We have been expecting you, Mr Pond

Robocod logo Amiga Computing Gamer Gold

MILLENNIUM * 1/2 meg * £25.99 * Joystick * Out now

Oh crikey. Oh crikey o'riley. I am in love with my second game this month. First of all I was reduced to a mound of trembling jelly by the knee-knocking gorgeousness of Alien Breed and now I have gone head over heels for RoboCod. What will the neighbours think? And do you know what is best about both games? They are both original. No big money licences, no celebrity endorsements, just good ol' fashioned computer games for the sake of making good ol' fashioned computer games. Ooh, I have come over all nostalgic.

Visions of Manic Miner, Jet Pac and Chuckie Egg swim before my misty eyes. Those were the days. And, smite me backwards with a steaming hot Spectrum power pack, those days look like they might be returning. Hurrah, hurrah and thrice hurrah.

Anyway, before I completely lsoe myself in the hazy realms of 8-bit memories, I'd better tell you just why RoboCod has sent me so squiffy at the joints. Cos it is bloody brilliant, that is why. It is one of those games that just spurts playability and general loveliness out of the monitor and all over your lap. From the wonderful way it lampoons RoboCop - who could resist a game with the subtitle "He's mean, he's green, he's part machine"? - to the intricately crafted levels, it is a winner through and through.

The story goes like this: The evil Dr Maybe has taken over Santa's toy factory and is producing deadly toys to completely bugger up Christmas for everyone. Who could save the world from a nightmare of exploding Ninja Turtle figures? Well, we did try that woman from Watchdog but she was not in. it was then that the governments of the world has a brainwave and got in touch with F.I.5.H, who in turn got in touch with Pond. James Pond, that is.

Since his last mission, which spookily took place in the original James Pond game, James has been "hanging out" with all his under-sea homeboys but when duty calls he is ready for action once more. He reports to "F" and welds himself into a robot suit which will enable him to breathe out of water. Thus fortified against the slings and snorkels of outrageous fortune, he stomps off to exact fishy justice on Dr Maybe.

OK, that is the story out of the way, so just what can RoboCod do? Well as you can imagine, RoboCod weights a bit, with two tonnes of solid titanium stapled to his nipples, and so instead of zapping the bogus bad dudes with a gun, he just jumps on their heads and squashes them. Fair enough. He can also extend his body vertically and grab onto platforms high above him. This is a really handy gadget, and there is no limit to how high he can go. You can really have a laugh making him latch onto a really high platform and then letting go. Yuk yuk yuk.

You can also scrunch down to look at what is going on below you. Add to this the usual array of power-ups that grant you the ability to fly, or to become invincible, and you have got a pretty tough fish.

Robo can also hop into vehicles to aid his progress, and these range from a nifty little plane to a car to a bath tub. Not really sure about flying around in a bath tub, but Millennium reckon it is true, so we will give them the benefit of the doubt. And if you think that is weird, wait until you clap eyes on what awaits you inside the factory.

Each set of levels takes place in a "room", each of which represent different sorts of toys and games. There are nine rooms in all, each comprising several levels and a big guardian-type thingy. The rooms cover such topics as sports - where big footballs and golfclubs tower above you - to the circus where crazed clowns try to fillet you. The cartoon style is there throughout, with pretty much everything having a silly little face on it, and even the nasties look like rejects from the worst 60's acid nightmare. Bizarre is not the word. Erm, well, actually bizarre is the word. And so is bonkers.

The graphics are brilliantly stylised, managing to keep the feel of the original but still adding something new. Bigger, better and brighter than before is the best way to describe them. The animation is spot on, with plenty of neat little touches to look out for. For instance, the way that Robo will pick up momentum as he runs down a steep slope and then skid to a halt at the bottom, with his little fins now more a blur of speed.

Naturally, the programmers take full advantage of this momentum and usually put a really fiendish trap at the bottom of the slope so you run straight into it and die horribly. Still, you have got to laugh.

Sound, believe it or not, is excellent too. The tune is a bouncy cartoon-style parody of the ominous RoboCop theme, and the springy sound effects complement the graphics well. Boing, thud, ker-splat and wibble. You certainly won't be turning down the volume on this one.

Of course, RoboCod does suffer slightly because it is "just another platform game". In the past few months alone we have had the rather excellent Magic Pockets and the commendable Rolling Ronny, but RoboCod stands up well against such competition. It is better than Ronny, there is no doubt about that, and I might even go as far as to say that it is better than Magic Pockets. Scandalous? Well, I am just a sucker for a fish in body armour.

There are tons and tons of features and little cheats to discover as you go along. Enough to keep you exploring for weeks on end. But all of this begs the question - what comes next? Dirty Haddock? Pike Rogers? Put it this way, if you liked James Pond, buy this anyway or I will come round and break your windows. Yes, I will. Now bog off while I have another bash at the Sweeties level...

Out and about with the Cyborg Strout
During his adventure, RoboCod can take advantage of three different vehicles. And here, in a pretty coloured box, they are:
Robocod: RoboCar
Robocod: RoboBath
Robocod: RoboPlane
RoboCod is not above resorting to devious means. As you can clearly see, the thieving bar steward has gone and swiped poor old Noddy's car. But Noddy's just an outdated symbol of blinkered xenophobic fascism anyway, so who cares? Obviously, if you really want to make a splash when you are out on the town, you should be driving a porcelain bath. Beats Porsche any day, I do not think. Conclusive proof that certain games programmers are a few lozenges short of a chemist's. To really shift through the levels, the Roboplane is the thing to find. Fast, deadly and decidedly plane-shaped, the RoboPlane is most certainly a plane. Yes, it is definitely a plane. And a very nice one too.