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.