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Bonjour. After some time away, the onion wielding, garlic-powered super 'ero is back - but, it is the same mixture as before.

When I was told to expect a little French number to turn up on my desk in the very near future, to say I was excited was an understatement. Visions of a Brigette Bardot or Vanessa Paradis look-alike whispering continental sweet nothings into my love-struck earlobe filled my foolish head. Jumping to all the wrong conclusions, I decided to prepare for my Gaulic guest. Three hours later I had totally revised my mangled French textbook from school, sung and memorised the entire Charles Asnevoir collection, watched Gigi four times and totally forgiven a nation of irate farmers and lorry drivers for all sins against my native turf.

Well reader, you can guess my reaction when my European guest finally arrived? No, It was not a tall, leggy Nicole from the car adverts look-alike. Instead, it was an extremely short, purple cardboard box emblazoned in French and containing Microids' latest platformer Nicky 2. Bah, failed again in y quest to aid the ailing Maastricht treaty and help unit Europe (well bits of it).

I do not know if any of you out there remember the first foray into the trials and tribulations of Nicky - if not I shall enlighten you. Back in February this year the French software house brought you the first chapter in the young Parisian's adventures, in which the onion-breathed mite fought against the powers of a nasty witch to save his beleaguered granddad. Well, after all the effort remedying that situation, it seems that all is still not well in the forest. It appears that the evil witch has a sister up to no good in the wood. The cruel heartless hag is using her dark powers to cause mayhem. Evil monsters roam around the fairy glen terrifying the inhabitants, roads and paths are cut off by force fields and ladders through the undergrowth have been blocked.

To make matters worse, someone has scattered Nicky's toys all over the place. The basic plot is to overcome all the obstacles, rid the enchanted forest of the nasties and defeat the bitch witch. Hmm, nothing new there, in fact this plot is more cheesy than a kilo of Brie on a sunny day. Fortunately, Nicky, or to call him by his full name Nicky Boom, is aided in his quest by a magic goose who gaggles by from time to time.

Nicky's adventuring is spread around four different graphical worlds. These alter between forest, jungle, volcano and cloud levels. Lurking within these rather large graphical lands are plenty of tasks for petit Nicky to accomplish. For one, there are a host of nasties to contend with.

These change from level to level, but do not be surprised if you are attacked by an enraged mushroom, swarmed at by psychopathic bees or overcome by marauding slugs and teddies.

The puzzle element for our garlic-coated garçon arises when he must find the vast amount of secret passages and ladders which are littered around the lands. Revealing ladders is accomplished by making the froggy one jump and smash his bonce into different areas of the landscape. Secret passages can be uncovered by shooting balls from Nicky's Chanel-smelling fingers at various pieces of wall. Also sewn delicately into the plot are such items as magic mirrors and logs which all have an effect on our EEC-sized person. However, perhaps Nicky's greatest ally is the goose, who comes in extremely handy for negotiating Nicky through levels quickly. The only problem is that it is somewhat temperamental.

It has to be said that Nicky 2 comes pretty much into the cutesy platform genre. This I find immediately distressing especially as for some reason I find that I quite like the game. I have to confess that there is something extremely bizarre and silly that appealed to me about guiding a French kid around on a flying goose. However, the graphics are nothing to write home about, in fact all of the animation really is rather bog standard. The sound is only average in its ability to soothe sonically sore ears, although there are a few quite neat sampled "Yippee"s littered throughout.

It has to be said that our friend from the other side of the Channel really is nothing new at all. It is a recipe that has been mixed up and cooked with far superior results than Nicky 2 manages many times before. Really, this one is only going to appeal to absolute platform freaks. The rest of you are going to give old Nicky a gentle shove off the Eiffel Tower while exclaiming "Au revoir, you petit minkee!" in a Peter Sellers-type Clouseau voice.

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This one has got a bit of a strange story. After rescuing his father in Nicky Boom, the sequel finds Nicky, with his magic goose, trying to rid the forest of the evil witch who has also taken all of Nicky's toys and scattered them everywhere. I suppose that is one excuse for messing up your room. Er, "Mummy, the wicked witch chucked these toys on the floor, not me".

Anyway, back to Nicky and his magic goose. The goose cannot be that magic because it can only carry Nicky around. If it was really magical then it would do things for him or magically open doors or something. It does not even come to Nicky - he has to go and fetch it. Most of the places the goose can go, Nicky could get to under his own steam.

Getting on the goose is a doddle - one press of the fire button and you are all ready for flight. But getting off the thing is a different matter entirely. When you are being attacked by a killer bee, for example, and you are trying madly to get off the goose so that you can blow up the bee with a fire cracker, it is impossible to get off the thing before you die. But of course, when you do not want to get off the goose when you are firing at something, you can rely on Sod's law that you will end up falling off.

The two main weapons at your disposal are fire crackers and ultrasound whistles, as well as the bog-standard stones. The fire crackers look like sticks of dynamite and have a similar effect. The whistles destroy all the monsters on the screen and help dislodge bonuses when they are out of reach and both can be found lying around, usually near where they are needed.

There is the standard selection of monsters for a forest setting: killer bees, realistic spiders and rabid bears you would rather not meet on a picnic in the woods. You can kill these all by jumping on their heads, and they subsequently turn into toys that you can pick up. The toys are also dotted around the game and hidden behind magic walls. Keys litter the landscape and are used to unlock treasure chests and doors to other parts of the levels.

There are hidden ladders, collapsing bridges and falling masonry to inject an element of danger into the proceedings. As well as the toys and weapons there are "useful" things like logs (which look like Swiss rolls) to build bridges and magic mirrors to transport you into rooms filled with treasure.

The original Nicky game was cute and playable, and so is this one, but nothing has been improved upon. When there are games like Arabian Nights and James Pond around, games like this are not worth the time and money. Sequels should improve on the original, not merely be an extension of the first game. I have you have not got Nicky Boom then this sequel is probably worth getting, but if you have then do not bother.

Aus Kindern werden Leute

Nicky 2 logo

Das Heldensprite trägt nicht mehr gar so viel Babyspeck mit sich herum, vom Spielerischen her hat Nicky Boom in der Fortsetzung dagegen an Gewicht zugelegt - so muß es sein!

Dem Vorgänger bescheinigte unser Test unübersehbare Anleihen bei "Magic Pockets" - und dem Nachfolger hat Hersteller Microids gar eine Vogeschicte verpaßt, die bis auf winzige Nuancen der Story des Bitmap-Brothers-Opus gleicht: Eine unbekannte Macht hat sich des Plattformreichts bemächtigt und das gesamte Spielzeug unseres Helden kreuz und quer im Gelände verteilt.

Schon in seinem ureigenen Interesse muß Nicky jetzt die sechs Levels nach seinem Privateigentum durchkämmen, darüber hinaus erwarter man von ihm, daß er die Ursache allen Übels ausfindig macht. Unbestätigten Gerüchten zufolge handelt es sich dabei um die Schwester der Schrumpelhexe aus Teil eins...

Als dank für seine Befreiung ein Spiel vorher hat Nickys Großvater seinem heldendaten Enkel eine Zaubergans geschenkt, so daß diesmal nicht nur gelaufen und gehüpft, sondern auch ausgiebig geflogen wird. Das Tier hat jedoch leichte Starallüren: Sobald man es auch nur eine Sekunde allein läßt, um z.B. per pedes eine Höhle zu erforschen, verdünnisiert es sich sofort!

Dementsprechend sucht der Hauptdarsteller hier auch des öfteren nach seinem eigensinnigen Reitvogel, denn ganz auf die Gans verzichten kann er nicht. Okay, er könnte natürlich schon, abder dann würde ihn die Übermacht der giftspeienden Fliegenpilze, wildgewordenen Bienen, teuflischen Fledermäuse etc. alsbald zur Verzweiflung treiben.

Das einzig Nette an den Biestern ist, daß sie in vielen verschiedenen Arten auftreten, je nachdem, ob man sich im Grasland, dem Dschungel, in der Vulkan- oder Wolkenwelt aufhält. Diesmal zerren auch deutlich mehr Feinde (und Fallen) an den fünf Bildschirmleben, die entweder nach alter Gewohnheit durch Draufühüpfen erledigt werden, oder man versucht, sie durch den Bewurf mit grünen Kugeln kleinzukriegen.

Bei den aufsammelbaren Extras sind ebenfalls ein paar Veränderungen zu vermerken: Die Bomben und Minen haben ausgedient, statt dessen darf man Dynamitstangen und Ultraschallpfeifen einsetzen; daneben gibt es (immer noch) Holzscheite für den Brückenbau, Schlüssel, Sprungfedern, Erste Hilfe-Koffer und schützende Rüstungen.

Daß man herumliegende Spielsachen nicht links liegen läßt, versteht sich wohl von selbst, und die Existenz von genretypischen Geheimwegen oder beweglichen Plattformen dürfte auch niemand überraschen. Überraschend hingegen, daß der Schwierigkeitsgrad nicht mehr so niedrig angesiedelt ist wie frÜher, aber Anfänger dennoch eine echte Chance haben - nicht zuletzt dank Paßwörtern und der fairen Sticksteuerung; nur per Tastatur wird es mühsam.

Auch in Sachen Präsentation wird Nicky langsam erwachsen: Die grafisch und spielerisch abwechslungsreich gestalteten Levels scrollen einwandfrei in sämtliche Himmelsrichtungen, und die begleitenden Musikstücke plus FX klingen ganz passabel. Warum also nicht mal ein Hüpferchen wagen? (ms)

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The world's been waiting for a new, exciting, and original platformer. Sadly this ain't it.

You've got to ask yourself a question: "Do I want garlic mayonnaise on my quarterpounder or do I want ketchup?" No. Hang on, that's not it. Here's a better one: "Do I want to chew off my fingers or do I want to play another nondescript platform game?" Yes, that's more like it.

Sorry about the slow typing, it's just that I've gnawed off most of the digits of my left hand and the thumb on my right. As you can well imagine, this makes it rather difficult to operate a keyboard, not least because the keys keep getting stuck together with blood and bits of skin.

All a bit ironic really because I ended up playing this dismal platformer anyway. You have to, you see - it's in the contract. "You must play this terminally dull platform game for at least 10 hours and then tell the Amiga-loving world what you think. In return, we will give you a small sum of money."

I knew I should have read the small print. It's always the same, if you want something good (the small amount of money) you have to go through something bad to get it (playing the tiresome game). It's a bit like eating pork pie and having to wade through all that noxious jelly to get to the good meaty bits in the middle.

Let's get this straight. If Nicky 2 were a pork pie, and believe me, it might as well be, it would be all slimy stuff and no meat. Well, perhaps I'm being slightly too harsh there. There might be a pert, lightly browned crust. But essentially it would be slime.

It's just another bloody platform game

So, what's wrong with it? Firstly, it's yet another platform game. Okay, that's not a bad thing in itself, but if you've played gems like Zool and Putty, there is absolutely nothing here to excite or interest you. It's just another bloody platform game.

For the reader who's been asleep at the back of the class for the last decade, this means that you have to run and jump around a lot, collecting objects, killing enemies, solving puzzles and revealing secret passages. It's been done a million times before, and it's been done a million times better.

Secondly, it suffers from a distinct lack of originality and inspiration. Nicky can fly on his goose, but didn't we catch James Pond piloting an aeroplane?

Some evil fiend has stolen his toys and he has to find them - doesn't that remind you of a game about a certain shades-wearing kid? Ladders grow out of the ground to give you access to higher platforms, just like the plants in the Jungle Zone of Magic Pockets. Enemies leave bonuses behind when you kill them, just like in Zool. You can go inside the houses to collect bonuses, a feature that even the execrable Dalek Attack used.

If you looked on the bright side, you might conceivably begin to suggest that if it draws on so many elements from so many different games, then it must be pretty damn good. If you did start to suggest that, I'd slap you round the face and drone on for hours about the game's horrific lack of pace, the tiny sprites, the dull backgrounds, the appallingly cute enemies, the horrific graphical bugs, the annoying precise jumps...

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Nicky Boum is back! After rescuing his father from the clutches of the evil witch at the end of Nicky Boum 1, the evil that swamps the forest has yet to disappear. Could this mean that the witch wasn't responsible? You bet, sucker! So now Nicky has to go back into the forest and try to figure out exactly what is going on.

As usual there are loads of possessed creatures and inanimate objects out to stop him, and there are plenty of items scattered about to help him, etc. As you can probably tell, it's all basic, standard and exactly what we've come to expect from a platform game.

You begin in the forest and work your way through five very, very large levels. Exact figures aren't available, but they're approximately one hundred screens in size. None of it's wasted either, as bats, bees, bears and spiked balls trundle about with their sights aimed straight at you. If you like, you can collect some supersonic whistles to blow them away, or use your more standard bubble gun.

There's also sticks of dynamite that can be used to blow away areas of wall and floor, and if you're feeling really dangerous, you can try flying around on the back of a stork!

Nicky Boum wasn't a particularly inspired game, and I have to say that this sequel isn't much better. Platform games went far beyond this stage when Zool and Robocod hit the Amiga. In a world where people like their action 'hot, hot, hot', this is merely tepid. There's nothing really wrong with it, there just isn't much that's right either.