Oh what a circus, oh what a show

Sideshow logo

APART from a few die-hards still touring the country, most of the great circuses are dead. They used to be the standard trip out for children's parties and the like - a spot of jelly and ice cream before popping out to watch the clowns and the elephants. Even inmy youth, all those years ago, there were very few big circuses and the old tradition of the main tent surrounded by sideshow attractions was all but extinct. Now you can catch up on what you have been missing with Sideshow from Actionware.

Actionware is well known for producing software that works with a lightgun. There was Capone, where you used a lightgun to shoot gangsters that popped up. Then there was POW, where you used a lightgun to shoot Germans that popped up. Not forgetting, of course, Creature, where you used a lightgun to shoot creatures that popped up.

So what can we look forward to from Sideshow? Clowns popping up? No. This is where Actionware seems to have deviated totally from its well used but always reliable plot line and actually introduced some new concepts.

And this is the plot. You have gone to the circus and bought a certai number of tokens for use at the sideshows. Each booth contains a different game and costs a different number of tokens. If you do really well at a booth you may win back more tokens than it cost you to play there in the first place. In this case you have "won" the booth.

Obviously, if you keep doing this, not only are you going to become wealthy rather quickly, but the poor bloke running the booth is going to be suffering from a severe case of the Lawson's. Therefore you may only win a booth three times before it closes down.

So all you have to do is win three times at every game and go home with pockets full of tokens. Simple, eh? Well, firstly you have not tried playing the game yet and secondly there is the not too small problem of your stomach. After a period you will begin to get quite ravenous. In the event of a severe snack attack you will have to go home immediately, ending the game. However you can periodically quell the pangs by visiting the concession stall in the far corner of the showground. A few hot dogs and a bag of popcorn will keep you going for the show.

All the games, predictably, feature some sort of shooting. Shooting balloons, shooting balls, shootin ducks, though there is a little more intelligence to it than that. Mindless blasting will get you nowhere - intelligent blasting is what is required.

Some games require you to find a patttern in the objects you shoot, others simply require speed or accuracy. Whatever the specialty, each game is challenging in a different way. This not only makes it better value than some than some of Actionware's earlier titles but actually develops the strategy of the game.

The graphics are excellent in places, yet fairly mediocre to pathetic in others. Good but not consistently brilliant. Sound effects and the odd animated sequence help to build up the atmosphere of the circus, as does the authentic bag of popcorn included with the game.

Admittedly, Sideshow is really only tremendously wonderful if you have a lightgun, but still worth a look nevertheless. A high resolution mouse is recommended.

Sideshow logo


Given the colour and variety found in circus acts it is hardly surprising their appeal as games is so strong. Sideshow is Actionware's latest release for the Amiga. All the fun of the fair is guaranteed as you wander round eight different acts and into the food stand.

Buy your tickets and choose your booth, though to start with you only have enough to play at Balloons or Balls. In the former you must find a hidden pattern behind the balloons, whilst the latter has you shooting green balls. If you do well in these you win enough tickets to visit the other sideshows which include knife throwing, a strength tester, a shooting range, a very strange clock shoot game, a dunk tank and the haunted hill.

All the games are played using either a mouse or a light gun and all require you to shoot at something. A really nice if fussy feature is that you can digitise a face and give it to the character in the dunk tank. Every game is very playable, mainly because of the presentation and its simplicity, but be warned, they can quickly become boring.

While all this is going on you get peckish and after a bit you have to visit the food stand. This is an annoying and frustrating phase of Sideshow that must be endured after playing a few booths.

Sideshow is graphically excellent. Large, well defined characters, excellent animation and presentation exist in all games. Colour is used to good effect and a huge variety of graphics help to keep the player interested. The sound is of similar quality with plenty of music and digitised effects to tingle your lugs with.

Actionware have obviously put a lot of work into Sideshow but it is let down by the simplicity of the games and the pointless visits to the food stand.