Burgling becomes a fine art

Leonardo logo

LET'S get one string straight here - this game has nothing to do with that chap da Vinci, the Renaissance painter, sculptor, engineer, biologist and left-handed person. Instead, Leonardo is a very small thief who'll steal anything that's not screwed, nailed or taped down.

The short attract sequence has him breaking and entering a house, accompanied by very high quality sampled sound. A valiant attempt is made to reproduce a digitised toilet flush; valiant, yes - accurate, no. Still, it is probably the first toilet flush to appear in a computer game, so we can let it pass.

Leonardo's methods are curious. Instead of the usual dart in, grab and have it away on the old size 11's as fast as possible, he likes to make a line with the goods first. Every job he does has three things to steal, and each slides freely when pushed, so a great deal of care must be taken when manoeuvring them.

Each of the banks, museums and warehouses that Leo visits are littered with rocks. A little out of the ordinary granted, but this is a computer game, so authenticity isn't at a premium.
These rocks can be shunted about, or broken if they've nowhere to slide to. They can also be used to great effect to remove the rather bothersome guards. There are always two of them.

The bobby plods along horizontally before homing in vertically. The Boohoooh (a ghost) floats vertically towards you before homing in horizontally. This means that Leo is always being pursued, and if caught, it's another spell in the slammer.

Thankfully, the guards always start off from the one place in each level, so if you can block that off, the rest of the level can be completed with only the (generous) time limit to worry.

Each level is about four screens full, with all the important details shown on Leo's tiny radar scanner. Unfortunately, there are many other helps and hindrances that Leo's homegrown and consequently dodgy scanner doesn't show.

Wads of money lie about the place - picking them up gives 1,000 points. Manholes give access to the sewers and quick point-to-point transportation. Dynamite returns the guards to the start, and the paralysing rock (?!) stops them in their tracks for a few seconds. There are also handcuffs, which do a good job as the guards in apprehending Leo.

Every once in a while there appears a bonus level, which has a tiny time limit and hundreds of bonus peals, not to mention the two guards. The idea is to get as many pearls as possible in the time allowed; fairly predictable, no?

In fact, the gameplay is essentially similar to the veteran arcade game Pengo, which spawned many look-a-likes on the 16k ZX Spectrum. The similarity ends there - Leonardo has sharp, though small, graphics, very well executed sound, and a well planned set of levels.
Speaking of levels, there are certainly plenty of them - 50 in all, with levels 10, 20 and 30 accessible via passwords.

Leonardo is really a puzzle game, because quick thinking is more important that quick moving. A good puzzle game should allow the player a choice of start levels, but Leonardo's second and third levels are very hard.

You could cheat and use the passwords, but me giving them to you now would cheese the editor off, so you'll just have to work your way through. A pity, because levels 11 onwards are very easy. I got them off Max, so check out this column this month.

Considering Leonardo was written by a Swiss cracking crew, the effects are remarkably understated and the gameplay far deeper than would be expected. A very solid, reliable game that holds together well, despite becoming a little difficult at times. Worth a long, hard look.

Leonardo logo

Price: £19.95

You are Leonardo, the infamous Italian thief, recently released from a long stretch in the nick. Alas, inflation and the years have taken their toil. The little stash that you put away for prosperity's sake is now almost completely worthless. You've got to survive somehow, but how? Easy, just do the only thing you're good at. Get burgling...

And burgle you do. Each of the houses is represented by a large, four-way scrolling area. Each area contains an entrance, three identical valuable items, and lots of bricks and rocks which form a simple maze. The aim is to push things around the maze until you've got the three valuable items together in a straight line, which isn't as easy as you might think. When you push something, it keeps moving until it hits something else, which means you've got to be very careful about knocking things into corners.

To help you overcome some puzzles, areas of wall can be moved, and blocks that are in your way can be destroyed by pushing them. Enemies come in the form of police and ghosts, both of which come in from the exit and pursue you relentlessly around the house you're currently burgling. The only way to relieve yourself to a moment or two is to hit them with a block. Then, just like the ghosts in Pac Man, they return to the entrance and wait there for a while, cowering in fear.

In so far as actual programming goes, Leonardo is top hole. The graphics are excellent, the sprite design and animation is perfect. The scrolling is silky-smooth, and even the intro sequence is fab.

The sound is great too, with a brilliant game tune and lots of effects. But the most important thing to include when designing a game is a fun factor, and Leonardo just doesn't have one. Now don't get me wrong, I love this sort of game, but I found Leonardo repetitive. The further I got into it, the more disappointed I was with the lack of variety.

The programming is great but just just a bit short on game design.