a fair man so I'm not going to bother), it's perhaps predictable that the game's a bit of a nightmare in action, but that doesn't make it any less miserable an experience while you're actually doing it.

The game's levels are all fairly short and tedious (baddies appear mysteriously out of nowhere, you shoot them, more appear etc.) capped with bosses that don't offer any challenge other than trying desperately to stay awake while you bung the joystick on autofire and pump in the necessary 524 hits they take before they die.

Honestly, what a lump of crap.



Joe and Mac Caveman Ninja logo

Is it true? Could the Amiga be beating the SNES at its own game? Tony Dillon goes in search of the truth.

BETTER BY FAR
Joe And Mac Caveman Ninja might seem like a bit of a lengthy handle to most people. There is a reason. In Japan, the coin-op is simply called Joe And Mac, and the US market takes the rest of the title. Elite have bought up the rights, and so to keep global happiness they've stuck it all together. After successfully piecing together the SNES conversion, winning 4/5 on TV's Bad Influence, they've stuck it on the Amiga. What's more, they're even claiming that it's better than the console version! Only having seen the console version in demo form, I can't really comment on that.

The story tells of two cavemen with a fairly idyllic lifestyle. Plenty of food, plenty of hunting, and more than enough cavegirls to entertain them. All is well until a rampaging horde take the village by surprise one day whilst our heroes are out on one of their regular hunts. When they return, they discover that their female companions have been kidnapped. Do they turn celebrate? Do they heck. This is where you come in.

ROAD TO RUN
The enemy have covered a lot of ground - 15 levels in fact, and you have to travel through them to search of your late night company. Starting off in your average prehistoric forest, you work your way through volcanoes, mountains, waterfalls, ice caverns and some violent thunderstorms all the while fighting the best your enemy can throw at you, as well as all the natural hazards posed by the wildlife, such as aerial attacks from hungry pterodactyls or the teeth pickings of a tyrannosaurus rex.

One of the nice things about the way the game is laid out is that you don't need to follow the same route twice. Half a dozen times through the game you'll be asked whether you want to follow the A or B path. This way, even if you get to the end, there's no guarantee that you've seen everything the game has to offer.

In one player mode, it's a good game. As Joe, you have to wander from left to right, occasionally moving up and down, killing everything you can and collecting all the bonuses that appear. Along with all the typical objects such as fruit for extra energy and bonus points, there are stacks of weapons to collect including boomerangs, fire, a wheel (?!) and the mystical self weapon, a strange tool that involves you throwing likenesses of yourself at the enemy to confuse them.

Naturally, at the end of each level, you have to face a massive guardian which usually takes hundreds of hits in the right places before they fall down. My favourite is the Mammoth that gradually falls apart as you hit it, losing its trunk, and then its tusks before crashing to the ground.

THROWING A FRIEND
In two player mode, the game takes on a different twist. Although Joe and Mac are the best of buddies, they don't believe in sharing women, so the person who does the most destruction on a level is the one to win the girl. With that in mind, things take on a more competitive angle, as well as introducing a new move.

A character can stand on another character to gain height while attacking, and while they are stood there, pulling down makes them grab their human stepladder and pick them up. This done, they can then throw their burden at the enemy, to use them as a distraction and a weapon. Once someone has done this to you, the obvious reaction is to do it back, so you spend hours trying to leap on each other's shoulders and forget about everything else.

Joe And Mac Caveman Ninja is a lot of fun to play. Not as complete or polished as Zool, but still a great platform game. Controls are responsive, the graphics are good and the sampled sound is excellent, but I couldn't help feeling that in these times of epic Amiga games, this one is just a little too limited. If you liked the arcade version, though, you'll probably love this.


IF YOU CAN'T BEAT THEM

Caveman Ninja is a game designed to run on a console. The main controls feature a button to fire and a button to jump. Obviously you can't do this on an Amiga without resorting to the keyboard, so what Elite have done have made the game compatible with the SEGA joypad.