Morton Strikes Back logo

Remember those wonderful Taito arcade classics of the late eighties, Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands and New Zealand Story? Confused Pelican certain do, and in many ways Morton Strikes Back is a tribute to those cuties, New Zealand Story in particular.

There’s the usual ridiculous plot, which I’m not going to dignify repeating here, but suffice to say you control a stick-limbed bean with huge eyes in a collect-and-dodge quest.

The gameplay is traditional platform fare. Leap up on to little tufts of land floating incongruously in mid-air, collect the fruit and other goodies, leap out of the way of the baddies and jump on top of them to produce points and a satisfying squelch-like sound.

The backdrops are attractively cartoon-like and there is some delightful animation on the creatures who inhabit Morton’s world and on Morton himself, such as the way he crosses his legs in a camp manner when in mid-jump.

On the levels
Talking of jumping, Morton has the ability to change direction in mid-air, which is just as well considering the pixel-perfect control needed to make any progress. Goodness, the easiest thing about this game is the effortless way lives are lost in rapid succession, even though Morton can take three hits before leaving the screen screaming.

To be fair, the author thoughtfully allows the player to tinker with some of the game variables at the start. Time limits can be modified, or even turned off; the number of lives are adjustable and there are four routes available – Brief Demo, Normal, Original and Easy. Each route allows you to play different selections from the 80-odd levels included with the game – which is just as well because with only a maximum of five lives available, the likelihood of getting to see them all is pretty remote. Well, it is for me anyway!

Throughout the game there are cameo appearances by snippets from other games; in fact it is almost a game in itself to remember where you saw the before. Were those snails in New Zealand Story or Mario? And what about that swinging ball you’ve got to avoid?

Morton is a versatile land, sea and air creature and he flits between the three methods of movement, depending on the requirement of the level. It was the swimming part I found most frustrating. The player has to keep Morton bobbing in the water otherwise a life is lost when hits the bottom of the screen, and there’s inertia to worry about, things to collect and loads of bloody fish to avoid. Where are the Spanish fishermen when you need them, eh?

If this game had been written five years ago, it would probably have been published by Ocean, Gold-rated and cost £24.99. Having said that, if Morton Strikes Back was published on the Mega Drive today it wouldn’t look out of place among the £40 platform games which infest that machine.

Small price
Although time has marched inexorably on since this genre was at its peak, Morton Strikes Back is still enjoyable to play and the pitifully small price being asked alost makes you want to buy two. Morton Strikes Back is only available by mail order though: Confused Pelican Software, Oakfield Lodge, Hatch Beauchamp, Taunton Somerset TA3 6SG. Cheques/Pos payable to D Parsons.

Morton Strikes Back logo

Morton Strikes Back was an absolute breath of fresh air to this cynical hack, slaving over his third PD column in barely a month as a result of Amiga Format’s dedication to providing you lovely readers with a special Christmas issue of the magazine.

Some of the stuff sent in to PD Select simply doesn’t cut the mustard, but in contrast, Morton Strikes Back puts many commercial offerings to shame. What we have here is platform action par excellence. A truly polished product in every way, Morton Strikes Back features addictive and responsive runny-jumpy gameplay, the like of which has not reall been seen since the era of Zool.

It isn’t especially surprising that Morton Strikes Back is such a good game considering it was programmed by Davind Parsons, the chap who produced the rather excellent Og! The Caveman, which was reviewed in issue 102.

Morton himself is a lovable central character, gloriously animated to the extent that he is capable of performing all sorts of endearing actions, such as teetering on the edges of platforms. He must make his way across loads of colourful, beautifully drawn levels, bouncing on the heads of all manner of cutesy foes, collecting coins and fruit and avoiding swinging pendulums, bottomless pits and like.

Admittedly it has been done a thousand times before, but when it’s done this well then it really is impossible not to love a game like this. With presentation that is hard to fault, marvelous graphics, gameplay which is responsive and fair while still being challenging, atmospheric cutesy music and a whole lot more to offer, Morton is undoubtedly one of the best games I’ve seen in months.

If you don’t have an AGA machine, just ask for the non-AGA version which is available for 4.99. This is one not to be missed at any cost.

Morton Strikes Back logo

Express PD

Just a quick mention that the demo from AMIGA POWER 34's coverdisk, Smidge, is now available as a full game called Morton Strikes Back. With 60 superb levels spread over nine worlds this is the kind of cute platformer that even people who hate cute platformers should give the time of day (and if they do that time will probably spread across quite a large chunk of the day).

Morton Strikes Back logo

Reviewed This Issue! Screamed the advert rather enthusiastically from page 87 of last issue. Well actually, no, because David Parsons (the programmer) only arrived with the review copy mid way through deadline day, at which time we were all busy doing other things. Sorry ‘bout that David.

If the game looks vaguely familiar, that’s probably because you’ve seen it before, only it was called Smidge then. Way back in AP34, we had a disk demo of Smidge which we reckoned was "far better than most full-price games."

We liked it lots and it seems that you did too, because a few months later we got a letter form David saying he’d had enough orders to almost pay for his first term at college, so hooray for free enterprise and a big boo for student loans.

For those that missed last issue, the advert boasts "accessible, addictive gameplay and super smooth parallax scrolling, over 80 levels across 11 different worlds, many difficulty levels" but what it doesn’t say is that it’s a platform game featuring a Mr Man type character with thin legs and rickets. And penguins.

As far as platform games go, there’s little new or exciting about Morton. You jump on baddies’ heads to kill them (apart from the obviously spiky ones), collect coins and fruit for points, hearts to regain lost hit points. You start off at the left, head right and occasionally there’re secret rooms to be found. The only major difference of course is the penguins.

What’s nice about Morton Strikes Back is that it isn’t plagued by any of those niggly little faults we endlessly rant on about in Kangaroo Court and that programmers never seem to take a blind bit of notice of. You can use fire or up (if you’re clinically insane) to jump and can turn off the stomach churningly ‘nice’ music to leave the ploppy sound effects.

Spikes don’t kill you outright and neither does water, so you’ve always got a chance of recovering from a slip up.

What we said about the coverdisk still holds then. Morton Strikes Back IS better than most full price platformers, and it certainly runs rings around that hunk of junk Charlie J Cool reviewed this issue. The plain fact is that if you really feel like you need another platform game then you should spend seven quid (six for the A500/A600 version) rather than 20, and of course you get penguins in this.

Morton Strikes Back is mail order only, so cheques, postal orders and all that stuff to: Confused Pelican, Oakfield Lodge, Hatch Beauchamp, Taunton, Somerset TA3 6SG.