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-
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.
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.